Thursday, July 15, 2021

Heroes of the Lost Age: Night Man

 Hello and welcome to the second edition of Heroes of the Lost Age!

Our new lost hero explored is...Night Man!

Night Man made his comics debut in The Strangers #1 and Night Man #1, created by Steve Englehart and Rick Hoberg in 1993 as a part of the Ultraverse imprint of Malibu Comics. What's the story you ask? Night Man is about Johnny Domino/Domingo, a jazz musician operating in the Bay Area, until a cosmic event called "The Jumpstart" endowed him with the power to hear evil thoughts of others around him, and to see in the dark. At the cost of his ability to sleep.

Armed with this new ability, Domino put together a costume to fight criminals as the Night Man.

The character has undergone certain changes as to his powers and development. In the second relaunch of the comic book series, Night Man had his powers altered by Rhiannon, enabling him to see a dark aura around people, generate lightning from his hands, fade into the darkness for stealth, and being mentally linked to a dagger that was bestowed upon him by Rhiannon which he can sense from a distance and cut portals in the air for teleportation. But Rhiannon's gift came with a cost, Night Man must consume a broth of human organs in order to survive.

In 1995, Night Man made his TV debut in the old Ultraforce cartoon. In the episode "Night and the Night Man", his origin is told in the same fashion as the comic book. When Johnny is turned into an Ultra like others involved in the accident, team members Hardcase and Contrary try to recruit him to their ranks as their adversary Chrysalis terrorizes San Francisco.

Though it was declared official Malibu Comics had fallen by their being purchased by Marvel Comics in 1995, Night Man would make his presence felt once more in a live action TV series starring Matt McColm as the title character from 1997 to 1999. The series was created by Glen A. Larson.

In contrast to the comic book incarnation, Night Man's origin is told differently as to not being called an "Ultra." He's struck by a bolt of lightning in a freak cable car accident which gives him his powers. Although he battles a different villain in each episode, Night Man's arch enemy is computer billionaire Kieran Keyes (Kim Coates) who would kill his father in the premiere of the second and final season.

The TV version of Night Man is painted in a different light. Instead of a makeshift costume he put together himself, a tech wizard gives him a bulletproof body suit which enables him to fly with an anti-gravity belt, a camouflage invisibility mechanism, and advanced sight functions in the lens over the left eye of his mask that allows him to fire a laser beam. Like his comic incarnation, this Night Man could see in the dark. 

In retrospect, Night Man appealed to me in my youth. Being a superhero fan I didn't care how the TV show looked since I enjoyed Spider-Man, Batman, and X-Men when they had their own animated series respectively. What fascinated me about him was how he's different from the others. He's a musician playing a mean saxophone. And though Night Man possesses a telepathic power, he's trained in aikido which he utilizes in his endeavors to make him a grounded character. With the Ultraverse in the hands of the House of Ideas, those who remember the characters like Johnny/Night Man should hope for a comeback from limbo. 

That's all for our Heroes of the Lost Age! Tune in next time!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Heroes of the Lost Age: M.A.N.T.I.S

 Hi, everyone.

Welcome to the first of my blog segment called Heroes of the Lost Age! Here I will explore forgotten heroes of days past that have been on TV and other media. First up is Sam Raimi's M.A.N.T.I.S.

M.A.N.T.I.S was a TV series which aired from 1994-1995, starring Carl Lumbly as Dr. Miles Hawkins/M.A.N.T.I.S, created by Sam Raimi and Sam Hamm.

The story behind M.A.N.T.I.S is Dr. Hawkins was shot in the spine by a police sniper during a riot, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Filing a lawsuit against the cop he held responsible and lost, Miles discovers a conspiracy that's launched against the colored community which he directs his focus on by pouring his resources into creating an exoskeleton and a black bulletproof body armor that endows him with super strength and the ability to walk. And thus M.A.N.T.I.S was born. The acronym means Mechanically Augumented Neuro Transmitter Interception System. In the series it was renamed Mechanically Augumented Neuro Transmitter Interactive System.

M.A.N.T.I.S powers and weapons are reminiscent of Batman in regards to being smart and wealthy. For instance, he has no powers. Only his exoskeleton which is armed with non-lethal paralyzing darts and super strength. His hidden underwater lab underneath his seaside mansion is called the Seapod and his vehicle of choice is a flying car/submarine which is dubbed the Chrysalis.

In the TV movie pilot, there were strong roles for African American actors including Bobby Hosea, Steve James, and future Firefly alumn Gina Torres. When the M.A.N.T.I.S series premiered, recasts were done except for Lumbly's character. The series casted the late Roger Rees as John Stonebrake, a british scientist who helped Hawkins create the exoskeleton, Christopher Gartin as the mouthy-street wise Taylor Savage/Savidge, and Galyn Gorg as Lt. Leora Maxwell.

There were a few changes to the character and the series such as the location of the show. Production of the pilot was set in Los Angeles as the series was set in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The changes in the M.A.N.T.I.S himself were such as him wearing a stylish suit and trench coat over his exoskeleton minus a skull cap and leaving little metal praying mantises as his calling card.

Though the concept was an entertaining one at that, but unfortunately poor ratings and constant retooling of the show was its downfall. One thing is for sure Sam Raimi's creation of TV's first prime time superhero of color had paved the way for Luke Cage and Black Lightning.

And that's the first part of Heroes of the Lost Age. Be there as we explore more forgotten heroes, chaps!  


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Three Act Structure

For most stories they are split in to three parts. The first, second, and third act. The three act structure has twists, turns, and specific moments in which certain things should be unfolding at certain times. Moreover, it's an organizational tool to help build your story.

**Aristotle stated that dramas have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Really cool since the Greeks invented drama. Screenwriters get much more detailed with requirements of what goes into three acts of a movie. The key takeaway is understanding that one event in the story goes into another event which unifies actions and creates the semblance of a story.

For a general idea of the three act structure, let's take a look at the essential parts, shall we? Here's a breakdown on Thunderbolts #26 from 1999 entitled "Lockdown."

First act-Introduction of the cast of characters.

Second act-Prison riot; Rhino breaks free.

Third act-MACH 1 stops riot. Then his actions are found out by the CSA (Commission on Superhuman Activities).

Neat, yeah? 

*Comics' legend Peter David pointed out that Aristotle's simple observations of beginning, middle, and end have been codified, institutionalized, or mummified. Editors, producers, etc, will be analyzing your story frequently based on whether they see the beats of the three act structure present. It will be helpful to know what they're looking for so you can be sure to accommodate them.

My Writing Challenge colleague Emily Moore will agree with the notion that we're dealing with a structure, not a formula. A formula results in a sameness that makes everything seem overly familiar and predictable. And she'll mention how films like Candyman hinges on the three act structure which will differentiate itself from other motion pictures.

Now we go in-depth into the three act structure. For research, I did an analysis of the Gundam: The 08th MS Team episode "Gundams in the Jungle."

First Act-Introduction of the team. Here in the first act of the episode, we meet the 08th Mobile Suit team (Ensign Shiro Amada, Michel Ninorich, Karen Joshua, Terry Sanders, and Eledore Massis). They are on their way to base for their first mission under ensign Shiro's command. Being introduced also is Commander Kojima who briefs the team on a Zeon base built somewhere in the jungle.

First act turning point-After a brief scrimmage with Zeon forces in the jungle, Shiro gets separated from the rest of the unit by going after the damaged Zaku drone.

Second act-The middle of the story. Ensign Shiro is hot on the trail of the Zaku but he ends up getting lost in the jungle (For the record, I say it's his damn fault for running off like that). Then he stumbles upon fresh water coming from a waterfall, where he encounters Kiki Rosita of the guerrila resistance. 

Second act turning point-Elsewhere from the action, Aina Sahalin is having tea & biscuits with her brother, the rear admiral Ginias Sahalin. They're discussing her brother's "dream" would soon become a reality, hinting of a weapon that will tip the balance of power in favor of the Zeon.

Third act-It's round two of Shiro vs the Zaku. 

Climax-Shiro unloads everything at the Zaku, defeating it. With their mission over, the MS team returns to base. Shrio sleeping in the cockpit while his Gundam was on autopilot ended the episode on a lighter note.

Whether you're writing a script for a movie or a comic, most stories in between those genres, hinge on the three act structure. 

Happy Creations!

Sources: *Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David pg. 98

**Alyssa Maio. "What is the Three Act Structure in Film? No Formulas Necessary."



Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Darkest Reflections

We have always done the same kind of work. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am a shadowy reflection of you. But it would have taken only a nudge to make you the same as me, to push you out of the light.
-Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The hero won't be spending all his or her time at odds with other members of their supporting cast. Heroes need their villains because one side helps define the other. The best sort of hero/villain throw downs are those in which the villain, using his power, abilities, origin, personality, or some combination of the four, provides a direct contrast to the hero. He is the hero gone wrong, the hero who is sent off the deep end.

*Comics legend Peter David states that it's the same as the heroes and their arch-enemies. More often than not, they both work at the outer edges of the law. In the old days, the main way to tell the good guys from the bad guys was that the former would refrain from delivering the coup de grace. With the likes of the Punisher and Red Hood (Jason Todd), that line of demarcation has been erased. When the good guys throw punches with the bad guys, like as not, they're trying to put down their opposite numbers.

Recalling on internal conflict, the hero has to not only battle external forces but the darkness within himself. If man vs. himself is done properly, the villain in some measure, reflects aspects of the hero that the hero would rather not address. In working to defeat the enemy, the hero is battling his own darkest impulses.

A prime example of the contrast is Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect which puts the Hulk in a literal battle against a future version of himself called the Maestro who ruled a distant future with an iron fist. Peter David and George Perez took readers on a psychological trip in the second half of the book when the Maestro tried to bring the Hulk over to his way of thinking. What made the conflict so daunting for the Hulk was that he knew the potential of becoming the Maestro was deep within him. 

*David says not every villain needs to be an exact reflection of the hero. But he shouldn't be interchangeable with someone else's opponent, either. Both in terms of power and personality level, he should tie in thematically with the hero so that he is unique to the hero he opposes.

Take Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom for instance. Both are extraordinary scientific minds and explorers who seriously botched their endeavors which had taken different directions. Richards brought Ben Grimm, Susan Storm, and her brother Johnny on a space expedition that exposed them to cosmic rays thus spawning the Fantastic Four. However, Reed ignored Ben's cautions about sufficient shielding to keep the cosmic rays out of their craft. Victor Von Doom was conducting an experiment to communicate with a another dimension. But for his troubles, the experiment went sideways and it blew up, leaving him disfigured. Of all the twisted aspects of Doctor Doom is that he blames Richards for the miscalculations of his experiment.

In writing battles of good vs. evil, we should think how the villain is a contrast to the hero.

Happy Creations! 

*Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David pg. 86

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tools for Writing Comics Pt. 1

Hello, world!

I'd like to welcome you to the first part of my Tools for Writing Comics series.

I present to you three guides by the industry's brightest minds: Peter David, Alan Moore and Brian Michael Bendis.

First up is Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David. What I found interesting is David's approach to writing comics how he's providing helpful insight as well his own personal yet funny anecdotes from his storied career in comics. [Peter] David's book also has advice on how to create your own comics from the essentials of character development, plot and pacing, scripting format, and an updated chapter on how to break in to the comics game by Andy Schmidt. The best part of this book are the writing prompts which helped me with original story ideas as I dove in to writing my own projects.

Second is Alan Moore's Writing for Comics. I've only heard of Alan Moore through works like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and his work on Swamp Thing. I first picked up this book looking for sources on writing years ago. Another thing was to see what Moore had to offer on the craft. His way differs from others because he's narrating through an essay he wrote in 1985 on how to write a great script. In the reprinted edition, Moore teams up with artist Jacen Burrows and adds a bonus essay on how the writer should not be afraid to try new styles circa 2003. On the same level of Peter David's book, he gives an honest perspective on writing for comics.

Finally, we get down to...Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis!
In my opinion, Bendis gives a very deep look in to the comics business. He shares the process of writing script formats to sequential art and more. The book also features insights from industry legends and glossary for business terms in writing for comics. What Bendis gives in detail is how to build relationships with the creative teams on a project. Added with his own experiences in the business, Brian Michael Bendis lays out the best advice for all writers: Write truthful and honest. 

For my overall review, these books have pointed out a clear and concise view on how to not only write for comics but also how to thrive in the industry, making connections and how to build solid ones as one goes into comics & graphic novels. To anyone looking for resources on writing for comic books, I recommend these works from the legends themselves.

Happy Creations!

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Happy New Year, world! We made it to the next decade of the new millennium!

Now I haven't been on a blogging groove like I have but I want to let you cats know it's all good. 2019 has been a TRIP for me and I've been very reflective on how things had turned out. So here's a quick recap of what went down on my end of the last year of the 2010s.

  • My first Women's March
  • Open Mic Poetry
  • Being terminated from my old job after four years
  • Starting a new job with the developmentally disabled
  • My first poetry publication in four years
I'd give the details for each of these life events of yours truly but it would be too long to go through so that's my recap of 2019.

Be there as I get back in the swing of things in 2020!

See ya!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Stay Tuned!

I don't have any topics to blog about today. This is me getting my thoughts out.

These past five months have been a roller coaster. Things are changing so fast before I could even blink. I can't think of any place to start so I'm tapped out.

What I can say is I'm doing okay and ya boy needs a time out.

Stay tuned, cats!