Steven Philip Jones at MinICON July 30!

I’m going to be at MinICON on July 30! Are you?

I sure hope so, because I’ll be there selling all my books and prints, plus I’ll have fliers for Sportablility of Iowa and Midwest Geeky Veterans.

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Posted in H. P. Lovecraft

MAX Q: Relivin’, Racin’ & Reverbs

Max Q with his MAP vest, Bryan "Risk" Daley looking racer chic, and the three Hammer sisters: Monica and Mario ("Mary-oh") flank Max, while Monnarae appears with Risk. All artwork by Aldin Baroza (2016).

Jonny Quest and Speed Racer meet Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.

My screenplay for Max Q is now being represented by Caliber Entertainment, and I couldn’t be more excited!

But what is Max Q?

Well, like they say in baseball, here’s the pitch:

Max Q with his MAP vest, Bryan "Risk" Daley looking racer chic, and the three Hammer sisters: Monica and Mario ("Mary-oh") flank Max, while Monnarae appears with Risk. All artwork by Aldin Baroza (2016).

Max Q with his MAP vest, Bryan “Risk” Daley looking racer chic, and the three Hammer sisters: Monica and Mario (“Mary-oh”) flank Max, while Monnarae appears with Risk. All artwork by Aldin Baroza (2016).

The International Prototype Vehicle Association (IPVA) is the hottest sports league of the near future. Racers compete in every imaginable style of high-concept transportation (e.g., on-road, off-road, motocross, watercraft, submersibles, aircraft, sub-orbital planes and spacecraft, gliders) in every imaginable location (e.g., racetracks, city streets, jungles, deserts, oceans, subterranean rivers, around the moon and back). Hammer Family Racing is one of three remaining family-owned IPVA race teams, and, when their driver is poached by a corporate competitor before a major race, they hire amateur proto-racer Bryan “Risk” Daley. Joining Daley is a twelve-year-old engineering genius and chick-magnet who goes by the name Max Q.

Writing about something you’re passionate about is always good advice, and that’s what I’ve done with Max Q.

Yes, I love heroes and horrors, but I also have a passion for classic cars, something I haven’t talked about much in the past, which is probably why it seems to surprise people whenever it comes up.

57_Bel_AirsLike a couple of years ago, when I was in the Twin Cities visiting one of my oldest buds, Christopher Jones. We went inside a convenience store for some sodas and snacks, and I spotted twin ’57 Chevy Bel Airs on display. They were classic two-tone teal and white, one a hardtop Sport Sedan, the other a convertible with its ragtop down, and roped off with signs warning against sitting in them. You could touch to your heart’s content, however, so I did, running my hand over their solid yet elegant contoured steel and seductive satiny paint.

It’s a cliché because it’s true: Detroit really knew how to build them back then.

Chris, meanwhile, was perplexed. We’ve known each other over thirty years and he’s seen me go gaga over comics, movies, and TV programs, but, with the exception of the Batmobile and Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, never a car.

“Hey, these aren’t just cars,” I explained. “They’re works of art.”

And they are, but classic cars are also a part of me because of my Dad, who loved them.

I really didn’t understand this until I was ten and Dad bought a down-on-its-luck 1930 Ford Model A, towed it all the way from Nebraska to our home in eastern Iowa, and spent the next few years refurbishing it. I’m a geek, not a motorhead, so I wasn’t much any help in those renovations, but my indoctrination into antique autos began when Dad hauled the A into the back driveway and pointed to a skinny rain gutter running above a side window. “See those? Nineteen thirty was the first year Ford put gutters on the A.”

Facts like that stuck in my head, as do memories of J.C. Whitney catalogs stacked on the lamp stand next to the recliner in the living room, boxes of reconditioned auto parts in all shapes and sizes piled about the workbench in our garage, and traveling across town with Dad to some guy’s home paint shop to see the A looking spiffy as hell in green with cream yellow rims.

Dad also insisted on giving my brothers and I our first driving lessons in the A. “If you can drive this, you can drive anything.” Which isn’t true, but driving a contemporary manual transmission is a dream compared to shifting gears in the A…just not as much fun. Dad would also take a picture of us in front of the A after our first lesson, a touchstone to our family’s rite of passage.

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From Left to Right: 1) My Dad, Donald “Sam” Jones, buys the “A” for $100 in Nebraska in 1970; 2) Dad and the “A” during restoration in our garage in Iowa; 3) my brother Tom, one of the main inspirations for the character of Max; 4) Tom, our neighbor Dale Novak, and myself being no help to Dad whatsoever; 5) me and the “A” on 9/14/75 after my first driving lesson.

 

40_imageAfter the A was finished, Dad refurbished a 1940 Ford Super Deluxe and a Cushman motor scooter. The Forty is still the sweetest car I’ve ever driven, and the Cushman was a blast to put-put around on, but, because the A was first in more ways than one, it remains my favorite.Pop_mag_covers

So that, in a nutshell, is why I freak out whenever I see a classic car like the ’57 Bel Air, a passion that probably spills over into my fascination with prototype vehicles, which often appear in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. I’m sure my love for science, in this case technological innovations, and futurology, likewise fuels this fascination.

 

You see, I grew up during the Space Age. As a kid, I never knew a time when America didn’t send men beyond the thermosphere and then to the moon. The Sixties was a decade when Gulf gas stations gave away punch-out paper models of the Lunar Landing Module and Command Module (“Insert slot A into tab B”) as promotions and all three broadcast networks interrupted programming to show lift-offs, Mercury 7flight updates, and landings for the Mercury, Gemini, and early Apollo missions. Astronauts were my first real-life heroes, their rockets my earliest chariots of wonder. It was a time of possibilities limited only by imagination, technology, and daring, and as a nine year old I could only wonder with anticipation what was waiting for all but the fainthearted of mankind beyond the moon.

Poster for Jonny Quest comic book, art by Doug Wildey, 1986. "To give one hour of joy To the boy who's half a man, Or the man who's half a boy." (And, yes, girls are welcome, too.)

Jonny Quest, art by Doug Wildey, 1986. “To give one hour of joy To the boy who’s half a man, Or the man who’s half a boy.”

Hopefully, some day, we’ll find out, if another generation like my parents’ comes along.

All right, let’s jump ahead now to 2002 and an article I read in The Sporting News about St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz. As much as I enjoyed “The Greatest Show on Turf”, what caught my mind’s eye was the title, “Taking It To the Max Q”, and explanation of the term max q as “the NASA goal of having all systems performing at their highest levels simultaneously.” (FYI -The term is used by aerospace engineers to reference maximum dynamic pressure in a vehicle during atmospheric flight.) For some time, I don’t remember exactly how long, I had been kicking around ideas for a series about prototype vehicle racing (“proto-racing”). Max Q not only seemed like a great title for such a series, it could also serve as a great name for a main character, ala Jonny Quest, my favorite Young Adult cartoon adventure series.

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Michael Jones in his 1994 Mustang dragster.

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Supernationals at Boone Speedway.

I suppose I should confess, for the sake of completeness if nothing else, that I’m not a racing fan. I have nothing against it. It’s just not my bag. I don’t know why. That said, it’s not like I’m not ever around racing. My wife Lisa loves dirt track modified stock car racing and going to the Super Nationals at Boone Speedway every year. My Uncle Gene Jones and his wife Alice were involved with stock car racing when I was in my teens, and Alice even won a rollover trophy.  My nephew Michael Jones drag races competitively in a 1994 Mustang.

So why did I create a racing-adventure series? All I can tell you is the idea of racing between Heaven and Earth in spaceplanes or hovercrafts through cavernous passages and over underground oceans while battling intrigue sounds like a gas!

Even so, I didn’t begin to codify these divergent inspirations until 2005, when Tom Mason, Malibu Graphics’ creative director when I was freelancing for them in the late Eighties and early Nineties, asked several creators he knew for pitches for a comics digest magazine he was considering publishing. I sent Tom a half dozen or so pitches, including Max Q, which he really seemed to like. I wrote a series synopsis, sent it to Tom, and he seemed to like it, too, but I never heard more about the digest after that.

Maybe this was a disguised blessing, since I spent the next few years improving and polishing Max Q, and, thanks to serendipity, stumbling over one more inspiration. In 2010, I took my daughter Katie to a classic car rally where her dance troupe was performing, and, while I waited for them to begin, I walked around drooling over the cars. As I did, I found myself unable to ignore the reverbs of a live band echoing from the far side of the rally. They were kicking out the coolest, catchiest, and gitchiest instrumental hot-rod surf tunes! The band was The Surf Zombies, and I was an immediate fan for-like-ever!

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With a name like Surf Zombies, I shouldn’t have been too surprised that many of the band’s songs and their titles will warm the heart of die-hard Creature Feature drive-in refuges like myself, such as “Something Weird,” “Hammerhead,” “The Creeper,” “Seaside Heights,” “They Feed at Night,” “Rust Colored Leisure Suit,” “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight,” and “Torque Fest.” SZ’s music incarnates the retro-wonderful feel I aim to create in Max Q: an essence for older fans to identify with, younger fans to tap into like genetic memories, and everyone to revel in regardless.

Well, that’s my aim, anyway.

One song, however, called “Speedo,” typified Max Q so much that it became (in my head) the series’ theme song:

Pretty catchy, eh?

Oh, and THANKS to SZ’s founder and “Speedo” composer Brook Hoover (the gentleman in the foreground in the video) for the OK to post this link. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

And, as of right now, that’s where things stand with Max Q.

Perhaps someone will option the screenplay, even produce it. Hollywood being Hollywood, the odds are against it, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  If it happens, that would be superfantabulistic, but if it doesn’t I really would love to write some Max Q graphic novels in the future, and, hopefully, if the right artist ever comes along soon, I will do that.

For now, only time will tell what awaits Max Q.

Posted in Cool Stuff, Fiction, On Writing, Personal, Talented Friends Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Memorial Day

Don’t forget the reason for this holiday. God bless our troops and all those that gave all for our freedoms.

Memorial_Day

Posted in Personal Tagged with: , , ,

Countdown to MSP Comic Con: May 13!

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Countdown to MSP Comic Con: May 12!

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Posted in Audio Drama, Books, Comics, Conventions, Cool Stuff, Fiction, H. P. Lovecraft, Nonfiction, On Writing, Personal, Signings, Talented Friends Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Countdown to MSP Comic Con: May 11!

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Countdown to MSP Comic Con: May 10!

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Countdown to MSP Comic Con: May 09!

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Steven Philip Jones at MSP Comic Con!

I am going to be at MSP Comic Con in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Will you?

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If you are, be sure to visit my table. I’ll be selling my books, graphic novels, prints, and CDs, along with a free mini-print giveaway, as well as giving away free candy. I’ll be sitting next to the super-talented and uber-friendly Christopher Jones again, but be sure to check out my buddy Mark Stegbauer’s table for his awesome prints and hot-off-the-press copies of his super-cool new comic Ghoul Scouts!  Also be sure to swing by and ask about the Sportability of Iowa adapted sports program.

 

SPORTABILITY OF IOWA

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Adapt! Overcome! Sportability of Iowa is a nonprofit organization that provides sports and recreation programs to help people with physical disabilities enjoy an active lifestyle. Basketball! Tennis! Sport camps! And more! Interested? Yes, I know MSP is a Minnesota con, but adaptive sports knows no borders, so please feel free to stop by my table to find out more or check out the Sportability of Iowa website!

 

FREE 2016 MINI-PRINT GIVEAWAY!

Everybody loves free stuff, and free stuff doesn’t get much better than this mini-print featuring my teenage-sort-of-vampire-superhero — yep, you heard that right — Vanguard by Christopher Jones, artist on the upcoming new series Also Known As as well as such DC Comics as Young Justice, Batman Strikes!, Batman ’66! Don’t say I never gave you anything, because I’m trying!

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BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

I’ll be selling copies of many books including the mystery-adventure King of Harlem, Young Adult fantasy-adventure Talismen: The Knightmare Knife , and Comics Writing: Communicating with Comic Books, as well as several graphic novels, including Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes, Talismen: Return of the Exile, Dracula, Worlds of Lovecraft, and Nightlinger w/Vanguard. There may never be a better time to start building that SPJ library!

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PRINTS

I’ll be selling prints at MSP! No, I’m not an artist — I wouldn’t keep something like that from you — but each print does feature either a character or a series I created, adapted, or have written a proposal for, such as these three prints for Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft by Octavio Cariello.

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I’ll also be selling prints featuring my masked mystery man and knight-errant against the supernatural forces of darkness, Feril Nightlinger, from the Caliber Comics series Nightlinger (a.k.a., the guy on the left side of this website’s banner). The first print is by Christopher Jones and shows Feril having a little one-on-one time with a certain Dark Knight, while the second is by S. Clarke Hawbaker (Nomad) and shows Feril having a little one-on-one time with a really creepy but cool statue:

Nightlinger_prints

Speaking of Clarke, I’m offering three more prints featuring his artwork. The first is a piece for my science fantasy series Bounty Hunters from Mars. The second features an original Warlord piece that accompanied a story proposal Clarke and I pitched to DC Comics back in the day for this great Mike Grell series. The third is a panoramic piece showing the rebirth of Vanguard:

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Finally, I’m super excited to be able to offer two Talismen prints by series co-creator Barb Myers (formerly Barb Jacobs). The first presents most of the series’ main characters, while the second presents a pivotal scene from the currently out of print fourth adventure, Talismen: The Boy in the Well.

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And, listen up! Barb is the creator, writer, artist, colorist, and letterer of the award-nominated Romantic fantasy webcomic series Xylia Tales. Do yourself a favor, click the link, and check it out!

 

CDs

Numbers are limited! I’ll be selling CDs of my Sherlock Holmes pastiches “Adventure of the Petty Curses” and “A Case of Unfinished Business.” These are full-cast professional audio dramas produced by Jim French Productions and broadcast internationally on Imagination Theatre.  Each production features the incomparable John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Dr. John H. Watson!

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SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!

That’s everything! I don’t know about you, but I wait all year for this con, and it’s hard to believe it’s almost here! So rather you’re looking to buy or just want to stop by and say howdy, or just want to pick up some free candy, I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at the show! See you there!

 

Posted in Audio Drama, Books, Comics, Conventions, Signings, Talented Friends Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Street Heroes

The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom.
– Matthew 13:38


SH_Davis_shieldStreet Heroes
was originally published in December 1988 by Malibu Graphics as Street Heroes 2005.

Malibu’s publisher Dave Olbrich and creative director Tom Mason thought Street Heroes was too bland a title, but, try as we might, we could not think of a better one. Since the series was set many years in the future, “2005” was added to give the title a little science fiction zip.

Left: Christopher Jones’ March 20, 2005 sketch of Thomas Jefferson “Blood” Davis and Wyatt Wolverstone, the protagonists of Street Heroes. Right: Blood and Wyatt on Chris’ 1988 cover to Street Heroes 2005 #1.

The first issue of Street Heroes takes place on March 20, 2005. I chose that month and day for no better reason than it is my birthday, and when the actual date rolled around, series artist Christopher Jones drew a sketch of the main characters, Thomas Jefferson “Blood” Davis and Wyatt Wolverstone (a.k.a. Wolverstone Warrior) and gave it to me as a present. It remains one of my most cherished possessions.

Thanks again, Chris!

Now here we are in the year 2016, and it looks like Caliber Comics will be collecting all three issues of Street Heroes into a graphic novel in the  future. Technically, this is the twenty-eighth anniversary of the series, which is scary since I was twenty-seven when I sold Street Heroes to Malibu.

Tempus fugit, and how.

It is also the eleventh anniversary of March 20, 2005, and when you mix all of that together, it seems an appropriate moment to look back at how Street Heroes came to be, beginning with its series synopsis:

Street Heroes melds together the fantastical genre of superheroes with the urban procedural police drama.

The main characters are Thomas Jefferson “Blood” Davis and Wyatt Wolverstone. Blood is the commander of a metropolitan police tactical unit, while Wolverstone is a “fancy dan” (slang for “superhero”).

One grisly night, Blood barely escapes a trap in which two members of his unit are killed by a rogue dan. Blood’s superiors decide to fight fire with a dan of their own, Wolverstone, an over-the-hill mercenary farmed out by the FBI to bring the rogue to justice.

Problems:

  • Davis, like most unempowered folk, does not trust dans.
  • Davis does believe in obeying orders, so he has to accept Wolverstone.
  • Wolverstone, like most unempowered civilians, does not trust the police.

Wolverstone is assigned to Blood’s unit in the first issue of Street Heroes. The stories that follow will include Blood and Wyatt being hunted by the rogue who killed Davis’ men, Davis investigating a dan who brutally uses his powers to stop a mugging, and Wyatt confronting the omnipotent menace of Bob the Elder God.

I got the idea for Street Heroes while watching a commercial for Hill Street Blues (1981-1987). The year would have been 1983 or 1984.

Hill Street Blues was one of the most realistic police dramas to appear on television when it debuted, and may have done more than any program to usher in the violent and promiscuous programs that permeate television today.

SH_Police_StoryI do not remember what it was about the commercial that sparked my imagination, but I do remember wondering, “What if superheroes existed in a world like Hill Street Blues?”[1] In a way, I was asking, “What if superheroes existed in reality?” A common approach today, but still kind of radical in the early Eighties. The question also appealed to my love of cop shows, one of the most popular genres on television when I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies. One of my favorites was an anthology series called Police Story (1973-1978), created by Los Angeles police detective turned bestselling author Joseph Wambaugh (The Onion Field, Lines and Shadows, Harbor Nocturne). A friend of mine also worked at the local police station as a dispatcher, so between what I watched, what I read, and what I learned while hanging out with my friend, my head was full of the background information I needed to create a series like Hill Street Blues with superheroes.

SH_Belcker_and_Cap_Freedom

1981: Det. Mick Belker (Bruce Weitz) meets Captain Freedom (Dennis Dugan) on Hill Street Blues.

Now, nothing is ever easy, but things started off pretty darn well with Street Heroes.

Take the title. I usually have a terrible time thinking up titles, but in one episode of Hill Street Blues an actor tags along with undercover detective Mick Belker (Bruce Weitz) as research for a new film called Street Dogs. Since my series would be about realistic superheroes, why not call the series Street Heroes? Seemed cool to me, although I appear to be in the minority. In 1996, Sundragon Comics asked to reprint Street Heroes 2005, but, like Malibu Graphics, they felt a different title would better serve the series. Someone, and I honestly do not remember who, suggested Wolverstone & Davis: Street Heroes, and we went with that. I like it, but still prefer just plain Street Heroes.

It also usually takes me a long time to develop a series. I typically have to feel my way towards what I want to do, experimenting with ideas to find out if they do or don’t work, but Street Heroes has changed very little from the original concept I pitched in the series synopsis. This may be because, except for its premise, I was not interested in doing anything screamingly original with Street Heroes, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by at last one contemporary reviewer. A police procedural is a police procedural, which is an eternally popular genre. Just look at the Law & Order and CSI franchises or The Closer and its follow-up series Major Crimes. So there is no point fixing something that is not broken. It also helped that one of my favorite police movies, Code of Silence (1985), was released about this time. As directed by Andrew Davis, who went on to helm blockbusters like Under Siege (1992) and The Fugitive (1993), Code of Silence has a palpable sense of place. It is set in Chicago and you feel it, the city as much a character as any of the people. Also, Code of Silence presents many of the tougher aspects about being a policeman, from trying to do the right thing in a system that can shield dirty cops to informing a person that a loved one is dead. Finally, while the action goes over the top at times, it always feels possible, never incredible.

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This 1988 sample piece Chris drew for Malibu Graphics shows how Blood and Wyatt were originally envisioned.

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Partners Eddie Cusak (Chuck Norris) and Det. Dorato (Dennis Farina) in Code of Silence (1985).

In these ways, Code of Silence gave me a rough template for Street Heroes, but it did not supply examples for everything I wanted to do. For instance, protagonist Eddie Cusak (Chuck Norris) loses his partner Det. Dorato (Dennis Farina) to an injury early in the movie and mainly works solo from that point, but I wanted two protagonists in Street Heroes. A buddy film, so to speak. No problem, though. Having a template helped, but even without one, I knew how I wanted to develop Street Heroes.It also usually takes me a long time to develop a series because I typically have to feel my way towards what I want to do, experimenting with ideas to find out if they work or not, but Street Heroes has changed very little from the original concept described in the synopsis. This may be because, except for the premise, I was not interested in doing anything screamingly original. A police procedural is a police procedural, which is an eternally popular genre. Just look at the Law & Order and CSI franchises or The Closer and its follow-up series Major Crimes. So there is no point fixing something that is not broken. It also helped that one of my favorite police movies, Code of Silence (1985), was released about this time. As directed by Andrew Davis, who went on to helm blockbusters like Under Siege (1992) and The Fugitive (1993), Code of Silence has a palpable sense of place. It is set in Chicago and you feel it, the city as much a character as any of the people. Also, Code of Silence doesn’t shy away from presenting some of the tougher aspects of being a policeman, from trying to do the right thing in a system that can shield dirty cops to informing a person that a loved one is dead. Finally, while the action goes over the top at times, it always feels possible, never incredible.

Some examples.

Superhero stories of any kind require big adventures, so Street Heroes focuses on a tactical unit, Davis’ Undercover Field Operatives (UFOs), whose duties include dealing with people who possess superpowers.

Since the members of many real-life tactical units are military veterans, I wanted to sprinkle some military elements into Street Heroes, such as the UFOs referring to their precinct as The Field and everything outside it as The World.

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1988: Blood gives Wyatt a guided tour of the Field. Art for Street Heroes #1 by S. Clarke Hawbaker.

Policemen deal with human, often tragic, situations on a regular basis. Policemen see people on the worse day of their lives, which presents opportunities for very real drama.

Another opportunity for real drama is the fact that there is good and evil in the world, but there are very few people who are purely good or evil. People tend to oscillate from one extreme to the other, depending upon the situation, and this includes the police, ordinary men and women who must often make tough choices in difficult situations most of us never experience. The same can also be said for superheroes, who, like the police, do their best, but even the best of them do not always make the right choice, which can lead to conflict, and stories are nothing if not avatars of conflict.

On a more nuts and bolts level, I set the series a few years in the future to 1) prevent it from becoming dated too quickly, and 2) provide more freedom in creating a world where people with superpowers and the police must work together. To explain the latter, I gave the Constitution a new amendment.

No big deal.

If there were people with superpowers, would any responsible government[2] permit them to run around like Spider-Man? I think not. More likely, such activity would be outlawed, regulated, or both. For the United States, I went with both.

But where in the U.S. was I going to set Street Heroes?

An interesting thing Hill Street Blues does is it never identifies the city where it is set so viewers can imagine it is taking place in a metropolis they live in or near. I liked this, but if I wanted Street Heroes to possess the sense of place that Code of Silence has, I felt it would be better to set it in a specified but fictional large city, ala Gotham City and Metropolis. In this case Kingston, Iowa.

Looking back, I am amazed how easily and how well Street Heroes came together, especially since I was not a particularly good writer when I created the series. I had talent, but I had yet to go to college and hone my craft, so most of what I wrote while in my early to middle twenties is terrible. There are a few exceptions, most notably Street Heroes, and I can only wonder why.

That said, I would like to focus a few moments on Blood and Wyatt.

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Chris’ most recent incarnations of Blood and Wyatt.

I will not deny that I succumbed to a little wish fulfillment when I created Blood. As a kid, I always imagined myself in those cop shows I watched, and even entertained thoughts about growing up and becoming a police detective. So when I created Blood, I modeled his appearance after myself. Tall. Slim. Brown hair with bushy mustache. Fond of blue jeans, black turtlenecks, and boots. I never took it any further than that, though, but when Chris joined me on the series and asked what Blood should look like, I told him, “Either like me or a little like Chuck Norris.” I do not think that was the hardest decision Chris ever had to make.

Wyatt was tougher. I knew almost instantly what his personality was like, but had no idea what he should look like. Oh, I knew I wanted him to be a big man. I often compared him to Hulk Hogan. I could just never get a clear picture of him in my mind. I did think he should be British–I’m an Anglophile–and in the Malibu series Blood even refers to Wyatt as a limey, but eventually it dawned on me that one of my favorite actors, Sam Elliott (Tombstone, We Were Soldiers), would make a fantastic Wyatt, which is why Blood calls Wyatt a Texan in the Sundragon reprint.

As for Blood and Wyatt’s names, this is one of the reasons I know Chris is the artist for Street Heroes.

With Davis, I wanted to pay tribute to my favorite television character at the time, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) from M*A*S*H (1972-1983). Instead of Benjamin Franklin, I went with Thomas Jefferson, and instead of Franklin Pierce, I went with Jefferson Davis. Instead of the nickname “Hawkeye,” the name of Pierce’s father’s favorite literary character, I went with “Blood,” after Captain Peter Blood, from Davis’ favorite book, Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (1922). This is one of my favorite books, too, so I also borrowed Wyatt’s last name from a character in Captain Blood.

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1986: The first concept sketches of Blood and Wyatt, drawn by Gordon Purcell. They are both very nice, but that one of Blood … uhm …

Now, when Malibu accepted Street Heroes in 1987, there was no artist associated with the series. Two years earlier Gordon Purcell (The Avengers, Deep Space Nine) and I were introduced by mutual acquaintance Dan Jurgens (Booster Gold, The Warlord), and we thought about pitching some comics proposals together, so Gordon drew the first concept sketches of Blood and Wyatt, but by 1987 we had sort of drifted apart. Nothing against Gordon, who is a fine artist, but Chris had always been my first choice to draw Street Heroes, and I remember asking him if I could submit his name to Malibu, but he turned me down, most probably because of school commitments. More on that in a moment, but I next asked another friend, S. Clarke Hawbaker (Nomad), if he would be interested. Clarke was, Malibu accepted his submission, but in the end Clarke was unable to work on the series, although he did draw a few marvelous pages as well as the Street Heroes 2005 logo. Malibu approached at least one artist working on another of their books to draw Street Heroes 2005, but when those attempts fell through the series found itself in danger of being scrapped. To say that I was desperate to find an artist is an understatement, so I decided to give Chris what I thought was one more try. I practiced a speech that laid out all the reasons why he should draw Street Heroes during the four and half hour drive from where I live in Iowa to Chris’ home in Minnesota. As soon as I started asking him, though, Chris said, “Yes.”

Steve_and_Chris_1988

1988: The day Chris said yes!

“Cool!” Pause. “So why did you turn me down the first time?”

“You’ve never asked me before.”

Who is right?

The world may never know.

But I do know this. Before Street Heroes 2005 was published, it did not matter if I described Blood to someone or not, people always assumed Davis was a Negro. Including Gordon (see concept sketch.) But not Chris. And when I first described Wyatt to Chris, he said, “You got Wolverstone’s name from Captain Blood, didn’t you?”

What can I say?

Great minds think alike.

Anyway … Malibu contracted Chris and I to create eight issues of Street Heroes 2005, but orders for the first issue were low and got lower and lower for the second and third issues in spite of good reviews, leaving Malibu no choice but to cancel the series before issue four.

SH_cover_02

1996: Chris’ cover art for Sundragon’s Comics Wolverstone & Davis: Street Heroes #2.

As disappointing as this was, Chris and I had got our foot in the door as comics creators, and Malibu wanted to team us up on other properties, starting with an adaptation of the 1953 film Invaders from Mars. Before that could happen, though, Chris had the chance to pursue other opportunities, like Jack the Ripper (1989) for Malibu’s Eternity Comics line and Boston Bombers (1990) at Caliber Comics, so I worked on Invaders from Mars (1990) and other projects for Malibu with other artists. For a while it looked like Chris and I would get to work on a mini-series inspired by the film Alien Nation (1988), but things did not pan out; however, we did hook up in 1991 on an adaptation of the 1985 cult film Re-Animator for Malibu, and eventually followed that with an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s “Statement of Randolph Carter” (1996) for Caliber. In 1997 we collaborated on the premiere story for Dave Arnold’s awesome superheroine Mighty 1 and on a story for my Vanguard superhero character for Sundragon Comics, who, as mentioned earlier, reprinted the first issue of Street Heroes 2005. Their intention was to reprint all three issues with new covers by Chris, but Sundragon was forced to close its doors before the second issue could be reprinted, which is sad because Chris’ cover for the second issue reprint is not only a knockout, it captures the essence of the story arc that runs through the three issues Malibu published.

Speaking of that story arc, I have written a number of novels since working on Street Heroes 2005, including Bushwhackers (2004), King of Harlem (2005), and, with Barb Jacobs, Talismen: The Knightmare Knife (2009), but, as far as I am concerned, Street Heroes 2005 is my first published novel. Those three issues published by Malibu tell a complete story, forming a true graphic novel, one that I am as proud of as I am any of my prose books.

Nevertheless, I have always regretted that Chris did not get to draw the series’ fourth issue, a self-contained tale called “The Lonesome Death of Bob the Elder God” which is teased at the end of the third issue. People have asked me over the years what would have happened in the “Bob” story, but I am keeping mum in case Chris and I ever get the chance to tell it.

Fingers crossed!

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Hey! That’s just nasty! The infamous teaser ending from Street Heroes #3 for (the as yet unpublished) fourth issue. FYI – 1989 was pre-computer, so that fancy title and those fancy credits had to be drawn by hand.

I would like to end with a couple of thank you’s.

SH_Davis_helmetI have always been grateful that Chris is not only the artist but my partner on Street Heroes, and I have always been honored we made our professional comics debut together. I have been blessed to work with some incredible comics artists, but everyone has a favorite collaborator, and Chris is mine. Not only because, if I could draw, I believe my stories would look a lot like the way Chris draws them, but it is great to work with one of my oldest friends. Chris is the younger brother I never knew I wanted but am glad to have, and no artist understands my writing like he does.

I am also grateful to Gary Reed. Not only for bringing Street Heroes back into publication, but, more, for always being supportive of my writing, and for being a good friend. I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without Gary.

That said, if you would like more information about the origins of Street Heroes, as well as hear Chris’ and my thoughts on the series, check out the First Issue Review panel interview with the two of us from CONVergence 2012.

 

[1] A superhero actually appeared on Hill Street Blues for four episodes. Captain Freedom (Dennis Dugan) is a man with a lot of heart, but not the firmest grip on reality, who made life miserable for Detective Belker until being shot while trying to assist Belker during a robbery.

[2] I realize the term “responsible government” is often an oxymoron. Just run with it, okay?

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