Wednesday, July 15, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #1 On Sale Now!

The first issue of the Gravedigger print miniseries from Action Lab: Danger Zone, featuring part one of “The Predators,” is on sale now from finer comic book retailers everywhere!

This first issue is also available as a digital download from comiXology for only 99¢!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

An Eye for An Eye

One of my favorite Chuck Norris vehicles has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino-Lorber: An Eye For An Eye (1981), directed by Steve Carver.

If I remember correctly, this is the last of the beardless Norris flicks (did he have a beard in the subsequent
Silent Rage? Or just the 'stache? I can't recall).

Veteran exploitation director Steve Carver (
Big Bad Mama, Jocks) worked well with Norris, playing to his leading man's strengths and shooting action scenes with a certain amount of clarity and style (They re-teamed on 1983's Lone Wolf McQuade with equally good result. He also knew how to fill out the supporting casts with talented, veteran character actors, allowing Chuck to concentrate on the ass kicking while others handled the heavy lifting, acting-wise.

In this particular film we have an all-star exploitation line-up, including Mako, Christopher Lee, Shaft's Richard Roundtree,
Star Trek DS9's Rosalind Cho and Space Academy's Maggie Cooper, all working their butts off to help make Chuck look good in what's essentially a fairly routine cop movie with a big "Bondian" climax. 

But it's a lot of fun, and very well directed and paced by Carver, with a standout (if too brief) battle between Chuck and wrestler Professor Toru Tanaka. The best part of this film, though, is the late, great Mako, who is in top form as Chuck's acerbic sensei.

The Blu-ray marks the first time the movie has been released in widescreen on domestic home video, and features an audio commentary by Carver.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #3 in July PREVIEWS

Issue #3 of Gravedigger, by Yours Truly & Rick Burchett is now available for pre-order through the Diamond Distributors' Previews catalog under the Action Lab: Danger Zone imprint! Ships in September!
When "Gravedigger" McCrae is brought in on a South of the Border arms heist, it looks like it will be an easy score. But between the charms of the beautiful Angel and all the double-and-triple crosses, Digger will be lucky to get out alive. The desert sand will run red with blood before this caper is done.
Long-time fans will recognize this as a re-presentation of the critically-acclaimed 2004 one-shot, "The Scavengers," under a brand-new cover by artist Rick Burchett! For new fans, it's an opportunity to get the first Gravedigger story in print form (as that one-shot is long, long sold out). We're really glad that Action Lab wanted to reprint this story along with "The Predators." It's probably the best-reviewed comic I've ever written, so it's going to be great having it out there again.

Monday, May 25, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #2 In June PREVIEWS

I saw this artwork on another website already, so I guess it's okay to share it here now: the pulp-tastic Rick Burchett cover for Gravedigger #2!

Here's the solicitation copy: On the run from the mob and the police, "Gravedigger" McCrae finds temporary respite with a lovely, wealthy playgirl. But it doesn't take long for his pursuers to catch up with him, and then it's no longer a matter of outrunning them, but escape from certain death. Can Digger outwit his adversaries in the savage conclusion to "The Predators?"

Gravedigger #2 is solicited in the June Diamond Comics Distributors' Previews catalog (Available May 27) from Action Lab: Danger Zone. The Diamond Item Code is JUN150869

Sunday, May 24, 2015

LADY JUSTICE

I guess the first collected edition of Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice, from Super Genius comics, is finally on the shelves of specialty shops and through online dealers like Amazon. I edited this series 20 years ago for the original publisher, TeknoComix. I was lucky to be able to employ some very talented people on the book, like Dan Brereton, Michael Netzer, Fred Harper and the late CJ Henderson, among others. I'm proud of the work we did on the title, even if it was frustrating at times, thanks to the not-always-helpful input of the powers-that-were.

As this was all work-for-hire stuff, and I was on staff with Tekno, neither I nor the various creators will be seeing any royalties on these editions, I'm guessing. Still, it's kinda nice to see these books back in print. I wonder if new publisher Super Genius will be collecting any of the non-Gaiman-inspired titles from the company? It would be cool to see the other monthly series I edited, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, or the Leonard Nimoy's Primortals issues I wrote, all in nice collected editions.

Monday, April 27, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #1 in May PREVIEWS

Here's the regular cover art for Gravedigger #1 by Rick Burchett! The May issue of the Diamond Previews catalog is out this Wednesday, and within its pages you'll find, under Action Lab Entertainment / Action Lab: Danger Zone, the solicitation for the first issue of the Gravedigger miniseries, due out in July. Issue #1 contains part one of "The Predators," by Yours Truly and the amazing Rick Burchett. 

Stay tuned for more details (including the product number, once I know it).

Here's a look at the limited edition variant cover for Gravedigger # 1 by Dario Briton Carrasco, with colors by Ian Sokoliwski.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Femme Noir: A Gruesome Twosome

Another peek at the new graphic novel-in-progress. Introducing two new additions to the Femme Noir rogues gallery: Wilhelm Skreem & E.C. “Ghastly” Gaines. (Actually, Ghastly’s appeared once before….) And both of these guys work for Madame Morella MaCabre’s “Ghoul Squad,” of course!

Art by Joe Staton & Rick Burchett, with colors by Matt Webb!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Killmaster Art by George Gross

When I was a teenager, I was semi-addicted to the "Nick Carter: Killmaster" paperback spy novels. Written by a vast army of ghost writers, the series chronicled the adventures of American AXE agent Nicholas Huntington Carter, codenamed "N3" with a "Killmaster" rating, who routinely armed himself with a "stripped-down" Luger pistol he called Wilhelmina, a stiletto knife called Hugo, and a gas capsule named Pierre. He carried out missions around the world for his boss, David Hawk, in over 250 slim novels, published between 1964 and 1990 for Ace (later Jove) Books.

The Killmaster capers were generally action-packed, and liberally spiced with graphic sexual encounters that went far beyond anything I'd read in Ian Fleming. The quality of the individual novels varied widely, depending on which of the publisher's many ghosts were at the typewriter, and a number of different artists contributed the lurid cover art over the run of the series.

Of these artists, my favorite was George Gross, an old hand at men's adventure art, who had worked extensively for the old pulp magazines and the later, "men's sweat" periodicals. He was the primary Carter cover artist from the late 1970's and through the 80s (he also painted many covers for Warner Books' "Avenger" series around the same time). Here are a few of his Carter covers, all featuring the same unnamed model....

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sneak Peek: The New Femme Noir!

I'm pleased to announce that the Femme Noir team - Yours Truly, artist Joe Staton, inker Rick Burchett, and colorist Matt Webb - have begun production of a new Femme Noir miniseries, "Cold, Dead Fingers."  I can't say when it will be finished, but I'm hopeful that it will be completed this year, and probably see print in 2016. No publisher yet, but I have been having some encouraging discussions.

To celebrate this new beginning, I thought you folks might like to take a look at the first page of our forthcoming supernatural crime saga. To make it more special, I'm going to share with you the process that we employ in making our Femme Noir funnybooks.

I. It Begins With The Word: In this case, I wrote a detailed plot, breaking down the storytelling in some detail. No dialogue or captions as yet - I write those after I have Joe's penciled pages in hand; as I am the letterer as well as writer, I basically do both at the same time. Here's how the plot described this first splash page:
PANEL 1. And here we go…. We begin with a movie poster-styled splash page. In the center of the image is a full-length shot of Le Femme, hat pulled down low, guns in hands, trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Behind her is a sketched in Port Nocturne skyline. On the left, there’s a huge, spookily-lit “ghostly” head shot of our brutish killer – in this iteration, he’s called “Crusher” Corrigan – and below him, a full-length image of mad scientist Dr. Karl Boroff. On the right hand side of the page, opposite Corrigan’s scary melon, is an equally spooky “ghost” head of Madame Morella MaCabre. Below her, opposite of Boroff, is a full-length figure of plainclothes dick Lt. Rod Riley, pistol drawn.

Below that, room for the title lettering – ‘COLD, DEAD FINGERS’ - and a breathless introductory caption.
II. Joe's Deadly Pencil: From this florid description, Joe draws the page in pencil, employing his considerable talent and experience, working his magic:

FN_CD_01_01A

Joe then e-mails me a lo-res jpeg to review. Once I've looked it over, and am sure that we're both happy with it, Joe then e-mails the page as a hi-res image file to...

III. Putting The Noir In Femme Noir: ...inker Rick Burchett. Joe and Rick have worked together numerous times before, perhaps most memorably on the 1980s incarnation of E-Man. In this case, Rick is applying his atmospheric blacks digitally, using his Cintique tablet.

FN_CD_01_01B

Once completed, Rick sends jpeg files to both Joe and I to see if we have any notes. If everything's cool, as it is here, the image is then sent on to our last teammate.

IV. Dangerous Hues: Colorist Matt Webb gets his hands on the page next, and with the original script for reference (and having colored several Femme Noir adventures before), Matt digitally - and dramatically - colors the page.

FN_CD_01_01c

Nice, huh? Once again, a lo-resolution copy of the colors is sent out for approval of all and sundry. Then, it all comes back to me.

V. The Final Words With the finished page in my e-mail box, I take it into Photoshop and fit it into the appropriate page template. Having scripted the dialogue - or in this case, caption - when I got the pencils, I then do the lettering in Illustrator. Finally, I drop the text in on the page back in Photoshop...  and voilĂ !

FNOIR_CDF_01_01

So that's how we do it. Repeat for pages 2, 3, 4 and so on... until the book is complete.

Stay tuned here for future Femme Noir updates, sneak peeks and announcements (which will always appear here first!).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Cover: QUARRY'S CHOICE

The amazing Robert McGinnis, nearly 90 years-old and not missing a trick, provides this gorgeous cover for Max Allan Collins' latest "Quarry" novel from Hard Case Crime. I just got this book and it's right on top of the reading pile. Collins' "Quarry" novels, which chronicle the life of a hardboiled professional killer, are among my favorite books - and Quarry one of my favorite protagonists - in the genre. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Big GRAVEDIGGER News

It was just a little over two months ago that the hardboiled crime comic that I created with artist Rick Burchett, Gravedigger, concluded its online serialization. At the time, I speculated that we wouldn't have to wait long for the character's return... and here it is.

Rick and I have just signed with Action Lab Entertainment's "Danger Zone" mature readers imprint, to bring the two existing Gravedigger sagas - "The Scavengers" and "The Predators" - to both print and digital formats in 2015. The stories will be presented in a three-issue comic book miniseries format and as a digital edition on Comixology. Action Lab will be making their own announcement soon, and there will be more details revealed then.

The release dates haven't been set yet, but you can be sure I'll be plugging the hell out of the book when the time comes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Cover: THE SPIRIT - THE NEW ADVENTURES

Back in 1997, Kitchen Sink Press published several issues of Will Eisner's The Spirit - The New Adventures, for which they invited a number of the comic industry's top talents to contribute original stories featuring Central City's masked crimebuster. A lot of great names were involved, and many of the stories were extremely good, sometimes rivaling the master's own tales. They sported some terrific covers, too - including this Brian Bolland masterpiece from Issue #3. It was also released as a limited edition print (shown below).

Monday, January 12, 2015

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "The Shangri-La Syndrome"

Well, we come at last to the final episode of A Man Called Sloane, "The Shangri-La Syndrome," directed by none other than T.R. Sloane himself, Robert Conrad, and originally airing on the 22nd of December, 1979.

I wish I could say that the series went out on a high note, but "Syndrome" is, in every way, a seriously lackluster affair.

Sloane is investigating the theft of some top secret material from Doctor Karla Meredith's (Daphne Reid) scientific institute. A meeting with one of her (young and pretty, 'natch) researchers is interrupted by an intruder whom Sloane pursues. By the time Sloane gets back, she is dead of apparent old age. It turns out that Meredith is working with KARTEL and an ex-Nazi named (of course) Hans Kruger (Dennis Cole) to clone a South American dictator.

There are some interesting concepts in here - Kruger is being kept young by an age-reversing formula and must stay in a hot environment to avoid reverting his to his true age - but nothing is done with them. There's only one gadget in this episode, and it's rather pedestrian, too.

It's a shame that the series came out when it did. NBC in 1979 was something of a creative wasteland, with network head Fred Silverman desperate to attract viewers to the floundering net. His approach to this was to program shows that were colorful, titillating, and, basically, stupid. This was the season of Supertrain, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, Hello Larry and Pink Lady & Jeff.

It's also unfortunate that the producers didn't bother to actually give Conrad a character to play. Sloane was Conrad, basically, and was never shown to have any personal life, nor was there any backstory ever revealed for the character. In the pilot film - where the character was played by Robert Logan - Sloane was established as an art and antiques dealer, which at least provided him with a cover for his international travel, and provided a little color. This appears to have been forgotten by the time of the actual series. The character of Torque was badly used as well. A giant with a multi-purpose cybernetic hand should have been a lot more useful and interesting than he actually was. I don't blame actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka, though. He simply wasn't given anything much to do most of the time.

Anyway, it was fun re-visiting the series (again). I'm planning to finally review the pilot film, T.R. Sloane/Death Ray 2000 in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Guns In The Gutters: IT RHYMES WITH LUST

Written By Arnold Drake & Leslie Waller
Illustrated by Matt Baker & Ray Osrin

B&W Digest Format, Graphic Novel

St. John Publications, 1950
(Dark Horse Comics Edition 2007)


It Rhymes with Lust was originally published in 1950, and is considered by some comics historians to be one of the first – if not the first – modern graphic novel. Originally marketed as a "picture novel" by publisher St. John Publications, it was written by comics veteran Arnold Drake (The Doom Patrol) and novelist Leslie Waller (together using the pseudonym "Drake Waller"), with black-and-white art by Matt Baker (Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Phantom Lady) and inker Ray Osrin. In co-author Drake's opinion, "I don't think there is much question that It Rhymes with Lust was the first graphic novel."

The edition reviewed here is a facsimile edition published by Dark Horse Comics, which includes an afterword by Drake, and biographies of Drake, Waller and artist Baker.

It Rhymes With Lust deals with the machinations of malevolent femme fatale Rust Masson, a seductive, red haired siren with an insatiable lust for power. Upon the death of her crimelord husband, Rust moves to take full control of the mining town Copper City – both its legal operations and its illegal ones. As part of her scheming, she brings an ex-lover, disillusioned and cynical reporter Hal Weber, to town and puts him into the Editor-in-Chief's slot at one of the town's two newspapers, hoping to use him as both a propaganda tool and intelligence agent. But, eventually, Weber tires of being Rust's patsy, and with the more wholesome love of Rust's own, blonde stepdaughter, Audrey, Weber finds the strength to stand up to Rust and moves to bring down her empire.

Drake and Waller have scripted a pitch-perfect noir potboiler, a story that deftly combines politics, crime and James M. Cain-styled sexual manipulation into one compact package. This is very much in the tradition of the pulp paperback fiction of the era. The dialogue is perhaps a bit too expositional and the captions a bit too weighty for today's tastes, but this was published in 1950, and follows the comics writing conventions of that era.

Matt Baker's art is exceptional. Known for his superior ability to render the female form, Baker proves to be the perfect choice to illustrate this tale of the archetypical femme fatale. With her short, mannish hairstyle and impeccable fashion sense, Rust is strongly contrasted against her idealistic stepdaughter, Audrey, with her lush blonde mane and soft features. All the characters are distinctive and instantly recognizable, and while the book is very dialogue heavy, Baker manages to keep it visually interesting through careful use of varying "camera" angles. It's superior work.

Overall, I liked It Rhymes With Lust quite a bit. My only criticism is that Drake & Waller's story is just a bit too talky and static. It really could have used just a little bit more action – another fistfight or firefight would have livened things up nicely. Definitely worth checking out, though.

Five out of Six Bullets.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Architect of Evil"

I don't know if it was because I was groggy and watching it at four in the morning, but I really enjoyed the penultimate episode of A Man Called Sloane, "Architect of Evil." (Original air date: December 15th, 1979.)

Worthington Pendergast (Michael Pataki) is the titular architect, who has conceived a "perfect city" for KARTEL to build and rule in an undisclosed location. Who will construct – and ultimately, live in – this city? Well, Pendergast has a typically complicated and insane plan to solve that problem: using a ray projector that can increase the mass of objects, he intends to sink a ship carrying nuclear waste which will then contaminate a large portion of the West Coast of America. This will dispossess millions of people, who KARTEL (will somehow) then draft as slave labor to build their city.

Unfortunately for Pendergast, the unique "blue crystal" that makes the ray weapon work, has been stolen from his home safe along with his other valuables, by a cat burglar named Harry Helms (John Aprea), who has no idea what it is and thinks it's worthless. Fortunately, UNIT had Pendergast under observation and caught the thief on film, so Sloane is able to track him down, and ultimately impersonate him (an impersonation which, as usual, isn't very effective) in order to infiltrate Pendergast's operation...

The story is nonsensical, but for some reason, it plays out pretty well. Pataki's villain is suitably over-the-top, executing his own henchmen with sonic deathtraps and playing Bach's tocatta and fugue in D minor on the organ to relieve stress. There's a sequence set in a health club where burglar Helms attempts to kill Sloane in a manner highly reminiscent of the Shrublands scene in Thunderball, and an interesting – and unusual climax featuring Sloane, Torque, a helicopter, and a lot of soapsuds.

Well directed by veteran TV and B-movie (Cujo, Alligator) director Lewis Teague, "Architect of Evil" is a satisfyingly silly but entertaining hour of spy-fi adventure, and is probably one of the best in the series.

Only one more episode to go!