The History and Evolution of Comic Books

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Powers in Motion

by Jeff Bowles

As a storytelling medium, comic books have been around longer than anyone living today. Some disagreement exists among historians as to just what the first published example is, but more or less, comics have been with us since the mid-19th century. Certainly, they didn’t explode into absolute pop culture dominance until the advent of superheroes and supervillains, their best-known and most beloved subjects of exploration, but the truth is millions upon millions of comics have sold in all the time since.

It goes without saying that if not for the creation of one very special character, comic books would not exist in the form in which they do today. In 1938, two young men from Cleveland, hard-up for more satisfying and lucrative creative endeavors, concocted a simple yet compelling narrative based on the biblical stories they’d grown up with. An infant savior from another place, sent from on high by his father to protect and guide humankind. Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster were thinking more Moses than Jesus, but the Judeo-Christian allegory that is Superman tapped into something deep within the psyches of readers everywhere.

When DC Comics published Action Comics #1, the first appearance of the Man of Steel, the company had no earthly concept what they were unleashing on the world. The first appearance of Batman followed a year later, and quick on his heels were characters like The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. Sales were massive for this new kind of storytelling, so full of color and simple, easy-to-understand moral allegory. Until Superman showed up, comics were usually about hard-as-nails detectives and avengers of the night who could neither fly nor leap tall buildings in a single bound. But Supes, he was different.

It was and still is widely accepted that comics are for children, but adults like them, too. In fact, as the Allies went to war in Europe and the Pacific, young servicemen and women brought their recreational reading habits to the front lines. Japan in particular adopted comic books with unrestrained delight. In the year 2020, they remain the top producer of the entire global industry, having created a literary genre unto itself in Manga.

Back in the US, the end of World War II brought with it new social standards, including a certain suspicion of the medium. It became widely believed that comics contributed to childhood delinquency, vandalism, and violence. Senate hearings were held on the matter, not unlike those that plagued the video game industry after the Columbine massacre. In both cases, the federal government imposed rating systems, and at least as far as comics were concerned, the high flying antics of superheroes were dragged a bit closer to earth.

In the 1950s, comics gained a squeaky-clean image, which contributed to their overall decline in sales. It seemed that the original generation of kids who had embraced characters like Superman and Batman had grown up, and they were by no means interested in overtly sanitized farces. Network television had a hit on their hands with the George Reeves Superman show, carried over to some extent by earlier radio productions. But the comic book itself faced its first major hurdle: people just didn’t care anymore.

Times change, and so do the kinds of stories we like to tell each other. In 1961, Marvel Comics (formerly, Timely Comics) got into the superhero game in a big way with the introduction of Fantastic Four #1. This single issue began what enthusiasts call the silver age of comic books, and creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko didn’t stop there. Many other characters emerged from their Manhattan offices: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The Uncanny X-Men, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther, all created within the first ten years of the company’s resurgence. They even added an old figure from their distant past to the roster of the newly-minted Marvel Universe. Captain America is almost as old as Superman, but he’d been all but forgotten by fans until Stan Lee decided to pull him from the ice.

The medium exploded in popularity once more, and the 1970s saw advancements that began eschewing the now decades-old Comics Code Authority. DC, for instance, who initially struggled to keep up with Marvel’s perceived hipness, got into all the major social battles of the time, including equal rights, racism, drug addiction, and violence against women. The decade introduced some of the most compelling and sophisticated comic stories told to date, and Marvel and DC became twin powerhouses of an artform many had thought dead and buried.

In 1978, Warner Bros. produced what many consider to be the first serious superhero film, Superman: The Movie. Demand for the character and other DC properties climbed to dizzying heights. In the decade that followed, comics continued to mature, became darker and much more adult, featuring storylines and characters that took advantage of the public’s newfound love of antiheroes. Marvel made huge waves with the likes of The Punisher, Venom, and new takes on classic characters like Spider-Man, The X-men, and The Avengers. Over at DC, things got even more experimental, with major new series like Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke, not to mention the introduction of their Vertigo imprint, which exclusively publishes adult-only material

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A new collector’s market formed around special releases and big-stakes stories that reset the board, such as The Death of Superman and the first issue of Marvel’s five-variant-cover X-Men #1. Like so many other markets built on false commodity, however, the bubble eventually ruptured, and comics have seen a slow but steady decline in sales ever since. DC has faired pretty well historically, partially because they were acquired by Warner Bros. in 1969. Marvel, on the other hand, slipped into bankruptcy, and only barely pulled themselves out by the skin of their teeth.

By the late 1990s, the future of comic books was in question. It had become clear that the business of printing colorful heroes and edgy villains was on shaky ground, but the new millennium heralded in a trend few in the industry saw coming.

DC had always had hit-and-miss successes with their film division. Though 1978’s Superman and 1989’s Batman were big for their time and place, superhero movies were still widely considered risky business. In 1998, Marvel Entertainment co-produced a film based on their daywalking, vampire-slaying Blade character. Though the film did average box office, Marvel viewed it as a sign of bigger and better things to come. Two years later, they released an X-Men movie which fared much better, and two years after that, it was Spider-Man’s turn.

Marvel earned one success after another at the box office, creating new film-based iterations of classic characters like The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. But it wasn’t until 2008 and the release of a little movie called Iron Man that everything changed. At the time, Marvel Entertainment and producer Kevin Feige hatched an idea to do for their movies what Stan Lee had done for their comics back in the early ’60s, namely, they decided to turn them into a working shared universe. Marvel released a few key introduction movies and then bet the farm on 2012’s The Avengers.

The absolute financial and critical dominance of that movie was eclipsed only by its potential for more stories and even bigger box office hauls. Disney bought Marvel in 2009, adding significant distribution and funding prowess to the small company that had almost folded not ten years prior. Though DC and the WB have tried to match the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the decade ending 2019 was completely dominated—in one form or another, it seems—by characters created by Stan Lee and his successors.

But what about comic books themselves? Do people still read them? Do they still sell? More or less, they do, though even fans get the sense the comic divisions of the big publishers only exist to fuel their filmmaking endeavors. Marvel, DC, and others still know how to tell great stories, and they do it every single week, every month, every year. More major contributors to the industry include Darkhorse, Image, IDW, and Valiant. Comics are not now and have never been solely about superheroes, and the indie space in particular proves that this kind of storytelling is open and ready for all.

Regardless of how you feel about the dominance of comic-bookisms in our culture, the slow decline of the publishing industry beneath it, and the ultimate moral ambiguity of “good guys” who beat the crap out of “bad guys”, the fact remains that comics have been a force of societal transformation for over eighty years, longer in fact, when you factor in the storytelling traditions at play, some of which are as ancient as humankind itself. The first comic book, published in the 19th century, whatever it may have been, set a ball rolling that continues to, well, crush the life out of everything in its path.

Only one question needs to be asked at this point: who do you like better, Marvel, DC, or the bold and bombastic characters of some other powerhouse company? Sound off in the comments section below, guys. And continue to stay tuned all May for more superhero/supervillain themed articles and posts right here on Writing to be Read. Excelsior!


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Nashville Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, is available on Amazon now!

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Are there benefits to singing and rhyming verse for children?

Growing bookworks Jan 2020

Growing Bookworms

I love nursery rhymes and children’s poetry. When my boys were younger we used to listen to children’s songs and nursery rhymes in the car wherever we went. We used to sing along and I even bought them bells and shakers so that they could join in the music making.

One of Gregory’s favourite nursery rhymes was Aiken Drum, a popular Scottish folk song and nursery rhyme. It is believed to have its origins in a Jacobite song about the Battle of Sherifmuir (1715).  You can listen to a version of it here:

I find nursery rhymes very fascinating, particularly when I probe the origins of some of them. Ring a ring o’ Roses, for example, is alleged to have originated from the black plague. A rosy rash was a symptom of the plague and posies of herbs were carried by people as protection and to cover up the smell of the disease. Sneezing or coughing was a symptom once the disease had progressed and then the sick person usually died and so literally “fell down” dead.

I have often wondered, however, whether there are any specific and acknowledged benefits to be derived by small children from listening to nursery rhymes and being read to in rhyming verse. If I think of Dr Seuss books, they are all in rhyming verse and they are always punted as being a really good choice of early readers.

I decided a little bit of investigation was in order, especially, as my own books, co-authored with Michael, are written in rhyming verse. The experts listed the following benefits to singing nursery rhymes to your children and reading to them in rhyming verse:

  • Children love the sound of their parents voices, so singing by a caregiver calms and sooths a small child;
  • Children enjoy the changes and variation in tone that result from singing and reading in rhyming verse. This helps inspire a love of language in children, thereby naturally increasing their desire to read and write;
  • Rhymes help children learn to identify the different sounds that make up a word, how to play with words, change them and pair them together which greatly aids learning how to read;
  • When reading in rhyming verse, most readers tend to speak clearly and slowly. This is beneficial to children as they are able to hear the way the words are formed properly;
  • Songs and rhymes have a positive impact on children’s language and literacy development;
  • Children that participate in singing and telling of nursery rhymes often learn to speak more quickly;
  • Rhyming teaches children about word families;
  • Rhyming teaches children the patterns and structures in spoken and written language;
  • Rhyming helps children learn how to spell as they realise the words that sound similar often share common letter sequences;
  • The repetition of rhymes helps build memory capabilities;
  • Nursery rhymes or other rhyming stories and tales help preserve your culture and create a bond between generations; children, parents and grandparents; and
  • Nursery rhymes and rhyming verse help children to hear a steady beat which researchers believe results in better reading skills.

I thought this was rather an impressive list of benefits and nursery rhymes and stories told in rhyming verse are such fun. So dust off your old nursery rhyme books and grab your Dr Seuss and other rhyming verse books and get going.

Happy reading and singing!

Just as an aside, Puff the magic Dragon is one of the nicest rhyming verse story books I’ve ever read.

 

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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Jeff’s Movie Reviews – DC Comics Gets Animated

Jeff's Movie Reviews

Cartoon Justice

by Jeff Bowles

This month on Writing to be Read, we’re exploring superheroes and supervillains, so for May’s movie review, I thought I’d discuss a lesser known corner of the major comic book film adaptation landscape.

DC Comics and their parent company/distribution overlord, Warner Bros., have gotten a bad rap for producing superhero films that simply don’t meet the bar established by their rival, Marvel Studios. Well allow me to clue you in on one area DC has Marvel beat: animated films. Direct-to-video, barely seen by non-fans, but actually pretty good and by and large, better than their big-screen live action cousins.

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Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

Warner’s animation division has a long history of excellent superhero storytelling. Warner Bros. has owned DC since the 1980s. It took Marvel two additional decades to receive studio backing from Disney, probably because Marvel was in bankruptcy until it started making bankable movies like Spider-Man and Iron Man. But back in the early 90s, Warner Bros. and DC created the Emmy-winning Batman the Animated Series, which still holds up as one of the greatest Saturday morning cartoons of all time. All these years later, that same group is still together. They have released over fifty (count them, fifty) feature-length animated films that cover all areas of the DC universe.

Whereas Marvel requires audiences to have prior knowledge of their storylines before going into any given sequel, the DC animated film series rarely contains that much connective tissue, except in their main Justice League storyline, which just wrapped up this week with the release of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. Now that’s spelled Apokolips rather than apocalypse; we’re talking a fire planet ruled over by Thanos-clone and best-dressed uber-villain of the year, Lord Darkseid. And that’s spelled Darkseid rather than dark side, because, well, he was created in the 1970s, and everyone in the comic industry at that time was on copious amounts of “powdered productivity”.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is an excellent animated film, one you may just skip if you’re not a fan. It’s got everything in it faithful DC-heads have come to expect. World-ending cataclysms, fists and superpowers and feats of incredible strength, magic and might, and more major character deaths than you can shake a batarang at.

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John Constantine saves the day in Apokolips War

John Constantine (that’s THE John Constantine, once played by Keanu Reeves in his own major film adaptation) is recruited by the Justice League to take down Darkseid for good. When things go terribly wrong, the population of Earth is more or less decimated, and it’s up to Constantine, a depowered Superman, and a small cast of other heroes to set things right.

Whether they do or not isn’t really the point. This small animated movie takes more risks with its characters than any big-screen Marvel romp. Perhaps because they can afford to. When I say there are a ton of unexpected deaths in this thing, I mean it. You never know who’s going to snuff it, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

The DC animated library is of much higher quality than you may expect. Most entries are made for adult fans, which is how you can justify an R-rating for Apokolips War. For crying out loud, these dying superheroes pop like balloons. Like bloody, spandex-clad, hope-to-see-you-in-the-reboot balloons.

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The Full Breadth of the DC Animated Universe

You wouldn’t want to sit your kid in front of Apokolips War, but the point is that over the course of more than fifty releases, the full breadth and scope of the DC universe has been on full display. We’ve gotten to see all corners and permutations, from Gotham City to Metropolis to outer space and DC‘s dark magical underbelly, loaded with lots and lots of characters the general public haven’t even heard of. If you want your DC education without sifting through stacks and stacks of old comics, these movies may be for you.

Marvel has a great reputation for entertaining if underwhelming storytelling, and right or wrong, they’re also perceived as being the light and enjoyable flip side of DC Comics and their brooding nature. To a certain extent, that reputation is in error. Read some comics from both companies in any given week and you’re likely to find tonal and narrative identicality.

So it’s kind of wonderful to have such a huge library of animated films that communicate what DC Comics is all about far better than their live action equivalents have done. Truth be told, I’d rather watch some of these cartoons than the likes of Batman v Superman or even the much-hyped huge disappointment that was Justice League.

You remember the Justice League movie? Yeah, not many people do, it seems.

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Do I Have Something on My Face?

But a good Justice League cartoon, now that I can get behind. The ending of Apokolips War is perhaps not as definitive as was advertised. Really, it’s just stage one of a massive retooling, but I’m fine with that. The legacy begun by that legendary Batman cartoon series from the early 90s is still in good hands, and you can pick out any one of these animated films and have a pretty good time with it. Plus, they’re all available for digital download and streaming.

Maybe animation isn’t your thing, and neither are comics or superheroes. But the truth is there is a massive installed fanbase that is ravenous for any new story from Warner Bros. Animation. These releases don’t do well financially in the larger sense, but every one of them takes great pleasure and care extoling the virtues of this kind of storytelling.

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and hundreds of other DC characters have gotten time in the limelight, a feat that will most certainly never be repeated in big-budget live action form. So maybe it’s a little silly to get invested in a bunch of cartoons, but if you have any love or curiosity for the full scope of what DC Comics has to offer, this is a great place to dig in and enjoy.

You weren’t planning on leaving the house anyway, were you? Oh, you were? Then stand six feet away and in that direction, please. I’m not Superman, you know.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Nashville Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, is available on Amazon now!

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Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


You can keep up on what Jeff’s been watching and catch all of his great movie reviews the third Friday of each month on Writing to be Read. Subscribe to email or follow on WordPress today.


Words to Live By – Look, Up in the Sky!

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The first Wednesday of every month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Look, Up in the Sky!

This month on Writing to be Read, we’ll be celebrating one of America’s original storytelling mediums, the comic book. In any other given year, one not smitten with the likes of COVID-19, May would see the release of the latest big-budget movies from Marvel and DC, their publishing divisions would be rolling out their next huge crossover events, and Free Comic Book Day would invite fans and newbies alike to visit their local comic shops and sample what’s available these days.

This year isn’t like any other year, of course. Practically everyone on the planet is being asked to make sacrifices to keep themselves and others safe. Superheroes are great at making sacrifices. In fact, you could say it’s their most important superpower. The truth is we don’t have to go out to the movies or visit a comic shop to witness feats of incredible valor and strength. All we have to do is look at the people around us. In fact, all we have to do is look in the mirror.

Now I know what you may be thinking, especially if you’ve never been a fan of the medium or if you’ve got no love for spandex-clad do-gooders on the silver screen. It is a certainty you’ve noticed Hollywood has pledged a good deal of their resources to the production of films and television series based on superheroes and supervillains. I have to tell you, as a longtime fan, it sort of gives me a thrill. When I was growing up, only nerds liked comics, spotty young men and women who argued with each other about who would win in a fight, Batman or Spider-Man, who dwelt in their parents basements and only went into the sun to hiss at it and then stalk around Lon-Chaney-style, searching for more comics.

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That stereotype isn’t even close to accurate, but look, up until about fifteen years ago, it was supremely uncool to be into this stuff. Which is why I’m so pleased I inherited an absolute passion for it.

My brother, Chris, is ten years older than me, quite an age difference by the standards of most families with only two children. He started reading and collecting comics around about the time I was born, and when I was old enough to read them, he got me hooked as well. I learned so much about my favorite comic characters from cartoons and movies, but it was really Chris who taught me everything I needed to know, who allowed me to glimpse these worlds as they really are: static on the page, but full of life in your mind.

The sum total value of that knowledge is this: comic books are fun, colorful, dynamic, easy on the eyes, and short. Their stories take place over twenty-two pages, and they’re almost always about doomsday scenarios and strong, noble crusaders who nip them in the bud. I remember going through stacks and stacks of my brother’s collection, marveling at the artwork, the boldness and speed of the actual storytelling. Some of the best memories of my life involve curling up with my own short stack of comics. I looked up to Chris with all my heart. I still do. He’s a personal hero of mine.

Lots of people have analyzed the relationship between comics and myth, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, a modern manifestation of our desire for legends and tall tales. But I honestly think people’s love of superheroes, especially in today’s world, stems from a basic psychological need for good examples, guiding lights. If you venture into the world right now, you’ll see that heroes are everywhere. They’re the doctors and nurses staffing our hospitals, putting their lives on the line so we can be happy and healthy. They’re the people who continue to produce and provide us with food, the butcher at the grocery store, the delivery guy who gets your pizza to you right on time.

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Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Even you, who must battle fear just to run a few weekly errands. And rather than seeing these fictional figures as a breed totally outside our experience, it might be more helpful to analyze their existence in relation to our deepest desires. Maybe we can see ourselves in the likes of Superman and Captain America. It doesn’t take much to look beyond yourself and lend people a helping hand when they need it, and this is the basic nature of the superhero.

Sure, their exploits are silly sometimes, even nonsensical. They wear ridiculous costumes and rattle off cheesy one-liners. You could even argue they set a bad example for young people, because no matter what seems to occur, they almost always solve every problem with their fists. But the truth is the modern world needs them. Realistically speaking, we’ve all got a good guy dwelling in our hearts and minds, and it’s possible, if we really try, to take courage and strength, and at the best of times, to let our inner super shine.

A lot of folks criticize Marvel and DC movies for their overreliance on end-of-the-world scenarios, but it’s all a subconscious thing, isn’t it? We’ve all had our personal doomsdays, have all needed to be strong when fate was against us and luck simply was not on our side. It’s a quaint pastime, reading comic books. There’s nothing magical or mystical about it. Just the enjoyment of disappearing into another world for about twenty minutes, and then reaching over to your brother’s stack and picking out another adventure.

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We here at Writing to Be Read believe strongly in literacy and the spread of a better kind of virus, good storytelling. My storytelling mode of choice is often comics, which taught me right and wrong, strength and courage in the face of adversity, and which allowed me to form a connection with my brother that I value and cherish to this day. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Mom and Dad, who bought us all those comics for all those years. As a writer, I learned a great deal of the craft from this medium. As a human being, I learned everything I needed to know about how to treat others with dignity and respect.

If nothing else, comics are clearly a great bonding opportunity, and in their purest expression, they allow us to feel, if only for a little while, like we too can bend steel, soar through the air, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Have a wonderful May, everybody, and tune in all month long for more superhero and supervillain themed posts and articles. We’re all in this together, always have been and always will be. You don’t have to wear a cape and save my life to be a hero in my book. All you’ve got to do is turn to your fellow man, decide you can help, and then do everything in your power to make it happen. Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

Up, up and away, everybody.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, Nashville Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, is available on Amazon now!

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Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!



Want to be sure not to miss any of Jeff’s “Words to Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found this useful or just entertaining, please share.


May: Superheroes & Supervillains

Superheros.Supervillains

In May, on Writing to be Read, our theme is Superheroes & Supervillains in celebration of comic books and comic universes, and all that it has evolved into over the years. Comic books aren’t really in my wheelhouse. I’m more of a Saturday morning cartoon type of gal, with Underdog and Mighty Mouse as my favorite heroes, and I still watch reruns of the original Batman series with Adam West and Burt Ward on ME TV.  But I wanted to run this theme because I think there is a little bit of superhero in every protagonist we write, and a little bit of supervillain in every adversary.

Because I’m not versed in the comic universes, I’m turning to others, who know comics and superheroes much better than I. Jeff Bowels is much younger and wiser in this area, and he will be offering us his expertise and insight on the evolution of the comic and its characters this month, as well as a look at the similarities and differences between the characters of the Marvel and DC universes. In addition, my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest this month is international bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson, who also authored the book, Enemies and Allies. My supporting interview will be with comic author and novelist, Jason Henderson, who most recently authored Young Captain Nemo. Both of these authors appeared at the recent WordCrafter 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference and they know what it takes to create superheroes and supervillains in their own science fiction and fantasy writing. My review for The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows, by David Perlmutter posted last Friday, and I will also be reviewing Echo One: Tales From the Secret Chronicles anthology from WordFire Press. And don’t miss “Mind Fields” this month, where Art Rosch will give us a piece on the character development of villains.

Comics are based on serialized art, and Famous Funnies is considered by many to be the first comic book, coming out in 1933 and publishing until 1955. DC‘s Superman got his start in a comic strip, and he was the first character to wear a cape, setting the image for many of the superheroes that have followed. He made his debut in his own comic book in 1939, the same year that Marvel launched Timely Comics. Not long after, DC came out with Batman in Detective Comics #27, the most sought after comic among collectors and fans alike, and he and Superman both celebrated their 80th birthdays last year.

Other superhero characters followed, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman, who along with Batman and and Superman, came to be known as the Big Seven of DC’s Justice League, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl (now Invisible Woman), Thing and Human Torch, and Marvel’s X-Men: Professor X, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel (later known as Archangel), Beast and Marvel Girl (a.k.a. Pheonix/Dark Pheonix). And let’s not forget Marvel’s Hulk, Spiderman, and Ironman, Wolverine, and DC’s Swamp Thing.

It’s interesting to see how the characters, and comics have evolved into other forms of media. While comic books remain popular, as the turnout for any Comicon can demonstrate, today we see comics and comic book characters in the form of graphic novels, and they’ve made the jump to visual media, first in television, and then in film. We’ve also seen the rise of the anti-hero, giving us characters such as Dead Pool, who are the epitome of the reluctant hero in every hero’s journey. (See my review of Dead Pool (2016) here.) Although superhero, (and anti-hero), movies had a lull in popularity during the 1980s and 90s, they’ve seen a rise during the 21st century and are big money at the box office today. Statista claims that the superhero movies of 2019 grossed 3.2 billion dollars in combined domestic revenue.

However, we can only weigh the strength and goodness of the superhero by the evilness and capabilities of the villains they face. DC wove the history behind how Batman’s first adversary came to become a supervillain, the notorious Joker. Just as superheroes evolve and change, so do supervillains, and the Joker is no exception. He has changed and evolved over the years, but not always on the same evolutionary time table as superheroes. (See Jeff Bowels’ review of  Joker from 2019.) But even with a supervillain, who is super-evil, there must always be a grain of humanity that makes them vulnerable. They weren’t just born evil. They have tragic histories that have twisted them into the super-evil, hard hearted villains that they are, and that makes them relatable on some level, even if we can’t bring ourselves to root for them and breath a sigh of relief when they meet their demise.

The heroes and villains in genre fiction may not have super powers or be invincible, but they do share certain qualities with the superheroes and supervillains of the comic book world, like altruism (for heroes), and selfishness and greed (for villains), and basic humanity (for all). They have a lot to teach us about making relatable heroes and villains we can love to hate. Please join us this month as we explore the world of comics, superheroes and supervillains, on Writing to be Read.

I shared above that my favorite comic superheroes as a kid were Mighty Mouse, Underdog and Batman. Let me know in the comments who your favorite superheroes or supervillains are, and why they are your favorite in the comments. Let’s talk superheroes and supervillains.


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“The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows”: Everything you always wanted to know about the history of animation.

The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows

If you are a cartoon buff or just miss Saturday morning cartoons, The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows, by David Perlmutter could prove to be a valuable resource. Who created them? When did they air? Who produced them? Who played the character voice? Summaries of many of these programs are included.

This book has animated series from Abbott and Costello to Zorro. Opening the pages of this book made me feel like Saturday morning cartoons all over again. I found the histories of all of my favorite animated series within its pages; Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?; Casper the Friendly Ghost; The Jetsons; Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids; Bugs Bunny; The Flintstones; and The Smurfs. It even features School House Rock.

There is sure to be something for fans big and small, and they aren’t all from out of the distant past. Younger generations still harboring that inner child may place higher value on more recent animated series, including American Dad; King of the Hill; Southpark; The Simpsons; and Beavis and Butthead.

Of course, it features all of the super heroes from both Marvel and D.C. Comics, from Flash Gordan; Teen Titans; Spider-Man; Superman; Batman and Robin; Wolverine and the X-Men; The Fantastic Four; and even Mighty Mouse and Underdog. Although, none of them have series named for them because they are the bad guys, all our favorite super villains are in there, too.

The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Series is an invaluable resource if comics are your thing, providing an overview which illustrates how animated series and literature hold a valuable place in the evolution of American entertainment outlets. Filled with a plethora of information on the evolution of animation and comic characters. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


WordCrafter Update: Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference & Short Fiction Contest Submission Deadline Approaching

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WordCrafter

April has been a busy month for WordCrafter. The 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference is tomorrow, April 28th. Wow! Even during all this Stay at Home stuff, time has just flown by. I can’t believe the day has already arrived. I hope everyone will join us. If you didn’t recieve an invite you can click on the link above to sign up, (just click on ‘Going’.) That gets you into the free Facebook event portion of the conference, where there will be a video or live stream presentation every hour, as well as author takeovers where you can meet some talented authors and converse via the comment section.

But that’s not all. You can also click on ‘Find Tickets’ to gain access to the interactive portion of the conference on Zoom. (Please do this ahead of time, so I have time to get the access information to you.) This portion of the conference will feature interactive workshops and panel discussions that you won’t want to miss, including the Keynote with Kevin J. Anderson. Each individual session is $5 or you can get an ‘All Events Pass’ and attend all of the sessions for $50. I know many of us don’t have an abundance of money right now, so I tried to keep this affordable.

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WordCrafter’s 2020 Virtual Writing Conference

We have 22 presenters, (you can learn more about our talented presenters here), offering presentations, workshops and panel discussions.

  • Opening Introductions
  • “The Gateway to the Unknown: Poetry Thought Shop” with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer – 9:10 am
  • “The Art & Craft of Writing” workshop with L. Jagi Lamplighter – 10 am
  • “Promoting Your Book BIG” with Dave Wolverton – 10:10 am
  • Short Fiction Panel: Lamplighter; Raine; Maberry; DeMarco; Wilber; Killiany-11 am
  • “The Power of Motivation: What your characters do and why” with Mario Acevedo – 11:10 am
  • “Visceral Story Beginnings” workshop with Sean Taylor – 12 pm
  • “Story Ideas and the Choices You Make” with Jason Henderson – 12:10 pm
  • World Building Panel: Lamplighter; Raine; Maberry; De Marco; Killiany – 1 pm
  • “Working with Other People: How to direct others successfully” with Anthony Dobranski – 1:10 pm
  • “Writing Across Genres” workshop with Chris Barili – 2 pm
  • “Creating Villains We Love To Hate” with Art Rosch – 2:10 pm
  • Keynote – “The Popcorn Theory of Success” by Kevin J. Anderson – 3 pm
  • “How to Swim Upstream: When you’re not mainstream in your market/genre” with Anthony Dobranski – 3:10 pm
  • The Ins & Outs of Writing Media Tie-Ins Panel: DeCandido; Maberry; Nash; Killiany – 4 pm
  • “Short Fiction” with L.D. Colter – 4:10 pm
  • Book Marketing Panel: Nash; Henderson; Wolverton; Alatorre – 5 pm
  • “Writing in the Face of Adversity” with Chris Barili – 5:10 pm
  • “The Savage Horror of Back Cover Copy” workshop with Anthony Dobranski – 6 pm
  • “The Importance of Promotion” with Bobby Nash – 6:10 pm
  • “Business Class Tarot” workshop with Anthony Dobranski – 7 pm
  • “The Business of Writing” with Keith R.A. DeCandido – 7:10 p.m.
  • “Bringing the Funny: How to Apply Humor in Your Writing” workshop with Jody Lynn Nye – 8 pm
  • Closing Ceremonies

Ghost Miner

While things have been busy in preparation for the conference, I don’t want anyone to forget the fast approaching deadline for the “WordCrafter 2020 Short Fiction Contest”, on April 30th. (See Full Submission Guidelines).There’s still time to submit your story, so put on the finishing touches and polish it up. I’m dying to read your entry!


ATA Cover

The great news is that Ask the Authors is finished and finally being released. It’s been a long haul and it was quite a project, but the result is a quality author’s reference no author should be without.

Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/mdzvwO


WordCrafter Paranormal Anthology

Last, but not least, Whispers of the Past is on sale for .99 cents starting tomorrow, April 28th, 2020 through Thursday, April 30th at all outlets.

Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/38EGEL


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Sue Vincent shares her thoughts on poetry and a review

Treasuring Poetry

Today, I am delighted to welcome author, poet and amazing blogger, Sue Vincent, to Writing to be Read as my April guest for Treasuring Poetry.

Sue shares a lot of her own poetry on her blog, Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Sue also has an amazingly poetic dog, Ani, who has a few books in her own right. This is a link to Sue’s latest Ani link: https://scvincent.com/2020/04/23/the-small-dog-on-guard/.

Sue also writes some more serious poetry and other books which you can find along the right had side of her blog.

Take it away, Sue.

Sue Vincent’s thoughts on poetry

I honestly couldn’t choose a single poem. It all depends on the mood I am in for I love poetry, quite literally, from the sublime to the ridiculous. It is a love affair that started early, with Dr Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson and Marriott Edgar. It was probably Edgar who inspired my love of history, for after learning his irreverent verses, you really had to get the true story. For example, the Magna Carta is possibly the most important document in English history and one of the earliest legal assertions of human rights. The story as I first learned it from Marriott Edgar had King John signing his name by dipping his pen in the jam and concludes with a verse that is possibly more apt today that it has ever been:

And it’s through that there Magna Charter,

As were signed by the Barons of old,

That in England to-day we can do what we like,

So long as we do what we’re told.

Magna Carta by Marriott Edgar

If I had to choose a single work, it would be the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a series of quatrains written a thousand years ago in Persia. My mother gave me a small, cloth-bound volume that her father had given to her many years earlier. He had carried the book when he fought in the jungles of Burma during the war, so the book itself meant a lot to me and travelled everywhere in my handbag so I would always have something to read. The book began to disintegrate at around the time a digital version could be had. It is now safe at home… and the Rubaiyat was the first thing I ever downloaded.

The book contained two translations by Edward FitzGerald. Subsequent translations have been more literally correct, but it is this early work that holds the magic for me, as much of the imagery is quite magical. Many of the quatrains are well known but taken out of context they lose a great deal. Perhaps the most famous is:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I have read the Rubaiyat so many times that I probably know FitzGerald’s translation by heart. Even so, my understanding has shifted and evolved as I have aged, yet I am still pondering many of the questions these verses raise. The verses constitute both a philosophy and a quest, and can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on what the reader brings to the poetry. Some passages are sheer beauty, others almost heartbreaking…and yet others seem as powerful and full of mystery as any magical rite:

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate

I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,

And many Knots unravel’d by the Road ;

But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.

 

There was a Door to which I found no Key :

There was a Veil past which I could not see :

Some little Talk awhile of ME and THEE

There seem’d – and then no more of THEE and ME.

 

While scholars still debate whether Omar was deeply mystical or irreligious, I believe he was anti-dogmatic and cannot be read literally. He was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet and used symbolism throughout his work, touched by humour and underpinned with a love of life in all its glory. One of my favourite passages is the Kuza Nama (The Book of Pots):

Listen again. One evening at the close

Of Ramazán, ere the better Moon arose,

In that old Potter’s Shop, I stood alone

With the clay Population round in Rows.

 

And, strange to tell, among the Earthen Lot

Some could articulate, while others not:

And suddenly one more impatient cried –

“Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

 

Then said another – “Surely not in vain

My substance from the common Earth was ta’en,

That He who subtly wrought me into Shape

Should stamp me back to common Earth again.”

 

Another said – “Why, ne’er a peevish Boy

Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;

Shall He that made the Vessel in pure Love

And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!”

 

None answer’d this ; but after Silence spake

A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:

“They sneer at me for leaning all awry;

What! Did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

 

There is something about these verses… in spite of the inaccuracies of the translation… that has intrigued and inspired for a thousand years. There is a passion in the words, they question belief, the nature of life and truth and make you think about what you believe. I would be happy indeed if I thought that any words I might pen would still capture heart and mind a thousand years from now!

 

Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits – and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

 

Ah, Moon of my Delight who know’st no wane,

The Moon of Heav’n is rising once again:

How oft hereafter rising shall she look

Through this same Garden after me – in vain!

 

And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass

Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,

And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot

Where I made one-turn down an empty Glass!

Review of Life Lines: Poems from a Reflection

What Amazon says

“The pen paints the souls longing in jewel tones.”A collection of fifty two poems of life, love and inspiration.There are joys for which we cannot find expression, moments that have a depth of emotion that can only be shared in images. It is here that poetry comes into its own, for the pictures we paint with words can conjure all the emotions of the human heart. From solitude to passion, from aspiration to the quest for the soul’s inner light, we seek to find ways to share our journey through life, to witness our footsteps as we pass through its shifting sands and cast a reflection on time itself. The poet is both mirror and reflection, framing the images of a human life and giving them a beating heart.

My review

I love poetry and I read a lot of poems and poetry books and I found the poems in this amazing little book to be quite profound. Sue Vincent touches on all aspects of life, including the sadder and more emotionally difficult aspects such as loss of a loved one, in a beautifully poignant and yet positive and uplifting way which make them satisfying and wonderfully uplifting.

Most of these poems are written in freestyle form with a couple in rhyming verse. The poet has matched the style well to the content of the poem and the rhyming verse poems present the more light hearted and upbeat toned poems.

A few short extracts that I found particularly impactful are as follows:

“The pen paints the souls longing
In jewel tones.” from Purpose

“There were flowers,
Three red roses,
Red as life,
Placed in a cold hand,
One for each heart
Saying a final farewell.
When the tears fall,
There are always flowers.” from Flowers

“Two ravens whisper in my ear,
As Thought and Memory begin.

Within the darkness of their wings
Stir images, both dark and bright,
That dance within the secret heart
And quiet hours of the night.” from Odin’s Ravens [my favourite poem in this collection]

“My pillow held the hollow where you lay,
With love glazed eyes that held me,
Watching as the wildness took me,
Smiling up at me.” from Memory [intensely poignant poem]

Purchase Life Lines: Poems from a reflection

 

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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Better Call Saul: Part One Of A Review

Art's Visual Media Review2

BETTER CALL SAUL:

A Collision Of Two Worlds

When Breaking Bad appeared on television it became a peak moment in the history of the medium.

The world may be fucked up but television has never been better. If you use your remote with discernment, you will find incredible things to watch through your three hundred channel cable box. In its seventy year reign over the American psyche, there has never been more or better television. Nor has the human race been closer to mass tragedy. The importance of television expands as we get quarantined in our homes. TV’s always been important. Now it’s running a close second to Survival itself. I’m not sure we wouldn’t go insane as we wait for the stay-at-home orders to lift. We need TV. Desperately.

The Arts often flourish in times of decadence and turmoil. When a civilization becomes ill, a host of artists arise to attempt its healing. When Breaking Bad ascended to the pinnacle of great art, it created a new space for the production of yet more great TV.

I refer to the spin-off of Breaking Bad, the superb series, Better Call Saul.

We first met Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. He turned up as the criminal defense attorney for Walter White and his confederates. His character was somewhat clownish. I made the unconscious surmise that series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould did not take Saul Goodman seriously.

I was wrong. When Breaking Bad was seen and done I grieved because there was nothing as great to continue watching. Then Better Call Saul appeared and once again I was taken into the wry, dark, ironic world of Gilligan and Gould.

Better Call Saul has just completed its fifth season and may be ramping up for the sixth. Saul Goodman is the sly pseudonym taken by attorney Jimmy McGill. “It’s all good, man.” Jimmy himself explains the pun of his name. He’s a bit of a wild man, an outsider in his profession. Some would call him a shyster or ambulance chaser. He gives himself to the lost souls of the streets. He represents clients who are too dirty to be touched by more principled attorneys. For “principled” read snobbish. Saul doesn’t mind getting grubby.

The story arc of Better Call Saul is one that exposes the inner workings of two distinct worlds. One is the world of the drug cartel. The other is the world of middle class America. It is Saul Goodman who provides the bridge between these two worlds. In Breaking Bad it was Walter White who played the fulcrum character who bridged those worlds. Walter was a high school chemistry teacher who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, turned to the manufacture of methamphetamine to provide for his family when he’s gone.

Saul is pressured into representing a Cartel lieutenant, a terrifying character named Lalo Salamanca. It is the Salamanca Cartel that is at war with other cartels for control of the drug trade in the Southwest. The series takes place in Albuquerque and the scenery is full of vast desert tracts. Out there, in the desert, dead bodies routinely disappear.

Albuquerque is a pleasant city, but its location makes it a prime route for drugs smuggled through Mexico. It’s home to the drug barons who maintain operations on both sides of the border. Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, is drawn inexorably into the cartel’s workings. In the first few seasons the conflict centers around Jimmy’s relationship with his brother, Charles “Chuck” McGill. Chuck is a famous and powerful corporate lawyer who is afflicted with a bizarre form of OCD. He’s allergic to electricity.

Jimmy takes care of Chuck when his allergies render him completely helpless. Jimmy wants to emulate his big brother. He’s put himself through law school and waits to pass the Bar Exam. Chuck does everything to sabotage Jimmy. From Chuck’s lofty position in the world of the courts there is no place for a clown like Jimmy McGill. Chuck’s brother is an embarrassment. Jimmy is hurt and bewildered by Chuck’s hatred and malice.

Lucky for Jimmy, he forms a relationship with attorney Kim Wexler. It’s Kim who keeps Jimmy grounded. Without her steadying influence he might spin off into some outer limits of legal brinksmanship. It is in fact Jimmy’s “edge” that attracts Kim. Behind her business suit and neatly wrapped pony tail is a wild child who savors the antidote to boredom that Jimmy provides.

Like Jimmy, the relationship itself often flirts with disaster. In spite of Jimmy’s ‘danse macabre’ the couple survives with their love intact. This love, this loyalty and unconditional regard, is the glue of the series. As long as Jimmy and Kim love each other, things will be all right.

Things will work out.

Tune in to Part Two of my review of Better Call Saul on the last Friday in May.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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“Indomitable”: A Drastic Shift in Reality

Indomitable-Generic

What’s a girl to do when her boyfriend shifts the world into a comic book reality where half the population has super powers, and transforms himself into a superhero? Find out in J.B. Garner’s Indomitable.

Dr. Irene Roman finds herself in just such a situation when her boyfriend and fellow scientist, Dr. Eric Flynn decides to shape reality to his own liking with his research, (and hers). The rational Irene that she has always been knows that Eric must be stopped and she’s the only one who can stop him, but there is something pulling at another part of her that makes her want to embrace the new Irene and the new world. In fact, many around her seem to be accepting this new world blindly, and some who are “Pushed” even have newfound abilities and superhuman powers, but not all are using them for the greater good. It seems the world has gone crazy in this new reality, and Irene must find a way to put things back the way they were.

Skillfully crafted to suspend disbelief and draw readers in, sprinkled with comic book humor to lighten up this tale of world salvation gone awry. I give Indomitable five quills.

Five Quills

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Indomitable-Push-Chronicles-Book-1-ebook/dp/B076G9JS93/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Indomitable+Garner&qid=1586050754&s=books&sr=1-1


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.