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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Black Panther Box Office & Negro Dysfunction

Friday, February 16, 2018

Shawn Reviews Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella #5

I picked up the final issue of Dynamite’s Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella Miniseries on Dynamite Digital. After last month’s padded out fourth issue, I was hoping for a big finish to payoff the great story that had been setup for the previous three issues. Unfortunately, the fifth issue provided an anti-climatic finale to what was a promising story.

The final issue of Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella starts with the Blood Red Queen of Hearts taunting the captured Vlad. She’s talking about how she hopes Vampirella will come so she won’t have to cut his heart out to summon the Mad god Chaos. Rapha Lobosco does a great job setting up tension with the images here, but everything falls apart after the third page. Once Vampirella and Cassie Hack come in to save the day the action in the story gets really uninspired. Instead of giving us all the fun and surprises of the first three issues we get a series of by the numbers action sequences that build up to one of the weakest climaxes I’ve ever seen in a comic book story. Endless snakes spell? Come on. That’s weaksauce for a satanic sorceress.

When I wrote E’steem Little Girl Lost I at least had the Devilish Diva beat up some demon strippers in the climax of the story to make things fun before Brimstone Jack tossed his cobra pimp cane at her. A bad guy defeat is supposed to feature a BIG FINISH; it’s supposed to be the PAYOFF for the reader. Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella set up big stakes, but doesn’t payoff BIG for the reader in the final issue. Cassie Hack was expecting some supernatural fireworks with the defeat of the Blood Red Queen of Hearts, and so was I.

While the series ends with the promise of another possible team up between these two awesome characters, I’m hoping that Dynamite puts a little more panache as related to the storytelling in the next team-up. Shawn Aldridge did a great job of keeping Cassie and Vampi’s characterizations consistent, but I didn’t see any of his thumbprint put on this story. I guess Dynamite wanted it written generic, but the way I see it every comic book needs to be special.

A crossover mini-series is supposed to showcase what makes two characters great and give the audience an incentive to go out and buy more issues of their ongoings. Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella could have been a great introduction to Vampirella and Cassie Hack and a gateway to bringing Hack/Slash into the Dynamite Universe, but the flat finale of this story prevents Dynamite from building the momentum needed to sell the next issue of Vampirella or a new #1 issue of a Hack/Slash series under the Dynamite imprint in the future.  

What really saves this fifth issue is the art. Rapha Lobosco really made many of the panels pop for the last issue. He does a great job of setting mood, tone and tension in the last issue, and the art is really strong in this fifth issue. The big splash of Cassie Hack being carried by a flying Vampirella reminded me of the scene in my novel The Temptation of John Haynes where E’steem flies John Haynes off the roof of the flaming Morris Phillips Tower. If I ever did a Temptation of John Haynes graphic novel that’s how I’d want the panel to look for that big climax.

I came into Hack/Slash Vs. Vampirella #5 hoping for a rebound from the padded out fourth issue, but wound up indifferent by a flat anti-climatic ending. While the ending is a bit meh, it’s still worth a read. If you don’t know much about Cassie Hack or Vampirella, this mini is a great way to get to know those characters and see what’s great about them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Black Panther’s Fan Frenzy Ignores Black Comic & Fantasy Creators


This week many Black people in the Black community are celebrating the premiere of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. And while many have bought tickets to see the film, most brothers and sistas aren’t thinking about supporting many of the independent Black comic book creators and Black fantasy writers like myself. The greatest tragedy regarding the frenzy over the Black Panther movie is that while we celebrate Marvel’s first Black superhero come to life onscreen, many Black people are ignoring all the Black fantasy writers and Black comic book creators who have been working hard in the medium for years.

Black Panther is set to have a huge opening weekend on the week of Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately during Black History month most Black people are showing how little love we have for ourselves by spending so much money to see a Black superhero created by two White Jews. Yes, Black Panther will have a huge opening for the White executives at Disney, but what about all the Black creators like myself?

In the year since the Black Panther movie was announced, there’s been no surge of sales of Black owned Black fantasy like the Isis series or TheTemptation of John Haynes. Nor has there been a surge of interest in the work of other Black comic creators and Black sci-fi creators. From the looks of things Most Black people have been eager to give their money to Disney for the Black Panther movie, and Black Panther merchandise, but no one in the Black community has a comprehensive plan to bring readers and business to Black fantasy and comic creators, so they can bring some of those dollars back to the Black community so they can be reinvested in hiring other Black people for other projects.

Instead of Black people creating a comprehensive plan to put make the Black Panther movie work for Black people, most Black folks are just planning on spending all their money with Disney, not thinking about how those dollars will be reinvested in their own communities. Keeping 97% of Black dollars flowing out of the Black community and enriching White executives at Disney at our own expense.

Damn. Just Damn.

Worse, we have many teachers and principals at schools reinforcing this way of thinking by buying up blocks of tickets for Black Panther for Black kids. The message many tea sending to kids isn’t Black pride, but that anything Black only has a value if they’re supported by a White person or promoted by a White Corporation like Disney. If all those teachers and education officials spent as much money sharing the work of Black fantasy authors like myself in their libraries over the past year it would have had a have a huge impact on the minds of a generation of Black students all across this country. As those Black kids saw teachers putting Black first, they would learn to go out and seek out the work of Black fantasy and sci-fi creators all across this country, not just see Black Panther and Marvel’s brand-name characters as the end all for all things Black.  

It’s sad that since the announcement of this movie most Black people haven’t thought much about the work of all the comics, science fiction and fantasy from all the great Black creators out there. Because it’s Black fantasy writers and Black comic creators like myself who want to bring readers the next generation of Black heroes in the fantasy and comic genres. Every book we write and publish not only opens a black child’s imagination to see the world from a Black perspective.

However, we can only do that if we can receive support from the Black community. Every dollar a Black person spends on a Black fantasy title like an Isis series book, E’steem series book or a novel like The Temptation of John Haynes not only keeps Black dollars in the Black community, but provides creator like myself with the capital we need to improve the quality of our publications and do things like hire Black artists to design our covers, and advertise our products on media platforms like radio and television.   

It’s great that we have a Black Panther movie on the silver screen. But we have to start thinking Black first as related to the Black community. There needs to be a serious effort to make more Black people aware of the fantasy and comic books published by Independent Black creators, and a serious effort by Black people to support the work of Independent Black creators like myself. If Black people want to see more Black superheroes and fantasy characters in the media then we have to put Black dollars behind Black characters by Black creators before we go out and buy Marvel or DC. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Isis: All That Glitters Concept Cover

Spent most of my weekend running errands and writing John Haynes: Taking Care of Business. But I Had a Sunday night free so I decided to sketch up the Isis: All That Glitters Concept cover. This image is based on the opening chapter of Isis: All that Glitters and features Golden Shine, the blonde bikini clad bank robber roughing up a surprised Isis just before she throws her through the bank window. I wanted to show the knocked out bank guard laid out on the floor in the background, but I can’t draw for crap. A lot of action goes on in this image and I think a pro would really do a great job telling the story I lay out here.

Isis: All That Glitters will be out…Sometime in the future. However, you can get caught up on the adventures of the goddess next door in paperback and e-reader by heading over to today!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Progress Report

The last few months have been filled with a lot of heartbreak and loss. I released two great books that died on arrival.

After a major advertising blitz on YouTube and social media, I released The Legendary Mad Matilda. This was a book some readers asked me to write, a book that filled in many of the gaps of the story between Spellbound and Spinsterella. A book that I dedicated to the memory of my late father.

A book that has only sold three copies so far. Compared to Spellbound’s strong sales last year and Spinsterella’s over 1000 sales on Smashwords, Legendary Mad Matilda was a major disappointment.

I thought Legendary would do better in sales than it did with major audience support and the miracle God worked out for me to pay Mike Williams to get the cover on the book. Mike did an amazing job on that cover, and I got positive feedback on the sample chapters.

Unfortunately there were few buyers. In spite of the setback on Legendary Mad Matilda, I did get some sales on the other two books in the Spinsterella Trilogy, Spinsterella and Spellbound. So maybe people just want to get caught up before picking up the third book.

Looking at the stats on Smashwords, Spellbound seems to have a following in Australia and Canada, perhaps the Goth community abroad likes the story of Matilda Crowley’s babybat days.

I’d love to do more Black Goth fiction. But I need to see the sales before I write another book. I’ve got ideas for a couple of Black Goth stories and I’d love to write them. But after spending six months writing Legendary and seeing it die at retail I’m hesitant to put fingers to the keyboard and take six months of my life writing and editing it. I put a lot into that book and it hurts to watch another great story die due to poor sales.

In November I released E’steem: Ascension, a powerful story that concluded the first overreaching arc in the E’steem series. Thanks to a donation by a YouTuber, I was able to pay Bill Walko to design the cover for another major event in the SJS DIRECT Universe.

That book also struggled to get readers in paperback and Kindle. In spite of another heavy ad campaign on YouTube there weren’t that many readers for the book.

Sadly this happens all the time in the publishing business. Good books wind up getting no sales in spite of a publisher’s best promotional efforts. Sometimes they bounce back like Why 70 Percent of Black Women are Single and find an audience. Or they struggle for years like Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess, another great story many readers missed. Time will only tell how Legendary Mad Matilda and E’steem Ascension perform. I’m just gonna put a period on things and move on to next year’s books.

To my surprise I had several foreign sales on Isis and E’steem series backlist books. People in countries like the UK, Denmark, Mexico, and New Zealand picked up Isis and E’steem series books on Smashwords. Isis and E’steem do well outside of the U.S and does well with nonblack audiences. So that proves to me that there’s a growing foreign audience for Black characters outside of the US.   

And I picked up a Thetas sale.

There’s been a major resurgence in interest in John Haynes. I had several sales of The Temptation of John Haynes and The Man Who Rules TheWorld over the last few months, and I had a YouTube viewer send me a letter telling me how much he liked Isis: Bride of Dracula after he bought it.

Every time I post up a John Haynes blog it gets lots of hits. Currently I’m working on the first stories in a John Haynes series. The first story A Conversation With Death is finished and I’m working on Taking Care of Business and Dark Succubus.

Until those stories get released, readers can catch John’s appearance in the upcoming Isis: Escape From Transylvania. The only thing holding that book up is the cover. I’m hoping to find a way to pay for it so I can get it out for the summer reading season. This one reads like a movie, and is one of the most action packed Isis series stories so far!

John will also be featured in the upcoming E’steem: The Sands of Time as well. So if you want to read about John Haynes these are the books to pick up!

On the SJS DIRECT Universe front I’ve got several Isis stories finished that are waiting for release.

Isis: Escape From Transylvania is uploaded on CreateSpace and Kindle,

Isis: Imitation of Life has been uploaded to CreateSpace and Kindle for over two years now,

Isis: House of Isis is uploaded to CreateSpace and the eBook is formatted for Kindle, 

E’steem Goddess of? Is Uploaded to CreateSpace and the eBook is formatted for Kindle,

Isis: All That Glitters is Uploaded to CreateSpace,

John Haynes: A Conversation With Death is formatted and nearly ready for release,

 And E’steem: The Sands of Time is past the second draft.  That’s a book I really want to get to the market sooner rather than later. With action, adventure and romance set in Ancient Egypt I think this one would be a big hit with readers.

I’m hoping to get some titles out this year. If worse comes to worse, I’ll release something with a Blackout cover like Little Girl Lost. While my funds are still limited I want to publish something this year.

On the nonfiction side STOP SIMPIN in the Workplace has sold strongly in eBook and the paperback versions of both STOP SIMPIN and STOP SIMPIN in the workplace sold very well. To my surprise The Simp Series has consistently performed well throughout the year in the U.S. and foreign markets. People have bought STOP SIMPIN in The UK, Germany, India, Mexico and Canada, Chile, and STOP SIMPIN counts for a good chunk of the eBook sales I get.

To my surprise I got some sales of Why 70 Percent of Blackwomen are Single in Switzerland of all places. Who knew the Swiss wanted to know why American Black women were single?

My YouTube Channel passed the 5,000 subscriber mark in January. After four years I think I’m building a web presence with Men, comic fans, Sci-Fi fans, fantasy fans, and Goths online. Many of my videos are breaking 1,000 views these days and some have broken 2,000. That’s come a long way from my early days when I had videos that barely got only 100 views. I’m working towards the 10K mark and I hope I can meet that goal this year!

And the blog passed its two millionth hit! After ten years, my audience is still growing. Recent blogs I did roasting Marvel’s Inhumans and Reviewing Dan Mendoza’s Zombie Tramp got a record 600 views in one day!

Sadly, my 2011 Macbook Pro is starting to show its age. The headphone jack broke in December, and I had the SuperDrive break this month. Lucky for me I have A+ Certification. After buying a refurbished SuperDrive on eBay for $10, I managed to replace it in 45 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do with the headphone jack. That’s soldered to the logic board and that costs more than the computer is probably worth to fix. So for now I’m using a Turtle Beach USB stick I used to use with my Latitude when that headphone jack broke. Hoping I can find some work soon so I can buy a new one because this is the laptop I make my videos and write my books on.

I had some setbacks in late 2017 and In spite of them I’m still trying to make progress. Working hard to get out this year’s books and working on next year’s. Building a YouTube Channel and a blog. I’ve got a lot of great stories I want to share with readers, and I want to expand my audience to reach more new readers. Still don’t have that full time job, but I’m still working towards the next level.