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School’s Out

Posted by on August 9, 2011

–for some. For others, it seems it will never end—or should never end.  But more about that later.

Yeah, this is my first blog in quite some time. What can I say—I’ve been very busy with various and sundry things, so we might as well start with various and sundry updates about equally various and sundry projects and the like, in more or less chronological order.

SMFinalCoverCryptoFirst up—after months of cajoling and even harassment (in a good-natured way, of course) from a number of folks, Cryptozoica is finally an ebook! You can download the Kindle edition (complete with beautiful Jeff Slemons illustrations) for the low, low price of $2.99!

AvengerIn July from Moonstone Books is The Avenger: The Justice Inc.. Files, an anthology of great stories by great writers about one of the most iconic pulp characters this side of Doc Savage. My story, “Snow Blind” is among ’em.

Following that, in August, again from Moonstone comes The Justice Machine: Object of Power #1, featuring the triumphant return of the very first super-team of the independent comics era. They’re back just in time for their 30th anniversary.

Justice Machine

Below are links to interviews with me about the new Justice Machine comic series.

Justice_Machine_30_yearsI’m having a great time working on this series, reviving and reframing characters and concepts that I first worked on over 20 years ago.

Come to think of it, it’s 20 years ago this summer that I purchased all rights to the Justice Machine property after the Innovation Publications license expired.

For more information about the history of this popular series, check out

In the meantime, here are some samples of the interior artwork, by David Enebral, Mar Degano and Jason Jensen as well as a peek at the cover for issue #2 by the unbelievably talented Jeff Slemons.

Justice Machine Vol. 2

I’m extremely happy with how the whole project is coming together.  I wrote this as a comic series Iwould like to read, and I think I’ve succeeded.

In fall comes the second volume of The New Justice Machine: High Gear Edition collecting all my Justice Machine stories from both Innovation and Millennium Publications. The first edition was printed in black and white—this volume is in color, featuring beautiful artwork by Darryl Banks among others.

Now…to clumsily tie this blog into the whole schooling subtext…

Lately, I’ve received some new questions about me and Outlanders, due mainly to my participation on Facebook.

I’m going to make this clear—AGAIN. I didn’t stop writing Outlanders—the series I created and guided for so many years over so many books—by choice.

The revisionists and the rep-wranglers take note. School your sorry asses, in other words.

In the wake of the fortune spent on promoting Rogue Angel,  I began asking questions of a financial nature as they related to OL royalties.

The whole “okey-doke” for years had been that Gold Eagle had no promotion money to raise the profiles of their various series and therefore raise the rates of the writers.

So, when a truly tremendous amount of resources were pumped into Rogue Angel promotion, the conclusion was pretty inescapable—and the dichotomy very, very blatant.

When I pointed out the dichotomy, the former executive editor simply didn’t offer me another contract. There were other issues at work that dated back years, but that was the basis for why I’m not writingOutlanders now.

So it goes.  It was a vindictive, punitive response but it really didn’t come as a shock.

In the nearly three years since then, I wrote a non-fiction book, was—and still am—deeply involved in a graphic novel project,  produced  a number of graphic novels myself through Transfuzion, taught various writer’s workshops and completed Cryptozoica….and of course got wrapped up in various comic-related gigs.

I also returned to where I got my start as a professional writer—newspapers…which I have enjoyed considerably, much to my surprise.

I haven’t been too inclined to return to prose, mainly because the publishing industry is still a Godawful, desperation-driven mess and not improving at all. What editors are looking to publish is not stuff I’m interested in writing.


A tinker should stay to his own, as the old wisdom goes.

By that, I mean a creator should stay with what he does best.  And I guess what I do best is write action-adventure.

I’ve wanted to write a SF western type series for a long time, but was too bogged down in other things to really develop it…not to mention there just didn’t seem to be a market for such a  thing.

But over the last couple of years, ebooks and the POD options have really become very viable means to reach audiences directly.

Also, it took awhile for the concept to jell and solidify. Although my Star Rangers and Death Hawk comic series are essentially space-westerns, I wanted this project to be a little more grounded in reality…if that makes any sense.

Finally, it all came together with The Spur. The Spur definitely possesses pulp sensibilities, but I’m staying away from overt Planet Stories kind of approaches like “The Space Sheriff of the Ganymede Range” type of thing. It’s tough and adult, despite the setting of the 24th century.

After years of writing action-adventure novels in the Executioner, Deathlands and Outlanders series, the bare-knuckled, gun-blazing, chew-nickels-spit-dimes milieu is second nature to me.

The best high-concept description might be “Firefly by way of Gunsmoke.”

The colony world in the Orion Spur known as Loki wasn’t so much lost as forgotten. In the 178 years since the Catastrophe, Nemesis had become a savage wilderness of strange cultures due to it being the sanctuary of every bizarre cult, mad sect and outlawed scientific discipline in the Sol 9 Commonwealth.

Quentin Crockett, a Colonel in the department of Offworld Operations is assigned to Nemesis to monitor, catalog and if necessary, eliminate the myriad societies that sprang up in the wake of the system-wide cataclysm.

Crockett and his team contend not only with beasts long extinct on Earth, but the far wilder natives–resurrected Nazi supermen, packs of telepathic dire wolves and even a gang of “Wild Bunch” style outlaws led by the psychotic Django Bonner.

The Spur is tough and adult, despite being set on an another planet in the 24th century and I find myself very enthused about it.


It’s been almost three years since I turned in Warlord of the Pit and I’ve now attained a certain emotional distance from the whole situation with Outlanders and reached the conclusion that rather than continue to resist my professional association with the “James Axler” name, I might as well go ahead and benefit from it.

One reason I’ve made that decision is this: just a couple of weeks ago, I was forwarded a comic book news column from the Cedar Rapids Examiner that dealt briefly with the new Justice Machine series. The columnist referred to me as “being more famous as James Axler, author of Deathlands.”

At first I was irritated, and almost sent the columnist a correction, then I figured, “Aw, screw it.”

If there’s confusion, blame it on the whole “house name” horseshit.  This kind of thing has been going on for years.  As I stated in a blog last summer, I’m under no obligation to lay out the what’s-what about me, James Axler, Deathlands and Outlanders.

Like I pointed out…I did write books in the Deathlands series.

In any event, I didn’t create that situation and for years I chafed under it.

The Spur

But I have to accept that the Axler name has a certain degree of recognition among a certain audience and there’s no reason not to appeal that audience, especially when I have a project like The Spur that such an audience would most likely enjoy..

Even if OL is cancelled next month, it’s still a series I created, wrote 90 percent of and it’s still chugging along after 14 years. That counts for something. And if I have to make peace with the James Axler name in order to move ahead, I’ll do so.

After all, I’m the only writer who created a series for GE who stayed with it beyond four books…mainly because up until OL, almost none of the many series they published lasted past four books.

Outlanders succeeded without a dime’s worth of outside promotion money… those sooty in-house ads printed in other GE books really don’t count.

When you consider the amount of promotion and money pumped into Rogue Angel, it would have been more surprising if hadn’t been successful.

As immodest as some might think I’m being, I created Outlanders and I created the characters who appear in the illustration below and who’ve appeared in 50-plus books and I created all the concepts

that made the series a success in spite of the lack of promotion.

The series is still going because of what 
created. Nobody can take that away from me and nobody can really diminish it, try as some might.

Whatever the opinion of OL, any series that lasts fourteen years is not just successful, but enormously successful.

I set the standard by which all other OL books will be judged, much like the way all Deathlands books are judged by the standards set by the late Laurence James–and he didn’t even create DL.

I’m not going to play “Let’s Pretend” any more. If anybody wants to make assumptions, start from the one that I created Outlanders. The byline on my creation is “James Axler” although my real name appears in the indicia.

Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, “James Axler” is my pen-name and I ain’t  gonna pretend it ain’t because of a confusing situation imposed from without.


Being the only “James Axler” who created a successful series isn’t much of a cachet, I grant you, but at least it’s a hook to hang the promotion and marketing of new work on. So, I learned something today.

And here it is: “From the writer who brought you Outlanders and Deathlands, Mark (James Axler) Ellis presents—The Spur.

Or something like that.

Although this is a preliminary promotional image produced by Melissa, I’m pretty fond of it. The final version will be very close.

The current plan is to release both print and digital editions.

The projected release date for the first book in The Spur series is late fall. So…stay tuned.

Okay–Now school is out.