Saturday, 27 December 2014

Where I've Been and What I'm Up To

Welcome back, one and all!

As you can tell it's been awhile since I wrote one of these blog entries (due to equal parts laziness and spending time on other things) so I thought it'd be a good idea to do one up and let you know what's up since last time!

I did my first ever C4 Comic Con (Manitoba's "big con" as it were) this past Halloween weekend and had an absolute blast. Not only was it a successful one for sales, meeting fans, seeing lots of cool stuff and promoting the books, it was incredibly productive in terms of getting to know a ton of different artists and writers. Big plans are in the works with some of them. 

Among those plans was finding a colourist in Donovan Yaciuk for Canadian Corps. I was introduced to Donovan through C.Corps' artist Justin Shauf (who I had a great time tabling beside and hanging out with) and when I finally had a chance to sit down and talk to Mr.Yaciuk, we hit it off right away. Donovan is one awesome dude who's of a similar mindset to myself on a lot of things and brings a wealth of experience to the table, having worked for a lot of the big companies over the years (and his own book, Spacepig Hamadeus). Not to mention he's just a great guy to talk to. And a mutual friend of the man who has since agreed to join the rest of us on Canadian Corps as letterer... Rod Salm of the Death at Your Door web-comic series. Rod and I met last April at my first ever comic show as a "pro" and he was a really great guy who I got along with instantly.

One of the coolest parts of this Canadian Corps group is that Rod, Donovan and I all live within a half hour drive of each other and Justin is only 4-5 hours away. Having spent most of my time working with artists from all points of the globe it's really neat to be able to work with some great people in my backyard, as it were. 

Something else that I've begun working on is a twice-monthly newsletter that will keep people up to date on the projects that myself and the rest of the September17 Productions crew are working on and will feature exclusive sneak peeks at in-progress work so be sure to sign up for that! Here's the link: 

The final draft of Troubleshooters has FINALLY been finished and Eryck Webb will be starting the art in February- something that I'm really excited about as it's been almost two years since I first approached Eryck about the idea of doing a book together. At that time he was too busy (and I ended up finding Kenan and doing New Guard together- a VERY happy turn of events) but now Mr.Webb is free and all mine! 

Ok so he's not ALL mine, he works on about a hundred different projects that you can check out at Eryck Webb Graphics. Two things on Eryck's site that you need to give a look at are his Livestream shows (it is VERY cool to see him working on stuff live- you get to see how much work is really involved in this stuff; spoiler alert: a helluva lot of work) and his 5 part The Journey of EWG that gives you the history of his work/company. Very cool stuff.

Heading into 2015 I've got at least a dozen projects (with literally more happening every day- yesterday two more got added to the list) on the go and I'll talk some more about them on here down the road but the best way really to stay up-to-date will be the S17 Newsletter. It's faster and easier for me and the plan going ahead is to use this blog for things like interviews, special features/articles and the like. The day to day grind updates will be through the newsletter. 

Of course the Twitter and September17 Facebook page will be there for you to check out too- the Twitter features a lot of bleed-over from my Facebook stuff but there are quite a few tweets that are standalone and a ton of interaction with other creative folks- writers, artists and everything else. Those can be a lot of fun to read through. 

Well, I'm off to go do some more of that pile of projects I mentioned, hope you all are having a safe and enjoyable holiday season and I look forward to next year with you great folks. Lots of big plans ahead and it wouldn't be half as much fun without you there. Thank you for being part of it all.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Gone Too Soon

Today was my birthday. I turned 35. Old, right? I write comic books and have always enjoyed acting a little younger than my age (convinced that I'm balancing out for all my kid years where I acted way older than what I was) but today was a day that I felt ever year. Every minute of every year. Today I felt old and tired and run down by life.

At 9:38 this morning I found out that my cousin had been killed in a car accident. She had just turned 27 a couple months back.

At first I was in disbelief. How could that happen? Then I realized it was true. I felt like I was falling down a hole. The world became background noise and all I could think about was that she was no longer with us. The family and friends she left behind. She was a bridesmaid for one of my co-workers. She'd just come back from being on a week-long road trip to visit another family member only days before. She was my youngest son's favorite person (or at least top 5). This was a girl, now a woman, who I had lived within a ten minute drive for easily two decades now.

She couldn't be gone.

But she was.

And I felt tired and sad and angry and lost. And old.

I'd already lost a friend this year, suddenly, someone who I had been friends with for 15 years.

And now this.

A young woman full of such warmth and joy and love for the people that were her family and extended family. Because if you were her friend, to her, you WERE family.

As another of "the cousins" as we're called pointed out, "she was the glue of the family". He was right when he said that. She was the one who made sure names were drawn for Christmas gifts. She was the family historian- having listened and asked after and memorized more about our family's history than anyone else. The loss there alone is staggering. Not because of the information but because of the time and effort she put in with the people who are no longer with us. Now their stories are no longer being told.

You'll have to forgive me if this is a rather disjointed piece, and a much more personal one than I'd normally write. I had to. It wasn't an effort to garner sympathy or to even make sense of what happened. It's because HER story needs to be told. You might not have known her, but believe me you would have wanted to.

She had a passion for caring for kids; she loved them and they loved her just as much. Her love of children was equaled only by her love of her family- never failing to take time and go out of her way for them and always to go above and beyond in her duties as a cousin, niece, grand-daughter, sister and daughter. Her love of adventure led her to travel some, though certainly not as much as she would have liked, though I'm convinced that it was in large part to not wanting to be away from those she cared about. She volunteered and greatly enjoyed attending the local Folk Fest and soaking in the music and friendships that she made there.

I could go on and on about all that she was but it's easiest to sum it up like this:  she was without a doubt one of the kindest and most caring people that I have or will ever know and she touched everyone she met with her love. She was the best of us.

I'm going to miss her.

Rest In Peace, Kirstin.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

365 Days Later...

One year ago today September17 Productions published it's first book, LEGACY #1. 

LEGACY is the flagship title of the S17 comic books (yes, that means more than just comics will be published) and since the release of the first book, issues 2 and 3 have also come out, along with a second title, New Guard, and LEGACY #s 4 and 5 slated for release later this year. 

Six books in a year and a half for a small indie Canadian publisher isn't too shabby, if I do say so. And I just did. But of course this is not a one-man show. The incredible artists that have brought to life these books are at the heart of it; Mike Campeau, Andre Siregar, Anang Setyawan, Jessica Jimerson, Kenan Halilovic and most recently, Justin Shauf. Without them these six books would all just be words on paper. Well, computer screen, but you get the idea. 

Other artists that need mention are Darren Calvert, Peter Raymond and Eryck Webb, all of which have contributed in ways that you might not have realized or have had a chance to see just yet. Darren did a number of character designs for S17, Peter did the Magistrate pin-up in LEGACY #3 (and is working on a short story with that same character) and Eryck has done a couple pieces that you'll see in some up-coming S17 releases, in addition to (hopefully, if schedules permit) a project in 2015. 

I know it seems like every few months I write some sort of Thank You blog but the fact is this stuff doesn't happen without these people. So strap in because here comes some more.

The two people who pushed me to sit my ass down and write an actual comic script; Cassandra and Mike T- this is all because of you guys. Without your encouragement (some might even say harassment- Mike, I'm looking at you) I never would have even tried. 

My ass-kickers; Shannon and Kelly- you make sure I do what needs to be done and when I get down you make sure to yell at me til I get back in the game. Yelling with love, but also with the looming threat of a baseball bat to the kneecap. Thank you. 

Fellow writers Christine, DT, Josh, Justin, Laura, Kurt, Scott, Stephen, and Vito- whether it was bouncing ideas, talking shop, joining forces or just being a cool cat, you folks are really "swell". (Hey if it's good enough for Clark Kent, it's good enough for me.) 

Adam and Charlie, thanks not only for showing me the way to making it happen on my own, but being some really cool friends who seem to dig what I'm doing as much as I dig your work. To read someone's work for some time and be a fan of it and then have that same person turn around and enjoy yours? That is a VERY cool thing. 

Ok I"ll start to wrap up the thank yous here and I'm sure I'm going to miss a few names- please don't hate me, I'll make it up to you:  my parents (for more reasons than I can list), my sons (who brag about their dad's "way cool comics"), my sister and my nephews, the cheerleaders (aka friends): Aaron, Brodhie, Chad, (Dancin') Chad, Chris (Weasher), David, Delayney, Drew, Evie, Garry, Gloria (you STILL haven't seen a book but your support is amazing), Jacqui , Jane, Jean, Lorilee, Matt E, Matt S, Martyn, Michael B. and Roy. All the great co-workers over the last couple years that have seen this go from talking about it to finished product in-hand. You guys keep the excitement (and the sales) going strong every day. 

Jean-Francois of They Stand On Guard! blog gets a special shout out for being the Crusader of Canadian Comic Creators and Characters and I look forward to getting Canadian Corps in your hands in the (not THAT distant future). 

Blaine of Blaine's Books and Music, and Jeremy and the rest of the gang at Galaxy Comics for being awesome enough to carry the books- if I wasn't already a customer for life because of the great service you guys give, I sure as heck would be now. Thank you so much for allowing my stuff to take up some of your valuable shelf space and telling people about the books- when I'm all super rich and famous I'll make sure to remember you guys. 

And to you. Yes, you. If you are reading this, checked out the Facebook page, followed me on Twitter, bought the books (don't forget #1 of LEGACY and New Guard are FREE til midnight on the 6th on!) or spread the word... THANK YOU. I hope you're diggin' what we've been doing. It's only one year in and we've done some neat stuff but just wait until you see what we have in-store for you in Year Two...  ;)

Andrew Lorenz 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Interview with A.P Fuchs, Self-Publishing and Superheroes

I came across Fuchs's work for the first time in a local book store, Chapters, back in 2006. I saw the book, entitled Axiom-man, under the Local Talent section which immediately intrigued me as I wasn't familiar with any superhero writers from Winnipeg. I picked up the book and saw not only was the writer from Winnipeg, Axiom-man was too. Well, I certainly could not pass up a chance to read the adventures of a superhero set in MY city (no wonder Stan Lee and company did so well with setting their adventures in New York City) so I picked it up and have happily snatched up every adventure since. 

Axiom-man, also known as Gabriel Garrison, is a classic superhero in that he's got the whole secret identity thing happening and often can be found patrolling his city. What's cool is we get to see him as he grows as a hero- so many times we meet a superhero who is already well-versed in crime-fighting and his or her powers; not so with Gabriel who often finds himself being in over his head. Like any good hero though he is able to rise to the occasion and save the day as best he can. Axiom-man doesn't always win, and even when he doesn't sometimes the cost to himself is as great as the victory, but he keeps going. Perseverance in the face of adversity is a key trait for a hero- the ability to keep going in the face of overwhelming odds and not buckle under. Something that the author of the book has in common with his hero. 

A.P Fuchs has self-published over 30 books of his own work in the last decade and, when he was acting as a publisher for others, over 100 more. Self-publishing has taken off since he started, or at least going independent has, but A.P Fuchs was one of the people who was there first and is still going strong. 

To say his work was an influence on my own would be an understatement. Without picking up his books and seeing that it was possible to put your own stuff out there, that you didn't have to go running to a big name publisher to get your work out there, LEGACY and every other S17 title would not exist. He was the one who showed me that you CAN do it on your own. IF you're willing to put in the work. And there is A LOT of that. But as Mr. Fuchs will attest, it is more than worth it.

1. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, I know how hard it can be to find even a few moments when you’re a self-publisher such as yourself, always on the go. Why don’t you give the readers a brief bio of yourself so they can get to know you a bit. Who is A.P Fuchs and what does he do?

Do I need to answer in the third person? Kidding.

I’m a fiction writer from Canada who once specialized in monster and superhero fiction, but has now switched gears and focuses on superhero fiction and sci-fi. I’ve been writing since 2000, published my first book in 2003, and am still writing and publishing even now. I used to run Coscom Entertainment, which specialized in the aforementioned superhero and monster fiction. Nowadays I still run the press, but no longer publish other people and am instead just focusing on my own work.

I’m also a self-publisher, something I kind of fell into back in 2004, and have been doing so ever since though I do sell short stories now and then.

2. As we’ve established you’re a writer who has gone the self-publishing route, what made you decide to go that route and what are some of the challenges and successes that you’ve had along the way?

In 2003, I paid a lot of money to another company to publish my book. It was a nightmare pretty much from beginning to end, but ironically I fell in love with the book-making process throughout it all. Since in high school I had decided to one day start my own comic book company—hence, self-publish my own comics—I decided to take that step and publish my fiction. I originally went the subsidy publishing route in 2003 because my book was constantly being rejected. Years later, I can see why. The story—the what-it-was-about—rocked, but the writing was terrible. So to have the ability to put out my own work without rejection was certainly part of the self-publishing appeal. And remember, this was back before self-publishing was fashionable. I was doing it back when if you mentioned to another writer you self-published you were sneered out. Now it seems all the rage these days.

From 2009 up until recently I was able to make a good fulltime living from self-publishing. That’s a success. Was able to put out a lot of books by both myself and others in that time, was able to live the dream of being a fulltime writer. Was my own boss, worked when I wanted, all that.

But things have changed hence the challenge part of my answer. The market is so, so flooded right now that I kind of got lost in the din and am now struggling to move titles. It has nothing to do with book quality or anything like that, but simply the overabundance of titles available to your average reader. I just read something the other day that there’s around 3500 books published daily. 3500. And apparently that’s not including eBooks. That’s crazy! How is someone supposed to stand out from that?

That’s why, I think, the new marketing platform for writers will be getting a group of devoted readers around them so the writer can count on those X amount of people to pick up each and every new release. There’s different ways to develop that and I’m trying some things out now to bring it to pass.

3. Axiom-man. Who is he? Why his story? Why Winnipeg?

Axiom-man is an independent superhero character I created when I was kid delivering the newspaper. I’d have this superhero fantasy running in my head while I was going door-to-door and, in 2006, started committing that story to paper. That’s the short version of how he came to be. I wrote an essay called “Why I Write Superhero Fiction” and it goes into more detail as to Axiom-man’s real-world backstory. It’s available on my website.

As for his fictional backstory, his real name is Gabriel Garrison and one night over a fit of insomnia, he goes to turn on his computer to check email. Nothing new. Suddenly, the monitor lights up and shoots out a being made of pure energy whom only identifies himself as a “messenger.” He then zaps Gabriel and is gone. What Gabriel ends up finding out was he was given superhuman abilities—flight, super strength, shooting energy beams from his eyes—and has to decide what to do with them. That’s part of the storyline from the first novel and its novella prequel, First Night Out.

However, as part of the first novel, a new superhero shows up on the scene, Redsaw, who is more powerful than Axiom-man and, soon, ends up winning the city’s favor, kind of pushing Axiom-man out of the limelight. The strange part is Axiom-man is physically unsettled when around Redsaw and has to find out what’s really going on. Soon he’s drawn into a cosmic war that’s been raging since before Time began, and it’s this war that later novels in the series get into.

Axiom-man is a soldier for Good in that war and is gearing up to one day fulfill his destiny to ensure the power of Good triumphs in the end.

It’s a finite story, with 50 books planned: 25 regular-length novels with 25 novella-length stories in between. So far there are 7 books out total. It’s meant to be a lifetime work. I’m currently formulating the next 4 now, which will be a four-part story arc, a first for the series because up until now, though each book makes up a greater whole, each book stands alone and readers can jump in at any point.

Axiom-man’s story appeals to me because part of it is about the struggle not only between Good and Evil—of which I’ve always been fascinated with—but also the struggle that is life. Face it: each of us have our own things we need to deal with, big and small. I wanted to explore some of life’s challenges in the series and, hopefully, bring comfort to readers who might be going through the same thing and/or can relate to the challenges presented in some way.

Winnipeg. Why not Winnipeg? I grew up here. It’s a big small town and I like writing about it. Most all of my work takes place here so it made sense to me to stage Axiom-man’s adventures here as well. The city also suits Axiom-man’s character because when we first meet him he’s very unsure of himself and is still finding his superhero footing, so to have him in a smaller city like Winnipeg as opposed to New York or Chicago or Toronto—or even a made up bustling metropolis—seems to fit him quite well. I actually briefly make mention in the first book as to why he’s comfortable with Winnipeg compared to going someplace bigger given what he can do.

4. You’ve mentioned that you have plenty of stories to tell about Axiom-man’s adventures, where are you taking the stories next? And in what formats?

Though I’d like to finish the comic series, at this point I’m sticking to the novels and novellas for now.

As mentioned, I’m formulating a four-part story arc and it’s going to be a turning point for the character. See, the premise of the series was the idea of what being a superhero with superpowers would really be like in the real world, as if this stuff, say, happened tomorrow. It’s kind of a slice of life series in that way and I don’t always play up the fantastic side of superheroing, but also get into the everyday stuff as well, or have him stop generic crimes instead of always going up against a major mastermind or something.

Anyway, this upcoming arc will upgrade the character, so to speak, and bring him to the next level in his superhero career. I can’t reveal how, but I assure you it’s going to be an exciting ride. I’m also going to be wrapping up all loose ends with this four-parter, so subplots from the books currently available will be all tied up as well.

I will say there’s going to be a lot of fighting, tons of action, romance, martial arts, and I’m getting into more detail about the Enhancer, which was introduced in Underground Crusade.

Sort of how Doorway of Darkness was a turning point for the series, so too this arc will be as well.

Lots of surprises to come along with a new villain.

5. Have you ever considered writing a different superhero? Either your own or someone else’s?

Yep. I have plans for someone introduced in The Axiom-man Saga. For those who’ve read it, you might know who as I made it kind of obvious.

On a personal note, I kinda like the idea of doing a new hero, sort of “starting fresh” and bringing into that story all of the experience of superhero prose writing I’ve gained thus far. It also gives me the chance to create a new mythos for a character and put into play elements that I enjoy but might not be fitting for someone like Axiom-man.

6. Self-publishing is something that you are very passionate about- you’ve even written a couple books on the topic. What is it that appeals to you so much? If you had to give ONE piece of advice to someone considering doing it, what would it be?

I’m a do-it-yourselfer by nature so I think it’s the idea of creating something from scratch without outside help that appeals to me. Granted, I do hire things out like editing and cover art, but otherwise I take care of all the rest. Perhaps it’s the idea of doing something/making something on my own terms as opposed to trying to fit into a mass market mold. I’m not saying that’s a recipe for success because to be successful in this business, you need to go mainstream and write popular stuff. I write on the fringe for the most part so self-publishing allows me to publish work that wouldn’t otherwise get picked up by a larger press. That, and, frankly, I’m done with trying to be this fantastic success. I really don’t care these days and am instead just fine doing my own thing so don’t want to play the submission game anymore, that is, send out queries and manuscripts, etc. and hope for a big contract. I just want to write my stuff, get it out there, then move onto the next thing. I have a strong opposition to money and success as a driving factor in someone’s life. I’ve been down that road and know how it can destroy a person. I also worked in the financial sector and have seen how the almighty dollar can consume people. It’s disgusting and it’s wrong.

For me, I want to get back to basics these days and I remember what is was like just starting out and all that mattered was the story I was writing. All the headaches of publishing weren’t there and it was such a magical time. I want to get back to that, get back to the craft, get back to basics. I think thinking and/or obsessing about the publishing side of things—traditional or self- —can cause more harm than good if you let it. Like I said, I’ve walked down that road and don’t want to travel it anymore.

That said, I have two pieces of advice for the would-be self-publisher and they are this: one, research like crazy what self-publishing is, what it takes and what you can expect. Read about the successes, read about the challenges, and decide if it’s for you. If you’re not entrepreneurial by nature, you’ll have a hard time with it. If you’re a hands-on kind of person, you probably will enjoy it. Which brings me to goal-setting. Clearly establish what your career goals are because each goal takes a different path. Find your goal then research the path to get there.

That’s the short version.

7. You like to cook- what are some of your more tasty specialties? Any chance of a cookbook being added to your ever expanding list of books?

A cookbook one day would be nice. I really don’t know much about making them though they seem straightforward.

Cooking has been a creative outlet for me since 2009 and I cook 6 days a week up here in the North.

Some of my faves to make are standard stuff like fried chicken, burgers, etc. But in terms of more exotic dishes, my wife taught me to make is sinigang, which is a Filipino sour soup. I usually make it with chicken and it’s served over rice. She and I also make spring rolls together. She makes the filling then we roll ’em up and fry them.

Also a fan of shrimp gumbo, whether my own version or Chef Michael Smith’s rendition. (It was his recipe that got me started on it.)

A lot of the cooking I do now is based on seeing what I have on hand, then pre-tasting it in my head, then making it into a reality.

Oh, also a chili fan and I just made my own chili sauce the other week. Spicy stuff.

8. Comic book movies are another passion of yours- what are you Top 5 all-time favorites?

In order? Hard to say, but my top two for the number one spot is either Man of Steel or Watchmen. All depends if I’m in an action mood or a drama mood. The Dark Knight Trilogy is also incredible, especially the second one. A movie that doesn’t get mentioned enough is The Incredibles. It’s near perfect and I’m so thrilled they’re finally making a sequel.

9. While we’re on the topic of comic books, what books do you read?

Due to budget constraints, I dropped nearly everything from my pull list except for Nightwing (which is now cancelled). I was reading Justice League, Batgirl, Batman, Supreme, and a few others. The big thing I’m into is indie comics. I’m a huge fan of John Porcellino’s King-Cat series as well as Alec Longstreth’s Phase 7. Julia Wertz’s Fart Party comics are also gold, and recently I discovered Max West, who does Sunnyville Stories. I also really dig Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and have several of those collections. Same with Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants.

Of course, there are your comic books as well.

It just seems to me that indie comics have a ton more heart than their commercial counterparts. So much care and love goes into them. The mainstream stuff feels empty. Only once in a while—at least from the stuff I’ve read—a story with soul comes along. Like you had mentioned to me a long time ago, the Shazam backup in Justice League had heart. I totally agree.

Thanks for having me on the blog. Was fun. Readers can find me on the web at my site at, and there it’ll point you to my Facebook and Twitter. I also have a newsletter, of which seven issues have gone out so far. It’s called The Canister X Transmission and in it I cover musings on the writing life, some fanboy stuff, and offer publishing and marketing tips. Sign up is free and it can be found, along with back issues, at


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Interview With Charlie McElvy: WatchGuard Creator and OCR Athlete (and about 1000 other things)

I don't even know where to start with this one. For a lot of reasons. Normally this is where I go "here's how I'm familiar with so-and-so and why you should want to know about them too" and yeah, I could do that but really I wouldn't know where to start. If you like cool and/or geeky things, you'll find that you have something in common with Charlie. Or if you like running marathons, children and presumably anything neat that you can think of- the man is a machine with a diverse array of interests. 

High praise? Maybe. But then again this is one of the two guys that made inspired me to undertake my own creative journey and get off my butt after years of talking about writing comic books and actually DO IT. Charlie sorta has that effect on people, whether he means to or not. 

I've been lucky enough to get to know him in the few quite(ish) moments of (somewhat) free time that he's had and it's been a pleasure chatting about our mutual interests (New Warriors, beer/ales, other Awesome Things) and he's turned into one of the biggest supporters of LEGACY and New Guard- which is pretty darn cool- and someone I call friend. Which is also cool.  

1.   Charlie tell us a little about yourself - inquiring minds want to know. Who IS this Charlie McElvy guy and what’s he all about?

Wow. Start off with the narcissism right off the bat, huh? I usually bait people into that a little later into the conversation. :)

Well, I’m a pretty simple dude, from my perspective. I love to workout, write, eat, play with my kids, running, reading comics, reading books (in general), teaching, coaching, playing football, playing basketball, designing characters, doing graphics for friends & teammates, yard work… crap, maybe I’m not as simple as I thought!

I was born in Norfolk, VA, but I lived in nearly a dozen states before my thirteenth birthday. I come from a divorced/split home, not military (even though I’ve lived in a military town for most of my life). I met my bride-to-be in high school, but we never dated until after we graduated. I’ve now been married to that same amazing, awesome, hot, and wonderful woman for eighteen years, and we have seven children together. Yes, seven. No, we’re not Mormon. Or Catholic. Or crazy. :)

2.   So what prompted you to write and produce The WatchGuard Sourcebook? Why a role-playing game book?

I’ve always had a story, or a thousand, to tell. I’ve loved comics for as long as I can remember, and like most young, creative kids, I still have three or four spiral-bound notebooks full of character sketches, designs, ideas, scribbles, et al., that I’ve just NEEDED to put out there and share with the world. So, it was more of an inevitability, I guess. As for the Watchguard Sourcebook (affectionately abbreviated WGSB), I needed to do something more cohesive than just a bunch of random characters, so I started working on creating a brand-new universe, the WGU, back in early 2007 with my first character from this new universe, Battalion. But, it wasn’t Battalion as he is now — it was actually Sentinel. Originally, I created Sentinel, then named Battalion, mostly as he is now, but the name never quite matched what I was thinking. So, as I progressed through the character creation process, I renamed him Sentinel to reflect the them of WatchGuard (as a group), since he was kind of my centerpiece.

Once I had a few characters, things really started moving and I created an historical timeline, a custom city, my Metropolis, if you will, which I called Summit City. With the help of several comic book artists, most especially my friend Andy Smith, and a few more characters later and I had enough volume to put it all together as my own “Official Handbook”. But, I realized that the comic book market was a bit fickle and finicky, and I realized no one (or very few) would buy a handbook of characters with whom they had no real connection. I needed to establish that connection. That’s when it hit me: I had gained the right to use the M&M license previously under the original Superlink program they ran, and I published two moderately successful characters about five years prior (“Asa”, and Andy Smith’s creation, “Apollo”) for the M&M1e system. DINGDINGDING!!! There it is!!!

So, that was the birth of the idea to build a market platform for WatchGuard: make it a gaming supplement?? BOOM. Then it started coming all together. I’ve always been community-oriented, and I want my big break as most guys & gals do, so I started branching out from the artists I already knew and started commissioning people whom I’d never worked with and had that creative pinache that fit what I was doing. Part of my goal was to help them get a little more established, add more to their published galleries, and provide them another platform for exposure. People like Sean Izaakse (now working with Vito Delsante on “Stray”), Diana Greenhalgh (now working on “The Illegitimates” at Image Comics), and a host of others, all of whom received a brief bio, a link to their personal gallery or DeviantArt page, and any other contact info they wanted to share. That was just my little way of “paying it forward”, as they say.

I think I answered the question, but, to whit, I had published other Mutants & Masterminds licensed stuff before, but never a full-on sourcebook like this one, which was a major undertaking, but majorly rewarding from a creative release perspective. Best thing I’ve done outside of my personal life. Oh, and savvy readers probably noticed Asa was one of my original releases, and he’s also one of the characters you’ll find in the WGSB. He got a little makeover, update, and then integrated into the WGU history, because he’s still one of my favorite creations. More on him another time. :)

3.   You’re still releasing one-shots from the WatchGuard Universe- does that mean WatchGuard made a successful debut and has established a fanbase?

To my absolute surprise and joy, yes! I can’t release these fast enough, primarily because I do have such a busy life, but I’ve also been so focused on getting the Kickstarter comic book project produced. That’s been a frustrating nightmare, but I know when it’s all done, it will be my pride and delight. It’ll be a dream finally come true.

WatchGuard has grown organically, to my delight. I’ve seen whole threads on the Atomic Think Tank and other RPG fan forums where fans of the characters & universe are diving deeper into the mythos, building new epic adventures off of that little starting point, and more. It’s SO very fun to watch. I hope the comic book brings as much satisfaction to everyone!

4.   Where do you see yourself headed in regards to your writing/creating? What’s the plan?

As noted above, the comic book is the next big goal. It’s funded (thank you Kickstarter backers!!!!!!!), but I’ve had several hiccups with the already-paid for artists that has given me a new insight into how to run things, for better or for worse. Thankfully, the actual WatchGuard story (there are two books pending) is almost completed! It’s down to a few pages left to be colored, then final edits, and BAM! it’s ready for publishing. I’m so thankful for Andy Smith and the other artists working on that book.

I will publish the Teen Force 5 comic book as soon as I can get it completed — that’s the one that’s been a hold-up. I originally planned to publish them together, but flip-books aren’t very popular a format, and it’d be too expensive for most comic shops to take a chance on it, so I’m splitting them up into two one-shots (although, I have a mini-series planned, if we can gain a publisher ready to tackle this awesomeness. Heh.)

Also, I’m still working on creating new worlds, new characters, and new solo releases. Most recently, I’ve been delving into the cosmic aspect of the WGU, with releases such as the über-popular Regent and Hyperion releases (those are, by far, my most popular males — Jupiter takes the cake, overall). So, more coming there.

I’m also planning a “Master Release” or “Deluxe Edition” or something, which will include updated versions of every character to date, including the popular Les Supérieurs characters, the cosmic ones, as-yet unreleased ones, and possibly even a reprint of the comic book stories contained therein!

Oh, and I’m dying to do a Les Supérieurs story at some point — I’m a huge Alpha Flight fan, and I just want to tell *my* AF story through *my* characters. Some day…

5.   Xion Studios publishes a series written and created by someone other than yourself as well, is that correct? What can you tell us about that? Is that something that you are looking to do more of in the future?

Yeah, so we have an imprint, as it were, called “BrandX” that is used to publish other creators’ works to, again, help promote others and strengthen our community. Currently, BrandX publishes works from SketchPad Studios on The agreement will also extend into collecting and printing/publishing these works on, which is in the works now.

The BrandX agreement is very simple: we’ll get your stuff on the website for no upfront fees, and a mere 10% of net earnings. The other 55% (that is, the retail price minus’s fees) is entirely the creator’s to keep and is paid out automatically by their system. It can be disengaged at any time the creator(s) choose, and Xion keeps nothing of their IP or publishing rights. It’s more of a community platform than anything. If someone has a good idea, and maybe just wants an established publisher to help promote their works, here we are.

As for the print side of things, that doesn’t extend into comic books just yet, but Xion can publish other collections, sourcebooks, graphic novels, and even traditional novels, for the same fees. We’ll provide an ISBN and the publishing concerns dealing with Amazon directly for you. Keep in mind, not every project thrown this way will get published — we have to consider the costs of getting this all set up and getting an honest return on investment. ISBNs aren’t cheap, and time is even more expensive. But, everything can be considered (but, please, no mature audience works at this time — keep it PG13).

6.   Obviously you’re a comic book fan, so what are you reading these days? What are some of the books that you’ve read in the past that you’d recommend to others?

Currently, I’m reading New Warriors, Superior Spider-man, Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, All-new X-men, All-new X-Factor, Thunderbolts, all of the Gold Key Dynamite books (Magnus, Solar, Turok, et al.), and anything cool or obscure that I can get my hands on. Oh, and World War Mob! I can’t wait for more from Midnight Tiger by Ray-Anthony Height, and I’m really looking forward to Stray by Vito and Sean! Oh, yeah, and I’ve been a big fan of the stuff put out by Valiant since their “rebirth”. Most especially, Bloodshot and Harbinger, but I’m really anxious to read Rai when it hits! X-O is pretty good, but I’m not a fan (at all) of Quantum & Woody. To each his own.

Classic favorites abound. New Teen Titans (and every subsequent incarnation), JLA, Booster Gold, classic Valiant/Acclaim, everything that came from Claremont or Byrne or Wolfman or Perez (it was easier than naming series — I’m bound to forget several), Justice League Europe (man, I love those BWAHAHAHA books!), and, of course, Alpha Flight. I really could spend all day talking about books I loved as a youth/kid/teen. Oh, Legion of Superheroes! Love them!! Classic Guardians of the Galaxy (Charlie-27, et al.), Ghost Rider (Mark Texeira-era), and I enjoyed the Image Comics “original seven” for a time. The X-men relaunch by Claremont and Jim Lee was fantastic. I collect a ton of DC Comics Archive Editions and Marvel Masterworks, too. Classic, truly “old school” books. The New Teen Titans era, though, is probably some of my favorite stuff. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), The Power of Shazam, JLE, JLI, JLA (including JLA: Detroit), Uncanny X-men… man, I just rambled incoherently, didn’t I…?

7.   One of the other things that I know you are passionate about is OCR (Obstacle Course Racing). How did you get into that and what do you love so much about it?

Haha! Yes, that’s a new passion and it’s not fading anytime soon…!

A good friend of mine invited me to do a Tough Mudder in 2013 — there was one coming locally, in Virginia, and we all signed up as a team. It sounded fun. Why not? Anyway, the day before the race a hurricane came through, and whipped up Virginia a little bit, but enough that the venue for the event was unsafe to continue the Tough Mudder on (they couldn’t safely get their emergency vehicles to every point, and were forced to cancel). I was a little pissed, actually. So, I sat in my hotel and Googled “mud runs”, and Spartan Race came up. I checked it out. The video enchanted me. The idea that it was actually a race both thrilled and scared me (I hadn’t run in years, and never competitively). And it seemed so much more of a challenge than Tough Mudder. It just so happened that Spartan Race hosts these Spartan workouts around the country, and one was coming to my city in a couple weeks! Heck, it was at a gym not 3km from my house!! Ok, I’ll check it out before signing up.

I did the workout in June 2013 with about 70 other idiots. It was over 32ºC all day. We worked out in the sun. On asphalt. For almost four hours. According to my heat rate monitor that I wore that day, I burned over 4500 calories in that time…! And you know what? I was hooked.

I bought a Spartan Race Season Pass, and signed up for my first-ever race in Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Pennsylvania. When I finished, this primal, visceral…thing… hit me. I crossed that finish line wanting to laugh maniacally, cry uncontrollably, kiss someone, hug someone, punch someone, bite someone’s face off… seriously, it was that primal. That awesome. What a feeling.

I competed in, and finished, over a dozen events for the rest of 2013 (that’s almost 2 events a month). I completed my first Spartan Race Trifecta, and pursued (and completed) a second in that span. During this time I got in better shape than ever, thanks to my friend, trainer, and pro-racing teammate, John “Hate” Sales of Hate Mentality Training, and I am now a sponsored racer (I have three sponsors: HYLETE apparel, AL1VE Magnetics, and Titin Tech). My kids run in Junior Spartans, and even train alongside me! It’s become quite the family thing. Great times.

Oh, and I still haven’t run in a Tough Mudder. I will, this year, in Virginia, so I will close that loop, finally. :)

8.   How do you find time to do everything you do? Seriously it’s like you never sleep. Do you have a schedule that you strictly adhere to or is it just a matter of making it work through willpower and luck? Time management is a super power that I think any person that writes or draws can really appreciate.

LOL! I don’t really think about it much. I guess I have something of a routine, but I also have an awesome wife and fantastic kids, so it makes things a little easier to manage. My job is really flexible, even if it keeps me very busy and I have to travel often, but the biggest part of it, I guess, is having the passion to do these things. I don’t like to do things half-assed, and really only want to put out quality work in whatever I do, so maybe there’s something to that, I dunno. I once had a bud call me a true “renaissance man”, but I’m not sure that really applies. It’s not for me to judge that about myself — I just want to make good stuff that people enjoy, have a happy and well-loved family, enjoy my wife and our relationship, and kick everyone’s butt on the playing field, whatever that may be. I won’t accept anything less.

9.   Pick six people (other than family) to sit and have a dinner conversation with- real, fictional, alive or dead, and why them? Go!

Zoinks! Only six???? Um… let’s see.

1)     Chris Claremont — I’d really love to hear what he thinks about comics. From the creation of them, to dialoguing, to current trends. Also, discuss WatchGuard with him, and really get a sense of what I’m doing right, wrong, or otherwise with them. There’s so much to discuss, I’d have a blast. He’d probably be bored to tears…
2)     Arnold Schwarzenegger — This guy is an immigrant who truly lives the “American Dream”. He came over with very little, and, through grit, resolve, determination, sheer willpower, risk, luck, and a host of other things, made a life and a name for himself that is known the world-over. I’d want to discuss business, fitness, bodybuilding, acting, politics, family, his youth, my youth…. So much to talk about here.
3)     Albert Einstein — This guy changed the world in so many ways. I’d just like to sit and listen to him pontificate, calculate, or whatever he wanted to discuss. Seriously good stuff to listen to, I’m certain.
4)     Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — I know this one seems trite, or unoriginal, but, really, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to discuss the world, politics, poetry, religion, or anything else with this guy??? Greatness.
5)     Gene Simmons — Another guy who has such phenomenal business sense and has been so successful in many different ways. He’s created a persona, and made himself an enigma, that spans generations, and seems to keep building on itself. I’d love to pick his brain on business, marketing, and the building of an empire.
6)     Mark Cuban — Similar to Simmons and Schwarzenegger, but this guy’s a billionaire and he owns a professional basketball team!!! Mark is both exciting and plain, generous and a complete ass. He’s a living example of a self-made man, and I know he’s got a ton of info to pluck out of that skull of his.