Action Figures – A Series Overview

What’s it About?

The series focuses on Carrie Hauser, a 15-year-old girl who one summer experiences two life-changing events: her parents announce they’re getting divorced, and she gains superhuman abilities after encountering a dying extraterrestrial after he falls to Earth.

Her adventure begins after Carrie and her mother Christina move back to Christina’s childhood home town of Kingsport, Massachusetts, and Carrie meets four teens with powers of their own: superhero fanboy Matt Steiger, who owns a pair of magic gloves that can produce any object he can envision out of thin air, like a living cartoon character; Sara Danvers, a telepath and telekinetic who is afraid of her own abilities; the easygoing Stuart Lumley, who possesses superhuman strength; and Missy Hamill, an adorable motormouth with enhanced strength and reflexes.

The teens form a superhero team almost on a whim, but soon find themselves fighting for their lives against very real super-villains – much to the dismay of Kingsport’s hometown hero Concorde, leader of the super-team The Protectorate.

Who is this Series For?

Fans of superhero comics, TV shows, and movies in general, but particularly of titles featuring teen heroes such as Young Justice, Teen Titans, Young Avengers, and Champions.

The tone is generally lighter than a lot of YA books out there now. While there is drama and conflict, and some later stories deal with darker issues, I try to keep the series fun, upbeat, and optimistic.

Is it Suitable for Young Readers?

Action Figures is a PG-13 series that contains mild to moderate profanity, non-graphic violence, some mature themes, and later on in the series mild sexual content.

An added word about the violent content: while the violence is not graphic, the consequences are not downplayed. This isn’t sanitized Hollywood violence. People get hurt just as they would in real life and do not easily shrug off injuries, and in some cases the characters have to deal with the emotional trauma of their experiences.

What are the Books in the Series?

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret OriginsCarrie and her new friends in the Hero Squad (yes, they know their team name is awful) find themselves caught in the crossfire as the deadly mercenary Manticore comes to Kingsport, on the hunt for the rogue artificial intelligence known as Archimedes.

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women – The sorceress Black Betty threatens to raise hell – maybe literally – as she pursues her vendetta against the Protectorate’s resident paranormal expert Dr. Enigma.

 

Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect – Missy’s life is turned upside-down when she learns the truth about the source of her powers, and her connection to the bloodthirsty killer Buzzkill Joy.

 

Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel SummerSara finds herself in the crosshairs of the mysterious hero killer the King of Pain, but to save herself, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear.

 

Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-UpsThe Hero Squad, still reeling from their devastating encounter with the King of Pain, get a little help picking up the pieces from their friends in the Protectorate and the Quantum Quintet.

 

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play – The Squad finds itself outnumbered and under-powered after one of their members goes missing – and at the worst possible time as foes from their past reappear, more dangerous than ever and ready to exact revenge.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War (spring 2018)

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage (spring 2019)

How Long Will the Series Run?

The series is plotted out to ten books but might run one or two books longer. In any event, it will come to a firm end at some point and not run on indefinitely.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read can read sample chapters from Secret Origins, short stories set in the Action Figures world, buy signed copies, connect with me through social media, and get regular updates at my website: innsmouthlook.com

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.

 

Action Figures – An Introduction

Hello to what I hope is a readership of thousands (I’ll settle at this point for low hundreds, but hey, hope springs eternal).

Today is the day I officially start ramping up the publicity for my new soon-to-be-self-published young adult novel Action Figures. The manuscript has been fully edited and processed at Create Space, my chosen publishing platform, and is now awaiting its cover (my cover artist Tricia is plugging away at that now…unless her baby needs her, of course. She has her priorities straight).

She has already finished the novel’s logo, which looks a little something like this:

Cover Photo V1 copy

Cool, huh? Nice touch of old-school comic book logo going on there.

(That specific image, by the way, is the cover image on my new Facebook page. Expect a lot of cross-posting between that and this blog.)

To help build interest in the novel leading up to its official release, I am posting the first two chapters on this site, free to read at your leisure. You’ll meet Carrie, the main character, and get a sense of the story’s tone. It barely touches the plot proper, but hopefully this taste will encourage you to buy a copy of the full novel once it’s available — and I do plan to make it available as a trade paperback and as an e-book.

I’ve already posted once about what to expect out of the story, but I’m going to do so again in a question-and-answer format.

What is the novel about?

Smart-ass answer: about 400 pages.

Straight answer: it’s about a group of teenage superhero wannabes who find themselves in over their heads when an actual super-villain starts causing trouble. It’s also about the main character, Carrie, trying to put her life back together after her parents’ unexpected divorce and her subsequent relocation to a new home in a new town.

What can I expect from the novel?

A lot of humor (which I’m sure comes as a shock to no one who knows me), action and adventure, homages to some classic comic book tropes, and a reasonable dose of drama; I’m trying to avoid a teenage angst-ridden quasi-soap opera, so don’t expect “Teen Titans 90210.” Also, don’t expect to see what has become a cliche of the YA genre, the love triangle. I hate ’em and I’m not interested in writing one. This is not to say the characters will not have romantic experiences, but don’t expect Carrie to spend the entire series twisted in knots over whether to love Male Character A or Male Character B. Boring!

Wait, did you say “series”?

I did. This is envisioned as a finite series, of as-yet indeterminate length, and whether the second book happens depends in good part on how well the first one does (not that I’m trying to pressure anybody to buy it. Heavens, no). I say “finite series” because I do have an end in mine, and no interest in writing a series that goes on forever and ever…you know, like superhero comics do.

Hey, why are you doing this as a prose novel? Why not a comic book?

Quick, name three YA series that tell a superhero story.

You can’t, can you?

And that is why I’m telling this story this way. A superhero story told via the expected medium is going to be white noise. As a novel, I’m hoping Action Figures will stand out and really grab prospective readers’ attention.

Why a female protagonist? Shouldn’t a superhero story be told through the eyes of a male superhero?

Again, name three comic book series starring a woman. While you’re doing that, I’ll name ten times as many starring a male character. I won’t even cheat and just list off the multiple titles starring Batman or Wolverine.

The idea that comics in general, and superhero comics in particular, are only for boys (and men) is laughable. I know LOTS of women who dig superhero comics (my wife, for starters) and want to see more titles with female protagonists. Moreover, they want to see female protagonists that are presented well: as fully fleshed-out, well-rounded, layered characters that do more than back up the men while gadding about in impractically skimpy, skintight outfits.

Granted, I am taking a bit of risk here as a 40-something male writer telling a story through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl, but I was fortunate to have some beta-readers who were quick to point out when I got Carrie wrong — and aside from a complaint from my editor/sister-in-law about the cliche of girls being bad at math (which I address here), I made it through the manuscript without anyone calling bullshit on me. Hooray!

Does that mean male readers won’t like it?

Not at all. There are prominent male characters in the book, but that shouldn’t make a difference; I’d like to think male readers would pick this up as quickly as they’d snatch up The Hunger Games series or any of Cherie Priest’s excellent novels, and for the same reasons: they want to read a fun, exciting story, regardless of whether the main character is a boy or a girl.

For that matter, just because it’s a young adult novel, that doesn’t mean adult adults won’t enjoy it. Honestly, the “young adult” tag has lot a lot of its meaning over the past several years, what with us old fogies snatching up YA titles as quickly as the alleged target audience. Young adult novels nowadays are as complex and mature as many a “book intended for adults,” and I think the only thing that makes a YA title a YA title nowadays is the lack of the lack of a gratuitous F-bomb or two. But I digress.

Let’s say I bought a copy. I’ve done my part, right?

And I thank you for it (or will, when you buy one), but please remember that I’m doing this on my own here. I don’t have a publishing giant behind me to promote and distribute the book to stores across America and the world. I don’t have an advertising budget. I have this blog, a Facebook page, and (soon) a presence on Amazon.com. I know how to write and send press releases. It’s a start, but what I will need to make this endeavor really pay off is support from those who took a chance on an unknown writer and shelled out for a debut (self-published) novel.

If you like the novel, please take a couple of minutes to go onto Amazon.com (and/or, if it shows up there, Goodreads.com) and post a review. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, just give it a rating and say a few words letting people know why you liked it. Tell your friends and family about it, maybe even give them a copy as a gift (or at least let them borrow your copy). Share my Facebook and blog posts so new readers can learn about it. If you’re feeling really ambitious, shoot your local bookstore and/or library an e-mail asking them to carry a copy.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Go check out the sample chapters, and they stay tuned for further announcements about the release.