Captain Zap is 50

Captain Zap No 1 webI don’t know what made me write “11/4/68” on the cover of Captain Zap #1 when I finished it. All I know for sure is that it was 50 years ago today.

Captain Zap was my first experience in public acceptance of something I created. It was a ridiculous superhero comic book written and drawn in pencil, four pieces of typewriter paper folded in half to make a 12-page comic book with a cover.

When I say “ridiculous,” I mean it was intentionally silly. It was filled with moments like the assassination of Mayor Snort, who, when told, “Someone’s taking pot shots at you, sir,” replies as he falls from a balcony, “Pot shot, my eye! I’m dead.” The sound effect is “POT SHOT.”

Captain Zap was once Ralph Smith, who is struck by lightning one day while rushing to work. Rather than killing him, the lightning endows him with a strange power – energy bolts (er, lightning bolts?) that emerge from his hand when he points at something.

Of course, like any ordinary person, pretty much the first thing he does is decide to become a superhero, but the very first thing he needs is a good name.

“It must be something that would strike fear in the hearts of bad guys!” he proclaims, discharging one of his bolts. As it turns out, a nearby kid is saying, “Hey Joe, have you read the latest issue of Captain –” and his next word is drowned out by the “ZAP!” from Ralph’s energy bolt. Voila.

“And thusly was born Capt. Zap,” the origin story concludes.

I passed around the single copy of Captain Zap #1 and it was met with bemused approval, and so I ended up distributing 23 issues the same way, 22 of which survive, plus Captain Zap Annual #1 (64 pages!), a horror comic called “Tales of Fright (Stories That Reek),” two issues of a spin-off villain-turned-hero called Mass the Mighty, covers for Captain Zap #s 24-27, and a partially finished Captain Zap Annual #2.

Captain Zap - pot shot webOnly Captain Zap #11 is lost to the ages, having not been returned after being passed around. I even have Kapitän Zeppelin #9; a friend in my German class translated that epic battle of Captain Zap versus his archenemies Dr. Skull, the Red Demon, Mass the Mighty, Logicman, Vampireman, the Devil, and the Human Wrench (der Menschwrensch).

Dr. Skull was reborn as “The World’s Nicest Bad Guy” in my Myke Phoenix Novelettes, but otherwise Captain Zap was essentially forgotten until my brother found them in a box in my old closet a few years ago.

be silly - webActually, gone but not forgotten. I never lost the fun of entertaining my friends with my silly stories, and that motivated me to keep trying all these years as a “wordsmith and podcaster” while I made a living as a reporter and later editor. Maybe my friends were just humoring their eccentric lunatic friend, but we had fun together with Captain Zap, I think.

I pulled the pile of old pencil scribblings out recently because I wondered if I could adapt the concept for contemporary readers – Lord knows we all could use a little silliness – and that’s when I saw “11/4/68” scrawled there.

And so this morning I offer a toast to that high school sophomore who dared to be silly. That skinny, crazy kid still exists somewhere inside an overweight, somewhat addled older guy who counts among his prized possessions a plaque on his wall that says, “Be silly sometimes.” And he treasures the people who, 50 years ago, smiled at the “pot shot” joke and said, “This is kind of cool.”


Second quarter + one month report

book shelf

I saw a quote recently that said nothing ever goes as planned – you wind up where you are by accident no matter what your big plans are. It’s a variation of the proverbial John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

And so, as I review my announced plans for 2017 for this month-late update, I don’t feel terribly bad about saying, well, Life happened. Continue reading “Second quarter + one month report”

The rebirth of Myke Phoenix

Myke Phoenix Novelettes

The “director’s cut” is done. And here’s a new freebie for you.

For the past four months or so, I have been (for the most part) quietly repackaging and rebooting the Myke Phoenix Novelettes into what I am aribitrarily declaring their final form. Let’s face it, from now until my last breath I could constantly tinker around the edges, add deleted scenes, and update the special effects ad nauseum, but at some point you move on. Continue reading “The rebirth of Myke Phoenix”

Myke Phoenix sale through Thursday

puzzle-of-the-talking-dinosaur-bI have been quietly rebooting the Myke Phoenix superhero adventures series for the last three months, with the five earliest Myke stories now available in all their revised glory. You can find links to the ebooks and paperbacks here.

Now, for a couple of days at least, has made it even more tempting to add some of these little books to your collection, and this page assembles all of my print products in one spot for you.

Order Myke paperbacks, type in WINTERSHIP at checkout, and get 15% off and free mail shipping if you act before midnight Thursday. (That’s $2.49 for #1, $4.99 for #2 and up, minus 15%.) Operators are standing by! (Or at least an automated website is …)


My 5 goals for 2017

One thing holding up my writing career is the obstacle course I must negotiate to get into my home office.

Exactly one year ago today, I pledged to deliver a trilogy of novels about a huge beast from the sea, with the first one due May 11. I was later forced by my wiser nature to walk that beast back to the sea whence it came. I wish I could say “I didn’t say May 11 of what year,” but you can see I plainly intended to deliver the whole trilogy by July 1, 2016.

Wiser men than I have spoken of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and within a certain Time line. The goal of writing a novel by May 11, 2016, and two more by July 1 was clearly SMT but not so AR. Continue reading “My 5 goals for 2017”

A writer of stories and encouraging words

I never took advantage of my bully pulpit as small-town newspaper editor to promote the books I have written over the last eight years or so. It didn’t seem fair to leverage that audience when others had to buy ads to do the same.

But now that some of that audience has followed me here, wondering “What happened to Warren? What will he do next?” it behooves me, as young Chris Carter does at the end of every X-Files episode, to declare, “I made this!”

I promise I won’t engage in blatant advertising every day. This website is mainly the place where I deposit fragments of thought and potential stories, and offer some encouragement against the rampaging tides of Dark Silly that threaten your calm every day.

When I sat down some time ago to create a personal mission statement, the words that emerged were short and simple: “I am a writer of stories and encouraging words.” And that is the mission I aim to fulfill every time I sit down at this keyboard. Continue reading “A writer of stories and encouraging words”