Justice League review: it’s humor and humanity, stupid.

I saw Justice League. Alone. I did not want to inflict it on anyone else. My expectations were low, like they were when my friend Brian “Mondo” called me up and wanted to see Dude, Where’s My Car? But I liked it. It was funny! (“We are hot babes.”)

I liked Justice League too. Sure, it grated on my writer brain. Some scenes felt glued together with library paste, I believe there was a payoff without setup, and too much dialog was blabby moody exposition. (Alfred Hitchcock said that exposition is a pill that must be sugar-coated.) Plenty of room for improvement. But this movie had two story elements that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman lacked: humor and humanity.

The Flash’s geeky, gawky enthusiasm and Aquaman’s heroic beer-chugging macho were especially fun. (The original Aquaman and Barry Allen Flash in DC Comics had the personalities of Macys mannequins, so this movie was right to revamp that.) Wonder Woman was again the fearless, ferocious fighter with a heart (although some of her fellow Amazons should not bare their bellies when going into battle). Batman showed his after-battle ouchie bruises and he stated his true superpower: “I’m rich.” When Superman stepped up to the villain, his voice was purehearted Christopher Reeve (it made my heart sing). Cyborg got to say his favorite line from Teen Titans Go (starts with a “B”). This movie gave the DC supers humanity to build upon. (Except Wonder Woman, she and her most excellent movie were slopping over with humanity to start with, even considering the goddess thing.) And its photography avoided a lot of the black bleak depressing sad angsty moody sepia dark tones of M of S and B v S.

Speaking of gods, a YouTube video that I saw (and lost) said it best: In the Marvel movies, the supers are human. In Man of Steel and Bats v Supes, they are gods above men. YUCK! My advice for DC movie makers: keep losing the Ayn Rand crap and you’ll keep improving.


I will be on a Literary Winners Circle Panel!

first-placeAt the San Mateo County Fair’s Literary Stage, I will on the Winners Circle panel this Saturday, June 11, from 4:30 to 5:30. There will also be a winners reading from 4 to 4:30, and 5:30-7, but I am not sure if I will be doing any readings yet. (I think it is likely.)

I am on the panel with other winners because my Audiobook script, The Malevolent Mystery Meat, won both 1st place in the category of Digital Media Online and Honorable Mention for Science Fiction/Fantasy short story.

The panel’s theme is inspiration. A lady in my critique group had a story of kids with puppy behavior. I had written my Kittygirl story, and I wanted to write more like that. My cousin has two dogs, Tucker and Wrigley, whom I have taken care of when my cousin and his family go on vacation. He also has two boys, and I have two nephews, so I have observed young brother and doggie behavior. Hence, two puppy-powered brothers.

Then Michael Moore, in his latest movie, showed how icky American school lunches can get. Hence, the malevolent mystery meat.

The story went over very well at my open mics. I used The William Tell Overture as background music. Hi-yo, Tucker, away!

More on the San Mateo County Fair’s Literary Stage:

Wednesday, June 15, from 7:30 to 9, I will participating in the open mic readings.

Thursday June 16, from 7-8:30, I will be doing a reading from my Fault Zone story, The Sinister Soul Surfer!

“The formula simply makes you more of what you already are.” (Swamp Thing)

In her May 5 review of Captain America: Civil War, science fiction essayist and reviewer Abigail Nussbaum writes that “any fictional world that houses more than a handful of (superheroes) will inevitably devolve into a horrifying dystopia in which the rule of law and the authority of democratic government are meaningless.”

No. Do not tell me what themes to stuff into my writing. I will not turn Super Holly’s action-comedy universe into another done-to-death dystopia. It’s not power that corrupts, it’s the love of power. In my novel (yeah, yeah, I’m still working on it), superpower does not corrupt, it makes people more of what they already are. In Super Holly’s graphic novel, The Last Super, she covers the super-dictatorship thing: those who want power most handle it worst.

No! I hate the “power corrupts, and absolute power blah blah blah” cliche, it is a cop out that lets bad behavior off the hook. Do not tell me that I’d be Donald Trump too if money and power got dumped on me, it insults my intelligence AND my morality!

NO! Abigail, my stories are MINE, they have happy endings, my superheroes are people too (and by the way, you know they’re not real, right?), and I AM NOT GOING TO PLAY YOUR WAY!

lucy not play your way

Peter David: Fantastic Writer. Movie Critic, not so much?

A sci-fi and superhero writer, Peter David, liked the new Fantantic Four movie. As much as I respect and love Peter and his writing, I will not pay to see this flick. At least not full price. Why?

Cutting Reed Richards’ age in half was an incredibly bad idea. Mr. Fantastic is the mature intellectual, not Wesley Crusher. (Sorry, Wil Wheaton, you know I love you, right?)

The so-called controversy about Johnny being black? The only people who complained were dropped-on-their-head-at-birth white boys and DJs. I think he would be the only thing I could stand to watch in that entire flick unless Sue Storm does a gratuitous underwear scene. Good actor doing a young hot-head, that’s how you get Johnny Storm.

Was there some reason why Ben Grimm had to be bullied as a kid? Other than: Woe is me, life as a teen is so dark and grim cuz daddy won’t buy me a car.

Doctor Doom is handed superpowers AGAIN, and then his brilliant goal is I’m gonna destroy the Earth because petulance? No, no. NO!!! Doom craves power, not a burning parking lot. Why doesn’t Hollywood get the incredibly simple concept that Doctor Doom is the ULTIMATE self-made supervillain? That he clawed and fought and scratched for every last scrap of power he has, which is considerable? Including, as Stan Lee said, DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY! Hollywood, I’ll give you a theme for free: those who want power the most should have it the least.

Getting powers via dimentional rift? Why not an experimental space plane? That is close to the comics, and commercial space planes are being done in real life! Just add some unexpected radition, and boom, you got superpowers! Movie execs, to paraphrase Abbie Hoffman: Steal this idea, PLEASE!

And the final fight (also the only fight)? They throw rocks at each other. I guess that other world had nothing else to throw. I remember Peter having the Hulk hold up a Hulk toy which is holding up a toy boulder, and Rick Jones says the Captain America toy has a cool shield and the Silver Surfer toy has the cool surfboard, and the Hulk says, “I got a rock.”

This is another case of cement-headed movie execs saying, “Could you make it grittier?” Daredevil on Netflix is great 3 a.m. gritty, Fantastic Four is dysfuntional funny action-packed family. From what I have read, much of this movie is dark sepia. The director could not film light-hearted even if he was mainlining laughing gas.

P.S. Yes, the age thing bugs me a lot. I get asked about the age of the superheroine I am writing (will it be YA, huh huh huh?). Holly is mid-twenties, not mid-teens! A teenage girl is NOT going to write a Watchmen-esque best-selling graphic novel, not nowhere, not no-how!

P.P.S. I kinda liked John Carter. Just like Peter.

I am being HONOR(able mention)ED! And published again.

I will be published again. YAY! I got an email from Beth Barany, writing coach and fantasy writer of Henrietta, a kick-ass heroine. (I think Henrietta would get along with Holly.)
“Congratulations, you’re a Winner in the Genre Novel First Chapter contest!  In fact, you’re a Carry The Light winner, for your entry, Fanboys Shrugged. It was a close contest!”
Carry The Light is an anthology from SF peninsula writers. You can link to previous versions here (but I am not in those). I got an honorable mention for the first chapter in my novel. Chapter Zero, Holly Hansson’s Superpowered Origin Story. I think nearly everyone who enters gets into Carry The Light, but I also think that not everyone gets a prize. I took my prize: a couple of Beth’s ebooks for authors. I am reading The Writer’s Adventure. It’s good.
I will post a link when the 2015 edition with MY TOTALLY AWESOME NOVEL CHAPTER is published. If you are going to the San Mateo County Fair, you can likely buy a hardcopy at the fine arts stage. Also, it will likely be sold through Amazon. I’ll buy both. First time I will be in a printed book, if you don’t count technical manuals or my old Strom’s Index column.
I will be editing my novel chapter on the advice of the pro editor. She wanted more description of the comic book shop. It is another chance to geek up my writing! The pro editor liked Kittygirl and her mom in this chapter, by the way, so I intend to send her a copy of my Kittygirl short story after my final polish. I think she’d like it.
I also changed the name of my novel from The Comic Book Code to Fanboys Shrugged. I’d rather satirize Atlas Shrugged than The DaVinci Code in my title. But I will likely have a chapter named The Comic Book Code. And I have set a goal: finish the entire first draft by my birthday in October as a present to myself. I will be the big SIX-O.

A Literary Editor Reviews My Stories

I sent the prologue (I call it Chapter Zero) of my novel, and two short stories to Zymbol editor Anne James for editing. I got this as a reward for contributing to an Indiegogo campaign last year. Yeah, took me a while to send them off, I did several rewrites.

(By the way, Zymbol is doing a Kickstarter campaign ending April 27. There are no editing perks this time. But there is Clive Barker stuff! Check it out.)


“I’m going to skip over the red pen and focus on the main areas in terms of content editing, because I can see that you’re a highly skilled writer and you don’t need any pointers in terms of proofreading!”

“The stories open in the middle of the action, which captures your reader’s attention. “Chapter Zero” is particularly effective at this, starting with an intriguing bit of dialogue: ‘Your comic book made me cry.’” (That was Katsuko “Kittygirl” Kimura.) Open with action is good advice to any author, NEVER have boring look-at-the-horizon scenes, I hate when movies do that! I did not open in the middle of a slam-bang super-heroic fight. Maybe I’ll try that sometime. Could be fun.

“Technically speaking, your writing is excellent – the sentences flow well, and I don’t have any difficulties with grammar or the usual careless errors I see in most manuscripts. You’re an attentive editor of your own writing — that’s a great skill!”

“The witty banter between characters is genuinely amusing and true-to-character. You really get a sense of who these people are from their speech.”

“Your supporting characters are truly charming. Katsuko and her mother in particular were memorable; I hope they pop up again in other stories. The description of Katsuko’s costume and her giddy excitement were easy to visualize.”


She wondered what draws Holly to Cal. Answer: the novel brings them together, and they fall head-over-heels in love. Maybe I can emphasize that more in the short stories.

She was disappointed that Chapter Zero did not show where Holly’s powers came from. That was intentional; it is revealed during the scene where Dan Mann and Cal Critbert want discuss the mystery of this superpower about to be channeled into the world, and Holly says they are NOT condescendingly explaining that to her, she already knows it (more than she likes)!

She pointed out I did not explain enough about why Holly and Cal are headed to the Apricot computer center to stop the theft of the A-phone. “The reader doesn’t feel too anxious for Holly and Cal to prevail if they don’t know what evil deed the Karate Queen is trying to perpetrate.” I agree, and I can have some fun by pumping up how important the A-phone could be. Also, when John Glutt enters the scene in Chapter Zero, “Can you show us more of the room? What does it look like once he shoots the web?” She’s right, this is a chance to describe a comic book shop, to geek it up!

Okay, I will not break the fourth wall! My smart nieces also said that joke does not work. She also said I could use fewer sound effects, “a peppering of sound effects gets across the comic book atmosphere.” I will still use some, like Stan Lee and Don Martin.

My time shifts and first-to-third person shifts in the barber story threw her off. So I will change the first to third person. I try to write mostly in close third: get deep into the head of the point-of-view character without saying “I”. I’ll keep the time shifts, removing them would be too much of an overhaul, and I have more stories to write.

She wondered about Holly’s powers, “Do they reveal something about her personality?” Yes. Holly gets the all-time biggest superpower of all (along with flight and super-strength/toughness): super-strong telekinesis. Remember The Great and Powerful Turtle for the Wild Cards series? Holly will be the Superman of her world, and she gets the biggest power of all. Holly hates bullies in any form.


She said Zymbol would not be the right fit for my stories. I agree. I have planned to go the Kindle self-publish path. But I will also look for other paths, maybe in the comic book geek crowd, or young female crowd, or fantasy/sci-fi. “Have you given thought to your ideal reader? Who is Holly really written for?” I never wrote for demographics, but I think Holly can find her audience.


She gave more advice, too much to list here. I will use it.

I am working on a new story due by the end of the month (Fault Zone again). It will be about a week before I implement her comments. I wish I could run more stories past her, but for now, I am pinching pennies. I think I will send my Kittygirl story her way when I give it one more polish, strictly for her enjoyment. Anne liked Katsuko and her mom, and they show up again.

Kittygirl: Second draft.

You will notice a big change: I rewrote the beginning entirely because I wanted Kittygirl’s older brother teasing her. An older brother would do that even if little sister has superpowers. A theme in the story is Kittygirl thinking boys can be stupid. Anyhow, this beginning is more like draft 1.5, whereas the rest of the story is draft 2. (I found some typos just pasting this into the blog!) The story is out to my critique group now, and I will get feedback tomorrow. I’ll be doing the third draft soon (the beginning is draftier and will need the most work), and then it will be just minor cleanup. In the past few months, I have been sticking to a three draft limit. I have to finish a story SOMETIME!


A couple dozen furious fangirls bounced angrily in their folding chairs. “We wanna see the Holly comic!” “You’re MEAN!” “I’m gonna tell your mommy!”

As for the president of the Super Holly fan club, the fur raised on the back of her neck. Kittygirl extended her front claws, which could slice through steel like a hot knife through butter! “Give it back, give it, GIVE IT!” She showed her scary sharp fangs! “HISSSSSS!!!”

Johnny was not impressed. No thirteen-year-old brother on Earth was scared of his eight-year-old sister, even if she had superpowers. He held up the Holly Hansson comic book just out of reach. “Careful! You’ll rip it!”

Kittygirl retracted her claws. Johnny had just gotten more teasing lately. Well, Kittygirl had gotten the proportionate strength and speed of a kittycat! She pounced!

And missed? How had Johnny pulled the comic away just in time, HOW?

Johnny leaned down and whispered, “Your kittycat eye pupils get real big just before you pounce. Better not let supervillains see that!”

Kittygirl blinked. When she grew up, she’d fight lots of supervillains! And Johnny would cheer her on. But this eye thing, maybe she could … her super-sharp hearing caught a faint whoosh. Her pointy ears swiveled toward it.

Johnny saw that. His smile got really smiled goofy. “Kat? Is it Holly?”

The sound of the WHOOSH whooshed close enough for normal human ears! One fangirl pointed up. “Look! Up inna sky!” Other girls joined in. “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!”

And Kittygirl squealed, “It’s SUPER HOLLY!”

And a blonde woman in a red cape and a blue, long-sleeve supersuit with a yellow up-arrow chest logo meteored out of the sky and landed at Kittygirl’s side.

The fangirls stood and clapped.

John looked at Holly, starting at her feet, then up her long, strong legs, then to her yellow arrow chest logo. His eyes got a little bigger. “Wow!”

Holly put a finger under his chin and tipped his head up. She said softly, “My eyes are up here, young man.”

He handed Holly the comic book. He was still smiling so goofy! “Nice seeing you, Holly! Really!” He ran into the house like he was embarrassed.

Holly winked at Kittygirl. “I think your brother likes me.” She faced her fan club, her red cape and long blonde hair ruffling in the breeze. Holly was so tall and strong, so beautiful and brave. Her beaky nose gave her a fierce eagle look. Or maybe fierce rocket: when Holly got really mad, steam came out her nose. Kittygirl had always wanted to see that.

It would not be today. Holly looked really happy as she held up the comic book. “Faithful fangirls, this is the first print of my latest comic book! It’s about—”

A loud tune played. A tinny version of Turkey in the Straw. The girls squealed happily, jumped out of their chairs and stampeded around the house.

Kittygirl tugged at Holly’s cape. “I’m sorry, Holly, that wasn’t nice!”

Holly laughed. “Even I, the mightiest super on Earth, can’t compete with ice cream.” Holly got a twinkle in her eye. “Maybe he has strawberry!” She picked up Kittygirl and jumped over the house.