Monday, November 16, 2015

High Frontier Trilogy

Chris Claremont made name for himself as a comic book writer for the X-Men comics. Much of his work on Marvel’s mutants has become some of the most influential work on the X-Men and the Marvel Universe. His work has also inspired much of the X-Men movies. But Claremont did not limit himself to comics. He also co-wrote a book series with George Lucas dealing with events that happened after the Willow film. Claremont also wrote three original novels that have come to be known as The High Frontier Trilogy. These books are First Flight, Grounded, and Sundowner.

First Flight follows Air Force Lieutenant Nicole Shea on her first space mission in command of a ship and crew in the earliest says of humanities first steps into interstellar travel. This first mission was to lay beacons within the Earth’s solar system to help with future space travel. Her mission runs into a mysterious rogue group of heavily armed and equipped mercenaries called a Wolfpack, and then onto first contact with an alien race.

Grounded further explores the mystery of the Wolfpack and a plot to kill Lt. Shea. All the while Shea is helping to further build the alliance with the feline race called the Halyan’t’a. While the Hal, as they are called, are a slightly more technically sophisticated species, they still have some technical hurdles to overcome and an alliance with humanity is formed to trade technology and expertise. The mysterious conspiracy that is keeping Shea grounded on earth puts her deeper into a wider conspiracy that could derail the alliance with the Hal.

In Sundowner, Nicole Shea, now a Captain, is completing her work as the head of a joint Human / Halyan’t’a project to make a new space ship that will benefit both species. But even when one conspiracy ended in Grounded, a new threat emerges from a group who wants Humanity to be free from alien influences. The story continues onto earths first faster than light star ship, the Constitution, and then to the Halyan’t’a’s home world. The story ends with the unraveling of the conspiracy and the origin of the Hal’s religion.

Claremont created an amazing universe with these books, and as he has done while working with Marvel, created amazing characters. The world he build in this series is not too far from our own to seem impossible. This Earth taking its first steps into interstellar travel is in our not too distant future, so the technology is not too far fetched to understand and the politics and motivations of the players are not things we are unfamiliar with. Lt. Shea I would describe as similar to Ripley in the Aliens movies and Starbuck in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. Although Shea is much more a stable personality than Kara Thrace. Though Shea does have a love interest, this is more of a subplot and she spends most of the series figuring things out on her own.

In a way, the universe Claremont created in this series feels like the beginning of the word of Star Trek when Humans and Vulcans first began working together. While the series ends before anything like the Federation or Starfleet happens, it is easy to see how a natural continuation of this story would lead to a Trek like existence. If I had to make a criticism, it’s that the end of the third book got a little too much into the religion of the Hal and that even though there was a resolution to the story, I felt like there should have been more. It does though end in a place where if he wanted to, Claremont could continue the series. If you are looking for a good story with a strong female character, you might want to give these books a try. You’re not likely to find them in stores, my copies are from a used book store. You can, however find them online at sites like Amazon.

This article originally appeared on SciFiPulse.Net

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Comic Book films Guillermo Del Toro should direct

Guillermo Del Toro has made a name for himself with dark fantasy and horror movies. Most notably Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy franchise. He also directed the sci-fi giant monster vs. giant robot action film, Pacific Rim. Del Toro also has many writing credits to his name. He has a talent for horror, supernatural, and humor. So as to not drag this out too much, here are 5 Comic Book films Guillermo Del Toro should direct:

1. Midnight Sons

There is a Justice League Dark film that was going to be directed by Del Toro, but he dropped out due to scheduling concerns. A similar potential project exists with Marvel. While they are not the Dark Avengers, The Midnight Sons are a supernatural team of Marvel heroes that have battled dark and demonic forces. I have mentioned a Midnight Sons film before as a potential Marvel film now that the rights to three key members are back under MARVEL Studios control (Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and Blade). Del Toro has done a Blade film already, FYI. Blade II. Just putting that out there.

2. Rat Queens

Rat Queens is begging for some sort of adaptation. Del Toro was close to directing The Hobbit films and Rat Queens would give him the opportunity to work his magic on a fantasy project that is kinds close... ish to middle Earth. Rat Queens is a little more edgy in tone and humor then Tolkein, but it would be pretty close to what he did with Hellboy. Dee, Betty, Hannah, and Violet are a team that parties as hard as (if not more so) than they fight. And they are the best around at getting things done. Magic, mayhem, mystical creatures, monsters, giant god squids in the sky, and some drug humor. It would be epic.

3. Joe the Barbarian

I have raved about this series too. It's kind of like a darker Never Ending Story. So imagine what that film would be like if Guillermo Del Toro directed it. He has already done a film with a young protagonist in Pan's Labyrinth. This story of Joe, a teen diabetic who starts to hallucinate after his blood sugar gets too low, is an epic story filled with amazing creatures and characters. Joe goes on a quest with his rat guardian Jack to save his home and protect a fantasy world of toys from King Death. And who wouldn't want to see Doug Jones bring an human sized armored warrior rat to life?

4. The New Mutants: Demon Bear Saga

A New Mutants film is in the works at Fox already. But Del Toro could add a new dark spin on the X-Men universe. This would be a second or third film in a franchise. The Demon Bear killed the parents of New Mutants member, Danielle Moonstar, and then came after her. It has the ability to transform people into demonic Native American warriors and does so when the whole team comes to Moonstar's aid. The story was written by Chris Claremont so you know it is good already. Del Toro could do wonders with this story.

5. NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind

Yeah. Let your mind consider this one for a bit. Guillermo Del Toro filming a live action version of a Hayao Miyazaki classic. If this one doesn't fan the flames of your inner fanboy/girl you are either lying to yourself or you are dead inside. NausicaƤ is the princess of a small kingdom that gets caught in the middle of a war between two larger nations. The world is already dying due to the spread of a toxic Forrest and the giant insects that inhabit it and now the conflict of two warring nations threatens the survival of the Valley of the Wind. Giant monsters, part fantasy, part dystopian future, and Del Toro has already given a nod to anime with Pacific Rim, this more than anything else could be huge if (huge IF) could ever happen. It is already a fantastic animated feature.

I doubt any of these project would happen with Del Toro being as busy as he his. Though, chances are these projects all could happen at some point. Again, The New Mutants is already on the slate at Fox.If sometime in the distant future when Guillermo Del Toro has free time between his own films and other big studio projects, maybe he could give one of these a shot.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Could Identity Crisis make it to film?

Would DC and Warner Brothers be brave enough to film Identity Crisis? Odds are no. But lets break this down a little. Marvel has unquestionably set the bar high with The Avengers franchise. DC is understandably building it's own Justice League franchise in response. And why wouldn't they? Fans want it and it's just good business. Even though the Justice League universe was started with Man of Steel, it won't really start to form until the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which will also introduce Wonder Woman and Aquaman. As for other characters, rumors are pointing to Doomsday as being the force that brings everyone together. But that is just a rumor at this point. Warner Brothers is also expending the DC cinematic universe with the Suicide Squad film. So we have the Justice League origin story ready to go. But where to from there?

As is the case with MARVEL, there is a lot of iconic source material to choose from. Honestly I hope Kingdom Come will eventually be filmed. If it happens at all, it will not be the first story DC approves. And it's more like a years down the road, Infinity War kind of thing. But another part of me wonders if another direction could be taken. What if DC tried to tell a story that was more personal? Something that is very humanizing. What if they chose to adapt Identity Crisis? If you didn't read that miniseries, it is really good. The spoiler free description is someone kills the wife of one hero and threatens the lives of the loves ones of other heroes. Some heroes and loved ones don't make to the end.

The story reveals dark secrets and decision that question the ethics and moral standing of the League. The question is would people want to see their favorite characters in a murder mystery thriller? It could be done with a similar tone as Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There wasn't a whole lot of super powers in that one and it was brilliant. It would also take the introduction of a few more League members to fill out the story. Identity Crisis on film is a long shot at best. At most we might get moments inspired from the story or subtle nods to it. But in another world, it would be a fantastic film.

This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted at SciFiPulse.Net

Friday, October 16, 2015

FX picks up Y: The Last Man

I’ve been talking about it. If you are a fan, you’ve been talking about it. Now it’s finally going to happen. After years in movie land development hell, Y: The Last Man might finally show up where it should have all along, on television. The FX network has picked up Y: The Last Man for development. Created by Brian K. Vaughn. Y is about Yorick Brown, the only human male survivor of a plague that wiped out all male life on the planet in a bloody instant. The only other male survivor is his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand. He is on a mission... to find his girlfriend. Keeping him alive and humoring him along the way are a group of women trying to save the the human species.

Two things may directly contribute to Y actually making it into production. First, The Walking Dead. While hit zombie series hay yet to get any love from any award show, MILLIONS watch the post-apocalyptic series. And like TWD, Y has a lot of diverse characters and a great story that could hook viewers. Second, Mad Max: Fury Road. It was labeled a feminist movie (which could be valid, but I just thought it was a great action film), but beyond a few guys on the internet, no one cared. Y is a story with only one male in it. The entire cast, leading and supporting, is female. And TV viewers will be introduced to Agent 355. Think TWD's Michone as a secret agent with special operations military training.

Hopefully if it does go into production the series will mirror The Walking Dead in character building. Because the characters are what will sell the series. It's post-apocalyptic, but there are no monsters. Essentially, Y is one long road film with many character studies. The cast of characters are very interesting, but if not done right, a TV series could feel flat. What it also has going for it is that the characters are racially diverse and the story crisscrosses the United States and takes us to different countries. It would gives us looks into how different people and other cultures would deal with a global crisis. The series has the potential to be groundbreaking drama. There is definitely humor and some action. But what made the series fantastic is the characters. Hopefully FX will bring it to life and pull it off.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Claremont and the X-Men Films

Chris Claremont wrote key moments in the history of the X-Men that continue to influence the Marvel universe. It is no surprise that the X-Men film universe has been influenced by him as well. X2 (X-Men: United), the squeal to the first X-Men film,  was inspired by the graphic novel, God Loves, Man Kills. The third movie, X-Men: The Last Stand was loosely based on The Dark Phoenix Saga. X-Men: Days Of Future Past is based on a story of the same name that appeared in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. Even The Wolverine, the second Wolverine solo film, is based on the Wolverine limited series written by Claremont.

Claremont was the writer on Uncanny X-Men longer than any other writer. In his 17 years on the title he co-created a lot of the iconic and well known female characters that have become an important part of the films. Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Mystique, and Emma Frost can all thank Claremont for playing a role in their existences. Another character created by Claremont, Jubilee, will feature in the next X-Men film, Apocalypse. Claremont was also a creator for Sabretooth, Mister Sinister, Pyro, the Phoenix Force, and of course Gambit who will be getting his own solo film in 2016 with Channing Tatum playing the mutant Cajun.

There are many more Claremont stories that could be mined for screenplay material. The New Mutants, a title Claremont helped launch, has been green lit by FOX and will be written and directed by Josh Boon, director of The Fault In Our Stars. Demon Bear Saga anyone? If it follows the comic, The New Mutants will be a new young team of characters who could potentially carry the X-Men banner after the actors in the current films retire from the franchise.

Chris Claremont didn’t set out to make a career in comics. He wrote novels and hoped to become a Director when he began his career at Marvel as an editorial assistant. He has become one of the industry’s most influential and respected writers and creators. His work on the X-Men has become part of the foundation for one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises.

This is an updated version of an article I wrote for SciFiPulse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oh, Hell Vol 1

This is a minor SPOILERY type review.
High school can be hell. Then there is the real Hell. Then there is the boarding school that is actually  Hell that turns teens into soul hunting demons. Zoel is a troubled teen and her adoptive parents think they are doing her a favor by sending her to The Academy. The goal is simple. Learn how to get humans to trade their souls in exchange for their wildest dreams and desires. Success gains you demonic powers. It's pass/fail and failing means losing your own soul.

 Zoel can't understand why her parents gave up on her. She isn't alone of course. There are a lot of students in this class. And teens being teens, they fall into the usual high school roles. Zoel even manages to find a nemesis in the form of the popular pretty girl, Alesse, who is all too good at bringing out the worst in people. She also delights in baiting Zoel's temper. Not that it takes much to ignite her temper. But it's especially easy when it comes to Zipper.

Zoel's roommate/potential love interest (if they can manage to get over their anger and self destructiveness) may be the only bright spot in The Academy. Their troubled pasts help them form a bond. But it is hard to hope for anything in Hell. Everything is hard in Hell. And despite a hair trigger temper and lacking faith in humanity, Zoel is just not cut out for stealing souls. People may betray and judge her, but she can't bring herself to condemn others. And that fault is about to make things even crazier. Zipper pulls off something that shouldn't be possible, harvesting a demon soul. Zoel tries to save him from from going over to the dark side and unintentionally pulls off something even more unprecedented. She breaks out of hell.

Things are happening that should not. Zoel is on the run, her classmates are hunting her, and Zipper has to decide if he is worthy of Zoel and a human life or staying an agent of Hell. Even Hell is having trouble keeping things normal. The story is inspired by writer George Wassil's work with at risk youth and a screenplay he was working on with screenwriter, Michael Connell. Along with artists Dave Hamann, Michael Birkhofer, and letterer Troy Peteri, Wassil brings this story of a fifteen year old girl fighting for her soul and the soul of someone she could care for. It's a dark and original story that is an interesting take on hell and high schoolers. It's hard not to get wrapped up in something this original. Each character is layered very well. Zipper is the tortured street thug with the heart of gold who might find hope if believes he deserves it. Zoel's nemesis, Alesse is more than just a spoiled mean girl. Well, she is a spoiled mean girl, but she is also devious, smart, and patient.

It's an impressive work that has attracted the attention of a major publisher. I won't drop a name until it happens. But Oh, Hell could be headed towards bigger distribution and exposure. Check out the pages online at where you can also buy the collected edition of Vol. 1. CHYRSALIDES.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mystery Babylon 3 - 4

So... the apocalypse is happening. Well, the Final Apocalypse. One apocalypse already happened and at some point the demons of Hell were sealed up in the Pit by Kick Girl. Her psycho ex, Kill Boy, kinda got sealed up in there too. Things were supposed to stay that way. Kick's biggest problem should have been living anonymously for the rest of eternity. But of course there had to be a prophesy that she would open the pit and there has to be a weird cult that wanted her to do it. And as much as she wanted to keep things all sealed up nice and neat... Well it's not her fault the Final Apocalypse has begun.

Needless to say, the forces of good are taken by surprise and don't quite have a good handle on the situation. Kick girl finds herself still stuck with Zero, the priest who is still way out of his league out in the world who manages to get by because Red, an angel of Heaven, seems to like him. Kick also now has the company of Delilah, former leader of the cult who wanted Kick to open the pit. Now that the Pit is open, the Final Apocalypse isn't exactly turning out how Delilah thought it would. There is also the not so minor problem that Kill Boy is out of the Pit as well and is on a Terminator like mission to kill Kick.

The fun still hasn't stopped in the pages of Mystery Babylon. Val Hochberg (Val Brazier now actually) has stayed consistent in this post-post-apocalyptic tale of Kick Girl, which is very loosely inspired by the Mystery Babylon in the Book of Revelation. It doesn't seem like the most likely place of inspiration for an anime style comic wit a lot of humor, but it works.

As luck would have it, Val attended Alamo City Comic Con again where I picked up chapters 3 and four of the web series. I enjoyed the first two chapters and  was looking forward to collecting the next two. I'm kind of old school, I like holding paper in my hands. Despite the ominous inspiration for the series, it is essentially a humorous buddy cop/road trip kind of story. No, Kick and Zero are not cops. But the story has that element of two people from different backgrounds with different personalities being forced to work together and eventually they will be best buds..... Or at least Kick is developing some sort of reluctant grudging respect for Zero. Zero just sees her as his best friend because that's how Zero is. We're also getting more flashes of Kick Girl's back story and what life was like before The Pit got sealed. The time between the Apocalypse and the Final Apocalypse seemed to settle down and get pretty normal. There was enough time for society to bounce back. The picture of what happened before Kick's story pick up in Chapter 1 one keeps getting be filled in as the series continues. In Chapter 4 we even get to see Kick's old place.

While there is an over all arc to the story, it seems as though at best this is possibly the beginning of the midway point. Maybe. But I'd bet on the series continuing for quite a while. Val has said before that there is no exact timeline for how things will happen. Besides, there is still a lot of good stuff going on right now. Look for the pages of Chapter 5 online as they are released on

Read my review of chapters 1 and 2 HERE