New domain in place

I’ve just added a redirect, so when you visit percivalconstantine.wordpress.com, you will be redirected to my new site, PercivalConstantine.com. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my new site, please do so, as that’s where I’ll be posting from now on.

Thanks for your support.

PercivalConstantine.com

I’ve made the leap and purchased my own domain name and webspace. WordPress.com has been great for getting new followers, but the site’s limitations make it difficult for me to include everything I’d like to include on my site.

Within the next week, I’m going to set up a redirect so percivalconstantine.wordpress.com will soon point to the new site, PercivalConstantine.com. For those of you who have already subscribed to this blog, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to the new one instead, as that’s where all my posts will be put up from this point on. The site also has a link to the articles I write for GaijinPot and more opportunities to connect and share the content I post with various social networking sites.

When you get to the new site, you’ll see there’s already a new layout that I think will work very well for what I want to do. I’m real excited about having increased control over my site, and I hope to see you all there soon!

A decent Superman video game?

manofsteelI frequently have random thoughts.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a big fan of comic books. I grew up on them. I still read them. The desire to write my favorite comic books is what led to me becoming a writer.

I also grew up on video games and I still play them as well, but I’d be described as a casual gamer at best. I go through gaming spurts and mostly, I’m just out to kill a few hours, so I tend to go for games that more serious gamers might label as unchallenging. The few times I’ve set foot onto Xbox Live or the PSN, my ass has been quickly and embarrassingly handed to me. But, I persevere and play games on lower difficulty settings in my free time and I enjoy them.

Now, being a comic book fan, I keep an eye out for games based on my favorite characters. I’ve enjoyed a good many of them. I know you’ll hear among a lot of gaming circles that there are very few games based on licensed properties that are good. But I’ll be damned if I still didn’t get quite a bit of enjoyment out of them.

Of course there are exceptions. Capcom’s Marvel fighting games, like X-Men: Children of the AtomX-Men vs. Street Fighter, and the very popular Marvel vs. Capcom series are a lot of fun, but that’s because Capcom basically took their Street Fighter series and replaced their characters with Marvel’s. And Spider-Man on PlayStation was very groundbreaking, because it went a long way in taking what made Spider-Man unique and incorporated that into the game. Then, as everyone is well aware, Arkham Asylum completely broke the mold. For the first time, people had a video game where they could really feel what it was like to be Batman. From using fear and stealth to intimidate your enemies to solving puzzles and just flat-out beating the crap out of criminals, Rocksteady hardly missed a step. There was no way it could be any better, and then Rocksteady topped themselves with Arkham City and gave you the ability to literally glide across Gotham and jump from rooftop to rooftop.

Whenever I play the Arkham games (and these days, it’s almost always Arkham City), I inevitably start thinking about the potential for other superheroes. Apparently, the game adaptation for The Amazing Spider-Man went halfway between being a groundbreaking Spider-Man game and just being a clone of Arkham City. I’m just going on reviews here, which have convinced me to not pay the (at the time of this writing) $49.99 price-tag the PSN is charging for it. But there aren’t many superhero games that really emulate what’s unique about these different characters. What about an Iron Man game where you can upgrade your armor in different ways for different purposes? Stealth armor at the expense of firepower or vice versa for different experiences in gaming.

And this made me remember a Superman game that had some good ideas, but ultimately didn’t quite mesh together—Superman Returns. Loosely based on the movie, when I read about this game, it sounded like something that was really clever. For the first time ever, Superman was literally invulnerable in this game. No matter how hard an opponent hit you, you could not die. So how to make it challenging? Well, you have to be careful how you defeat a foe, because the city of Metropolis has a health bar and the more damage you cause, the more the health bar depletes, so you have to try to be careful with how you take on opponents. But as clever as this is, in the end it’s basically a clever way of convincing you that you’re invulnerable when you’re really not. Because when the city’s health bar depletes, that’s basically like what happens when a character’s health bar depletes.

It is a start, though. The important thing is to look at what Superman can do. You know how in the Arkham games, Batman has his Detective Mode that shows him where all the enemies are? Superman has that as well–it’s called x-ray vision. He’s also got microscopic vision, which can be very effective to detect things other people might mist. And super-hearing. These are powers that are often overlooked, especially in games, but can actually be really useful. Superman’s got a strict ethical code, so although he can just put his fist through Lex Luthor’s head, that’s not an option for him, because he sticks to his code. So instead of fighting Lex Luthor in a suit of armor, what if you have to try and collect evidence to prove that Luthor is involved in a crime? That’d be an interesting alternative and a cool side-quest thing to run alongside fighting enemies. Don’t forget that Clark Kent is an investigative reporter and he’s also got resources with the Daily Planet, so those are things that could be incorporated in a game so it doesn’t just turn into a smash-it-up.

That’s not to say that a Superman game shouldn’t have stages where Superman can bash the hell out of things, but it’s important to find a way to utilize all of Superman’s abilities. Speed, flight, strength, x-ray vision, microscopic vision, heat vision, super-breath, freeze-breath, invulnerability, these are all powers that can be utilized in a clever fashion. Have you seen the recent animated film, Superman vs. The Elite? That’s based on a story titled “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” that first appeared in Action Comics #775, written by Joe Kelly. It’s one of my favorite Superman stories, and it contrasts in a wonderful way the difference between Superman’s method of doing things and the methods of more ruthless, grittier superheroes like The Authority.  But one of the clever things that happens is Superman defeats Manchester Black, a man with incredibly powerful telekinetic abilities, not by pummeling him. But rather, he uses his x-ray vision to locate the part of Black’s brain that grants him psychic abilities and then uses his heat vision to harmlessly lobotomize that part of the brain. Black is rendered powerless without ever feeling a thing and without Superman having to throw a punch.

Now that’s a clever use of power, and it’s an example that I hope the makers of the next Superman game will look to. I don’t know if there will be a game based on the upcoming Man of Steel film, but if there is, I hope the designers will pay attention to the things that make Superman Superman and try to give us something that’s unique to Superman. Because no one needs to see another game where Superman just flies around and punches bad guys with some other random powers sprinkled throughout.

Pulp Ark Award Nominations Now Open

As you can tell from the recent announcement, the nominations for the Pulp Ark Awards of 2013 are now open. Nominations can be sent to Tommy Hancock (proseproductions@earthlink.net), and voting will take place until February 15th, 5 PM Central Standard Time.

I’ve included the categories below and what I can be nominated for to make your life easier, so check these out and make sure to get your votes in! Remember that there can only be ONE nomination per category, so in categories where I’m eligible for two different works, only one will be accepted.

Best Collection/Anthology – Tales of the Rook

Best Short Story – “The Curse of Baron Samedi” (Tales of the Rook)

Best Novella – Outlaw Blues or Dragon Kings of the Orient

Best Cover Art – Outlaw Blues or Dragon Kings of the Orient

Best New Character – Carl Flint (Outlaw Blues) or Sun Wukong (Dragon Kings of the Orient)
Best Author – Percival Constantine
That’s all I’m eligible for this year, so make sure to get those nominations in soon!

Marvel Now!

As many readers may be aware, Marvel Comics is in the midst of a semi-relaunch. In the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men, several books have been restarted and the Marvel Universe as a whole is in a different place. This has seen a lot of shuffling of creative teams. What I have now is some initial thoughts on the current Marvel Now! titles:

All-New X-Men

I’ll be honest, my expectations going into this book were very, very low. I think Brian Michael Bendis is talented when he sticks to his niche, which is street-level crime drama. His work on books like PowersAliasDaredevil, etc. is undeniably excellent. But his mainstream Marvel work, like the Avengers books, has been very lackluster. It felt like I was reading an Avengers book written by someone who didn’t really like the Avengers. So I was understandably nervous when I heard Bendis would be moving over to X-Men, as the X-Men are what first got me into comics. Fortunately, this issue is actually a very good start. I’m still a bit iffy on the logistics of how the X-Men of the past come into the present and Storm’s dialogue was a bit melodramatic, but it isn’t enough to turn me off to this.

Deadpool

I was very disappointed in this book. Deadpool has not been funny since Gail Simone was writing it, and that’s sad. It’s not hard to make Deadpool funny — he’s a walking lawsuit who breaks the fourth wall, the jokes should write themselves. But for some reason, ever since Gail Simone left, no one’s been able to handle a Deadpool solo series (this doesn’t include the very excellent work done by writers who have used Deadpool in ensemble books to excellent effect, such as Fabian Nicieza’s Cable & Deadpool or Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force). In this set-up, you have Deadpool going up against zombie Presidents. Especially in this current political climate, that’s awesome! It’s the kind of idea I’d wish I thought of. But the execution falls and aside from a few random giggles (which were unrelated to the plot), this book is not funny.

Iron Man

The writing in Iron Man #1 was actually very good. But there is one, major problem — and that is the art. I don’t know why, but for some reason Marvel put one of their best writers with one of their worst artists on this title. Salvador Larroca was an amazing artist. And he’s a guy who can actually draw on his own. Why Marvel chose to replace him with Greg “I Need to Photoshop Porn Stars” Land is beyond me. But the art failings are unfortunately very obvious. The armor scenes are done well, but when we have to see Tony outside of the armor, we’re greeted with exaggerated expressions that make no sense whatsoever.

Uncanny Avengers

Against my better judgment, I really enjoyed the beginning of this series. I like that Havok is becoming a bigger factor. Rogue and Scarlet Witch’s animosity felt a bit forced, though.

Thor: God of Thunder

I really don’t know what to think of this book. It’s got a lot of old school mythology/flashbacks, which could prove very interesting. I do like how Jason Aaron isn’t shying away from Thor’s attitudes as a god of old times, though — the whole thing feels authentic

Avengers Assemble

I have to be honest, this is the title that disappointed me the most. I’d only recently become acquainted with Kelly Sue DeConnick through her work on Captain Marvel (which I liked). But her Avengers Assemble felt very forced and unnatural.

 

From my experience so far, the best Marvel Now books seem to be Uncanny AvengersThor: God of Thunder, and (surprisingly) All-New X-Men,

Digital movies

Occasionally, I’ll check out the movies section on iTunes. Sometimes, they’ll have older movies discounted (they had a “Back to School” sale recently, which enabled me to pick up Easy ASuperbad, and The Substitute all pretty cheap — yes, I like The Substitute, shut up). Another reason I’ve been checking it lately, is that I’m hoping I was wrong about the September 25th release date for The Avengers and that I’ll go onto iTunes and find it waiting to be downloaded.

Anyway, I saw something interesting there when I went on today — Prometheus is now available in HD for $14.99. But for standard definition, it’s only available for pre-order. I was curious if this may have been a mistake, so I did a quick Google search and came up with this article from the Huffington Post – ‘Prometheus’ Digital Edition Available 3 Weeks Before DVD. Apparently, 20th Century Fox is releasing the HD version through digital channels almost a month early to boost digital sales. According to the article, even though digital sales are growing, they still only represent 4% of home video sales.

Offering movies through digital channels earlier than the stores is certainly a good way to try and boost sales. Just like how rental versions used to be (and in some cases still are) available before you could buy movies, probably so people who couldn’t wait to buy, say, The Avengers, would rent it first and then buy it when it comes out two weeks later (okay, I admit, I’d be one of those people and speaking of which, why is The Avengers not available to rent yet?).

But here’s something even more interesting, and, in my opinion at least, sheds some light on why digital sales aren’t as high:

The digital versions of Fox titles don’t come with all the extras included with Blu-ray copies, such as deleted scenes, and they are not as high-quality.

Wait…what? They don’t see the disconnect here?

Look, movie studios, here’s something you should know: there is a certain group of people that cares about having the best quality movies and having all the extras. There is also a group of people that would have more of a tendency to buy these movies digitally. I’ll bet that these two groups are actually one and the same.

And yet, the studios are confused as to why digital sales are so low.

It’s really not that hard to figure out. Basically, if you’re going to offer digital versions that lack the extras and are of a lower quality, the people you’re trying to get to buy digitally are more likely to wait for the full versions. This isn’t hard to figure out. If you offer the same HD quality as Blu-rays with all the features, I guarantee you’ll see an increase in digital sales.

Don’t Blame Batman

During a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, twenty-four year-old James Holmes, dressed in tactical gear (including a bulletproof vest and a gas mask), entered a theater through an emergency exit, set off gas canisters, and opened fire on the crowd. He was armed with, among other weapons, an AR-15 assault rifle.

Since then, I’ve seen a number of comments. I’ve seen a reporter on ABC claim that Holmes may have been affiliated with the Tea Party and I’ve seen Breitbart.com claim Holmes is a registered Democrat. I’ve seen other people saying that if people had been armed in the theater, this wouldn’t have happened and more than a few have sworn that if they were in the theater with their gun, they would have stopped it.

These kinds of statements are nonsensical and serve no purpose. As of now, there is no evidence whatsoever that this was politically motivated, so let’s drop the politics. And the idea that a guy with a concealed handgun would stand up to someone in tactical gear and armed with assault weapons, in the middle of a crowded and dark movie theater with gas all over the place, and not only be successful but also manage to avoid hitting any innocent bystanders, is just beyond the pale. So spare us your Clint Eastwood hero fantasies, because they aren’t helping.

And, just like in the wakes of the Columbine and Virginia Tech tragedies, there’s another debate starting to bubble to the surface — is the media responsible? Specifically, is Batman responsible? Sean Higgins at The Washington Examiner cited the 1986 masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns as possible motivation. And then Ty Burr at The Boston Globe suggested it’s the “violent power fantasy” sold by Batman.

Higgins obviously didn’t pay too much attention to The Dark Knight Returns, specifically this part:

Despite using a gun in his early appearances, Batman has eschewed the use of firearms for decades. Of all the characters in fiction, I’m hard-pressed to think of one who is more anti-gun than Batman.

And Burr obviously didn’t pay much attention to this scene from Batman Begins:

Batman’s compassion

In Christopher Nolan’s series of films, Batman relies on non-lethal methods. He says he won’t be an executioner. So the idea that Batman influenced Holmes to commit this senseless act of terrorism is absolutely ridiculous.

And why would it be Batman? If this theory of causation is to be believed, wouldn’t the Rambo movies (especially following First Blood) have caused shootings? What about James Bond, who isn’t shy about using guns? What about Die Hard? Or The Punisher? If Holmes dressed up in a cape and swung from the ceiling, then we could make an argument about how he was influenced by Batman.

So either a psychopath modeled his terrorist behavior after a masked vigilante who despises guns and refuses to use lethal methods, or he chose to use the premiere of one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year for his violent debut because the crowds and the attention would be much larger. Which one seems more likely?

Higgins, Burr, and others like them are nothing more than opportunistic vultures. They should not be listened to.

PULPED!

PULPED! The New Pulp Podcast is exactly what it sounds like — a podcast focused on the New Pulp community. It’s hosted primarily by Tommy Hancock, with Ron Fortier, Derrick Ferguson, and Barry Reese serving as regular co-hosts.

These four gentlemen are pretty much the heavy hitters in the New Pulp community. So getting them all together and listening to them go back and forth is absolutely awesome. I suggest you check out the show, there are a ton of episodes to sample.

Looking for something to start with? Well, why not the latest episode, Double The Pulp? You can listen to me discuss Dragon Kings of the Orient and some broader discussion on Elisa Hill and her universe. And once you’re done listening to my segment, stick around and hear what Altus Press’ Stephen Payne has to say about Master of Menace, is latest Secret Agent X novel!

You should also give a listen to the preceding episode, Tales of the Rook Gets PULPED! That episode discusses the best-selling Tales of the Rook anthology centered around Barry Reese’s New Pulp classic, the Rook. In addition to featuring a story by me, Tales of the Rook also features stories by Ron Fortier, Mike Bullock, Bobby Nash, Tommy Hancock, and Barry himself. And all these guys appear in this episode (although not all of us at the same time, unfortunately).

Give them a listen and after you’re done, check out what all these fine writers are working on!

The Rape of Lara Croft

The new Tomb Raider, now 100% more rape-y

The title of the article on Kotaku is You’ll ‘Want To Protect’ The New, Less Curvy Lara Croft. Here is what Ron Rosenberg, executive producer of the upcoming Tomb Raider game, had to say:

“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character…They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’”

Mr. Rosenberg, what the hell are you talking about? Do you really think that when a guy plays a Tomb Raider game, they imagine themselves as some sort of cosmic bodyguard here to protect her? I’ve played a lot of games and I have never viewed myself as that, regardless of whether or not the character has boobs.

I wish I could say that was the most offensive thing Rosenberg said, but it unfortunately gets worse.

“When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”

If you’re a woman or a man who respects women, I imagine you’re beginning to feel a little bit sick. Yes, you’re afraid of where this is going. And I wish I could tell you that your fears are misguided.

“The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear. She literally goes from zero to hero…we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.”

Notice some key things here—Rosenberg sees Lara as more enticing when she’s more “human” – and more human means she needs a big, strong man to protect her. More human means breaking her down. But it gets worse.

In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her. “She is literally turned into a cornered animal,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”

What. The. Fuck.

Rape is not “evolution.” When you use rape as a way to make your female character strong, it says two things about you:

1) You are a lazy, terrible excuse for a writer.
2) You’ve got issues with women.

What’s more is Rosenberg goes on to compare this to the origin stories for Batman and Spider-Man. Now, it’s been a long time since I read those origins, but I certainly don’t recall Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne getting sodomized by the criminals who killed Uncle Ben or Thomas and Martha Wayne, respectively.

“We’re not trying to be over the top, shock people for shock’s sake. We’re trying to tell a great origin story.”

You’ve got that backwards, Ron—you are trying to be over the top, you are trying to shock people for shock’s sake. And if this is what you call trying to tell a great origin story, then I shudder to think what half-assing it would look like.

Now look, I’m not going to lie and say that Lara Croft was a very well-rounded character. She was created as an obvious sex object, with her short shorts and comically-oversized chest. But that doesn’t justify what someone on Twitter referred to as Tomb Raider: I Spit On Your Grave.

It’s 2012, people. The twenty-first century. Yet we’re debating whether or not women should have access to birth control, and whether or not they need their boss’ permission for it. We’re debating the merits of whether or not women should receive equal pay for equal work.  We’re debating whether or not a woman impregnated by a rapist should be punished for “allowing” herself to be raped by having her attacker’s child.

Adding fuel to the fire is a pop culture that uses victimization of women as character development. In order to be a strong hero, a woman must be raped or sexually assaulted. Want to put a female character in peril? Threaten her with rape. Want a female character to overcome something? Have her overcome a sexual assault.

It’s sickening is what it is.

A story featuring a strong, capable, un-raped female protagonist?! How is this possible?

In both The Myth Hunter and Dragon Kings of the Orient, I didn’t make Elisa Hill a strong character by subjecting her to sexual assault. In these books, she goes up against a villain stronger and more capable than her, she has to deal with former friends becoming enemies, she confronts her own past mistakes, she’s thrown into situations she can’t control and she has to overcome insurmountable odds. In short, she’s exposed to the same things a male character is!

ANOTHER story with a female protagonist that doesn’t suffer victimization?! How does he do it?!

The comments I’ve received about Elisa have been unanimously positive. Both male and female readers have said she’s a strong, relatable, well-rounded character. And you know what else? I was able to do this without resorting to or even hinting at any sort of victimization.

There is no rape in these books. There is no sexual assault. Not even a little bit.

I’m pleading with every creator out there right now, please do me a favor. The next time you feel the urge to use rape as a character or plot device, don’t. Just for once, try writing a female character without using rape. I’ve seriously fucking had enough. This is not good writing—it’s hackneyed, clichéd, misogynistic bullshit. It has no place in the twenty-first goddamned century. If the only way you can write a strong, female character is by debasing her and victimizing her, then you should not be writing female characters. Hell, I’d argue you probably shouldn’t be writing, period.

Dragon Kings of the Orient now available!

My latest novel, Dragon Kings of the Orient, is now available for sale both in print and digital forms! This book is the sequel to last year’s The Myth Hunter.

I also have an important announcement to make: this book may be my last.

I’ve enjoyed working with PulpWork Press for the past few years, and I’ll continue to help them in whatever way I can. But, at least for the immediate future, that won’t include writing for them, or for anyone.

If you’re looking for a reason why, I don’t really have much of one, I’m afraid. Other than a consistent writer’s block that increasingly plagues me more frequently and for longer periods than in the past. Up until this past year, it used to be I would be blocked for maybe a month, then I’d be extremely productive for three. Now it’s blocked for a month, productive for a matter of days, and back to the block.

I’m not going to say I’m completely done with writing, because I know how quickly and easily the winds can change. But for the immediate future, this (and my story in Pro Se’s upcoming Tales of the Rook anthology) will be my final works.

Enough of that, though. Let’s get on with what you came here to read. Oh and one more final word: if you’re a reviewer, podcaster, interviewer, etc. who would like a free review copy, contact me (contact info found on my About page).

Centuries ago, Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, was imprisoned for trying to make himself a god. Now, he’s been released and he’s out for revenge on the beings responsible for his long exile-the Dragon Kings of the Orient!

Standing in his way is Elisa Hill, the myth hunter. Not only is she armed with ancient weaponry and an incredible set of skills, but Elisa does not fight alone. By her side are Asami, a Japanese changeling; Max Finch, retired myth hunter and Elisa’s mentor; and Jason Shroud, a member of a secret society.

And she’ll need the help, for the stakes have never been higher! Because if the Dragon Kings are destroyed, the oceans of the Orient will fall into chaos! The fate of the entire Asian continent hangs in the balance!

From Pulp Ark Award-nominated author Percival Constantine comes the action-packed sequel to The Myth Hunter!

Purchase now from Amazon!
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