Something Wicked this Way…

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows… 

I didn’t grow up reading comic books. There were reasons: I’ve been reading, and a fast reader, since I was probably 4, and comic books were not a good return on my tiny book allowance. Also, I didn’t grow up in an urban setting. Books were hard to come by, and I clung to them. Clung to them bitterly when the time came to move and I had to thin them down to the necessaries over and over through life. Also, I grew up in a very religious household, and there were books I just wasn’t allowed to read (although I will say that comics were never on the verbally forbidden list – that dubious honor went to two authors when I was allowed free range at the library. I was not supposed to read Robert Heinlein or Danielle Steele. I never bothered with the latter. The former… well, how do you think I wound up here?). So to recap: I was a bitter clinger to my books, my Bible, and my guns (ok, my parent’s guns, which yes, I was taught to shoot). Stay with me, here, I’m going somewhere. 

It wasn’t until I was nearly a full-grown adult that I first came across, devoured, and loved, a graphic novel. That would be Art Spiegelman’s iconic Maus. Now, there’s a man who understands the evil lurking beneath the surface of some men’s hearts. I can’t say, however, that I then went on to reading comics and graphic novels, because that’s not true either. I wanted to at points – when the first Avengers movie came out, I was smitten. But when I went to my friends and asked how best to find a collection of the writing/art that led to the movie, they hemmed, hawed, and finally told me: don’t bother. The comic book world, it seems, is so recursive that unless you’ve been immersed in it since a very early age, trying to catch up is only going to be confusing and frustrating and it’s not worth the time and effort. Even my daughters, who were huge DC fans and collected comic books any time I took them near a comic book store or used bookstore that had some to leaf through… they have outgrown them, it seems. Too many changes to the worlds, characters killed, characters violently wrenched out of shape by creators who suddenly decided they weren’t the right gender, or color, or… instead of introducing original characters and teaching the readers to love them, too, the characters of the wrong orientation (be that sex, race, or what-have-you) had to be erased and replaced with the flavor du jour. You can see how readers would hate this, yes? And as a mother, I’m horrified by the message it sends to younger readers.

Which (somewhat) leads us to the present day, and me being vaguely aware of a kerfluffle surrounding comics and comic creators. It’s the same old story. Creators who won’t bend to the current political scene in publishing are being blacklisted and de-platformed. I sympathize. I stepped out of the mess after having waded into the fray of Sad Puppies, because it was literally threatening my children in a vulnerable situation. But I have been quietly observing. I was amused to see a couple of my friends and colleagues on the ‘blacklist’ that was circulating, since neither actually write or create comic book art. The same old nonsense. But then today I was struck with a sudden schadenfreude. You may remember a review I posted here some time back? The herky-jerky one? That was three years ago, but you know, I’m feeling a bit like Cassandra today.

I was on Twitter this morning. Rarely have you seen a more wretched hive of villainy and scum, yes, yes. However, it’s occasionally useful for finding the breaking news in more, ah, obscure topics. The buzz today is that Chuck Wendig of Star Wars infamy has been fired. For being rude and generally antisocial. Now, if you read that post I linked above, you’ll note that his style has been for years that of insult and attack. So what’s changing? Is anything changing, or did he simply become too gross even for the socially conscious crowd?

I can hope that the industry is finally – FINALLY – seeing that marketing by attacking and belittling fans just doesn’t work. I’m a very hopeful sort. It’s kept me going in some dark places. The cynical side of me thinks that it’s not that, it’s just that poor ol’ Chuck is the wrong color and gender and they decided he was a liability no matter how hard he licked their boots. It’s sad, actually.

But this is why I don’t read the comics. Or horror, for that matter. I like hope. Hope is the bright shiny thing that keeps me going through the valley of the shadow of death. Hope, and friendship. I’m grateful I’ve got excellent friends who pointed me in the Indie direction, so I never had to worry about being the wrong color, the wrong religion, or worst of all: I never had to abase myself to use my ‘victimhood’ to get a leg up in the publishing industry. I’ve been able to grow a fanbase because, well, I like people. The mob is ugly, and wicked. People individually are amazing and I love to talk to them and learn about them. Why would I jump on Twitter and degrade them, scream at them to shut up because I didn’t like their politics, and so forth? I’ll call for consequences for bad behaviour: that is essential to a civil society. But I’m also a proponent of justice, and even when something bad happens to an enemy, I’ll be sad for them and their family. I hope they learn, and become better people like puppies taught not to piss on the carpet. I can hope.

Off topic this week: I have a free book for you all. I’d say to enjoy, but this is another of my Halloween horror stories, and it’s a very emotional tale of a woman in an impossible situation who risks everything she has left for the sake of friendship. Memories of the Abyss is free October 12 through the 19th. If you’ve already read it, I beg a favor of you, to share the link with friends who may enjoy it as well as you did.

(Header Image: “Fog Angels” digital artwork by Cedar Sanderson)


  1. Years ago, a writer acquaintance (not sure which one after all these years) pointed me toward Wendig. I read his blog and thought he was crass. But writers who probably knew more than I did were saying the blog was a must-read, so I kept reading and occasionally found a nugget here and there. The longer I followed his blog, the more I realized that whatever occasional value I was finding there wasn’t worth the mental effort spent slogging through the mound of manure. And getting spit at for the trouble. Life’s too short to put up with that crap.

    1. I would occasionally get pointed at his blog. But venomous ranting all the time gets tedious, so I stopped ever clicking through. Rage against anything you like, but remember that it’s only impactful when you do it rarely.

      1. *Teacher flinch* Effective rather than “impactful?”

        I look at rants the same way I do swear words and chili peppers. When used judiciously, they get the point (and flavor) across when nothing else will do. But a constant stream of them? No thanks. People stop listening, and then what do you do when you really, really need them to quit doing that?

  2. You say Free through October 12, but it’s already October 13–I know it’s a little thing, but I figure not everyone’ll click through to realize it’s still free when they see that 🙂

      1. You think YOU’ve lost track… so I go to look and Amazon informs me, “You already own this item, as of May 2016.” Absolutely no memory of that; I wonder what else is in my Kindle stash that I’ve utterly spaced? (BTW nifty cover.)

  3. I don’t remember telling you not to read Heinlein, but if I did it was because some of his books had — odd — marriage situations, and i figured you could wait to find out about those until you were older! Danielle Steel, on the other hand…I still don’t like, LOL!

      1. The first Heinlein that I came home with was Have Space Suit, Will Travel, from the elementary school library in a very conservative small town.

        I think that fooled my mother, so when I bought the “other” stuff, she had no objections. (She apparently wasn’t noticing that I bought those on our trips to Phoenix – the local bookstore didn’t have them…).

        BTW, although I was reading those and other “subversive” stuff at a very young age, I ended up in a completely monogamous heterosexual formally recognized marriage – bit over thirty years now. Perhaps realizing that A) I wasn’t enormously wealthy as in I Will Fear No Evil, B) didn’t live where there was a scarcity of females as in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, C) had nobody to teach me Martian as in Stranger In A Strange Land, and D) was not an effective immortal like Lazarus.

        Come to think of it, all of his “alternative lifestyle following” characters were unusual people in unusual environments.

  4. So I read comics A LOT. From 88 until… 92 or so. Mostly the X-Books and Iron Man, only occasionally Cap because well, Cap was where Marvel writers went to die. I kind of tapered off because… well, I dunno. I’ve looked back into them sometimes, especially during the much-vaunted Civil War storyline, and when people like Joss and jms were writing them, but… well, the Civil War storyline was so anti-individual-rights and such a bad turn of character for Tony, i didn’t even read most of it. Now… ehh, you can have it.

    Want to read comics you’;; enjoy? Try some sixties or eighties stuff in the compilation books or temporarily get the digital subscription to Marvel. I reccomend reading Fantastic Four #48-50 (the ultimate Marvel Classic) and some less hyped stuff like.. well, Strikeforce: Morituri is a good example. Heroes and villains and everything, in a sorta mil SF setting.

    1. They aren’t comics, but if you love Super-Heroes, read the Wearing The Cape series.

      The series even handles the issue of how do you handle super-powered beings in the real world much better than Marvel (ie Civil War) and DC had.

      1. Oh, yes.


        Wonderful series.

        They’re my go-to books when I need to relax. Well written, fun, and enjoyable.

        Fabulous world building.

      2. TBH, the more i hear y’all talk about Wearing the Cape, the less interested I am. It sounds like they are injecting way too much realism into it for my tastes.

        1. Well, IMO it’s a fun series. The Heroes Are True Heroes and the Villains Are True Villains.

        2. It’s still fiction and I’d put it at YA level. The message is that good overcomes evil. I would say there’s as much reality in it as there was in the Superman comics of the 50s.

          1. This is going to get me tarred and feathered, but I’d put them right up there with Heinlein’s juveniles.

      3. Wearing the Cape, yes.

        I also recommend Jeramey Kraatz’s Cloak Society trilogy.
        Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, volume 2: Confession and volume 4: Tarnished Angel — the series can be uneven. Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series is certainly on the edge of it.

        And naturally Mary Catelli’s Through A Mirror, Darkly. 0:) Was doing some research reading in superhero novels before that and — novels have the same issues as the comics. Judgment is needed.

        1. I highly recommend Michael Stackpole’s “In Hero Years… I’m Dead!”
          It is quite simply the best superhero book I’ve ever read.

    2. I didn’t get to read comics much as a kid. My family didn’t have money for comics, so I never really got into the habit of reading them. Because of this, I totally missed Civil War when it went through the comic books.

      When it hit the MCU, however, it really screwed up my enjoyment of the Marvel movies for a while. I’m finally going back and seeing what I missed when I can so that I might be up to speed for the next round of MCU movies. If I don’t like the next new one that comes out, I might just give up on MCU completely.

      1. It seems possible that Captain Marvel could suck without damaging the entire project, but Infinity War 2 seems pretty central to the whole enterprise.

  5. If you want a look at the very best that comic storytelling (and horror!)has to offer, pick up Stand Still Stay Silent. You can read the whole story as a webcomic, but it really was designed to be a book. E-books #1 and #2 are available for purchase.

    There are loads of wonderful, hopeful well-told comic stories, but they nearly all have to work ’round the gate-keepers one way or the other.

    1. Seconded on SSSS. It’s some very good storytelling, even if the fandom can be a little squirrelly at times. It’s also one of the few places on the web where the comments section won’t cause you to lose all faith in humanity.

  6. I never did enjoy Danielle Steele, although I admire her work ethic and business sense. The one modern romance writer who I’d recommend (with some reservations for Adult Content and Situations) is Ann River Siddons. Why? That woman can write places! Oh, how she uses landscape and environment in her books. I still envy her that. _Low Country_ was the first one I tried, because I’d heard a chapter on “Radio Reader.” Dang, but she gets landscape and using it as a character in the story.

    I don’t enjoy comics or graphic novels that much. I’ve enjoyed some manga, but not many (early _Full Metal Alchemist_). I used to collect vintage Doc Strange and some X-men and S.H.I.E.L.D., but the cross-over plots and so on got to me. I could get a fat novel for the cost of three comics. Now? The movies are fun, but no way I’d touch the comic books again.

  7. I’m curious as to what is really going on with Mr. Wendig. I’m sure I haven’t seen everything he’s ranting about, but the “F$#@ the GOP” rant that people seem to be pointing to as the possible cause doesn’t strike me as something likely to get him fired from an SJW-loving business. It struck me as no worse than much of what that crowd tweets and probably less harmful to the business than referring to paying customers as “suckaz” the way he did in the tweets in Cedar’s earlier review. Moreover, the stuff I’ve seen has noted that Wendig has said he was fired because of “too much politics, too much vulgarity, too much negativity.” All I’ve seen on Marvel’s side is that they “declined to commented.”

    I suppose it’s possible that someone at Disney has woken up to the fact that insulting and angering half the country is not the best way to rebuild your damaged customer base. However, I also think it’s possible that the guy who insisted that the bad reviews of Aftermath were all about homophobes hating his gay characters might be misrepresenting what actually happened to paint himself as a victim.

    1. So far the articles I’ve seen on the topic have been blaming the ComicsGate crowd for “harassing” Wendig. I don’t know one way or t’other whether they have been–wouldn’t be surprised, honestly–but the Mouse House is about as likely to fire someone because they aroused the ire of antileftist trolls as MGC would boot someone because they ticked off a certain fandom news agglomerator.

      1. Well, they did fire that Guardians of the Galaxy guy for Twitter comments that I personally was not excited about. The Mouse has always put a bit more into image maintenance than many of the other Hollywood enterprises.

        Obvious possibilities:
        1. They are cleaning house at Lucasfilms after TLJ, and Wendig is an obvious candidate to ax.
        2. Disney has been focus grouping the political angle, and they want to ride out coming events. Keeping Wendig on board is too much of a liability, compared to cutting him loose a month before the election. Test for this would be to look for other low level Disney types who are political activists, won’t shut up, and could be construed as speaking on behalf of Disney. Problem is, this seems too soon to be a reaction to the senate hearing, and nothing else seems likely to have changed the political calculus recently. Disney has of course been focus grouping the results of TLJ. Because they like money, and marketing tools are going to be key to understanding if they can recover any more money from Star Wars. The political angle is only really plausible if they have been sitting on a contingency, hesitating to pull the trigger, and decided they needed to cut the risk of being drawn into the political feuding /now/.

        Disney sells to people with kids. And can’t afford to have those people think Disney is on board with murdering them just because it plays well to children who are legally adults.

  8. I’ve really given up on comics when I realized three things-
    1)If we haven’t gotten to Peak Batman/Peak Superman/Peak Captain America/Peak Iron Man yet, we’re getting really close. This is when we’ve pretty much written all the plots that can be told by the characters without getting so far outside of the character creation zone that they aren’t even the same characters anymore. It’s not so much “there are no more stories to tell,” more along the lines of we’ve picked all the low-to-medium hanging fruit and the good stories are higher up on the tree. Which takes a lot more skill to get to and a lot more effort to do right. Let’s take Warren Ellis and the Extremis storyline. It was a damn good retelling of the Iron Man origin story, did more with Tony Stark in the years before the movies, and pretty much was half the plot of Iron Man 3.

    (Except that Warren Ellis did it better.)

    In the hands of a lesser writer, it would have been another ho-hum reboot of the Iron Man origin story. But, it was something much better because of a good writer.
    2)They forgot who their audience is. It’s the only thing I can think of why they haven’t junked Iron Heart (or whatever the sociopath teenager that replaced Iron Man with), or canceled Ms Marvel (which I kind of liked…except for the fact that it was written by someone that really wants to pretend that Islam is a Religion of Peace), or made a damn serious effort to take the characters that were showing up in the MCU and run their stories.

    (Seriously, female Thor was Jane Foster? Who was using magic to ignore the fact that she was dying of cancer-in fact, accelerating her own death because of it? After running a whole plotline that she didn’t want to use magic to cure her cancer because there was always a cost? And, Sam Wilson not hitting her over the head with how stupid this was? And, this was considered a good story?)

    It’s the same problem in SF/F writing as well-the authors have forgotten that their audience isn’t the people in the New York literature bubble (or the people want to pretend that they are in that bubble), but the people that want a good, entertaining, fun story about Captain America punching the hell out of Nazis. Real Nazis. You know, the sort that actually are Nazis?

    Those people aren’t the “woke” people that you want to impress, but they are ones paying your bills. If you insult them, they won’t buy your stuff. If they don’t buy your stuff, you can’t pay the bills. And, they are even failing in this bit of logic.
    3)Everything I like, they cancel. Loved the Ultimate Marvel line, just about past Ultimatum, then they screwed everything up. (Except Miles Morales. That was awesome. Oh, and making Reed Richards into Doom. That was neat.) There were some runs of Batman that I just thought were awesome. Likewise with Superman.

    Then, the great stuff that is done is either ignored, destroyed, ret-coned, or otherwise it’s because there was a Doombot. Ugh.

    Mind you, if tomorrow morning, I had a guaranteed contract to do a Batman/Bubblegum Crisis Elsewords run for DC (with the caveats of writing my story and having Kia Asamiya doing the art in B&W and proper manga size…), I’d be jumping all over it. Or a chance to do Captain Marvel (I don’t think I could write her any worse). Or even some other comic book characters.

    But…right now, nope. Nothing that the comic book world has holds much appeal for me, beyond the Wildstorm reboot that Warren Ellis is doing. That has been fun.

    1. Manga Studio errr Clip Studio Pro has made comic creation soooo much easier. Non-destructive inking and lettering, and you can even import 3d objects… I’d be tempted to do all the major settings as 3D…

    2. Well, if the only genre of comics one focuses on is super-heroes, then yeah, beyond THE WILD STORM and MY HERO ACADEMIA, there’s not a lot of cool stuff going on.

      Outside that genre though, I still find many comics to enjoy. But those tend to be from indie and alternative publishers, as Marvel shows little interest in anything beyond destroying their own core line these days, and DC’s revamp of the Vertigo line is shaping up to be a hideous misfire.

        1. I’m convinced at least part of the reason why manga has struck a chord with so many newer comic readers are that there are so many different genres to be found -and- entertaining and interesting the customer is seen as more important than trying to shame and remake them. The so called “mainstream” American comics publishers seem hellbent on remaining a niche interest and every attempt to find the mythic Vast Untapped Audience Who Will Read Once We Get Rid of the Evil Older Fans just plain finds the books overpriced, uninteresting, or done better by the movies. :/

Comments are closed.