“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … ”

Yes, it was, Chuck.  2016, I mean.

Our incredible daughter graduated from college this year, and we couldn’t be more proud of her. Meanwhile, if you had bet me last January that my favorite football team would win Super Bowl L and my favorite baseball team would win its first World Series in 108 years, I would have taken that wager (while hoping like crazy that I’d lose).  My alma mater’s football team went 12-0 in the regular season before all this, so 2016 was the best of times for me as a sports fan.

In other ways 2016 has been the worst of times, and one of the cruelest ways was with the untimely death of Gary Reed.  As I’ve written about here and elsewhere, Gary was an outstanding father and husband, a generous friend and mentor to many people, a marvelous teacher, and a wonderful writer.  He was also the respected founder and publisher of Caliber Comics, one of the premiere independent comic book companies over the past thirty years, one I have been proud to be associated with since the early Nineties.

In 2016, Gary was the publisher of all my comics and books, all of which he had a hand in the development.

It was Gary’s idea to reissue my Sherlock Holmes pastiches and H. P. Lovecraft adaptations in individual graphic novels and produce the anthologies H. P. Lovecraft Early Stories and Sherlock Holmes On the Air.

Gary also took it upon himself to commission the spiffy new cover for my Comics Writing book along with the cover and interior artwork for an updated edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s Reanimator Tales.


I mentioned in my 2015 Writing Review that my biggest project of the year would be an original screenplay, Max Q, which I completed, and, thanks to Gary, is being represented by Caliber Entertainment.



My proudest and most personal project of 2016, Heroes and Horrors, was also the most unexpected and saddest. This anthology of short and previously-unpublished comics stories produced over the course of my career was not even on my radar for most of 2016, even though Gary, a fan of anthologies, recommended I do it many times over the past few years. Long story short, I finally agreed to do it last summer, although if I had known how difficult and humbling an experience I was letting myself in for I might never have taken Gary’s advice.  I finished assembling the anthology, which I dedicated to Gary, and sent it to him on October 1, the day before he passed away.


As for the future, if things go according to plan, an original Holmes pastiche will appear in a tribute book for Gary. I have also agreed to adapt my audio script, “The Case of the Petty Curses,” into a short story for an upcoming anthology for a British publisher, and my script for “A Case of Unfinished Business” might be appearing in another of this company’s anthologies. I am happy to say that Caliber Comics will be moving ahead, and, although it is too early to go into any details, it appears likely I will have more writing projects coming out or being represented by them in 2017 and beyond.

That’s it for 2016. Here’s hoping 2017 will be more better than worse.

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“Incredibly creative … Steve’s stories are masterworks of what new comics should be: absorbing and exciting and read again and again.” – Clive Cussler
“Steve lights from one genre to another without missing a beat … He’s the pro’s pro.” – Phil Hester

I’ve always loved adventure and monsters, and you’ll find plenty of both in my new anthology, Heroes and Horrors, from Caliber Comics.

As this cover by Josh Werner shows, ain't nuthin' gonna keep Vanguard from deliverin' these stories to y'all!

As this cover by Josh Werner shows, ain’t nuthin’ gonna keep my boy Vanguard from deliverin’ these stories to y’all!

You ever meet a superhero who may be more vampire than hero?

Or a fashion designer who can clean and press the Statue of Liberty?

Or a spy with a size-shifting dragon?

You will in Heroes and Horrors, along with a dysfunction family of lycanthropes, a modern lady pirate seeking vengeance, five young adventurers who find a ghost and destiny in a faraway cave, and much, much more.

These nine rare or previously unpublished tales, created over the course of my writing career, range in a variety of genres and can be enjoyed by all ages.

Artists Sergio Cariello, Sandy Carruthers, Andrew Chiu, Rob Davis, S. Clarke Hawbaker, Christopher Jones, Dan Jurgens, Barb Myers (formerly Barb Jacobs), and Joshua Werner are all here, too, but if that isn’t enough, beloved comic book icon Phil Hester contributes the foreword!

If classic Creature Feature host Chuck Acri were into comics, he might say this anthology is “Superfantabulistic!” I bet you will, too, once you read it, and to show you I ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie, check out these samples from a few stories (click on any image for larger view) and my introduction!


Vanguard:  artwork (from left to right) by Christopher Jones (insert), Dan Jurgens, S. Clarke Hawbaker, and Chris again with inks by C.P. Smith.

Corsair artwork by Sergio Cariello.

Corsair:  artwork (from left to right) by Craig McLeod (insert) and Sergio Cariello.

Mighty 1 (Created by David D. Arnold): artwork (from left to right) by Harvey Mercadoocasio, Phil Moy, and Christopher Jones.

Mighty 1 (Created by David D. Arnold):  artwork (from left to right) by Harvey Mercadoocasio (insert), Phil Moy, and Christopher Jones.

Little Dragon artwork by Rob Davis.

Little Dragon:  artwork (from left to right) by Christopher Jones (insert), S. Clarke Hawbaker, and Rob Davis.

Bordermen artwork by Andrew Chiu.

Bordermen:  all artwork by Andrew Chiu.

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

“In Retrospect”

I love writing, and what I love writing about most are heroes and horrors.

Don’t know why.

Don’t care.

Heroes and Horrors is dedicated to the late Gary Reed, a good friend and the founder of Caliber Comics.

What I do know is I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old, and that realization is still one of my most vivid memories, especially the on-the-spot satisfaction that still resonates a half century later. Even before my epiphany, though, I was already writing, telling, and acting out stories. I was born with the spigot on, and the stories that gush out of me stand as mile markers for my life, reflections of how I was at a given time.

* * *

Collecting these stories has been humbling, especially when I remember they were created over the last four decades.

Tempus fugit and how, brother.

Collecting these stories has also been satisfying. Years are going to pass no matter what, and history is what it is, but that hasn’t diminished how good it is to see these stories in print, some for the first time.

All these stories, like the writer who created them, have flaws and strengths, biases and values.

They are optimistic, even when they turn melancholy.

They are familiar, even when they have unique patinas.

They are fantastical, even when nothing magical happens.

They are popular, even when they lean towards the literary.

They are adventures, even when they are prosaic.

This past June, I was working with two friends, Paul Huenemann and Dennis Lynch, on a computer-animated commercial for my books and comics to run on a Creature Feature. The studio is in Paul’s basement, and, like me, he and Dennis are lifelong horror movie fans. While we were working, Dennis pointed out, “Nothing changes. It’s the first day of summer, and where are we? In the basement doing Halloween stuff.” I’m not sure what that means, but I know it’s one of the truest descriptions I’ve heard about myself and the heroes and horrors I love to write about.


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Time to get back on the horse, and what better way than a signing at Barnes & Noble!

Like the announcement says, I’m signing copies of my books and graphic novels at the Cedar Rapids B&N on Thursday, October 27, from 6:30 to 8:00 to help kick-off ICON 41, Cedar Rapids’ annual science fiction and fantasy convention.

A bunch of awesome writers will be joining me, and I’ll have stuff for all ages to enjoy. You can even ask me about my upcoming wicked cool anthology graphic novel from Caliber Comics, Heroes and Horrors! (Oh please oh please oh please ask me about Heroes and Horrors!)

For more details, contact the kind folks at the Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble at:

Northland Square SC
333 Collins Rd NE Bldg 1
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

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Gary Reed, 1956-2016 (Painting by Ken Meyer, Jr.)

Gary Reed passed away on October 2

Dave Olbrich, the publisher of Malibu Graphics, introduced me to Gary at a meet and greet at a Capital City distributor show in the late eighties. I was freelancing for Malibu and lived fairly close to Madison, Wisconsin, Capital’s home base, so Dave had asked me to attend the show. It was the only time I saw Gary wearing a suit jacket, but he was also wearing jeans. Still, that was pretty dressed up for Gary, who was there representing his company Caliber Press. All I knew about Caliber was what I had read in one of the company’s Caliber Rounds promo papers, so I kept quiet while Dave and Gary talked for a few minutes, and then we moved on.

I’ll be honest, Gary didn’t impress me as anyone special, but that would change.

That may have been the end of my story if not for my friend Christopher Jones. Chris was drawing a mini-series for Caliber, Boston Bombers, and suggested I contact Gary, who was interested in having Chris draw an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s historical romances, Sir Nigel, for Caliber’s Tome Press line. Chris knew I am a huge Doyle fan, so he suggested me as a writer for the project. Gary had read Chris and mine Street Heroes 2005 comic from Malibu and liked it, so he agreed to talk with me. Gary was no-nonsense, to the point, but friendly. He told me Caliber would only publish an adaptation if Sir Nigel could be adapted adequately in 24 pages, and then we spent the bulk of the call talking about history and Sherlock Holmes. Gary eventually sent me a contract, but I would have trusted him with a handshake deal, and did so on many future projects.

At that time, I had been trying to break into the comics industry as a writer for several years, and had only been published by Malibu. I liked independent comics, but, like many of my peers, I wanted to work for Marvel or DC. My quest had brought me into contact with numerous editors and publishers, and, while all of these experiences have been educational, most have left me disappointed. You see, I grew up watching my father, Donald Jones, manage and then own his own customer service business (managing parking ramps and parking lots), and I saw how Dad was respected by his customers as well as the business owners and city fathers he dealt with because he was smart, dependable, helpful, no-nonsense, and friendly. My brothers and I have done our best to follow Dad’s example in our respective careers, but, in the comics industry, Gary was one of the few editors or publishers I have met who behaved this way.

Since Gary’s unexpected passing last Sunday, more eloquent people than I have expressed the tremendous impact he had and will continue to have on the comics industry. So many fan-favorite creators got their start at Caliber, Gary giving many of them an opportunity when other publishers refused. Gary also published comics he believed were good, regardless if he was a fan of the genre or creator’s style.

I am proof of that.

I am a popular genre writer. Along with several H. P. Lovecraft adaptations and two Sherlock Holmes pastiches, my Caliber titles include Nightlinger, a mainstream masked mystery man series, and Talismen, an all-ages series co-created with Barb Jacobs. Gary not only published these stories, but, in the 1994, he offered me an editorial position with Caliber, thinking someone like me might push Caliber in directions he wouldn’t naturally take the company, and thus make it stronger. I was unable to accept that editorial job, but, last February, Gary asked if I would edit an anthology series of popular genre material for Caliber. Gary was already editing an anthology, Caliber Presents, of which he was justifiably proud, but, to use his words, it was focused on the more Vertigo-ish kind of stories he enjoyed. Gary never denied he wasn’t a fan of popular genres, but he recognized many readers like more mainstream material, so he wanted to give it a try. I accepted, but other projects got in the way, so Gary eventually asked if we could postpone the anthology for now, and, in the meantime, requested I assemble a one-shot anthology of some of my old short comics stories. I finished that project, which I dedicated to Gary for all he has done for me, and emailed it to him last Saturday.

The point I’m trying to make is that good publishers and editors are not snobs. They put readers in front of themselves. They treat creators with respect. They ignore market projections and go with their guts.

Gary did all this and much, much more.

In “The Final Problem”, Dr. John H. Watson writes that he shall always regard his recently departed friend, Sherlock Holmes, “as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known,” and that sums up my feelings about Gary. Gary was also a wonderful teacher, and, most importantly, a loving husband and father, who leaves behind a terrific wife, Jennifer, and four incredible daughters, Stephanie, Jessica, Alison, and Erica. For all these reasons and so many more I could go into, Gary Reed was, and always will be, indeed, someone special.

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Hey, I’m in a TV commercial!

Well, my books and graphic novels are, and it debuts on Sunday September 4th with the return of Omaha’s classic Dr. San Guinary’s Creature Feature!

How cool is that?

The Creature Feature is broadcast at 9 PM each Sunday on KPTM 42.2 for folks in eastern Nebraska (like my hometown of Lincoln!) and western Iowa, with episodes “rebroadcast” for everyone in the whole wide world to see later on YouTube.


I am a lifelong fan of Creature Features, and Dr. San Guinary’s Creature Feature is one of two that I grew up watching, so it’s a real blast having a commercial running on it. And it’s a right pretty commercial, too, thanks to Paul Huenemann at Right Purdy Pictures and the voice talent of Dennis Lynch. Thanks, guys!

If you don’t mind, after watching the commercial here or on the Creature Feature or anywhere else, could you leave a post and let me know what you think? Any comments will be appreciated, I guarantee it!


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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.


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.


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.


Michael Jones in his 1994 Mustang dragster.


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!


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.

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


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