Happy Free Comic Book Day 2017!

FCBD-logo2That’s right, comic book fans, today is the sixteenth annual Free Comic Book Day at brick-and-mortar and online comic shops around the world. Held the first Saturday in May, this year’s event is timed to coincide with yesterday’s release of Marvel Films’ latest blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, in which Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (WHO?!), Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot face a new cosmic threat—all while grooving to another sound track that relies heavily on 1970s and ’80s pop tunes. And in keeping with FCBD’s fine tradition of gifting comics to fans everywhere, here’s a list of StarWarp Concepts’ offerings that you can download directly from their webstore!

heroinesandheroes-1Heroines & Heroes: A collection of comic stories and pinups all drawn by me, dating back to my days in the early 1990s small-press movement—that age of dinosaurs in which creators like me used to make our comics by printing them out on photocopiers and then stapling them by hand. In H&H you’ll find mainstream heroes and small-press heroines, and even a couple of anthropomorphic bikers. Leading off is “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N (in the Summertime),” a three-page Wonder Woman vs. Harley Quinn story that I wrote and drew in the late ’90s as a sample for a DC Comics editor who thought I’d be a good fit for their Batman: The Animated Series comic (it didn’t work out). It’s followed by an adventure of small-presser Jeff Wood’s rabbit-eared superspy, Snowbuni; three pages from the long-canceled indie comic Motorbike Puppies; and an adventure of the indie superheroine The Blonde Avenger.

Pandora0_CoverThe Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A full-color introduction to the young adult novel series of the same name, hosted by Pan herself. Pan is a 16-year-old New York City Goth who’s not only a horror fangirl but someone with the rare ability to see the for-real monsters that regular humans can’t (she calls it her “monstervision”), and with the help of a 400-year-old, shape-shifting monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she’s learning how to protect her family, her friends, and the world from the supernatural dangers out there—and maybe even have some fun while doing it. This 16-page comic features a seven-page story written by me, with art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, Carmilla, A Princess of Mars), and includes two sample chapters from Blood Feud, the first Pan novel.

Heartstopper_CoverHearstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1–3: Before she became Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin made her debut in this short-lived, 1990s Mature Readers series from Millennium Publications. A nefarious heavy metal band has arrived in New York City, and its lead singer is more than just a sex magnet for his female fans—he’s an incubus! Will Annie put an end to his plans for worldwide chaos, or fall prey to his supernatural charms? Written by me (of course), issue 1 is drawn by Pan and Annie co-creator Uriel Caton (JSA Annual) and inker Alan Larsen (Femforce); issue 2 is penciled by Uriel, Holly Golightly (School Bites), and David C. Matthews (Satin Steele) and inked by Larsen; and issue 3 is penciled by Holly, with four pages of inks by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski (Harvey Kurtzman’s New Two-Fisted Tales).

Warning: Heartstopper is designated a “Mature Readers” comic for violent scenes and some sexual innuendo, so younger Panatics should avoid it.

All these comics are available for free download right now, so visit their respective product pages at StarWarp Concepts for more information.

Happy Local Comic Shop Day 2016!

Pandora0_CoverToday is Local Comic Shop Day, an annual appreciation “conceived and implemented by ComicsPRO comic book specialty retailers to call attention to locally owned independent comic book specialty stores, celebrating their unique and vital role in being the primary fire-starters of pop culture.” In other words, it’s a way of encouraging comic fans to visit their LCS and give them some business as the holiday season kicks into high gear. So get out there tomorrow and support your LCS!

For more information, including a list of participating stores and the special collectibles they’ll be offering for sale, visit the Local Comic Shop Day website.

But it’s not just the retail shops that have something of interest for comic fans—not when StarWarp Concepts has its own range of comics and graphic novels to offer!

pan_annual2015The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A free, downloadable comic that serves as an introduction to the adventures of Pandora Zwieback and her monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, with an 8-page story written by me and illustrated by Eliseu Gouveia, and a preview of Pan’s first novel, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1. Pan 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.

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).

Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa: Long before she met Pan, Annie was the star of this short-lived “bad girl” comic book miniseries published in the 1990s. Here you’ll find Annie doing a bit of research for an article about gentlemen’s clubs in Times Square—research that includes actually performing as an exotic dancer (I did say it was a ’90s comic, didn’t I?). It’s that part-time gig that brings her into contact with Corum de Sade, a heavy metal singer with a deadly secret: he’s a soul-devouring incubus! All three issues—written by me, with art by Uriel Caton (JSA Annual), Holly Golightly (School Bites), and David C. Matthews—are available for free from this very website, so download them today!

heroinesandheroes-1Heroines & Heroes is a collection of comic stories and pinups all drawn by me, dating back to my days in the early 1990s small-press movement—that age of dinosaurs in which creators like me used to make our comics by printing them out on photocopiers and then stapling them by hand. In H&H you’ll find: “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N (in the Summertime),” a three-page Wonder Woman vs. Harley Quinn story that I wrote and drew in the late ’90s as a sample for a DC Comics editor who thought I’d be a good fit for their Batman: The Animated Series comic (it didn’t work out); “Dirty Laundry,” an adventure of small-presser Jeff Wood’s rabbit-eared superspy, Snowbuni; three pages from the mid-‘90s indie comic Motorbike Puppies; and “I Was a Super-powered Vampire Slayer!,”an adventure of the indie superheroine The Blonde Avenger. Twenty-four pages of comicky goodness—and all for free!

The Chronicles of the Sea Dragon Special is a digital pirate-fantasy comic created and written by Richard C. White, coauthor of SWC’s supernatural-superhero graphic novel Troubleshooters, Incorporated: Night Stalkings. Drawn by Bill Bryan (artist of Caliber Press’ Dark Oz and DC Comics’ House of Mystery), and featuring cover art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (SWC’s The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual), it’s 48 pages of high-seas adventure perfect for fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, as well as classics like The Crimson Pirate, Against All Flags, Captain Blood, and The Sea Hawk—and it’s available for download for just 99¢!

SWC_Troubleshooters_CvrTroubleshooters, Incorporated: Night Stalkings is a general readers’ graphic novel about a group of supernatural-superheroes-for-hire taking on their first case. The team consists of a wizard, a female ninja, a sorceress, a werewolf, and a rock ’n’ roll lighting designer wearing high-tech armor. Sure, they might not be on a power level with the Avengers or Justice League of America—they’re more like superpowered Ghostbusters—but they get the job done. The graphic novel is written by the husband-and-white team of Richard C. White (The Ultimate Hulk) and Joni M. White, and illustrated by Reggie Golden and Randy Zimmerman.

Snow White: Not really a comic book, but our presentation of the classic story by the Brothers Grimm features full-color illustrations first published in 1883 (and they really are beautiful drawings), and is available for immediate download for the low price of just 99¢!

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual and Troubleshooters Incorporated are available in print and digital formats. Pandora Zwieback #0, Heartstopper, Heroines and Heroes, The Chronicles of the Sea Dragon, and Snow White are digital exclusives. Visit their respective product pages for ordering information, as well as sample pages.

Happy reading!

Comic Book Treats for Online Trick-or-Treaters

Pandora0_CoverHappy Halloween! If you’re a horror fan like me (and Pan, of course), then All Hallows’ Eve is probably your favorite time of year, so in keeping with the fine tradition of handing out free treats to boils and ghouls everywhere, the folks at Pan’s publisher, StarWarp Concepts, and I have some digital-comic offerings for you!

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A full-color introduction to the young adult novel series of the same name, hosted by Pan herself. Pan is a girl with the ability to see the monsters that regular humans can’t, and with the help of a 400-year-old monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she’s going to protect the world from danger—and maybe even have some fun while doing it.

This 16-page comic features a seven-page story written by me, with art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, Lorelei: Sects and the City), and includes two sample chapters from Blood Feud, the first Pan novel.

Heartstopper_CoverHeartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1–3: Before she became Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin made her debut in this short-lived, 1990s Mature Readers series from Millennium Publications. A nefarious heavy metal band has arrived in New York City, and its lead singer is more than just a sex magnet for his female fans—he’s an incubus! Will Annie put an end to his plans for worldwide chaos, or fall prey to his supernatural charms?

Written by me (of course), issue 1 is drawn by Pan and Annie co-creator Uriel Caton (JSA Annual) and inker Alan Larsen (Femforce); issue 2 is penciled by Uriel, Holly Golightly (School Bites), and David C. Matthews (Satin Steele) and inked by Larsen; and issue 3 is penciled by Holly, with four pages of inks by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski (Harvey Kurtzman’s New Two-Fisted Tales).

heroinesandheroes-1Heroines and Heroes is our latest free digital comic. It’s a collection of comic stories I’ve drawn over the years, starring indie characters the Blonde Avenger, the anthropomorphic Motorbike Puppies, and the humanoid-rabbit spy Snowbuni. The feature story is “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N (in the Summertime),” a short adventure that I wrote and drew in the late 1990s as an audition for DC Comics’ Batman: The Animated Series comic (spoiler: I didn’t get the job), and pits the Harley Quinn—Clown Princess of Crime and star of this past summer’s blockbuster film Suicide Squad—against none other than Wonder Woman!

All these comics are available for download right now, so visit their respective product pages at StarWarp Concepts and add them to your digital trick-or-treat bags today!

You Do That Drawing Stuff, Too?

As regular visitors to this blog might have noticed, during the latter half of 2015 I started picking up my long-ignored drawing tools and indulging in a cartoony sketch now and then—like the New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals fan argument between StarWarp Concepts characters on the eve of the World Series, and Pan and her best friend, Sheena, appearing as Star Wars characters. And that got me thinking that perhaps you folks might like to see some of my other comic-related work—especially if I’m offering it for free!

heroinesandheroes-1Heroines & Heroes is a brand-new digital comic…well, “brand-new” as in H&H is making its debut at StarWarp Concepts, but it’s actually a collection of comic stories and pinups all drawn by me, dating back to my days in the early 1990s small-press movement—that age of dinosaurs in which creators like me used to make our comics by printing them out on photocopiers and then stapling them by hand. In H&H you’ll find mainstream heroes and small-press heroines, and even a couple of anthropomorphic bikers.

Leading off is “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N (in the Summertime),” a three-page Wonder Woman vs. Harley Quinn story that I wrote and drew in the late ’90s as a sample for a DC Comics editor who thought I’d be a good fit for their Batman: The Animated Series comic (it didn’t work out). It’s followed by an adventure of small-presser Jeff Wood’s rabbit-eared superspy, Snowbuni; three pages from the long-canceled indie comic Motorbike Puppies; and an adventure of the indie superheroine The Blonde Avenger. Twenty-four pages of comicky goodness—and all for free!

Pandora0_CoverAnd speaking of free comics, perhaps you might be interested in downloading these other titles that are available from StarWarp Concepts:

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A full-color introduction to the young adult novel series of the same name, hosted by Pan herself. Pan is a girl with the ability to see the monsters that regular humans can’t, and with the help of a 400-year-old monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she’s going to protect the world from danger—and maybe even have some fun while doing it.

This 16-page comic features a seven-page story written by me, with art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, Lorelei: Sects and the City), and includes two sample chapters from Blood Feud, the first Pan novel. You can get it by simply clicking on the “Download Free Comic” link that you see over in the sidebar, and then saving it to your computer.

Heartstopper_CoverHearstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1–3: Before she became Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin made her debut in this short-lived, 1990s Mature Readers series from Millennium Publications. A nefarious heavy metal band has arrived in New York City, and its lead singer is more than just a sex magnet for his female fans—he’s an incubus! Will Annie put an end to his plans for worldwide chaos, or fall prey to his supernatural charms?

Written by me (of course), issue 1 is drawn by Pan and Annie co-creator Uriel Caton (JSA Annual) and inker Alan Larsen (Femforce); issue 2 is penciled by Uriel, Holly Golightly (School Bites), and David C. Matthews (Satin Steele) and inked by Larsen; and issue 3 is penciled by Holly, with four pages of inks by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski (Harvey Kurtzman’s New Two-Fisted Tales).

Warning: Heartstopper is designated a “Mature Readers” comic for violent scenes and some sexual innuendo, so younger Panatics should avoid it.

All these comics are available for download right now, so visit their respective product pages for more information.

Happy Free Comic Book Day 2016!

That’s right, comic-book fans, today is the fourteenth annual Free Comic Book Day at brick-and-mortar and online comic shops around the world. Held the first Saturday in May, this year’s event is timed to coincide with yesterday’s release of Marvel Films’ latest blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, in which America’s mightiest soldier goes head-to-head with fellow Avenger Iron Man in a clash of ideologies. And in keeping with this fine tradition of gifting free comics to fans everywhere, here’s a list of StarWarp Concepts’ offerings!

Pandora0_CoverThe Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: A full-color introduction to the young adult novel series of the same name, hosted by Pan herself. Pan is a girl with the ability to see the monsters that regular humans can’t, and with the help of a 400-year-old monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she’s going to protect the world from danger—and maybe even have some fun while doing it.

This 16-page comic features a seven-page story written by me, with art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, Lorelei: Sects and the City), and includes two sample chapters from Blood Feud, the first Pan novel.

Heartstopper_CoverHearstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1–3: Before she became Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin made her debut in this short-lived, 1990s Mature Readers series from Millennium Publications. A nefarious heavy metal band has arrived in New York City, and its lead singer is more than just a sex magnet for his female fans—he’s an incubus! Will Annie put an end to his plans for worldwide chaos, or fall prey to his supernatural charms?

Written by me (of course), issue 1 is drawn by Pan and Annie co-creator Uriel Caton (JSA Annual) and inker Alan Larsen (Femforce); issue 2 is penciled by Uriel, Holly Golightly (School Bites), and David C. Matthews (Satin Steele) and inked by Larsen; and issue 3 is penciled by Holly, with four pages of inks by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski (Harvey Kurtzman’s New Two-Fisted Tales).

Warning: Heartstopper is designated a “Mature Readers” comic for violent scenes and some sexual innuendo, so younger Panatics should avoid it.

DRM-Free Comics? Already Got ‘Em!

pan_comic_0As you may have heard, at this week’s Comic Con International: San Diego, digital comics distributor Comixology announced that they are making titles from certain independent publishers—including Image, Dynamite Entertainment, and Top Shelf—available as Digital Rights Media–free (DRM-free) PDF and CBZ downloads. (Marvel and DC aren’t on board with this yet, but who knows what the future holds?) In other words, you can now own the digital copies of the comics you’ve paid for!

 

pan_annualThat’s a great innovation (I’ve already downloaded some of the comics from my own account), but I’ve got news for you digital comics fans: StarWarp Concepts’ comics and graphic novels have been that way since we began offering them through our webstore and DriveThru Comics. The teen Goth comics The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1; the supernatural superhero graphic novel Troubleshooters, Incorporated: Night Stalkings; the mature readers miniseries Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa; the adult graphic novel Lorelei: Sects and the City; and the pirate fantasy one-shot The Chronicles of the Sea Dragon Special are all available for download, and are all DRM-free.

Visit each of the titles’ product pages for more information, including sales links and sample pages, and start shopping today, secure in the knowledge that the comics you buy from The ’Warp are actually yours to own!

Sebastienne’s Comic Book Past

On Saturday, May 4, The ’Warp is celebrating the 11th anniversary of Free Comic Book Day by releasing the rarely seen Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #3, the final issue in what was supposed to be a four-part miniseries published in 1995. The star of Heartstopper was Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin—yes, the very same Annie who’s showing our resident Goth chick, Pandora Zwieback, how to hunt monsters.

To be quite honest about it, I’ve avoided making references to the comic on this blog because Heartstopper is what’s known in the business as a “mature readers” comic, intended for readers seventeen years of age and up. And since the Pandora Zwieback novels have picked up readers as young as twelve, I previously thought linking to a series that middle-graders shouldn’t be reading wouldn’t be the best decision. (I can say that—I’m not just the writer, I’m the publisher.)

It’s also an example of “bad girl” comics, a politically incorrect category that generated huge sales in the nineties; basically, it meant the comic starred an ass-kicking heroine who was clad in as little clothing as you could get away with. Heartstopper was my blatant attempt to cash in on that popularity. 😀  The three issues have no nudity, sex, or adult language (in other words, four-letter curses), but there’s a bit of bloody violence in the first issue and some sexual tension between characters. But I never mentioned them here when HS 1 became available on last year’s Free Comic Book Day, or that HS 2 became a digital freebie this past Halloween.

Still, the comics are a part of Annie’s creative past (issue 1 and part of issue 2 were penciled by Pan and Annie’s co-creator, Uriel Caton), and HS 3 is the final issue. And in a world where young adult books are becoming more and more adult as publishers scramble to create the YA equivalent of the “pron” trilogy 50 Shades of Grey, Heartstopper by comparison is pretty tame in its sexual playfulness (again, no sex or nudity). On the other hand, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever written, but hey—if you survived Twilight you’ll survive this.  😀

To mark the occasion of HS 3’s Free Comic Book Day release, I dug out the following interview, which originally appeared in the December 1994 edition of Capital City Distributions’ catalog, Advance Comics, to promote the publication of Heartstopper #1.

So let’s return now to the 1990s, and the height of comics’ “Bad Girl Era,” to see how 1994 Steve Roman explains his latest project’s history. In the process, you’ll get a little more insight into Annie’s personal history, and discover just where the basic idea for Goth adventuress Pandora Zwieback’s “monstervision” got its start…

Interview: Steve Roman

Steven Roman has been producing the bimonthly series from Starwarp Concepts, Lorelei, since 1993. He now teams with Millennium Publications to bring you the latest bad-but-beautiful-babe comic series, Heartstopper.

Advance Comics: Heartstopper is about a beautiful shape-shifter who fights monsters in New York City. What sparked the idea?

Roman: It all started with Louis Small Jr. He left Harris’ Vampirella and was suffering from withdrawal. He wanted a new supernatural character—preferably a beautiful one. I came up with Sebastienne, but Louis’s schedule became tight, so I brought in Uriel Caton to pencil the book. His art is sharp and fast and fluid and more in tune with what I want to do.

AC: What’s the idea behind Heartstopper?

Roman: Sebastienne Mazarin is a 400-year-old shape-shifter whose mother was an Amazonian high priestess and whose father was a French nobleman. Her mother prepared her for the day when an ancient Brazilian deity will come to Earth and kill all of the women. Part of Sebastienne’s training requires her to spend her nights hunting down monsters and ogres in New York City. For reasons that I won’t explain until later, New York City has become a nexus for the world’s supernatural activity. In the day, Sebastienne is a freelance writer. At night she sort of cleans up the town.

AC: A Brazilian deity?

Roman: In Brazilian mythology, there’s a spirit called Jurupari who hates all women.

AC: Can everyone see the New York demons?

Roman: You can’t write and not be influenced by a thousand sources. Heartstopper owes a debt to Nancy A. Collins and her vampire novel, Sunglasses After Dark. It inspired me to create a world where normal people don’t see the darker universe around them. My take on it is that the people in New York can see these monsters—but they’re New Yorkers, and they don’t care. They see weird things all the time. To them, an ogre in Central Park is normal.

AC: The pencils and inks look terrific. Who is the art team?

Roman: Uriel Caton has been working in the industry for several years. He has penciled the Ex-Mutants for Eternity Comics, The Outer Space Babes for Silhouette Studios, and a Cain special for Harris. Alan Larsen, the inker, started in the 1980s boom as the publisher of Belladonna, a book about a 17th-century witch. He has done work for Alpha Productions for their Totem, Sign of the Wardog Annual.

AC: Fans have already gotten a sneak peek at Heartstopper, haven’t they?

Roman: Four pages of the original version by Louis Small Jr. recently appeared in Nightcry. It was supposed to be a preview for a book to be published by Cry For Dawn. That didn’t happen. A few of Uriel’s concept sketches appeared in issue #2 of Lorelei. That got lots of favorable responses from readers and retailers who think Heartstopper is in the same league as Lady Death, Shi, and Vampirella. Another sneak peek will appear in Lorelei #5.

AC: You’re both a writer and publisher?

Roman: In addition to writing Heartstopper for Millennium, I publish Lorelei under the Starwarp Concepts label. I started as a small-press writer and artist and self-published a digest version of Lorelei in 1989. In 1993 I started publishing Lorelei as a regular comic book.

AC: Who will read Heartstopper?

Roman: It’s aimed at fans of Lady Death, Shi, and Vampirella, with a little bit of Image thrown in. Sebastienne is a very loose, fun-loving character. She cracks jokes in a fight. She’s very nonchalant about taking on a group of monsters in Times Square. And because she’s a shape-shifter, she has incredible powers. She can mold her body into anything, which makes for some wild art! Heartstopper has a serious side, but for the most part it’s meant to be a fun read. Sebastienne is a very strong character, very self-assured—and a bit naughty. You’ll love her.

*       *       *

Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #3—written by Steven A. Roman (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback), penciled by Holly Golightly (School Bites) and inked by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski (Harvey Kurtzman’s New Two-Fisted Tales)—is available for free download on May 4, 2013 from the StarWarp Concepts web site.

Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1 and #2 are also available for free download—just follow the links at StarWarp Concepts’ comics page.

However, if you’re one of those under-seventeen readers of Pan’s adventures…maybe you should wait a few years before checking out Annie during her “bad girl” phase.  😉

 

Pandora Zwieback Celebrates Free Comic Book Day

—Press Release

This Saturday, May 5, 2012, will be a cause for celebration as comic shops around the world mark the tenth annual Free Comic Book Day. Independent publishing house StarWarp Concepts joins the occasion with a pair of free e-comics that will be available for download from the SWC Web site that day—comics that tie directly to its critically acclaimed young adult, dark-urban-fantasy novel series The Saga of Pandora Zwieback.

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0: Introducing 16-year-old Goth adventuress Pandora Zwieback! Pan is a girl with the ability to see the monsters that regular humans can’t, and with the help of a 400-year-old monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she’s going to protect the world from danger—and maybe even have some fun while doing it.

Written by series author Steven A. Roman (X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy) and drawn by Eliseu Gouveia (The Phantom), this 16-page, full-color comic book is hosted by Pandora and includes two preview chapters from Book 1: Blood Feud, in which rival vampire clans search for the key to an ultimate weapon—a key that’s been delivered to the horror museum owned by Pan’s father!

(For those who can’t wait until Saturday, the comic is available right now here at the Pan site—just click on the “Download Free Comic” link in the sidebar and start reading today!)

Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 (ISBN 978-0-9841741-0-2) is available in both print and e-book editions from such retailers as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.com, Smashwords, and DriveThru Fiction.

Heartstopper: The Legend of La Bella Tenebrosa #1: In 1994, Sebastienne Mazarin made her debut in this short-lived Mature Readers series from Millennium Publications. Now, for the first time in almost two decades, StarWarp Concepts re-presents this long-lost comics adventure of the monster hunter known as La Bella Tenebrosa (“the beautiful dark one”).

A nefarious heavy metal band has arrived in New York City, and its lead singer is more than just a sex magnet for his female fans—he’s an incubus! Will Annie put an end to his plans for worldwide chaos, or fall prey to his supernatural charms?

Written by Roman, with art by co-creator Uriel Caton (JSA Annual 2000) and Alan Larsen, this 32-page, full-color comic offers a rare look into the past of the immortal shape-shifter, long before she became mentor to Pandora Zwieback.

After May 5, the comics will remain accessible on the StarWarp Concepts Web site’s “Free Comics” page. For more information on the company and its projects, please visit www.StarwarpConcepts.com and www.PandoraZwieback.com.

Talking to Myself (Part 2)

Continuing a previously unprinted interview that I did for another Web site. (Part 1 ran yesterday.)

What was your big break?

As much as I hate this kind of thing, it really was a case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

In the late nineties I was an editor for a publisher/book packager named Byron Preiss, who had a license from Marvel Comics to publish original novels based on their characters. Having edited some of the books, and written short stories for a couple of anthologies (Untold Tales of Spider-Man and The Ultimate Hulk), I was offered the chance to take over a YA novel titled Spider-Man Super Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge—Marvel had rejected the manuscript delivered by a mystery and fantasy writer named Neal Barrett Jr. Basically, I was in Byron’s office when news of the rejection came in and he turned to me and said, “So, you want to write it?” Of course I said yes!

The only problem was, the cover for the book had already been printed for advance sales purposes, so I wound up ghostwriting the book for Neal, who was amazingly gracious about the whole thing.

So, if you ever come across a copy of Warrior’s Revenge, just remember: it might have Neal’s name on it, but it’s actually my first novel!

A couple of years later, a similar situation happened: two established writers were supposed to do an original X-Men novel trilogy, except Marvel rejected their proposal. And again Byron asked if I’d be interested in taking it over. Well, who was I to say no?

The result was X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy, in which the X-Men fight their archenemy Magneto, Doctor Doom (from the Fantastic Four), and the Red Skull (from Captain America) for control of the Cosmic Cube, a device that allows them to alter reality. All three books sold really well—helped in no small part by the fact that Book 1, X-Men/Dr. Doom, came out in time for the first X-movie. I think that’s when people really started to recognize my byline.

What authors have influenced you the most?

Well, Stephen King is probably my biggest influence. There’s comics guru Stan Lee (with whom I got to collaborate on a comics project!) and H. P. Lovecraft—an early twentieth century pulp-magazine horror writer who influenced guys like King. And there are some others who’ve influenced me: comic writer Alan Moore, mystery writer Robert B. Parker, Harlan Ellison, and Ray Bradbury. (I’m sure there’s somebody I’ve forgotten.)

The trick, though, is finding a way to blend all those influences into something that eventually becomes your own, unique writing style.

What are some of your hobbies?

I used to be a major comic book fan, but over the years I got tired with all the superhero stuff—which is kinda funny, considering my professional writing career started with me writing short stories and novels about Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. Now I just spend all my money on Doctor Who merchandise! I’ve been a Who fan—Whovian?—since high school. I even got to write a story for an official Doctor Who anthology!

What’s your favorite movie?

When I was a teen it was the original, un-messed-with Star Wars. (The one where Han shot first.) Somewhere along the way it became The Blues Brothers. Must’ve been all that great blues music—well, that and the insane car stunts…

If your book, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1, was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?

At conventions I often describe the Pandora Zwieback series to folks as “Ellen Page and Salma Hayek in a Hellboy movie.” They’re a little too old at this point to play Pan and Annie, but when I was trying to land the series with a publisher back in 2005/6, I thought they’d be perfect.

For me, Salma Hayek had been Sebastienne Mazarin since 1995, when her big-screen debut in Desperado coincided with Annie starring in the Heartstopper comic series I was writing. And when Ellen Page was running around in X-Men: The Last Stand, dressed in leather and calling Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut character a dickhead, I thought, That’s Pan!

Oh, and Bruce Campbell for Pan’s dad!

Tomorrow: Advice for writers, and suggested reading. Be here for the thrilling conclusion!  😉

The Secret Origin of Sebastienne Mazarin (Part 1)

Back on August 24th you were introduced to Pandora Zwieback 1.0—the original, non-Goth version of Pan that I created for an unfinished screenplay in 1984. But how about her mentor, Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, 400-year-old shape-shifter and professional monster hunter—where did she come from?

Would you believe from comic books? Yes, indeedy.

The project began in 1993, with a comment made to me by artist Louis Small Jr., who at the time was being heaped with praise for his work on Harris Comics’ new Vampirella series (recently reprinted in Dynamite Entertainment’s Vampirella: Masters Series, Vol. 5). Although comic fans loved his art, he wasn’t feeling much of that love from his bosses at Harris—in fact, they’d already started promoting the artist scheduled for the next story arc! Understandably annoyed, Louis wished he could create his own Vampirella-type character, to show Harris what they were missing out on by ignoring him.

A few days later, I presented him with Heartstopper, a proposed series about a shape-shifting monster hunter named Sebastienne Mazarin: half French, half Brazilian, all badass.

As I explained to Louis, having Annie as a shape-shifter instead of a vampire would deflect any negative comments about how he was just trying to rip off Vampirella by drawing another female bloodsucker. And making Annie a Latina would help her stand out from the multitudes of white superhero women that dominated the market. Louis agreed, and got to work sketching.

The first thing you probably noticed is Annie’s wearing a lot less than today’s version. Such was the state of the industry in the 1990s—a decade when having a half-naked female character in your comic practically guaranteed it would get published. And sell phenomenally well. It’s a period now known as “the bad girl era.”

(Bad-girl comics—for those of you unfamiliar with the term—starred heroines who possessed a lot of attitude but very little clothing; a bikini and thigh-high boots with stiletto heels were the basic uniform. Vampirella, Catwoman, Lady Death, Shi, Flare, Witchblade—the list was endless. And the one thing they had in common was that they sold insane amounts of copies—because fanboys DO luv their scantily clad fantasy women…)

True to form, the bad-girl approach worked. Louis and I had gotten a bit chummy with Joseph Monks, co-creator (along with artist Joseph Linsner) and former writer/publisher of the horror comic Cry For Dawn. After a creative-differences split with Linsner, Monks planned to continue publishing and was looking for projects. When I pitched Heartstopper he said it was definitely something that would make for a good series, and wanted it to be one of CFD Productions’ new titles. (I’m pretty sure it was Louis’s sketches that sold him.)

First, though, he wanted to tease the series in the first issue of his anthology series NightCry.

That sounded like a good plan, so Louis and I got started. I wrote the first-issue script, and Louis…ran into scheduling problems. Apparently those Vampirella issues he drew proved to be more popular than expected, and now he was being flooded with art commissions and offers to draw comics for other, larger publishers. And when you’re a freelance artist trying to make a living from drawing comic books, you’ve gotta go where the money is. (Being a freelancer myself these days, I understand that logic all too well.) It was easy to see that Louis would never have the time to focus on Heartstopper.

That didn’t stop him from trying, though. He managed to complete eight penciled pages as the deadline for NightCry #1’s trip to the printer drew ever closer. Then Monks—realizing he had room for only four of those pages (one of the other stories ran long)—handed them off to an inker to make that deadline, rather than give Louis time to ink them himself.

The problem was, the new guy was a rookie inker. Never been published. Never really inked anybody before, either. The results were…pretty ugly.

In the end, between the bad art job and Louis being unavailable to work on the series, it was decided that Heartstopper was not going to be one of CFD’s new titles. In retrospect that was just as well—the company folded two years later—but I was still disappointed.

But, I thought, maybe if I can find another artist who’s as good with the bad-girl stuff as Louis is, I can try and place the series with another publisher.

And that was when an equally talented artist named Uriel Caton entered the picture…