The Genesis of “Dan the Destructor” & the “Barbarians of the Storm” Book Series

Part I: From Idea to Comic Script to Book

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

The final version of Dan the Destructor is very different from what it was originally intended to be and with that, the Barbarians of the Storm series is a bigger and much more refined vision of what I initially set out to do.

For those who have already read the book and know the characters, the original story that I had in my head revolved around Frank Murdock. There wasn’t a Dan, and Fenrik only came into it about halfway through, as an ally that was actually a king and married to a warrior queen (Vasilia).

For those who haven’t read the book, Frank is an important but fairly minor character in it. He’s also a decade or two older than what he would’ve been in my original idea. Although, a much closer version to that original idea is in the pipeline, as I am planning either a short story anthology or a separate series that will focus specifically on Frank’s time between his arrival in this strange world and the events of Dan the Destructor. Let me get back on topic, though.

The original concept came from my love of Italian rip-offs of the Mad Max and Conan the Barbarian movies. I was high one night, having a marathon of these sort of films, when a friend and I started discussing their origins and how we both thought it would’ve been neat if the Italians had combined the two things together in a sort of Mad Max meets Conan flick. It would have been a strange blend of those worlds but they are very similar, apart from some technological differences. However, both are barbarous, take place in a desert expanse and feature a badass hero, against all odds, doing battle with an enemy force that is much larger than himself.

The idea became something that I wanted to do in a comic book style. Initially, I wanted a four-issue miniseries, drawn in a late ‘70s/early ‘80s style and printed on newsprint, unlike comic books these days. I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this, as I wouldn’t be the artist, but I started to bullet point out what the script would be.

I sat on this idea for about a year but new things popped into my head and I ended up having more focus on Fenrik and a new character, Dan. I didn’t even know what to call Dan but I like alliteration and wanted something that worked with “Destroyer”, which itself was an homage to 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, a movie I adored as a kid.

When the COVID shit kicked off and I had a lot more free time on my hands, I cranked out the script for what was then called Dan the Destroyer. In the time since I started that script and got the final book out, though, another novel had come out with that title, so I switched it to Dan the Destructor. I actually have some press proofs of the book with the original title on them.

Getting back to the comic book script, I figured that I’d write it out as a four-issue miniseries of traditional floppy comics. I was also toying with the idea of doing it as a graphic novel, as it was my first attempt at a comic book project professionally and that seemed like a lot less of a headache.

The problem came when I was trying to find the right artist and nothing materialized and the few artists that did respond, fell off the face of the Earth or had such shitty correspondence that I knew that I didn’t want to work with them.

So, I sat on the script for another year and I’d periodically re-read it. However, each time I did, I got new ideas and I realized that it would serve the story better to flesh out some sequences, get a lot more action heavy and to speed up the pace of the storytelling. And really, this got me thinking of the pulp novels I loved as a kid, whether they were all the cool Conan and Tarzan paperbacks I’d check out at the library because of their badass covers or those Louis L’Amour western novels (also with badass covers) that my grandfather would let me read from his collection.

Through that lens, Dan the Destructor came to life for me in a way that it hadn’t before and I decided that it would be best for the story if it were written as a short, fast-paced, action-packed, buddy adventure that stayed focused on the main plot.

However, many of my ideas grew beyond just this story, so some minor world building had to be worked in. I didn’t want that to overpower or dilute the story, and based off of feedback I’ve gotten, I think I succeeded in that. Most people who have discussed the book with me, are already pretty eager to see where certain things are going to go. Honestly, as a writer, that makes me happy, as I obviously want people to enjoy the book and be left wanting more.

So this is how everything came together in regards to reaching what became the book, but I do plan to write more about this, as I wanted to discuss other influences I’ve had over the years that also contributed to what became Dan the Destructor. I figured I’d address this part of the book’s creation process, though, as it’s the question I seem to get the most.

Part II: Discussing Influences – Television & Film

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

Just as I was turning 5 years-old, there was one thing that was released upon the world that was bigger than everything else combined. That thing was the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. To say that it captivated me, is the understatement of the century.

I watched the show constantly and I wanted every single toy, which wasn’t possible on my mother’s budget. However, she did buy me a lot more Masters of the Universe merchandise than she could probably afford.

So, while I already discussed how I came up with the concept for what became Dan the Destructor, I can’t dismiss all the other things that had a large enough effect on me to actually influence and seep into the creative process of developing and writing the book and its future sequels.

Masters of the Universe was huge for me, and even though I moved on to G.I. JoeTransformersStar Wars, and other franchise that weren’t too close to the sword & sorcery aesthetic, it still served as the foundation to a lot of what I would like in entertainment, going forward.

Other animated shows that I loved, that were also very fantasy based, were the Dungeons & Dragons animated series and ThunderCats. Additionally, He-Man had a spinoff featuring his sister called She-Ra: Princess of Power, and even though that was geared more towards girls in how the toy line differed, I still loved the show and I also had some of those dolls “action figures”.

As I got older, though, I was completely engrossed by the badass action films of the time. I discovered Conan the BarbarianThe Road WarriorBeastmaster, and so many others that blew my little kid mind. Many of them I probably shouldn’t have seen at the age that I was, but the ‘80s were a different time and for a parent to deny their ‘80s kids these cultural landmarks would’ve exposed them to the other kids as “pussies”, “dorks” and “dweebs”.

Besides, we always found ways to watch the things our parents didn’t want us to. For me, I had my friend Brian, a few doors down, and when I was staying with my dad, there was Greg, across the street, whose father dubbed every movie the video store had.

By the late ‘80s, my dad was pretty cool about letting me watch a lot of R-rated action flicks. This is when I discovered the greatness of the Cannon Films library from the American Ninja movies, the Ninja trilogy of films, all the Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme epics, and so many others. My dad also showed me cooler, hipper and funnier action flicks like the Lethal WeaponBeverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. franchises.

While action films like these might not seem like they influenced Dan the Destructor on the surface of what they appear to be, it was their fast-paced style, witty dialogue, and in the case of the ‘80s buddy cop action/comedies, it was that buddy element that worked its way into the relationship between Dan and Fenrik and how it evolves over the story.

I also have to talk about my general love of adventure stories and how spoiled I was with those in the ‘80s from the Indiana Jones movies, their many knockoffs, and also a lot of the cheaper sword & sorcery flicks that were pretty prevalent and not just the ones from Italy, Spain and Argentina. Some of this influence also came from my mom, as she loved watching things like Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile.

This probably all seems like a lot, but as I wrote the book and these things subconsciously worked their way in, I wasn’t initially aware of it. It wasn’t until I started proofreading the book, as a full body of work, that I could see these specific influences and where they were coming from, which I found to be kind of neat.

I initially set out to make a mash up of Italian Conan and Mad Max rip-offs. What I ended up creating was a smorgasbord of a lot of my influences, but I do like how it all came together. It wasn’t what I intended to do, it just kind of happened. At the same time, I don’t think that Dan the Destructor is overly derivative or overstuffed by pulling bits and pieces from so many very different things.

The reason I even share all of this, is that I want to be transparent about where my ideas and influences come from. I think it’s important and writers should probably share these things with other writers (and their fans), especially for those who are younger and who really want to take a crack at creating their own worlds.

Plus, I always hate when successful writers pretend that everything comes from them when it’s clear that something specific inspired them at some point. Plus, our influences should be celebrated because they are the foundation we pull our inspiration from. They’re the things that shaped us into the creators that we are.

Part III: Discussing Influences – Comics & Books

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

While I have already pointed out how the initial concept for Dan the Destructor came from the idea of what it’d be like to see Italian rip-offs of Conan and Mad Max blended together, there are a lot of other things that have helped influence me over the years.

I talked about the movies and television shows that inspired parts of the book (and budding series), but I also wanted to continue to give credit where credit is due in regards to other forms of entertainment that did their part. In this installment, I wanted to discuss comics and books.

Similarly to how the Frank Frazetta book covers for ConanTarzan, and the Pellucidar series blew my little mind when I saw them on bookshelves, so did the painted covers for the comic book magazine The Savage Sword of Conan. In fact, it blew my mind so much that I own about half of the comic’s 235 issue run from 1974 to 1995.

While I also dug the hell out of the regular Conan the Barbarian and King Conan comics, it was Savage Sword that really spoke to me because of the painted covers and how it was also much more adult in content and boasted exceptional black and white art inside. I especially loved the issues done by Barry Windsor-Smith.

When I was writing Dan the Destructor and decided that I needed to beef the story up with a few more monster battles, I found myself flipping through my issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, where I found inspiration. In fact, many issues gave me some ideas for encounters in the next few books.

Beyond my adoration for Savage Sword, I also loved the Solomon Kane and Red Sonja comics that Marvel put out in their original runs. The Solomon Kane material that was printed in black and white magazine format is incredible and frankly, some of the best stuff that Marvel Comics ever produced, especially outside of their standard superhero material.

As for Red Sonja, more than seeing her in a chainmail bikini, I always loved her spirit and how badass she was. There was something believable in her ability to fight bigger men, bigger beasts and find ways to survive through her drive, fierceness, savagery and cunning. Even at about seven years-old, I’m pretty sure I was saying to myself, “Damn, that’s wifey material, bruh.”

There are other comics that used to peak my interest in a similar way as well. I liked whenever Marvel did their Weirdworld stuff, and I wish that they would’ve explored that territory more. I also liked those ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons and Dragonlance comics.

One specific character that captivated the hell out of me is Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik of the New Mutants. My love for her was born out of the cover of the fourth issue of her original miniseries, Storm and Illyana: Magik.

The story and art in that miniseries was just so cool and I reread the four-issue miniseries almost quarterly for several years. My love of Magik and all the things hellish that were tied to her character, propelled me into being a massive New Mutants fan. I also loved everything that led into and was tied to the X-Men mega crossover event, Inferno. Illyana’s influence will probably be felt greatly in a character that is debuting in my second book.

Moving beyond comics, if I wasn’t reading Find Your Fate books for G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones, I was reading a lot of fantasy. In many cases, these books were the sword & sorcery novels that featured Frazetta art, be they books by Robert E. Howard or novels from a plethora of other authors.

It was always Frazetta’s art that sold me on books, though, as I honestly was too young to really know how much of the art I saw was from one guy. Anything that kind of captured that same sort of energy, usually meant that I was going to give it a shot, though.

It was this kind of art that inspired me to pickup a Kull book for the first time, and even though it was written by Howard and featured a character that one could easily mistake for Conan, Kull was very different and it made me realize that not all “barbarian” characters had to be the same. One thing that I wanted to make sure with my barbarian character, Fenrik, is that he wasn’t a carbon copy of Conan or what people assume is a somewhat generic archetype.

In more recent years, I’ve found myself influenced by authors who themselves were influenced by Robert E. Howard. Yet these are writers that produced very different heroes and with that, inspired me as well. These are authors like Michael Moorcock, Charles R. Saunders, Karl Edward Wagner and Fritz Leiber.

I should also point out that I was greatly influenced by other writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne. I’m pretty sure all of them have already influenced things that have come out of my brain and made it into print.

Part IV: Discussing Influences – Pinball & Video Games

Growing up when I did, it’d be hard to not be lured in by the flashing lights and cool electronic noises of the pinball machines and video games of the time. Whenever my mum went shopping at the mall, I was in the video arcade spending her money, one quarter at a time. However, I made a pretty good friend in the arcade manager and he used to give me quarters after I ran out. While he probably wasn’t the best manager because of that, he’s had half a lifetime’s worth of appreciation from me, whenever I look back on his kind and awesome deeds.

Honestly, though, I think he knew that my mum didn’t have a lot of money and he was a bit smitten with her. But whatever, he was cool and he constantly gave me great movie recommendations, as well. I hope he’s still alive, well and happy.

There were three pinball machines that I remembered playing all the time, and funnily enough, they were adorned with badass sword & sorcery style art, which is what drew me to them in the first place. They were GorgarLost World, and Catacomb. The only one I’ve played in recent years is Gorgar, but I would actually like to own all three machines if I’m ever financially able to. Plus, I need a house but the current real estate market in Florida is making that exceptionally difficult, right now.

I think that Gorgar had the biggest effect on me, though, as it has given me inspiration in the book I’m writing now. Plus, I own a replica of the scoreboard, which sits next to me at work, along with the scoreboard from the Creature From the Black Lagoon pinball machine.

Beyond pinball, I played video games and I leaned more into them as I got older and they got better.

When it came to arcade games, there were truly awesome ones like the Golden Axe series, the Gauntlet series, Altered Beast, and this bizarre fantasy fighting game I liked called Hippodrome. Man, I sucked ass at Hippodrome.

As far as console games at home, I was captivated by the first two Legend of Zelda games. However, it was the Dragon Warrior series that consumed most of my time, overall. And there are definitely things about the Dragon Warrior games that stuck with me, especially in regards to long, epic adventures and monsters.

These are just a few of the fantasy games that I played but they’re the ones that stand out the most and that I still think about. When I started writing the chapter that featured the dragon-men in Dan the Destructor, in my head, they resembled the dragon form that the player can take in Altered Beast. And since my brain settled on that physical look, it’s kind of hard to shake. Although, I did give them golden scales like King Ghidorah from the Godzilla franchise, so they are an amalgamation of those two things.

Part V: Conclusion

In the end, I honestly don’t mind sharing what my influences are and I wish more authors would do the same, instead of just acting like it all just came from them or in some cases, flat out denying that they borrowed from something obvious. It’s impossible not to be influenced by things you love, especially when writing pulpy fiction.

I think that the real magic of writing is how these things are processed and eventually come out on the page in a way that works. Besides, if things create wonder in your mind and your spirit, why wouldn’t you want to let it inspire you and hopefully others through your work?

Talking Pulp: Probably Going to Move Off of Substack

I started this Substack newsletter as an experiment. I do like writing it and it’s important for me to write about my creative process, as it helps me and could potentially help others. I still stand by the ideas and objectives I outlined here. However, this platform is ineffectual and feels pointless, unless you already have a massive following and are able to pull people here from elsewhere in an attempt to monetize your content.

As a place to write or grow an audience, Substack is pretty useless. Unlike some of its older, better competitors, there is nothing within Substack that is better than the platforms it wants to pull its creators from. Can it get there, though? Sure. But it has a long way to go.

Being that I was frustrated with a lot of the things being forced upon its users by WordPress, I felt like it was time to find an alternative. I came here because on paper, it sounded like a cool platform to jump in on and those who love it, LOVE it.

On WordPress, however, I was able to grow an audience pretty easily and naturally, as the platform pulls readers into your content and has the sort of backend tools that help people discover you.

Substack relies on you doing all the work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do the work, but an assist would be nice, otherwise, why should I use a platform over another one that gives me an edge?

Since I’ve been using this, around the start of the year, I haven’t gained a subscriber beyond those I added to get started. I also haven’t had any engagement: zero. Since I’ve left WordPress (or paused it, really), I’ve gained a few dozen more subscribers and still had some engagement. And over there, I haven’t done a thing.

Maybe this isn’t the right platform for me because I don’t have any interest in monetizing my words. That’s what my book series is for, but that’s also a different animal and I’m not doing that to make a living. Although, that’d be nice some day.

If Substack wants to survive like very few ambitious platforms do, it needs to help its users. It needs to make them excited to use the platform because ultimately, they’ll be more effective than any amount of money dumped into marketing and promotion.

Additionally, I hate how this platform works. It’s obvious that it’s made by designers that can’t think outside of their own box. It’s overly minimalistic to the point of not being user friendly. It lacks options, it lacks style, and it certainly lacks the most important element a writing platform needs: creativity.

All that being said, Substack is frustrating and it feels like it’s been a waste of my time in regards to getting my writing beyond just my own eyes. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, as I want to continue to chronicle the creative process of the Barbarians of the Storm series, but maybe I’ll just go back to WordPress, despite my issues with it. At least, over there, I can get traction, engagement, and actual feedback.

Talking Pulp: Some of the Social Media Marketing for “Dan the Destructor” – Phase Two

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

I figured that I’d post some of the GIFs and posts I’ve made to promote the first book in the Barbarians of the Storm series. Mainly, because those here, probably don’t follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

So with that, BEHOLD!

Talking Pulp: Some of the Social Media Marketing for “Dan the Destructor” – Phase One

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

I figured that I’d post some of the GIFs and posts I’ve made to promote the first book in the Barbarians of the Storm series. Mainly, because those here, probably don’t follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

So with that, BEHOLD!

Talking Pulp: The Quest for Art in the “Barbarians of the Storm” Book Series

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

I have been struggling with the art for the Barbarians of the Storm series.

Ideally, I want the book covers to reflect the energy and style of the books that made me fall in love with pulp paperbacks when I was a kid in the ‘80s. Those books were predominantly sword & sorcery reprints from the ‘70s that featured Frank Frazetta art or the art of other great fantasy artists that just knew how to capture, for lack of a better word, epicness.

This is what I would like for my book covers and I’d actually like to have an artist that I can work with for a long time, as I plan to do a lot of books in this series. There will be the main series and its dozen or more books, several character specific short story anthologies, and spinoffs that explore this universe in different times and places. I want all of the book covers to be consistent in style and quality.

Leading up to the publishing of the first book, Dan the Destructor, I had two different artists, whose work I liked, but they flaked out on me. Because I had my own deadlines set, I had to come up with my own cover on a whim. Good thing I’m an artist too, otherwise I would’ve been screwed and incredibly delayed.

The thing is, I’m not the type of artist that I actually need and while I’m okay with Dan the Destructor’s cover, it still isn’t what I ultimately want. However, if I don’t find someone before the next book is ready to go to print, I’m probably going to do the covers myself and keep the same sort of aesthetic because for obvious reasons, I want branding to be consistent.

Even though I’m a creative director, as my day job, finding the right type of artists can be a real bitch. Especially, when you’re looking for art in a style that’s kind of dead. When I give examples and explain the type of art I’m looking for, I am immediately bombarded with sales pitches on social media with art that is pretty much the antithesis of what I’m looking for: low-tier Tumblr cartoonish manga mixed with those Homies toys that come from gumball machines. The fact that they pitch me this kind of art with added cockiness is baffling to me, considering that they were oblivious to the actual art examples I gave in the first place.

Beyond the covers, though, I also need maps for the books. So I’m looking for someone with some cartography skills. I have chicken scratch maps already drawn in my notebook, but I really want something much better than what I can do, which means I need someone with experience in this realm.

Additionally, I also need someone that can do simple character and conceptual sketches, as these are things I’d like to use for reference, promotion, visual aid on Substack and social media, as well as for the eventual wiki-style website where I plan to have organized character profiles, info, etc.

But wait, there’s more! I have a lot of ideas for different types of merchandise that I want to develop that ties to the series. Granted, I need to get the series rolling and the books in front of people first. This is more of a long-term objective but I’m already thinking of some shirts to make, at the very least.

In a perfect world, it’d be great to find someone that can do all of these things. I’m looking at the work of a few artists, but I haven’t made a decision, as my real job has been kicking my ass and the rest of my time has been devoted to getting the second book going.

However, if you do fit what I’m looking for, hit me up. Worst-case scenario, I may just take another creative director friend of mine’s advice and try out a couple people on Fiverr.

Talking Pulp: “Outdated Cultural Depictions” and The New Censorship

2020 has been the weirdest and most ass backwards year of my life. But I’m not here to talk about COVID-19, civil unrest, the extreme political divide or presidential elections. I’m here to talk about how there are people who want to destroy art and erase history.

Many of these people actually own the rights to the art and the history, which is even more unsettling.

Recently, I watched the original Dumbo on Disney+ because I’m working my way through all the animated Disney classics and I noticed a disclaimer that popped up before the film that stated, “This program is presented as created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” M’kay… I never needed that pointed out to me before but… thanks?

Truth is, I don’t really have a problem with a disclaimer like that being placed before a film. As long as the art remains untouched, I’m okay with warnings about it, even if I feel that these things don’t need to be pointed out because decent human beings know right from wrong and also understand that things that are taboo and unacceptable today, weren’t necessarily taboo and unacceptable decades ago.

The argument about it being there to inform younger viewers is also bullshit, as even when I was a kid, I knew what was and wasn’t okay. But maybe my parents taught me well or I was just aware of the world around me. And regardless of that, some three year-old can’t read anyway. Well, unless he’s some sort of future prodigy.

My problem with The New Censorship, as I’m calling it, is where these companies are now going back and editing films, either because they want to erase their own racist history or because there are a bunch of spineless jellyfish crying on Twitter. I guess the world has gotten so easy now and there isn’t much else to complain about. At least, that’s how I see it because banning Gone With the Wind is a bigger issue than trying to stop the human sex trafficking of minors, apparently.

You know, it’s kind of funny when you think about Twitter mobs trying to ban an ancient, four hour movie when they don’t even have the attention span to read a news article before retweeting it with their own raging, baseless commentary attached. But I digress.

The thing about art, which is what movies are, is that the best of it will outlive us all. Well, that is unless it’s meddled with and stripped of all the unique qualities that make each and every piece of art special and in some cases iconic and legendary.

Art is the creation of the artist and it certainly isn’t something that should be meddled with and altered after it’s already been presented to the world in the form that the original artist intended. To use a term from the social media crybabies, that seems kind of “rapey”.

And if I’m being honest, I didn’t like it when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg went back and changed their own films. So why would I be okay with some stranger doing it?

But now, too many busybodies think that it’s okay to take a piece of art and change it because it might upset someone or because the past couldn’t live up to the ever-changing standards of the weird modern world. A world that won’t be happy until the past is destroyed, apparently. And also a world that will continue to evolve in unforeseen ways where the “politically correct” edits that are done in 2020 will probably be outdated and still offensive to some people years later. Eventually we won’t be left with art at all, we’ll be left with warning labels, CGI blobs covering beautiful, sexy asses and credits.

You see, the past is the past. Old art doesn’t reflect the norms of today and that’s sort of the point. It’s a reflection of the people who made it in the time that they created it. It represents a world we could never know, except through history books or art itself and frankly, art is a better peek into history. Especially, since history books have changed and been edited because why would these madmen stop at just censoring one avenue to the past.

There’s that old quote from Spanish philosopher and writer George Santayana where in 1905 he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Yet, modern piss midgets want to erase the “offensive” past because worrying about some pussy’s feelings is more important than knowing what came before us and what could lie ahead if we just ignore humanity’s missteps from previous generations.

Human existence, like everyone’s personal lives, is full of trial and error, as we all should be striving to end our time on this planet as the best versions of ourselves possible. But if we never learn anything from our mistakes or the pain we may have caused in the past, we can’t really evolve and get better.

I mean, what’s next? Erasing our memories?

Art is more important than feelings, just as science and fact are more important than feelings. But then again, the same types of people have been putting feelings over science and even logic. I’d say that we’re on a slippery slope but we’ve already started barreling down the mountainside.

But hey, blindly and stubbornly hating another political party, politician, ideology or actual facts is more important when it gets you likes and shares on social media. These psychotics and narcissists don’t have a soul though, so trying to reason with their “logic” is pretty pointless. They can’t create, so they choose to destroy. These people are losers. Sadly, the world is letting the losers dictate the rules of the game.

This is a bigger issue than just tweaking a movie with a small edit or a CGI cover-up of something snowflakes find “unacceptable”. This shit has spread everywhere like a disease and it’s not going to stop without some sort of societal collapse and a philosophical awakening. I had hoped that decades of fairly mundane and bad art would lead us towards another artistic renaissance but modern rheeetards would rather kill everything and remake the world in their bizarre, pathetic image.

So what legacy will we leave behind when we erase the past? What’s left to outlast us other than a barren wasteland of dried up bitch tears and faded fee-fees?

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Essential Business & Empty Arenas

I wanted to do a follow up to my last Talking Wrasslin’ article after some time passed and I could properly analyze the changes and differences between the wrestling product that now exists in a COVID-19 world.

As many know, professional wrestling is now considered an “essential business” in the State of Florida, my home state. It’s a pretty controversial decision and one that is actually baffling when you look out how other entertainment and sports companies have been hit.

Sure, you could argue that these people aren’t athletes and wrestling isn’t a sport and they can film their shows in an empty arena. However, people still have to physically contact each other, constantly. With the film and television industries halting productions due to social distancing suggestions, I don’t think that you can really make the argument that professional wrestling should get some type of pass when actors in films and television shows don’t have as much direct contact as athletes in a wrestling match. But politics are politics and we all know who Vince McMahon is buddies with and those of us in Florida know that this buddy is also buddies with our governor, who runs the state where WWE’s Performance Center is located. But I’m not going to harp on about politics other than to add context to the current state of the mainstream wrestling business.

That being said, this also benefits All Elite Wrestling, as they are headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida and can now produce live shows, once again, within Florida’s borders.

Up to this point, World Wrestling Entertainment and All Elite Wrestling have had to produce their content in empty arenas or other locations where there isn’t a crowd. Most of the content has been pre-taped with long shoots in an effort to create multiple weeks worth of television, allowing the wrestlers and production staff to not have to travel nearly as much.

Both companies are essentially doing the same thing but there is a difference in how they are doing it and presenting it.

WWE has been filming TV at their Performance Center in Orlando but despite having million dollar production value, the product feels soulless and flat. It doesn’t connect well with the audience and this is pretty apparent when you look at how the ratings have dropped, even with everyone sitting at home now, desperate for content to watch on television or online.

AEW has filmed in an empty arena they own, as well as at a wrestling school owned by one of their wrestlers and backstage agents. The big difference and the advantage that AEW has is that they were smart enough to take some wrestlers from the back and put them around the guardrails outside of the ring area where they cheer and boo and get involved in the in-ring conflict. It creates crowd interaction even though the crowd isn’t actually comprised of fans. There’s a cool energy about it and it can also work to enhance stories, rivalries and the television show doesn’t feel like it’s taped in a morgue.

Granted, AEW wasn’t doing this and Jim Cornette suggested that they should in one of his podcasts. That very next week, they did add wrestlers to the crowd. But with most guys at AEW having beef with Cornette, I’ll doubt they’ll ever give him credit for the idea. And while they could’ve come up with this on their own, this alteration to their show suspiciously happened at the next broadcast.

Additionally, AEW has had the benefit of having Tony Schiavone and Chris Jericho on commentary. Jericho deserves a fucking Emmy but I don’t think they give those out for wrestling because it wouldn’t be fair to Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. Sorry, Sheldon Cooper but you’d get the Buckshot Lariat from “Hangman” Adam Page on that awards stage.

AEW is killing WWE in the commentary game, right now. WWE just can’t top the great Schiavone and there’s no one WWE has on color that can come close to Jericho. If only WWE actually had Mauro Ranallo on a marquee show, they might have a chance. Sorry, Michael Cole… to fans, you’re never going to be that guy despite Vince McMahon being stubbornly convinced that you’re the voice of a generation.

I’ve kept watching both WWE’s Raw and AEW during the pandemic. However, Raw is really damn hard to sit through, especially for three hours, and it all just feels like filler until they can just go back to business as usual. It’s so bad that Raw is all I can do each week. I can’t watch Smackdown and I’d rather watch AEW than NXT, as AEW has more energy and is more engaging.

WWE was already getting shittier and shittier before COVID-19 hit and this pandemic certainly didn’t do it any favors. But it also sort of exposes how out of touch the company is with its own audience, as it just sticks to its guns, looks down its nose at its competition and won’t adjust their product to something similar to what someone else is doing. They’d rather die than adapt or follow the lead of a company they perceive as beneath them. At this point, they’ll be lucky if I can even get through another abysmal episode of Raw.

AEW, despite its current limitations, is still a show that I feel is worth watching and supporting. They’re actually trying really hard over there to make the best out of a bad situation. Their product is far from perfect but they seem to learn from their mistakes and adjust to new changes and challenges without ego being in their way. They certainly seem a lot less stubborn and are open to trying new things while not pretending that they’ve got the game figured out.

Wrestling is really weird, right now. But this is probably just temporary and things will slowly go back to normal. It’ll be interesting to see how these companies come out of this when the dust settles. Sure, WWE will still be top dog but I don’t think that they’ve won over new fans or impressed anyone with how they’ve handled all of this. Their attitude of “People will just tune in because we’re f’n WWE” isn’t a sound strategy and they are probably going to learn that the hard way.

But with rumors of them trying to sell, they might not care anymore. Granted, rumors are just that and this isn’t the first time rumors like that have surfaced. However, Vince McMahon is getting up there in age, despite him thinking he’s immortal, and with the XFL failing again (probably not his fault) and his kids might not wanting to take the reins, the future isn’t guaranteed.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: PandemicMania 2020

Well, 2020 has been a real kick in the balls. So much for going into a new decade with optimism and hope for the future.

Granted, all this COVID-19 stuff could actually be a wake up call but humans will probably just do what they always do and that’s be pissed for awhile, promise to make changes to ensure a catastrophe like this doesn’t happen again and then forget all about it after some time passes.

I hope I’m wrong about that but our leaders just react to things that happen and don’t put too much thought into preventing these problems in the first place. But I digress, as I don’t want to go on a political or social rant because that’s not what this is about, it’s about the state of the wrestling business.

Since The ‘Rona showed up and bitchslapped Earth, almost all industries and businesses have been adversely affected by it. The wrestling business is no different, as it can no longer have live shows in front of crowds and because the athletes and personalities involved have to be especially careful, as you can’t have a wrestling match and practice social distancing at the same time.

I noticed how negative it was on the wrestling community when a lot of the indie wrestlers I follow on Twitter were posting about shows being cancelled and not having any real income coming in. Some of them found ways to combat this in pushing their merchandise and by coming up with creative ways to fundraise for those most in need within their community.

The real big blow came just last week, however, on what many are now referring to as Black Wednesday.

In the much larger landscape that is World Wrestling Entertainment, many probably assumed that nearly everyone there was most likely going to be taken care of and a complete loss of their livelihoods wasn’t in the cards. But not too long after WWE’s flagship event, Wrestlemania, the company released and furloughed nearly forty employees, most of them being wrestlers.

Fans and the media haven’t been too kind in criticizing this decision with some calling it “morally heartless” and “not the way”. While it does suck, there could be a silver lining in some regards, as there was such a big pool of talent released into the wild and that could significantly alter the professional wrestling landscape going forward. Also, I’m sure that several of these people will be back sooner rather than later. For those that don’t make it back into the WWE in the next few months, there are at least more options available to them than there were even a year ago.

While they can’t all jump to All Elite Wrestling, the young company that may be able to become real competition for the WWE, there are still other places like New Japan, Ring of Honor and my personal favorite promotion, the National Wrestling Alliance.

I definitely think that AEW will scoop up a few and they could use the help, if I’m being honest. There’s some wrestlers that could flourish in fresh waters and be literal goldmines for that company.

Some of these released wrestlers have already hinted at where they could be going with one of the top tag teams letting it be known that they are most likely going back to New Japan, where they were once superstars as part of the most popular stable that country has seen in years.

All of this happened just a few days after The Revival got their release after wanting it for quite a long time. I put them at the top of the free agent list and I hope that they do stop off in the NWA because it fits their style and what they’re all about.

The landscape isn’t just going to change because of an influx of free agents into the open market, however.

It’s also going to change due to how these marquee wrestling companies have had to adjust how they present their product. Both WWE, especially at Wrestlemania, and AEW have gotten really creative in how they’re trying to make their programs work without live audiences and without being able to show their product in the traditional way that it has been presented in since the start of the television era over half a century ago.

That being said, a lot of this experimental content has been met with mixed results and it is going to be interesting to see what this means long-term.

Are we going to get more unique “matches” like the Firefly Funhouse Match or the Boneyard Match? Is it even wrestling if there’s movie style presentations, multiple camera setups, special effects and obvious edits and cuts? Does this somehow diminish the art of wrestling? While some fans may love this stuff, others don’t and won’t if this becomes the norm and with the wrestling business already having problems with ratings and audience numbers, should they try and reinvent the wheel beyond this pandemic?

While traditionalists will probably turn away, can these new creative changes possibly attract new audiences? I don’t think that they will but stranger things have happened and we live in a time where a new generation of fans don’t really know about the business before WWE became the only mainstream attraction in town.

Wrestling, like everything else, has mostly seen tradition stamped out and replaced with something that barely resembles what it used to be. I guess it’s all subjective but as a wrestling fan, I’d rather see the business thrive. But then again, if it becomes a business I no longer recognize and it can’t generate the same emotion and passion out of me as a fan, then what’s the point?

The great thing about wrestling, especially in a time where there are more mainstream options, is that there can be something for everyone. But if I’m being honest, AEW is guilty of some of the same things they claimed they disliked about WWE.

Plus, modern wrestling fans tend to have blind allegiances towards the things they deem superior. A lot of the things AEW fans claim they like about their favorite promotion’s product are the same things they say they hate about modern WWE. I’m mainly referring to the comedy shit, the goofy shit and the obvious favoritism that gives certain talent more screen time than those who probably deserve it more.

While I’m personally not against the expression of creativity and I’m all for trying new things, I hope that those that hold the keys to the business going into the 2020s don’t lose sight of the great history that existed before them.

Wrestling is fragile, right now. While it does need something to get it over this current hill, it can’t forget about the hard journey it had in getting to this point.

Side note: If you do want to help out your favorite wrestlers through this time, buy their merchandise. A lot of the current wrestlers have their shirts and other stuff available on ProWrestlingTees.

Talking Pulp: Rest In Peace – DC Comics – 1934-2020?

I’m glad I’m no longer a customer of AT&T. I left them behind a few years ago and I have been really happy not giving them my money anymore. But since buying Time Warner, they’ve been going through everything with a fine tooth comb and shutting down divisions that they don’t deem as profitable enough.

I was first directly affected by this back in November of 2018 when they pulled the plug on FilmStruck, a streaming service that was a joint effort by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection to present classic and historically significant motion pictures from all eras. It was also, by far, my favorite streaming service out of them all. In fact, I wrote about that dark day here.

When FilmStruck was struck down, I knew that it was only a matter of time before AT&T took the ax to other divisions within their entertainment sectors. Looking across the board, it was easy to ascertain that DC Comics’ days were most assuredly numbered.

The writing has been on the wall forever and not just for DC but for Marvel and the entire comic book industry, as a whole. Sales are terrible, comics are too expensive and most importantly, above all else, the creative side of the equation is mostly deplorable.

The comic book industry (like the rest of the entertainment industry) has had an agenda-driven ax to grind for several years now. It’s turned people away, as has the behavior of many of these “creators” on social media.

In fact, many of these big entertainment juggernauts actually don’t do anything to stop the despicable behavior of those they employ. They’ve even brushed this shit off, claiming that they’re just independent contractors and entitled to their own opinions. I’ve written about these “creators” and companies’ bullshit before though, which you can check out here and here.

The point of this article, though, is to point out that DC Comics, in its current form, is beyond repair and that AT&T is most likely pulling the plug.

Now nothing has been officially announced, as of yet, so take this as rumor until more comes out.

However, it looks like this is possibly happening sooner rather than later, based off of some texts I got from an intermediary with an insider, who has worked at DC for over a decade. Who they are doesn’t matter but it’s not hard to see the forest for the trees.

What I’ve been told is that this was planned before COVID-19 made things a lot worse and that this viral event has actually sped up the company’s demise.

I felt that this should come as no surprise after their publisher Dan DiDio “stepped down” on February 21st of this year with no one being announced to step in and fill that void. I guess it made Jim Lee the top guy by default but what has he done since this happened? He’s done a Kickstarter for a backpack and he’s hosted art auctions.

Additionally, DC Comics’ 5G initiative has been met with severe backlash and it hasn’t even started yet. It was scheduled to kickoff this summer and it was DiDio’s newest and latest big plan to save the industry and get sales booming again.

Well, when you’ve rebooted your universe multiple times in the last decade or so, people become sick of these sort of half-assed and short-sighted shenanigans. Plus, no one really wants to see core DC characters get replaced by diversity characters. This bullshit hasn’t worked for Marvel but apparently these comic book companies can’t learn from past mistakes, have no real fresh ideas and apparently don’t care about profit.

This all boils down to profit. Especially, when you have been absorbed by a massive corporation that only cares about their bottom line, a line which DC Comics is definitely below.

The rest of the information that made its way to me says that COVID-19 was the deathblow for DC and that AT&T is planning on making an official announcement in June. They also said that it is doubtful that they will wait until June now, as the damage is quite severe. Plus, people working for DC will most likely get pissed and start leaking more information between now and then. AT&T will most likely want to stay ahead of that or they’ll do what companies do in these situations and deny it until their hand is forced to be more transparent. That’s the beauty of publicly traded companies.

The plan is for DC to release what is already in the pipeline over the next few months but there will be no new books after what is currently finished. With Diamond, the comic industry’s “monopoly” distributor, falling apart due to COVID-19, DC is looking for other distribution avenues. But this is probably just a short-term thing to get these last comics out and to try and turn some profit while they still can.

While this may feel like a punch in the gut, it doesn’t mean that characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are gone.

AT&T still owns the IPs to these characters and those IPs will most likely always be lucrative, as they will continue to produce movies, television shows and merchandise till the end of time. This really just effects the comic book division itself.

This also doesn’t mean that we will never have comic books of these characters again, either. AT&T could license these characters out to other publishers in the same way Hasbro licenses out G.I. Joe, Transformers and other IPs to IDW Publishing. Hell, all major IPs that aren’t specifically owned by DC or Marvel are mostly produced by indie companies like IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Boom! and a slew of others.

Side note: Marvel has already licensed their own characters out to IDW for their kids line of comics, despite still being in business themselves.

Plus, the monthly model of people buying floppy physical issues of comics doesn’t seem to be the best model anymore. Yet, crowdfunding comics has been blowing up and creating a boom in that sector of the industry. The mainstream tries to ignore it and brush it off but just look at how well a lot of the Comicsgate creators’ books have done.

The mainstream wants to paint Comicsgate as their enemy and well, they are. They’re defying what has become the mainstream industry’s standard and are pulling fans away from failing publishers like DC and Marvel while reinvigorating comic book readers who walked away some time ago. But it’s easier for the mainstream to demonize and act catty than to just do better and look at competition as a good thing.

So while Comicsgate and other crowdfunders are the enemy of the mainstream, they’re also the savior of the comic book industry because they’re keeping it alive and growing it by bringing in new readership.

While I am not a fan of labels, I am a fan of prosperity, success and in regards to the comic book medium, quality. It’s that quality thing that the mainstream publishers are having a hard time with, as they flood the shelves with comics people don’t want by “creators” who wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the industry just a decade ago. And that’s not to say that all Comicsgate books are great but the cream of the crop is much better than anything Marvel or DC has put out in quite awhile. Excluding Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman stuff, though, as his White Knight comics are, by far, the best things put out by the mainstream in years.

Again, take this information as rumor but with everything that’s happened just in the last few months, DC Comics, in its current form, is probably not going to be here by year’s end.

Update:

Apparently, IDW Publishing started laying people off just minutes after I posted this article. It’s not looking good, folks.

Update #2:

I was told by someone close to the situation, that some sort of official decision will be made following the July 4th weekend.

Update #3 (8/10/2020):

It’s not looking good for current DC employees, as layoffs are expected according to Bleeding Cool and Variety, which estimate 650 layoffs from Warner Bros. companies, as a whole, in addition to HBO, which is expected to lose 175. Bleeding Cool article here.

Talking Pulp: A Few Words While Dealing With the “Mexican Lager Viral Event”

This coronavirus insanity has made the world go bonkers. I think people are just scared and allowing the media and others to work them up into a panic that makes them hoard strange things like toilet paper and garlic.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my head up, maintain as positive of an attitude as I can while trying to weed out the bullshit, hysteria and conspiracy theories, in an effort to digest just the facts and maintain a rational mindset.

Since I know that I get a lot more readers here than I have followers on Twitter, I thought that I’d share something that I said on that social media platform a few days ago:

As someone who’s lived thru multiple bad hurricanes, it’s important to see how these things bring us together, as opposed to fixating on the a-holes that turn to fear, panic & general douchery. There are more good people than bad, even though sometimes it doesn’t look that way.

I wanted to expand on that, though, as Twitter limits the size of your tweets and you can’t always jot down your complete thoughts in better detail or context with just 280 characters. Granted, most people these days can’t seem to process information larger than a sensationalist clickbait headline but I digress.

So, here we all are, at an interesting time in human history. It’s the start of a new decade, mainstream culture has gotten really weird the last few years and frankly, people nowadays bitch about absolute nonsense and are always looking to get offended because they’re seeking out conflict where there is none.

An intelligent, rational person would probably think that we no longer have any real problems because the ones that people seem to get so worked up about don’t remotely compare to the gravity of a World War, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Great Depression, Vietnam, civil rights, the Civil War or a plague. Now people get hella pissed because the President tweeted out something rude and crass. Granted, I don’t think Twitter really benefits the guy but whatever, I’m not going to diarrhea all over the Internet about it.

My point is, what’s happening in the world, right now, could be the biggest thing that’s happened in a generation. I’m not discounting 9/11 but this COVID-19 pandemic has already directly affected a lot more people and it doesn’t look like it plans on slowing down, as the world’s greatest minds are doing what they can to try and limit the damage it is going to cause.

Many people think that the governments are overreacting and maybe they are but ultimately, this is a more serious problem than what many are seeing it as. The reason why it is this big of an issue is our lack of preparedness. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and this virus could have been more effectively countered at a much earlier stage.

More than anything, I hope this is a lesson and that those who have the ability and the power to do something about this, will be much more vigilant in the future. The spread of viruses needs to be more of a priority and I’m speaking as someone that doesn’t like big government and is pretty laissez-faire. But if I’m paying taxes, which I always will in America, I’d rather it go towards science, medicine and technological advances that can enrich the future and make it safer.

Most of us are good people. Most of us want the best for not just ourselves but also our neighbors. We live in a world where technology has made us closer and our communities aren’t just our local neighborhoods. Collectively, we should be working to survive and thrive. It’s in all of our best interest to make sure that the world is healthy on all levels.

Yes, there will always be shitty, terrible people. But we can’t let those few speak and act for the rest of us. They aren’t us and I think that many people lose sight of that when they turn on the news and see spring breaking Millennials being self-absorbed dipshits or normal people, full of fear, fist fighting over toilet paper and snack cakes. These people aren’t the majority but it is really easy for the majority to get pulled into this destructive, paranoid orbit and become what they fear.

I know it’s become a cliche statement but everyone should be the change that they want to see in the world. Be better, be positive, try not to lose your cool in times like this and know that, most likely, most of us will get through this.

We’ve had a pretty easy existence for a long time but once in a while, shit hits the fan. This is shit hitting the fan. But how we handle it is up to us. You control how you respond to the shit that the world throws at you.

In the end, this will be much easier to get through if more people have each other’s backs and we all try to help where we can. The media just exists to make money off of our fear, paranoia and insecurity, so it is in their nature to try and generate more, especially in times like these.

Learn how to read through the bullshit. Know the facts. Don’t take every rumor or clickbait headline you read as a stone cold truth. But also, be vigilant in your own life when it comes to the safety of yourself and your loved ones.

Honestly, I feel like everything I’m saying here, should be common sense. But when my social media and news feeds are full of 95 percent negativity, I thought that I’d have to put something positive out there.

People keep talking about flattening the curve, well… we also need to flatten the fear, paranoia and negativity. We need to be rational, logical and willing to build the world up instead of tearing it down.

Lets treat this threat as a reminder that we need to look beyond petty differences and actually see the good in other people, regardless of politics, religion or whatever other bullshit that divides us.

Human beings have been wired to seek out conflict; it’s in our nature. But we can also evolve beyond that and try to be something better. It’s on us whether or not we destroy ourselves or reach a higher purpose.

I don’t want to lose faith in humanity, as I see good, kind acts every day. So maybe it’s time that we all start making a real effort to push the needle in the other direction.