Shuriken, New and Old

I’d shared a photo awhile back, but I’d been meaning for some time to get a decent scan of this portrait of Shuriken that Timothy Lim [Kamen America, Black Hops] did for me at a con earlier this year. With Reggie Byers finally dropping the book this week, it seemed like a good time.

I love the look of youthful trepidation that Tim captures in this piece, evoking the earliest days of Kyoko’s career.

Shuriken may have been one of the first major martial arts girl books of the Black & White boom, but it’s this very strange thing in the history of indie comics. It’s art and writing aren’t really on par with what came later, and it was hurt more than other Amerimanga by real manga becoming more widely available. But even with all of its flaws [it’s very cheesy, the art is often serviceable at best], I love it. Why?

Because it’s so filled with the creator’s love, and that love shines through in every one of Shuriken’s smiles.

Reggie Byers’ Shuriken is a wonderful example of how passion and love can overcome a creator’s limitations and drive success.

Despite being “okay at best” by most technical measures, the book was hugely popular when it was originally coming out.

One of the reasons that the licensed sequel series which Byers himself was uninvolved in feel lacking is that the passion for the project and the love and joy for the characters are almost wholly absent. Cold Steel turned the character in a far more generic 80s action ninja girl with an almost totally different characterization.

Hellbender was a step in the right direction with better artwork that would carry onward into the second full-length series without Byers.

While the second series was probably the best of the bunch by most objective standards and at least felt some connection to the original, it was still missing that spark.

Whether Reggie is able to recapture the “glory days” of Shuriken remains to be seen. While the book itself is promising and some of the charm and aesthetic is there, it’s a little late and it’s aiming to be the first of a series rather than a one-off.

But whether the new Shuriken succeeds or fails, classic Shuriken is a reminder that enough passion and effort can lead to the breakthrough success of an indie creator. Even if you’re doing goofy stuff like this.

At the same time, I would like to add that I don’t want it to sound like I’m coming down too hard on Reggie and his talents when I describe it. A few years ago, I tried to check out Billy Tucci’s Shi, when he was doing his IGGs for the new books. While the art was great and the writing was fine, there was just nothing about it that really clicked with me.

I’ll take this:

There’s a reason why I shelled out over $200 for Reggie’s Kickstarter across two different accounts. I’ve gotten a lot of joy out of this IP since I discovered it a few years ago, but since I’ve acquired it all second hand [including that beautiful portrait that I got for $20 that was just listed on the memorabilia site as “anime girl”], Reggie hasn’t seen a dime. So I’m happy to be able to have the opportunity to reward him for coming back to his signature IP.

I’m also hopeful that Reggie’ll be able to keep on track and continue to deliver. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to continue to support him.

Cirsova Interview With Iron Age Media

Last week we did an interview with Iron Age Media. I had meant to plug this earlier, but last weekend was INCREDIBLY busy as I have been preparing for the holidays, and honestly I just kept forgetting to get this into the queue.

But it was a great interview and opportunity to share what we do with a new audience.

C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith as Han Solo?

I recently found my paperback collection of Northwest Smith. It had gone missing half-way through reading it [it got buried in various Kickstarter supplies earlier this year], but I’m happy to be able to get around to finishing the last couple stories in it.

I know we’ve seen a common refrain that Northwest Smith is ‘the inspiration’ for Han Solo, but I don’t know you guys…

Reading Lost Paradise, I get this mental image in my head:

“The Millennium Falcon is the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs…”

>the entirety of the Easy Rider graveyard sequence plays

“…and we’re NEVER doing that again, right Chewie?”

Like almost all of CL Moore’s writing, Northwest Smith is DEEP in the neo-gothic tradition of early weird and turn of the century orientalism. Space becomes the new backdrop for the alienness of the harems, mosques, and bazaars of the middle east. With the Orient being rapidly brought into global affairs to the point of becoming nearly prosaic, space allowed for a more timeless and universal setting than, say, Tangier. It allowed for a haunted Arabian Nights setting an a world of modernity and rapidly advancing technology.

Smith is a raygun slinger, sure, but he has more in common with Lovecraft’s protagonists than he does Leigh Brackett’s space merc adventurers from just a few years later. He may be more of a chad than Randolf Carter or HP’s other poindexter POVs, but ultimately, Smith is there to experience and be subjected to the weird.

One of the key elements of horror is denial of agency, and Northwest Smith has that in spades. He has “adventures” but they usually end up with him being presented with mind-breaking horrors and cruelties he is incapable of doing anything about.

But about Han Solo…

“Chewie, when the rabbit bites its own head off, I want you to throw that fucking radio into the tub with me.”

There are similarities, and before I’d read much Northwest Smith, I took them at face value, but I really don’t think they go beyond the surface. They pretty much begin and end with “freelance space smuggler who has a fast spaceship and an alien partner.” You might end up with a Han Solo if Lucas had heard of Northwest Smith but not read any of the stories. Or even if he was wholly unfamiliar with Smith but was aware of the idea of the rugged freelance space smuggler [which is hardly unique, even if Smith was an early example].

I think what may actually be more likely is that Star Wars created a boom in readership that led to a rediscovery of CL Moore in paperbacks by younger readers in the late 70s and early 80s [my paperback copy is from 82 and is the same as the one posted above]; those readers found Northwest Smith and then identified him with Solo.

Now, was Lucas aware of Smith? Maybe! Shambleau was one of Moore’s most frequently reprinted stories and had been present in collections and Best Ofs for years leading up to Star Wars, and that particular story has Northwest Smith’s most Han Solo-like setup and characterization [though it’s fairly incidental to the story itself].

Even if he did take those characterizations and apply them to Han, that’s really about as far as the similarities go. Mostly because Moore was writing in a gothic framework despite the “dashing spaceman with fast ship” characterization.

So, while we can call him an ‘ur example’ or whatever, Northwest Smith no more resembles Han Solo than Jirel of Joiry resembles Red Sonya. And comparing Smith to Solo actually really undersells Smith and what Moore was doing with him.

[As an addendum, one of our bros, MegaBusterShepard has pointed out that Han Solo actually has a lot more in common with E.C. Tubb’s Earl Dumarest character from the Dumarest of Terra books. I can’t confirm as I haven’t read them, but I am aware of them by reputation, and what I do know about them and given their timeframe, that sounds more plausible.]

Cirsova Winter Issue Out Now!

The Cirsova Winter 2022 Issue is Out Now!

Sister Winter

On a cold night, Martin is confronted by a strange aetherial being calling itself Sister Winter! There are dangerous men looking for her, and she needs Martin’s help!


On an isolated stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere, Jack sees a car pulled over, wrecked… then another, riddled with bullets and a police car behind it!

Pick Trick

Tony DeLuca hates playing a hick, but witness protection was better than his old boss finding out he was a rat! Who else knows where the Feds have stashed him?!

Wishing Well

Throw in a penny, and your wish could come true… Johnny Gibson wishes for his true love’s hand, but one day a suave interloper begins edging in on his best girl!

The Nighthawk

The triad has been forcing Dane to use his mental powers to pick winning bets, but he’s on his last leg and the mob is betting big! His life depends on these last picks!

House Odds

A private investigator is hired to look into an Indian casino which may not be on the level… Could there be more going on at the Long Tail than just dirty dealers?!

Moon Magic and the Art of Fencing Doubtful Jewels

A fence buys an amulet of dubious origins from a traveler hasty to be rid of it! Not only is the amulet cursed, it is the vessel of a godling planning to drain the oceans!

The Gold of Palladias

Captain Robert Forrestall leads an expedition for a lost city fabled to hold legendary wealth and treasures! An amulet in a tomb holds the key to lost Palladias!

Take the Sword

The battle is over and dead litter the field… While a squire seeks to tend to his fallen knight, he hears a strange voice calling out to him from among the corpses!

Thunder in the North

The ashes in Alness still smoulder under Rhygir and his mercenaries… Mangos must go alone to the north to deliver a message to an Alnessi resistance leader!

Vran the Chaos-Warped
(Book 3)

Vran and his new companion, Grenvette, a living statue, pursue the vile Foad Misjak to yet another world! Vran finds that he has arrived too late, however, for the evil wizard has forged an unholy alliance with a race of strange plant monsters!

Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 4)

Though Eirlik is defeated and Strazis holds the title of Worldlord, another threat remains: the mysterious Gaebel and his Black Assassins! What sinister plans does this renegade Moon God have for the Isle of View? The fate of the world is at stake!

My Name Is John Carter (Part 14)


Happy Birthday Leigh Brackett!

It’s Leigh Brackett’s Birthday today. Celebrate by picking up one of the works of the Queen of Science Fiction!

We used to use today to plug our Illustrated Stark books, but our break with our printer caused these works to fall out of print. There are a couple copies of one or two of the volumes still floating around on Amazon, but we’re going to make it a project next year to get these books back into print!

Coming Soon! Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat: The Redemption of Alness

Coming Soon to Kickstarter!

Two years have passed since the fall of Alness. And two years have passed since the brash young sellsword Mangos teamed up with Kat, the mysterious Alnessi rogue. Together, they have made a name for themselves as the Mongoose and Meerkat!

The ravaged northlands still smolder as the warlord Rhygir holds Alness in an iron grip. Rumors swirl that a member of the Alnessi royal family may have survived, but Rhygir is intent on hunting down any resistance that might rally to a rogue prince who escaped the slaughter.

Though Rhygir has been consolidating power in Alness, the Mongoose and Meerkat have been hard at work, gathering resources and making alliances in Alomar and abroad. But can the new allies and old friends overcome the army of Rhygir before it can be bolstered by elite mercenaries? 

All of the pieces of the King’s Game are place! 

The Redemption of Alness collects the third year of Kat and Mangos’s adventures together, including:

  • The Flying Mongoose
  • Death and Renewal
  • Fight of the Sandfishers
  • Thunder in the North
  • Feast of the Fedai*
  • Trapped in the Loop – [Previously unpublished]*
  • The Redemption of Alness – [Previously unpublished]*

* : [We WILL be publishing these stories serially in Cirsova Magazine, however backers of Volume 3 will get these these last two stories before they are published in the Fall and Winter 2023 issues].