Teaching at Langara


, , ,

Tomorrow I teach the third installment in my “Writing for Graphic Novels & Comix” class as part of Langara College’s “Graphic Novel & Comix” program. It’s an honour to be one of the program instructors, and a really exciting experience to be teaching people how to best organize their ideas, develop their story, and convert it into a comic script. Many people say that often the instructor learns as much about the subject as the people he’s teaching, and it certainly true that preparing each class has made me think long and hard about the steps for creating a good story and a good comic, including character motivation, the arc of a plot, and the composition of a comic page.

It will be fascinating to discover how I feel about all of this at the end of the final class, and also what comic stories my students will produce. It has been an exciting adventure so far.

Red Talons Revised



Red Talons

Continuing my changes to Werewolf the Apocalypse.

My changes to the Red Talons would be relatively slight. As they are not based on any existing human culture, they have no shallow cultural cliches to fall back on. That said, I have never liked Griffin as their totem. The interpretation of Griffin as an anti-human being wanting vengeance for the loss of extinct animals doesn’t fit with any metaphorical interpretation of Griffin in mythology. More importantly, it’s weird for the most nature-based tribe to not have a real animal as a totem. So here is my idea for the Red Talons’ totem:

Red Talons

As far as the Red Talons are concerned, only they are pure, only they are still untainted by man and civilization. They list all the sins of humanity, all of the creatures that have died because of them, and they remember. They remember them all. The Red Talons make them their totems. Their tribal totem is Smilodon, the great sabre-tooth cat that once ruled the land before it was cut down by humanity with their tricks of technology, but they have made totems of all the great ones: the Spotted Lion, the Woolly Mammoth, the Dire Wolf, the Auroch, the Cave Bear, all who have perished by the hands of man. Generally any largely Red Talon pack will follow an extinct totem, most likely a predator, making sure to honour its spirit. Any proper Red Talon refuses to serve a “tainted” totem, which is any based on a mythical creature (such as Unicorn or Pegasus) or especially an animal that has been urbanized, such as Rat, Coyote, Cockroach, or Crow. Red Talons consider such totems to be corrupted at best, traitors at worse.

Get of Fenris Reinterpreted



Get of Fenris

I previously revised the Silver Fangs of Werewolf the Apocalypse to be more shamanic, now here is the Get of Fenris revised to have a much more legitimately Nordic approach to gender.

Get of Fenris

Few tribes are as misunderstood as the Get of Fenris, partly influenced by their fearsome reputation and partly because the loudest members are often those who are least connected to their heritage. Though they are most often perceived as the “Scandinavian tribe,” their bloodline runs through all Germanic peoples, and many of them are descendant from Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Angles, Saxons, Franks, etc. Thus, many Get come from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, England, and even France, not to mention North America. A lot of the stereotype of the Get as a blustering, macho, sexist braggart comes from young people of Germanic descent discovering they are “Nordic werewolves,” and not having a clear idea of what that means, thus falling on Viking cliches. Nordic, Swedish, and Danish Get are often much more restrained and “proper,” and when possible try to set their wayward relatives straight.


Their mythology is similar to the Norse pagans, but different in several key points. In fact, they believe that the Norse followed a corrupted version of their own. According to the Get, the Earth was not created from a dead giant, but is a still-living giantess: Jord, the Mother of All, a being who is also Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Chief among Jord’s children was Nerthus, the first woman to practice seidhr, the art of the shaman, and who was the first priestess of the Vaneir, the original inhabitants of Scandinavia. Nerthus and her people were dedicated to protecting Jord from the forces of Niddhog, that monstrous dragon who is constantly gnawing on the World Tree, and who other people call the Wyrm. The Vaneir worshipped numerous beings, including Jord (the Earth), Sol (the sun), Mani (the moon), and Fenris (the Lord of War, greatest enemy of Niddhog), and certain Vaneir were selected by Fenris to join with his children, producing the original werewolves.

Eventually a new group of humans entered Scandinavia from Asia, fleeing the destruction of Troy. The Vaneir called these Trojans the “Aesir,” which means “men from Asia,” and Njord, high chief of the Vaneir welcomed them into his land. He and the Aesir chief, Othin, traded many gifts and made promises of peace. However, Othin was hungry for knowledge and respect, seeking to learn all the secrets of heaven and earth. He seduced Freyja, daughter of Njord and the greatest seidkonur, learning from her secrets that were meant for women’s ears alone, and he impressed many of the Vaneir with his own magic tricks so that they worshipped him as a god greater than Fenris or even Jord. This enraged many Get of Fenris, and they battled against Othin and his sons, but neither side could win, and eventually a truce was reached. Both the cult of Othin and of Fenris could be allowed to co-exist, and both could preach their creed, and they both would work together against the forces of Niddhog, and the Get would sail with the Norse as “berserkers.” But in punishment for daring to learn seidkonur, Othin must let Fenris tear out his left eye – which the sorcerer agreed to.

Still, despite this truce, the cult of Othin and the Aesir eventually overshadowed Fenris, and many Get of Fenris felt that they had been tricked by the Cunning One. But as the Get worked with the tribes of the Norse to battle the forces of Niddhog, including his dragons and giants (later called the “Fomori”), so in the end Fenris is content.


The Get’s totem is, of course, Fenris Wolf. They believe themselves to be his descendents – he was the first wolf, embodiment of Jord’s rage against Niddhog, Jormungand, and all the monsters that threaten her. She produced Fenris to battle the monsters, but was horrified to discover that he was too powerful, too savage. He kept on growing and growing, destroying everything in his path, and Jord feared that soon he would devour Sol and Mani, and then her. So she bound him, bound him with chains he could not break, until Ragnarok, when he would be released against her enemies.

The Get know themselves to be Fenris’ children, and to have his rage within them. They know that his rage need to be unleashed against the enemies of the Earth, but also that it must be controlled or it will get too out of control. Their godi often lecture them on the importance of balance, their skalds sing of it. Many Get have an image of the bound Fenris Wolf that they keep at their side and often study to remind themselves.

Apocalypse and Death

Perhaps more than any other tribe, the Apocalypse is a defining part of Get ideology. Many say that it was a Get, the greatest seidkonur of them all, who first prophesied the End Times, telling her tribe that they must prepare for it. And the Get have. They are dedicated to not only being great warriors, but also great explorers, for if they are to have a chance at Ragnarok, they need all the knowledge and resources they can. Those who die in battle go to Valhalla, to build the army of spirit warriors, those who die through exploration go to Hlesey, but those who die of accident, sickness, or old age go down to Nifelheim, the land of ghosts and cold. It is said that nothing frightens a Get more than this “straw-death,” and once they feel their strength fade the final time, many Get will fling themselves into one final battle, determined to take out as many enemies as they can so that Valhalla will open its doors for them and they can help their gods prepare for Ragnarok.


The Get’s relationship to gender is complicated. The traditional view is that Jord, the Earth, created male and females with particular purposes in mind. The males are closer to Fenris, and Fenris’ rage, while the females are closer to Jord and her insight. Thus, warriors are meant to be male and seers female, and as the chiefs were expected to be warriors, most chiefs are male as well. Other roles (such as skalds and tricksters), have always been considered more gender-neutral.

Certain Gets’ comments on “women warriors” (as well as the behaviour of the younger, often non-Scandinavian Get, who are revelling in their new-found “macho-ness”) have given the tribe a reputation for sexism among many other Garou. However, very few respectable Get have any issue with female warriors or even female leaders, certain almost none actually born in Scandinavia. Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland have had female leaders for a very long time. Besides, there have always been females who have been filled with rage and taken the battle to the enemy. For many more traditional Get, the far more concerning thing is male theurges, or “seidkonur” as they call it. The secret ways of seidhr were taught by Jord to her “daughters” — and for a long time were often considered the province of females and females alone. According to Get legend, males who practice seidhr are very vulnerable to the temptations of the Wyrm, easily corruptible by desires for power or forbidden knowledge. It is interesting that an unusually high percentage of Get born under the crescent moon are female, and those that are male frequently have a difficult time. Though it is no longer technically illegal for males to practice seidhr, the few males that do often have a hard time earning the trust and respect of their tribe. As a result, many become distant and resentful of their tribe, sometimes attempting to join another one more accepting, such as Children of Gaia or Uktena, or even falling to the Wyrm.

Though many Get chiefs are men, this does not mean that all the power is within his hands. The leader is often a large and powerful male, but when he talks, there is almost always a female (possibly two) sitting behind him, frequently in the shadows – sometimes knitting. During some conferences, she will say nothing, but at others she will rise to her feet, shuffle over to the chief, and whisper in his ear. He will listen, and almost always do what she says. It is a poor chief who ignores the voice of the gods.

The Auspices

  • Berserker, “Warrior” (Ahroun). What one thinks of when the word “Get” is mentioned. More berserkers are male than female, but female ones are far less suspect than male seidkonur. Young bersekers often dream of Valhalla, eagerly leaping into battle.
  • Skald, “Storyteller” (Galliard). Those who know the teachings and stories of Jord and who pass them on to others. Alcohol is a prominent part of their rituals, and many skalds make sure to get a little tipsy before getting to work. Mead is traditional, but many skalds use other kinds. In addition to grand sagas of battle and glory, skalds love indulging in puns and word-play (especially kennings), and frequently engage in spontaneous insult competitions. A skald unable to quickly unleash a level-three kenning insult on the spot really isn’t much of a skald.
  • Godi, “Priest” (Philodox). Those who make sure everyone is following the ways of Jord.
  • Seidkonur, “Seer” (Theurge). Those who commune directly with Jord and her spirits. Usually female. It is considered “unmanly” for a male to practice Seidhr.
  • Ratatosk, “Trickster” (Ragabash). An unusual tribe for the Get, and the only one named after a mythological being (the squirrel who runs up and down the World Tree) rather than a societal role. They are there to shake things up.

The Other Tribes

The Get of Fenris have a complicated relationship with the other tribes. As traditional neighbours to the Silver Fangs and Fianna, they have had frequent clashes, but also treaties and trade, and in the end those are probably the tribes that they relate to the most. The Get take serious issue with the Silver Fangs’ claim that they “rule the north,” and have frequently been offended by the pride that the Silver Fangs take in their male theurges. Many a Get seidknour has lost her temper over a male shaman lecturing her on how to approach the spirits. That said, the Get of Fenris also largely accept the Silver Fangs as their general leaders – not the best choice, but better than the others. The Get have always respected the Fangs, even when they didn’t want to admit it – in ancient times, the Norse refused to raid east of Scandinavia because they feared the mighty witchcraft of the green-eyed “Finns.” The Fianna haven’t yet forgiven the Get for stealing France and England from them, and some Fianna kinfolk still dream of “Arturios” driving the Angles and the Saxons out, but they do recognize how much they have in common, especially with regards to the importance they place in music and personal honour. Interestingly, many Get like Black Furies; they find it refreshing to have another tribe in which almost all seers are women. Many seidkonur enjoy going for long walks with Black Fury theurges.

But in the end, it’s the Uktena that make the Get the most suspicious. A whole tribe of shamans and witches, at least half male, is something that makes the Get really uncomfortable, and their willingness to embrace people of any culture shows a disturbing lack of traditions. The more charitable Get think that Uktena are watering down their ways to nothing, while the more suspicious ones believe that the tribe as a whole may be becoming corrupted by the Wyrm.

Silver Fangs Reinterpreted


, , ,

Silver Fangs

I remember in the original “Werewolf the Apocalypse” Player’s Guide that they said the special name that Wendigo give their theurges is “shaman,” which struck me as yet another example of how ridiculously cliched and culturally illogical the game often got. After all, “shaman” isn’t a First Nations term — it’s a Siberian term. Why would a First Nations werewolf tribe adapt that as their own word? In fact, if there was a tribe that would place get great importance on the word shaman, it would be the Silver Fangs, the Russian tribe. The most iconic shamanic cultures are those of northern Asia and north-eastern Europe: the Sami, Finns, Russians, Siberians, Mongolians. In fact, it would make a lot of tense for the ruling tribe of a group of shape-shifting spirit-warriors to be the Russian tribe, because they would consider themselves the First Shamans: “the Earth-Mother talked to us in the ice and the cold before she ever talked to you.”

So anyway, here are some thoughts on a reinterpretation of the Silver Fangs as a tribe dedicated around northern Asian shamanism, who consider themselves to be the great shamans of the Garou Nation.

Silver Fangs

The Silver Fangs claim they were the first – the first wolves that learned how to wear the skins of men, the first to invoke the powers of the spirits, the first to speak with the Earth-Mother. It was the Mother’s messenger, the Eagle, who appeared to the first shaman, and showed him how to travel up the World Tree to the bosom of the Mother, and how to travel down with the secrets to teach the others. And the place where she kissed him became silver, as a sign of her favour.

The Silver Fangs trace their lineages through the people of Russia, Siberia, and other parts of northern Europe and Asia: the Slavs, Sami, Finns, Turkics, Evenks, Mongols, and more (they take great pride in Genghis Khan). They are the people of the Ice, the Reindeer, the Horse, and the Steppes, but most importantly they are the people of the Eagle and the Falcon, for those were the heralds of the Earth-Mother and those are the forms that the Silver Fang shamans take when they fly into the Umbra.

Silver Fangs call their theurges “shamans” and often get quite scornful when other tribes apply that term to themselves. After all, it is a Russian term, from the Evenki, and the first shaman (or so they claim) was a Silver Fang. All others are pretenders.

Though shamans are rarely alphas, sept leaders, etc., this is mainly because most Silver Fangs feel the shamans have better things to do than lead. After all, they must keep their minds on the Goddess and the words she whispers in their ears. However, when a shaman speaks, all Silver Fangs listen. A Silver Fang chief would be foolish in the extreme if he ignored the wishes of his shaman.

The importance of the Silver Fang shamans has resulted in a lot of friction between them and other tribes. These shamans believe that no one speaks for Gaia more than they do, and the other tribes frequently take offence to that. In particular, the Shadow Lords and Glasswalkers are scornful that the so-called leaders of the Garou are guided by starry-eyed half-crazed mystics, the more conservative Get of Fenris are offended by this devotion to male seers (when the Get traditionally believe that theurges should be female), and the Uktena are insulted that the Silver Fang claim that their shamanic wisdom is superior to all others. Many Silver Fangs are offended in turn that many Garou of Siberian and Mongolian descent are now part of the Uktena tribe instead of the Silver Fangs. They accuse the Uktena from “robbing” from their people, not recognizing the irony in such an accusation.

Their main totem is Eagle, with Falcon as a secondary one. These birds are commonly featured on Silver Fang iconography, and falconry has always been an important part of their culture. They use birds of prey for hunting, combat, to deliver messages, and simply to stand there as symbols of nobility (no Silver Fang would be so profane as to call an eagle a “pet”) Indeed, Silver Fang leaders still frequently have a trained eagle perched on their wrist or the back of their throne. Many believe the totem is there to represent their nobility and warlike spirit, and indeed that’s part of it, but it is even more significant to their shamans than to their chiefs. The eagle represents the shaman’s ability to fly through the Umbra, into the presence of Gaia, and also Gaia’s ability to send her herald to the shaman and whisper in his ear while he sleeps. Warfare, nobility, breeding, and shamanic wisdom – the Eagle embodies all that the Silver Fangs value.

Lineage is incredibly important to the Fangs. After all, their great claim for rulership of the Garou is being descended from the First Shaman. Thus, they care very strongly about their lineages, both their actual bloodlines and the previous people they replace. For example, when a shaman dies, his disciple will frequently make a necklace from his bones to wear in his honour, and to show that the previous shaman lives on in him.

Many other Garou claim that this obsession with lineage is why so many Silver Fangs seem to be suffer from madness. The Silver Fangs loudly dispute this, instead claiming that the reason for the madness is because their ancestor was kissed by the Goddess. The force of her presence shaking up their perception of the universe is a sign of her blessing. Indeed, often the insane Silver Fangs are chosen to be shamans, something else that the Shadow Lords and Glasswalkers take great offence to.



, , , ,



I always liked Anaconda of the Serpent Society because she has such a different body type from like 90% of all superhero comic book women. What makes it especially interesting was that, in all the comics with Anaconda I read, her body type wasn’t a defining part of her character. Usually if a woman is large in the comics, that’s the main thing about her, and often either a point of tragedy (such as the She-Thing), humour (Big Bertha), or both (Gamma-Burn). But Anaconda’s gimmick isn’t that she’s big — it’s that she can stretch her arms and use them to squeeze the life out of Captain America. She just also happens to be a big girl. Which is cool. I think she dated Rock Python for a while.

My favourites

If you’re curious about me:
1. Favourite novels: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
2. Favourite children’s novel: Peter & Wendy by J. M. Barrie
3. Favourite short stories: “Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The White People” by Arthur Machen, and “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood.
4. Favourite TV shows: Steven Universe by Rebecca Sugar and The Lost Room by Christopher Leone and Laura Harkcom
5. Favourite movies: The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman, Barbarella by Roger Vadim, and Bride of Frankenstein by James Whale.
6. Favourite role-playing game: Unknown Armies
7. Favourite graphic novels: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Metabarons by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan Giménez, and The Invisibles by Grant Morrison & several artists.
8. Favourite fictional character: Frankenstein’s Monster.
9. Favourite mythology: Norse
10. Favourite mythological characters: Odin and the Minotaur

Need to work on my novel



Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn’t answer call for submissions so that I would have time to finally finish writing my occult novel Guardian of the Garden City. As a result, I’ve only been submitted stuff for four calls for submissions. Oy. But I’m finally finishing off the last call for submission (a novella about an Egypt-inspired fantasy realm), and then I can finally finish Guardian. Well, once I also finish rereading The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso, since that’s necessary background material for my book. But maybe, just maybe, if nothing else major distracts me for the next half year or so, I’ll actually have Guardian of the Garden City done. Man, that would feel so awesome. So, world, please don’t throw anything my way until it’s done.

10 Greatest Horror Comics


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

My 10 greatest horror comics (in no real order):
  1. MW by Osamu Tezuka
  2. From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
  3. Uzumaki by Junji Ito
  4. Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet
  5. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  6. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  7. The Sleep of Reason by various artists
  8. Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits by Garth Ennis & Will Simpson
  9. Hellboy by Mike Mignola
  10. Swamp Thing: American Gothic by Alan Moore & Steve Bissette.

As with previous lists, I’ve generally tried to avoid a series that runs on for a long time, as that’s hard to properly judge (Hellboy being the one exception). Which is why I specifically picked the best Hellblazer and Swamp Thing story. As much I was tempted to, I didn’t include Warren’s Creepy and Eerie, because, though they had many awesome stories, they also featured many that weren’t so great.

Writing my current novel


, ,

So here I am plugging away at my current novel — an occult mystery set in Victoria, BC, exploring a lot of the city’s urban legends. It’s one I’ve been involved with, on and off, for a year. Sadly, various things keep coming up to distract me from it: work, the regular chores of life, other writing projects that seem a little more time sensitive.

I just finished editing a fantasy novella (in the process changing the place from being Italian Renaissance-inspired to Ancient Egypt-inspired), and rather than patting myself on the back and giving myself some time off to celebrate, I leaped back into Guardian of the Garden City. Because I need to get that done. I’m in a place where I feel I can’t rest on my laurels. I can’t enjoy my successes but have to push forward to the next success. I have to keep going.

In the last year, I have:

  1. Won the Gene Day award for an anthology I edited, planned, and co-wrote: Epic Canadiana #2. 
  2. Finished the aforementioned Egyptian novella.
  3. Got a comic about sasquatches (drawn by the amazing Eric Johnson) published in Pulp Literature
  4. Seen Cloudscape’s latest anthology, Bones of the Coast, do phenomenally well in Kickstarter. Oh, and I have a story published in that too!
  5. Oh, and I have been running Unknown Armies, my favourite rpg of all time, and the players seem to be really enjoying that.

So, most people have been telling me that creatively I seem to be having a decent amount of success. It’s not like I’m in a rut or anything. And when I see that list, it looks pretty good. The whole world seems to be going to Hell (Trump, Brexit, the death of Umberto Eco), but I seem to be doing okay for myself.

And yet… emotionally I still do feel like I’m in a rut. That I can’t accomplished what I need. I still focus on what I didn’t do, not what I did do. I don’t focus on the fact that I got “Curse of the Woods” published in Pulp Literature, but on the fact that it’s the only thing I got published in a magazine this year. I don’t focus on the fact that I finished editing Servant of the People, but that I have not yet finished writing Guardian of the Garden City. It’s not that everyone seems to have a good time at my Unknown Armies games, but that I often feel the adventures do not have as good an arc as they’re supposed to. I can recognize what I’m doing intellectually, but it’s hard to respond to that emotionally.

I read a really interesting interview on the Mental Illness Happy Hour, where the comedian Paul F. Tompkins was interviewed about his depression. He pointed out that it’s impossible for all our wishes to be granted, and if somehow they were, we’d go insane and just demand further and further things. We’d become Howard Hughes walking around with boxes for shoes, Salvador Dali demanding giraffes, all the rock stars filling their mansions with drugs. All their sane wishes came true, so they had to start focusing on insane ones. The key to happiness to learn how to be satisfied with what we have rather than always wanting everything to be perfect. Because if somehow things became perfect, our brains would break.

It’s something that’s much easier to accept intellectually than emotionally.

The 10 Greatest Superhero Graphic Novels


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Now that I’ve given the 10 greatest graphic novels in general, here are perhaps the 10 greatest superhero ones (in no particular order).

  1. Zot! (black & white) by Scott McCloud
  2. The Bulletproof Coffin by David Hine & Shaky Kane
  3. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
  4. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  5. Enigma by Pete Milligan and Duncan Fregredo
  6. Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
  7. Animal Man by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog
  8. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd
  9. Hellboy by Mike Mignola
  10. Batman Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

For the most part, I tried to avoid long-running series, and instead focus on comics with a single story (Hellboy and Animal Man being the two major exceptions). I also tried to restrict the amount of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore comics on the list, as they have both written a very large amount of great superhero comics, and could easily envelop this if I let them.