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?

Comic Review: Daredevil – Epic Collection: Heart of Darkness

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, Gerry Conway, Gregory Wright
Art by: John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, Cam Kennedy, Rick Leonardi

Marvel Comics, 482 Pages

Review:

This covers a big chunk of the Ann Nocenti run, which ends about midway through the Daredevil – Epic Collection volume after this one.

I liked this about the same as I did the previous one, which kicked off the Nocenti era.

This collection of stories is a departure from what’s typical for the Daredevil character but I like that a lot, as it makes this era stand out with the character facing off against fantastical threats and also generally being outside of Hell’s Kitchen and New York City.

The big arc at the end of this stretch brings back Blackheart, in his second story, as well as his father, the more famous and more dangerous, Mephisto. I like the whole Daredevil vs. Mephisto thing, as it is just a cool test for the hero and there’s obvious similarities.

Overall, this was a great read and it reminds me of why I fell in love with this comic, in this era.

Rating: 9/10

Comic Review: Justice Society of America, Vol. 1: The Next Age

Published: June 24th, 2014
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Dale Eaglesham

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

After watching the first season of Stargirl on HBO Max, I figured that I’d give some of her more notable comics a read. Being that I really like Justice Society stuff and hadn’t read any in quite awhile, I figured I’d start with this.

The story starts with old Justice Society members trying to recruit new heroes, most of whom are descendants of previous members and have inherited their powers.

Because of that, Vandal Savage is using a team of Nazi supervillains to kill superheroes and their families in an effort to snuff out these bloodlines. However, he doesn’t see the bigger picture, which reveals itself by the end of this short story arc.

I’m a fan of Geoff Johns and dig so much of his DC Comics work. His Green Lantern run brought me back to comics on the DC side after a hiatus of about a decade, back in the mid-’00s.

Keeping with Johns’ style, this was a hell of a lot of fun to read and he once again showed that he’s really good at balancing a large ensemble of characters and letting them all develop and grow, despite having limited time to focus on each one.

This was an energetic and cool comic.

Frankly, I liked it enough to buy the next three volumes to read in the very near future.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Thor: The Deviants Saga

Published: July 25th, 2012
Written by: Robert Rodi
Art by: Stephen Segovia

Marvel Comics, 114 Pages

Review:

I missed this back when it came out but I looked forward to reading it, as I loved the original Thor and Eternals mega-event from the ’70s and because this came out on the heels of a great Thor run by J. Michael Straczynski (reviewed here).

However, I was pretty underwhelmed by this and even though it featured a pretty cool battle or two, the story had really disjointed pacing.

Sometimes this dragged and then sometimes it felt rushed.

It’s not a bad story and I did enjoy it for the most part but it also seems pretty forgettable and lacks the impact that previous Thor/Eternals stories have had.

This also features Ka-Zar, which was cool, as I enjoy that character, but it just seemed like a glorified cameo the writer wanted to work in.

The art in this is really good and it represents a time when Marvel was still giving work to the best artists out there. Tonally, it felt like everything else that branched out of the Straczynski run.

All in all, if you’re actually an Eternals fan, this isn’t a bad read and considering there isn’t a lot of Eternals material, compared to other Marvel heroes and teams, I guess you take what you can. Although, the important Eternals don’t even show up until the end.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Stargirl (2020- )

Original Run: May 18th, 2020 – current
Created by: Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Courtney Whitmore by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brec Bassinger, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Neil Jackson, Christopher James Baker, Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, Hunter Sansone, Nick Tarabay

Berlanti Productions, Mad Ghost Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Studios, DC Universe, The CW, 26 Episodes (so far), 42-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So this show starts off fantastically! The opening sequence is pretty damn incredible and really fucking cool! Branching off of that, this has some cool villains it throws at you from the get go and you’re immediately invested in the story.

Beyond that, the show is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, not really sure what it even is and not really able to find its footing before the end of the thirteen episode first season.

For the positives, I really like Luke Wilson in this and Amy Smart is pretty good too but she also doesn’t get to do much in the first season, which I hope changes somewhat going into seasons two and three. And while season two has already aired, it’s not on HBO Max yet, so I haven’t seen it.

The other adult actors are all pretty good in this too, even if they have to often times embrace the cheese in the way these Greg Berlanti DC Comics shows embrace the cheese.

I thought some of the villains were actually exceptional and legitimately awesome. I especially loved Dragon King, who looked like Cobra Commander if he were leading Hydra instead of Cobra. His costume was outstanding and he was intimidating, specifically in the scene where he has to knock his asshole daughter back down to Earth.

I also love the S.T.R.I.P.E. suit, which is basically a badass mecha that Luke Wilson pilots in battle. It resembles a patriotic Iron Giant.

Beyond all that comes the problems with the show.

The teen characters are all pretty annoying at times and Stargirl comes across as a reckless idiot until she learns some hard lessons. They all just seem one-dimensional and basic and that’s not necessarily a problem with the actors, as much as it’s a problem with the writing, directing and overall production.

Each teen is simply a trope or caricature. Now I hope that they get to build off of these basic templates but none of them get the time they need to really develop, except for Stargirl and to a certain extent, the villain teen Shiv.

The girl who plays Doctor Mid-Nite II is there to be the obvious “heart and soul” of the team, as she lacks powers and is just kind of stuck in the middle of all this. The problem is that she never really connects with the audience and she’s written to be annoying as hell, which wasn’t what they intended. I don’t blame the actress, I blame the lame material. In fact, she is somewhat charismatic and you kind of want her to develop into something but every time you start to dig her, she does something irritating.

The boy who plays Hourman II is also someone you kind of want to cheer for but then he acts like a total ass at the wrong moments.

Now maybe this is the writers trying to express these newfound heroes lack of experience in life and crimefighting but it’s just bad and there is a lot of awkwardness that doesn’t jive right.

Also, this takes place in Nebraska. The high school of this small town is incredibly diverse for a state that has 87 percent white people. Granted, I don’t care that much, as this is the norm in entertainment, but it’s just blatantly obvious Hollywood bullshit.

Additionally, Stargirl has never been a fighter but by the end of just thirteen episodes, she’s kicking the shit out of ninjas that have probably trained their whole lives. Also, Wildcat is basically a ninja but all she does is get angry and hit a punching bag. You never see her actually spar with opponents or have Catwoman-like reflexes and agility. It’s this type of shit that really turns me off about modern “nerd” entertainment. Where’s the struggle? The hero’s real journey?

At least this show allows its female hero to fail, pick herself up and learn from those mistakes, though. So that’s at least a step forward when compared to the brainless storytelling of modern Hollywood.

In the end, I mostly liked this. I want the show to be good. I feel like it’ll probably lean to much into its negatives, though, as just about everything else does these days.

If my opinion drastically changes one way or another after seeing season two, I’ll update this review and the score.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Hive

Published: March 27th, 2013
Written by: Brannon Braga, Terry Matalas
Art by: Joe Corroney
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

This comic has been in my queue for awhile and that’s mainly due to me not being wowed by IDW Star Trek comics and because I’ve honestly lost interest in this franchise that I once loved because ever since the start of those J. J. Abrams films, over a decade ago now, shit’s just been going downhill.

That being said, this wasn’t bad but it wasn’t all that memorable or worthwhile either. It takes place in an alternate timeline, as everything Star Trek seems to do now, and despite trying its damnedest to be an over-the-top science fiction epic, it just falls flat.

Hive is about The Borg of all races needing help defeating an enemy even they can’t beat. In fact, they “fear” of their extinction and plea to the Federation to help them destroy an alien race from a different dimension. To me, the swerve and the trap were as clear as day from the get go.

Still, this was entertaining enough and it’s only 105 pages, which flew by like a breeze. I just never felt all that invested in it because it’s essentially an “Elseworlds tale” and the outcome doesn’t really matter or effect the franchise as a whole. And again, nothing in that franchise matters any more, as it’s all just bad fan fiction disguised as canon.

At least the art was good. 

Rating: 5.5/10

Comic Review: Daredevil – Epic Collection: A Touch of Typhoid

Published: January 13th, 2016
Written by: Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: John Romita Jr., Ron Lim, Steve Ditko, Whilce Portacio

Marvel Comics, 465 Pages

Review:

The first issue of Daredevil that I ever picked up came from his stretch, collected here. This also covers about the first half of Ann Nocenti’s incredible Daredevil run. A run that sold me on the hero and made his comics ones that I would pickup monthly for years.

Other than the Typhoid Mary-centered issues, this is the first time that I’ve really reread Nocenti’s Daredevil material since the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Overall, this era is fucking great and if I’m being honest, I actually like it on the same level, if not more, than the Frank Miller era before it. While this can read lighter than Miller’s run, it still gets really damn dark and stays true to the core of what Daredevil became because of Miller.

What makes this even better and also keeps the tone right is the art by John Romita Jr. Even though I didn’t know it in 1989, when I first got hooked, Nocenti and Romita Jr. were one of the best creative duos of the time and certainly a better combination of writer and artist than Marvel has put together in modern times.

In my opinion, this is still Romita Jr.’s best work and the legacy he should hang his hat on. And yes, I say that knowing that he still works, today.

As far as the stories go, this starts with the debut of Typhoid Mary, which I’ve reviewed on its own (see here), but it also goes into some follow up stories with her character. This also happens during the major Inferno crossover event and sees Daredevil tie-up with demons and even Mephisto. In fact, the Mephisto-centric issue is one of the greatest Christmas comics ever produced.

This is just great. It’s one of the best stretches of my favorite comic book series. Revisiting it now didn’t leave me disappointed.

Rating: 9/10