Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arrrrrrgh! (Warning: This Post has nothing to do with Pirates)

So, yesterday, I was able to enjoy one of the best days a writer can have when I announced my new Aspen project, JIRNI. I love finally being able to talk about. I've done work in the fantasy genre before (most notably my time writing SOULFIRE), but this is something a little different.

Now, let's compare that with today - one of the more frustrating days for a writer (at least for this writer).

Great ideas don't come everyday. We'd love to think they grow on trees and we could collect them by the bushel, but they are hard to come by. Now, don't get wrong, ideas come all the time and many of them can BECOME great ideas, but its more rare for an idea to spark and immediately you know you have something special. Something you can really sink your teeth into, have fun, and (god forbid) achieve a level of success with.

I know what you are saying - where's the frustrating part, JT? This all sounds fine and dandy.

Well, here it comes...

After doing research for several months and actually starting to write the project, I stumbled upon another work that is virtually identical. There you have it - Aaaarrrrgh!

Initially when I came up with the idea, I did my due diligence. I checked around, asked people, googled, searched through libraries and bookstores and on Amazon and Wikipedia in order to see if the idea had been done before. In truth, there were a couple of projects in the same vein, but I still felt good about moving forward in developing this particular project.

Like I said, I actually started writing it. And I don't mean just a couple pages of a script or a chapter or two of a book. I mean, SUBSTANTIAL work.

Cut to this afternoon when I visited my local Barnes and Noble (which it turns out is closing down in a week - double bummer). Wandering through the aisles, I stumbled upon a certain book that caught my eye. My heart sank as the grabbed the copy from the shelf. The title was troublesome, and then I read the blurb on the back of the book. Yep, there it was. Almost exactly the same idea I had been working on.

It's so deflating and disheartening. I felt like I got punched in the stomach. It really is nauseating as I think about all the time and energy and work put into it. All which is now useless. In the days to come, perhaps I'll figure out a way to adjust the story, rework a few things, and make it something different that I can still pursue, but for right now the project is gone.

All I can do tomorrow is try to find something else to fill that empty space, where the story in question used to live and breath.

God, I hate days like today.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Time to take a JIRNI!

Open the floodgates!

One of the harder aspects about being a writer is keeping mum about new projects while you are developing them. When that spark of creative energy triggers and you find yourself scribbling away late at night, building entire worlds out of thin air, you want to share it with everyone that very instant. As you conjure up new characters and new challenges for them face, when you realize exactly what the story is about - where the heart and soul of it rests, you want to leap up and down shouting eureka.

But you can't. You have to keep it to yourself until it's time for the big announcement.  Well, luckily for me, today is that day. I am over-the-moon, thrilled to be able to announce my new creator book being published at ASPEN COMICS - JIRNI!

JIRNI, yes a play on the word "journey," is an epic fantasy adventure about a warrior princess named Ara, who finds herself on a quest to find her kidnapped mother. It celebrates everything I love about the fantasy genre - from the legendary works of Frazetta to the amazing icons like Conan, Flash Gordon, and John Carter; from the world of Dungeons and Dragons to Tolkien's fabled realm of Middle Earth. It's a dangerous world that is both familiar and yet different, with wild barbarians, cutthroat thieves, and exotic creatures. And, let's not forget the mythic d'jinn or genie of the lamp.

I owe a huge thanks to ASPEN COMICS for not only giving me the opportunity to publish it through them, but also for making JIRNI a part of their huge 10for10 initiative coinciding with the company's 10th anniversary. For that reason, the first issue of JIRNI hitting stores in April will only be $1! That's right - only a buck!

Joining me on the book are Paolo Pantalena and Brett Smith. Two amazing and talented artists that are bringing all their energy and excitement to the book. You can get just a taste in the covers seen above featuring inspiring pencils by Paolo, with awesome colors by Peter Steigerwald (not to mention the deft touch of Mark Roslan!).

In the coming weeks and months I'll be talking more about JIRNI and showing more artwork as we countdown to the premiere of the first issue in April. I really hope everyone checks out the book. It's going to be something special. I promise.


Friday, December 7, 2012

No Love for Superman?

It's been talked about before. People lamenting Superman for being boring. He's so powerful and indestructible, there is never a sense of danger for him. And, how can we relate to such a boy scout who can do anything?  He is a god among men, living with us without being one of us. I thought a lot about Superman as I prepared to take over Superman Beyond, but I also reflected on the character as I wrote Captain Atom.

Yes, Superman is an alien. He is way powerful, virtually indestructible, with abilities we can only dream about. He leads a seemingly charmed life - loving parents, trusting friends, a job he cherishes, and let's not forget an unbending moral spine.

That last part is what I think is the problem. It's not the power and strength. We can relate to the Hulk. It's not the impervious nature. We relate to Wolverine. Tony Stark thrives in his career. Peter Parker has loving people in his life. It's that pesky morality. As flawed humans, we have a hard time connecting with someone who seems to make all the right decisions with ease. Superman never wavers in his heart. He knows the right thing to do and simply does it. There is no battle, no inner-struggle. And, that is what makes him so very inhuman. Ironic, isn't it? His empathy, his ability to relate to us makes him seem foreign to us.

It even explains why some actually loathe Superman, hoping more than anything that he gets knocked down a peg or two. Because Superman serves as a mirror to our own behavior. He's the ultimate role model, and it frustrates us because we cannot live up to his gold standard. He's kind, responsible, and even-tempered. There isn't a mean bone in his body. And, he makes it look so damn easy. He doesn't belittle people to make himself feel better. He doesn't lash out in anger or greed or fear. Don't get me wrong, humans possess all the same altruistic traits. We are not monsters. But, our behavior ebbs and flows. We have moments to be proud of and moments to abhor.

Superman never has those lapses in judgment.

As for me, I don't loathe him or think he is boring. I admire him. He was always meant to be the beacon on the hill. The trick is to strive to reach the light without being dismayed when it exposes our own failings hidden in the shadows.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's Go Forward - Together.

Okay, so yes - I could be talking about the election.  I've made no secret that I support Obama and tend to lean to the democratic side, but that's not what this blog is about.  So for those of you exhausted by the marathon election season, you can safely keep reading.  No political discourse follows.

It's my birthday today, and this is the time I take stock in my life, both personally and professionally, evaluate the successes and failures and plot a course toward a brighter future.  A lot of people choose this exercise at the coming of the new year, but for me, I've always done it this way.  But the honest truth is, you don't have to wait for New Year's or your birthday or even flag day (one of these days I'm going to have a flag day party that will be something like a toga party where guests come draped in their favorite flag - just saying).  You could even do it today.  There's never a wrong time to start living the life you want to lead, to start being the person you want to be, to start pursuing the dream you want to achieve.

Earlier this evening (I am writing this on the eve of my birthday), I took some time to chat with an aspiring writer about career advice (to the extent that I have any to offer).  For the record, I refer to any writer who has yet to earn money from their work as "aspiring."  In truth, the term simply "writer" could apply.  It's not like the monetary result is necessary to achieve that status.  I do it more to differentiate it from what I call "wannabe writers."  These are people who talk about writing, claim to love writing, but never seem to actually do any writing.  It's an empty title they use to fool themselves in thinking they are something they are not.   Of course, at any time, these wannabe writers could convert into aspiring writers simply by putting their ass in the seat and punching on the keyboard for a spell.  But most of them never have the stomach for it. 

Anyway, as I talked with this aspiring writer, many of my comments could have been bounced back to me with a mirror.  Writing is about forward progress - about working toward something.  Writing is not being afraid that what you create will be crap.  It might.  Chances are, at first, it probably will be.  But that's okay.  Writing is a process.  You can only learn by doing.  That's not to say classes and books and such are not immensely helpful, but the real progress comes from putting the effort onto the page, day after day. 

Writing is a demanding endeavor - without relief.  No matter how much I write, I can always write more.  No matter how much I read, I can always read more.  And those are the two vital staples for any writer - writing and reading.  And don't get lost in any one genre or format.  Read it all - comics, books, magazine articles, short stories, poetry, plays, screenplays, etc.  Like any career worth doing, as a writer you are never done learning.

As of now, I have my first novel, THE LOST SPARK, coming out early in 2013, as well as another creator comic series premiering in April through Aspen Comics.  I'm very excited about both, but right at this moment, I am at that terrifying, yet exciting stage of writing.  For tomorrow, I'll begin my next novel - a completely new concept and world.  It's something I've been developing for quite awhile now, and the time has come to simply begin.  And, I can't think of a better way to speed my birthday than inside a new world of my own creation. 

Of course, I'll probably work in a beer two to celebrate as well.  I mean, writing is thirsty business. 

And, to all you out there hoping or wishing or working toward a dream, I give you my birthday, November 14th.  It's as good a day as any to recharge your battery, strengthen your resolve, and reset your determination.  Let it be your catalyst to reignite that fire in your belly - that drive to work toward something of passion and purpose.  Good luck and keep up the great work. 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Marathoners be Damned?

There's a lot going on right now on the East Coast.  The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is heartbreaking to watch.  And while I can't fully grasp the true impact of the storm, I do get a small sense of the devastation and turmoil and frustration from television, but more importantly from friends, colleagues, and family through phone, email, and social media (finally, a real reason for Twitter and Facebook to exist). 

Billions in damage.  Loss of life.  Millions still without power or food or gas.  I was inspired seeing the sense of community erupt nationwide, especially seeing often political foes Obama and Christie working together in unity to do what politicians should be doing everyday - solve problems instead of being problems themselves. 

Now, there is a debate and argument going on about Bloomberg's decision to keep the New York Marathon on schedule.  Some see it as a slap in the face to those still struggling - surely, the resources needed to conduct the event could be put to better and more immediate use for the desperate citizens.  On the other hand, the revenue generated for the event will help businesses affected and bring in taxes and revenue for regions that will be rebuilding and recovering for years to come.  I'm not going to be foolish enough to pretend that I can know the right answer sitting 3,000 miles away in California.

But, it does bring to mind a rather perplexing reality that I find myself struggling with on a  philosophical level.  What are we to our nation?  And to our fellow countrymen and women?  Are we citizens and neighbors or are we consumers?  What is our role in life?  I'll never forget in the days following the attack on 9/11 when all that was asked of us from Bush in terms of response and sacrifice after the attack and the coming conflict was to go about our day - in essence to go shopping.  They wanted us to spend our money so that the economy didn't tank as well.

Now, I am no economist.  Math isn't even really my strong suit (probably one of the reasons I became a writer).  I do acknowledge that there is a necessary connection between our consumption and our well-being.  If I don't buy the clothes and shoes and cars and books and food that others sell and make and distribute, then my fellow citizens in those industries will not have jobs and will themselves be unable to spend their money on food, shelter, cars, and perhaps the books that I write - thus negating my source of income.  I get the cycle that exists.

I guess I just wish it weren't that way.  I wish when a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy occurs, our priority wasn't getting Wall Street back up and running so the financial machine could keep humming.  I wish that came way later - after we made sure that everyone was safe and accounted for. I see the throngs of New Yorkers walking across the bridge, braving the over-crowded subways, and enduring endless lines to board buses.  But they aren't going to see family or check on loved ones.  They are trying to go to work.  We spend so much money on so many stupid and useless things in our lives - as individuals and as a government.  I wish when such things happen, people could focus on their family and safety and shelter and not bringing in that paycheck because its so damn important to our survival.  Again, I sound incredibly naive right now, and I'm not saying that work isn't important.  I guess I just wish our lifestyles weren't such that when something like this happens we can't even spare a few days to cope and recover before having to return to the grind just so we won't end up on the street. 

I have no idea what the answer is, but I yearn for a world where we could exist as people first and consumers second. 


Long Beach Comic Con!

Hey everyone.  Just a quick word to remind you that I'll be attending the Long Beach Comic Con this weekend.  Find out all the info below.

I'll be at the Aspen Booth all weekend, so come and check out all we have to offer.  Plus, it's a great show with a lot of awesome artists on hand. 

See you there!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Thoughts from Las Vegas Comic Expo

Just got back from a great weekend in Las Vegas for the first Las Vegas Comic Expo.  People have tried to launch shows in Sin City before, but met with little success.  I'd say this time around, they got things right.  There was plenty of talent on hand - Mark Brooks, Philip Tan, Joe Benitez, J. Scott Campbell, JG Jones, Josh Fialkov, Scott Lobdell, Brian Buccellato, Kyle Higgins, Nei Ruffino and plenty of others I am forgetting.  At Aspen, we were front and center (literally) with Peter Steigerwald and Mike DeBalfo working the crowds with sketches and prints.

Just a few thoughts on the weekend:

Comic fans are everywhere!

The love and appreciation for Michael Turner is endless.  No matter where we go, his fans are there.  This weekend in particular, I found myself engrossed in the original pencil work Frank had on hand.  He really was a unique talent.

You really can't put a price on spending quality time with good friends.  Unfortunately, I was stuck with Frank, Mark, and Peter all weekend.  Bam!  Just kidding.  

While there were some at the DC panel who pined for life before the New52, most are enjoying the new status quo.  I never really got the argument that it affects past stories.  That would be like saying the Daniel Craig James Bond movies ruin the Sean Connery days. Different stories, same great characters.  Enjoy one. Enjoy all.

I seriously could care less about fantasy football.  

Not only is The Dark Knight Rises a great soundtrack to write to, but it's also great for the long drive through the desert between LA and Vegas.

And, Under Pressure remains one of my all-time favorite songs.

Video craps at the casinos is a great way to learn the game, especially when playing with a bunch of friends.  It's one of the few games that really fosters a communal experience.  Too much fun...but then again winning would help.  Lady luck punched most of us in the gut that night.  

Two words.  Beef Marrow.

Mary - I thought of a good name for your pet shrimp.  "Crunchy."

It was fun seeing cosplayers out at the show, but even better was watching them work the Strip.  Jokers and Stormtroopers were definitely feeling the love.

Thanks to super fan Marcus who brought by tons of Blackest Night and Brightest Day Green Arrows for me to sign, then promptly picked up every Soulfire volume to date. Hope you enjoy the ride.  It's people like you that allow me to do what I do.

To about 60% of the women at the Cosmopolitan - if I can see your vagina, your skirt might be a tad too short.  

I really don't miss the drunk and stupid days.  I still have a good time (had some great beer at The Public House) but I see the line in the sand.  Unlike those I saw doing a face-plant.  Ouch. 

Never got a chance to say thanks and goodbye to Jimmy Jay - If you see this, thanks man! Can't wait for Amazing Arizona Con in January!

That is all.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Captain Atom - Origins and Endings

Tomorrow marks the release of Captain Atom #0, but it also marks the ending of the run that Freddie Williams and I launched as part of DC's New52.  First and foremost, I'd like to thank everyone who enjoyed and supported the book, which includes everyone at DC especially Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts, and Rickey Purdin.  From day one, Freddie and I had a strong vision of what we thought the book could be and that is exactly what you see in the finished product. 

In tackling a book with a hero possessing limitless powers, we knew that Captain Atom wouldn't be your standard superhero book.  He's a virtual god - indestructible, everlasting, and without equal.  It quickly became apparent to us that his biggest enemy would be himself.  As Captain Atom discovered and experienced the vast array of his abilities, it would be coupled with an estrangement from his own sense of humanity.  For how could anyone maintain that identity when nothing but memories of his life remained? He literally sees the world in a different way, through an atomic prism.  Sure, he's found things to punch and blast along the way, but that's not what lies at the heart of this book.  It's a personal story about a man isolated and alone, desperate to rekindle that human connection, all the while caught in the dilemma of not what he can do, but rather what he should do.  It's been an incredible journey for Captain Atom and for us as creators.

Working with Freddie has definitely been a highpoint of the series on a creative front.  He's an incredible talent.  Our credits on the book list us both as "storytellers" because from conception he brought so much to the table.  We built this world together from the ground up.  Jose Villarrubia added his own special magic in terms of coloring the book.  Throughout the run, we always presented Captain Atom in stark contrast to the environment around him.  He is the ultimate other and it shows.  Also, thanks to Rob Leigh, letterer extraordinaire, for making each had every word on the page sing with emotion and purpose. 

In the coming month or so, the first trade collection of Captain Atom will be released.  If you haven't read the book yet, I highly recommend checking it out.  It's the perfect example of creators pouring their heart and soul into a project - exploring new territory and letting the chips fall where they may.  Captain Atom has been among the most creatively fulfilling project of my career to date. 

Again, thank you so much to all the readers who have supported the book over this past year.  Without you, I wouldn't be able to do what I do - and for that I owe you immensely.


Monday, August 6, 2012


This Saturday, I'll be at Jesse James Comics in Glendale, Arizona for a big ASPEN SIGNING featuring a host of creators, including my partner for the new volume of SOULFIRE - Mike DeBalfo! 

Looking forward to it and I hope to see you all there!


I Choose Empathy

In the wake of the Aurora shootings, I found myself sitting in the theatre waiting for The Dark Knight Rises to begin.  I couldn't help thinking of what had happened, of the victims and also of the man behind it.  How could he do it?  Why?

When the lights went down, the trailer for Man of Steel started and I heard the words of Pa Kent:

"You're not just anyone.  One day, you're going to have to make a choice.  You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be.  Whoever that man is.  Good character or bad.  He's going to change the world."

In many ways, superhero tales are the myths of our lifetime - The stories we turn to for hope and guidance.  But unlike the ancient myths and legends, superhero stories morph and transform over time, serving different functions for our psyche - in essence giving us the hero we need for that moment in time.  Listening to Pa Kent, I couldn't help but feel that we are being given exactly that.  His words are not meant only for Clark - they are meant for all of us.  In times like these, we have to decide what kind of person we want to be.  How we want to live our lives.  It's a challenge in many ways - a challenge to be better. 

Whenever tragedy strikes, a wave of emotions erupts.  Sadness for those affected; Anger toward those responsible; Despair fearing that we as the human race are destined to destroy our planet and ourselves; and Hope that such senseless death and mayhem can be a teachable moment - that we can learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

The Aurora shooting wasn't the first such tragedy to strike.  It seems like part of a vicious cycle that appears throughout our lives...Columbine, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma City, the Norway Killings...just to name a few.  And last night, news broke of another one - a shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. 

I am stunned with how horribly we as humans can treat one another.  Now, you can say I am naive or oblivious or living in some kind of fantasy world - that these things happen.  That's true, but it doesn't mean we should "get used to them" or "expect them."  I sincerely pray that these types of events never happen again; but the reality is that they probably will.  I hope I am always stunned by such events because the alternative is even more depressing - that my empathy would be replaced with apathy.

And this is simply one way in which we mistreat and abuse one another.  There are many others - taking place each and every day.  Some big, some small.  We could all use more empathy in our lives - be able to see the world from another's point-of-view.  To take such factors into account as we live our daily lives.  It's essentially the Golden Rule:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And this goes not only with actions, but with words.  I firmly believe that the way we treat one another is an extension of how we talk to one another.  Look at the poisonous discourse featured all-too frequently on our cable news, talk shows, and (sigh) reality television where train wrecks are valued over successful journeys.  Read the comments section of any blog, news story, or social networking feed and the vitriol can be overwhelming.   Often done in anonymity, the pure hatred posted on sites has reached epic proportions - to the point where people have been literally driven to suicide from the barrage of attacks hurled by a faceless "cyber-mob."

Let's stop rewarding this bile of society.  Let's focus on the light of the world instead of the dark.  The hope and not the despair.  This is not a call to lie down, to take abuse without responding, to be timid or weak.  Quite the contrary, be strong.  Say what you feel.  Stand up for what you believe.  But do so in a way by which you treat others with respect and compassion and even love.  Be a friend to your fellow man.  Empathize with those around you.  Basically, be a human being.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This Wednesday the 4th volume of SOULFIRE premieres in stores with a brand new issue #1.  This time around we've really raised the stakes of the book and brought on board a kickass new art team in Mike DeBalfo and Nei Ruffino.  It's my first time working with both of them, and if things keep going this well, it won't be the last. 

With every volume of Soulfire, we've been putting the action and adventure into overdrive, and this time, it's even bigger.  That's not hyperbole.  It's fact.  Malikai has been through tough times as he's accepted his role as the Samusara - the catalyst for bringing magic back to the world.  But along the way, he's always had Grace protecting him and guiding him.  But what will happen when the chaos takes a hold of her body and soul?  What will happen when Grace herself becomes a harbinger of doom?

Here's a taste of what's in store:

As you can see things go bad very quickly.  This volume of Soulfire promises to be huge in scope.  We'll be seeing plenty of familiar faces and some new ones, and Malikai and his motley crew will be confronted by dragons unlike he's ever imagined.  The story will uncover the secrets of the very foundation of magic in the Soulfire universe.  It's an epic tale of mythic proportions.  Don't miss out!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Lost Spark

I've been writing most of my life.  I can still remember one of the first short stories I wrote in middle school for Mrs. Hund's class called "The Girl with the Golden Eyes."  It was about a daughter of Medusa who didn't want to end up like her mother.  Yeah, my love of all things mythology goes back a long way.  I wish I still had a copy of that story, though I am sure my memory of it is WAY better than the actual words on the page. 

Now years later, I will do something I've dreamed of my entire life.  I will publish my first novel.

THE LOST SPARK is the story of Angie, a teenager girl thrust into danger in order to help her aging grandfather, Mac.  You see, while most people around Mac think he's lost his marbles, Angie learns the truth.  He didn't lose them.  They were stolen from him.  And, these weren't just any marbles.  These were Mac's sparks - relics from his past with magical powers that only a child could dream up. 

In our youth, we all had that one special thing - be it a blanket, stuffed animal, toy or whatnot  - that one unique spark that held a special place in our heart.  With it, we imagined the great things we could do.  Unfortunately, as we get older, we lose that connection.  Our sparks get thrown away or lost or broken.  We forget about the magic.  We become lost ourselves in the reality around us, burdened by the stresses of life. But if we can maintain that precious bond to the power of our youthful imagination, then the magic of our sparks can become reality. 

Without his marbles, Mac's mind is failing him, and it's up to Angie to save him.  But in order to face the challenges that await, Angie must first reconnect with her own spark and rekindle the power it holds.  

THE LOST SPARK is an adventurous tale of fantasy and wonder harkening to such works as Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and The Wizard of Oz.  It celebrates the magic of childhood imagination that must be cherished or lost forever.

I'll be talking more about this project as its release later this year approaches.  Stay tuned.


Monday, July 9, 2012

SDCC Schedule

Okay everyone, here is my schedule for San Diego Comic Con.  I've tried to be available as much as possible.  Hope to see you all there!


ASPEN SIGNING 7pm-8:30pm (Booth #2321)


DC COMICS SIGNING 11am-12pm (Booth 1915)

ASPEN SIGNING 12pm-1pm (Booth #2321)

ASPEN SIGNING 4:30pm-6:30pm (Booth #2321)


ASPEN PANEL 12pm-1pm (Room 9 - I believe)

ASPEN SIGNING 1:30pm-3pm (Booth #2321)

ASPEN SIGNING 4:30pm-6pm (Booth #2321)


ASPEN SIGNING 4pm-5:30pm (Booth #2321)


DC COMICS SIGNING 10am-11am (Booth #1915)

ASPEN SIGNING 11am-12:30pm (Booth #2321)

ASPEN SIGNING 1pm-2:30pm (Booth #2321)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remembering Michael Turner

Four years ago today, Mike passed away.  Without a doubt, one of the saddest days in my life.  I don't think I've ever cried as much as I did that night.  Mike was truly a unique spirit - a charismatic guy who you just couldn't help liking (even when he kicked your ass at every sport, game, contest imaginable).  We've all heard the expression about someone "lighting up the room" when they entered it.  Well, for Mike is wasn't quite that.  He didn't light up the room as much as he lit up those around him.  It wasn't a spotlight thing for Mike.  He simply brought out the best in people.

I've said it time and time again that the story of Malikai in Soulfire is in many ways Mike's story.  A special soul that serves a beacon for others - showing them the magic the world has to offer.  He did this all throughout his life, and I'm not just talking about his art.   Look at the lasting impact he had on friends, family, and fans.  Aspen is a family in itself, and a lot of that is because of Mike.  He brought us together, and though he's gone - our family remains.

I have so much to thank Mike for.  Some I was able to tell him, and some I wasn't.  His friendship meant the world to me, and there's no denying how much he helped my writing endeavors.  Mike, Frank, and Peter gave me a hell of an opportunity when they invited me to play in their worlds. 

But the biggest gift Mike ever gave actually came on that same sad night that he passed.  Four years ago today, he gave me a better sense of faith.  Faith that there is something more beyond what we know.  Faith that there is more to this story - more to this journey.  When he passed, I truly got the sense that he was going onward.  It wasn't an end.

So, on this day, cherish those around you.  Tell them what they mean to you.  Spend time with them.  Talk about what matters to you.  Live with love and meaning. 

And, create.  Dig into your mind and build something from your heart - draw a picture, write a poem, plant a tree, bake a cake, make a chair.  Anything that comes to mind.  

And tomorrow...repeat.  Because that's what Mike did. 


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Favorite Number of All Time


Today marks the passing of Ray Bradbury.  I never had the privilege of meeting him or corresponding with him, but the impact of his work, most specifically, Fahrenheit 451, cannot be overstated.  As readers (and writers), we all have those books that almost seem to define us - the ones we discover early on in our reading life that dig deep into our souls, turning a switch in our minds that allows us to see the world in new and exciting (and sometimes terrifying) ways.  For me, Fahrenheit 451 was one such book - a spark that launched my love for dystopian fiction. 

Desperation.  That's what the book was about for me.  The desperation to hold true to the thoughts and feelings one possesses, no matter how daft the rest of the world considers them to be.  Guy Montag is a lost soul, looking to find connections and life in those around him.  He is a fireman, a burner of books - a sane man living in an insane world.  His wife, Mildred, was merely another piece of furniture in his home, polluted by drugs and obsessed with the emptiness her entertainment walls provided.  Luckily for Montag, he found a kindred spirit in Clarisse.  Their time together was brief, but she showed him that he was not as alone as he often felt, and that this world belonged to him as well.

Bradbury created a world destined to crush the spirits of everyone in it, and yet Montag manages to overcome the challenges, follow his soul, and (if not win) at least survive.  That's what made the books so compelling for me.  We don't know if he will win.  We don't know what the future holds in store.  As he heads off toward the city in the closing pages, all we have to go on is the hope that he will succeed - hope that things will be different.  It's not the bright light at the end, signifying victory, but rather a single flame, waving in the breeze, struggling to remain lit.  We all hold our breath, hoping that it will grow into a raging fire of change - used to illuminate the words on the page instead of burning them.

Fahrenheit 451 is one of the foundational books that made me want to be a writer.  For that, and the pure joy of reading the stories he wrote, I cannot thank Ray Bradbury enough.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.  Your body may have left us and your soul is most likely elsewhere, but your spirit will stay with us forever.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Denver Comic Fest - April 20th-22nd

Just a reminder that I'll be attending the Denver Comic Fest this coming weekend.  April 20th-22nd!  Had loads of fun the last time around.  Met a lot of great people.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Denver Comic Fest

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Captain Atom #8 Preview

Captain Atom is confronted by a future version of himself and hauled away to the Timestream.  What is the timestream?  Get a peek in this preview.  Book goes on sale tomorrow!  Very excited about this next arc where everything goes kind of crazy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Soulfire Volume Four is Coming!

This weekend at C2E2, Aspen Comics announced Soulfire Volume 4 coming this summer, which I'll be writing and Mike Debalfo will be drawing.  I'm really excited about the energy that Mike will bring to what is shaping up to be our biggest Soulfire story ever.  I can't believe that I started writing Soulfire in 2004.   Helping to build the world and mythology of the Soulfire universe has really been a highlight of my writing career.  From the main book to Dying of the Light, Chaos Reign, and New World Order, we've worked hard to build a rich history of both the characters and the world itself.  Even though the story takes place in the future, so much of what happens is affected by the past (isn't that always the way).  In Volume 4, Grace and Malikai and the gang will confront a part of the magic we've never seen before in a story that will uncover the very nature of that special power that rests within us all - both the good and the bad.  The very bad.

Get ready!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wonder Con!

I'll be at Wonder Con in Anaheim this weekend.  So far, here is my schedule:


Signing at the DC booth 1pm-2pm


DC Universe Panel 1pm-2pm

Aspen Panel 3pm-4pm

Signing at the DC booth 6pm-7pm


Signing at the DC booth 2pm-3pm

I'll also be signing at the Aspen Booth throughout the weekend as well.  Check postings for times.  Hope to see you all there!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Captain Atom's Messiah Complex

When Freddie and I first started talking about Captain Atom, the hero's struggle with his powers was always going to be a cornerstone of the book.  How could someone not be changed when they have the limitless powers of a god?  In issue #2, we have him cure cancer in the brain of a young boy named Mikey, and some reacted by asking - how come he doesn't do this all the time?  Cure cancer?  End hunger?  And war?  Save us all from ourselves.  It wasn't a question we were dodging.  It was all part of a grand story running through the first two arcs of the book.  With Issue #7 coming out this month and the cover for #10 in June released today, you can see that the messiah complex issue is going to play a big role.  With the second arc, we will be building on everything that has come before and ratcheting things up by a factor of ten.  You're going to see other Captain Atoms come onto the scene as we deal with time displacement in a way unlike we've seen in a Captain Atom book.  I can't wait for everyone to see what's coming in the months ahead.  

Captain Atom #7

Captain Atom #10
If you haven't tried Captain Atom yet, issue #7 is a great place to jump on, and if you are reading it, then spread the word.  Captain Atom's life is about to get very, very complex. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Although I wish it were not the case, I feel as if I must put a #1 along with the DBAD heading for this post - for I fear it will not be the last.  I didn't set out to use this blog site for ranting and the like, but I am compelled to at this point.  Thus, we have the premiere of DBAD - "Don't Be A Dick."  We've all been privy to asinine behavior, whether directed toward us or merely in our proximity, and we've wanted to set things right. 
So, for DBAD #1, the rule is this:  When a friend of yours get engaged (this mostly applies to men, but I suppose it doesn't have to be gender specific), don't make disparaging comments about their decision or the institution of marriage.  Quips about "Another one bites the dust" or "The old ball and chain" or questions about why they "want to throw their freedom away"  - these all are in extremely poor taste, and so not the reaction someone is looking for after making such a big life decision. 
Disclaimer: Now, if you are a close friend with legitimate questions regarding the character, heart, and soul of the person your friend is to marry, that is another case altogether.   If you are truly trying to save your friend from choosing a selfish, inadequate, or otherwise poor partner, then you may be compelled to state your opinion.
No, I am talking about those of you who see marriage as the end of something rather than the beginning, a necessary evil, or a trap.  Whether you are a single person still reveling in the excitement that life brings, or already married but struggling, or divorced with a nasty impression of married life, you are being a dick by bashing the notion for your friend. 
The decision to get married is huge.  It's pretty much the biggest decision you'll ever make.  Far bigger than career or where you'll live.  You are choosing a partner that will hopefully walk beside you through the rest of your journey in life.  They will be your partner, your better half, your friend, your advisor, your coach, your taskmaster…the person that accepts you for who you are, yet also wants to help you become the person you want to be.  Upon making this decision, the last thing one needs is some jackass ribbing him about the entire notion.  On more than one occasion, I have personally witnessed recently engaged men become frustrated over the negative comments made upon sharing their news.  You can see it in their eyes - like they bought the car they wanted, the one they've been dreaming about their entire lives.  But when they show it to their friends, the response is  - "what a lemon."
Regardless of your feelings and experience on the matter, be happy for them.  It's the least you can do. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thought I Would Bring it to Your Attention

I haven't really offered reviews on comics, movies, books, or the like.  This may be a fluke, or it could be the beginning of something I do regularly.  Time will tell.  I am always amazed with the zeal and enthusiasm some go to trash things in their reviews.  It seems the community at large is more inclined to razz something they hate rather than praise something they love.  I suppose you could say it extends well beyond things like reviews.  Hell, if George Clooney gave a girl a college scholarship, it would a blip on the news radar.  But if he gave that same girl Chlamydia, the story would last for weeks if not months.  But I digress.  This story is not about Chlamydia or even George Clooney for that matter, although he was dynamite in The Descendents.  I like it when Clooney plays some regular guy struggling through life and not the suave stud with all the answers.  I think that's why I was also such a fan of Michael Clayton.  Anyway, those aren't the movies I wanted to mention.
Today, I wanted to say just a few words about HUGO and THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY. Both films fall into a category that I don't use often when describing films.  Enchanting.  

Starting with HUGO - it's the story of a boy living alone in a train station, as he seeks unlock the mystery left behind by his father.  Oh, but the film is about so much more than that.  It's about wonder and dreams, and our need to keep both alive.  Initially, I was surprised when I saw that Martin Scorsese was directing this type of film.  I knew of the book but hadn't read it, and was thus unaware of the connection.  I won't spoil it, but in watching the film, it becomes crystal clear exactly why he chose this project.  The film is touching, emotional, moving, and just altogether brilliant.  I didn't even see it in 3D, which I was told is utterly amazing  (I am not the biggest 3D fan in the world).  If you haven't seen HUGO, and like movies at all - I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It's one of those rare movies that really is for all ages, having plenty to love for both kids and adults. 
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is also a family film from the acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki, who made of the very best I've ever seen - SPIRITED AWAY.  If you haven't seen that one, stop reading this now.  Go watch it.  I'll wait.

 See?  Told you it was amazing.  THE SECRET WOLRD OF ARRIETTY is cut from the same cloth.  On paper, it seems like a simple film - a group of little people called Borrowers live under a house, surviving off the odds and ends they "borrow" from the gigantic human beings (Or as they call them - "beans").  It's a smart story about family, growing up, friendship, and facing one's fears.  Now, a story about little people living under our noses isn't groundbreaking.  We've seen this before.  I can still hear the theme song for the cartoon THE LITTLES bouncing around inside my head.  But, THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY manages to make the experience fresh and exciting.  The way the world of the humans is presented during Arrietty's first trip with her father is breathtaking.  You really feel the epic scope of what she is seeing.  As Arrietty gazes out across the kitchen for the first time, you can feel her sense of wonder and awe - like you may have when looking upon the Grand Canyon for the first time. 
Both films go for substance over style, but they have both.   And, they don't talk down to kids or go at the funny bone with tired bodily function jokes that seem all the rage in other films.  HUGO and THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY are both perfect examples of what the magic of movies is all about.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Captain Atom #6 Preview


In stores this Wednesday!

The Cover for Captain Atom #9

Check it out!  Can't wait for everyone to see what Freddie and I have coming up.  Captain Atom finds out what limitless really means.

Art by Mike Choi

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid…But Not of What You Think.

  As a writer, there are many fears that hound you day in and day out - whether it be at the very beginning when you are tinkering around with your first story or the latest in a string of professional pieces that you are getting paid to write.
First and foremost - the fear that someone will actually read what you've written.  Shock.  Gasp.  The Horror!  The Horror!  But isn't that the point?  Isn't that why you are putting pen to paper?  Do you know what they call a story that you never share with anyone?  A diary.  Not that diaries are bad.  In fact, they can be a great place to start sometimes.  Dumping your most raw emotions and feeling onto the page.  One could argue that everything anyone writes is somewhat autobiographical because it's the writer's unique perspective - their view on the world and the story they are telling.  But an unshared story is a diary, a journal.  Nothing more. Give it to someone. A friend, a relative, a friendly relative.  Now, you've got yourself a story. 
The fear that what you write won't be any good. Most of the time, this is really a veiled fear.  Chances are there will be some good to be found in anything that one puts time and effort and thought into doing.  What the fear really boils down to is that the finished work will not be the best it could possibly be.  Here's the secret.  It never is.  Even the work that I am most proud of in my career could be better.  There's always another round of revisions that could be done.  More tinkering.  A tweaking of dialogue. Finding a word that fits better than "rancid."  It never ends.  But, you have to make it so.  You have to find that point in time, that line in the sand where you say - this is it.  This is the work I have created, and let the chips fall where they may.  Again, whether it's for publication or being submitted as a sample to garner work.  Eventually, you have to pull the trigger.
The fear that people will laugh at you, mock you, or even loathe the very words you put on the page.  Well, this may all very well happen.  Chances are, there will be somebody somewhere who doesn’t connect with your work.  It happens.  But, you cannot put too much stock in the anonymous ranting of people filled with vitriol.  That's not to say their opinion isn’t valid for them, but it doesn't mean that it needs to shape your life and your life's work.  You'll never please everyone, nor should you try.  You write the story you want to tell.  That's it.  As the guy who wrote the Rise of Arsenal, I can attest to that.  There were people who reviled the book.  I believe one even referred to it as the worst comic they ever read.  Hyperbole, but still - wow.  But for every negative review or comment, I could offer a positive one to counter it.  For every person who blasted me for writing such an unreadable story, I had people telling me how much they were affected by the story.  Tomato. Tomato.  That works better verbally, but I think you get my point.
The fear of rejection.  That can be the biggest fear.  The fear that you will submit your work to the powers that be - whoever that is in whatever industry you are exploring - and it will be met with rejection.  You should know that it happens to everyone.  I believe even Stephen King got something like 100 rejection letters before selling his first book.  Truth be told, I was at a crossroads of sorts, wondering if I'd ever sell anything as a writer, when I sold my first story to Marvel.  X-Men Unlimited #1 (check it out, if you can find it!).  That was my very first paycheck for writing.  I actually made a copy of the check that I still have.  It had Spider-Man on the check. I mean, how cool is that?  But selling that story came after years of rejections, close calls, and false starts.  It can be easy to get discouraged, but you can’t let it.  You just have to keep going. Keep pushing.  Have a PLAN B - a day job that pays the bills and provides for you and the family, but make time for your writing.  Do what you need to do first, then do what you want to do. 
Which brings me to the only real fear that matters.  The only real fear that you should be worried about.  The fear of doing nothing.  If you stop writing or drawing or singing or acting or building or whatever - if you keep everything locked away in a filing cabinet, never showing it the light of day - if you never take that chance, you'll have nobody to blame but yourself.  You can’t blame editors or the marketplace or the state of the industry or the timing or nepotism or geography.  It will all be on you - because you were afraid to take a chance.  Afraid to try. Afraid to go after what you want.  Fear is always going to be there.  The only question is does it stop you or not. 
Good luck.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Distractions Can Kill...Your Productivity

No, I'm not talking about texting and driving.  Although, that's not very safe.  I'm talking about how distractions can kill your writing.  This may seem like common sense and it is, but that doesn't stop us from getting distracted now, does it?  I mean, you are here reading this right now, aren't you?

Often being aware of the problem and the main culprits can go a long way to curbing the habit of not-writing:

Television - Obvious, right?  I know some who say they like the background noise, but that would only apply if what's on television is a truly awful show that was not in the least bit engaging.  If that's the case, why have it on in the first place?

Music - I like listening to music while I work, especially when it can help set the mood for whatever project I am working on.  Digging into the darker aspects of humanity with MINDFIELD, movie scores like Black Swan and Donnie Darko are perfect.  Exploring the limitless powers of Captain Atom, how about 2001: A Space Odyssey?  But for me, no matter what, it's got to be instrumental.  Once you throw lyrics in, that's a problem.  

Eating - Sure, we all need a snack break from time to time in order to recharge the batteries, but the constant flow from chair to fridge and back again keeps you from writing.  Even if you are "thinking" or "mulling things over."  Not writing is not writing. I'm not saying don't eat - just don't fool yourself into thinking that staring at your computer screen for twenty minutes while you down a bag of cheetos is writing. 

Checking Email - I know we all need to stay in contact with the outside world, but do you really need to check your email more than once every couple of hours?  If something is so vital, they'll call.  Or text. 

"Research" - I don't put the term in quotes to suggest that research is not a vital part of writing, it is.  But, it's not putting words on the page.  If you are in the middle of something, don't break the flow to research something online or in a book.  Go back and figure it out later.  If I'm in the middle of writing a comic script, breaking story down, working on dialogue, laying out the scene, the last thing I should do is spend fifteen minutes finding a reference image of the Vatican, which will only lead me to a movie trailer, funny or die video, twitter update, and checking my email.  What starts out as a one-minute search has a way of becoming a lost half-hour if not more.

Internet - Okay, so maybe I will just make it plain.  The Internet is like crack.  Once you start surfing and clicking, the possibilities are endless.  And, I mean endless. Not to mention often pointless.

Life itself - To the best of your ability, try to find a place to work free from the rest of your life.  Working in the kitchen, maybe you'll notice the dirty dishes piling up in the sink.  In your bedroom, what about all that laundry to do?  Do you have a desk?  Great.  You can pay the bills sitting in the top drawer, and balance your checkbook while you are at it.  SO, if these chores of life gnaw at you, try to get away from them altogether.  I've found libraries can be great for this, although their free wi-fi can sneak up and bite you in the ass. 

Remember, sometimes the hardest part of writing is simply locking yourself in the chair and punching those keys. 

Good luck. 

Captain Atom and Superman - Present and Beyond

If you read Captain Atom, you can obviously notice the connection to Doctor Manhattan in the character.  Not so much in the personality, but rather the powers he possesses.  And then of course, there are the little nods - the glass desert in Issue #3, the image of the giant Captain Atom in Issue #5.  

But, in developing the book, I found myself thinking about Superman quite a bit in determining how Captain Atom would be in this incarnation.  Guess you could say it was all priming me for Superman Beyond.  It all boiled down to making Captain Atom a polar opposite to Superman.  Nathaniel was an Air Force pilot, a human being dedicating his life to fighting for his nation.  In becoming Captain Atom though, his place in the world becomes much more alienated.  He's considered a threat - and his incredible powers are classified more as dangerous than wonderful.  Contrast that with Superman, who is an actual alien living among us humans on Earth.  We embrace Superman because he looks like one of us. His powers are seen as wondrous and appealing, and we come to see the best of ourselves in him - not only in terms of physical potential, but also moral fiber.  But isn't Captain Atom just as honorable?  Just as heroic?  Yes, he is.  Unfortunately, his powers only serve to isolate him more and more from humanity.  In the people's mind, he is the alien - An opinion that affects Captain Atom as he begins to see himself as being other than human.  It comes down to each character's place in the world.

This brings me to Superman Beyond, where that notion of having a place in the world is a central theme.  In our timeline, Superman is firmly grounded on Earth.  It is his home.  He has family and friends and loved ones.  His existence as Clark Kent keeps him connected to humanity.  But can the same be said twenty years down the road?  When those personal connections are dead and gone, what will keep Superman in touch with humanity?  Where does he fit in, if anywhere?  Look at the costume he wears, which highlights his Kryptonian heritage.  

 Is this the beginning of Kal-El pulling away from Earth altogether?

Friday, January 27, 2012

LairCast Podcast

Hey everyone!

Here's a link to a podcast interview I did with the great folks at LairCast!  We talked about a lot of great stuff, including Captain Atom and Soulfire.  And, it was my first chance to talk about Superman Beyond and GI Combat!  Check it out:

LairCast featuring JT Krul

Monday, January 23, 2012

Superman Beyond!

Hey Everyone.  So at long last I can finally announce that I will be writing Superman Beyond, starting in April.  Working with Howard Porter and Livesay.  It's my first time writing the Man of Steel and couldn't be more excited for it.  Here's a peak at the cover for #1!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's an Artist to Do?

Last time around, I talked about breaking into comic writing and got a lot of responses from artists about the same topic.  So, let me say just a few words about breaking into comics as an artist.  Now, the disclaimer should be obvious.  I am a writer, not an artist.  That being said, over the years I have seen thousands of aspiring artists brave the convention floors across the country, looking to crack into the industry.  I've also witnessed countless portfolio reviews and encounters with editors on the subject. 

Here are a few nuggets to consider:

Forget the pinups.  There are so many artists who present portfolios of only pinups and splashes, and the first response is ALWAYS the same.  "Where is the sequential art?"  Editors want to see your storytelling.  Anyone can draw a pinup piece (granted some a hell of a lot better than others), but it's still a pinup.  To get work in this business, you need to have sequential samples to show.  Your first job…maybe your first twenty jobs will be interior work.

Put your best foot forward.  When organizing your portfolio, put the newest (and hopefully) the best stuff up front.  You only get one chance at that first impression - so make it count.

Now, that's not to say that a rejection initially is the end of the road.  It's not.  It's the beginning.  When an editor gives you criticism.  Accept it without offense - do not get defensive about it.  Remember, they are not trying to crush your dreams or dash your hopes.  They are giving you useful feedback on things to work on.  Listen and take it all in - and apply it in your future work.  Editors want to work with people who listen to notes and can adjust and adapt accordingly.  Many (if not most) artists were rejected time and again as they honed their craft and developed to the point of being ready for professional work.  It's not a sprint.  It's a marathon.  You've got to practice and work at it.

Work on what you hate.  If there is something that you feel you don't draw well or don't enjoy, take some time and focus on that specific area.  If cityscapes are not your thing and you show a portfolio with no cityscapes, guess what?  They'll ask for cityscapes.  Editors need to know you are versatile. Backgrounds, cities, animals, vehicles, anatomy, faces, hands and feet.  You need to work on it all.  There are no shortcuts.  I remember an exercise the very talented Micah Gunnell told me about from his days at the Kubert School.  It was all about hands.  He positioned his free hand in different poses again and again and simply sketched them out. Think of it as a challenge - confront yourself with your biggest obstacle and overcome it.

Let's talk about conventions and interacting with editors.  Be professional and confident, but not obnoxious.  I've seen way too many artists present themselves in a sheepish manner that works against them.  Now, we are all introverts to a certain extent, so the notion of putting ourselves out there in a boastful fashion goes against our very being.  But, you have to be positive.  You can be humble and gracious, without being dismissive of yourself or your talent.  I've actually seen artists present their portfolio with the opening words -"I know this isn't very good, but would you mind taking a look."  It's so counter-productive.  Now, there's also a danger on the other side - cocky attitudes can be even more damaging.  Don't be a diva.

One of the more tricky areas of networking is finding that fine line between persistent and annoying.  You want to stay in regular contact with the people you meet, but do not want to become a pest.  That's where new samples work great.  It's the perfect excuse to reach out to people, show them something new, and stay fresh in their mind.  

I want to stress again about being professional.  Don't dress like a slob.  A suit isn't necessary, but be presentable.  The same goes for your portfolio.  Have your work in a nice folder and if possible bring photocopies of your samples to leave behind with your contact information on it.  Sketches drawn on blue-lined paper, colored with crayons, and ripped from a spiral notebook are not the way to go.  It makes it seem like you scribbled something down at the bar the night before as a dare - rather than a serious professional endeavor.  Have contact info that uses your real name.  Save the email address of for your personal life. 

One more tidbit - have an idea of how long a page of art takes you.  Deadlines are a part of this business.  They want to see the best work you can produce in a matter of days, not months.  You could present an unbelievable double spread that blows them away, but if it took 300 hours to complete, it's kind of pointless.

Again, these are just a few of my notes on the matter because I was asked.  Talk to artists.  They know a lot more than me. 

That is all for now.

Good luck.