I’m going to be at the Cedar Rapids Comic Con. Will you?



Last year’s inaugural CRCC was a huge success, and CRCC II is going to be bigger and better with more vendors, programs, games, and a larger venue at the downtown Doubletree Hotel and Convention Complex.

And that ain’t all!

The totally incredible Justice Corps of Iowa and Iowa’s own comics maestros S. Clarke Hawbaker (Table 41) and Phil Hester (Table 17) will be there. So will Cedar Rapids’ own Steven Philip Jones — where have I heard that name before? — and 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 also be joined at Table 61 by Dave Arnold, publisher of CR’s first comic book company, Sundragon Comics, and Jayden Barrett, program director for Sportability of Iowa adapted sports program.


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!





It’s time to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Sundragon Comics! Many dream of becoming a comic book company publisher, but Dave Arnold did it AND he did it in Cedar Rapids with Sundragon Comics. It was a tough comics market in 1996, and Sundragon only published a few comics despite putting out high-quality products created by an excellent line of talents including Bud Hanzel, Clarke Hawbaker, Phil Hester, Christopher Jones, John Olson, Mark Stegbauer, John Thompson, and Freddie E. Williams II (Robin) and featuring some wonderful characters like the absolutely marvelous Mighty 1.


Dave will be at my table with Sundragon’s comic books for sale! Stop by and talk with Dave, check out these great books, and learn a little CR comic book history!


sport_kids sport_tennis sport_words sport_image









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? Find out more about Sportability at Table 61 from Sportability program director Jayden Barrett! You can also check out the Sportability of Iowa website!


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!




I’ll be selling prints for the first time anywhere at CRCC II. 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.Lovecraft_printsI’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 Clarke Hawbaker and shows Feril having a little one-on-one time with a really creepy but cool statue:


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 my horror-adventure superhero Vanguard:


Finally, I’m super excited to be able to offer two prints for Talismen 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. These prints go beautifully with the novel Talismen: The Knightmare Knife and the graphic novel Talismen: Return of the Exile.


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!



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!




That’s everything! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting a long time 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 to me and Jayden and Dave, or just want to pick up some free candy, I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at the show! See you there!

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The Cedar Rapids Comic Con is fast approaching on February 6! Along with the books I’ve previously posted about here, I’ll also be selling other graphic novels, books, and CDs, including Comics Writing, which is available from Caliber Comics and other places like my Amazon author’s page.  For folks who’d like to know more about this book, here is an interview that originally appeared in the first issue of Caliber Comics’ FREE e-promotional magazine Caliber Rounds, followed by a sample chapter from the book:

Cal: What makes Comics Writing different from other books about writing comics?

Comics communication is one-way communication between creator(s) and reader, as Scott McLeod shows here in this image from "Understanding Comics" (click on image for larger view).

Comics communication is one-way communication between creator(s) and his audience, rather that is another creator or a reader, as Scott McLeod demonstrates in this image from “Understanding Comics” (click on image for larger view).

Steve: Comics Writing doesn’t tell you how to do anything. It explains what you need to do so you can start writing comics now. It describes what a comic is, what a script is, what a story is, and what a writer needs to do to communicate that story to collaborators. A comics writer must be able to communicate a story to an editor, a penciller, an inker, a letterer, and maybe a colorist. Oh, yes, and to the reader. So, it’s your plot, and it’s your words, but unless you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you are not telling this story alone.

Cal: So it’s a primer?

Steve: I like to think of it that way. It’s for beginners. Any communicator who wants to learn the basics about communicating using the comics medium can use it, too, but my target is anyone who wants to write comics stories.

Cal: Why write this? What was your motivation?

Steve: Lots of things, but when I was seventeen I wanted to submit to Marvel Comics. The problem was I didn’t know how. I actually sent them a short story with Iron First and Power Man. Don’t ask me why, but I thought an artist would take it and adapt it into a comics story. I didn’t know any better. Jim Shooter was editor-in-chief and he was kind enough to send me a sample of a plot script so I’d have at least some notion of the proper format, which helped, but there were no books or articles that I could look up to learn the nuts and bolts of taking a story and breaking it down into that format.

Cal: How did you learn to write comics?

Steve: Trial and error, at first. I also went to comics conventions to ask professionals what to do, but they didn’t know how to explain what they did. They just did it. So I just struggled on my own until I was twenty-four, when I finally got around to attending college. That’s when my efforts became disciplined. I earned degrees in Journalism and Religion, but many of the things I learned in those classes also applied to writing comics. For example, Journalism taught me about concise writing. Effectively communicating what you need to say completely and quickly. It also instructed me in visual communication and journalistic editing, things like layout and composition. Scott McLoud’s excellent Understanding Comics was first published a couple of years after I graduated, and I high recommend it, but a lot of the things in it I had already learned in my communication science course. My Religion courses, however, may have taught me the most valuable lesson any writer can learn: how to read. Good writers should be good readers. My Religion courses also gave me some of the best instruction I have ever received into the workings of literature. I also took some college classes for fun that contributed to my learning, like Film Study and Film, Television, and Radio Production. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I never sold anything before going to college, but by the time I was a junior I had sold my first comics series, Street Heroes 2005, to Malibu Graphics.

Cal: So does Comics Writing distill all you learned?

Steve: Oh, no. Comics Writing is my note in a bottle to anyone who is like me when I was seventeen. Comics Writing tells you what to do to tell a comics story. What you do with that information and where it takes you from there is up to you.


A comics writer does two things.

1) Entertains readers by creating stories.

2) Communicates his stories so that collaborators can translate them into comics.

There you go. What could be simpler?

Before we proceed, though, let me ask a question.

What is “comics”?

Now you might be thinking, “Puh-leaze, fool! Comics are things like comic books, graphic novels, newspaper comic strips, webcomics, and digital comics! Everybody knows that!”

That comes close to hitting the bull’s-eye, but close only counts in dancing and collateral damage. Frank Miller, the creator of Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, puts steel on target when he states, “Comics is, foremost, a form of communication.”

Comics is a medium, a unique form of communication.

Comics is narrative art that uses words and pictures to communicate.

And comics is a member of the cartoon family tree with its own communication code called the grammar of comics that cartoon communication expert Randall P. Harrison says writers and artists use “to create a make-believe world, to create figures, to give them depth, to give them action, thought, and language.”

 Comics as a Medium


Comics grandmaster Will Eisner explains one of the key differences between the film medium and the comics medium (click on image for larger view).

A medium conveys information, rather it is news or ideas, in a method unlike any other medium. Comics is often compared to film because both are verbal-visual media that use words and pictures to convey information, but this is a flawed comparison. Film is an audio-visual medium that uses sound and moving images to communicate, whereas comics has no soundtrack or moving images but uses static words and images. While comics is a verbal-visual medium like film, it would be more accurate to compare comics to literary media like books, newspapers, and magazines.

Comics as Narrative Art

urNarrative art is one of mankind’s oldest forms of communication. According to Harrison, “Cartoons, and even strip-like stories, can be found in Roman sculpture, on Greek vases, on early Japanese scrolls, and in the famous Bayeux tapestry.” The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of Egypt’s trademark pyramids, finished in 2530 B.C., but one of the earliest examples of narrative art is almost two hundred years older than that. The Standard of Ur is an ancient box with shell-inlaid figures and images on its outside depicting a Sumerian military action and subsequent victory. According to the popular textbook Gardner’s Art Through the Ages these “figures are carefully arranged in superimposed strips, each strikingly suggestive of a film or ‘comic strip’; doubtless, the purpose is the same—to achieve a continuous narrative effect.” Ancient people had discovered that they could record historical events in greater detail by combining words with images into narrative art than with art or writing alone.

Comics as Cartoon

cartoonThe word cartoon is over five hundred years old. It comes from the French and Italian words for “card” and “paper.” Until 1455 the word “cartoon” was used to describe a preliminary sketch for a painting or sculpture, but after the invention of movable type made printing presses all the rage in Western Europe, “cartoon” was used to describe any sketch that could be mass-produced.

These early cartoons were very simple to make reproducing them on printing presses easier. They were also very simplistic in nature, but today any drawing is considered to be a cartoon regardless of its complexity so long as it encapsulates a complete thought. In plain English, this means that any illustration can be called a cartoon.

Two Definitions for Comics

Which brings us back to my question, “What is comics?”

Believe it or not there is no single agreed-upon definition for comics, despite the best efforts of two of the most knowledgeable comics communicators of the last century to create one.

EISNER_02und_comics_02During the Seventies comics grandmaster Will Eisner (The Spirit, A Contract With God) coined the term “sequential art” to describe the medium. Sequential art is piquant and to the point but fails to describe the comics medium to anyone who has never seen anything like a comic book or a comic strip. For this reason Scott McCloud expanded the term sequential art into a proper dictionary-style definition for his milestone text on comics communication, Understanding Comics (1993). What he came up with was:

Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the reviewer.

Intimidating, isn’t it? I know it scares the heck out of me.

My problem with McCloud’s definition, besides inducing brain cramps, is that it fails to mention words as an element of comics, even though comics is narrative art and a verbal-visual medium.

My Definition of Comics (Sort Of)

For this book I have attempted to cobble a more precise description of the comics medium than what Eisner or McCloud created. The components come from one of the first critical examinations of the medium, Coulton Waugh’s The Cartoon (1947). Waugh argued that all comics had to include three criteria: 1) A narrative told through a sequence of pictures, 2) a continuing cast of characters, and 3) the inclusion of dialogue or text within the cartoon. Technically a continuing cast of characters is in no way necessary to communicate anything in any medium, so I have taken the liberty of scrapping this criterion and connecting the remaining criteria to assemble the following:

COMICS: A narrative told through a sequence of pictures with the inclusion of dialogue or text within the cartoon.

There is your answer, Charlie Brown. That is what comics is all about.


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If my news about the new Reanimator anthology thrilled you — and, quite frankly, why wouldn’t it? — then you’re going to break into your happy dance when you find out more about Caliber Comics releasing all nine issues of Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft in new individual graphic novels! And to help get your toes tapping, I’m posting this sneak peek of a brief interview with me that will be appearing soon in Caliber’s promotional e-magazine Caliber Rounds:

Octavio Cariello's cover for the Caliber Comics adaptation of "The Lurking Fear."

Octavio Cariello’s cover for the Caliber Comics adaptation of “The Lurking Fear.”

Cal: You’ve had a long association with the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

Steve: Around twenty-five years.

Cal: Beginning with Re-Animator?

Steve: Yes. Christopher Jones and I adapted the 1985 cult film for Malibu Graphics, and I edited the original pulp stories into an anthology for Malibu, which I believe is the first mass-market paperback of the series.

Cal: But then you adapted other Lovecraft stories for Malibu and then Caliber.

Steve: Lovecraft and I might have parted ways after the West anthology if Malibu hadn’t suggested I adapt some of his other stories, but that was around 1991, and the question of who held the copyright on Lovecraft’s work was problematic. Fortunately, Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi was able to provide us with a list of stories that were irrefutably in the public domain, and Octavio Cariello and I adapted “The Lurking Fear,” “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” “The Tomb,” and “The Alchemist.” The series sold pretty well, but Malibu didn’t want to continue it, so I asked Gary Reed at Caliber if he’d be interested in publishing more Lovecraft adaptations.

Cal: Whose idea was it to have a different artist work on each of your adaptations for Caliber?


Aldin Baroza’s interpretation of Nyarlathotep from Caliber Comics’ adaptation of “The Music of Erich Zann.”


Rob Davis’s interpretation of Nyarlathotep from Caliber Comics’ adaptation of “The Picture in the House.”

Steve: That was Gary’s suggestion. We knew Octavio had other commitments and wouldn’t be able to follow the series to Caliber. By replacing him with more than one artist, we could emphasize that this really is an anthology, plus I could match an artist’s strengths with the particular story we were adapting. I should mention that one more difference between the adaptations I wrote for Malibu and Caliber is all but one of the Caliber adaptations features a linking character, the Crawling Chaos himself, Nyarlathotep.

Cal: Why did you do that?

Steve: In spite of all the advantages using different artists offered, I felt the Caliber adaptations needed something to give them a sense of unity. Plus, I didn’t intentionally avoid injecting the Lovecraft Mythos into the Malibu adaptations, it just happened based on the four stories we adapted.

Cal: You certainly found an impressive list of artists to follow Octavio.

Steve: Oh, yeah, we got lucky there.

Cal: How did you find them?

Steve: Again, luck. Or serendipity. Octavio lives in Brazil, but he told me his brother, Sergio, was in America studying at The Joe Kubert School. I met Aldin Baroza while I was sitting at the Caliber table at ChicagoCon one year. I already knew Rob Davis from the MoKan Comic Festival in Overland Park, where we were both often guests, and I had wanted to work with him for a long time. Christopher Jones and I had already worked on Re-Animator, but we’ve been friends most of our lives and try to work together whenever possible. And Gary was kind enough to ask Wayne Reid. I have to agree, all of them are impressive artists.

Cal: You said you matched an artist’s strength with the story you were adapting. Can you give an example?

Aldin Baroza's artwork from the first page of Caliber Comics' adaptation of "The Music of Erich Zann."

Aldin Baroza’s artwork from the first page of Caliber Comics’ adaptation of “The Music of Erich Zann.”

Steve: Well, take “Music of Erich Zann.” This was one of Lovecraft’s personal favorites. I think he ranked it second after “The Colour out of Space.” It was even featured in Dashiell Hammett’s 1931 anthology Creeps by Night. Now, I always want to write a good script, but, because of all this, I wanted to do “Erich Zann” proud, and when I saw Aldin’s samples at ChicagoCon, I knew I’d found the artist for this adaptation. Aldin’s the total package as a comics artist and letterer, plus he is comfortable working in virtually any genre, so I might have gotten a little carried away because I wrote probably my most difficult script for “Erich Zann.” Besides the tricky layouts and eccentric characterizations, the setting switches from America to France to the Holocaust to a glimpse of a Lovecraftian other-dimension, and the mood changes from light humor to mystery to grand pathos to cosmological horror, but Aldin gave me everything I asked for and more. That said, I couldn’t have found a better artist for “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” than Wayne Reid. I’ve never met him, but I’ve been familiar with his work for years. Wayne’s style is more traditional and appears to be simpler than someone like Aldin, but it is so lush, and his storytelling is so sound, and, of course, he excels in historical genres, everything I was looking for in an artist for “Arthur Jermyn.” More than that, though, when I decided to adapt “Arthur Jermyn” I was worried it might come off as a Masterpiece Theatre retread of “Lurking Fear.” The stories have similarities, but they are also very different, and I knew Wayne would give this multi-generational tragedy its own unique look while bringing its eerie British settings to life. You really do feel like you’re there!

Cal: Would you say adapting Lovecraft is harder than other writers because of the way he wrote his stories?

Christopher Jones' cover for the Caliber Comics adaptation of "The Statement of Randolph Carter."

Christopher Jones’ cover for the Caliber Comics adaptation of “The Statement of Randolph Carter.”

Steve: I’ve read where some people who have adapted Lovecraft’s stories into comics or other media like movies will say that, but I don’t find Lovecraft to be any more difficult to adapt than Bram Stoker or any other writer. One difficulty is that Lovecraft isn’t big on dialogue, and comics is a medium whose readers tend to prefer balloons over captions, but all you have to do is write your own dialogue. That’s a simple fix. Another difficulty is that Lovecraft often implies his horrors rather than describes them, which can be very effective in a short story, but you can do that in comics, too. Just look at Christopher Jones’s work on “Statement of Randolph Carter.” Maybe the biggest difficulty is that Lovecraft hunts for big game. He wants his readers to feel how small and insignificant we are in comparison to a cosmos that is often indifferent and sometimes hostile to humanity. I don’t mind hunting for big game, either, and if we missed the mark in these adaptations, it wasn’t from want of trying.

Cal: Any plans to do more adaptations?

Steve: I’d love to! I finished a graphic novel script for “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I adapted “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” several years ago. All I need are artists to draw them. I would also love to adapt The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, “The Colour Out of Space,” and The Thing on the Doorstep.”

 “Worlds of Lovecraft” Checklist:

The Lurking Fear
– Octavio Cariello

Beyond the Wall of Sleep
– Octavio Cariello

The Tomb
– Octavio Cariello

The Alchemist
– Octavio Cariello

– Sergio Cariello

The Music of Erich Zann
– Aldin Baroza

The Picture in the House
– Rob Davis

Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn  and His Family
– Wayne Reid

The Statement of Randolph Carter
– Christopher Jones






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Along with the Sherlock Holmes projects mentioned in my last post, Caliber Comics is publishing a new edition of the Re-Animator anthology I edited in 1991. To help spread the news, I’m sharing a brief interview about this new edition that will be appearing soon in Caliber’s promotional e-magazine Caliber Rounds:

Cal: This new Re-Animator anthology reunites you with H. P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West series after nearly twenty-five years. Why did you think it was time for a new edition?

Steve: The suggestion actually came from Matthew T. Carpenter in a review he posted on Amazon for the second volume of Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft. It just sounded like a good idea to me, but I also can’t deny that I wanted another crack at the anthology to make it better this time.

Cal: Is it correct that the original anthology, which was published by Malibu Graphics, is the first mass market paperback dedicated to the West stories?

Steve: As far as I know it is. You can find the Herbert West series in lots of places today, but that wasn’t so in 1990. That’s one reason why I pitched the anthology to Malibu after Christopher Jones and I finished adapting the film Re-Animator for them, and it turned into my first publication to be available in major chain stores like Barnes & Noble.

Cal: You wore a lot of hats on that anthology. You edited it, designed the interior layout, and wrote the introduction.

Steve: I did have some editorial help from Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, although I don’t know if he’ll want me to admit this, considering how the anthology turned out. After I edited the six stories in the Herbert West series, Joshi was kind enough to read through them and give me some comments and advice.

 Cal: So what do you think is wrong with the original anthology?

Steve: Me. That’s what was wrong. It’s one of my earliest book designs and it shows. For example, the page layouts are too crowded. I can forgive that under the circumstances, but the introduction reads like a term paper, plus I didn’t know much about Lovecraft at the time, so it isn’t a very informative piece for anyone even mildly familiar with the West series or its author. I do have to say that the interior artwork by Mikael Oskarsson is outstanding, but Malibu gets the credit for hiring him.

Cal: So this new edition features a new introduction and layout?

Steve: Oh, yes. New and better. I promise!

Cal: What else does it have?

Steve: Thanks to Gary Reed, there are new interior illustrations plus a new cover, all by Terry Pavlet. I’ve been wanting to adapt the Herbert West series into a radio mini-series for a while, so I’m including my script for the first story, “From the Dark.” There is also an original Herbert West story that I wrote for this anthology, and, thanks to Joshi and the folks at the Lovecraft Estate, we are including Lovecraft’s landmark thesis Supernatural Horror in Literature.

Cal: How did you enjoy creating your own Herbert West story after editing Lovecraft’s stories and adapting the film Re-Animator?

dr frank image

Victor Frankenstein, played by the incredible Peter Cushing, gets a new lease on life in London as Dr. Franck, thanks to his loyal assistant Dr. Hans Kleve, played by Cary-Grant-clone Francis Matthews, in Hammer Studio’s 1958 film “The Revenge of Frankenstein.” This intriguing plot, never developed further in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, inspired my original Herbert West story, “The Empty House on Harley Street.”


Steve: It was different, but it was fun. I tried to stick to the same two thousand word count Lovecraft was limited to when he wrote his stories for Home Brew, but I went over a little bit. I also tried to emulate the over-the-top pulp flavor in the original stories, but I didn’t try to emulate Lovecraft’s florid style. Since my story features a totally different narrator, I didn’t see the point. My story was also influenced by Hammer Studio’s 1958 film The Revenge of Frankenstein, which I argue is the best installment in their Frankenstein series. I thought it would be neat to give West an assistant more in tune with his thinking, like Frankenstein gets with Hans Kleve. I also wanted to put my own spin on the movie’s ending, where Kleve transplants Frankenstein’s brain into a new body and then follows the doctor to London, where Frankenstein sets up a new practice as Dr. Franck. Hammer never developed this storyline further in any of its later Frankenstein films, which always disappointed me, so I relieved some of my frustration with this Herbert West story.

An Excerpt from the NEW Herbert West Story:

“The Empty House on Harley Street”

All of London is enthralled with Dr. Herbert.

Every day patients line up to be cured of their ails and specialists in all branches of medicine consult with him. Prominent spiritualists confer with him as well while the grieving come to ask about lost loved ones. A few folks have even claimed that Herbert resuscitated someone recently dead once or twice.

“Reanimating the dead? Preposterous!”

Haunted House imageIt sounds ludicrous, of course, but rumors can be good for business so long as they do not take on a life of their own, and as Herbert’s associate and spokesman I am always vigilant not to discourage the validity while pruning the voracity of such gossip.

Dr. Herbert may become a greater phenomenon than Franz Mesmer. Many have indisputably benefited from seeing him, but I make sure no one knows anything about him. It is critical – essential — that Herbert remain a blank canvas so people can make what they want of him. He never talks about himself or his past. His credentials are his knowledge and successes. Herbert has detractors and doubters, as great doctors and great conjure-men must, but so far no admonition or accusation can be heard over his accolades.

This grand old city has never seen anything like Dr. Herbert and odds are it never will again. I hope so, anyway, for reasons that may be good or awful.



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Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes-1

Sherlock Holmes meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

With Caliber Comics reissuing my Sherlock Holmes pastiches, The Adventure of the Opera Ghost and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes, as individual graphic novels and publishing my and Matthew J. Elliott’s new book Sherlock Holmes is on the Air! later this month, I thought this would be a good time to share this brief interview about these projects that will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Caliber’s promotional e-magazine Caliber Rounds:

Cal: Sherlock Holmes seems more popular than ever with the Guy Ritchie film franchise and two television programs, Sherlock and Elementary, but there is also a long-running radio series that you are a part of.

Steve: A very, very small part. Imagination Theatre is a weekly anthology radio series syndicated in the United States and abroad, and it’s been broadcasting original Holmes stories since 1998 and adaptations of Doyle’s stories since 2005. So far I’ve had two pastiches produced, “The Adventure of the Petty Curses” and “A Case of Unfinished Business,” and another slated to be produced, “The Adventure of the Wrong Gentleman.”

Cal: Your two produced scripts are part of the new Caliber book, Sherlock Holmes is on the Air!?

Steve: Yes, along with two more IT Holmes scripts by British writer Matthew J. Elliott. There’s also a foreword by Lawrence Albert who plays Watson on IT, an interview between me and Matthew, an introduction by me, and illustrations by Josh Werner.

Cal: The IT Holmes adaptations are about to reach a milestone, aren’t they?

Steve: They sure are. IT will soon be the first radio series to adapt the entire Holmes Canon with the same writer, Matthew, adapting all sixty stories plus the same actors, Albert and John-Patrick Lowrie, playing Watson and Holmes. It’s quite an accomplishment!

Cal: “A Case of Unfinished Business” seems like a bookend to your graphic novel The Adventure of the Opera Ghost, in that one is set before The Great Hiatus in “The Final Problem” and the other is set afterwards.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2013-11-16 23:02:25Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

Dr. Watson meets Eric, the Phantom of the Opera!

Steve: That’s right. “Opera Ghost” is a pastiche pitting Holmes against Erik, The Phantom of the Opera, but it’s just as much a story about Watson coming to grips with the loss of his wife and then having Holmes return from the dead, as it were. “A Case of Unfinished Business” takes place after “The Final Problem” and shows Watson just starting to mourn Holmes while getting on with life after 221B. “The Adventure of the Wrong Gentleman” will follow “Unfinished Business” and is the first of a few scripts I’m writing set during The Great Hiatus that show how difficult it would be to put an end to Moriarty’s organization even after the Professor’s death.

Cal: Does your other graphic novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes, have any association with these stories?

Steve: No, none.

Cal: How come you haven’t paired Holmes with other famous fictional characters in your radio scripts like you have in the comics?

Steve: The producer, Jim French, wants to adhere to the tone of the original Holmes Canon. There have been IT stories where Holmes has met historical figures like H.G. Wells and fictional characters like Doyle’s Professor Challenger, so something like Gary Reed’s Murder at Moulin Rouge would fit, but not borderline fantasies like my comics pastiches.

Cal: So what inspired you to have Holmes meet Erik and Dr. Jekyll?

Steve: I didn’t read Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera until the early Nineties, after Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical spurred publishers to bring it back into print after decades of being unavailable. While I was reading it, it just seemed to me that Erik would make an excellent opponent for Holmes. I’ve never been interested in writing a pastiche where Holmes meets a fantastical character like Count Dracula, but there’s nothing supernatural about Erik. He’s incredible, but not impossible, and I’d argue more brilliant and less predictable than Moriarity. Erik isn’t evil like the Professor, but I couldn’t call him a good man, either.


Airship 27’s Rob Davis is also contributing illustrations to these Sherlock Holmes projects!

Cal: Isn’t Mr. Hyde a fantastical character?

Steve: He is, but I’d argue he is a plausible character, or more plausible then, say, Griffin the Invisible Man. Rather I’m right or wrong about that, Gary Reed came up with the story’s title to go with a pastiche he wanted to write, and I was so captivated by it that I finally asked Gary if I could write the pastiche. I was fascinated by the idea of pitting a moralistic man like Holmes against a hedonistic hypocrite like Jekyll, as well as seeing how a rationalist like Holmes would react to discovering the truth behind Jekyll’s secret life as Hyde. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, a friend of Jekyll’s, Hastie Lanyon, sees Hyde transform into the doctor, and Lanyon is so horrified he eventually loses the will to live. I would argue that Holmes’s reaction would be much more practical.

Cal: Any plans for more Holmes pastiches in the future?


Steve: I hope I’ll write more Sherlock Holmes comics, but right now I don’t have anything planned. For the time being, I’ll probably concentrate on those Great Hiatus radio scripts I mentioned, although, now that I think of it, it would be pretty awesome to adapt those into comics down the road. We’ll see. Only time will tell.


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“Hey, Steve, 2015 is almost over. We haven’t seen a lot of stuff coming out with your name on it lately. What have you been up to this year?”

I’m glad you asked!

This was primarily the Year of the Wedding, also known as Operation: Get the Most Precious Girl in the World Katie Barrett (Jones) Hitched to One Terrific Guy Jayden Barrett. All writing was sublimated to this goal and had to fit in whenever not dealing with matrimonial tasks.

That said, two graphic novels I have been waiting a long time to see published were … uh … published, both from Caliber Comics. The first was Talismen: Return of the Exile, the second Nightlinger (with Vanguard). If you want to know more about them, please check out on the appropriate links.

You’ll be hearing more about all this very soon, but Caliber is reissuing the nine H. P. Lovecraft adaptations and both Sherlock Holmes pastiches I wrote as graphic novels in 2016, so I’ve written new editorial material for all these books. Caliber is also going to publish a new anthology of Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator stories that I edited last year, which, along with Lovecraft’s seminal essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and a great cover and terrific illustrations by Terry Pavlet, will include an original Herbert West story and an audio adaptation of “From the Dark” by me. Speaking of audio dramas, Caliber will also publish Sherlock Holmes is on the Air! next year. This anthology includes two scripts each by me and the awesome Matthew J. Elliott that were produced by Jim French Productions and broadcast on The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes feature on Imagination Theatre. Sherlock Holmes is on the Air! will also include a foreword by the feature’s own Dr. John H. Watson, Lawrence Albert, and a give-n-take interview between me and Matthew. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read that!

Oh, and speaking of Imagination Theatre, I submitted another Sherlock Holmes drama to them this year. I haven’t heard back, but am keeping my fingers crossed it will be accepted. This script is the third in a series of Great Hiatus adventures that started with “A Case of Unfinished Business” broadcast in 2014.

The biggest project this year, however, is my Young Adult screenplay: Max Q. The elevator pitch for this is “Jonny Quest and Speed Racer meet Popular Science and Popular Mechanics,” and it’s a storyline I’ve been wanting to get to for several years. (Hey, remember this one, Tom Mason?) Nightlinger is the best series I’ve created or ever will create, but if Nightlinger ever had any competition, it’s Max Q and for the same reason: both series incorporate so many of the things I love. Unlike Nightlinger, which is about spooky stuff and old-fashion adventure, Max Q is R&D science fiction and classic cars. I’m not a motor-head, but my Dad was and one of my brothers is, and more of that rubbed off on me than even they probably ever realized. Max Q should be getting pitched around Hollywood next year, and, if I can ever find the right artist, I’d love to create graphic novels for this series.

And that was the year that was. I’m looking forward to having all these comics and books out next year, and, if you check them out, I hope you’ll enjoy them.

On to 2016!


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The first and only issue of D’Arc Tangent was published in 1983. It is one of my favorite independent comics, and I find it sad that this excellent limited-run series was never completed, or that very few comics fans have apparently heard of it.

In 2005, I submitted two non-fiction proposals to McFarland Publishing, one for The Clive Cussler Adventures: A Critical Review and another for Gutter Wars, an anthology of critical reviews of (in my opinion) some of the best independent comic books from the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, a period I like to call the Indy Revolution. McFarland accepted the Gutter Wars proposal before The Clive Cussler Adventures, and I got as far as writing a history of the comics industry up to the Indy Revolution and a critical review for D’Arc Tangent before unexpected circumstances made completing Gutter Wars impossible.

For fans of D’Arc Tangent #1 or for anyone who would like to discover or find out more about this wonderful comic book, I am sharing my review for the first time anywhere:


“Now I know I have a heart, ’cause it’s breaking.”
-The Tin Woodsman, The Wizard of Oz

Can a robot possess a soul?[1] And how important are the choices we make in life? These questions are at the heart of D’Arc Tangent #1, published by ffantasy ffactory in 1983.[2]


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This is S. Clarke Hawbaker's black and white art for the painted cover that appeared on the first issue of the Malibu Graphics adaptation and Caliber Comics' graphic novel of "Dracula."

S. Clarke Hawbaker’s painting for the cover of the first issue of the Malibu Graphics adaptation and Caliber Comics’ graphic novel of “Dracula” has become quite popular. This is the original 1989 black and white artwork.


Big surprise: I am huge Dracula fan.

Earlier this year, Caliber Comics collected the adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel and excised chapter, “Dracula’s Guest,” that I originally wrote for Malibu Graphics into a graphic novel for the first time. To help launch this graphic novel, I wrote a few words that were published in the first issue of Caliber Rounds. This was written prior to the release of the film Dracula Untold (2014), and, even though the film was a box office success, so far my predictions regarding the film and the Count have not come true. However, with that in mind, I’d still like to share this and my hopes for the novel and its fascinating villain with you today:

I am a Sherlock Holmes fan who is old enough to remember a time when all Holmes fans wondered if we would ever see a faithful adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story in film or on television. That may seem odd today, what with the Eighties Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett, just as it might seem odd that, prior to this series, Holmes was considered by many critics to be a dusty Victorian character on the verge of irrelevancy. After all, they insisted, Holmes’ deductions and magnifying glass are anachronisms compared to the wonders of modern criminal science. Yet, thanks to the Sherlock Holmes motion pictures directed by Guy Ritchie, the BBC television series Sherlock, and the American television series Elementary, Holmes is not only experiencing a renaissance, his relevancy, not to mention his popularity, may be at an all-time peak.

To put it crudely but bluntly, Sherlock Holmes lives!

Well, I am also a Count Dracula fan, another Victorian character many modern critics believe is becoming outdated. After all, they insist, the horrors of a gothic bloodsucker pale when compared to realistic terrors like nuclear weapons and terrorism. Unfortunately, Count Dracula has not benefited from anything like the Granada Television Holmes series, and while the upcoming movie Dracula Untold might do for the Count what Ritchie’s films did for Holmes (fingers crossed), there are no faithful Dracula films or television programs currently on the horizon.

Sorry, Count.

That said, things have been a little brighter for Dracula in comicdom.

The "Dracula" graphic novel is black-and-white, but a few years ago penciller Robert Schneiders colored the adaptation's first page.

The “Dracula” graphic novel is black-and-white, but a few years ago penciller Robert Schneiders colored the adaptation’s first page.

In 2004, Marvel Comics published a faithful four-issue adaptation of Dracula by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano, but this adaptation actually completed what Thomas and Giordano had started in 1974, only to be interrupted by cancellations.  In 1989, however, the first full and faithful adaptation of Dracula and the novel’s excised chapter, “Dracula’s Guest,” in any medium was published by Malibu Graphic, written by myself, pencils by Robert Schnieders, and inks by Craig Taillefer. And now, after being out of print for over two decades, Caliber Comics is publishing our Dracula again in a new graphic novel, to be followed with a companion graphic novel featuring my original sequel, Dracula: The Suicide Club, with art by John Ross.

It is tempting (for me, at least) to wonder if these graphic novels, coupled with Dracula Untold, might spark a renaissance in relevancy and popularity for the Count the way Brett, Ritchie, Sherlock, and Elementary have for Holmes. Only time will tell, but history may be on our side, since the horror genre experiences a cycle of renewed popularity ever twenty year or so.  In the Thirties there were the Universal classic monsters, in the Fifties we were invaded by BEMs, in the Seventies we were assaulted by The Exorcist, and in the Nineties classic monsters were in vogue again thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Now … well … here we are again, approximately twenty years later.

Of course, many modern critics still cast doubt on just how frightening traditional monsters like Dracula are when compared to real-life horrors. Perhaps. But has that always been the case? If you were to ask me if I believe in vampires or ghosts or werewolves, my honest answer is, “No. Unless it’s three in the morning and I’m in the attic of a creepy house.” It is all a matter of perspective. Dirty bombs are bad, but if you think you may be on the verge of becoming some monster’s chew toy, I imagine they would not seem half as frightening as your current predicament.

To put it bluntly and crudely, scary is as scary does.

And, in my humble opinion, Count Dracula still does and always will.

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In May 2015, Caliber Comics released a new graphic novel compiling all the published stories featuring the best series I’ve created, Nightlinger, and the first superhero series I created, Vanguard. I’m super-excited about this graphic novel, and, to give you an idea, I’m previewing an interview that will be running in an upcoming issue of Caliber’s promotion e-magazine, Caliber Rounds, here on my website:

Artwork and letters by Christopher Jones, circa 1993.

Cal: This graphic novel has an impressive list of artists on it.

Steve: I agree. There’s Dan Jurgens, Christopher Jones, Aldin Baroza, and S. Clarke Hawbaker, all of whom have notable credits in comics or animation.

Cal: So tell us about Nightlinger. How would you describe the series to someone who’s never seen it?

Steve: It’s The Equalizer meets The Night Stalker. Feril Nightlinger is the world’s foremost illusionist and escape artist, but he also helps people with problems – more often than not supernatural problems – as a masked mystery man. He’s helped by his personal assistant, Michael “Mike” Segretto, a beautiful young woman, and both characters are more than what they appear.  Mike worked for the Chicago Police Department and was a star prep athlete, and Feril … well … he’s got a very mysterious past he tries to keep secret.

Cal: Aldin Baroza, the artist on Nightlinger, has worked on a lot of different animation programs and films the past two decades, including Family Guy and Futurama, doing everything from storyboards to directing. People may not know that he used to work in comics.

Steve: One of the luckiest accidents in my career is meeting Aldin at ChicagoCon in the early Nineties. Caliber had just agreed to publish Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft and I was at the show searching for artists. Aldin already had worked on Tales from the Heart, and as soon as I saw his portfolio I asked him to draw a story for Lovecraft. That was “Music of Erich Zann,” and he did an awesome job. A few months later I asked Aldin to draw Nightlinger, and he agreed. I guess he must have liked working with me, because we also did The Adventure of Opera Ghost and co-created Tatters for Caliber.

Cal: Clarke Hawbaker contributed a couple of pieces to the series as well?

Steve: I’ll say. He painted the cover for the graphic novel along with what I guess you’d have to call a centerfold of Mike. Both are eye-poppers. In their own way, of course.

Cal: In your introduction to the graphic novel you say that you think Nightlinger is the best thing you have created and ever will create. Why?

Steve:  It’s a very solid series. Nothing terribly original if you judge it by its individual components, but that’s not the point with Nightlinger. I wanted it to be a series where I can tell any kind of story I love to tell, no matter the genre or the setting. If I want to tell a horror story, I can tell a horror story. If I want to tell a Batman-type story, I can tell a Batman-type story. If I want to tell a knights-of-old story, I can do that. If Nightlinger has any originality it’s in its eclecticism, the way it recombines and reinterprets elements from these different types of stories. I call Nightlinger a playground for my imagination in the introduction, and that’s what it is.

Cal: The graphic novel also features two short stories featuring your superhero Vanguard.

An unused cover for "Quazar" by Dan Jurgens, circa 1979.

An unused cover for “Quazar” by Dan Jurgens, circa 1979.

Steve:  Vanguard is the first series I created for comics. That was in high school, and it’s changed and developed quite a bit since then. These two stories have never been published together before, and Dan Jurgens drew them before being hired to pencil The Warlord at DC. Together they tell Vanguard’s origin and his first adventure.

Cal: But Chris and Clarke also worked on the stories?

Steve: Yes. The first Vanguard story was originally published in an anthology me and a friend, Dave Arnold, published called Quazar. We never were able to publish a second Quazar, try as we might, but Dave did start his own publishing company called Sundragon Comics, and one its titles was an anthology called Scales of the Dragon. Dave wanted to print the two Vanguard stories in Scales, which was fine by me, but they needed some polishing. Dan had become a name in the comics industry and wasn’t available, so Clarke penciled the first story using Dan’s art as layouts, and Chris did the same with the second story. Chris and Clarke’s styles are pretty different, so to try to give the stories a unified sheen C.P. Smith inked them both.

Cal: So how would you describe Vanguard?

Steve: A Gothic superhero, as well as an outlet for my adolescent frustrations. I created Vanguard when I was in high school, and I won’t deny there’s a lot of wish fulfillment going on in it, although that sounds a little bent when you consider the hero, Lee Cowan, gets murdered and comes back from the dead not knowing why some minor deity has given him abilities like a vampire as well as some unstated mission he has to perform. Oh, and a costume. Lee gets a costume, too. That doesn’t sound like it should be fun, but … well … it is!

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Just a quick note to wish everyone a very happy and safe Hallowe’en!


From left to right: me, Wayne Amsler, Tammy Varner. Picture taken in 1978 in Estes Park, Colorado, in the shadow of the original Overlook Hotel.