Find me at the Forge

ForgedFirst thing’s first — to all the new folks we met at Free Comic Book Day who bought one of my books or picked up a bookmark: hello! It was great meeting you! Eddie says you were his favorite!

Next, those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter (and really, why wouldn’t you?) may have noticed more writing activity from me this week, specifically a piece on Superman and Superboy, a review of Avengers #1, and a piece on why I love Free Comic Book Day. You may also have noticed these articles are appearing at a new website, ForgedBy4.com. I though that a little introduction was in order.

Many years ago, I got my start in Geek Punditry at a website called Comixtreme. I was on staff there for years writing columns and reviews and I loved doing it. But CX was a forum-based site and, like many other such sites, it died a slow death after Facebook came along and changed the landscape of social media. I also had an increasingly chaotic personal life at the time, and I fell out of writing such things almost altogether. For some time now, though, I’ve had an itch to get back into it, which I’ve tried to scratch with personal blogs and social media.

It wasn’t the same.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by one of the old CX crew, Craig Reade, asking what I thought modern social media was lacking. Without any other information, but suspecting what he was getting at, I told him “If you’re trying to get something started again, I’m in.”

Craig has assembled a small (but growing) group of old Comixtreme mates and some newcomers for the new ForgedBy4, a site to celebrate the things we love about Pop Culture. Our coverage will be there to accentuate the positive: no 15-point bullet lists about why your favorite superhero would be a terrible person in real life or why everyone in your favorite movie will probably die after the credits roll. That doesn’t mean there will be no criticism or analysis, just that if one of the site’s contributing writers is talking about something, we’re approaching it from a place of fondness and affection. If you want negativity, there’s the entire rest of the internet.

We’ll have a social media presence, of course. We’re on Facebook and Twitter, and we even have a Subreddit. But our heart and soul is old-school. We’re bringing back the forum as our main place for conversation, and we hope you’ll all take a few minutes to sign up (for free) and join in. Sure, you can read our articles if you aren’t a member, but we think the experience will be richer if you are. And if you’re not really sure what you would get out of a forum experience… well, Craig explains it better than I could.

My personal blog isn’t going anywhere, of course. I’ll still be here with updates of Santa’s Odyssey and whatever else strikes my fancy, but my Geek Punditry will now be concentrated on the Forge.

Join us, won’t you?

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On bats, acceptance, and Adam West

get rid of a bombI have a complicated relationship with Adam West.

This is not to suggest I ever met the man, because I never did. Nor am I going to pretend to be greatly familiar with his body of work beyond the Batman TV series or other roles which were deliberately derivative or satirical of that series. I’m pretty sure the only acting role I ever saw him take where he wasn’t playing Batman, a Batman pastiche, or himself was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I haven’t even read Burt Ward’s tell-all book about their time making that series, which would at least presumably offer a little more insight into who he was as a person. To me, and by no means to me alone, Adam West was simply Batman, full stop.

But it’s more complicated than that.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I watched his Batman TV show. And as a child, I loved it. Yes, it was sometimes goofy and garish and sometimes the villain’s plots made absolutely no sense, but hey, it was still Batman. On TV.  This was in the 80s, remember, a time very much unlike today when there are a thousand comic book properties on television at any given time, and even more if you change the channel from the CW. It was great just to see Batman — or any superhero, for that matter — on TV in any form. It was pretty much all I required out of this show.

Then I made a tragic mistake, a mistake that so many of us make in our lives, a mistake that many of you have made, and that still others among you are probably going to make in the future.

I got older.

I was almost 12 when Michael Keaton’s Batman movie was released in 1989. When I saw that, it was a game-changer for little Blake. This was the Batman I wanted to see. This was the Batman I read about in comic books. He was dark. He was brutal. He made people fear him, and at that point that was the only Batman I wanted. It got worse when I read things like The Dark Knight Returns or Year One. Suddenly there was no room in my world for a light-hearted, silly. campy Batman.

Not only that, but I grew irrationally, unreasonably angry at Adam West and Burt Ward for several years for the way their portrayal of Batman and Robin had tainted the reputation of the character for so much of the world. When people who didn’t read comics, people who didn’t know any better, talked about Batman, they talked about the silly costumes and the goofy gadgets. Every time the news said anything at all about comic books, the headline was full of “POW!” and “BAM!” Not only was Batman being disrespected, but the entire art form of comic books was being dragged down and it was all Adam West’s fault.

I know. But bear with me, please.

Then after a few years of this, I did something wise. Something that some of you have hopefully done. Something that, unlike growing older, is by no means guaranteed for all people.

I got perspective.

It started with the works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, rediscovering them in college. I saw the richness and depth of those stories, and I started to wonder why I had stopped reading them in the first place.

Oh yeah. Because they were Disney comics. And I, of course, was “too old” for such things.

I began to realize that just because something is appropriate for children does not mean that it is inherently without merit. Just because I liked something when I was younger did not prevent me from enjoying or appreciating it today. And so I re-embraced those things I loved — Disney and the Looney Tunes and the Muppets and more. And eventually, I went back and I gave Mr. West’s Batman another look.

To be fair, it’s still not my Batman anymore, but now I get that that’s okay. To be honest, it’s hard to define exactly which Batman is mine because there are so many different versions of him, and so many of them I enjoy. If I have to choose a single incarnation, on most days I’ll probably say my Batman was drawn by Jim Aparo and and written by Chuck Dixon. But that could change depending on which way the wind is blowing. There are so many excellent Batman creators out there, and so many great Batman performers, it seems absurd to limit myself to one. And what’s more, even those I don’t personally connect with, I can appreciate for their place in the mythology. Adam West may not have been my Batman, but I can appreciate the fact that he is Batman for so many people. I can appreciate that his Batman is entirely valid, just as much as Keaton, or Christian Bale, or Ben Affleck, or for that matter Will Arnett, and especially Kevin Conroy. All of their Batmen are as real as any other, and everybody is allowed to have as many Batmen as they want.

But that’s not just true of Batman, is it? How many people, over the years, have said that Lynda Carter was the one and only Wonder Woman? Up until last week, a lot more, probably. But as Gal Gadot has proven so beautifully, so effortlessly, there is absolutely room for others. Christopher Reeve was my Superman, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with George Reeves or Tom Welling or Dean Cain or Henry Cavill. There is room for these legendary characters to go beyond any one interpretation. There is room for everyone’s version, and somebody else having theirs doesn’t make yours bad. (This is not to say there are no bad versions of anything, of course, just that you need a more compelling reason than “It’s not the one I wanted” if you’re going to convince me that it’s bad.)

That was the most important lesson I think, that I learned from Adam West and Batman ‘66. There truly is room for everything.

Well, that, and that some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

Free Comic Book Day 2017

fcbdIt’s almost one of my favorite days of the year, guys! On the first Saturday in May, comic shops across America will be celebrating Free Comic Book Day! Once a year, the comic shops, distributors, and publishers provide cost-free comics to anyone who pops in! For a list of this year’s comics, as well as to find a participating store near you, just head over to the Free Comic Book Day website.

But if you happen to be in the New Orleans area, may I make a suggestion as to where to celebrate? As I’ve been doing for several years now, I’m going to be at BSI Comics in on Severn Avenue in Metairie. The best shops, you see, have taken Free Comic Book Day from a single table of freebies like it was for the first few years, and blown it up into a full-blown mini-convention! Local writers and artists, costume contests, prizes, major sales on comics, graphic novels, toys, and other paraphernalia! Hell, this year BSI is even going to host Jason Carter, aka Marcus Cole from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Babylon 5!

I’ll be there all day with copies of my books for sale ($10 each or all five for $40). Erin will be with me, we’ll try to record a podcast from the store as we’ve done many times, and we’re going to have a blast. We’d love to see you.

And wherever you go, remember, the comics are free for you, but not for the store. They’re made available for a reduced price, but every one of your freebies costs the shop a little money. So show your gratitude — while you’re there, do a little shopping. Find a new graphic novel to try. Get a t-shirt. Do you watch The Walking Dead? Psyched for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Wonder Woman? Are you currently wearing a Yoda t-shirt and posting “May the Fourth Be With You” memes all over Facebook? Then there’s going to be something for you at any shop that’s participating. Find the store nearest you, go out, and have a great time.

A new chapter…

The first few months of 2017 have been extraordinarily chaotic. My mother passed away on January 13. It was the worst day of my life. But now I’ve got some good news to share. I’m usually the writer in our house, but today I’m just going to quote my wife on this one…

I think it’s time for Blake and I to expand our selection of children’s books… Our new chapter starts in September.

new chapter

A Christmas Gift: Daisy’s Tree

daisys-tree-1As people who have been with me for a long time know, each year I write a new Christmas short story as a little gift for those who’ve stayed with me this long. This year’s tale came to me as I was on my way to a little Christmas Tree farm in Mississippi with my wife and my sister’s family. It’s about a little girl and  different kind of tree. And as of right now (Christmas Eve) it’s totally free for five days! Roll over to Amazon.com and get this year’s story for your Kindle or Kindle app.

Daisy’s Tree on Amazon.com

Merry Christmas!

We are the people of Louisiana

We are the people of Louisiana, and we have been here before.

We have seen the waters rise and we have watched people run. We have seen children on roofs, pets swimming for safety, houses ruined, and the effects of a lifetime destroyed. We have waited in traffic for hours or days, and we have seen cars submerged in water in their own driveways. We have seen the shadow of years of recovery and felt the sting that comes with wondering how we will afford doing it.

We have also pulled our boats to the edge of the water, together, and set out to help whoever we could. Those of us with no boats have collected food, and clothes, and Lysol, and brought them to where the water meets the land, ready to go in. We have pulled puppies into pirouges, flooded high schools with survivors, and rolled up our sleeves to begin cleaning up.

We are not surprised when the media ignores us, because we do not supply them with an easy narrative or an enticing sound byte. We are not shooting each other, or rioting, or looting. And it’s not just because everything worth looting is underwater, either. It’s because we take care of our own. When a motorboat approaches a stranded family on a rooftop, nobody is looking at race, nobody cares about religion, nobody asks who the other person is voting for in November, and it doesn’t matter if that roof sits atop a mansion or a prefab trailer. We see only a neighbor who needs help. We know these things are not about class until somebody decides to make it that way, and we cannot cooperate with that person again.

We will shake our heads and laugh when, inevitably, someone will write an op-ed piece asking why anyone would live in a place where “such a thing can happen,” then completely miss the irony as they go to sleep in a city that could be broken in half by an earthquake tomorrow.

We live in a place where “such a thing can happen” because it is our home. And it is not our home because we were born here (not all of us who call it home were) or because we have lived here all our lives (not all of us who call it home still do). It is not home because it is where we hunt and fish (but we do). It is not home because it has the best food and the best music in America (although this, too, is true). We call this our home because when the rains fall and the water rise, we don’t wait for the government to decide we’re worthy of aid, and we don’t wait for a candidate to decide to finally tweet about our circumstances.

We are the people of Louisiana, and we take care of our own. And when this happens again, and the waters rise, and if next time it flows into homes that stayed dry the last time, we know our neighbors — our family — will take out their boats and start collecting food and find us shelter and be there for us, just as we were there for them.

 

Join us in helping our family.

Hello, BayouCon!

writerI’ll be back early next week with a longer post talking about my experiences here in Sulphur for BayouCon 2016, but with one day left, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the many fine folks I’ve talked to in the first two days.

I’ve sold some books, I’ve given out lots of bookmarks, and this afternoon I co-hosted a panel on world-building in a novel series along with horror author Alexander Brown. (I think that was some of the most fun I’ve had here — I talk about books and movies and TV shows all the time, but it’s rare that I actually get the chance to discuss my process and how I write.)

For those of you who got the address of this website from one of my bookmarks and want to know what I’m all about, here are the two most important links you can have. First, my Facebook Author’s Page. I update it frequently, any time I’ve got something worth sharing with people, from a new book to a new episode of my podcast. The other link is the Buy Blake’s Work page on this very site. This page features all of my work that is currently available, including all five of the books you saw on my table, plus lots of other stuff that’s only available in eBook format.

Enjoy the last day of the con on Sunday, come on over and say hello, and I’ll be back with more BayouCon thoughts next week.