Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Candy, monsters, candy, ghosts, candy, bats (of all kinds) and no uncomfortable family dinners. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary - this year marks fourteen years of marriage to my own Batgirl, Brandi. I'm a very lucky guy. With her in my life, it's tricks and treats all year 'round!

Here's wishing you and yours a truly spooktacular celebration!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Cover: VAMPIRELLA #2

And... here's the second Adam Hughes cover for Harris Comics' 1992 revival of the Warren classic, Vampirella. Nobody drew sexier women in the 90s than Hughes.

You know, I think I bought a tee-shirt with this image on it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "The Seduction Squad"

In the second episode (airing September 29, 1979) of NBC's A Man Called Sloane (although, from the amount of footage in this episode that is incorporated into the series titles, it was probably shot first), "The Seduction Squad," Sloane and Torque are investigating acts of industrial sabotage that threaten the country's defense contractors. Eventually, it turns out that important industrial and military figures have been seduced and hypnotically brainwashed by the supermodel operatives of a slightly fey fashion and cosmetics king played by I Spy's Robert Culp. His goal? War in the Middle East... though I'm still not exactly sure what he expected to get out of it.

Not a lot to discuss here. Sloane and Torque go through the usual motions, and aside from an action-packed opening scene featuring Sybil Danning, explosions and a great zipwire stunt, it's not a particularly involving episode. The women of the titular Squad are all pretty hot, though, big hair and all, and Culp's clearly having a hell of a good time, camping it up as the heavy. He and Conrad - or, more precisely, their stunt doubles - do get a little hand-to-hand combat in near the climax, though.

Anthony Eisley, star of one of my favorite Eurospy flicks, Lightning Bolt, and Robert Conrad's co-star on Hawaiian Eye, shows up here as a Defense Department bigwig who is brainwashed into nearly starting WWIII.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guns In The Gutters: YOU HAVE KILLED ME (2009)

Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by Joelle Jones

B&W, Hardcover Graphic Novel

Oni Press, 2009


Modern authors who attempt period private eye stories often end up turning out pale pastiche or unintentional parody. Or their stories are so heavily infused with the author's historical research that they read dry and artificial. What is often forgotten is that the private eye mystery - regardless of period - revolves around character more than plot. This is different from most other sub-genres of mystery fiction, where plot is all; a puzzle to be solved. In a P.I. story, it's all about people; their secrets, their motives, their passions.

Jamie Rich and Joelle Jones' You Have Killed Me is a private eye tale that remembers that, and is filled with deftly-drawn (in all senses of the word), richly-developed characters.

Private investigator Antonio Mercer is hired to find an old flame, a high society gal from his past, who has gone missing on the eve of her wedding to a down-on-his-luck gambler. It's no surprise that Mercer's investigation leads through smoky jazz clubs and dark back alleys, to various and sundry unsavory individuals, nor that it ultimately becomes very personal for our protagonist.

Rich's script is sharp, with terse dialogue and narrative captions that don't fall into the trap of trying to emulate Chandler's distinctive - and easily parodied - flair for simile. Instead, the first-person captions are employed sparsely and used to provide a bit of insight into Mercer's private worldview. The story treads very familiar ground, but that's okay - while familiar, it is feels fresh and is skillfully constructed.

Jones' art is clean and well-composed. Backgrounds are occasionally sketchy, but the characters are all distinctive and expressive, and her storytelling is clear and cinematic. Overall, it's beautiful stuff.

Oni Press has done a really nice job on the production of the book, with striking, attractive graphic design and high-quality paper and binding. It's a truly gorgeous book.

You Have Killed Me is an excellent period P.I. tale, extremely well told. Highly recommended.

Six Out of Six Bullets.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Cover: VAMPIRELLA #1

Back in 1992, Harris Comics revived the classic "Good Ghoul" character Vampirella, with a new, full-color series that was a far cry in style and tone from the legendary B&W Warren magazine originals. And of course, since it was 1992, who better to render the covers than the hottest "hot chick" artist of the time, Adam Hughes?

I admit it. I bought it because of the cover, too.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Night Of The Wizard"

In the debut episode of A Man Called Sloane (airing September 22, 1979), top level UNIT agent Thomas Remington Sloane (Robert Conrad) and his partner Torque (Ji-Tu Cumbuka), a giant of a man with a huge, mechanical hand, is investigating the thefts of "K3" plutonium pellets from the U.S. government.

As it turns out, the thefts have been arranged by Manfred Baranoff (the always great Roddy McDowall), a mad scientist building a private army of super-strong androids. Posing as a mercenary thief with irradiated K3 pellets to sell, Sloane attempts to infiltrate Baranoff's organization, only to have his cover immediately blown. Needless to say, agent Sloane is captured, and locked in a rather nice bedroom sealed with deadly electrical force fields. With the help of pretty Sara Nightingale (Diane Stilwell), an artist employed by Baranoff to sculpt his android's faces, Sloane escapes from his prison.

In a nice twist, Sloane discovers Baranoff's body lying on the floor of a now-empty laboratory – the scientist has been murdered by one of his own creations, a "perfect" android named Alexander (Chris Marlowe). Alexander takes command of the other 'droids, and plans an assault on a scientific laboratory, where he plans to secure enough radioactive material to power himself and his army forever.

It's a fun little bit of Seventies spy-fi fluff, with a nicely layered performance – as usual – from McDowall. There are a couple of decent fight scenes, with Conrad actually involved in the action. Unlike on The Wild Wild West, where the athletic star insisted on doing all his own stunts, on Sloane, the mercurial Conrad wasn't always as enthusiastic, and frequently let his doubles do the sweating.

The only spy gadget in this episode worth mentioning is a two-way radio hidden within a rather ostentatious money clip. And, as will frequently happen over the dozen episodes, Sloane's towering, cyborg sidekick Torque has little-to-nothing to do in this installment.

Probably because I grew up as a science fiction fan in the Seventies (i.e. "The Roger Moore 007 Years"), I find that I am very fond of the more sci-fi spy-fi; androids and death rays are so much more exotic (and fun) McGuffins than dreary old "secret documents" or mundane nuclear warheads. I love the more down-to-earth, realistic spy stories, too, but I'm not a snob.

The title of this Sloane episode is reminiscent of the episode titles on The Wild Wild West, which all began with the words "The Night of...," and specifically, the title of the first Dr. Loveless episode, "The Night The Little Wizard Shook the World." Coincidence?

Friday, October 17, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE Revisited

A few years back, I started a separate blog for my interest in over-the-top spy films and television shows, the not-so-cleverly-titled Spy-Fi Channel. I posted a lot of stuff there in 2009, but over the next few years, as my interests turned more toward my 70s sci-fi nostalgia and the Space: 1970 blog, the spy site sort of slowly died. In fact, it was one of a couple of blogs that I gradually stopped updating - like my Guns In The Gutters site, devoted to my reviews of crime comics.

Anyway, I've been thinking I needed to a.) update this site more often and b.) clean up my online presence, so I'll be taking both of those zombie blogs offline. However, because I did put a lot of work into the material on those sites, I'll be taking some of that content and re-posting it here. This means that this site (which also has, much to my dismay, been too-infrequently updated of late) will be somewhat more lively in the coming months as I mix in a bunch of my spy-fi-related material (and crime comics reviews!) with any new personal and pop culture topics that may catch my fancy.

Which brings me to A Man Called Sloane.

A Man Called Sloane was a half-season adventure series that aired on NBC in 1979. It starred Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West, Baa Baa Black Sheep) as Thomas Remington Sloane III, the (only) Top Priority agent for a secret organization called UNIT. Though the format harkened back to the 60s and shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was still very much a product of its time, with ludicrous plots, lots of cheesecake, and Conrad's patented macho swagger. Needless to say, I loved it as a kid.  Back in '09, I got my hands on a set of bootleg DVDs and reviewed all twelve episodes of the show. That represented a lot of time and work, so rather than let those posts disappear into the digital aether, I'll be re-running those reviews here over the next few months.

Of course, I'll be editing them a bit and adding a few new thoughts and observations (as I've watched most of the episodes more than once now). I even plan on writing at least one new article for the series, as I never reviewed the original T.R.Sloane TV pilot film (a/k/a Death Ray 2000), which starred Robert Logan as superspy Sloane.

As I mentioned above, it won't only be reruns here; I'll be getting back to posting those "Wednesday Covers," and will almost certainly have a Halloween post or two. I'll also continue to keep you updated on my various comics projects and will continue posting about cheesy B action movies, comic strips, etc.

Look for the first Sloane review on Monday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It Came From Outer Space

Here's another sneak peek at the "secret" space opera graphic novel I'm working on with artist Peter Grau (which is still probably a year or two from completion).

This little fella (we haven't settled on the color yet, thus the multiple hues - though I'm leaning toward the green) is an interstellar critter known as a "globlin." They cling to spaceships and get stuck in the jets. This particular specimen's name is "Kooba.," because of his affinity for a certain 22nd Century soft drink brand.

More - much more - to come.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BangPop! This Weekend! See You There!

This weekend, I'll be at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine for BangPop Comic Con, hanging out with such talented comics pros as Fred Van Lente, Alex De Campi, Alex Irvine, Charles Paul Wilson III! The cool media guests include Mystery Science Theater 3000's Dr. Forester (Trace Beaulieu) and TV's Frank (Frank Conniff), Battlestar Galactica's Nicki Clyne, and Andrew MacLean and Joseph Schmalke of The Walking Dead. Come on down and say hello!

Friday, August 22, 2014

PERILS ON PLANET X: The End Is Nigh!

After about a year and a half of regular weekly Friday updates, the first (and hopefully, not last) Perils On Planet X graphic novel, "Hawke of Terra," is nearly completed (just two pages/weeks to go). This project has been in the works so long (almost 15 years!) that I can hardly believe it's almost finished.

I'm pretty proud of the story, which is my take on classic interplanetary swashbucklers like John Carter of Mars and Flash Gordon, and am especially pleased with the visual storytelling of my artistic collaborator and partner, the amazing Gene Gonzales. The importance of our colorist, Ian Sokoliwski's,  Technicolor hues cannot be underestimated, either. I've been very fortunate to have such talented collaborators.

If you haven't kept up with Perils On Planet X - or worse, haven't read it at all! - you can still read it from the beginning, for free on the site. That link will take you right to the first page. Our future plans are still up in the air, so this might be a good time to take a few minutes and catch up... and maybe post your thoughts on the book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Upcoming Appearance(s)

For the one or two of you who might find such information interesting, I will be attending the BangPop show in Bangor, Maine September 20 and 21st. 

BangPop is always a fun show, and this year looks like it'll be the biggest and best one yet, with more comics and media guests (including MST3K favorites Trace Beaulieu and Frank Coniff, and Battlestar Galactica cutie Nicki Clyne).

I may also be exhibiting at the Portland Comic Expo in Portland, Maine on October 26th... but that's not definite yet. Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Indeed!

I was watching Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) on DVD the other night, and thought this bit with Dr. Watson enjoying the American funny pages was genuinely amusing. For the record, I couldn't agree with the good doctor more!

It occurred to me that Universal might have been cleverly plugging their own Flash Gordon serials, but Sherlock Holmes in Washington came out three years after their last Gordon serial, Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, so it seems a bit late.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mickey Spillane IS Mike Hammer... in HD!

On October 14th, Scorpion Releasing presents the 1963 film, The Girl Hunters, starring author Mickey Spillane as his own hardboiled P.I. hero, Mike Hammer, on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray version will be a limited edition and will be sold only on the Kino-Lorber website. It will feature a brand new 16x9, 2:35 HD master, as well as an audio commentary with Max Allan Collins, and vintage on-camera interviews with Mickey Spillane and Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger). MSRP for the Blu-ray is a hefty 29.95, while the DVD edition will retail for 19.95.

I am deeply annoyed that this will be an expensive Limited Edition online exclusive, but I'll have to get it anyway. I'm a big fan of the movie, and it'll be nice to finally have a quality video edition

Interesting note: back around '95, when I was working at TeknoComix as editor of the comic book series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, I gave Mickey my personal VHS bootleg of this movie because he didn't have a copy and said he hadn't seen it in a decade or two!

Now, if only somebody could release the 1982 version of I, The Jury on Blu-ray...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Cover(s): Chaykin's BUCK ROGERS

So, Hermes Press has just collected their Buck Rogers miniseries by Howard Chaykin. I didn't read the individual comics, but I pre-ordered it in trade, and expect it to arrive in a week or so. I don't always like Chaykin's comics, but when I do, I tend to like them a lot. In the 80s, I adored American Flagg, and the writer/artist is responsible for creating one of my all-time favorite comics characters - Atlas Comics' The Scorpion. I also dug his 80s Shadow miniseries (and will probably pick up his recent return to the character eventually), among many other titles.

I've read online that this version of Buck Rogers hews more closely to the original Philip Francis Nowlan pulp novellas, Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords Of Han.... and I think that's a great approach. Hey, I love the 70s TV series as much as anyone (and more than most), but it's about time to get back to the character's roots.

Here are Chaykin's covers for the four issue miniseries.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Expendabelles: MERCENARIES Trailer


Here's the trailer for Mercenaries, The Asylum's distaff take on the uber-manly Expendables franchise. The trailer looks pretty good - promising, even - but as it's an Asylum picture, I'm not letting my expectations get too high. The studio hasn't had a great track record for quality in any genre, really, and has fared especially poorly with action fare (stunts are expensive).

Cool to see Brigette Nielsen as the Big Bad, though it is disappointing to see that Cynthia Rothrock appears to have a non-fighting role. I'm hoping that Zoe Bell and Kristina Loken can raise the bar here. It can't hurt that Zoe can do her own stunts.

We'll see....