Monday, April 24, 2017

Alex Ness, Guest at MSP Comicon

I will be selling my newest books, postcard works, and the comic book work I've done.




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Return of CHUCK


The fans of Bane, artist Graham Nolan and writer Chuck Dixon were surprised to learn that there is coming soon a 12 issue series telling the new chapter of BANE.  It is called BANE: Conquest and I spoke to Chuck Dixon about the news.

At the heart of him, who is Bane?  Is he evil, misguided, or mentally ill?

He's more nurture than nature. If you can call growing up in a vicious third world prison anything like nurturing. Like Bruce Wayne, Bane is a self-made man. In fact, self made in a far more unforgiving environment. And we have to remember that Bane, at his heart, is a wrongly punished innocent. A lot of his reactions to his crappy upbringing is revenge for being abandoned. 

With a character able to grow and shrink according to the drugs going through his veins, is it most essential to have a certain kind of artist?  If so, what kind?

A good one. In the case of Graham Nolan, a great one. Bane doesn't so much Hulk-up as pump up. It has to look believable, not a supernatural or sci-fi kind of transformation. 

When writing Bane stories, as he is your creation along with Graham, do you feel that you have a proprietary interest in his development?
  If so, what do you do differently?

We absolutely feel closer to the character than any other creator who's worked with him. Graham and I share a vision for Bane that Knightfall was only the beginning of. We've always had an epic arc for him in mind. Bane: Conquest is the next chapter in that story.

How true does Bane ring in this era of Steroid addled sports heroes and WWE people?

I think he's very believable. We've seen him off his fix and the results are tragic. We'll see more of the negative affects of his addiction in this new series. 

Tell about this new Bane story?  Will it lead to more of the same? I hope so.

Me too!  The series concerns bane's expansion as a player on the world stage of crime. Gotham is too confining. His disastrous association with Ra's Al Ghul has left him with a desire to expand his reach; take his ambitions global. OF course, that leads to complications, betrayals and lots and lots of violence. It's a classic gangster story. 

Of all of Batman's enemies, who is the hardest to write?  Why?

The Riddler. Those damned riddles. To write a classic Riddler story takes a lot of time. 
OK, Riddler tough, got it.  What villain outside of Bane do you feel is the easiest to write?

For me, Catwoman has always been fun to write. I think it's because she actually likes her self and enjoys life. That's so rare in a modern comic book character.

Since writing comics is similar to writing plays or for film, do you have unwritten but planned out stories for the other media?

I'm a dedicated comic book writer. I never saw it as a stepping stone to some other medium. In recent years though I've turned to writing novels as well as doing some work in electronic gaming. 

If given carte blanche to take 2 years on any given character, which would be the most rewarding for you?  Nightwing? Batman?  Superman?

I'd like a crack at a run on Superman. But he's in such good hands now with the return of Dan Jurgens. 

How long from ruminations/start to finished work/end does it take you for a typical script?

Typically I can easily finish a full script in four days. Ruminating is my constant state so I can't really gauge that time. The scripts that take longer are the ones that have to be funny. A SpongeBob script can take much longer as it also needs to be honed down to only what moves the story along.
Who is your favorite Batman writer outside of your prestigious being?

Bill Finger was king. Denny O'Neil saved Batman for future generations, of course. And I really like Frank Robbins' writing after he picked up on what Denny was doing with the character. 

When writing the Batman what do you do differently that others, making your work memorable?  Is it your take on the character, his setting, his secondary characters?

I'm not good at examining my own work. But I think my use of humor (sardonic or dark) is something I don;t see many other writers using. A lot of Batman stories I see are unrelentingly grim. For me, there's plenty of room for humor (NOT comedy) that does not mock or deconstruct the character. 

BANE: CONQUEST #1, written by Chuck Dixon with art and cover by
Graham Nolan and colors by Gregory Wright, hits shelves May 3rd

Under the sea...

With a growing weight of collapse, the people of the earth have focused upon space travel and other forms of escape from the mess that we have made.  Science fiction covers space travel rather well.  But, not only in terms of finding a new world, but a land almost unknown, humans have considered escape to the depths of the vast oceans.   Pollution and overuse has wounded the ocean, but it is almost certain that humans will try to further exploit and explore the deep blue.

Aquarius Mission and Cachalot are both science fiction in genre, but they are very thoughtful and more than action stories.  I have a great love for them both.  The rest of the books shared here are about life and the oceans.  I think it would be a rewarding search to find these books and read them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Legion of Substitute Bat-Men

Everybody knows that Batman is secretly millionaire Bruce Wayne. But who defends Gotham City when Bruce is out of town? Or suffering from a broken leg? Or when someday he just gets too old to sling a batarang?

Then it's time to call out the Substitute Bat-Men.

Superman and Batman have long had a kind of informal mutual aid pact where they would cover for each others Secret Identities. This goes back to the their very first meeting back in 1952. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne happen to be on a cruise ship and wind up sharing the same cabin. When a crisis occurs on board, both heroes duck into their room to change into their costumes, but in the darkness they inadvertently don each others suit. And no, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense; but it does give them the opportunity to play some mind games on Lois.

There is an episode of SUPERMAN, THE ANIMATED SERIES in which the Man of Steel fills in for the Dark Knight. In “Knight Time”, Superman learns that Batman seems to have vanished and that the criminals of Gotham have been going wild. Robin has been left to man the fort as well as he can, and is frankly overwhelmed; so Supes agrees to put on the Bat-suit and help out. It turns out in the end that Superman's enemy, Brainiac has kidnapped Bruce Wayne; (it didn't involve Batman at all; Brainiac need Bruce for something); but the highlight of the episode came when Superman, disguised as Batman, raids a meeting of villains. Bane tries to beat the snot out of Batman and is dismayed to find him unexpected invulnerable.

In another memorable scene, Superman-as-Batman has a meeting with Commissioner Gordon. Superman is able to mimic Batman's voice perfectly; but he stands ramrod-straight with his jaw and chest protruding forward like a soldier at attention. Gordon looks at him curiously; he can tell something about him is off, but can't seem to put his finger on what it is; while Robin cringes at how un-Bat-like the performance is. Leave it to animators to think of how Batman and Superman differ in terms of body language.

During the the '90s there was an extended storyline in which Bruce Wayne was forced to relinquish his cape and cowl because he had his spine broken by the villain Bane. Instead of naming Dick Grayson as his replacement – the obvious choice – he selects a young man calling himself Azrael; a former member of a wacko religious order who has trained to be a holy assassin and is obsessed with vanquishing evil. Incredibly enough, this goes badly. For one thing, Az-bats, (as the fans took to calling him), adopted a suit of armor covered with blades and pointy things making him look like an ambulatory cheese-grater. More importantly, Azrael becomes increasingly violent and delusional and ultimately Bruce has to get off his butt, get his spine repaired and go through some extreme rehab to reclaim his cowl.

Dick Grayson, the original Robin and current Nightwing, does take over as Batman in a storyline from a few years ago in which Batman gets zapped by Darkseid and is presumed to be disintegrated. He actually has merely been displaced in Time, but until he get make his way back to the present day, Dick has to fill in for him. This storyline touches on the differences between Dick and Bruce and they way they approach crime-fighting. Although the Batman's mission remains the same, Dick has a different style. In addition to taking on Batman's job, Dick also has to prove himself to those who realize that he's not the “real Batman”. And he also has his hands full trying to mentor Damien, the son Bruce never knew he had, who showed up shortly before Bruce's disappearance.

Mention of the Son of Batman brings to mind “The Second Batman and Robin”, a classic Imaginary Story from the golden age. It tells how As Bruce Wayne gets older, he passes on the torch to the now grown-up Dick Grayson. Bruce is married now to Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman; and their son, Bruce Wayne Jr., becomes the new Robin. Both of these new incarnations wear a Roman numeral “II” on their costumes, to differentiate themselves from the originals. At the end of the tale, we learn that this whole story has been a fanfic written by Alfred, the Wayne's faithful butler. He knows he can never publish it – his story has too many secrets of the Wayne Family in it – but thought it would be fun to speculate what the future might bring. He muses that he just might write a sequel someday; and he does.

The animated series BATMAN BEYOND also plays with the idea of who would be the Batman when Bruce gets to be too old for the job. In this case his successor is Terry McGinnis, an angry youth with a strong sense of justice, who discovers the entrance to the Batcave in the home of that cranky old billionaire recluse who lives on the edge of town. He uses some of Batman's tech to try to bring his father's murderer to justice, and Old Bruce becomes his grudging mentor.

The clash between the impulsive Terry and the bitter, hardened Bruce forms the central chemistry of the series, brought out most memorably for me in the direct-to-video movie BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER. Although the Joker has been dead for years, it is revealed that he had created a digital copy of his personality which becomes activated. In the final battle, Joker 2.0 mocks Terry as an Imitation Batman. Old Bruce warns Terry not to let the Joker goad him into conversation; the Joker just wants to rattle him. But Terry wonders, why not? He is not Bruce. He has a different personality and a different style. So he taunts the Joker back; something the original Batman would never do; and finds that, like the Devil, Joker cannot abide being mocked. Terry is able to rattle the Joker and get the better of him.

One theme that comes up in almost every one of these stories is the Gotham City needs a Batman. And so, one way or another, it gets one.

ADDENDUM:  When I originally wrote this piece, I was writing largely from memory and neglected to double-check a couple things.  In the story where Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent met on a cruise ship, they did not accidentally put on each other's costumes; they just discovered each other's secret identities.  But they did switch places with each other to play mind games on Lois.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Sometimes you feel like a nut, but this time you feel like a Wolfman, or Werewolf...

My favorite Universal Monster is the Mummy, but, I really like the Wolfman as well.  The Mummy has had some bad movies about him, but, I like him due to my adoration of Ancient Egyptian history.   It works as comfort food to me.

But, I am well aware that the Wolfman, werewolves and all are more violent, more sexy, more connected to the human desire to abandon human civility and to become wild.  There have been books, movies, games and probably music that references the Wolfman.

This column is to show some books, a game, and movies regarding the beast.

Wiktionary's Definition

From Middle English werwolf, from Old English werwulf, from Proto-Germanic *werawulfaz, from Proto-Germanic *weraz (“man”) + *wulfaz (“wolf”). Equivalent to wer +‎ wolf or were- +‎ wolf. Cognate with Dutch weerwolf, Low German Warwulf, German Werwolf, Danish varulv, Swedish varulv.

Compare also French garou, in loup-garou, French dialectal gairou, varou (“werewolf”), Medieval Latin gerulphus, garulphus (“werewolf”) (from Germanic).


(UK) IPA(key): /ˈwɛːwʊlf/, /ˈwɪəwʊlf/
(US) IPA(key): /ˈwɛəɹwʊlf/, /ˈwɪəɹwʊlf/, /ˈwɜɹwʊlf/


werewolf (plural werewolves)

(mythology) A person who is transformed or can transform into a wolf or a wolflike human, often said to transform during a full moon.




Monday, March 27, 2017

The super heroic Soviet heroes

In the early 1940s the US, USSR, and the UK led the efforts to defeat Fascist countries in World War II.  Americans met Soviet counterparts at the River Elbe, in 1945.  In the next 5 years allies became enemies, during a stand off called the Cold War.  The Korean war, the Vietnam war and other conflicts became chessboards between the players of US and Nato allies, versus the Warsaw Pact and the USSR. 

The Cuban Missile crisis, between the US and USSR over the island of Cuba being nuclear armed by the Soviets, nearly led to a nuclear conflict.  Reviews of the records from the day showed how very close we came to tragedy.

There was a rivalry between the USSR and the US to reach the Moon, and explore space.  The Soviets arrived in space first, but the US landed upon the moon in 1969. 

In 1963 John F. Kennedy was killed.  Some policy makers believed it was due to Soviet KGB and proxies.  The US CIA plotted to assassinate Fidel Castro.  They failed.

When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Warsaw Pact, many of the NATO allies were shocked that the Soviets acted with haste.  As much as anywhere else the invasion showed that there were Nato and Warsaw Pact forces that, if wrongly pushed, could lead to a greater war.

In 1979 when Afghanistan was invaded by troops of the USSR,  American President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott and for other actions to punish the country.   Along with this Iran had overthrown their Rightist leader for a Islamic revolutionary leadership.  This led to a taking of hostages at the US Embassy.

The first sign of hope for the West that the Russian bear was not as powerful as he seemed happened in Poland, when there was a Labor Union movement that resisted the Soviet form of governance.  It called itself Solidarity.  The Communists stepped back.  They didn't leave Poland, but for the first time in years some of the power and control over the people in Poland had been surrendered to a union of people.  Like the Kronstadt revolution, it wasn't an act by the Monarchists or Right wing, it was the people taking back the right to govern themselves in a true representative fashion.  They were likely still hardcore Socialist.  They weren't willing, however, to accept the Soviet Puppet Polish Communist leaders.

In 1980's Olympics the American team of amateurs defeated the Soviet Union team, of well compensated veterans of hockey.  And then the US followed that with a defeat of Finland.  America felt a small rush.  And then, when the US elected President Ronald Reagan, numerous factors caused the US to rise, and the Soviet fortunes to fall.

Eventually Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR over saw the retreat of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe, and the Berlin Wall fell, in 1991.  The Cold War seemed to be over, and the West had won.

The Soviets lost.  But who really wins when two former allies square off and arm themselves with enough weapons to repeatedly destroy the world?

Here is a list of comic books with Soviet/Russian heroes, and some with simply propaganda stories.  They are all interesting, and some better than others.

John Jackson Miller Story
Steve Ellis and Joe Coroney Art

Marvel Epic

Russian collegiate Gennady Gavrilov became the eighth Crimson Dynamo after he found the helmet of a "Beta unit" designed by Anton Vanko based on but improved over the original, with its very own recharging satellite in orbit. Believing the helmet to be a sophisticated gaming system, Gavrilov caused the dormant armor to awaken and make its way towards the helmet, inadvertently leaving a trail of destruction. He would eventually, if briefly, wear the entire armor in a standoff with the Russian military. He kept the armor afterward.   (Source Wiki)

Jim Starlin words
Jim Aparo and Dan Decarlo art

Anatoli Knyazev (Russian: Анато́лий Кня́зев, Anatoliy Knyazev), code-named "The Beast", and known to the C.I.A. as the "KGBeast" was trained as an assassin by "The Hammer," a top secret cell of the KGB. In addition to being the master of several martial arts, his strength was cybernetically enhanced, and he had also mastered the use of every deadly weapon known. At the time of his first appearance, he was rumored to have killed at least 200 people, including Anwar El Sadat.  (Source WIKI)

Superman Red Son
Mark Millar words
Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett art

The story mixes alternate versions of DC super-heroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy.  In Red Son, Superman's rocket ship lands on a Ukrainian collective farm rather than in Kansas, an implied reason being a small time difference (a handful of hours) from the original timeline, meaning Earth's rotation placed Ukraine in the ship's path instead of Kansas. Instead of fighting for "... truth, justice, and the American Way", Superman is described in Soviet radio broadcasts "... as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact." His "secret identity" (i.e. the name his adoptive parents gave him) is a state secret.  (Source WIKI)

Green Lantern Corps character Kilowog had come from a planet that had a history similar to the Soviet Union.  He didn't get along perfectly with the government, not being a politically centered hero.  But he helped the Soviets create the Rocket Reds.  While they were a Soviet team of heroes who fought evil, they were also led by Communist Party principles.

Black Widow of Marvel Comics was a Russian spy, who was both lovely and dangerous.  She was a Spy, and Soviet, but also a hero.  She crossed the tight wire of Super Power politics with some difficulty.

Colossus was a hero from the Soviet Union, being a mutant who could transform himself from Flesh to Steel.  Various themes of Soviet Iron workers and such could be pasted upon him.

Red Guardian was a Soviet version of Captain America.  He was an equal opposite, but was not always an enemy of the Captain.

When the Soviet Union fell various themes of the Communist state became less apt and useful.  But the stories of the characters in the present soon changed from serving the Soviet state to instead serving the Russian state, post Cold War collapse.

The Red Star is a comic book series that took inspiration from the Communist state art, and mixes with this an alternative history of the Soviet Union, without the eventual collapse experienced in the current reality.  It is a work that is very bright and shining, but sadly with too little coming out to support the overall franchise.

In the late 1940s throughout the 1950s American publishers used the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact as they had earlier Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  In order to raise awareness of the Communist threat, publishers and organizations used comics to help tell their story.  There are/were many differences between Nazism and Communism, but in the real world Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler.  And so, there was perhaps a valid comparison between the two.