Weekly Update – March 20, 2018


Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

Ahoy-hoy! Freedom Winds, my mini-comic project with Underdog Comics, is officially finished!

I got to see Tessa’s finished artwork yesterday, and she said it will be going up this Friday — unless you’re a supporter on Patreon, in which case you’ll get advance access.

Check back here Friday, when I’ll post the links to the mini-comic, which you can enjoy for free!


Well-Behaved Women: I’m finally into the third act of book two! I had a bit of an epiphany about where to take the third act so now it’s a matter of fleshing it out. Meanwhile, book one has gone out to test-readers, so I hope to hear from them soon.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.



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Weekly Update – March 13, 2018

My last full weekend of freedom until June — yes, June, is this weekend. After that, I will be attending Robin Hood’s Faire auditions in my capacity as fight director, and then I’ll be overseeing the cover photo shoot for Well Behaved Women, and then rehearsals begin. I’ll still have writing time during the week because my part-time gig is on a seasonal hiatus, but in general I’ll be in constant motion for the next nine weeks.


Freedom Winds: My mini-comic project with Underdog Comics is coming along nicely indeed. I saw rough pencil art last week and things are looking pretty damn cool.

Well-Behaved Women: I am close to wrapping up act two and heading into the climax, which takes the story in a whole new direction.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.



If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 6, 2018

Action Figures – The Black End War is now available in print! I finished everything last week, so if you’re an old-school reader like me and prefer dead tree versions of your books, head over to Amazon or click this link to get a signed copy through me directly.


Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

Freedom Winds: My mini-comic project with Underdog Comics is due out this month! And Tessa Beatrice, the comic’s artist, has unleashed the first piece of promotional artwork, featuring the main character, Theresa “Tin Tessie” Blackpoole.

Well Behaved Women: 51,000 words on book two — and that’s with a fairly significant rewrite last week. I realized a key scene would work better if things played out differently, so I scrapped a significant chunk of text and rewrite it from the ground up. A pain in the ass, but I’m glad I did it.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue EightCrawling from the Wreckage: Fourth draft written.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.


  • Nothing scheduled at present.


If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – May 31, 2016

Another slow week due to the Robin Hood Springtime Festival, but it’s been a good run so far and I’m having lots of fun.


The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Draft two is under review with test-readers. I’m curious to see how many people make notes on bits and pieces I’ve already tweaked in my third draft.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: I wrote a few pages last week but I need to go back and read everything I’ve written so far to re-familiarize myself with it.


This week I put in my application to sell books at Arisia 2017, and I expect J.M. Aucoin and I will be back next year, a little older and wiser in the ways of pitching ourselves to prospective readers. With luck, the convention organizers will set up a proper authors’ area that isn’t in a hallway — which wasn’t a bad location, really, but it wasn’t astounding either.


So, what, is Mjolnir also a Hydra agent?
So, what, is Mjolnir also a Hydra agent?

I just want to throw out a few quick thoughts on the latest kerfuffle in the comic book world, the controversial twist in issue one of Steve Rogers: Captain America that reveals Cap is and always has been a deep cover Hydra agent — which ranks right up there with the idiotic Spider-Clone Saga in terms of ill-conceived character shake-ups.

  1. It is an incredibly stupid plot twist that requires readers to ignore 75 years’ worth of stories in order to make it work logically. The Mjolnir issue alone pretty much renders it unworkable.
  2. Fans have every right to be pissed off about the story and express their ire verbally and by refusing to buy the comic. Threatening anyone at Marvel, including the story’s writer, is going WAY too far. Grow the hell up.
  3. On that note: no, this story did not ruin your childhood. You’re just being a huge drama queen.
  4. This will not last, and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t read a comic in decades. Comics always revert to the status quo. Remember when Cap died and Bucky took over, and how permanent that was supposed to be? My guess is that this twist will be explained away as false memories and psychic tampering by the Red Skull, who currently has Charles Xavier’s powers (don’t ask). I originally gave it two or three years before everything went back to normal, but considering how vicious the fan backlash has been, I’d be surprised if this arc lasted through the end of the year.


Spoiler Theater: The 2014 – 2015 TV Season

I haven’t done any kind of review in a while, and I have a little bit of time before I have to head off to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire (cheap plug), so I thought I’d jibber-jabber a little about the current TV season, which is more or less at an end until the fall. As the header of this entry suggests, I may be dropping a few spoilers, so read on at your own risk.

I only had about a half-dozen series I watched steadily, but that’s more TV than I’ve watched over the previous few years. There’s some good stuff out there — and some stuff that started off good and petered out hard. I’m going to work my way down the list, starting with my favorite show of the season…

The Flash

I didn’t expect to love this show as much as I do, but this was just so much fun to watch. It’s a super-hero show, flat out, and doesn’t pretend to be anything more — and that’s fine, because it’s nice to have a lighter series to counter shows like The Flash‘s darker counterpart, Arrow.

The Flash

For me, the relationships between the characters are perhaps the high point of the show — especially the relationship between Barry (the affable Grant Gustin) and his surrogate father Joe (Jesse L. Martin), and between Cisco (Carlos Valdez) and anyone. Cisco is a treasure of a character and I will personally lead a riot if he’s ever killed off.

The show’s two flaws: its occasional habit of having characters make conveniently stupid decisions in order to keep the story moving, and its constant mishandling of Iris (Candice Patton, who deserves better). She’s regularly pushed around by the male characters, and her will-she-or-won’t-she relationship with Barry renders her rather unsympathetic. I hope the writers treat her better in season two.

Agents of SHIELDAgents of SHIELD

This show deserves a ton of praise simply for fixing its many, many season one flaws. The show didn’t come alive until it starting dealing with the repercussions of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) turned bad, and it kept the momentum up in season two. Plus, it had some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a TV show.

My biggest gripe is that it still isn’t delving into the Marvel Universe as deeply as The Flash and Arrow dig into the DC Universe. It had a few great moments (I geeked out over the Absorbing Man), but Marvel has such a deep catalog of characters I’m baffled as to why it’s not taking advantage of it more. And, as a friend pointed out, the show could be retconned out of existence and it doesn’t impact the movies at all; Agents of SHIELD simply has no real relevance to the films. I’d love to see a more deeply connected universe, which might yet happen given that the Inhumans — due to have their own movie in 2019 — figure so heavily in season two.


I’ve heard a lot of people bemoan season three as the weakest so far, but I don’t think it was bad. The Ra’s al Ghul storyline was interesting and had some nice twists, plus we got a whole season of John Barrowman as a complex antagonist, and who can complain about a steady John Barrowman fix?

JB Gif

John was part of a solid cast of supporting characters, and the tragedy here is that Oliver Queen himself (Stephen Amell) is the least likable one of the bunch. His constant cycle of pushing his crew away in the most dickish manner possible, only to later admit he needs them, is tiresome, but the season finale’s happy ending suggests that maybe he won’t be quite the brooding pseudo-loner in season four.

Sleepy Hollow

This is my wife’s favorite show, and we both agree that we should have never liked it at all. The premise sounds so stupid: Ichabod Crane awakens in the present to continue his battle against the Headless Horseman, who is in fact one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It turned out to be a rather fun adventure series, anchored by what may be my favorite TV partnership since Mulder and Scully: Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). They have a great on-screen relationship (with no hints of sexual tension, thank god) and a lot of the fun derives from how they play off each other.

I also credit the writers for taking the “man out of time” trope in a different direction. Mison’s Crane is never perplexed by modern society or technology, but is instead alternately fascinated, frustrated, annoyed, and occasionally enthralled by new discoveries.

SH Gif

The show gets bonus points for having a woman of color as one of the main protagonists, and never treating her like the sidekick. Abbie gets to save the day as much as Crane, and has on more than one occasion pulled Crane’s ass out of the fire.

Season two wasn’t as strong as the first season, in part because it often felt like the writers had no idea what to do with Crane’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter) or what role she played in the story once she was free from Purgatory. Also, the second half of the season felt klunky; the Apocalypse storyline was mostly wrapped up by mid-season, and it became more episodic / threat-of-the-week — a move intended to make the show more accessible to new viewers, but without a driving storyline, the show as a whole felt like it lost steam.

The Big Bang Theory

I’m putting this show on my list of favorites, but it is barely holding on at this point. The humor hasn’t been as strong as in past seasons, and I’m frankly getting tired of the show trying to wring laughs out of the dysfunctional relationships all the characters are stuck in. None of the characters seems truly happy with their significant other, and with the exception of Howard and Bernadette (Simon Helberg and Melissa Rauch), everyone’s relationship was in trouble as of the season finale.

I’m in the process of re-watching Parks and Recreation from the start, and it’s really driving home how sitcoms take the easy way out and try to generate humor from bickering couples. The P&R relationships are all positive and healthy, and don’t try to make the sight of two people busting each other’s balls a source of entertainment.

I’m going to lump the rest into one chunk, since now we’re getting into the series that tried and failed to keep me entertained, and I’m going to start with the biggest disappointment, Gotham. I wanted this show to be good, but it never lived up to its potential, in my opinion. It had a great cast and some good ideas, but suffered from seriously hit-or-miss writing; when the show was good, it was great, but more often it was mediocre at best and painful at worst. Its early bad habit of heavy-handedly establishing who the characters were (Look! Selina Kyle goes by the nickname “Cat” and is playing with a dangling object! Get it?) didn’t last long, thankfully, but it continued to waste characters, often supporting female characters, and relied on characters behaving stupidly in order to keep the plots moving. Don’t even get me started on the brief plotline that stuck Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) in Arkham as a security guard.

I gave Gotham a chance to get good, but I ultimately decided to cut it loose, along with The Walking Dead and, sadly, Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead has become too repetitive in its plots, most of the characters are uninteresting and in a few cases (Rick Grimes) utterly unsympathetic, and the series feels like it no longer has an overarching point to it. It’s sad, because season one was amazing, but after cutting Frank Darabont loose as executive producer, the series crashed and burned and never fully recovered.

Then there is Game of Thrones, which lost me as a viewer with the highly controversial Sansa Stark rape scene. I have heard all the arguments, both those that condemned the scene and those that defended it, and I simply cannot abide by the creative team’s decision to go there.

As a writer, I never want to deprive myself of a storytelling tool, but when it comes to rape scenes, I feel strongly that there is always a better way to achieve whatever end such a scene is meant to achieve. A female character (or a male character, for that matter) can hit a low point from which to climb up in countless ways, none of which involve a sexual assault, and if you believe you need rape to show the audience what a monster your male character is, you’re being incredibly lazy. Same goes for using the rape of a female character as a means of motivating a male character. Find another way. Find a better way.

I’ll end on a positive note in the form of Marvel’s Daredevil, which I have yet to finish but am enjoying immensely. This is such a departure for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s working beautifully because it’s everything the movies and Agents of SHIELD isn’t: more realistic, gritty, edgy, and mature.


The high point of the series is Vincent D’Onofrio, who is knocking it out of the park as Wilson Fisk. D’onofrio’s Kingpin is sometimes terrifying, sometimes sympathetic, and sometimes pitiable. He’s taken a character I never found interesting in the comics and turned him into a complex, living, breathing person who owns every scene he’s in. I can’t wait to finish season one!

But I’m going to have to, because I have my own stuff to write — tomorrow, as a matter of fact.

Creator Interview: Dean Calusdian

StockingDeadCoverHey, everyone, it’s time for another author interview, but this time around I present to you Dean Calusdian, who recently released his first graphic novel, The Stocking Dead.

Dean, tell everyone a little about yourself.

I’m a freelance artist, playwright, a stage director and filmmaker. I like to try a little bit of everything. My artwork has been on such divergent things from record album covers to olive oil bottles.

The Stocking Dead. What’s it about?

It’s “Night of The Living Dead” meets “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.” On Christmas Eve a zombie plague spreads throughout Christmasville turning the residents into flesh eating fiends, and small band of elves fight to survive.

What was the inspiration for this project?

After years of doing haunted houses, and being known for creepy art, I had tried something new by creating a large walk-through Christmas display. After two years, and the occasional observation that my Christmas display was still more creepy than cute, I decided to try something new. So purely for the fun of it, I started The Stocking Dead. I had no real intention of ever publishing it, it was more of an exercise to just spend several hours drawing every day.

I know you’ve been working on The Stocking Dead for quite a while now. How long did it take you to complete it?

Over three years. At least a year to write and pencil it, another year for inking and a year to color.

Did you do all the art by hand or did you have some digital help?

The pencils and inks were done traditionally on 11x 17 bristol paper, then those were scanned and the coloring was all done in Photoshop.

You’ve employed a rather tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign that’s so far included fake billboards and Stocking Dead pogs. What’s the thinking behind that?

I don’t know if my funky marketing campaign will actually yield sales, but it’s a lot more entertaining for me, than to keep posting “Buy my book! PLEASE!” I’m actually having a great deal of fun creating a campaign that is its own ridiculous (and mostly fictitious) adventure.

I have a really hard time with self-promotion, so inventing “Stocking Dead Central” and their terrible marketing and public relations divisions was much easier for me.

For the print edition, why did you choose to have a large quantity of hard copies printed rather than use a print-on-demand approach?

Unlike a novel that’s completely prose, the on-demand printing costs of a 116 page fully illustrated color graphic novel are super high. It was about an average of $16 a copy, and that’s before any type of mark up. Although I’ll be living with boxes upon boxes of graphic novels, ordering a huge amount of offset print editions was the only way to make it affordable for the consumer. We currently have a cover price of $11.99.

How can people get their hands on a print edition?

Currently you can order it from Amazon, or direct from us at StockingDead.com. The Kindle version is also currently available (right here: The Stocking Dead). The coolest of comic stores will be carrying it. We’ll also be selling it, along with some of my other artwork at SuperMegaFest in Framingham MA, and RI Comic-Con.

Is this a one-time project, or do you have another graphic novel in your future?

Right now this is a one shot deal, if it’s successful maybe in another three years we’ll do our follow up book…World War X-Mas.

Anatomy Of A Bad Cover

cover-lowrestrimCover art has been on my mind a lot lately. As previously mentioned in this blog, I rather agonized over the cover concept for Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women; I noted the conceptual similarities between the covers of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (by my artist Tricia Lupien) and the forthcoming issue of Ms. Marvel (by Annie Wu); and my buddy J.M Aucoin recently unveiled the cover art for his upcoming Jake Hawking omnibus (which, I add, I am looking forward to, since I am not a big e-book reader).

Cover art is a pretty critical element of the final novel package, and an element that a lot of novice authors overlook or ignore. Pop over to Lousy Book Covers and you’ll see how wrong covers can go, and I think that will serve as enough of an explanation as to why good covers are important. I mean, would you pick up any of those books?

Comic Book Resources recently posted a harsh, but dead-on, analysis of the cover for the newest relaunch of DC Comics’ Teen Titans. At first glance, the artwork (by Kenneth Rocafort) looks pretty damn cool, but CBR delves into its flaws in terms of concept, composition, and how it presents its characters — in particular Wonder Girl, who CBR maintains is sexualized to a ridiculous degree. It’s hard to disagree.

Teen Titans CoverThe background clearly suggests a high school setting is involved, and the book is called Teen Titans, so it’s not unreasonable to assume we’re looking at a teenage girl — and teenage girls do not look like that (not without the benefit of no small amount of plastic surgery).

It’s easy to dismiss criticism of Wonder Girl’s look as pointless fretting over sexed-up comic book females because that’s what comic book females look like, they’re idealized versions of real women, so shut up already and enjoy the book for what it is, but chances are, the people saying that are all guys who like their super-heroines to look like Victoria’s Secret models, but that’s one reason why such representations are so subversive: they send a message to readers that this is the norm for female characters.

This cover is the latest misstep for DC Comics’ “New 52” relaunch, which also shrank Starfire’s already skimpy costume, reimagined Harley Quinn as a pole dancer, and turned Amanda Waller, one of DC’s best characters, period, from a big, middle-aged African-American woman into a young, skinny, sexy African-American woman, because reasons.

Someone needs to show DC the memo that girls and women read comics too. Better yet, they need to show them Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel and show them how to do a character redesign right.