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Monday, November 30, 2015

Is DC Comics Its Own Worst Enemy?

I have to wonder if DC Comics is its own worst enemy. In spite of having a catalog of the most popular superhero characters in the marketplace the company seems to keep making bad business decisions that alienate comic fans and toy collectors.

A few weeks ago, DC Comics Collectibles released DC Icons, a new six-inch scaled superposeable action figure line. And the line which featured both Classic and New 52 L versions of characters was met with a lukewarm response from collectors.

Why? Because DC Collectibles promised collectors a six-inch scaled action figure line. And when pictures of the figures were posted with other six-inch scaled action figures like Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Line, Marvel Legends and DC Collectibles Batman animated lines which were all in the six inch scale, the new figures from the new DC Icons line came up short.  

Way Short. Like 5.5 inch scale.

And thanks to this scale discrepancy the figures are currently pegwarming. With many collectors complaining that the figures are completely incompatible with figures they already own like Marvel Legends, Star Wars Black, and older lines like DC Universe Classics.

Thanks to this latest blunder, I’m left to wonder if DC Comics is DC Comics’ own worst enemy.

The DC Icons line was a golden opportunity for DC Comics to re-establish a connection with the millions of toy collectors and comic fans who have stayed away from DC Comics merchandise since 2011 when the company decided to end its DC Universe and its 75-year history in favor of a New 52 Universe. Unfortunately, fans and collectors wound up being handed yet another olive branch with thorns in it.

I have to wonder does someone working at DC actually hates DC Comic fans? That would have to be the only reason for all the passive-aggressiveness I’ve seen expressed over the last few years by DC’s managers and editors. Promising collectors figures in a six-inch-scale and then give them figures clearly in a 5.5 inch scale is a willful expression of contempt.

And it fits in a pattern of malice aforethought from the company. Earlier in the year DC told fans that the old universe exists. Then they market DC You and tell them that they’re going to explore all 52 of the universes.

All well knowing fans wanted to read adventures set in the classic DC Universe they grew up with for over 75 years. And returning to that classic DC Universe would have been money in the bank for the company.

From the success of Supergirl on CBS it’s clear that there’s STILL a big audience that enjoys the classic characters of the DC Universe. And it’s clear that fans are waiting on the sidelines eager to buy DC Comics and DC Comics merchandise. But DC’s managers continue to do STUPID things that keep people from wanting to spend their money on DC Comics and merchandise.

 Seriously does someone at Warner Brothers NOT like money?

That’s what it looks like to me. Every time DC Comics enters the marketplace they seem to make some sort of dumb mistake that undermines their success.

Meanwhile, third-party companies like NECA take the exact same DC Comics characters like Adam West Batman and Christopher Reeve Superman DC Comics and Mattel have struggle to sell for years and have no problem creating merchandise customers want. Both the superposeable 7-inch scaled Christopher Reeve Superman & Adam West Batman from NECA have been selling like hotcakes. Why? Because they’re in a size compatible with other collector related action figure lines like Marvel Legends, DC Universe Classics, and WWE.

It’s really embarrassing when a third party business like NECA knows how to create and sell DC Comics toys more effectively than DC Comics Collectibles, a division of DC Comics themselves established for that purpose. And this isn’t the time for DC Comics to keep making million dollar blunders like the DC Icons line. DC has lost over 10 percent of its market share in the comic book market to Marvel, Archie, and indie publishers like Dynamite, Boom! And IDW.  DC related merchandise has pegwarmed on the shelves of toy stores and comic shops for the last three going on four years. You would think every effort would be made to create a new strategy to stop the hemorrhaging at retail.

Unfortunately, The DC Comics Division seems to be run by a bunch of stooges dumber than Moe, Larry Curly and Shemp. And their solution to all the problems with the brand is to continue to do more of the same. The rest of the world calls this insanity, but this is business as usual at DC Comics.

In today’s competitive business world one would think a corporation like Time Warner would be taking action to correct this course for DC Comics. But for the last fifteen years top managers there have done nothing while one of the greatest brands in the world continues to decline, managers and editors at DC Comics continue to deny that there are any problems with the publications and merchandise they produce.

Which is why I have to ask: Is DC Comics DC Comics own worst enemy?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Black Friday Kindle Freebies!

Last year I focused on fantasy titles for the Black Friday giveaway. This year I’ll be focusing on Women’s fiction. And I’ll be offering several of my most popular Women’s fiction titles for FREE as part of the Kindle Unlimited program.
These include:

The Thetas- The popular inspiring, uplifting, sophisticated sorority story,

Spinsterella- Shawn’s new, dark spooky and downright sexy holiday romantic comedy, 


All About Marilyn The absolutely fabulous five-star screenplay loved by women all over the world.

And along with these great titles Lawrence Cherry will be offering his new Novel The Atonement for free this Black Friday to Kindle Readers as part of the promotion. Black Friday weekend is a great time to try some of the great women's fiction from SJS DIRECT!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Writing Related Injury

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. And that’s due to a swollen muscle in the outer elbow of my right arm.

A couple of months ago when I was writing Spinsterella my arm swelled up and I couldn’t bend my elbow. Pain shot through my forearm to my wrist. I had no choice but to stop taking care of SJS DIRECT’s business and take care of my health. So all the videos, blogs and book promotion I planned had to wait. This is the arm I do everything with from eating to writing with a pencil to combing my hair with.

Now this wasn’t my first time dealing with this kind of injury. I experienced it before in 2011 when I was writing The Thetas. I was on a similar roll with that novel writing close to 11,000 words in a few days. I was the process of finishing the first act of that novel when I was forced to stop due to a similar injury in the same arm at the same place.

I’ve been on a major roll lately. This year alone I’ve written the books for the Isis/E’steem Crossover, a second Edition of Stop Simpin, the novel Spinsterella, and all four of the books I’m planning on releasing for next year along with the three blogs I write every week. So for the year I’ve probably written over 300,000 words.

And for the 20l6 Kickstarter I’ve been trying to draw a character model a day. While I want to keep the creative momentum going while the ideas are still in my head my body is saying enough. At 42, I’m not as physically capable of doing repetitive tasks like I did in my 20s and 30s.   

Now my mind still wants to keep writing and drawing. But my body can’t seem keep going at the same pace I’m thinking. So it shuts down. I’m one of those guys who I expects a lot from myself. And sometimes I expect far too much. As the one man running SJS DIRECT all by myself on a threadbare budget these days I try to do everything in the hopes of pushing myself to the next level. But even I have limitations. 

Truth is I work hard. Sometimes too hard. But the reason why I push so hard is because I want to get these stories on the page. It means a lot to me to share my work with readers and if one story or one blog can reach one person and give them information that can give them a different perspective on a subject I feel like my writing has made a difference in their lives.

With God’s help, lots of asprin and alcohol I’m trying to recover from the pulled muscles in my right arm and I’m trying to get business back on track. Next year I’ll be getting closer to publishing my 50th book and I’m hoping to be healthy enough to celebrate achieving that milestone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spinsterella Prequel Brainstorming

I’m really pondering writing a Spinsterella Prequel as my next novel. I think readers would be interested in seeing how a teenage Matilda Crowley became Mad Matilda and how she became part of the Goth subculture.

 Yeah, I know Spinsterella has only been out for a month, but I really like this character and I’d love to explore her origins in a YA novel. I think a lot of tweens and teens who are Goths or interested in the Goth Subculture would be interested in reading a story about the Baby Bat years of Mad Matilda.

There’s a bunch of questions I’d love to answer in depth about Matilda’s past like: What made her choose the Goth Subculture? What did she feel comfortable with becoming a Goth as opposed to other subcultures like Hip-Hop at the time? What was her family like? Who were her friends back then? What was life like living back on Sugar Hill 25 years ago during the Crack epidemic? What made her feel so stressed about being biracial that it caused her to almost have a nervous breakdown?

In answering those questions about Matilda’s past I believe there’s a great story about the dark side of being light skinned/biracial. Most Black people often believe that there are all these so-called priveleges to someone Black having light skin or being so-called biracial and I’d love to write a story where I show why that isn’t true at all. Light skinned Blacks and biracial Black people not only face discrimination from Whites and nonblacks but Black people as well, but no one ever wants to discuss this intra-racism and how it affects brothers and sisters.

I’d also love to explore the whole concept of race and identity in the prequel. I’ve often explored the concept in other novels I’ve written like The Thetas, but I’d like to think I could explore it from a different persepective in the Spinsterella prequel. Oftentimes Black people think they have to follow one kind of culture and one kind of narrative to be considered “Black”. Unfortunately, those roads often lead to Black people not becoming themselves, but stereotypes.

With the Matilda character I’m pondering what happens when a biracial person has the courage to decide to turn away from the paradigm of the Tragic Mulatto and go their own way and create their own identity. Are they Mad? Or are they making more sense than we think?

After getting all the grief about the Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess and Isis: Night of the Vampires Covers and Isis’ skintone I felt I had to tackle this whole lightskin/darkskin issue I felt I had to tackle the topic in a story to show how it effected people. That was one of the reasons I wrote the Original Spinsterella and the upcoming Isis: Imitation of Life. But I belive a Spinsterella Prequel would really go the most in depth on the topic and make a definitive statement about Skintone, race, and what many think is the Black identity.

One of the big inspirations I had in writing the original Spinsterella was something actress Persia White said on a radio show in 2009 or so about being so dark inside because she was light skinned. That got me thinking about the dark side of being a light skinned Black person.

The other thing that inspired me to create the Matilda Crowley character was Tia Mowry’s relationship with her father. Tia Mowry has a very close relationship with her White father and the love between them goes far beyond the color of their skin. I’d love to develop the relationship between Matilda and her father Jason in the next story and show how they became close during this troubling time for her. In that relationship I’d be exploring Matilda’s conflicting feelings for her father, being told she’s “Acting White”.

I’ve got a lot of ideas for this project. I’d love to write it as a Tim Burtonesque kind of teen comedy. Something just like the original Spinsterella filled with dark humor, satire, and ironic wit, the staples of the Goth subculture. And I’d love to make a commentary about how backwards the monolithic view of what most Black people consider what being “Black” truly is. What is really “Black” should be defined by Black people and feature all the shades and textures of our culture not something that makes White people feel comfortable.

From a business standpoint I’d love to put a Spinsterella prequel into production is because A little YA novel I did back in 2013 called The Thetas is still one of my biggest hits. That story about the origins of then 19-year-old John Haynes supporting character Colleen Anderson while she pledged the mysterious Theta Sorority proved to be quite popular with women of all ages and all races. I’d like to think readers Goth and nongoth would be excited to learn all about what would make a girl want to become a part of the Goth Subculture.

All of this is brainstorming right now, and nothing is concrete. But this is a project I’d love to get started on. But I’ve got a Kickstarter planned and four other books in the queue. We’ll see what happens.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

John Haynes Concept Model sheets for the 2016 Kickstarter

 More Concept Model sheets for the SJS DIRECT 2016 Kickstarter Trying to draw a figure a day to get back in the hang of things.

But with these two concepts I'm trying to show the difference between John's Casual outfit which he usually wears in Isis series books and the business outfit he usually wears in The Temptation of John Haynes and the E'steem series books.

Gonna try to get E'steem,  The Eastland Witches, and Drac up next week!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Concept art for Isis: Bride of Dracula

Been really busy on FOUR book projects. So I haven't had time to write a blog. But one will be coming soon. Soon as I find a topic to write about. But here's a concept sketch I drew for the Isis: Bride of Dracula cover. This is one of three figures I have planned for that cover so I have to draw two more model sheets for it along with model sheets for the other three books!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kickstarter 2016 Progress Report

I’ve been busy all this week prepping for SJS DIRECT 2016 Cover Kickstarter. (Yes, that’s the title.) And for that project I’m planning to raise funds to pay for the covers for three or possibly four titles.

I spent all of last week writing the final book in the project, a sequel to Isis: Night of the Vampires. Next year’s titles will include:

Isis: Bride of Dracula- A follow-up to Isis: Night of the Vampires Where the goddess next door and John Haynes take on the Lord of the Vampires,

John Haynes: The Man Who Rules the World- The sequel to The Temptation of John Haynes, 

E’steem: The Witches of Eastland- An E’steem series adventure with a mix of horror, fantasy and comedy, 

And Isis: Imitation of Life- A fantasy flashback tale set in the 1930s inspired by the 1934 film Imitation of Life dealing with Intra racism, racial identity and the role of Negro women in the pre-Civil Rights era.

Some readers have been asking me to write YA fiction for Black males and I’m finally ready to add more of those stories into my catalog. Both Isis: Bride of Dracula and John Haynes: The Man who rules the World feature an intelligent Black male hero who is authoratiative, assertive and has strong masculine traits.

All four of the titles have their first drafts completed and I’m in the middle of revisions right now. I’m planning for an April 2016 launch for the four titles in the SJS DIRECT Cover Kickstarter and I want the titles to be the best quality possible.

I’ve talked to an artist and the tentative budget for the project is gonna be about $2500 if I do four books, $2000 if I do three. This year there will be eBooks as part of the rewards in addition to the paperbacks. If we can surpass the goal for funding the project I may be able to afford to provide some cool bonuses like a print featuring all the characters or do something really cool like offer donors a copy of The Temptation of John Haynes with a brand new cover for helping me raise fund past the intital goal!

There’s still a lot for me to do regarding this project like drawing up model sheets and creating page layouts for the .PDFs. So things may change between here and January. But I’m working hard towards a January launch for the SJS DIRECT 2016 Kickstarter. At that time I’ll announce the artist for the project and list all the rewards for everyone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Could CBS’ Supergirl Change DC’s Dysfunctional Direction?

Last Week Supergirl was one of the highest rated new TV shows of the season. In fact, it was the #1 new show for the year.

From the ratings it’s clear there’s a HUGE audience for DC characters who stay true to the source material of the Pre-52 DC Universe. And that audience clearly wants to make sharing their favorite heroes a family affair. Can Supergirl make Time Warners’ executives change course on the direction for DC Comics?

I believe DC and Time Warner have been handed the opportunity of a lifetime to rebuild its brand. And if they’re smart enough capitalize on it, they have an opportunity to turn DC’s course and finally start creating products that will allow them to compete with Marvel Studios and reclaim the market share they’ve lost under Dan Didio’s fifteen years of mismananaging the brand.

For the past fifteen years the bright and sunny world of DC Comics has been a gray dreary place. A place where there’s no good, no evil and the heroes are just as good as the bad guys.  Thanks to all the dreariness and depression readers and moviegoers have been turned off from DC brand and its dark products like Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises and DC’s New 52 Comics. Thanks to all the negative energy it’s been next to impossible to sell not only DC Comics, but licensed merchandise like action figures and even sundry merchandise like pencils and keychains. Just mention DC Characters these days and most comic fans usually get angry and kids usually just don’t care.

But that didn’t happen with Supergirl. Most people were enthusiastic about this show and many raved about it. Why? It was a breath of fresh air. Supergirl was a fun show that captured the spirit of the character stayed true to her source material and put a fresh perspective on the story of a hero who many regarded as a friend. The kind of show families can watch together and fans young and old can bond with as they share stories about their favorite character. Money in the bank for DC from a business perspective.  

 From the big numbers for Supergirl it’s clear Warner Brothers can’t keep selling dark stuff like DCYou and the New 52. 15.9 million people watched Supergirl. Compare those numbers to the 10 percent market share and declining sales that dark stuff like DC You and DC’s New 52 have done over the past three years and it’s clear that Warner needs to change the direction of the DC Brand ASAP.   

I haven’t seen this kind of passion, enthusiasm and positive energy among comic fans and non comic fans since 2008’s Iron Man. DC fans young and old are united behind this show and Warner needs to capitalize on that re-energized customer base and start rebuilding the DC brand on Supergirl’s foundation.

Supergirl shows me that comic fans and casual viewers want the Classic characters of the DC Universe. And they’re willing to take time out of their day to support them. I believe if DC started publishing the Classic characters of the DC Universe in new family-friendly adventures, I believe readers young and old would return to the comic shops and start buying DC Comics and DC related merchandise again.

Supergirls’ audience has made a powerful statement that Warner Brothers executives need to listen to. This is time for Warner Brothers to start making efforts to end the Didio era of dysfunction and start moving the DC Comics brand towards getting back to the classic tales of good and evil that made DC an international brand for 75 years. There’s an opportunity to reach a new generation of readers with Supergirl, all Warner Brothers has to do is capitalize on it.

Oh, and I have a new book out in Paperback and on KindleUnlimited! Give it a look!

ISBN: 978-1512174519

Matilda Crowley has earned the nickname Spinsterella at Amalgamated Consolidated for her unique style and fashion sense. But when an enigmatic new hire starts working on her floor, the mature Goth Monster is eager to get closer to the silent stranger many in the office have dubbed the Quiet Man. Is it love at first bite for the Black Widow? Or is she destined to die an old maid?

Technically Spinsterella has actually been out for about a week or so in paperback, but it officially debuted on Halloween. If you’re keeping count, this is my sixth novel. To kick things off, the Kindle Version is Free this Monday, and after that it’ll be on Kindle Unlimited. So if you Have Amazon Prime you can read it for free. So get your Goth on and pick up this dark and sexy romantic comedy today!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Shawn Reviews CBS’ Supergirl

Last Monday I got to watch the pilot episode for DC’s new Supergirl show. And I’d have to say I was very happy with what I saw. If the series retains the consistency of the pilot CBS will definitely have another hit on its hands on Monday nights.

Supergirl is what most DC fans like myself want in a live action adaptaion of DC Comics character. It stays true to the source material and captures the spirit of the original character. Kara Zor El goes from Kryptonian protector to girl next door with ease, and the origin of Kara is told in the first ten minutes of the pilot in a way any one could understand without having to read a single comic book.

I’d have to say the first ten minutes of Supergirl were better than Man of Steel and Superman Returns combined. In that ten minutes we got to see Kara’s character established and her mission defined. Not only does she have the same powers as Clark, but the same values as Clark. Plain and simple she wants to be a hero because she’s a good woman who cares about people.

Kara’s reasons for becoming Supergirl are simple. Her boss Cat Grant wants to cut jobs at a paper in her media conglomerate. And in order to save those jobs the city needs a hero. And it gets one when a plane with her sister on board is about to crash. In one of the best action sequences I’ve seen on TV Supergirl catches the plane and shows she is the equal of her cousin in a scene that blows the doors off the plane rescue scene in Superman Returns.

From there we have a cool montage of Supergirl stopping crimes and making headlines. And putting together her new costume. The new suit mixes classic style with modern textures and looks pretty cool. Capturing the spirit of the 1980s Helen Slater Supergirl costume but updating the style for today with texture and shades. Personally I’d love to see the red \S/ filled in with yellow, but that’s something for me to do when they finally make the action figure.

When Kara returns to work we get the introduction of Black Jimmy Olsen. Now I’m no fan of changing character ethnicities for political correctness, but the actor who plays Jimmy Olsen is rock solid. He has great chemistry with Melissa Benoist and can carry a scene. If anything he seems a lot like an older, more confident Jimmy who has gotten a little more seasoning in the field after working at Lois’ side for a few years. From the way Supergirl is written it seems like they’ve evolved the character Superman’s pal is ready to be his own man instead of the awkward boy featured in all the Superman comics It’s a great progression for the character that takes him to another level.

As the new heroine takes flight in National City she’s stalked by a villain named Vartox who’s been sent to kill her. And after her first battle with the villain we learn that when her rocketship was taken off course it led to a prison ship filled with villains crashing on earth. A force led by her sister is trying to capture them. This is where the pilot loses a little steam for me. That kind of plot twist is so by the numbers it’s not funny.

Personally, I’d rather see a little more of an organic build to the rogues gallery. With heroines you really need to establish a bit of a relationship between them and the villain. That chemistry between them is what will get viewers, especially female viewers to keep watching and tell their friends.  Having all the villains come from the Phantom Zone is a nice reference to the 1984 movie and Superman II, but kind of prevents the writers from establishing the villains in an organic fashion and adding a little diversity to the bad guys and their reasons for hating Kara.

The fights with Vartox were like something out of a big budget movie. Rock solid special effects and great build on the story with a strong climax. The scenes with Vartox were on the level with a Marvel Studios film; but I wish the character would have gotten a bit more character development. It seemed all he was here to do was Job to Kara and then die. Yeah, his death moved the plot forward. But I’m not liking this direction with Kara’s aunt being behind things. Again, weaksauce writing.

I fear the villains may be the Achilles heel to Supergirl. From the pilot they seem extremely underdeveloped and unclear of their mission. That may impede the show’s progress throughout the season. Villains drive conflict on superhero shows, and they need to be strong if a show hopes to go more than a season. I know it’s only one episode in and there’s a lot of ground to cover in a pilot, but I’d like to have seen some relationships established between Kara and the baddies.

The last thing I’d like to see Supergirl is a Smallville Freak of the Week story model where bad guys just are there to Job to Kara. Supergirl shows a lot of promise in its pilot from a solid origin, a strong and interesting heroine, a great supporting cast and pretty solid storytelling. If the show can get the paradigm right for how it develops its villains it has the potential to be the next Xena: Warrior Princess or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I really liked the pilot for Supergirl There was hope, optimism, and a sense of fun in the hour I watched. This is the kind of adapation DC fans have been begging Warner Brothers for, and the direction most want to see their characters taken in. If Warner Brothers continues to create content as strong as Supergirl they’ll soon be able to create films that’ll allow them to compete with Marvel Studios.

Oh, and I have a new book out in Paperback and on KindleUnlimited! Give it a look!

ISBN: 978-1512174519

Matilda Crowley has earned the nickname Spinsterella at Amalgamated Consolidated for her unique style and fashion sense. But when an enigmatic new hire starts working on her floor, the mature Goth Monster is eager to get closer to the silent stranger many in the office have dubbed the Quiet Man. Is it love at first bite for the Black Widow? Or is she destined to die an old maid?

Technichally Spinsterella has actually been out for about a week or so in paperback, but it officially debuted on Halloween. If you’re keeping count, this is my sixth novel. To kick things off, the Kindle Version is Free this Monday, and after that it’ll be on Kindle Unlimited. So if you Have Amazon Prime you can read it for free. So get your Goth on and pick up this dark and sexy romantic comedy today!