Meteor Mags: The Battle of Vesta 4 – now in paperback and ebook!

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bov4 cover kindle

Four Action-Packed Stories Full of Anarchy, Asteroids, and Excessive Ammunition Continue The Adventures of Meteor Mags and PatchesHoist the Jolly Roger and Get Ready to Rock!

Available on Amazon in paperback (224 pages) and Kindle. Also available on iTunes and at Barnes & Noble for Nook Book.

Rings of Ceres: A hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat return to a decimated asteroid civilization to rescue friends and kick ass, but they get caught up in violent riots between the desperate citizens of Ceres and the mercenary security forces guarding the mining corporations.

Jam Room: Meteor Mags leads a jam session with the teenagers who want to start a punk band called Dumpster Kittens!

The Battle of Vesta 4: Meteor Mags and her fun-loving crew throw the birthday party of a lifetime—until death rains down from the sky! Mosh at the rock’n’roll party of the century as the Psycho 78s record their new album! Flee in terror as Club Assteroid falls under the dragons’ assault from space! Discover the underground caverns of Vesta and join the resistance! Take one last hell ride aboard the Queen Anne before it all goes up in flame! Strap on your battle armor and get ready for the most brutal, barbaric, blood-soaked fight of your life: The Battle of Vesta 4!

Hunted to Extinction: Meteor Mags and Patches undertake one last hunt to exterminate the space lizards from our solar system. Their journey reveals the fate of Tarzi’s parents, a tragedy that connects our criminal crew to a powerful potential ally. Plus, Mags gets a new ship, and it’s got even more kick-ass stolen technology to help her plunder the System! Her club might have been destroyed, but Meteor Mags and her friends will never accept defeat so long as they live.

May not be suitable for children or carbon-based life.

 

seedling

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seedling

the body is soil
the mind is dirt

words ideas and emotions are seeds
longing to sprout
to take root and push their way to the surface
breaking through to find the light
unfurling their tiniest wings of green
bending toward the sun to capture it

they might grow unfettered
or be cut down and consumed

they might live for centuries
or be wrapped in fire
presented as gifts
to the blackening sky

they might become medicine
or poison

they might flourish in obscurity
or wither under the attention of millions

they might fill a forest like arboreal soldiers
marching in chaotic ranks to the coast
or stand isolated on the cliff edge
where only pumas roam
and sleep in their branches

they might drink their fill forever
or die of thirst

seeds neither know
nor care
for any of this

they merely follow impulse

gravity tugs at roots
the sun summons leaves
the stalk joins earth to heaven

the seedling wants to grow
yet desires nothing

it seeks light
without ever looking

its substance and soul
are one and the same

 

fresh ink

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A couple of new illustrations for the upcoming book The Battle of Vesta 4, which should be in print by the end of the month.

mags 37 - drums - small copy

mags 36 - dances - small copy

history

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history

some objects crave stories
like the restaurant receipt you find
in a used book of poems

or the face carved in palm tree bark
on your walk home
from the bus stop

the lavender tops of a mountain ridge
silhouetted against the soft peach of sunset
demand a history

the truth of their geology moving in slow centuries
collides every night with astronomy
to tell a different tale

embrace the miniscule
the details
in their honest inconsequence

they are undiscovered fragments of giants
waiting for you to weld them with words
unique narrations tying threads together

symbols find meaning
only when married
to other symbols

as for me
they all lead back
to you

joe’s steampunk electric eel

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Joe Shenton got his Kickstarter funded for his current book project, and on Tuesday I received an awesome ink drawing from him. My modest contribution earned me a steampunk monster drawn in the style that will appear in his book, with the option to choose what the monster would be based on. I requested an electric eel, and Joe delivered!

UPDATE: You can now buy a high-quality print of this piece from Joe’s Etsy Shop!

joe shenton electric eel steampunk art.jpg

dawn

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dawn

at dawn the trees awake
with your name on their lips
unfurling your syllables on every leaf

tributaries of sap
running clearly to the edges
like resonant waves from a bell

a microcellular song
carried to thirsting branches
to reach above the horizon
and reunite this earth with heaven

like the trees you create the air i breathe
and shelter for the birds
flying from my heart
in every direction
seeking home

nestled in your boughs
where last night
stars danced and descended
to converse with shadows
and show them
what gave birth
to light

deconstruction

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deconstruction

bricks
gathered and mortared
under lightning
immune to the sky-cracking blast
but not the pickaxe
not the jackhammer

water you endured
always more water
deluge of the desert
borderless within its hour

forgotten in the desiccated day
receding into memory
until people forget to pray
for what will quench them

thirst they slake with other means
dehydrating like meat in the sun
cooking like heroin in a spoon
all to be extinguished

any labor in the sun
is too much

men work to destroy
what men have built
then rebuild it

unlike ants who always build
always repair
forever expanding

you take days to crumble
at the hands of strangers
resisting every effort

glorious rebel of stone
uncouth fortification
senseless monument

silent ferocity
honest façade
they will cart you away and bury you

then dig you up again
to deduce your purpose

what did any of it mean
sullen edifice guarding nothing
beneath a conspiracy of pillars
and a swarm of false fires

factories where noise is born
where chaotic life is forged
into merciless order of steel
and unforgiving plastics

what did it mean to you
solid barrier protecting specters
intangible ideas of property
profit and pavement

how they burned to break you
without considering how you destroyed them
as they deconstructed you
how you eroded those who carved you

sending them to be sequestered
unearthed later like artifacts
discovered and debated
but never
truly
known

union

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union

accidents of birth have separated us
but they did not last for long

i loved you before we met
and always after you leave

how could we be apart
when the sunrise bears your signature
birds carve your name below the clouds
and no one can count your colors

you are this morning and the following onslaught
the shade and the respite
the chill
the darkness and the forgetting

you are the memory
the thread that sews me to tomorrow
the fullness and the emptiness
and all that comes between

how could i not love your light
reflecting for the first time
from buildings i never noticed
until this morning

you are the quiet space between passing cars
the silent animation in the palm trees
the slowly vanishing shadows
of the city’s slumber

what would i care for this minute
this millennium
if it did not carry your name
in every crevice and every peak
and all the undiscovered spaces

i am but a speck
a mote of dust
a whisper daring to dream it is alive
and achieving nothing

but in your arms
i am everything

writers

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writers

you drank away
everything i ever owned

it burned a hole inside you
until nothing was left
but unpaid bills

stains on the furniture
pages full of imaginary heroes
you son of a bitch

i threw them out
you writers are all the same
in love with any life but this one

even when you slept beside me
you thought of someone else

 

cassette

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cassette

neither of us was emotionally stable
when she made me a mix tape
in the mid nineties

we listened to it on the highway
without a reason to be there
except for driving at unreasonable volume

two songs on that cassette stayed with me
we die young by alice in chains
and passive restraints by clutch

as just another grunge member of generation x
i should have heard alice in chains before 1997
but i ignored commercial radio all my adult life

we die young retains their hair metal sensibility
while foreshadowing the heavy suicidal brilliance
of subsequent albums

but the clutch tune eclipsed it
combining a description of cars
with sexual power and surrender

expressing things i felt for her
but she felt for someone else
and i should have known that

early clutch riffs are not difficult
beginners can play them
but their ferocity and massive sound remain unmatched

when we saw clutch in pontiac they were just okay
though other times ive seen them
are among my favorite concerts

in hindsight it says a lot about my twenties
not really formed yet as a person
i was in the process of becoming someone else

it didn’t surprise me when layne staley died
he sang about heroin addiction and death
so it felt more predictable than the weather

what really surprised me
was how clutch recorded album after album
blowing away even that first impetus ep

and if i had to pick one perfect rock album
to listen to for the rest of my life
it would be blast tyrant

maybe everyone has an album like that
one that never grows old
no matter how many years go by

ive become more cynical and set in my ways
but every time i hear those songs
i miss her

 

 

 

resident

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resident

before silence erased everything
you could go to bed
with jet engines ringing in your ears

the roaring railway serenade
cacophony of car crash lullabies
then emptiness

now you lie awake in solitude
unable to imagine what came before

not a drop remains
no sine wave nor vibration
only sickening tranquility

no one arrives to set you on fire
and toss the gas can
on your smoldering corpse

no one even remembers
where you live

Kickstart a New Book by Artist Joe Shenton!

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JULY 30 UPDATE: I’m pleased to report this project was fully funded! ~M

Last year, Joe Shenton sent me original artwork for supporting a Kickstarter campaign. I told him I like outer space, pirates, and octopuses, and he created a drawing I absolutely love. UPDATE: You can now buy a high-quality print of this piece from Joe’s Etsy Shop!

joe shenton ink drawing 003

This year, Joe is working on something a little different: producing an illustrated book with an original story, and adding watercolor paints to his ink drawings.

The Last Forest will be a tale about a boy and his fox caught up in a conflict between nature and industry in a future world Joe’s creating by blending fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction.

Here are a couple images from the project’s Kickstarter page. If you like what you see, head over to Joe’s Last Forest Kickstarter Campaign and show him your support! Get there before July 27, because the campaign ends soon.

9643a83687e831e6d7d1a519a55f984a_original

524515a1b17ab89a7df1d11770da136b_original

quarterly report

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Gather round, Martians, and put on some striped socks, because these quarterly reports are serious business.

First, I need to thank the readers, friends, and friends of friends who helped me when I was in dire straits this summer. Things were touch-and-go here for a few months, but your generosity helped me weather the storm.

Just when that storm wore itself out, Martian monsoon season hit, and I was forced to give up the top-secret headquarters that has been my pirate-radio broadcast booth for more than eleven years. I don’t like to blog about my personal problems, but just between you and me and the worldwide web, the only way this year could suck any worse is if Dr. Doom decided to become my personal nemesis.

But as I prepare to set up shop in an all-new lair, I’m reminded to always look on the bright side of life. So, what’s been good about the second quarter of 2018?

The writers’ critique group I started back in February 2017 has been doing quite well. I couldn’t be happier with the three people I chose to be assistant organizers, and they have been the only reason I was able to keep the group going while weathering this year’s storms. My goal was to build the group to the point where I didn’t need to personally handle every single thing at every single meeting, and to have a group that was more about “us” than it was about “me”. Mission accomplished.

Has it been trouble free? No. On average, about once every six months, we get someone who only brings negativity, drama, or rudeness to the group. Then I need to step in to bring down the hammer and remove that person. But that’s taught me something interesting, because in the process I learned that one reason some of these groups don’t last long is that the leaders are afraid to be confrontational and stand up to jerks. So, even on those days where I come up short on people skills, not being afraid to stand up to someone disruptive has turned out to be a useful quality. Maybe being a leader includes being a bouncer if needed.

In other news, a few people said nice things about my recent writings as I’ve workshopped them and performed them at various readings. Some people said my favorite three words: “I love Mags”, which at this point in my life means more to me than if someone were to say they love me. I’m way too into my fictional leading lady of the asteroid belt, so it’s nice when people dig her. Then, a few others said they loved my poetry.

I mention it because these things always surprise me. I just write stuff because I need to write it, or because I need to assemble words in a way that makes me happy and satisfied. Back in my 20s, I got used to no one giving much of a damn about my weird artistic hobbies. Now, when something I made connects with people, I’m basically stunned. I think, “Really? You liked it, too?” It’s the kind of thing that makes me think I should get over being a reclusive bachelor and maybe try to reach a wider audience. Then I think, “Yeah, that might be nice. But really, I just want to finish my next story.” The creation is the fun part for me.

Last month I got a request to use a photo from this blog in a magazine that is interviewing one of my art heroes: Steve Rude. Steve, among other notable accomplishments, was the co-creator of Nexus and the penciller on most of the Nexus issues I absolutely love, even if this blog takes its name from an issue he did not draw. The magazine wanted to use one of my photographs of the Nexus flexi-disc, and I basically told them, “Hell yes, you can use it! And HAIL NEXUS!” I look forward to when that interview issue goes into print, so I can share it with you here.

What else has gone right this quarter? Thanks to readers clicking through my affiliate links, I got enough Amazon store credit to buy some toner cartridges, which are so bloody expensive, and that meant I could keep printing copies of stuff to take to workshop so I can improve as a writer. I also got a little store credit at MyComicShop, but I am waiting to redeem it until I get moved into the new Martian HQ. Thank you, readers, in a big way, because when you make purchases after clicking any of the thousands of comic book, books, and music links in this blog, it’s a lot like sending me a tip. It’s a way of saying, “Thank you, Mars Will Send No More!” And it really makes my day.

A few people contacted me this quarter to ask about a rare and out-of-print Ry Cooder disc that was never made available in the States. This doesn’t happen often—maybe once every couple of months, on average. I keep expecting Ry to send me a nasty email saying, “Stop giving out your mp3 rips of my damn disc,” but it hasn’t happened yet. Instead, a few times a year, I get a chance to connect someone with these wonderful music recordings that are simply not available in my country. Ideally, the album would be put back into print or made available digitally. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened yet, because the album is awesome, and more people in my country should have a chance to enjoy it. Those who ask about it are always super nice, too, and they usually send me grateful follow-up emails saying the album is indeed bloody awesome. It makes me happy to know they enjoyed it.

In my secret identity, I’ve helped several people this quarter get their books in print by contributing editing, design, and self-publishing guidance. Those authors have been incredibly generous in referring others to me so I can build new relationships. My marketing budget is virtually zero, and I survive because of word-of-mouth based on the positive experiences authors have with me. If I am struggling through a challenging week, and then I get an email from one of my authors who tells their friend or colleague how much they loved working with me, it brightens my day.

Just between you and me, I’ve had many jobs where every time the phone rang, I would have rather had a root canal than answer that call. But now that I work with authors who are passionate about making books, I look forward to talking with them. I’ve had stressful days this year where it was a glorious relief to just take a break for an hour or two and talk to someone about creating a book! I love it.

I also got accepted into a second Master degree program thanks to my incredible advisor who smoothed out more paperwork snafus than any advisor should need to. After years of suffering through advisors who seemed hell-bent on either giving me no information or actively giving me the wrong information, I’ve now got one who—get this—actually advises me. It’s amazing! So, on the academic and business frontlines, things are looking good for the next two quarters.

If you made it this far into the post, you’ve digested my 1000 words for the day, and I thank you for dropping by, commenting, liking posts, contributing to discussions of comic books and art, clicking through affiliate links, and being among the coolest bunch of readers a guy could ask for. I wish you all the best for the next quarter, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

in search of the monster riff

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These three audio collages are comprised of song samples chopped up, layered, and re-arranged using only the free software Audacity. They were inspired by an old friend who made mix tapes in the 1980s (and more recently, mix CDs) by stringing together only the most awesome few seconds of each of 99 songs.

My versions of that idea are relentless assaults of drum fills, guitar riffs, screams, beats, memorable lines, and other madness arranged in a way that might only make sense to me but which you might also find kind of groovy.

Click the titles to listen to the mp3 files. Download them if you like.

In Search of the Monster Riff #1

In Search of the Monster Riff #2

In Search of the Monster Riff #3

molt

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Since this poem has a man-versus-nature vibe, I made a robot read it.
Click here for the audio file.

molt

we used machines
to pound the earth smooth
still
it resists us

concrete crumbles like desiccated skin
letting life push through the cracks

a flower here
an ant hill there

each as powerful as a flood
or quake
in its own
small
way

this insect-ridden earth refuses
the exoskeleton we plaster over it

a molting cicada breaks free of its shell
the waxing moon casts off her shadow
they will have their day in the sun

the inconstant planet shudders in its sleep
throws off our metal blanket
tangles wires
topples towers

tectonics
gravity
and fire

the universe is not so different from us
it only has
more powerful machines

pop-up card

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Mom and I have a long history of exchanging handmade cards. Store-bought cards can be wonderful, but there’s something special about knowing a person took the time to not just buy something but create something unique for you.

For this past Mother’s Day, I wanted to make a card that would be unlike any I’d sent her before: a pop-up card. It turns out the Internet has a treasure trove of tutorials and inspiring examples, so I picked one and ran with it.

Mine has a pretty simple front: a butterfly based on a design I pulled from an image search, with the black lines done in Sharpie marker and the color done with acrylic paint thinned with water. Mom likes blue and butterflies, so I couldn’t go wrong with a blue butterfly.

pop up card exterior

All the paper is Bristol paper: what comic books used to be drawn on before the digital age. I did all the butterflies and other colored pieces individually, then cut them out and glued them in place.

Here’s the interior:

pop up card interior

Thanks to the sturdiness of Bristol paper, which is a bit like cardstock, the card can be displayed open like this. It took me the better part of a Sunday to put it all together, but this barely scratches the surface of what’s possible in a pop-up card. People have made everything from multi-layered hearts to dinosaur skeletons, so clearly the sky is the limit in the pop-up master class.

The basic idea is pretty straightforward, though. The body of the card is two pieces of paper. For the interior pop-up sections, you cut one of those pieces along lines perpendicular to the center fold. You fold those cut-out sections so they pop up at right angles to the fold of the main card. Glue the inside piece to the outside piece, without putting glue on the folded pop-up sections. Finally, cut out and glue anything you want to attach to those sections.

Bristol paper is sturdy and well-suited to being painted and displayed, but it can be challenging to make precise, smooth cuts in it with scissors.  I originally intended to cut out the butterfly antennae. I settled for drawing them on with Sharpie after I glued the butterflies in place. If I were making another card from shapes with finer, more complex details, I would try a thinner paper stock for those pieces.

 

four seconds of fame?

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The other day, I found an unexpected appearance of Mars Will Send No More in another medium: a YouTube video about comic books by WhatCulture. In the segment about Jack Kirby, an image of Galactus appears from 3:16 to 3:19. What words does the mighty Galactus utter in his speech balloons? That’s right: Mars Will Send No More. I’m guessing WhatCulture searched the web for images of the devourer of worlds and decided to go with one I’d altered for fun in the earliest days of this blog.

Dig it.

ocean

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ocean

against the unconquerable ocean
you remain far from powerless

you can dive below its surface
swim its currents and surf its perimeter
draw food from its depths and shallows
or live along its edges

so long as you realize
you will never be its equal
never match its immensity
or power

we are small things
unlike the stars that birthed us
or the moon who pulls the ocean
without ever touching her

respect and humility and fear
these words speak of our knowledge
that beyond the boundaries of continents
awaits what we will never subdue

an infinite depth of azure and obsidian
swallowing dreams
dissolving them for centuries
before setting them back on the shore

polished as smooth and featureless
as a mystery without end

 

 

 

Movies vs. Comic Books: Who Controls Time?

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Now that films based on comic books and superheroes have firmly entered the mainstream of popular culture, characters and storylines we comics readers have enjoyed for years regularly come to life on the big screen for a wider audience than comics ever reached. Long-time readers are often thrilled to see their favorite heroes in live-action movies, but some feel a bit of regret. After all, it can be disheartening to hear people discussing characters as if the movies tell the entire story, when many readers have followed the characters in-depth for years or even decades.

Compressing years of story into a two-hour theater experience means a lot gets left out, as anyone who read the Planet Hulk stories can tell you about the movie Thor: Ragnarok, or anyone who read Marvel’s Civil War comics can tell you about the Captain America movie of the same name. Plus, the big screen and the printed page are two distinctly different mediums, each with its own storytelling conventions, so they deliver distinctly different stories.

Movies usually follow a formulaic narrative structure. From the inciting incident to the hero’s crisis, predicting the next story beat in a movie is pretty easy. Comic books often employ more flexible and unusual structures—a point in their favor in my opinion. This is true despite a trend toward making modern mainstream comic books more cinematic in their approach to storytelling.

Near the turn of the century, Warren Ellis used the term widescreen comics to describe the blockbuster-movie style he was creating in The Authority with artists Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary. After 12 issues, writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely came on board and kept up the cinematic approach. Millar, Hitch, and Neary soon combined forces to reinvent the Avengers as The Ultimates—the forerunner of the current film versions of the Avengers. For a more in-depth look at widescreen comics, and how they influenced movies as much as movies influenced them, see Peter Suderman’s article for Vox.

As far as I’m concerned, there hasn’t been a movie yet that equals those first 29 issues of The Authority. But it’s more than just the awesome stories, vicious dialogue, and stunning artwork. What makes the printed page most enjoyable for me can be summed up in two words: time control.

In a film, time passes at a fixed speed determined by the flow of film through a projector, or its digital equivalent these days. Yes, a movie can use slow motion or speed up time, but all of that is determined by the movie itself. Moviegoers have no control of it in a theater. Time passes at a pace determined exclusively by the filmmakers.

With printed pages, the reader controls time. The reader determines how long to spend on a panel or page. Readers can turn back the pages to see something again if they did not absorb it on the first read. The reader can set the book down and walk away, then come back to it and pick up again from any point in the narrative. Movies only provide this convenience if you own or stream a copy at home and can rewind it or freeze the frames.

While I enjoy movies, I tend to enjoy their comic-book source material far more due to time control. An awesome action scene might be over in seconds or minutes on the big screen, but I can linger on it for as long as I like with a printed page. A stunning visual appears on the screen for fleeting moments, then moves on to the next one. It leaves me feeling unsatisfied when I want to spend more time taking in all its detail and beauty. With a comic book, I can pore over the artists’ rendering and take time to appreciate every line and shape, every bit of hard work that went into inking and coloring the picture. Instead of having it all fade away as I leave a theater, I can come back to it again and again with a book.

While many recent comic-book movies do look great, the awesomeness always go by too quickly for me. I never have a chance to fully appreciate it before its gone. And when the theater lights come on, fun time is over unless I want to buy another ticket. The experience is transient and ephemeral compared to a physical book I can keep for years.

None of this should be taken as an argument over which medium is “better”. Enjoy what you enjoy. This is only an attempt to articulate a feeling I’ve had for years but never explained very well to people who expect me to be super excited about recent superhero movies. It isn’t that the movies are bad; they simply lack one of the biggest things that gives me enjoyment with comic books: time control.

 

On a less serious note: a video.

Quarterly Report

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It’s been a quiet quarter here at Mars Will Send No More, with a few posts about retrofuturistic trading cards, some new poems, and a brief vignette. If you need more comic-book blogging in your life, I’m happy to report our old friends at Longbox Graveyard, after a long hiatus, just started a new series running every Monday. Since it’s always 1977 at the Longbox Graveyard, Paul will be covering a different comic book from 1977 every week. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s like unearthing a glorious time capsule.

Just when I thought no one was paying attention anymore to my vast archive of comic book posts here, MyComicShop sent a message saying I had accumulated a nice credit in my account thanks to their affiliate program. No, I don’t make a dime off this blog—I lose money to keep it running—but I do earn a little “store credit” when readers click through links to MyComicShop to purchase comic-book goodness. Thanks to readers in the last six months, I earned enough credit to get a box of X-Men and Fantastic Four books I was forced to sell off five years ago.  I was sad to see them go in 2013, but we had a joyous reunion last weekend, and for that I am grateful to you. Thank you for reading and clicking!

As for why it’s been so quiet lately, most of my writing energy this year has focused on a story that’s been four years in the making. You might have noticed my ill-advised obsession with writing the utterly non-commercial fiction series The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches since 2014. The first 16 stories, totaling over 200,000 words, have been leading up to Mags’ birthday party in 2029. Now it’s time to throw that party—and have it all go horribly wrong.

More than once, I considered giving up. The self-induced pressure to take four years of notes and craft them into a narrative that would deliver a real payoff after all the build-up—honestly, I’ve had many days where I didn’t feel up to the challenge. Strangely, getting in touch with that feeling helped me work out several scenes where the odds against survival are so overwhelming that even the indomitable Mags thinks she might surrender to death at her enemies’ hands.

But what I love about Mags, and why I find it so fulfilling to write about the black-hearted smuggler’s adventures, is her unconquerable spirit. She’s stronger than I will ever be, yet she inspires me to be stronger than I am. I’ve often wondered if readers relate to her on a similar level. But last year, I sent a few of her stories to a friend who endures an extremely painful medical procedure every eight weeks. My friend recently told me she takes those stories with her every single time she goes in for the procedure, and she reads them, and they help her get through the experience.

Before it’s all said and done, Mags will probably conquer her fictitious solar system, but helping a real-life friend remains her greatest achievement. Mags is all about kicking ass no matter what life throws at her. If my irreverent space pirate’s strength can help someone cope with their own challenges, then her true mission is accomplished.

2018 has been a difficult year so far, but I hope you stick with Mars Will Send No More, and that you, too, keep kicking ass. Thank you for dropping by and reading, commenting, filling in gaps in my research on comic books and dinosaur collectibles, and enjoying my archives of artistic obsessions. I’m glad you’re here to share them with me.