To quote the highly inspirational song “Faith of the Heart” by Russell Watson (yes, it’s the theme song for Star Trek: Enterprise, my fellow Trekkies!): “It’s been a long road, getting from there to here; it’s been a long time, but my time is finally near.” Or, in this case, actually here!
Yes, my first novel has now been published, after a long time working up to this with several short stories published in anthologies and eZines from great indie presses such as Black Coat Press, Sirens Call Publications, Pro Se Press, Pulp Empire, Horrified Press, Grinning Skull Press, and a few others who have since slipped into oblivion. I was greatly honored to have stories deemed worthy of professional publication from all of the above, and it was a lot of fun taking the many arduous steps necessary to develop the reputation necessary to getting a novel accepted.
I’m particularly thankful to Jean-Marc Lofficier, co-publisher and editor of Black Coat Press, for giving me my first professional break in Volume 8 of his terrific annual anthology Tales of the Shadowmen, devoted to yarns of heroes and villains culled from French pulp fiction of the 1920s-1940s. I’ve endeavored to get a short short story published in every subsequent volume (with Vol. 14 due next, in December of 2017), and you can bet I have many more plans for projects with Black Coat.
I am also very thankful to the great writers and creative mythographers who comprise the Wold Newton publishers that have continued and expanded upon the great shared pulp and sci-fi universe built by the late, great Philip Jose’ Farmer, in particular Win Scott Eckert and Chuck Loridans for first welcoming me into their circle of influence, which enabled me to meet many great friends and colleagues, many of whom I have collaborated with for many years now. The inspiration which they and other creative mythographers provided to me was immense, and it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be a published author today if not for the friendships and networking I acquired as part of their creative circle. Thank you, guys, for everything!
So needless to say, I was thrilled to the gills to have my first submission to Severed Press accepted, as this great publishing label is undoubtedly the biggest force in kaiju prose today (as well as other horror and sci-fi sub-genres, such as books devoted to sea monsters, zombies, dinosaur mayhem, post-apocalyptic scenarios, and space military action). I was quite familiar with them and a fan of many of their publications, including Eric S. Brown’s awesomely horrific, high-selling, and long-running apocalyptic Bigfoot War series; and my friend and colleague Matthew Dennion’s kaiju novels, including gems such as Atomic Rex, Polar Yeti and the Beasts of Prehistory, Operation R.O.C., Chimera: Scourge of the Gods, and Kaiju Corps.
I’m especially grateful to Matt Dennion, as my first published work that truly belongs to the kaiju genre is “The Criminal and the Kaiju,” and it appeared in Matt’s anthology Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters Vol. 1. I met a lot of talented friends and colleagues by working on that and other projects of Matt’s, and I was as proud to share a byline with them in that anthology as I was with the many great authors (which also includes Matt) in the Tales of the Shadowmen volumes. Most importantly, the above-mentioned short story was also the first published entry into the shared kaiju/sentai universe I’m building.
Cover to Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters Vol. 1, where a new universe started with Blue King and Mokkadon. Thanks, Matt!
For those who may not be fully in the know, “kaiju” is a Japanese term roughly translating into English as “monster” or “mysterious beast,” and the context in which most English-speaking fans of the genre use it is an abbreviated form of “daikaiju” (sometimes spelled as two separate words) which means “giant monster.” Think Godzilla, King Kong (at least the larger versions of the size-fluctuating giant ape, i.e., the Toho version and the current Legendary MonsterVerse iteration), and Gamera. The term “sentai” is a Japanese word that roughly translates as “monster-fighting super-hero” (well, not literally, but in concept), particularly those who can achieve kaiju-level size to get the job done, either by dramatic size-and-mass accruing themselves, or as pilots of giant robots which rival kaiju in size and power. Think Ultraman, the jaeger (giant robots) from Pacific Rim, and the Power Rangers’ giant polyglot robot the Mega-Zord.
Which brings us to my first novel, and the latest entry into my shared and (hopefully) exponentially expanding kaiju/sentai universe, Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare.
One giant step for me; and numerous giant steps for Dargolla.
Though I have every intention of pitting kaiju against each other in city-smashing battles, as well as sentai vs. kaiju battles — as I did between Blue King and Mokkadon in “The Criminal and the Kaiju” — in my future work, this first novel gives the podium to Dargolla alone. What is the basic skinny of this tale?
For one thing, I extenuate the horror aspects of the kaiju genre. Rather than depicting these gigantic monsters as being in any way funny or goofy, I pay homage to the antiquarian roots of kaiju from world mythology (e.g., Jormangand the Midgard Serpent and Tiamat) and the Biblical beasts Leviathan and Behemoth, where they were destructive, overpowering, and living forces of nature that even the gods respected (and often used for their own destructive tendencies).
I also strive to pay homage to the wondrous kaiju-films I grew up watching, which fascinated me and piqued my creative impulse on a deep psychic level. They certainly constitute great childhood viewing memories, albeit of a decidedly different sort than the type I got from watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch.
Which brings us to Dargolla. As the sub-title of the novel makes clear, this is not a kaiju you want visiting your home town, or even co-existing on the same planet with you. This creature doesn’t simply smash buildings and flatten automobiles that happen to be directly in his path. Like most kaiju in this universe, he views the tiny humans in his midst as rivals for global food chain hegemony, so he makes literal food out of them at every opportunity. When he isn’t devouring humans, he’s deliberately smashing their buildings and kicking their vehicles about, which his bestial but far from simplistic mind correctly identifies as constructs that harbor his miniature competition for dominion of the planet. People in this world live in mortal terror of kaiju, as humanity’s best military weaponry often has minimal effects on them.
Which brings us to the military of this nightmarish world, who are frequently engaged in the development of weapons specifically designed to deal with these living WMDs, and often pose as much of a threat to the civilization they are hoping to preserve as the kaiju themselves. This becomes evident in the novel when the fleeing hordes of hapless residents of the city of Metroville find themselves besieged by a military attack on Dargolla, as cluster bombs and building debris blasted loose by the weapons rain down on them and claims as many of their lives and limbs as the monster himself.
Which next brings us to the main human protagonist, Colin Wilson. He’s a young boy that finds Dargolla’s attack on his home city to be anything but cool or exciting. The story focuses on Colin and the rest of his nuclear family as they desperately try to escape from the city while a skyscraper-sized beast and the additional obstacles of attacking military forces and stampeding crowds of terrified people present additional obstacles.
With this novel, I endeavored to answer a series of disturbing questions I have always harbored in the darkest recesses of my mind: What would it actually be like, from the point of view of an average family, to have to deal with a kaiju attacking their city? What would be their realistic chances for survival, or even of simply getting out of such a disaster zone intact? Could every member of the family be expected to make it? What would their interactions with their panic-ridden fellow residents be like as everyone desperately attempted to flee for their very lives? How would they deal with the psychological trauma of seeing people crushed, eaten, and blown to bits all around them? How would they act and react knowing that this was their own likely fate at any moment? What would be the thoughts of the military aircraft pilots as they faced almost certain death, but were determined to do their best to carry out their orders anyway? How would these soldiers feel about the destruction they would inevitably wreak upon the very city and citizenry they were trying to save, and how would this effect them psychologically? And what about the military brass safely ensconced in distant military bases who had to issue the orders, if for no other reason than to make them appear to be “doing something” about the kaiju incursion? How would they feel about authorizing the use of an untested doomsday weapon on the kaiju, which could have far-reaching consequences for millions of people and the biosphere itself?
I endeavored to answer all of these unsettling questions as best I could, or at least to confront them head on. This particular novel has no true heroes, just an average family doing their best to flee the only home they ever knew and retain both their sanity and their lives as horrific death and destruction constantly ensue all around them. Besides that, we have soldiers who engage in heroic actions, but are first and foremost soldiers who must obey orders and make sacrifices no matter what the possible consequences to both themselves or the people caught in their crossfire (I personally consider soldiers to be a category of warrior, but not necessarily a category of hero — just like mercenaries — but I’ll deal with that in depth in a future blog when I discuss character concepts and categorizations).
Time and reader reaction will ultimately tell if I effectively addressed these questions and successfully provided a scenario to do them some type of justice with this novel and subsequent publications, but it was a lot of fun to make the effort, and it’s a dream come true to be given the opportunity to make this nightmare happen. I’m now at work on my next kaiju novel occurring in this universe, Megadrak: Beast of the Apocalypse, and I look forward to inflicting that upon the world as well!
For all my fellow kaiju-fans who may be interested in purchasing this debut novel, you can buy it for your Kindle or rent it for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, or purchase it in paperback. Your choice, as the nightmare and mass destruction will unfold in either format 🙂 Thank you to all who have already purchased, and those who will do so in the future, as your contribution to making this book a success is appreciated more than I can possibly say.
The Orange Street News is requesting an interview with President Donald J Trump on Saturday when he comes to Harrisburg to discuss the issues facing the people of Selinsgrove. The OSN has been unable to reach President Trump through his website or by emailing his advisors. The OSN is hoping you see this video, Mr. […]
Which gender is worse when it comes to this? The conservatives would say it’s women, the liberals would insist it’s men, but I say it’s BOTH! Ha ha!
I love the College Humor site! It’s funny and gives you good insights into everyday aspects of life that we’ve all noticed and lived through. It’s an entertaining alternative to dry scholarly examinations of how people behave in our present day consumerist society that are penned by psychologists and sociologists. The article lists that use sequential art-based scenarios to provide side-splitting examples of the topic at hand are among the best of what this site’s content scribed by wryly observant authors has to offer.
Recently as of this writing, we got a nice little gem entitled “Pros and Cons: Online Dating” by Amelia B and Paul Westover. Really great and hilariously informative stuff, especially this part:
LMFAO!!! Yes, all ladies who have frequented dating sites or apps have dealt with the typical sleazebag, one-track-mind type of guy with deceptive advertising on sites like OKCupid, Tinder, etc. No argument there.
“Geez, it sure doesn’t help my image to share a nom du guerre with guys like that!”
So what is the “problem” with the above, if any? Well, just a minor little one: the total lack of balance. Yes, heterosexual women go through lots of shit with the “creepers” from these sites who advertise themselves as stand-up guys, but turn out to be… well, something different. But what we don’t see here, or in too many other places in our PC-conscious world, is the type of female creeps that heterosexual men routinely meet on such dating sites/apps. These female “creepettes” (did I just coin some new slang here? Go me!) also have their atrocious share of issues and one-track-mindedness, albeit most often in different or opposite directions to those of their male counterparts.
Let’s add some balance to the “social atrocity” scale by giving some typical message responses heterosexual men all too often get from the creepettes when they contact women who advertise themselves on these dating sites:
1. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Hey babe! Would you like to watch me get busy with myself on cam? Only $30.00 for 30 minutes, and I’ll do some rilly rilly naughty shit for you!
2. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Will u plz rate my pics? Go to http://www.iamsohot.com. Plz give me 5 rating and share with ur friends!
3. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: WTF!!?? I don’t know you, asshole! Are you some sorta creeper?!
4. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: *Sigh* That is sooooo unoriginal! Fuk offf!
5. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Hi.
Man: It’s nice to meet you. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Creepette response: [no further response, even if she initiated the conversation]
6. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Can you plz do me a favor? Can you send me 1 thou amerikan dollars so I can gett a plain ride out of my kountry and can come and meet you? I look so forward to meeting u are such my knight!
[Yes, some of the above swindlers are men pretending to be women, but some have proven to be women by actually encouraging their male victims to travel to meet them first, or actually showing up in this country if they successfully bilk some naive lonely fool schmuck, and then continue to bilk him in a faux “relationship” until they get their green card. On other occasions, such common false advertising on dating sites that target lonely heterosexual men are the work of a man and woman working together — a lethal creeper and creepette team-up!]
7. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Um… fine? Can I help you?
8. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: Just so you know, I’m only looking for friends here.
Man: Alright, nothing wrong with just wanting friends, but if that’s what you’re looking for, then why put up a profile on the Dating section of the site instead of the Just Friends section that is specifically designed for people looking for something platonic rather than romantic?
Creepette response #1: Oh, I see, so you’re only looking for a girlfriend! You can’t accept just a friend! No wonder you don’t have anyone, you’re a self-centered dick!
Creepette response #2: Fuk off, asshole! No one uses any section of this site to look for more than just friends cause yer a total loser if you need a website to find romance and can’t do it in person!
Man: As opposed to needing a website like this to find platonic friends in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Google Groups, Tumblr, Reddit, etc., etc.?
Creepette response: Shut up and fuk off!! [ends conversation]
9. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: No, I don’t want to cyber with u asshole!
Man: I wasn’t looking for cyber, I was looking for romance, and I’m trying to meet someone and get to know them since this is, you know, a Dating site?
Creepette response: Bullshit no man ever messages for anything other than 2 cyber ur obvously a creeper fukk off and die!!
10. Man: Hi, I’m Chris, how are you doing?
Creepette response: That makes you sound like a misogynist who is trying to disempower me! And don’t try to mansplain your way out of it, it’s obvious you’re an oppressive beneficiary of the patriarchy!
“Message me… I DARE you! *evil Joker laugh*”
Yup, guys have quite the experience on these dating sites and apps too. I just wish I was exaggerating the above! You just gotta love the mutually competitive, as opposed to reciprocally conciliatory, nature of the genders under a system that encourages competition and one-upmanship in all aspects of life, huh?
This is the second of an ongoing series of brief, generally five-question interviews with Elijah D. Manley, who made history as the youngest person to ever run for President of the United States, at age 17, which he did as a candidate on the Green ticket in 2016. I was proud to be his campaign manager, especially after he managed to make the ballot on the Green primaries in two states and the District of Columbia, and acquired 41% of the votes among the Greens in his home state of Florida, along with three of his state’s seven Green delegates (the rest of the votes and delegates in Florida went to Green powerhouse Jill Stein). He also received strong support from fellow Green presidential candidates Sedinam Curry, William Krempl, and Darryl Cherney, with the first two giving up their allotted minutes to speak at the 2016 Green National Convention to allow Elijah to speak. He was thus able to take the podium and speak to his fellow Greens against the insistence of one of the ageist national committee members that this would never come to pass. Boo-yahh!
Elijah speaking at the Green National Convention, Houston, Texas, 8/16/16 (Elijah comes in at roughly the 12:26 time stamp, and unfortunately the sound quality of this video is poor, so turn up your speakers on max, mute the volume of your TV in the background, and listen carefully!)
Elijah has recently announced he will be running again in 2020, and I’m honored to be his campaign manager once again. As a result, this young man will soon be more relevant than ever, and this leads to our second interview, where he discusses his reasons for not supporting the Democratic Party and why true progressives and socialists cannot find a lot of common ground with centrist neoliberals.
Without further ado, let’s start:
This blog is the first of a planned series of brief interviews where I will discuss various youth rights and other assorted political issues with Elijah D. Manley, the first underager to run for President of the United States, which he did as a nominee in the 2016 Green Party primaries at the “mere” age of 17. The interviews in this series are intended to be short enough that most people can consume them in a single sitting. As a few examples of his political exploits over the past year, here is Elijah speaking at the 2016 Green Party National Convention in Houston, Texas (Elijah’s speech starts around the 12:44 time stamp; unfortunately, this video has a poor and inconsistent audio quality, so listen carefully on a device with a good sound system!); and here is his interview on The Young Turks.
Though the nomination went to Jill Stein, Elijah did quite well for a campaign that was radical even by the progressive standards of the Greens. He managed to get on the ballot of two states and the District of Columbia, and gained an impressive 41% of the votes and 3 of the 7 Green delegates in his home state of Florida, with the rest of the votes and the state’s other 4 delegates going to Jill Stein; and this despite all 6 Green primary candidates being on the Florida ballot. As an additional surprise, he was given a quarter of a delegate from among the District of Columbia’s 2 delegates (with another quarter going to Bill Kreml, and the rest going to Jill Stein).
I was honored beyond words when I was asked by Elijah to be campaign manager for his historic run, and needless to say, it was quite a ride! As expected, Elijah is far from done with politics, and I thank him for graciously giving his time to my blog for this series of interviews. Let us now begin! The interview was conducted via instant messaging, and is edited only for grammar and clarity, with no change or modification in content or context.
My thanks to Elijah for his time!
Moving forward against all odds!
Of interesting note, Pam Grier made a major comeback during the 2000s specifically in the super-hero genre on the TV medium in the role of DC Comics’ cagey and formidable Task Force X director Amanda Waller for Smallville, the longest-running super-hero TV series to date. In fact, Grier originated the newer, sexy slim version of the previously uber-corpulent Waller, played most recently by Viola Davis on the big screen version of Suicide Squad.
His title started as LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR FIRE, and would change to the more super-heroey LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN with issue #17. The book, and the character, scored very high with readers during the first decade that Marvel overtook DC as Number One amongst the Big Two of comic book companies. By the end of the decade — specifically with issue #50 of his mag — Luke Cage teamed up with white martial arts hero Danny Rand, a.k.a., Iron Fist, whose own comic merged with his to create the fan favorite duo POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. It continued into the mid-’80s under that title, and has re-emerged in different volumes since then with a present day incarnation ongoing at this writing. Nowadays, Luke Cage detests the name of Power Man, and is only referred to as that in an ironic manner; he has also passed the code name on to a teen hero of color he mentored, who is proud to carry it.
This is the cover to LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN #17, when Marvel first gave the character an outlandish code name to make him seem more like a super-hero and less like a blaxploitation character.
Luke Cage was a game-changer in the world of heroic fiction, and I’m glad the costume and previous rather silly code names — Hero for Hire and Power Man — though wisely dispensed with since the 1990s, were nevertheless given respectful mention and token representation in the TV series. They were an integral part of his history that deserve to be gone but not forgotten, if such makes sense. And best of all, not only was his exclamatory catchphrases fully retained in the TV series, but a logical explanation for their retention was provided: his minister father and later barber role model and surrogate father figure Pops Hunter were both averse to profanity, so Luke came up with alternative exclamations to those which utilized expletives or obscenities. And they just so happened to stick!
… and this muscle-bound hairy guy called Mangler. Imagine these two getting into a slug-fest on the next bus you ride.
Not only that, but Lucas was subjected to repeated nasty treatment, including periodic beatings, from the cruel racist security guard named Quirt (very appropriate name for some reason!), and enabled by an equally nasty captain of the guards and acting warden named Rackham. This unfortunate situation lasted until a degree of comic book justice came along when a more scrupulous warden named Stuart took over; this guy not only stripped Rackham of his captaincy and demoted him to a regular security guard when he stumbled upon what was going on, but he also graciously locked Quirt alone and unarmed in a cell block with a very angry Lucas. I need not mention the next hour was a very bad one for Mr. Quirt, as his former victims’ fists reduced him to something resembling what his last name sounds like. Lucky for Quirt Lucas was a man of conscience, or he could have more formally made Quirt his “bitch,” if you know what I mean. But if you prefer to imagine that he did anyway, and the creative crew simply didn’t want to show it in order to meet the Comics Code requirements of the day, don’t let me stop you from fantasizing.
Up to this point, we have the perfect plot for a classic blaxploitation crime/revenge thriller. But this being the Marvel Universe, things were now about to take a turn for the fantastic, as a truly super hero was about to be born out of this mess.
As is the case often enough for the denizens of a reality like the Marvel Universe, some rather fantastic opportunity was about to come Mr. Lucas’s way. This was in the person of medical researcher and only slightly-less-than-mad scientist Dr. Noah Berstein, who was looking for physically able candidates to participate in an experimental cell regenerative procedure for the benefit of all humankind that his brilliant but wacky mind had concocted. Lucas wouldn’t be the feature character of this comic if he wasn’t the one who proved the most qualified, and though he initially refused to be Berstein’s guinea pig, the death of Reva convinced him that the significant time off his sentence he would earn for stepping into that loony contraption was worth it.
Only Lucas’s bullet-riddled prison shirt was found on the rocky shores near the water, so it was presumed he was mortally wounded and his body washed out to sea. No one knew he had gained superhuman strength save for Berstein (who stayed mum on the matter to avoid explaining his complicity in things), so no one realized he successfully made the swim back to New York. The escapee was therefore believed to have died in an attempted prison escape (don’t ask me how that hole in the wall of Berstein’s makeshift prison lab was interpreted; maybe they figured it was the result of Berstein’s contraption exploding when Rackham made it go haywire). It was quickly revealed to the readers that Lucas succeeded in surviving the repeated shots he received and successfully used his superhuman strength and endurance to swim those many miles to shore. He then spent about a year performing odd jobs wherever he could find them, until he was gradually able to afford enough to return to Harlem to exact just-tribution (I just made that up!) on his ex-BFF Stryker.
It was then that Cage realized his superhuman powers could be used to find honest work by his becoming a mercenary! Or, as he called it, a “hero for hire” (I guess “soldier of fortune” didn’t cut it on the streets). Using the reward money to purchase wares from a costume shop, the man on a mission acquired those funky yellow and blue tights, along with the tiara and chain around his waist, printed up some business cards, rented an office — above the Gem Theater on the horrid pre-Disneyfied Times Square, no less — and Luke Cage, Hero for Hire was officially in business.
This is because many of the issues facing black america and the working/labor class in general during the early ’70s have found revived popular interest in a strong progressive spirit over the past few years thanks to the Great Recession beginning in 2008. A group like Black Lives Matter would have been just as much at home in 1972 Harlem, or anywhere else in America, as they are across the cyber-roadways of Twitter and Facebook in 2016 America. The issues of how the system denies opportunities to make a decent living off of honest work, and the temptations of crime as a result, are just as relevant during the Great Recession of this decade as they were during the recessions of the early ’70s, when nations in Asia and Europe (particularly Japan and Germany) began recovering from the industrial devastation wreaked upon them in World War II, and thus started giving America major competition in the global market again. How this disproportionately impacted upon people who had gotten a slower start on the capitalist system of wage labor in America was of major importance to the readers who became fans of LUKE CAGE in the early ’70s, and not all of them were black. That type of hard core progressive thinking has been further accelerated in America since the latest failed Democratic presidency, with the promise of another such failed Democratic presidency beginning in 2017 as yet another neoliberal hardliner takes office.
Further, and perhaps more importantly, these issues have much to do with the fictional world Luke Cage inhabits, and the factors that not only made him into the man he became, and which also made the various adversaries and supporting characters he interacted with the people they ultimately became. Hence, these issues are not off-topic; hence, I will not ignore them or pretend they’re irrelevant; hence, I will not foolishly try to pretend the saga of Luke Cage — both in the comics or on the small screen — is somehow non-political or that I’m “reading too much into what was always supposed to be just popcorn entertainment.” To the contrary, it’s the saga’s relevance to problems in the world outside our window mirrored in the fictional locale of the Marvel Universe (or whatever iteration thereof) that heavily contributed to Mr. Cage’s popularity and continued relevance in the modern world. Luke Cage has always been an angry mo’ fo’ against the injustices of the system, and while he may not explicitly point out capitalism and its chief policies as the problem for obvious reasons, I think anyone with half an intellect and the honesty to match it know precisely what the main source of most of Mr. Cage’s challenges happen to be.
End another of my uncomfortable but important interlude segues and back to our regularly scheduled review.
Let’s start my analysis with the one major change to the saga that I wish Marvel Studios, ABC, and Netflix had not made. In the comic book storyline, the man who became Luke Cage started out as the fairly hard core but small time criminal I mentioned above, but with clear scruples that prevented him from taking things too far. These redeeming character traits allowed the love of a decent woman to pull him out of the escalating chaos that his BFF Willis Stryker — the future Diamondback — was descending into. The younger Carl Lucas could readily be identified with by many struggling members of the working class, including the disproportionate number of young black men who were not bad people at heart but nevertheless got pulled into the temptation to try and find their fortune on the wrong side of the law. Nothing about this history as written in any way condoned those early disreputable actions of his, and he paid dearly for them. However, rather than becoming a slave to bitterness, upon escaping prison he ultimately ended up becoming a hero by working his way up to that status.
How does Claire Temple fit into the TV version? She was actually fit into the saga in a rather interesting and pre-meditated manner. The character, played onscreen by actress Rosario Dawson, had previously appeared in Season 1 and 2 of Daredevil, Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and is slated to have a big role in the upcoming first season of Iron Fist (due to be released March 17, 2017). She is, in other words, the proverbial glue that cements the initial quartet of series featuring Marvel’s street-level heroes on Netflix together into a shared universe. As such, she can reasonably be expected to play a big role, and major force, in the upcoming Defenders series that unites these four heroes into a team. Of course, other supporting characters have appeared in more than one of the Netflix series, and references have been made to events and characters between one and another, but Ms. Temple as the emergency room nurse who ends up getting her fate mixed up with several metahuman heroes which results in a unique career of discretely patching up their cuts, bruises, gunshot wounds, etc., is the true connection between them all.
Let’s now get to the show’s main antagonist, adapted from Luke Cage’s debut storyline in the comic books: Willis Stryker, a.k.a., Diamondback. The comic book version of this debut story arc played out in the first two issues of LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR FIRE, as written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by George Tuska. The comic book version of Diamondback was interesting enough, and the strong personal connection to Luke Cage described above lent more pathos to their antipathy, even though it wasn’t necessary to make a good story. The villain’s stock in trade outside of his sheer brutality was his skill with throwing blades, for which he had a weaselly little mechanical genius called Gadget design trick throwing knives that released various sprays from the hilt; or exploded; or emitted brain-crunching sonic waves whenever the tip of the weapon struck or embedded in a surface. Only the one that emitted sound waves proved problematic for Luke Cage when the inevitable battle went down, however, and the Diamondback of the comics was defeated in a fairly prompt fashion, not to mention in a rather ignominious manner, as Cage’s first story arc concluded.
Knight then left the force to become a freelance adventurer. She became BFFs with Danny Rand’s friend and ally, the female samurai Colleen Wing, and Knight proved one of those incredibly fast and adept learners of martial arts skills who are so popular in fiction. The dynamic duo of Knight and Wing then billed themselves as the Daughters of the Dragon when working together, and not only did they remain supporting characters and allies throughout the runs of IRON FIST and POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, but also appeared in a few stories of their own, mostly as a recurring series in Marvel’s black and white 1970s mag THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU (where Iron First also had a recurring series, as did the comic world’s first Puerto Rican super-hero, Hector Ayala, the original White Tiger, who debuted in the mag… which may also be a whole other future blog entry).
The character was well played by Simone Missick, even if to be totally honest here, I really wish the role had gone to the truly beautiful Nigerian but London-born actress Deborah Ayorinde, who was relegated to playing the minor if semi-significant character of the beleaguered, ill-fated nightclub worker Candace Miller, a relatively thankless role that in no way allowed this talented and awesome actress to shine. I wasn’t one of the show’s three casting directors, and I do not mean to sling aspersions on Missick, who gave the role of Misty Knight her all to good effect, but this is how I feel about this particular casting decision. I think Ayorinde not only has the acting chops, but also the right look for Misty Knight, and as attractive as Missick certainly is, she just doesn’t hold a candle in that department to Ayorinde. I know looks shouldn’t mean everything in a casting decision, but this is one of those cases where it should have IMHO. Ayorinde’s beauty totally stole attention from Missick in the several scenes they had together, and since both actresses are graduates of Howard University — which Ayorinde walked out of with honors — I stand by my decision who the roll of Misty Knight should have gone to.
That being said, I again mention that Missick certainly didn’t suck as Misty Knight, so I hope no one perusing this review misreads my words and accuses me of saying otherwise. It should be noted that in this season of the series, Misty Knight receives an injury that may or may not presage her receiving a bionic arm by the time The Defenders rolls around… it may have simply been an homage to this distinct feature of the comic book version rather than a true presaging of things to come, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Afterwards, he pops up from time to time in the series working for various criminals, until he finally acquires some goggles (okay, “shades”) that allowed him to fire optic beams that was given to him by the criminal mastermind he most commonly came to serve, the genius Tilda Johnson, otherwise known as the scantily-clad African-American female super-villain called Deadly Nightshade. Retroactive continuity eventually decided Shades and his frequent partner, the bow-and-arrow-wielding Commanche, were part of a four-member street gang with Striker and Lucas in their younger years called The Rivals.
Only in the Marvel Universe could you expect to run into these guys while taking a stroll through Harlem.
He also later turned out to be the father to Victor Alvarez, a teen super-hero who acquired the power to absorb the chi energy of his surroundings and channeling it into physical power, where he took on the moniker of the new Power Man and teamed up with Iron Fist in a memorable POWER MAN AND IRON FIST mini-series from the 2000s. It would be really cool to see a version of the younger Alvarez
The role of Dr. Noah Berstein (not “Burstein,” as spelled on the IMDb) was played in realistically nervous manner by Michael Kostroff, who did a fine job of portraying the somewhat morally gray, conflicted nature of a scientist who wants to benefit humankind with his revolutionary though experimental technology, but is sometimes willing to go a bit too far to achieve that goal. He has a crucial role in Season 1 of the series, and will clearly have a similarly important role in Season 2, although the implication is that he’ll have a markedly different one than he played as a regular supporting character in the comic book series. In the latter, he was a doctor trying to make up for his past mistakes — a common theme for the book — and acted as Luke Cage’s sometimes unwanted conscience, keeping an eye on the mercenary to make sure he didn’t stray off the path of the angels.
Other roles of note in the series, not reflected in the comic book’s initial story arc, were the always talented Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, the corrupt politician hoping to go legit, but emotionally incapable of doing so; and Maharshala Ali as her younger cousin Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (but don’t call him that nickname to his face!), the criminal owner of the Harlem’s Paradise nightclub, and initial crime lord of Harlem as the show begins.
In the comic book, the character of Mariah Dillard was quite a bit different from the small screen version, and she first appeared in issue #4 of the series. Woodard played an articulate, fairly shapely, and cunning Clintonesque politician with a veritable graveyard of skeletons in her proverbial family closet. This was in marked contrast to the comic book version of the character, a well-known criminal boss called “Black Mariah,” who spoke in awful ghetto slang, was literally 400 lbs. and over six and a half feet tall — her weight and mass making her more than strong enough to knock the average man across the room with a single swipe of her hand, and even to engage in physical combat with Luke Cage — with an M.O. consisting of the disrespectfully ghastly practice of picking up recently killed bodies in fake ambulances and robbing them of whatever valuables may have been on their carcasses before dumping them in the river. Not to mention blowing out the brains of those who crossed her in traditional fashion via use of firearms when necessary.
If Luke Cage had been made by the mavens of blaxploitation production in the early ’70s when the character first debuted, the resulting film and/or TV series would no doubt have been considerably different than what Coker and his cast brought us here in 2016. Would it have been good? There is absolutely no way to tell, as it never came to pass. I’ll let individual readers decide for themselves if that’s a fortunate or unfortunate fact of celluloid history as we know it. What I can give an opinion on, however, is that what Coker and his cast gave us in 2016 was a great interpretation of the character, keeping intact every theme he represents, and respecting the culture he exemplifies. Thus, I conclude that the show we finally got after waiting so many years for it does Goodwin’s and Tuska’s character proud, with its positive points far outweighing the mistakes. As another comic book legend, writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas, served as the editor of that comic book, it would be interesting to see what he thinks of the TV series and how well it held up the standards of a character and saga he was once in charge of.