Tuesday marks the release of author John David Anderson‘s young-adult novel Sidekicked, which explores the highs and lows of being a middle-schooler who happens to be a superhero sidekick. The lead character Drew has the added challenge that his superhero mentor is “a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime.” It’s tough enough to be in middle school, but Drew’s abilities (“his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet”) make him the quintessentially oversensitive kid.
Anderson was ready and willing to chat about the challenges of getting inside the head of a middle-school hero.
Tim O’Shea: What’s the key to capturing the tone of middle school in your story, to such a degree it appeals to a middle school audience?
John David Anderson: It’s a balancing act. Middle-school readers struggle with many of the same issues adults do: They have issues with trust, identity, empowerment, relationships. But they have a more limited amount of life experience to draw from so I think the experience is more raw somehow, more intense. Thankfully all of the teens and tweens I know have developed a highly tuned sarcasm that buffers them somewhat from the angst. I try to tap into that humor so that readers can step back and maybe laugh at some of the coming of age junk that they are facing as well. Honestly I’m 38 years old and I’m still coming of age. I’ve just learned to laugh at myself.
It’s Halloween, which means Robot 666 Week will soon draw to a close. But before we put the skeletons back in the closet and the bats back in the belfry, we’re pleased to bring you the debut of Cullen Bunn‘s latest short story, ‘The Best Costumes Are Homemade,’ starring, once again, Mrs. Friedly.
Bunn’s previous Mrs. Friedly tales:
The Best Costumes Are Homemade
By Cullen Bunn
Mrs. Friedly had been feeling quite festive, but the children were raising such a fuss that she was growing cross. She took a deep breath, though, and reminded herself that it was, after all, her favorite holiday. She refused to let it be spoiled. She picked a piece of candy from the bowl on the kitchen table and plopped it into her mouth. She instantly felt better.
But the children still whined and mewled.
“Now, now, my sweet ones,” Mrs. Friedly said, “I’m afraid this really is a necessity. I know you love the costumes we’ve made, but it is simply too cold out, and you must wear your jackets.”
The children moaned and sighed, whimpered and cried. Mrs. Friedly clucked her tongue as she gathered their jackets.
Continuing our run of Halloween short stories by Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun), we’re pleased to present “Friedly’s Treats.” You can see the previous two stories here and here, and be sure to come back on Halloween for a brand-new story!
By Cullen Bunn
Joshua hated Halloween. He once loved costumes and jack o’lanterns and candy. But now he dreaded the holiday.
Outside, trick-or-treaters giggled and climbed Mrs. Friedly’s porch steps. The shuddering knock sent shivers down Joshua’s spine. He squeezed his eyes shut.
The door creaked open. Cool air swept the foyer.
Guttural voices cried, “Trick or treat!”
“Aren’t you fearsome!” Mrs. Friedly beamed at the anxious little monsters. “I’ve something extra special for you.”
Earlier this year writer Justin Aclin and artist Ben Bates took MySpace Dark Horse Presents by storm with the story of the Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce — S.H.O.O.T. First or, as Sean called them, the Super-Atheists.
Now we’re really excited to present an original prose story that Justin wrote for Robot 666 Week — S.H.O.O.T. First: “The House That Ate Halloween.” And Justin even invited his brother, Jesse, to contribute illustrations for it!
So a big thank you to the Bros. Aclin for spending part of their Halloween with us … check out the story below!
S.H.O.O.T. First: “The House That Ate Halloween”
By Justin Aclin. Illustrations by Jesse Aclin
S.H.O.O.T. First created by Justin Aclin and Ben Bates
“We have a Craigslist ad?”
The man who currently called himself Codename: Infidel took off his baseball cap and shook his head in amazement. An average day with the Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce was strange—S.H.O.O.T. had the very important job of protecting humanity from seemingly supernatural creatures who were trying to manipulate and harm us for their own reasons, so things tended to get weird pretty frequently. Maybe it was the fact that he had never celebrated Halloween in his native Afghanistan, maybe it was the fact that he was currently dressed up as a member of the Boston Red Sox—complete with cleats and a large, awkward practice duffel. But for whatever reason, S.H.O.O.T. having a Craigslist ad struck Infidel as just about the weirdest thing that he’d heard in the few months since he’d joined up.
As I mentioned earlier this week, The Sixth Gun writer Cullen Bunn has written a horror story starring an old woman named Mrs. Friedly at Halloween for the past few years. This year, to help us celebrate Robot 666 Week, Bunn sent us all three of the previous Mrs. Friedly tales to share with our readers, along with a brand new one that we’ll debut right here on Halloween.
So a big thanks to Bunn and Mrs. Friedly for sharing their Halloween with us. “Gone Fishin‘” went up on Monday, and you can read “The Silent Auction” below. Check back Friday and on Halloween to read more.
The Silent Auction
By Cullen Bunn
“My word, Mrs. Friedly!” Claire tapped the tiny, elderly woman on the shoulder. “I’ve never heard such questions in all my life!”
Mrs. Friedly turned and regarded her new neighbor over the rim of her round-framed eyeglasses. “What’s that, dear?”
“These questions–” Claire waved towards the gorilla-suited MC, who was busy reading trivia questions from a crumpled sheet of paper. Behind him, a banner was tacked to the wall. HALLOWEEN TRIVIA NIGHT, it read. “–They’re dreadful!”
Mrs. Friedly smiled sweetly and nodded.
“OUR NEXT QUESTION …” The MC’s voice, muffled beneath his ape mask, boomed over the microphone. “…NAME, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, THE VICTIMS OF JACK THE RIPPER.”
For the past three years at Halloween, The Sixth Gun writer Cullen Bunn has written a horror story starring a charming old woman named Mrs. Friedly. This year, to help us celebrate Robot 666 Week, Bunn sent us all three of the previous Mrs. Friedly tales to share with our readers, along with a brand new one that we’ll debut right here on Halloween.
So a big thanks to Bunn and Mrs. Friedly for sharing their Halloween with us. Check out the first tale below, then check back Wednesday, Friday and of course on Halloween to read more.
By Cullen Bunn
“Another year,” Mrs. Friedly piped, “another Halloween Festival!”
The Elk Ridge Community Center was decorated with paper jack o’lanterns, dancing skeletons, and dozens of orange and black streamers. Children in costume—goblins and witches, vampires and ghouls, princesses and ninjas—scurried around the large chamber, and their laughter and squeals formed a constant din.
Mrs. Friedly clucked her tongue as she watched the children. Maybe she was old-fashioned, but some of the costumes just didn’t seem very… Halloweeny… to her. Ghouls and ghosts and monsters—those were fine. But the princesses and cowboys and monkeys just didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the occasion. Halloween, as the elderly woman saw it, was supposed to be a spooky night.
What on earth, she thought, is a ninja anyway?
Alan Moore wrote Fossil Angels a few years back, and it was slated to run in issue #15 of the British occult magazine Kaos, but it never did: The magazine was sporadic at best, and issue #14, which also contains some Alan Moore writing and is available for free download here, was the last.
Moore recently gave Pádraig Ó Méalóid permission to publish Fossil Angels on his LiveJournal, Glycon. He explains:
I was lucky enough to be given a number of Alan Moore’s scripts by Alan himself a few years ago, and this was amongst them. I asked if I could publish it and, when another publication which it was slated to appear in folded, Alan told me I was free to go ahead. So, I am very proud to be allowed to present this piece on Glycon for its first publication anywhere.
Via the Forbidden Planet blog.