THE FEBRUARY RAMBLE

This is long overdue, but I have eventually got around to committing to producing a monthly update on the status of my various writing projects. The intention is to post a note at the end of each month here on my WordPress site. Let’s see if I can keep that promise.

For more frequent updates, comments, and general observations on life you can follow me on Twitter @alanjporter or on Instagram. For a full list of published work to date check out my website at AlanJPorter.com

SHORT STORIES

OUT NOW – Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol 7. – This ongoing anthology series features new traditional style mysteries for the Great detective to solve. Volume 7 was just published and includes my story “The Case of the Rotten Corpse,” which takes Holmes out of London to the north of England to investigate the appearance of a mysterious corpse with the help of Manchester’s most successful historical detective.

Holmes7

Coming Soon

  • Rick Ruby: The latest volume of stories featuring 1930s New York based P.I. Rick Ruby is in production. No information on a release date yet.
  • Lotus Ronin: The new Asian Pulp anthology from prose ProSe Press is in production. I’ve done the final copy edits on the debut tale of my new pulp character, The Lotus Ronin, and am waiting for news on a possible publication date.
  • Allan Quartermain: Stones of Blood: I’m currently writing new short-story featuring the classic jungle adventurer in a tale that takes him from the streets of London to the battlefields of the First Boer War. More on this one as it develops.

THE LEXICON PROJECTS

James Bond Lexicon: A Guide to the Worlds of 007: The manuscript for our upcoming James Bond Lexicon has been delivered to the fine folks at Hasslein Books for copy-editing. If things stick to schedule we are aiming for publication around the end of September or early October.

bond

I recently enjoyed joining the crew at the James Bond Radio podcast to chat about the history of James Bond in comics. You can download the podcast, or watch the YouTube version at the James Bond Radio website.

Don’t forget you can keep up with the latest news about the Bond Lexicon and the world of 007 in general at the book’s Tumblr and Twitter accounts

The Lexicon Affair: A Guide to the world of U.N.C.L.E.: Work has started in earnest on The Lexicon Affair, with notes and annotations completed on Season One of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well as the complete run of the Gold Key spin-off comics from the 1960s. The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. comics have also been completed and work is currently underway on the associated digest magazines and novels.

As we start to ramp up work we’ve also launched new support Tumblr and Twitter accounts for updates on the book’s progress as well as the upcoming new Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

UNCLEposter

Over the last few weeks I also chatted with the new updated Spy Command website about both the Bond and UNCLE Lexicon projects – you can find the interview online here.

COMICS

FORGOTTEN CITY – The second story arc issues (#6-10) are in various stages of production as the Kid Domino team get them ready for uploading to comiXology for digital distribution. I have turned in the detailed page-by-page outline for issues #11-15 that will comprise the third story arc and am looking forward to starting work on the full scripts soon.

FC1-5

Work is also underway on pulling together the first story-arc (issues #1-5) in a trade-paperback for eventual print distribution. In the meantime don’t forget that issues #1 thru 5 are still available as digital downloads at comiXology for just $1.99 each.

On the Road:

You can find me at the following events over the next few months where I’ll be happy to sign books, or just have a fun chat:

Advertisements

Batman, Bill Finger and Me

Today is #BatmanDay a nationwide promotional event being driven by DC Comics to mark the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the Batman. At one time I would have been all over this, making sure I had stuff ready to post, and doing everything I could to attend the anniversary events at San Diego ComicCon.

In case you don’t know at one time I was one of the leading Batman fans online. I was the guy who created and ran one of the first Batman websites (I think we were the third or fourth to get started) “GOTHAM GAZETTE – The Batman Magazine on the Web”, as well as the GOTHAM WEEKLY NEWS email newsletter which had a massive circulation. Both ran for around seven years. I wanted nothing more than to write Batman, and to write about Batman. And I did – my first published book, back in 1999, was “The BATMAN Collectors Guide*.

batmanguide

 

Then one day I was on a panel at a comics convention with the Batman group editor, and he gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been lucky enough to receive: “If you seriously want to be a writer, stop the fanboy stuff and go write other things. You need to make a name for yourself, not piggyback on Batman’s.”

He was right of course. But there was one aspect of the Batman story I didn’t want to let go. The story of Bill Finger, the un-credited co-creator of Batman. I would tell Bill’s story to anyone who would listen. I started to do research. In 2005 I put together what I had in a proposal for a book to be called KANE & FINGER: The Men Behind The Bat, that would tell the parallel stories of the two men who gave birth to arguably the best known pop-culture icon of the last 75 years.

Here’s a little extract from that proposal:

Together they created one of the most enduring pop-culture icons of the last seventy years. Their creation spawned a multi-billion dollar merchandising industry and is instantly recognizable around the world. They created images and catch-phrases that entered everyday usage.

One became a millionaire playboy living his Hollywood dream, courting and marrying starlets while others did his work. His passing marked by eulogies and obituaries in all the leading newspapers and news channels.

The other, considered to be among the greatest ever by his peers, was ignored and shunned by his one time friend. Fired by the company who made billions from his creation for asking for basic workers rights, he died destitute and forgotten by all but a few.

This is their story.

The story of Bob Kane and Bill Finger – the men who created The Batman.

 

It’s a story of human drama, friendship and betrayal.

It’s a story of ego and self-importance.

It’s also a story of insecurity and personal demons.

It’s a story of opportunism, legal maneuvering, cover ups and lies.

It’s the shameful story of an industry that stayed quiet and the belated efforts to correct its heritage.

I shopped the proposal around, people loved the idea, people wanted to read the book, but no-one was willing to publish it.**

I ended up using some of the research as the basis for an essay entitled “The Dubious Origins of Batman” that was published in BenBella’s 2008 anthology “Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers and Heroes in Gotham City.” While I was working on that essay I got to know fellow Bill Finger researcher Marc Tylor Nobleman. – Marc went on to write and, more importantly, get published a young readers biography on Bill, the excellent “Bill The Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.”

bill

Which sort of brings me to the point of this blog post.

The other week an old friend asked me if I was ever bothered by the fact that Marc’s book got published first, and that he is now publicly seen as the guy who is spearheading the campaign to get Bill Finger the recognition he deserves.

My answer was a resounding “No.”

Marc’s research on Bill went a lot further and deeper than anything I’d done at that point. He did an amazing job, and he has rightly become the focal point of the growing publicity and awareness of the Bill Finger story. I applaud and support everything he does.

For me, I’ve gone on to do other projects, work on other properties. I’m still a Batman fan, but not to the degree I once was. I don’t read the regular Batman comics anymore, and I wasn’t that big a fan of the Nolan movies, .…

… but yes, I’d still love to get the opportunity to tell the full stories of both Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

I want to wish Marc, the Finger family, and all those involved in the events at San Diego this week a great time, and I wish I was there with you.

But most of all thanks to Bill, Bob, and all the creative people who came after them for 75 years of the greatest hero.

 

================

* GOTHAM GAZETTE, GOTHAM WEEKLY NEWS, and The BATMAN Collectors Guide all carried the credit line “Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.” I believe that the Collectors Guide was the first place that was ever used in print.

** I may not have got the KANE & FINGER biography published (yet), but that proposal lead directly to my deal with HERMES PRess that resulted in books on James Bond and Star Trek.

================

Creative ADD?

“So which of your various writing projects are you most passionate about? “

A work colleague asked me the other day after we’d spent several hours together stuck at Dallas airport and had killed some of the time by talking through the various non-fiction books, comics, short stories, and novels I have at different stages of production. On the surface it seems like an innocent enough question, and one that should be easy to answer. But it wasn’t, it really made me think.

After a few moments contemplation I gave what I think can be the only truthful answer:

“Whatever I’m working on at the moment.”

“I was just wondering beacuse they are all so different.” – Another good point. I have sometimes wondered if I had fixed on one subject area and focused all my creative endeavours around that, I may be better known as a writer.  Should I have had 11 books about The Beatles in the market place by now, instead of 11 books covering a wide variety of topics?  But that’s not me. I need to be trutful to myself.

When I joined Caterpillar in early 2013, I was asked to take a “Strength Finder” test, something that nearly everyone at corporate headquaters has done. I’ve traditionally been skeptical of these sort of HR profiling activities, but I must admit I was astonished by the results. They were spot on, sacrily so.

My top strength was listed as being a “Learner.” – And that’s why I write about lots of different subjects, characters, and time periods. I’m a learning junkie, and writing is a way to feed that. Each new project is an opportunity to learn about a new subject, new times, places, and people. An opportunity to meet and share with others interested in those same subjects. Opportinuties to do cool new things with cool people.

So what am I passionate about at the moment? James Bond (reference book), Harry Houdini (short story,) and the characters of Forgotten City (comic book series.)

FCissue 2 cover

 

The Cussler Letter

“So what writer did you once like that you stopped reading? – And Why?” – A question I’ve been asked several times while on various panels at different conventions over the last few years. My answer always seems to revolve around  a story about thriller writer Clive Cussler and a letter he wrote to me many years ago.

I’ve also used the same anecdote when appearing on panels about writer/fan interactions, and similar subjects.

While sorting out my office over the holiday period I came across the letter. It was pretty much exactly as I remembered it. For those friends, and convention attendees, who’ve heard me tell the story numerous times I thought I’d post the actual source here.

First off, an acknowledgement that from a published author success perspective, I’m not anywhere close to where Mr. Cussler was, or continues to be. He has a very large dedicated audience who enjoy his work, and I wish him every success in continuing to build and satisfy that audience.

OK, on to a little background to put things into perspective. Back in the early to mid-nineties I was one of those who read every book that Clive Cussler wrote. I loved his stuff, in particular for the blend of historical research, and modern technology and adventure. Sometime in 1994 I picked up the latest adventure, (not sure which one, possibly Inca Gold) and was little put off by what I saw as a trend of the two lead characters, Dirk Pitt & Al Giordino, away from being explorer/adventurers and more towards being vigilante type crime-fighters going after the bad-guys.  Not that I’ve got anything against vigilante crime-fighters (as my long time Batman obsession shows), but it wasn’t what I read the Dirk Pitt novels for.

But what brought my enjoyment to a crashing halt was a passage in the book where Cussler described an Airbus aircraft that had been converted to a cargo plane. It was all wrong.  Big deal – what did it matter? Well it mattered to me. As I said one of the reasons I enjoyed the Cussler books was for how well they were researched.  The thing was a few years earlier I’d headed the technical documentation group at the Airbus Division of British Aerospace – at that stage I literally knew that aircraft inside out. Sure you could convert the aircraft for cargo use (in fact Airbus now sell cargo versions) but the way it was described in the book was technically impossible, it would have compromised the airframe. – So I thought I’d be a helpful reader and write my favorite author and politley inform him of this research oversight. – This is the letter I received in reply.

CusslerPg1 CusslerPg2

Here’s the text:

10-94 – Cussler’s address down the side (removed for privacy)

Sorry Porter,

I thought I wrote fiction. So the Airbus can’t have a cargo door, so what? As long as my other 59,999,999 readers could care less, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

As to Pitt & Giordino turning into vigilantes, you should live in the US. Leaving the villains to the authorities won’t work anymore, the hoods are back on the streets in hours.

If you want action heroes who walk the fine line, stick with the old timers like McLean and Innes.

I appreciate the fact that you like my books, but the world is no longer a nice place to live in.

Cheers

Clive Cussler.”

I haven’t read a Clive Cussler book since.

Another Year of Scribbling Stuff

Looks like 2013 is going to be another busy year of throwing words on the page. I already have several projects running and a few more lined up for the coming year, and I thought it might be fun to see how they stack up.

Comics:

I have been working on a few CARS scripts for the Disney Publishing folks in Europe that should see print in the monthly CARS magazine at some point this year. Other stories ideas are in for consideration – so fingers crossed that I get to continue to hang out in Radiator Springs for a while longer.

I’m still working on the new science fiction comics series, FORGOTTEN CITY. I have now co-written 4 issues and written another 4 as the series’ solo on-going writer. Issues #9 and #10 are plotted out and next on the to-do list with plans for the story to go as far as issue 25. The publisher is still looking to finalize a distribution deal, so hopefully that will happen in 2013 and the book will be in stores.

There are also a few proposals and pitches sitting out there for different projects with a variety of comics publishers.

Fiction:

2013 promises to be the year of new titles from Airship 27 Productions fiction wise. This coming year should see the publication of The Ruby Files Vol. 2 containing my first short story about 1930s hard-boiled New York detective, Rick Ruby. Also in 2013 look out for The New Adventures of Allan Quatermain featuring my just completed novella “Golden Ivory.”

Short stories scheduled for the rest of the year include one featuring master escapologist Harry Houdini, and a second Rick Ruby escapade.

I’ve also started a new novel, on the “write a page a day” basis to see if I can keep going and get a novel length manuscript done by year’s end. I’m taking a totally different approach to writing this novel – I’ll probably blog more about that later in the year if things keep to schedule.

Non-Fiction:

The major focus this year is to get The James Bond Lexicon finished for the fine folks at Hasslein Books – and I have the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon lined up after that.

I’ve also had some early discussions about another business book – more on that, if and when it develops.

After listing it all out like that, I guess I am going to be a busy boy – so I guess I should get back to it. Deadlines wait for no man.

Help me define a Comics Genre…

Writing a set of encyclopedia entries about “adventure comics” sounds like a fun gig, right? It should be, and a task I’m happy to have signed up for as part of the team working on “Comics through Time,” A planned 4 volume historical encyclopedia of my favorite storytelling medium to be published by Greenwood Press.

The thing that struck me as I sit down to start doing the background research, is how exactly do I define the genre of “adventure comics?” (*)

Other sections in the encyclopedia will cover:

  • Crime,
  • Espionage,
  • Funny Animals,
  • History,
  • Horror,
  • Jungle Tales,
  • Romance,
  • Science Fiction,
  • Superheroes,
  • Teen,
  • War
  • Westerns.

What titles would you describe as “adventure comics” that don’t fit into one of the above categories? Let me know and we’ll see if your suggestions fit in with mine.

At the moment I am focusing on entries for Volume One (up to 1960) and Volume Two (1960 t0 1980) only.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

—————-

(*) A task not helped that the book actually called “Adventure Comics” falls squarely in another genre – that of the ubiquitous superhero.

 

Indexing Winge

I’ll be the first to admit it. I hate indexing my own work. Over the years I’ve learned it’s a particular skill and mind set that I don’t have.

But as someone who spends a lot of time doing research, I rely on the fact that others have that skill.

Yet it seems the quality of indexing is on the decline. An alarming amount of non-fiction books published today don’t have any indexes at all (and I’ll admit to being guilty on that count with some of my works), while others have indexes that are close to useless.

Here’s just two examples from this week.

Early in the week I posted on Twitter about a book that was on it’s third edition yet the index contained production notes such as “??see PDFs??” instead of actual page numbers.

Today I picked up a book on the history of jet-packs that references both James Bond and Buck Rogers on the back cover blurb, yet neither name appears in the index (and they aren’t mentioned in any Chapter titles either). I was interested to see what level of coverage and mentions these two pop culture icons got before deciding if I needed to add this volume to my bookcase. Sorry DaCapo press you just lost a sale.