May the Fourth Be With You in 2017!

star-wars-40th-logoHey, Panatics! First off, let me apologize for the lack of activity around here. I don’t usually mention my “day job” as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader—“day job” being in quotes because my work hours are very flexible—but April turned out to be a really busy month for me. And believe me, when you work a job that has feast-or-famine assignment periods, you grab what you can get and focus on that to pay the bills.

Also, there’s some Pandora Zwieback novel or something I’m working on… 😉

Anyway, if you’re a science fiction fan, you probably know what the headline of this post means—yup, today is Star Wars Day, that annual celebration of George Lucas’s legendary franchise that retook the world by storm in December 2015 with the box office mega-success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (aka Star Wars: Episode VII), which in turn set the stage for last December’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the “heist film” prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope that explained how Princess Leia got the plans to the original Death Star. And now this year we’ve got Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi to look forward to! It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, isn’t it?

But what’s Star Wars Day all about? you ask. To explain this occasion, we look to the official Star Wars website:

“‘May the 4th be with you.’ What started as pun warmly shared by fans has become a full-fledged Star Wars holiday: Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away…. Once the Internet allowed Star Wars fans around the world to connect with one another, May the 4th soon became a grassroots tradition each year, with fans online and offline proclaiming it Star Wars Day.”

Goth-VadersAs for why we’d be celebrating Star Wars Day at Zwieback Central…well, it’s because I know how to take advantage of a promotional opportunity, that’s why!

What you see here is a sketch cover I drew in 2015, in time for The Force Awakens’ debut (click on the image to embiggen). It depicts Pan as an original Star Wars character: Darth Pandoricus! And standing behind her is her best friend, Sheena McCarthy, as the dreaded Lady She’naa. Hey, it only makes sense that a couple of Goth chicks would want to be dark ladies of the Sith!

For those of you unfamiliar with Pan—just in case you stumbled across the above illustration during your Internet journeys—allow me to provide you with some background:

pan_comic_0Pan—the star of Zwieback in my young adult novel series The Saga of Pandora Zwieback—is a 16-year-old Goth girl who’s spent the last decade being treated for mental health problems because she can see monsters. It’s only after she meets Annie that Pan discovers she’s never been ill—her so-called “monstervision” is actually a supernatural gift that allows her to see into Gothopolis, the not-so-mythical shadow world that exists right alongside the human world. You’ll find Annie battling evil in the following titles:

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A free, downloadable comic that serves as an introduction to Pan and Annie—with an 8-page story written by me and illustrated by Eliseu Gouveia—as well as Pan’s first novel, Blood Feud (via a pair of preview chapters).

blood_feudBlood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1: This critically acclaimed novel is the beginning of Pan’s story, explaining how she, her parents and friends, and Annie are drawn into a conflict among warring vampire clans searching for the key to an ultimate weapon (or so the legend goes)—a key that just so happens to have been delivered to the horror-themed museum owned by Pan’s father. It’s a character-driven action-fest that leads immediately into the second novel:

Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2: Pan and Annie face even greater challenges as the vampire clans draw up plans to go to war with humanity. Leading the charge is a fallen angel named Zaqiel, whose previous attempt at subjugating the world was stopped by Annie—who, back in the day, was Zaqiel’s lover!

pan_annualThe Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1: A spinoff from the novel series, this 56-page, full-color comic special finds the teenaged Goth adventuress battling vampires and a jealous, man-stealing siren. It features stories by me and Sholly Fisch (Scooby-Doo Team-Up), art by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0), comic-art legend Ernie Colon (Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld), and Elizabeth Watasin (Charm School), and cover art by award-winning artist Henar Torinos (Mala Estrella).

Blood Feud, Blood Reign, and the Pan Annual are available in print and digital formats. Pandora Zwieback #0 is a digital exclusive. Visit their respective product pages for ordering information, as well as sample pages and chapters.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Rogue One again…

May the Fourth Be With You!

If you’re a science fiction fan, you know what the headline means—yup, today is Star Wars Day, that annual celebration of George Lucas’s legendary franchise that retook the world by storm last December with the box office mega-success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (aka Star Wars: Episode VII), which in turn set the stage for this coming December’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the “heist film” prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope that explains how Princess Leia got the plans to the original Death Star. It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, isn’t it?

To explain this special occasion, we look to the official Star Wars website:

“May the 4th kicks off a season of celebration, particularly since the month of May has always been important to Star Wars fans. The six live-action movies of the Star Wars saga debuted in May (starting with the original Star Wars on May 25, 1977). The month of May includes George Lucas’ birthday (May 14, 1944), and has been the traditional start date of the popular Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World Resort.”

So, how come I’m celebrating Star Wars Day here, at the home of monster hunter Pandora Zwieback? Because I know how to take advantage of a promotional opportunity, that’s why!

Goth-Vaders

What you see here is a sketch cover I drew last December, in time for The Force Awakens’ debut. It depicts Pan as an original Star Wars character: Darth Pandoricus! And standing behind her is her best friend, Sheena McCarthy, as the dreaded Lady She’naa. After all, it only makes sense that a couple of Goth chicks would want to be dark ladies of the Sith!

For those of you unfamiliar with Pan—just in case you stumbled across the above illustration during your Internet journeys—allow me to provide you with some background:

Pan—the star of Zwieback in my young adult novel series The Saga of Pandora Zwieback—is a 16-year-old Goth girl who’s spent the last decade being treated for mental health problems because she can see monsters. It’s only after she meets Annie that Pan discovers she’s never been ill—her so-called “monstervision” is actually a supernatural gift that allows her to see into Gothopolis, the not-so-mythical shadow world that exists right alongside the human world. You’ll find Annie battling evil in the following titles:

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A free, downloadable comic that serves as an introduction to Pan and Annie—with an 8-page story written by me and illustrated by Eliseu Gouveia—as well as Pan’s first novel, Blood Feud (via a pair of preview chapters).

Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1: This critically acclaimed novel is the beginning of Pan’s story, explaining how she, her parents and friends, and Annie are drawn into a conflict among warring vampire clans searching for the key to an ultimate weapon (or so the legend goes)—a key that just so happens to have been delivered to the horror-themed museum owned by Pan’s father. It’s a character-driven action-fest that leads immediately into the second novel:

Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2: Pan and Annie face even greater challenges as the vampire clans draw up plans to go to war with humanity. Leading the charge is a fallen angel named Zaqiel, whose previous attempt at subjugating the world was stopped by Annie—who, back in the day, was Zaqiel’s lover!

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1: A spinoff from the novel series, this 56-page, full-color comic special finds the teenaged Goth adventuress battling vampires and a jealous, man-stealing siren. It features stories by me and Sholly Fisch (Scooby-Doo Team-Up), art by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0), comic-art legend Ernie Colon (Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld), and Elizabeth Watasin (Charm School), and cover art by award-winning artist Henar Torinos (Mala Estrella).

Blood Feud, Blood Reign, and the Pan Annual are available in print and digital formats. Pandora Zwieback #0 is a digital exclusive. Visit their respective product pages for ordering information, as well as sample pages and chapters.

Darth Zwieback: The Vampire Strikes Back

That’s right, Star Wars fans, today is the U.S. release date for Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens—the latest entry in the space-fantasy series that changed blockbuster movies forever. So, what’s an epic space opera got to do with Pandora Zwieback? Well, who better to be Dark Ladies of the Sith than a couple of Goth girls like Pan and her bestest friend, Sheena McCarthy—right? And with Marvel publishing blank “sketch covers” for its Star Wars titles, the Darth Vader #1 blank was, I thought, the perfect canvas for my latest “masterpiece”:

Goth-Vaders

 

Surprised I’d try to tie in Pan to the biggest sci-fi movie franchise of all time? As a wise Muppet once said, “There is no try. Only do…or do not.” 😀 Also, I was in a drawing kind of mood, and once the sketch idea popped into my head I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how Pan and Sheena would look in the Star Wars universe.

So, hey, Marvel, when do the girls get their own spin-off series…?

I Am the Author, And You Will Obey Me…

As an addendum to the recent series of posts about the creation of Pandora Zwieback–related covers for books and comics, I thought you’d be interested in seeing a truly odd choice for subject matter…

Larkin-Capaldi-Me

What you see here is a pencil sketch by “Pandora Zwieback” cover-painting legend Bob Larkin, drawn on a blank “sketch cover” that Dynamite Entertainment published as a variant for the second issue of their Doc Savage comic series. Only Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, doesn’t appear on the cover. Instead, you’ve got actor Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Torchwood: Children of Earth) in costume as his most recent, world-famous role: Doctor Who. And standing in front of him, looking rather dapper in his black ensemble, top hat, and John Lennon sunglasses, is…me. In the garb I wear to conventions and book festivals in order to draw attention to the StarWarp Concepts booth.

Yeah, I was surprised by this, myself. But as Bob explained, he was drawing a bunch of Doc Savage sketch covers commissioned by fans—including the one done for me, teaming Doc with our adventurous Ms. Zwieback—and had a blank left over. So, liking my con outfit and aware of my fannish love for Doctor Who—I even once got to write a short story for a licensed Doctor Who anthology, as I discussed in this post and this other post at the StarWarp Concepts blog—Bob decided to combine the two, just for the hell of it.

Well, I certainly love it. But I have to ask: With my black outfit and goatee, standing next to the Doctor, does this make me a future incarnation of his oldest enemy, the Master? Only time may tell…

Pandora Zwieback: A Team-Up That Will Never Happen

And now for something completely different. Following the recent run of posts about the creation of the covers for the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, IndyFest Magazine #85, and the comic books The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0 and The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, I thought you’d be interested in a different sort of cover-art story—for a onetime crossover of characters you wouldn’t expect!

Painter Bob Larkin, in case you didn’t know, is an art legend whose paintings have graced a ton of covers, movie posters, and trading cards; his covers for Marvel Comics—including Dazzler #1, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Planet of the Apes, The Hulk!, Haunt of Horror, and Monsters of the Movies—are instantly recognizable by longtime collectors, even if they didn’t know that he was the artist. But what you may not be aware of—unless you’re a fan of 1930s pulp-fiction heroes—is that he’s primarily regarded as one of the top Doc Savage artists in the world. Probably the #2 Doc painter of all time, right behind his friend and mentor, James Bama, who established Doc’s iconic look of cropped, widow-peaked hair and ripped shirts in the 1970s, when he was painting the covers for Bantam Books’ reprints of Doc’s pulp-era adventures.

James Bama's 1970s cover for the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze.

James Bama’s 1970s cover for the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze.

Created in 1933 by editors at publisher Street and Smith and developed by pulp-fiction writer-for-hire Lester Dent (under the house name Kenneth Robeson), Clark “Doc” Savage Jr. was the king of the pulp adventurers: a multitalented genius whose superhuman muscles were outmatched only by his incredible brain. In fact, Doc was so superhuman that the creators of a certain Man of Steel “borrowed” a few elements in the development of their own character—where do you think the first name Clark, and the Fortress of Solitude, came from? Doc had them both first. Aided by five associates who were experts in their fields—but whose knowledge of each field still couldn’t surpass Doc’s—and his two-fisted cousin, Patricia, Doc fought all manner of bad guys and madmen, and built a fanbase that continues to grow to this day.

In the 1970s, Bantam Books acquired the reprint rights to Doc’s adventures, and it was Bama’s eye-catching covers that grabbed the attention of a new generation of readers (me being among them). When Bama departed the series, he left some pretty big shoes to fill, but Bantam’s art director knew exactly who could fill them: Bob Larkin. Just take a look at these covers (just three of many), and you’ll know Bob was the right artist for the right job.

Larkin-Doc-CoversSo, you ask, what does all this Doc Savage talk have to do with our resident Goth adventuress, Pandora Zwieback? Well, everything in this particular case; I just wanted you to have some background for what follows.

A few years ago, publisher Dynamite Entertainment acquired the comic book rights to Doc (and ignored all attempts made by me and others to get them to hire Bob for covers). And like most publishers these days, they print sketch cover variants for certain issues: covers that, beyond logos and price boxes, are completely blank so that you can get artists to draw on them. And when I snagged a copy of one of those sketch covers, I knew exactly which artist I was taking it to, and what I wanted him to draw…

Marvel_Two-In-One_21One night, while I was talking to Bob, I asked him if he’d be interested in taking the blank sketch cover and doing his own version of the Ron Wilson cover for Marvel Two-in-One #21, a 1976 comic that teamed Doc Savage with the Thing from the Fantastic Four (Two-in-One was a series in which the Thing teamed up with all sorts of Marvel characters, usually in stories that lasted only one issue). You see the cover there to the left: Doc and the Thing, crashing through a wall.

However, as I explained to Bob, I didn’t want him to reproduce Wilson’s art. I wanted him to draw, not the Marvel version, but the real Doc Savage (in other words, the Bama and Larkin version), and instead of the Thing, I wanted somebody special charging alongside Doc—a certain Goth adventuress. Bob loved the idea, and it didn’t take him long to turn my idea into an actual pencil drawing:

DocSavage-Pan-Cover

Damn! Makes me wish it were a real team-up!

And so there you have it: Pandora Zwieback, “guest-starring” in the second issue of Dynamite’s Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. A team-up that will never actually happen…but it certainly makes you think of what that might be like, doesn’t it? A happy, sarcastic Goth chick popping into the 1930s to go adventuring with Doc and his gang…hanging out with Pat Savage…probably running into her immortal, shape-shifting, monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin…

Yeah, that definitely has some possibilities. 😀

Thanks, Bob!