Diversity is something we all must come to terms with as writers

nhnzry3jycv4bf2qxt63Recently, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, claimed that the company’s recent focus on creating diverse superheroes is a driving factor behind its declining comic book sales. He said, “Any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up.”

I don’t agree with this statement, but I can see where he gets his point of view. Recently, there has been a trend to make comic book characters more diverse, but I think that’s more of a natural trend. More diverse characters started out as villains (like The Mandarin and Diablo, for example) but that trend has been changing as time progressed. The 70’s brought us Falcon and Luke Cage, the 80s and 90s brought out War Machine, Black Lightning and Storm. Sometimes it’s more about age than anything else.

Think about it … Captain American, Iron Man and Thor have been leading the Avengers since the 60’s. These characters haven’t aged like the rest of us. I mean, the original X-Men were teenagers in the 60’s, meaning that they should be senior citizens by now. Some characters like Superman and Wonder Woman can look the same because they are alien and God-like, respectfully. However, Batman today is more represented by the elder Bruce Wayne in the Batman Beyond series, not as he is in the comics. I loved it when Dick Grayson took up the mantle because that’s how it should be, but of course they went back to Bruce.

I understand I’m talking more about age discrimination than diversity, but here’s my point. People age, they grow old and they die. So why not let a new generation take up the mantle of these heroes. I think Kamila Khan was a great choice as the new Ms. Marvel, not because she was Muslim, but because she was like many of us who like comics … She’s a fan! Here’s a total fan girl who gets superpowers and becomes her idol. I don’t think there’s a single person out there reading this blog who hasn’t had the same fantasy.

I think the first problem people may have is the youth of the characters. You have comic book fans who started reading comics in the 60s/70s, like me. You don’t need to make all these new characters to be kids. I mean, the new Iron Man (Iron Heart, Riri Williams) and Hulk (Amadeus Cho) are all super smart teenagers, for example. It’s a trend right now that’s pushing the envelope. for us older readers. 

I like it when a longtime sidekick/friend takes over the mantle. Sam Wilson (Falcon) as the new Captain America was a great choice because here was an established character taking the shield and responsibility. The same with Jane Foster as Thor. That was a brilliant move, even with the cancer angle, to give her even more reason to be worthy of the hammer.

Diversity is not the problem with comics. You have four different people wearing the mantle of Spiderman, from the original to a clone, a Latino African-American, a Hispanic from the future, and even a young girl (Spider-Gwen). This is where diversity was done right, bridging the gap across generations. That’s how it needs to be done.

In comics, it has never mattered about the color of their skin. It’s about the heart and soul of the character, as a hero, villain or everyday person. I don’t care if a character is gay or straight, black or white, Hispanic or Asian. We want all these characters to represent people of all ages, race, religion or sexual preference for that matter.

When Marvel brought out the mutant Northstar as being gay, I loved the way it was handled in the story. It wasn’t meant to shock us, or done for the sake of diversity, but rather as a way of giving us depth behind his character’s story. It made sense and broadened the idea of being both mutant and gay and how it affected him.

What I’ve been trying to say is that comics have been becoming more diverse since the 60s. Characters like Black Panther, Luke Cage and Falcon have evolved and grown over the years to give us more and more diverse characters today, like Ms. Marvel, Storm, and the new Hulk. Just remember, comics have always had characters of so many different colors (Nightcrawler, Gamora, Brainiac 5) and races (Dawnstar, Green Lantern (John Stewart), White Tiger) that make comics more and more representative of the world today.

Readers don’t want just diversity in comics for the sake of political correctness. They want good stories. That’s more reasonable for the downward trend of readers and sales rather than blame it all on diversity alone. Think about it, there are various crossover storylines annually, changing the continuity of the comics world multiple times in one year. We’ve changed DC comics multiverse three times in the last decade and Marvel once.

Writers know what the problem is … Consistency, consistency, consistency! Learn it, live it, love it and the readers will return!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Has Hollywood already run out of ideas when it comes to superhero movies?

277c35a6e0ec68aec7ef8b8224f975b52c3121c6_hq.jpgIt’s hard to believe that we are on our third Spider-man movie franchise, third Superman movie franchise and sixth movie-version of Batman. Technically, if you want to count television in these ongoing franchises, that’s six Superman, four Spiderman, four Wonder Woman (I have to count the failed Adrianne Palicki TV show because they shot a pilot), three Captain America, four Hulks, three Fantastic Four, three Flash and two Daredevil’s and Doctor Strange. The X-Men did it right by inter-mingling all of its movies together in one universe.

Granted, a lot of these earlier products were downright awful. Then again, so were some of the new ones were bad too. It begs to ask the question, why do movie and TV studios keep going back to the well for another franchise reboot?

The obvious reason is money, of course. They know we geeks will gladly pay out the bucks to see the latest and greatest version of our favorite characters on the big screen. There’s also new, young geeks that have never seen these characters before and their parents (much older geeks) want to introduce these characters to them.

For example, when I showed my kids the original Incredible Hulk TV series, they laughed and joked about the bad special effects and make-up. It’s from the 70’s, what do they want? When I was growing up, this was what special effects on TV looked like, along with the cheesy sound effects when they would “super jump” like the Six Million Dollar Man.

We are getting more and more of a variety of some of the lesser known characters thanks to television and pay TV channels, like CW, Netflix, FX and Freeform, with more shows coming to a channel near you:  Legion, Cloak and Dagger, Black Lightning, The Punisher, X-Men: Gifted and more. These are great characters and great stories, with a few surprise “Easter Eggs” thrown in.

I guess my point is that, yes, there are some great characters in these comic book universes, especially the top ones (The “Trinity” in DC of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for example) but we don’t want to see a rehash of these characters every ten years. The comics got it right when they reinvented and reinvigorated their mainstream characters (Ironheart for Iron Man, Jane Foster as Thor, for example) and this can be done on the big, and little, screen too.

A constant rehash and rewrite of character’s origins (like the failed 2015 Fantastic Four movie) is not the way to go. All you do is piss off fan boys and girls for ruining their favorite characters and they let you know at the box office. It’s the same for video game movie franchises, and some book franchises (Tolkien fans go on and on about Peter Jackson’s treatment of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit).

There are more ideas out there just waiting for an up-and-coming producer or a hot, new studio to tackle. I mean, think about it, technology today makes it easy for anyone to create a short film that looks like a big budget production. If you’ve ever watched any of the short films available on YouTube you know what I’m talking about.

Look, the studios are going to continue to do what they see as moneymakers for them, and I honestly think that it’s all they really care about. Sure, there are many who are “fanboys” and are doing it out of love of the characters, but the power behind them only looks at dollar signs. It’s going to takes geeks like us to keep them in check.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

The long and winding road of a writer

fbac5ca9ef50d6449e3d12cd77372890My journey as a writer has been a long and tumultuous one. It’s something I never really considered for myself as a teenager, or even through my 20+ year Navy career. I wanted to talk to you about my journey to hopefully explain how being a writer can come right out of left field, until you realize that it was meant to be.

Set the “Wayback Machine” for 1976, Sherman. As a high school freshman at Phillipsburg High School, NJ (Go Stateliners!) I was focused on art. My goal was to be the next Jack Kirby. I wanted to work for Marvel or DC, write and draw my own comic books. I drove my parents and my teachers crazy with my constant comic book drawing when they were trying to teach me pastels and painting. While I was in high school, I also joined the school newspaper and yearbook staff, learning some valuable skills that would help me later in life.

After high school, I enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Again, my goal was to hone my art skills to become a comic book artist, but that never came to fruition. Trying to live away from home for the first time, I wasn’t able to manage money or my time properly. I had no choice but to drop out of school, even enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh. There, I joined the college radio station and learned some more valuable skills for down the road. Yet again, I mismanaged things and was forced to drop out and return home to Jersey.

I look back at that time and wonder where I went wrong. I would love to talk to my younger self and tell me it’s going to be all right, but it didn’t seem like it at that time. I moved back into my parent’s house with no job prospects, no college either. So what to do?

My Dad, the 22-year career Marine, pointed me right towards the recruiters’ office. I knew I didn’t want to join the Marines, like my Dad and brother. The Army tried to push infantry and tank driver on me for big bonuses. The Air Force wasn’t really interested as I was looking at non-technical jobs. The Navy, on the other hand, gave me what I was looking for.

I joined the Navy as a Journalist, where my earlier training in broadcasting and writing came in handy. I attended the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, and became what we affectionately call a “DINFOS Trained Killer” with typewriter in hand. After 23 years, I turned that training into a military career.

During my time as a military journalist, I’ve written hundreds of articles that were published in military publications, local newspapers and even a few national newspapers. Seeing your byline in the Miami Herald and Navy Times can be a life-changing experience for a young journalist. It was also during that time that I started working on my novel, Forever Avalon.

This may seem like a round-about way of getting to the fact that I was writing all along, but it really wasn’t. When I was in high school, I augmented my drawing time with writing, creating stories to go with my characters or writing for the school newspaper. In college, I was forced to do only art and that, I feel, made me lose my way because I wasn’t able to write. In the Navy, I wrote mostly press releases and news stories but found the time to write feature stories in addition to starting my novel.

All that time I spent on other things that I was mediocre to average, when writing kept pushing and jabbing at me until it finally broke through. I am a writer and I’m damn proud of it. I will keep writing until you pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands. (Wow, I should put that on a t-shirt!)

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Remembering my favorite MMOG City of Heroes with an original short story

city_of_heroesHappy Halloween everyone! This is a day when we all dress up as a favorite fantasy character. Mine has always been superheroes. That being said, I want to spend this Halloween talking about one of my favorite video games.I was a HUGE fan and player of the online game CITY OF HEROES. As a longtime comic book geek, this game was made for people like me. I could create original characters, design their costumes, their origins, everything. It was a sad day when Paragon City had to be shelved

I was a HUGE fan and player of the online game CITY OF HEROES. As a longtime comic book geek, this game was made for people like me. I could create original characters, design their costumes, their origins, everything. It was a sad day when Paragon City had to be shelved. I really miss logging in, traveling to City Hall, stand atop the statue of the fallen hero Atlas, stopping a couple of Hellions from intimidating old ladies or stop a bank robbery.

To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to share a short story I wrote revolving around one of the characters I created, Bone the Headhunter. I know, not the most original name, but with all the good names taken, it’s what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it, and once again, Happy Halloween!

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The Last Goodbye: A City of Heroes short story

JOURNAL ENTRY – Sunday, March 30, 3:45 a.m.  – I’ve been waiting for three hours and still no sign of the Vahzilok. My contact assured me that they routinely take this route through Faultline, bringing fresh body parts to Dr. Vahzilok himself. Faultline has plenty of places to hide the bodies of their victims. It’s a ruined city trying desperately to rebuild itself. Hopefully, this will bring me closer to finding that monster and exacting my revenge.

He closed his journal and slide it into his armor. His grim demeanor was hidden beneath his mask – a faceless skull with eyes as black as night. He waited patiently, watching the construction site from the top of the steel structure. His cloaking device was working perfectly, bending light around him so as to avoid detection.

As he scanned the surroundings, his mind began to wander. They called him a hero, but Bone the Headhunter didn’t feel like one. All the technology he’d put into his armor and weapons may have made him stronger, but it didn’t fill the void inside him.

He wasn’t a hero when his wife and son were captured by the Vahzilok. Those demented zombies would have taken him too if it wasn’t for the armored hero Positron. He saved his life, but it was too late for his family. One of the Reapers slipped away during the fight, taking their bodies with him. They searched for days, but no sign of his wife and son. They were presumed dead… Another victim of the Vahzilok.

coh_heroes

Bone the Headhunter

People called him driven… Possessed by an unforgiving rage and hatred for the Vahzilok. That may be, but tragedy usually does that to a man. At one time, he was Ted Johnson, an Olympic archery champion, and a successful businessman. Since the death of his family, he turned that talent into something more useful; he hunted down the villains of Paragon City. The gangs called him a headhunter, attacking without regard to his own personal safety, trying to bring down as many of them as possible.

Bone snapped back into reality when he heard a low groaning noise. He looked down and saw a couple of Abominations – giant animated cadavers – dragging two heavy body bags. These mindless zombies were doing the bidding of a Reaper and an Eidolon, one of Dr. Vahzilok’s “perfect” creations. They were heading toward the sewer grate, the route Bone’s informant told him about.

“4-to-1,” Bone thought to himself. “Not bad odds… for me.”

A touch on his glove deactivated his cloaking device. “No use wasting energy on the cloak in a face-to-face battle,” Bone surmised. He reached into his belt for his targeting drone, activating it and tossing it into the air. The drone buzzed around his head like an angry bee. Its laser sites helped him in many battles.

He drew his bow and nocked an explosive arrow in. “This should get their attention,” he said as Bone let his arrow fly. Before the Vahzilok could react, the arrow struck within their midst and exploded. The Vahzilok were sent flying to the ground.

Before they could react, Bone tossed a smoke grenade to blind their vision. He leaped down from the steel building, his hydraulic leg enhancements cushioned his landing. Once down, he knocked his next arrow.

He fired at the Reaper. The arrowhead burst into flame and, upon impact, exploded, covering the Reaper and Abominations in burning embers. He reached into his quiver and laid three arrows across his bow. The multiple arrows fired, striking the Reaper and both Abominations, bringing all three to the ground.

Bone turned to face the Eidolon, drawing his next arrow. But before he could strike, black tendrils erupted from the ground and wrapped around Bone. He was frozen in place, unable to attack. The Eidolon wielded dark powers … A gift from Dr. Vahzilok for becoming his perfect creations.

He braced for the next attack from the Eidolon, but it didn’t come. The Eidolon was just standing there, staring at him. “What are you waiting for?” Bone shouted. The thought passed quickly as Bone prepared to take advantage of its lapse and attack.

“I was hoping this day would never come,” the Eidolon said to Bone. “Still, it had to happen sooner or later, didn’t it ‘Teddy.’” Bone was shocked to his senses. Only his wife called him Teddy. How did this Eidolon know his name?

“What kind of game are playing with me Eidolon?” Bone demanded. Before the Eidolon could answer, he broke free from the tendrils, raising his bow and aiming his arrow at the Eidolon. “How do you know that name?”

“Come now ‘Teddy,’ surely you can see past this mask as I easily as I can see past yours,” the Eidolon said mockingly. “Or maybe you’re just in denial.”

Bone slowly lowered his bow. He realized the truth in the Eidolon’s words, but he refused to believe it. “No, that’s not possible,” he said. The Eidolon peeled back the leather bindings that encased its body, removing its mask and exposing its face to Bone. Though bald, Bone recognized the eyes and lips – even the little mole on her cheek – of his wife.

“Val?” Bone asked. “Can it really be you?” The Eidolon smiled as if she enjoyed tormenting Bone.

“It’s me, Teddy, the wife you abandoned and left for dead.”

“I didn’t abandon you,” he explained, peeling his mask back to look at his wife, eye to eye. “I searched for you for days with Positron. We found no trace of you or Daniel.” Bone’s voice trailed off at the mention of his son’s name.

“Don’t you dare say his name,” the Eidolon screamed. “You have no right to speak his name. You have no idea what they did to him.”

“Yet here you are? Did you really become one of them?” Bone ripped back at her. “How could you do that? How could you join the Vahzilok?”

“I did what I had to survive,” she justified. “They were going to kill me, just like they did Daniel. So, I offered myself to them – to Dr. Vahzilok himself – to become one of his Eidolon. I did it to save my life.”

Bone couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She willingly gave herself to the Vahzilok, after what they did to their son.

“The Valerie I knew would never have done that. She would have died before joining these monsters,” Bone argued.

“What do you know about life and death,” she snapped back. “You have your precious medical transporters to protect you. I was on my own. I had a choice to make and I chose to live, no matter what I had to do.”

“You’re right about one thing,” she said as she pulled the mask back over her face. “Valerie Johnson is dead. I am Black Mary.”

Bone realized the truth in her words. “Then this is goodbye for the last time,” he told her as he put his mask back on. “But know this, Black Mary. The next time we meet, I won’t hesitate to kill you.”

Black Mary just stared at him. “Neither will I, Bone the Headhunter,” she said. “Neither will I.” Without hesitating, Bone pulled back his bow and fired a flaming arrow at the body bags, making the body parts unusable to the Vahzilok. Black Mary didn’t flinch. She just stared at Bone. He turned away and leaped into the air, heading toward the Faultline exit, back to Steel Canyon.

Suddenly, the sewer grate opened up and a group of Vahzilok stepped out. The Mortificator walked over to Black Mary. “Black Mary, what happened here?” he asked. She continued to stare off into the distance.

“We were ambushed by Bone the Headhunter,” she explained. “He destroyed the body bags, but I got him… I got him right through the heart.”

The Mortificator smiled, knowing that the Eidolon hurt that which the Vahzilok’s feared most. As they gathered up the remains of their fallen, they were too busy to see a tear rolling down Black Mary’s cheek. It was the last tear she will ever shed for her husband.

Across town, as Bone leaped through the air, he also shed a tear. He hasn’t cried since he lost his family the first time. He’ll never cry for them again.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Bad time for politics, great time for comic book fans

I am a bit of a political junkie. I watch the news a lot, read all the online news sites and keep tabs on Facebook and Twitter about what’s being said in this year’s election. That being said, I have been ready to take a long walk off a steep cliff since June. If you don’t know who you’re voting for by now, you’re either too stupid, not paying attention or don’t care one way or the other.

I have to say that I don’t want to hear movie stars or other celebrities gloss over about who they think we should vote for. It turns me off, especially if my views are different from theirs. I think back to the whole Dixie Chicks debacle during the Bush Administration. I loved their music and when they decided to put their politics in the forefront, it made them unappealing to listen to. By the fact that they are no longer a group demonstrates my point exactly.

2015-12-03-arrow-headerSo where am I going with all this? I don’t want to see political correctness in my favorite comic book characters. I don’t want to see them changed or updated for the purpose of political correctness. I want to see the ’70s “Blaxploitation” version of Luke Cage, the X-Men that stand up the bigotry and bias of humanity, and the dark, brooding Batman that strikes fear into the hearts of criminals. Why can’t we have comic book characters be comic book characters?

We are losing our grip on what it means to be a comic book character. Everyone is trying to be edgier, darker, more shocking than the next one and it’s getting out of hand. We have a new generation being introduced to comic books through great series being put out on Netflix and the CW, and yet, they’re getting skewed. Luke Cage is being panned for being “too black” and people are criticizing the casting of a “white guy” as Iron Fist? These are people who clearly don’t know who these characters truly are.

At the same time, some of the producers are going “over dramatic” on some series. Arrow and The Flash have both gotten poor ratings for relying on too much drama and not enough action. Agents of Shield has also been guilty of this. Yes, we want to see character development but at the same time, the thing that brings them to life for fans like me is the action and adventure that goes with it.

Maybe it is this “politically correct” environment we live in that tries to make these shows something for more than just the average comic book fan. I understand that but if you change the essence of the character to fit a narrative that meets the criteria of PC, it dilutes the story into a mess.

This is something we, as writers, deal with all the time. Times change and, yes, people need to change with them. Captain America went from World War II hero to fighting the Cold War to fighting terrorism today, and through all that, he never changed who he was. The essence of Steve Rogers was always there, except when they made him a double agent for Hydra but we won’t open that can of worms.

I know that most of the people who write the storylines for TV are themselves fans, but even they have to change things to make them fit into an hour show. Stories yes, but not the characters themselves. Let’s be true to how they were originally written.

53-years-old and still a child at heart

The late, great actor George Burns said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” That is so true.I turned 53-years-old yesterday yet, according to my wife on more than one occasion, I am still a child at heart. That is absolutely true.

maxresdefaultI still have that spark of imagination, that child-like demeanour that keeps you young at heart. I love to watch cartoons, read comic books, play video games and, in general, feel and act like a kid again. What’s wrong with that?

We’ve been trying to keep that spirit alive through every means possible. I mean, look at movies like Big and The Kid, for example. They try to teach how being that little kid again can help keep us grounded by keeping our hopes and dreams at the forefront.

One of my favorite TV shows is Doctor Who. I know it’s hard to fathom what a 2,000-year-old Timelord has to do with being young at heart, but give me a minute. The 11th Doctor, Mat Smith, was one of my absolute favorites. He could act like a child yet become a serious adult, switching back and forth all the time. I love that idea. That’s what we all need to be.

There are plenty of times when need to be serious adults, but every once-in-a-while, we need to let that inner child loose. It helps keep us young and alive. It’s that spark that helps me as a writer. That little kid in me is a dreamer, thinking about magical islands, flying on the back of a dragon, weaving magical spells.

That’s why I love playing Dungeons and Dragons. You need that child-like imagination to play the game. It’s hard to imagine crawling through a dungeon, fighting off hordes of goblins with nothing but a magic sword without tapping into your imagination. That same imagination works its way into things when I sit down and write. It’s the same feeling I get when I play a video game or watch a cartoon. It sparks that inner child and fills me up with wonder, hope, and dreams. I can’t escape it and I really don’t want to.

So, I may have 53 candles on my birthday cake, it’s not how old I truly am inside. There, I’m still a little boy playing with his Micronauts and watching Superfriends and Speed Racer on a Saturday morning. In my heart and soul, that’s where I’ll always be.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse.The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

SDCC is Christmas in July for Geeks, Part II

dc-heroes-christmasAh, the joys of Christmas (in July) from the cosplayers all dressed in their finest costumes, the shrieking sounds of grown men as they find a rare comic for their collection, and the flashing lights of cameras as the stars take the stage. This is San Diego Comic-Con or Christmas for us nerds. It’s our time of year to bathe in the glory of everything comic book, sci-fi, and video game fantasy.

Part 2 of my review of this year’s big reveals at SDCC will focus on television, as the comic book genre has broadened its shoulders and spread its wings onto the small screen on multiple platforms. From Netflix to the CW, we have everything covered from mutant to magic to legends.

Starting off with Netflix, SDCC gave us a glimpse with trailers for Luke Cage, Iron First, Daredevil (Season 3) and The Defenders. With the exception of the first two, there wasn’t much to see. Daredevil and The Defenders were really just teasers for what’s to come. I did like hearing the voice of Stick (played by Scott Glenn) in the Defenders teaser, as he posed the question how these four (referring to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) “can save New York when they can’t even save themselves.” With Luke Cage, we get another hallway fight scene, except this time, it involves a man who has super strength and invulnerability. Iron Fist gave us just a glimpse of his origin story, not much else but just enough to make you want more. Overall, a good representation of the Marvel gritty, reality TV to satisfy our curiosity, for now.

the-flash-kid-flash-fullThe CW is charting a course “full speed ahead” with The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. The Flash is definitely moving in the “Flashpoint” storyline direction, with a lot of changes in Barry Allen’s new reality. We get to see Kid Flash in all his glory (great costume BTW) and, in the teaser, I saw a brief glimpse of the name and image of a classic Flash villain, Dr. Alchemy. It’s not exactly Flashpoint from the comics, but it seems to fit into the CW’s DC universe. Arrow is changing its tone a bit as Oliver tries to be mayor by day, vigilante by night. He gets help from a handful of new recruits in the form of Mister Terrific, Wilddog and Artemis. The villain for season 5 is Prometheus. He’s a big bad in the comics with tech that allowed him to mimic his enemies fighting style and use it against them, like Taskmaster in Marvel. His origin is different in CW as he was affected by Arrow’s initial killing spree in season one. We’ll see if these changes can bring them out of a dismal, and often criticized, season 4. There’s not much on Supergirl, though one rumor brings the Legionnaire Mon-el to National City and we’ll finally get to see her cousin, Superman, in real life. We’ll have to wait and see if they make an impact as part of the CW. Lastly, Legends of Tomorrow is putting together the Justice Society of America and facing off against the Legion of Doom. You can’t get any better than when Smallville brought the JSA to TV, so this will be interesting to see. Overall, CW has tried its best to keep their TV shows separate from the DC movie universe but still true to the comics. In my opinion, they’re doing a great job.

CoARBxXXEAEaiv0Besides Netflix and the cancellation of Agent Carter, Marvel’s only other show is  Agents of Shield on ABC. With the release of Doctor Strange in November, Agents of Shield are introducing magic to their combined movie/TV world. Ghost Rider will be the main antagonist for them, but not the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider as portrayed in the movies by Nicolas Cage. This is the current comic book version of Robbie Reyes, played by Gabriel Luna. Instead of a motorcycle, Robbie drives a Dodge Charger with flaming wheels. There are a lot of great back story elements that will tie this version of the Ghost Rider into the current cast of Agents of Shield, including Inhuman Daisy’s evil dad, Calvin Zabo, a.k.a. Mr. Hyde. Marvel does it different from DC, keeping their movie and TV universes one and the same. It’s great because it plays off each other and sometimes brings their movie star power (Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Alexander just to name a few) to the small screen.

There are a couple of other shows coming out this fall, like the new CBS Star Trek series Star Trek: Discovery, a comedy about an insurance agency specializing in superhero damages called Powerless on NBC, The Punisher getting his own Netflix series, X-Men comic book character Legion on Fox; and of course, season 7 of Game of Thrones. You are seeing a big change in television with the growing popularity of the superhero genre. It’s safe to say that we will see more series like this to come. It may be overused to some, but to geeks like me, it makes for great TV.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Comic-Con is the reason for the season (Christmas in July, that is …)

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You first look at the Justice League…Wow!

July is usually remembered for the 4th of July, Independence Day, with a lot of fireworks, picnics and the red, white, and blue. July is also a time for oppressive heat, sitting on the beach getting sand in your trunks, or maybe just enjoying some fun in the sun. For even a few fanatics out there (and I’m speaking from experience because I’m married to one), July is revered as the halfway point until Christmas, hence the hours and hours of “Christmas in July” sales on shopping channels, making an enormous debt on my wallet. However, for me, July means San Diego Comic-Con and the best trailers, interviews, reveals about everything in geekdom. That’s my Christmas!

I know there are tons of columns, blogs, news articles and geek websites that have already covered every single aspect of Comic-Con, so why would I want to stick my toe in the water that crowded with big, ugly feet and well-manicured Pedi’s? Well, I thought I’d weigh in from the aspect of an author. We know the stories, we love the stories, but the question is, how are they being told? Granted, I am basing my opinions on trailers but you can learn a lot about a movie in under two minutes.

As with most comic book movies today, they cannot stay 100% true to the source material but they do try. I mean, Ultron was created by Hank Pym, not Tony Stark, but did so to make it relevant to the Avengers. This is a prime example of what I’m talking about. One of the best movies to hold true to form in its transition from book-to-screenplay is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them since the screenplay was written by author J.K. Rowling. This is one movie that cannot be faulted for not being true and, besides the fact, it looks absolutely amazing. I love old New York and to throw magic into that noir setting is a treat for me.

There were so many more movies represented at Comic-Con, from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and more but these films were the cream of the crop.

13717328_1189865937724587_973986590614481376_oWonder Woman took an early turn out of the gate by starting her adventures in World War I vice World War II, though the sentiment behind this was mainly because there hasn’t been a superhero movie done in that era before. To be honest, I think that putting Wonder Woman in World War II would bring too many comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger anyway, so it was a good choice. They are sticking to her mythology, so that’s good news to me, and her fighting scenes in the movies are killer. Plus it’s about damn time Wonder Woman got her own movie anyway. Lynda Carter has been waiting for more than 40 years to pass the torch and Gal Gadot was the best decision Warner Brothers made in casting this movie.

CoF-W9rXgAEG-auI don’t want to go back-to-back DC, so let me jump into Doctor Strange next. I really have mixed feelings about this. The trailer was amazing. The special effects reflect the incredible power of the mystic arts as created by artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan “The Man” Lee. The casting was undeniable as Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the cast are incredibly talented, even with the haters trolling about Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. What bothers me is Baron Mordo, as portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor. In the comics, Mordo was a jealous, ambitious protegé of the Ancient One that turned to evil when Strange was picked over him. They seem to be more allies than adversaries in the movie. I’ll have to wait and see if there’s more to their relationship.

Justice League was definitely the surprise of the convention. Not only did they  show the first image of the entire league standing together, but they also gave a quick glimpse of the trailer. It was a wonderful blend of humor, drama, and action that is making this the most anticipated movie of 2017. Another brilliant casting effort that includes Ezra Miller has more of the wit and humor of Wally West from the Justice League cartoon rather than Barry Allen in the comics. Jason Momoa is quite brooding as Aquaman, but I love the “talking to fish” comment by Batman. It’s been the running joke on Aquaman over the years and it plays out perfectly. Cyborg looks intense, yet vulnerable, as played by Ray Fisher. It was just a brief glimpse, but it continues to show Zack Snyder’s influence in the DC Extended Universe.

I will continue my look at the Comic-Con on Wednesday with a review of the upcoming TV series and what they’re bringing next season. Until then, head over to YouTube and check out all the trailers from San Diego Comic-Con.

Why do humans always hang out with Dwarves and Elves in fantasy novels?

4449747-3801600654-triolEver since I got into fantasy, especially with those long weekends in college of 24 hour binge sessions of pizza, beer and Dungeons and Dragons, there seems to be a pattern with adventure groups. You will always find a human travelling with a Dwarf and an Elf (or some combination thereof). We’ve read it in Lord of the Rings and the Shannara Chronicles and seen it in movies and television. I don’t think you can write a fantasy/adventure story without that combination.

I know that many will say this is the trap writers fall into, creating something that has been seen and used over and over again. I can even remember that God awful D&D movie (with Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans and Richard O’Brien from Rocky Horror fame) with the same combination of human, Elf and Dwarf in their midst. It seems to be an endless chain of events in magical fantasy stories.

So the question is, as writers, why do we do it? For one thing, it boils down to diversity. That seems to be the strong sentiment in society today … The need for more diversity in our lives and our media. We’ve struggled with diversity for the past 200 years. It’s hard to bring different cultures and races together and, putting it into stories, is easier for most people to comprehend.

thor-gallery-1-2011-a-lA great example I see is the changing diversity in comic books today. In the past few years, we have seen classic Marvel Comics characters change from male to female, white to black, including Captain America, Thor, Captain Marvel, and Wolverine just to name a few. The same could be said for television and movies. I remember all the trolls complaining when Michael Clark Duncan was cast as Kingpin in the first Daredevil movie or when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall in Thor. It never bothered me because I don’t look at the color of their skin but at the skill of the actor, and in both cases, they were very successful.

In fantasy, it’s not about the color of the skin but the race of the character. There has always been an intense dislike and  suspicion between humans, Elves and Dwarves. You see it in the characters of J.R.R. Tolkien and others. I too “ran the gambit” when I put together the friends of the Gil-Gamesh in my Forever Avalon series. I wasn’t trying to be similar like Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli from Lord of the Rings. It just seemed natural to me as if I was playing a game of D&D.

To give you an example, here is an excerpt from my latest novel in the Forever Avalon series, The Dark Tides, where the Gil-Gamesh, Bryan MoonDrake meets Dwarf Master Dinius Oddbottom and the Elf Eonis for the first time.

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Every man and women wanted to shake the hand of the new Gil-Gamesh, or even just touch him on the arm. Th e talk around the tavern grew louder and louder. Even the bards were already making up songs about the new Gil-Gamesh and how he stood up to Constable Durm.

Bryan sat down as Lily brought him a fresh pint of ale. Th rough all the excitement, he noticed that Dinius never stopped eating and drinking. Bryan was amazed at his ignorance. “Well now, Gil-Gamesh …” Dinius ascertained, “… You sit down and drink with a Dwarf and don’t tell him
who you really are?”

“I apologize Master Dinius,” Bryan retorted, “My deception was necessary to maintain a low profile during my Grand Tour of Avalon, especially now since I’m travelling alone.”

“Alone?” Dinius asked. “I thought Sir Thomas was travelling with you?”

Now Bryan wondered who this Dinius Oddbottom was. How does he know Sir Thomas? “Sir Thomas is heading to Cornish on a personal matter,” Bryan interjected. “He’s meeting me at Strongürd Keep aft er I confer with the Wizard’s Council.”

Dinius nearly choked on his drink when he heard this. “You’re going to Strongürd alone? Are you mad? Th at’s takes you through Blackbriar Forest? Every cutthroat and brigand will be waiting for you in there?”

“Well, I’m going to have to deal with them sooner or later,” Bryan insisted. “It might as well be now. I’m not going to cower like a frightened child.”

Dinius smiled at the brash attitude this young man had. “Well, I am heading back to the Gilded Halls and it just so happens that Strongürd is on the way there. That is, if you don’t mind the company.”

Bryan thought about his proposal. He didn’t know this Dwarf, so it could be a trap for an easy kill to collect the bounty. Before he could answer, an Elf approached their table. He was handsome with long brown hair. His pointed ears stuck out through his hair. He wore a shining chain mail under a green and brown wrap and a long green cloak. A long sword hung at his belt and a bow and quiver were slung across his shoulders.

Salüs dai Tulafáir Gil-Gamesh, I am Eonis,” he introduced himself, placing his hand over his heart and bowing—a sign of respect in Avalon. “I bring you greetings from the Elves of Alfheimer.”

Bryan stood and extended his hand to Eonis. Th e Elf took it as a sign of human friendship. “Thank you Eonis. I hope to be in Alfheimer sometime soon to pay my respects.”

“I will inform Lord Baldrid of your intent,” Eonis concurred. “We will anticipate your arrival.” Eonis quickly turned his attention to the Gil-Gamesh’s companion, whom he recognized.

“Master Dinius,” he said, bowing again with respect. “What brings the Lord of the Gilded Halls to this corner of Avalon?”

Bryan turned to Dinius with a look of disdain at the Dwarf he’s been buying drinks and food for all night. “Lord of the Gilded Halls, huh?” he inquired. Bryan’s heard about the Gilded Halls, the home of the Dwarves of Avalon. It seemed Dinius Oddbottom wasn’t what he appeared to be. “I guess I wasn’t the only one ‘hiding in plain sight’, eh Master Dinius?” Bryan joked.

Dinius gulped his ale, aware that his own deception had been uncovered. “Yes, well, Sam makes the best ale this old Dwarf has ever tasted,” he tried to explain. “I come here from time to time to satisfy my thirst.”

Dinius got up from the table and walked over to Bryan. “Forgive my deception lad, but the Wizard Browbridge mentioned you may be coming this way and, knowing that I frequent the Weathered Wren, he asked me to keep an eye out for you … Indiscreetly that is.”

Now everything was starting to make sense to Bryan. “I suppose Archie sent you too?” he asked Eonis.

“Sir Charles, actually …” Eonis explained. “He asked me look in on you as well. Th is was a logical stopping point on your journey to Strongürd Keep so I came here and waited.”\

“And is there anything else I should be aware of?”

“Besides an embarrassed Dwarf and Elf, nothing at all,” Eonis bemused, attempting a joke, something Elves were not known for. “But truthfully, Gil-Gamesh, Blackbriar Forest is no place for any man to go alone, including you.”

“He’s right lad, just think of us as close companions on your journey,” Dinius added.

Bryan couldn’t believe it. Since his arrival on Avalon, people who never knew him had gone out of their way to protect and aid him. The devotion to the Gil-Gamesh was overwhelming to him.

“Alright, you can accompany me to Strongürd,” Bryan noted. “We’ll be leaving in the morning. Until then, good-night.” Bryan walked over to Sam to ask about his room. Sam motioned for Lily to escort Bryan upstairs to one of the rooms at the tavern. Eonis and Dinius kept a close eye on him until he disappeared behind the door.

“Well, that didn’t go as well as expected,” Dinius lamented. Eonis looked down at him, visibly upset.

“It may have helped if you didn’t scrounge food and drink off him all night,” he declared. Dinius huff ed and returned to his seat.

“A Dwarf’s got to eat, you know,” Dinius told Eonis, drinking down his ale then belching loudly as he finished his meal.

***

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

More comic book heroes, less reality housewives on television please!

I have been, for lack of s better term, “geeking” out the past few weeks. Between the new trailer for Season 9 of Doctor Who, Stars Wars Episode VII concept art and behind the scenes video and the announcement Matt Ryan (aka John Constantine) is coming to this season of Arrow has been exciting.

We live in an age when sci-fi/fantasy is more and more prevalent on TV and movies. Some are saying its too much but I say it’s about time.

kampfstern-galactica-poster_articleBack in the 70s/80s, when I was growing up, there wasn’t a huge following for the genre. Sure, we had classic shows like the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, the Six Million Dollar Man and Kolchak: The Night Stalker (my personal favorite as that series influenced me to a writer); but along with that we had flops like Manimal, Automan, Spider-man and the incredibly awful Justice League and Captain America TV movies.

CGI and improved make-up and special effects have brought the sci-fi/fantasy genre new life. In this era of reality shows upon reality shows, I love the new line up coming to TV. There are too many shows about rich housewives from New York and LA, rich wives of doctors and basketball players and every Kardashian alive today.

Shows like Arrow, The Flash, Gotham and Grimm have made an impact on television with great characters and equally masterful writing by people who are true geeks. It’s really bring geeks and non-geeks together to support these great shows.

That’s been the trouble with shows in the past. They never stuck to the heart of the story. They just slapped the characters on TV with a few cheesy special effects and called it a day.

Writing is just as important in fantasy/sci-fi shows and movies. Ant-Man and Fantastic Four are two great examples where story matters. Though it took them six years to bring Ant-Man to the silver screen, it was a great combination of humor, action and drama. On the other hand, How someone can royally screw up the “first family of superheroes” THREE times is beyond me.

maxresdefaultThis year, they’re adding Supergirl, DC Legends of Tomorrow and Heroes Reborn into the mix. These are just a few of what’s to come for comic book television, with the Teen Titans coming to TNT down the road and Fox working on an X-Men TV series. Let’s face it, it’s exciting to be a geek right now.