Creating “Skye Sparkler”

“Dad spent a LOT of money to get me drawn by THIS guy, so he’s showing me off as much as he can!”

It began in 1987, when I decided to create a new Supergirl.

The previous Supergirl, the classic Supergirl, Linda Lee Danvers/Kara Zor-El, had been killed off in 1985 in the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. Her death contributed to a severe depression that eventually cost me the best job I’ve ever had, Staff Editor at Comics Buyer’s Guide.

At the same time, I was a member of Interlac, an APA (ask your grand-parents, kids) devoted to the Legion of Super-Heroes. I had a great fondness for The Legion because I had designed the costume that Saturn Girl wore in the 1970s.

In Interlac, there were great lamentations when Supergirl was killed off. And anger. I learned that Interlac was composed mostly of old-fart comic book fans who didn’t like anything changed from when they were kids reading comic books. Personally, I mourned Supergirl, but, eventually, I did move on.

And then, knowing that DC would want to hang on to the name for trademark purposes, I decided to try my hand at creating a new Supergirl. Because, among other things, I knew it would tick off a lot of my fellow Interlac members, which was always fun.

When I started the project, I knew one thing I wanted to do was I was make a Supergirl who was an actual girl, not a woman. When Kara Zor-El first arrived on Earth, she was definitely a girl. But, by the 1970s, when she had graduated college, she was a woman.

But then, the metamorphiliac in me had an idea. I would make my heroine age-regressed. She would be Shazam! in reverse: A 25-year-old woman who became a 12-year-old super-heroine. I wrote up her backstory for her and sent it to DC. I got a very nice letter from Dick Giordano informing me that John Byrne had dibs on creating a new Supergirl.

I had done too much work on her to just toss her aside. I came up with more of her story. Her other self, Marcy Martin, did data processing. She had younger sister who was attending college, which would complicate the age change more. Marcy’s job kept a roof over both of their heads. And Marcy’s story would be more to prove to the world who she really was, so she wouldn’t lose everything she had to get by growing up. There would be no super-villains. Marcy/Skye would be the only fantastic element in the story.

Finally, I had a name for her. She would give off a coruscating aura whenever she used her powers, especially when she was flying. And that led to her heroic name, Skye Sparkler.

I wrote a couple of scripts for her, but something wasn’t quite right. I came to realize I didn’t want to sell her to DC or Marvel or any comics company. I wanted to keep her for myself.

I did some work to better understand who Skye was. I role-played her in a friend’s Champions campaign. I even ran her in a Champions game at GEN Con and took the prize for best character. And, she survived the Champions campaign I ran her in until I had to retire her because she had become too powerful for the villains the other players had to face. (I also made time in a super-hero RPG part of Skye’s origin.)

Then I was in a bookstore when I spotted something in the Writer’s section. A book called How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey.

I had checked out and purchased books on writing before. I even subscribed to Writer’s Digest for a few years. I had written some short stories. But I had never gotten anywhere trying to do a complete book. That changed with Frey. I can’t recommend this book enough to any future writers. What he had to say about getting to know your characters, being able to state a book’s premise (the most important thing to Frey), how to make the building blocks of a novel before you start to actually write it, these were all vital to writing the book.

I started writing on April 20, 1994. And how I got it written was a very simple technique. I wrote some of the book every day. Even if it was just a paragraph or a sentence, I wrote something. I took great chunks out of my personal life to give life to Skye and those around her. And, if I went to a movie or watched something on TV, there was the most nagging voice in my head asking why I wasn’t at home writing.

On April 5, 1995, I finished the rough draft.

(There was one thing shortly after that caused some rewriting, and it was far more tragic beyond that. There was a scene in my book where Skye flies off with a semi-trailer that explodes while she’s high in the sky with it. It’s later learned it was filled with a cargo of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and I spent some time explaining why ammonium nitrate would explode. On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing happened, and everyone then knew why ammonium nitrate would explode.)

Next came the really hard part: Trying to find an agent and/or a publisher. No one was interested in representing or publishing a book about a super-hero no one had heard of before. I shared it on disc with some friends and even one professional writer, who gave me some good tips. But I couldn’t get it published.

Then, in Writer’s Digest, I saw an ad for Xlibris, a print-on-demand publisher. Print-on-demand means that, as the book is ordered, copies are printeded. You pay for the book to be typeset, for copy editing, and the copyright if you want to, and then let people know the book exists. I had the money, and I decided to go with this route, with a plan to sell the book through Diamond Distributors, the main distributor of product to comic book shops.

Then two things happened.

Xlibris raised the price on the books by ten dollars. This was not as drastic as it first seemed, as I was able to find another publisher, Booksurge (now CreateSpace), which would print the books and I could set the price.

The other problem was bigger. Diamond wouldn’t carry my book. I had set a price so it would be profitable to them, but they wouldn’t even reply to my inquiries, not even when I went up to them at Chicago ComiCon. They accepted a copy of my book, but they ever called back. They pretty much have a monopoly on their business, so they don’t have to accept anything for distribution that they don’t want to distribute.

I found Cold Cuts distribution, which handled independent product, and they accepted Skye Sparkler, but the sales weren’t great. And, they’ve since gone out of business.

More recently, however, CreateSpace (which sells a lot of product through Amazon) has started turning their books into e-books through Amazon’s Kindle. I’ve set things up so people can buy the Kindle edition for five dollars, or go on Kindle Select to read it for free. I get 70% for each book sold, I’ve been doing my best to make sure people know about it, but I don’t know yet how many are actually buying it. I should be getting the first check soon.

So, that’s my effort to transform myself into an author. Maybe there won’t be a lot of sales. But I’m a life-long bachelor. I’ve never been a father. (And I’ve reached the age where it’s a moot point now.) Skye Sparkler is my child. She is what I leave behind to let at least some of the world know that I was here.


I recently got around to watching Mannequin and Mannequin Two — On the Move, two movies I had never seen before. I enjoyed them both equally, though I know most people do not like the sequel that much. They both had their stupid moments, but there were other parts I enjoyed.

Then, today, I was doing some badly needed cleaning in my room and I came across these two photos in my collection.

The woman in the first photo strikes me as both innocent and surprised. She was aware something was happening to her before the effect was fully realized. And she looks as if she’s sitting right by a door. Who or what transformed her, and why?

The second photo is pretty brazen in what it shows off. The pose strikes me as very mannequin-ish. No, we’re not seeing where parts can be disconnected. And I can’t help but notice (but still appreciate) that her bottom half is wider than the top.

And why have both women been stripped naked? Is someone working on them for a display? I hope these ladies can recover after they have been (hopefully) restored to themselves.

But the reason I purchased both of these photos is that it strikes me that the women in them have been turned into (or are about to be turned into) mannequins. The first woman seems to have been in her home when it happened. The second, I have theories, but I don’t want to share right now. I don’t want to influence anyone looking at the photos.

These are two good examples of photos inspiring fantasies in viewers, and making the viewers come up with back stories. Who turned them into mannequins, and why?

Feel free to share what you come up with. And I hope everyone enjoys the photos.

The Midas Touch — A review

It was just sitting there in the bargain bin.

Warning! Spoilers aplenty ahead!

So there I was in the checkout at Wal-Mart, when I looked at the bin in my right and there was this movie. It might have said “You’re a TF fan, aren’t you? You want to know if anyone gets turned to gold in this? Well, you’re just doing to have to buy me and find out.” It was only five dollars, so, why not?

It took me several years to actually watch the thing. I looked it up on IMDB, and found that it was made in 1997, and it was apparently a joint production by the USA and Romania. I didn’t have terribly high hopes for it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

A 12-year-old boy, Billy Bright, is an orphan living with his grandmother, who has a bad heart. Billy is also perpetually bullied at school by Leon, and his best and only friend is Hannah, a girl in his class. The bully forces Billy to break into the home of the rumored town witch and steal her hourglass. Confronted by the witch, Madame Latimer, Billy is given a wish. Wanting money so he can buy his grandma a good heart, Billy wishes for The Midas Touch. Billy is supposed to be a smart kid and should know The Touch is nothing but trouble! Madame Latimer even warns him of what he should already know. But he still asks for the Midas Touch. (It should be noted that the story of King Midas, to the best of my knowledge, has not gotten the Disney movie treatment save for a Silly Symphony

We soon find out that Billy’s Midas Touch is very selective. It can only be activated, apparently, by his right hand’s index finger. He goes around touching doors, door frames, his bicycle, dishes, clothes, all kinds of things. None of them go gold. The only thing that does turn gold is his pet hamster, and a book.

When Leon and Hannah realize Billy’s power, instead of getting as far away from Billy as possible, they try to help him, though Leon’s main objective is making money off the trash that Billy golden-izes. Leon takes it to a pawn shop where the brother and sister who realize what the kids have plot to steal things. They eventually follow Billy back to his home, and steal a solid-gold statue — Granny, who Billy accidentally turned to gold earlier.

So how are the transformations? The Touch starts with a golden spark from Billy’s finger, and then the metallicizing spreads over the body from the point where Billy touched it. We don’t see the transformation for Granny, he casually brushes his hand against her as he leaves the room. When he comes back, Granny is golden, and he panics.

Billy himself is turning to gold, apparently a side effect of the wish/curse. His teeth turn to gold, and he starts to feel stiff. They break into the town library (it’s after closing hours) to read up on how to cure the curse, and learn that Billy has to turn everything gold back to what it was, something he can do with second touch, and then bathe himself in a local, polluted river. And, to make matters worse, the pawn shop owners have melted Granny to liquid gold!

The sister who co-owns the pawn shop gets the golden treatment, which terrifies her brother so much that he faints. (The intellect of the pawn shop owners is just a little below that of the crooks in the original Home Alone movies, and they generally get what’s coming to them.)

Hannah and Leon are spared The Touch in the movie. Madame Latimer did something to Leon to change him from bully to nice kid, a change still in effect at movie’s end. And Billy does plenty of touching with his friends. It would’ve added to the movie’s tension had Billy turned Hannah to gold and had to turn her back. Perhaps Ashley Lyn Cafagna, the actress who played Hannah, didn’t want to undergo the process that would’ve made her a golden girl.

In all, The Midas Touch isn’t a bad movie, and those whose fantasies lean heavily to thoughts of metallacizing others will probably be able to use the movie as a launching pad for their fantasies. You may want to see if it can be streamed online. And, should you find it in a bin at Wal-Mart, there are worse ways to spend $5.00.

The other side of TF

If you look at my deviantART gallery here you’ll see something near or over 300 pieces of art, most of it involving transformations of some kind or other. It features women turning into dogs, cats, frogs, lizards, babies, shrinking, growing, acquiring enormous breasts, many kinds of transformation.

But then, there are also pieces of art such as this:

Celeste and Luna by Lady Kraken

And this:

Whut in tarnation?
Big Sis, what in tartnation ?!

And this:

''Ooo!  Bouncy!'' by Ladykraken

These are examples of different transformations, where the subjects are animals turned human. As you may know, the subjects above are certain little ponies who have become women. (Not girls, but women — don’t want to play around with underage nudes, after all.)

The idea of animals transformed into homo sapiens isn’t quite as common as the reverse. But they can still be entertaining and, yes, even erotic to the TF fan.

There was a movie in 1951 called You Never Can Tell about a dog who was supposed to inherit a lot of money, but he was shot to death before he could do so. He appeals to an assembly of animals in the next life to be given the chance to go back and help capture his murderer. He wish is granted, and he is turned into a man do pursue his mission. He is also assigned a filly who is turned into a woman to help him. (There’s a great scene where the woman, who still has her speed, is trotting alongside a bus to catch up with it.)

Bewitched dealt with this idea a few times. In a first season episode called “The Cat’s Meow,” Darrin is trying to find the right Asian model for an ad campaign. Samantha takes a stray Siamese and turns it into a woman, and a pretty sexy female at that. TF fans will like how she drinks tea catlike at one point of the episode.

The following season, a stray racehorse shows up in the Stephens’ back yard and Samantha humanizes it to find out where it came from. The horse, Dolly, was a cute woman.

Then, there was Comet, Supergirl’s pet horse in the 1960s. For those who don’t know, Comet was actually Biron, a centaur from mythological times. I won’t go into how he became a full horse with Kryptonian-like powers. (He was not vulnerable to kryptonite, which put him one-up on the other super-people and critters of the time.) Whenever a comet passed near Earth (Byron got his horsey name because of a comet-shaped birthmark on his flank), Byron turned into a human. And it was in this form he became Bronco Bill Starr, a rodeo rider. And one of Supergirl’s most recurring, yes, boyfriends. Thank God that Dr. Wertham never found out about THAT one!

There are novels on the subject. One I’ve read is Carmen Dog, set in a world in which women are turning into animals and vice versa. The main character is a dog who is turning into a woman while the wife of her “owner” is becoming a turtle. There’s a heavy feminist statement in the book about the dividing line between spouses and pets. If that doesn’t bother you, you might want to give the book a try.

I can remember a “Modern Madcap” cartoon from the 1950s or 1960s about a dog who finds a man’s suit and puts it on to live life as a man. It ends with him getting rid of the suit and declaring that “A dog’s life is best after all.” It was pretty par for the course in the “Madcap” series.

W have just scratched the surface. Can anyone else come up with more animal – to – human transformations?

A fairy-tale recommendation

Forty-five years ago, I took a course in college on children’s literature. One of the books we studied was a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And in it was a story called “The Salad.” Over the years, I have learned it is also known by the names “The Magic Heart” (Nippon Studios made this into an episode of their animated Grimm’s Fairy Tales Classics), “The Cabbages,” and, especially, “The Donkey Cabbages.” I have seen the story several times since, especially in complete collections of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

It is one of the lesser-known Grimm stories. It is a little lengthy, and starts in way that gives you no idea where it’s going. At the beginning, it’s about a young huntsman, traveller, what-have-you, and starts with the motif of the main character gaining a magic object (in this, a bird’s heart or an orb) that, after being swallowed, gives the possessor a gold coin under his pillow every morning when he wakes up, and a magic cloak that can take the wearer anywhere he wishes.

I won’t go through the entire story. One of the better versions on the Intertnet is here: Suffice it to say The object is stolen by an old witch with the help of the beautiful young girl (in some versions, her daughter) working for her. The traveler is then sent away to a mountaintop.

But then, the traveler finds a garden full of cabbages, some green, some white. He discovers that eating the green cabbages will turn him into a donkey (or an ass — have fun explaining that one to your kids), while eating the white ones will change him back. He takes several of the cabbages with him and finds his way back to the witch and the maiden, where he uses the cabbages to get revenge.

My guess is that this is not a better known Grimm’s tale because there is some animal cruelty endured by the women when they are in donkey form.

Still, it was interesting to see a tale where both genders are transformed. The anime version of this story does a nice, if slow, transformation of the women to donkeys and back.

I was at a comic-book show years ago where Zenoscope, the publishers of the Grimms Fairy Tales comic book had a booth. I told them of the cabbage story, and the first thing out of their mouths was “Is it dark?” (It wasn’t long afterward that I stopped reading Grimms Fairy Tales. Dark gets boring quickly.) So much for the story being better known.

I also know of a similar tale from India. In this one, a peasant finds a pool of clear water which turns a bather into a monkey, and a pool of dirty water which changes the bather back into a human. He sneaks a jug of the clear water into a princess’ bath, then later shows up with the dirty water to change her back into a human — and, as a reward, he is given her hand in marriage. (No, I don’t think Aladdin‘s Abu ever used the waters on Jasmine.)

Anyway, for transformation fans, “Donkey Cabbages” is one of the best fairy tales out there. And I would love to see some writer bring the cabbages into modern times.

A tale of two photo shoots

Back in December, I ordered two photo shoots from two different women off of ebanned. I finally got them over the past week and the result could not be more different.

I think that, with the first one I received, the woman didn’t really want to do the shoot as I’d described it. Keep in mind, when I commissioned the shoot, I told her several times that, if she didn’t want to do the poses I’d asked for, she could tell me and we’d try to work something out. She kept saying she’d do them. She kept putting it off for different reasons. When I finally got it, out of 74 pictures, only a quarter of them were what I’d asked for. The rest were close-ups of her boobs, her crotch (I’ve never wanted to be a gynecologist), her butt, etc.

I think she was expecting to do porn and not tell a story in pictures. And porn is what I got.

But then, I got the other set. As if to make up for the first one, this one was perfect. The woman had the look of a MILF, and I was quickly able to create a story in my mind about the pictures. The woman posed as I had wanted her to pose, her expressions were right.

The only complaint I had was that the pictures were not framed very well. Parts of her body were cropped off. But it’s a minor complaint, I was pleased with the shoot.

I just mention this for people inspired by my previous post on commissioning photos recently, so they know what to look out for. I’d say, be sure to have a good description of what you want for each pose, and make sure your model wants do cooperate and do the poses you asked for.

Disappointment: ”The She-Wolf of London”

Spoiler warning! This overview of the 1946 Movie The She-Wolf of London gives away a number of plot point of the movie in an effort to keep werewolf fans away from the movie. So you might want to skip this review and see the actual movie yourself some day. But, keep in mind, you WILL be disappointed in the movie!

I had such high hopes for The She-Wolf of London when I learned of its existence. A werewolf movie starring June Lockhart? (It was released in 1946, twelve years before June became Ruth Martin, the mother of Timmy on TV’s Lassie.) During the heyday of Universal Studios horror movies? (Okay, it was late in that heyday, but still, it sounded promising.) But our sweet June terrorizing the city? How could I resist that?

First, the good news: The movie only runs an hour-and-one-minute long. So you won’t lose too much of your life in watching it. And it’s really more of a mystery than a horror movie.

The movie starts with June as Phyllis Allenby a wealthy, pretty, but unbelievably wimpy heiress deliberately losing a horse race to her fiancĂ©, Barry Lanfield (Don Porter, who two decades later would be Gidget’s dad) so they could be married the following week instead of waiting several months. They happily plan their wedding.

However, there are a number of gruesome and troublesome murders in the park, including a 10-year-old boy, and, later, a police detective. Newspapers have been playing up the possibility that the murders are the doing of a werewolf, though the London police give no credence to those rumors.

However, poor Phyllis not only believes the werewolf theory is possible, she thinks that she is the werewolf! Barry tries to convince her she’s not, as do the caretakers of the mansion where Phyllis lives, Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden) and her daughter, Carol. Or do they? Martha gives Phyllis many calming potions to relax her. Carol, on the other hand, is busy trying to see her starving artist boyfriend, a relationship her mother does not approve of!

June gives some good scenes in this movie, especially when she’s looking in the mirror and then at her hands, wondering if they sprout fur and claws. (There is no indication of many of the myths of lycanthropy, no mention of full moons and such. Phyllis, however, is shown once reading a book called Lycanthropy — The Legend.)

But June as just Phyllis is a delicate flower, made of gossamer and dandelion seeds. In other words, she is the typical distressed damsel of so many bad Gothic novels, that you’re dying to see her go from woman to wolf and give the movie some actual horror!

Stop! About to give away everything! Do NOT read further if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.

But Phyllis does NOT change into a werewolf! We suspect she is not the title creature of the movie when, (except or one scene early in the movie) in the mornings, after the havoc the wolf-woman is supposed to have been wreaking the night before, wimpy little Phyllis wakes up in her nightdress, which is perfectly dry, and hasn’t the least of tears and rips in it.

It turns out that Phyllis is NOT a werewolf, that she has been the victim of the cruelest of hoaxes, with someone else trying to get Phyllis committed to an asylum, or make it look as if Phyllis has taken her own life (out of guilt for the murders she thinks she has committed) so that the party really responsible can inherit the mansion that Phyllis lives in.

The movie ends with Barry comforting Phyllis, telling her that the werewolf will never kill anyone ever again.

And TF fans everywhere are left sitting in front of the TV, pausing their DVDs to look at June by herself, wishing the wolfsbane would indeed bloom and give us the she-wolf we wanted to see!

If nothing else, it would’ve made Lassie a lot more interesting.

I should also say that there was a short-lived TV series also called The She-Wolf of London. Except for the title, it had nothing to do with the movie. This starred Kate Hodge, as an American woman in London, who, by the first episode’s end, had indeed been cursed to turn into a werewolf during every full moon. It was really a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the werewolf and her boyfriend tracking down different supernatural threats every week.

Sadly, at this time the parents’ groups (one of the TRULY great menaces of our times) were telling everyone that, if TV shows such as Freddy’s Nightmares and Friday the 13th — The Series were no longer syndicated, all of our children’s problems would be solved. So The She-Wolf of London TV series wasn’t allowed to continue. The producers tried. Thinking viewers were turned off by a series set in London, they moved the show’s setting to Los Angeles and changed the title to Love and Curses. It didn’t work. However, you can get the entire series in a DVD boxed set for a relatively low price. It’s worth it.