In recent years, I (officially) found out I suffered from allergies. Went through most of my life without knowing. I just thought I got sick a lot and that congested sinuses were normal. Turns out I was allergic to quite a bit… a lot of tree, grass and weed pollens, Dust mites. And cats.

Oddly enough, I grew up in a family with a lot of pets (and my mom actually breeds Great Pyrenees now)… some of which just happened to be the cute, mischievous furballs of the Felidae family. Being a cat owner again wasn’t really an option to keep my allergies in check, but now, there’s a new option. Read and be amazed at the scientific advancement of the… hypoallergenic kitty.

From a Boston Globe article posted over at truthout. What I don’t like about this article is that they never give a full accounting of recruiters. It played them up as all being the “lie, cheat, and steal” types just to get warm bodies in the military.

Some do, some don’t. It all depends on the recruiter. Some are geared toward just pulling in bodies and making quotas. Those are the ones you usually hear about as liars and cheaters because they pissed people off. But there are also a number of recruiters that are good folks trying to find people that really want to serve and can fill much-needed vacancies in the service. They want to match up jobs with people that want to be there… that’s their job.

I’ve met a number of them when I was working on computer systems at Headquarters Recruiting Service for the Air Force (and had to go out to recruiter sites to update software), and they’re just people… people with a job to do. Some are pushy and some are even willing to discourage potential candidates for the right reasons.

One recruiter actually let me talk to a classroom full of students, and he gave me an open forum to discuss my experiences in the military. I told them about destroying my knee, about the kind of things you go through for POW resistance training, about seeing bodies lined up at the port mortuary, about getting persecuted by the civilian populations around some military bases (just for being military) and about nearly getting killed just following orders. But I also told them about the confidence I gained, about the hundreds of friends I made that I could always count on, about how I had gained experience in a career field I was already getting civilian job offers on, and about finding the extra bit of discipline I needed to chase my dreams.

Just like any job, there’s good and bad, and the military’s no different. For some people, it’s still a good career option. But I doubt you’ll see many of the counter-recruiters encouraging people to join the military even if it could be a good career possibility for them. That’s not in their job agenda description.

Okay, so it’s not quite that dramatic. If you keep track of the latest comic book news through my Comic Headlines page, you might have noticed that the Newsarama headlines haven’t been showing up for a while. And you might have noticed a lot of Newsarama headlines just showed up this morning. Finally tracked down the problem and got it fixed.

Been working on a lot of code lately for a few special projects… some of it you’ve seen samples of with the updated “About Jeff” and “About Seth” sections and the Task Force 1 preview. The rest will be revealed in time…

Now for the other quick stuff:

Take Back Memorial Day. Please take the time to honor the fallen this Memorial Day. From the first patriot to die for this country’s independence to the current victims of IEDs overseas. From the support personnel caught by sniper fire to the combat medic dying to save another. To every jarhead, grunt, squid, and zoomie that lost a life in the service of their country.

• Yes, I’m affected by the Veteran Administration’s data breach. And so is my wife. And my friends. But not my mom (she was discharged before 1976). There’s a chance nothing will happen, but if you’re a veteran and worried about it, you can find some helpful tips in this article at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The quickest and easiest thing to do is to call one of the three credit reporting agencies (numbers are listed in the article) and establish a fraud alert on your account. That’ll make sure that any company requesting credit will need to call you first.

Underwater Counter-terrorism Training

• From an article where Ames Laboratory researchers detect secret files lurking within digital images:

But what if files could be hidden within the complex digital code of a photographic image? A family snapshot, for example, could contain secret information and even a trained eye wouldnt know the difference.

That ability to hide files within another file, called steganography, is here thanks to a number of software programs now on the market. The emerging science of detecting such files steganalysis is getting a boost from the Midwest Forensics Resource Center at the U.S. Department of Energys Ames Laboratory and a pair of Iowa State University researchers.

Ahh, “thanks to a number of software programs now on the market.” What about those programs from the early to mid-90s? Even if their detection system is truly groundbreaking, it’s just weird to see them playing up something that’s been around for a while as some new threat or “an emerging science.”

And he said unto them, let the chickens see.

Well, I meant to write up something on Monday or Tuesday, but I was dead on my feet. A zombie road warrior with work and deadlines and a craving for all-you-can-eat prime rib (and after getting your “money’s worth” of prime rib, you don’t really feel like doing anything but lie there and ponder the other horrors of the universe). Anyways, flew back from Kansas City last Friday night, got up early Saturday morning to drive from Ausitn to Dallas for the CAPE convention, drove back down to Austin Sunday morning, and then caught a 6:30am flight back to Kansas City on Monday. It was a damn lot of traveling. Was it worth it?


CAPE is one of those small comic book shows with tons of friendly attitude and lots of heart. A show that makes you feel even more excited to be part of the comics industry. Richard and his staff at Zeus Comics put on a great show, and I had a wonderful time talking to guests and fans alike. Met a lot of great people up there and had a small reunion with some old friends (Chris and Tom from Half-Ass Publishing and Kit Lively, who I first met at a convention many years ago). Forgot to bring up my box of Steampunk Faeries for my table there though, but it turned out well anyways… I had a full-issue preview of Task Force 1, which got a lot of people’s attention. Ended the day by heading out to dinner with a bunch of people from Gail Simone’s YABS messageboard (including Gail and her husband Scott) and then went to the CAPE art jam after that. The creativity in that room was truly inspiring, and I was actually so charged up from it when I got back to my hotel room, I cranked out a few scenes from my new screenplay before falling asleep.

As for CAPE 3 in 2007… I’ll be there, long drive and all. Count on it.

And it’s back to Austin tomorrow… that’s the life of a road warrior. Oddly enough, I’m kinda getting used to all this travel.

It might need to wait for a little bit. I’m trying to finish up revisions for a screenplay to send off to the Nicholl Fellowship by their May 1st deadline, and I’m working on my next batch of pages for Task Force 1 (and other assorted writing/scripting pieces). My series on the science (at least, the scientific research) behind Task Force 1 will continue as soon as humanly possible.

Technology already exists for fairly efficient artificial joints (which continually improves over the years), so we’ll skip right over that (but if you really want to read up on the mechanics of artificial joins, try this University of Michigan article or pop into a nearby college library and ask if they have a copy of the Journal of Biomechanics).

On to the skeleton… first off, our artificial skeleton will need a material that can match the minimum the durability requirements of the strongest bone… the femur. A human femur can generally withstand 15,000+ pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure, and in some cases, it rates over 20,000 psi. It also needs to be lightweight (and for the purposes of our story, plastic). Not too much of a problem there… current carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics can easily meet those those requirements. I started doing a little digging to find information comparing the weight and strength of bone to that of carbon fiber reinforced plastics, when I stumbled across an interesting article discussing a polymer combined with calcium phosphate particles to create a nanocomposite, which could be used to repair bone. Well if they could repair real bone with that type of composite, a carbon fiber based composite should easily be able to carry the load of a body (especially with a few decades to improve the processes and utilization of natural bone’s efficient design).

And just like that, we have a skeleton for our full-conversion ‘borg. If you want to read more on the subject, you can check out the Wikipedia article on carbon fiber reinforced plastic or the machinedesign.com articles on fibers and thermoplastic composites. Next, we’ll look into one of the more important (and thus, more complicated) parts of the design… the muscles.


As mentioned in the press release (below), Task Force 1 has a soldier who was “transplanted into a prototype android body made of an indestructible alloy. It makes him stronger and possibly immortal, but it also makes him a living action figure who craves the sensual world but can no longer experience it.”

For the hardcore science fiction readers out there, you could actually think of the character as less of an android and more of a “full body cybernetic conversion” (often referred to as a “full-conversion ‘borg”). Or the term I was always fond of back in my RPGing days, “Spam-in-a-Can”. For those not as familiar with the term, think of a simple cyborg (a “cybernetic organism” or a being composed of organic and machine parts) except that the only organic part left is the brain (and possibly the spine as well).

In essence, we have a bionic man like good ol’ Col. Steve Austin (from the Six Million Dollar Man), but they had to replace all of his body parts except the brain. Without all those original body parts taking care of various voluntary and involuntary actions within the body, the mechanical/artificial body needs to be able to handle that as well. Heck, there are a lot of things we’ll need to be able to do with an artificial body, so when I started doing my research, I tried to look at current research/discoveries and see what kind of cyborg body could be developed a generation or two in the future.

I first developed a list of the what I thought were the more critical components for getting our artificial body up-and-running…

• Skeletal and joint structure.
• Musculature and movement.
• Brain-body interface.
• Power supply.
• Life support systems for organic components.
• Receiving sensory input.

Then we had some additional elements added in for our artificial body based on Jim’s original character concept…

• Made of plastic.
• Doesn’t need to eat or breathe.
• Longevity.
• Some other factors that are [classified] because they will probably be used as part of a future storyline.

With my list of targets in hand, I then let loose the dogs of research… which we’ll start on tomorow.


Created by Jim Valentino and written by yours truly. It hits stores in July (and is available for pre-order in the upcoming Diamond Previews guide). Please, spread the word.

Here are some preview pages from Task Force 1 #1 (including cover).

And here’s the press release…

BERKELEY, CA — This Summer, Image Comics takes you to the next theater in the war on terror — a near future where soldiers become the weapons of mass destruction. ShadowHawk creator Jim Valentino brings you TASK FORCE 1!

A generation after 9/11, the world is paralyzed by terrorist sects of every persuasion. In this bitterly divided, terror-struck United States, General Abigail Rhodes takes on the thankless job of heading up the Department of Homeland Security. She could only watch her country get its nose bloodied by these threats for so long before she decided to put a stop to the reign of terrorists once and for all. General Rhodes initiates “Operation: Damocles,” a top-secret project too risky for any of her predecessors to try. Now, Rhodes commands a covert unit of super soldiers, codenamed TASK FORCE 1, and she intends to take the terror to the terrorists.

Written by talented newcomer and 8-year military veteran Jeffery Stevenson with art by former ShadowHawk penciller Carlos Rodriguez, TF1 introduces a joint service unit of special operations soldiers who are enhanced as government weapons. Each of them is infused with deadly abilities for combating terror, but plagued by a fact that the government neglected to tell them: if the terrorists don’t kill them, their new bodies will.

“TF1, for me, is what would happen if the Avengers met Delta Force. I wanted each soldier to be a three-dimensional character with superhuman abilities, but with the conscience and tactical know-how of a frontline combat soldier,” says Valentino.

Stevenson added, “Sure, this story will be a science fiction thrill ride with action and suspense, but Jim also wanted to explore the already stressful life of military soldiers amped up with experimental (aka “buggy”) hardware wired into their bodies and only taking on covert missions where they’ll never (ever) get the hero’s welcome.”

The TASK FORCE 1 roster includes the team leader, Marine Captain Kieran Roberts (callsign: MASS). He can increase his molecular density, giving him great size, strength, and near invulnerability, but the density of his internal organs increases at a faster rate than his strength threatening to kill him from heart and lung problems if he pushes too far. Second in command is Air Force 1st Lieutenant Leslie South (callsign: ALPHA) who has a device wired into her skull giving her heightened intelligence and allowing her to remotely access and manipulate the short term memory of others. Unfortunately, the strain of utilizing the hardware causes her brain to swell giving her progressive migraines that could eventually lead to a brain aneurism. After being crippled from a chemical attack, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jon Nguyen (callsign: KLONE) volunteered to have his brain and spinal cord transplanted into a prototype android body made of a nearly indestructible material. It makes him stronger and possibly immortal, but problems with the body’s sensory input devices leaves this living action figure craving the sensual world he can no longer fully experience. Army Staff Sergeant and EOD specialist Njanu Saunders (callsign: BLAST) wears huge gauntlets capable of creating blasts that can hyper-accelerate matter with explosive results, but they’ve fused themselves to his hands, making this devout family man a hostage in a world where he can’t touch anyone or anything without destroying it. Sergeant Danielle “Danni” Rothmann (callsign: RUSH) can run at subsonic speeds and wire her acceleration technology into her rifles and guns to give her increased range, but the same technology in her armored suit that reduces the stress on her body at high speeds also caused problems trapping her in order to hold her molecular structure together — if she takes off the armored suit, she dies.

Valentino adds, “These are career soldiers, prepared to die if need be to protect our country. With the abilities they’ve gotten from Operation: Damocles, the test is whether they are willing to live so they can do their patriotic duty.”

TASK FORCE 1 will be available for preordering from the May PREVIEWS guide and the first issue of this full-color ongoing series is set to hit stores in July 2006. Preorders can be made through shops listed in the Comic Shop Locator Service (1-888-COMIC BOOK).

Image Comics is a comics and graphic novels publisher formed in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Since that time, Image has gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. There are currently four partners in Image Comics (Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino), and Image is currently divided into four major houses (Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline and Image Central). Image comics and graphic novels cover nearly every genre, sub-genre and style imaginable, offering science fiction, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. Visit www.imagecomics.com for more information. Image Comics – Putting the NEW back in to New Comic Book Day!(tm)


Jelly beans, that is. Researchers are taking a look at how different supplements designed to help replenish glucose levels in the body actually affect workout performance… including jelly beans. I foresee crazy controversies…

“I’m sorry, but you’ve been disqualified from competing in this Olympic event.”
“Why am I being disqualified?”
“In the earlier heats, we caught you popping… jelly beans.”

But they’ll never catch me dropping a few beans to keep up. Never! ‘Cause I’d rather get my glucose fix through gummy bears. ^_^

DefenseTech points out the urban combat skateboard. All they need now is to slap some rockets and a retractable blade onto it, and they’ll be ready for superhero-style urban combat. ^_^