Jon Del Arroz’s Based Dragon Award Recommendations

Ran a poll yesterday on which blog my readers would like to see next, and the winner by no uncertain terms was my recommendation for Dragon Award nominations. If you haven’t seen the Dragon Awards before, they are the premier award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, given at Dragon*Con, arguably the best convention that exists. Please, readers, do take the time to vote as this is really your award choice and your voice matters.

Best Science Fiction Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli

Richard really has created a great science fiction, and I mean that in the classic sense. It’s on the short side, but it’s packed with a lot of ideas and it’s definitely the best sci-fi of the year. 

Best Fantasy  A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day

Vox Day is the most underrated fantasy author in fiction. His Arts of Dark and Light series is frankly better fantasy than Brandon Sanderson (of whom I’m a big fan), Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks or George R.R. Martin. The characters are fantastic, the world is a very cool Roman-esque fantasy world, it’s tense all the way through, and it’s got very cool magic and magical beings.

Best Young Adult Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter.

The Rachel series is really a wonderful take on wizardry school. I find it a shame that this series hasn’t won an award yet and that should be remedied in 2017.  Mrs. Lamplighter-Wright gets mad at me when I say that this series is better than Harry Potter… so I won’t say it. But I may have said it somewhere else in the past 🙂 

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz. 

It’s like Rogue One, only better and with actual characters who aren’t flat and have real romance. Do I need to explain this one to you? 😉  If you click on the nomination page and put one book in, put this one in. 

Best Alternate History  Breath of Earth by Beth Cato. 

This both took place in my home city and dealt with a period of time you don’t read a ton about. Everyone knows about the 1906 earthquake’s existence, but adding details and magic to it makes for a really compelling tale.

Best Apocalyptic A Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys.

Dan’s got a fresh take on Zombies that is very fun, a lot of action, and a wild ride. It’s pretty long for a zombie book but it only gives the plot that much more depth.

Best Horror Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Declan continues to redefine Vampire fiction with his third installment in the series. Book 1 got a dragon award nomination last year, and the series only gets more interesting from there. While book 2 is also eligible, this is where Declan should make his stand for the awards, as it fits the horror genre like fangs fit the Carotid artery.

Best Comic Book  Motor Girl #1 by Terry Moore.

His Rachel Rising was one of my favorite books of all time, and I was sad to see it end. This has classic cartoon elements, a gorilla (RIP Harambe), aliens, and a much deeper plot that’s unfolding. Issue 1 is great for the hook, and well worth the read.

Best Graphic Novel  Chew vol 12. – Sour Grapes by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Chew was honestly the best comic book of the last several years. The concept’s cool. It’s hilarious on every front. It’s actually pretty in depth, and the expansion of the powers of food get so ridiculous. People hated on the ending, but I thought it was fricking hilarious. Chew is most worthy of the Dragon.

Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy TV Series No award.

I don’t like any SF/F TV shows right now. They all suck. Bah humbug.

Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy Movie Passengers

This is a beautiful film. Great plot, great sci-fi, great romance, great characters. It can be a little slow at points but the timing feels realistic.There’s a lot of good sci-fi plot points and tropes in here and frankly Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence could do the hokey pokey on screen for two hours and I’d watch it and probably love it.

Best PC or Console Game Final Fantasy XV. 

An excellent installment to the Final Fantasy series. The battle system was wonderful, story great, characters compelling, the backstory and world were done right and the visuals are stunning as always.

Best Mobile Game Epic Card Game Digital

This game took everything fun about Magic: The Gathering and got rid of the heavy baggage of that game. It’s somewhat simpler to play though when I went into competitive matches I got STOMPED, so there is a lot more depth than people realize as well. There’s some cool mechanics unique to the game too and it’s super exciting that it’s now on a digital platform in app version. 

Best Board Game Hero Realms

Star Realms in Fantasy, yet they tweaked a couple of things to make it unique. You can play with “class decks” which you customize your playstyle before you even start, a nice innovation for deck building. On top of that, the power curve is very different. It’s worth a play, or a hundred.

Best Miniatures/CCG/RPG  Star Wars: Destiny

I mentioned this was my favorite game of 2016 launching at the tail end of the year. It’s a competitive card game but with dice, and has a very unique duel feel to it. I love how the dice work, the game mechanics are very clean and it’s always tense to play. Fantasy Flight usually nails it with their star wars games and this is no exception.

And there you have it. Go out and vote!

Chuck Dixon Unleashed!

I promised a couple of readers the full interview of Chuck Dixon from my Federalist article. It’s short, as I knew going in that I had a pretty dense article with a lot of other information, but Chuck provides some great, thorough responses:

Do you have any thoughts on Marvel’s only hiring hard left writers who openly lambast the President, conservatives and Christians?  
It’s about as dumb as can be. Comics are, traditionally, a universal form of entertainment meant to appeal to the broadest possible audience of readers. Narrowly fixing your material to appeal only to the far left leaves a whole lot of people out of that equation. And not only those who disagree with the far left but those who are apolitical or anyone looking for escapist entertainment.

And putting political considerations over talent is a terrible mistake unless you’re giving the comics away at rallies.

How has this mentality affected you?   
I am blacklisted at Marvel and have been for over fifteen years. So, the affect has been direct on me resulting in less potential work, less potential income. A large segment of readership is shut out for me and Punisher fans all over the world have cause to feel sad.
How do you think that this lockstep SJW mindset has contributed to comics’ decline?
Falling sales. The numbers are there. I think that Marvel, in particular, misjudged things. I think they thought they could repeat the Obama stunts that temporarily buoyed sales in 2008 an 2009 on some titles. But Trump-hate is not much of a sales motivator, as it turns out. They would have done better to do some comics that embraced Trump. But even their cynicism is ideologically motivated.
Why do you think the culture of comics became so toxic? 
Comics over all are fine. But you have these pockets of apparatchiks beavering away to get their talking points out there coming from the mouths of iconic characters. And the vast majority of editors are either left-leaning or willing to appear so in exchange for job security. They virtue signal with one hand and wave a paycheck in the other. There are a lot of conservatives on the creator end of this business. But they have to hide their opinions for fear of losing work. I was never able to do that.
Once again big thank you for Chuck Dixon to speaking with me for this article. His testimony provides a very real, human element to the tragedy that Marvel has wrought upon comic creators. I was pleased to find out about his prose fiction last year and he is someone worth supporting, so do check out his work on Amazon.

How To Apply For A Job In Mainstream Journalism

This has been one crazy journey, one in which I had no intention of traveling. You might say it’s like the classic hero story. Events happen that are out of young Peter Parker’s control, or in this case, my control, people started reading my blog and my work in earnest, and I learned that I had a vast superpower at my disposal: the truth.

With great power comes great responsibility, as someone once wrote, someone long forgotten by current sci-fi and comics publishers, who have worshipped at the altar of their cult of political correctness for so long. It turns out people are starved for the truth, and they shun that false idol that the SJWs have propped up.

Here’s a little backstory of The Adventures of Super-Hispanic Writer for those who just joined us.  I did a little research into the twitter accounts of Marvel writers, only to be shocked as to the level of groupthink by the writing staff.  

Then, Bleeding Cool, a FAKE NEWS comic website who virtue signals to giant conglomerate corporations like Disney instead of protecting independent artists like me — ironic as they’re funded by the small Avatar Press — decided that in order to shill for Marvel, they had to ignore the real content of my story and lambast me personally in a way that didn’t even make sense for anyone who actually read the article:

Disgusting behavior. Shame on you for attacking independent artists.

Well, there is a happy ending to this story. The Federalist, a legitimate, mainstream news source noticed my article, and hired me to expand upon it and write for a mainstream audience. The article posted this morning:

And now my reach is so much bigger than Bleeding Cool’s that it’s laughable. Thanks Rich!

There’s a moral to this story: don’t be afraid to tell the truth. I was honestly afraid for my future career when the folk on the convention circuit tried to silence me for my political beliefs. They thought it’d be a simple matter of pushing me away to obscurity and that’d be it. I was very much afraid of that — as they’d made a lot of us afraid to speak out over the years. They have the very real blackball threat at some of these big publishers to show you exactly how dangerous it is to speak the truth. Bleeding Cool did the same.

Yes, you won’t be able to work at Marvel. You won’t be able to speak at SJW converged sci-fi conventions. Tor Books will not publish you. You won’t win a Hugo award. But as creators are learning: you don’t need any of that stuff to succeed. You can get your work and your message out without them, that’s the beauty of the internet. Moreover it’s important to let the general public, who is unaware of all of this, know that these institutions hate them and everything they stand for. Those platforms are old and busted by political correctness and virtue signaling. You are the new hotness.

Stand up with me, friends. We can fight these villains and restore truth, justice and the American way.


Marvel Starting To Get The Picture

In a little more than a week after Bleeding Cool went FAKE NEWS on me and wrote a hit piece on an indie author in defense of a giant evil megacorporation, ignoring my legitimate concerns about current editorial having destroyed the Marvel Comics brand by not allowing any normal people to actually write their stories, but only having political zealots, the tune starts to change:

The takeaway isn’t “I guess our readers don’t want diversity”. No, they don’t want politics rammed down their throats or their kids throats when they’re trying to read some pulp fantasy about a dude wearing an American flag beating up on a dude with a red skull. Giving a surface-level face change to a beloved character into “She-Thor” or “SuperBurquahGirl” as Vox Day put it is obviously a gimmick meant to virtue signal, not “try out new and interesting ideas.” Thin political messages instead of good fiction. If you want new and interesting ideas, make a real commitment to new characters like you did in the late 2000s with Runaways and Spider-Girl and things like that — those were AWESOME, but they didn’t get the creator support or marketing they needed long term.

I want new and interesting ideas and cool superheroes with new and fresh ideas, so do many other readers, that’s why we’re turning to Valiant comics. How much more diverse can you get than a 3rd century Visigoth dude in space armor?  I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere else.

Discovering The Valiant: Bloodshot vol. 1 Review

Bloodshot vol. 1

And here I thought Harbinger was dark. This is probably the darkest Valiant comic I’ve read. What a concept. Bloodshot is a military weapon of a man filled with nanobots that repair him and give him superpowers. He gets beat to a pulp more than Wolverine. The military or secret ops or whoever is pulling the strings erases his memory when convenient, and fills him with stories for the mission. They’ve wiped his memory hundreds of time and sent him back out on suicide missions, where he’s taken out a crazy amount of people. The action, violence and gore level of this book reminds me of Garth Ennis’s MAX Punisher run, yikes. He’s on the run, meets up with the grounding character woman who doesn’t have powers, and the military chases after him with a living EMP called Pulse. I Had fun with it and found it hard to put down. The last page of this volume was pretty fuzzed and difficult to read from what looks like a printing error, but I was able to make it out. Overall, really dark, but I enjoyed it.

There are two artists on art duty in this, and unfortunately their styles don’t mesh at all. It seems like one’s used just for his flashbacks in an attempt to mitigate that but it’s a weird look, and doesn’t mesh well with the traditional comic look. It’s mostly fine at points, but there are some strange proportions and faces drawn in areas that look a little rushed. Art is okay, but not my favorite.

Overall, not sure I’m attached to the character, it’s hard to be, and I would have liked just a little more in terms of char development attachment to the nurse woman whose name I couldn’t quite read on that blurred last page, and with Pulse for that matter, but it’s a solid first book and I’m interested enough to keep reading. 7/10

Signing @ Colossus Con – Saturday, April 8th in Pleasanton, CA

I’ll be setting up a table signing copies of Star Realms: Rescue Run for anyone who wants to come by (will have copies available for sale, as well as some of the last of the stock of the graphic novel of my former web-comic, Flying Sparks, which features art by Dynamite Artist Jethro Morales of Green Hornet and Dejah of Mars fame). Come by and say hi. I may even be tempted to play a game or two of Star Realms as well.

Details on the con: 

Discovering the Valiant: X-O Manowar (2012) Vol. 2 and 3

Reviewing these together but as one post. Great comic. I think the #PulpRevolution should pick up volumes 1-3 of this immediately as a primer of “how it should be done.”

X-O Manowar (2012) Vol. 2

This picks up right where the first volume left off, with a potential alien invasion from the Vine looming, their planted agents conspiring against Alric in present day Earth, chasing him down and sending agents who get torn apart by him immediately. He’s so feral, so ancient, and it shows that he does not give a damn about anyone or anything. A truly desperate situation for our hero. Eventually, one of the alien plants defects and helps Alric as Earth is threatened with impending doom because they can’t stand that the suit is here. MI-6 is controlled by the aliens, who send Ninjak to take him out — a really cool character and foe, then friend to Alric. Tons of action, super fast paced, even faster than the first volume in a lot of ways, and equally as decompressed as we’re now 8 issues in and alien invasion’s been threatened awhile, and still hasn’t happened. Despite that decompression — I love it. The action’s fun, the characters are there to care about, I find this story super engaging and want all 13 volumes immediately so I can binge. the only thing that bugs me is I’m 8 issues in and there’s no reason for this guy to be called X-O Manowar. Why not Adventures of Alric?

Art has stayed pretty much the same through this volume. Not much has stood out and wowed me, and yet I’ve got nothing to complain about as well. I didn’t even check if the artist stayed the same, it flowed smoothly and didn’t bug me regardless. I suppose the artist did a good job on the MI-6 fortress, as that stood out as memorable to me. A big building with giant guns.

Loving it, can’t wait for the next issue. 9/10

X-O Manowar (2012) Vol. 3

If I hadn’t made, based on a one-issue pick up of the relaunch of X-O Manowar, the decision to fall in love with a comic company and universe, I would have simply by picking up X-O Manowar’s last run and reading through this third volume. Wow. This is pure action pulp adventure at its finest. Everything clicks on high cylinders in the story. Epic prophecy. Epic alien armies. A man raising his own army from the ashes. Hot redhead. This is modern pulp and it’s beautiful. It concludes the first major story arc, and answers some good questions, and gives us some great background for the Vine where a lot of things make sense now. We also finally see the term Manowar, and that starts to make sense. I’m very happy with how this has gone story wise, and though I would have added a little more romance personally and developed Shaana a tad more, it’s near perfect.

The art has suffered a little bit. The first couple issues in this volume were a fill in artist who was again, fine and servicable. Cary Nord then came back for the rest of the issues and I have to say his detail started to lack. I don’t know if he’s rushing issues or what, but it’s noticeable in a lot of panels, especially if comparing to earlier issues by reading through in a binge read. His attention to action though to maintain the fast paced read pretty much does make up for this, however. It’s very story-communicative if that details not there, and so overall I wouldn’t champion this book for its art, but I’m satisfied.

A brilliant comic work. Will be difficult to top this. 9/10

Discovering The Valiant: Shadowman Vol. 2-3

Last night I followed up on my reading of Shadowman Vol 1 with a volume 2 and 3 read. Though I’m going to condense into one post, though will review separately.

Shadowman Volume 2 consists of issues #5-9 which continue the plotline of Darque trying to get back to the regular world. He’s hooked up with the “King of the Dead Side” who is skull and bones, super creepy, great art. He lives in a giant manner separate, out of touch from even this dark reality of ghosts and ghouls. The king is named Samedi, and he takes over a host in the real world in spectacular and disturbing fashion. Shadowman is confronted with him and they form an uneasy alliance to work together against Darque, who is fast taking over the dead side. The takeover and all that is a bit rushed compared to the rest of the storyline, without much development. I think they could have taken a little time to tell us more of who Darque was, but with a name like that and the whole dead side ghouls, we get that he’s bad, and we do have a fast paced action story to deal with on top of that. It’s something that could be explored more. There’s perhaps a bit too many concepts and factions here with Darque not getting explained, Samedi the same, then the Brethren who we know little about, and then Shadowman’s group, the Abettors – we know just as little about them. It still works as a story even though I’d like some more depth, definitely leaving room for future installments to develop these. If they had been developed prior to this confrontation, however, it would have exceeded the emotional impact. Still, because of the fun pace, I thought the story was great.

The art is great too. The problems I had with the coloring in the first volume seem to have gone away here, even with the first issue. I don’t know if the colorists got better or they switched, I didn’t notice. About the middle of the volume, the artist leaves and gets replaced with several. Some people say they found that jolting, but I thought it was fine. Wasn’t up to the standards of issues 5-6 in the volume, but still rather on the excellent side. This volume overall and storyline I rate a 9/10 as it could have had a little more to make it perfect but I am very much intrigued with the character.

Then there’s Shadowman Volume 3. This one starts with a #0 backstory and has 10-12 in addition to that. And the series starts to lose focus fast.

#0 is a backstory of Darque’s sister, which is intriguing and interesting. It shows how she’s connected to the Bonifaces, the origin of Shadowman through magic, and how she came to be. I was almost hoping they wouldn’t introduce her yet, as we had so much to learn about Darque himself, which we get glimpses of but still not a full picture here, and of Samedi and the Abettors…. All of which gets dropped. I like the art here, but it reads like a back story despite trying to make it into something. Good history, but it’s an info-dump of an issue. What’s weird is that issue #10 doesn’t further the current storyline either, but delves back further into backstory again. The series really goes off the rails a bit here. I’m glad for the history, but some of this should have been intertwined in the last story arc, and some of it with the sister should have been saved for later when she makes an appearance in the current timeline. After that, we get a bizarre Halloween Special for #11, which isn’t connected to anything and ignores a lot of the storyline for a quick fight-fest. Issue #12 devolves further into a series of vignettes by different writers and artists, like they couldn’t keep the team together to work on the storyline. These add very little to shadowman, and I had to force myself to read them. It was rough. I think we had an epic start for the first volumes, with some cool history unfolding, and then the rough times came.

The art in this collection varies in quality wildly. It’s all over the map and seems to get worse with each subsequent issue. Kind of sad to watch, as this had a lot of potential. Overall, the backstory of 0 and 10 are okay, but skippable, and 11-12 aren’t worth the read. 5/10

Discovering The Valiant: Shadowman Vol. 1

I’ve mentioned this last week how excited i was about the Valiant Universe, because of the relaunch of X-O Manowar #1, which hooked me immediately, so much that I grabbed a trade of the original 1992 Shadowman series… and if you’re already confused because I’m dropping titles without context, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up:

Valiant Comics started in the 90s, it went for a time, then got sold if I’m not mistaken, with Acclaim focusing on video games and then subsequently killing their titles. Valiant returned in 2012 with a relaunch of X-O Manowar, Shadowman and Archer & Armstrong, then launching into a comic universe with about a dozen different series. I picked up a lot of these trades at half price books, as someone had apparently read most of their line:

I read the original 90s Shadowman trade thinking that it would give me some context for the current one, but it appears that the Valiant titles since 2012 are a fresh reboot, no prior knowledge required. This is both cool and kind of a bummer to me as I liked the first incarnation quite a bit.

This version is by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Shadowman is again Jack Boniface, but the character has completely changed in the Issues 1-4 that are collected here. His parents were involved in this past Shadowman history and were killed saving the world. Jack now works in a museum in New Orleans, and the setting there doesn’t feel as crucial as it did in the first incarnation. There’s an otherworldly plot going on — and this is where I think the world building that Jordan did surpasses the original by leaps and bounds. The villain Darque is trapped in some other dimension, trying to get here. Shadowman can use his powers to travel between this world and a world of the dead, which he can traverse only in darkness or through the shadows. He meets a gal Alyssa Miles, who with her partner, are trying to cultivate him into the hero he’s supposed to be, a sort of chosen one storyline. I find this works really well. There’s a conspiracy of evil rich dudes that are summoning otherworldly evils, and then we meet the villain of this arc — The Twist, a pretty creepy demon character who reminds me of Princess Mononoke’s demon infested animals with the weird demonness kinda living atop the skin. The storyline is pretty solid, and I like the depth that they’ve gone to to make Shadowman feel like it’s got a bit more to it than the last version had. The different worlds/planes are very interesting and I hope to see them developed more as the series goes on.

The art is decent, but I did read this right after XO Manowar’s new iteration, in which the art is jawdropping, so I am comparing to that and it doesn’t quite hold up. I don’t think this has to do with the line art so much as the coloring. The lines are quite fluid, there’s always action going on, something about the eyes or faces gives me the impression they’re not real, I can’t pinpoint it down, but it’s not a big deal. Zircher’s demons/undead/spirits is where he shines though. These come across as a really unique imagination and I think it makes the book.  The colors though feel a little bit too much like digital flats for the dark storyline that’s going on here. I don’t feel a ton of impact from light sources and it doesn’t leave me super excited. It’s servicable but the tone doesn’t feel right for Shadowman in that regard.

I found this story to be pretty darn fun, overall. It’s good, and enough to make me interested in more volumes. I like how this reboot has gone compared to the original, having read them back to back. A solid start to the series. 8/10