Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Toward 2008

Well, 2007 is just about over, and not a moment too soon.

Unless this is your first visit to this weblog, you know that 2007 was a year of hell for yours truly, a year that began with having a cancerous organ removed – a painful, frustrating incident that set the tone for the entire year.

But 2007 wasn't a total wash. I've managed to get at least three – and possibly a couple more – comics projects lined up for next year, which will make it by far the best year I've had as a writer since my first published work back in '90.

First out of the gate should be Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead, a three-issue, full-color miniseries from Moonstone Books, based on the cult classic television series. The art is by the amazing Tim Hamilton, the covers by Dave Aikens, and colors by Ian Sokoliwski. The first issue has been solicited for March.

Then comes the 7-years in the making epic, Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries. Based on a webcomic that first hit the 'net in 2001, this four-issue, full-color miniseries from Ape Entertainment is pencilled by the legendary Joe Staton, inked by Horacio Ottolini and Mark Stegbauer, and colored by Melissa Kaercher and Matt Webb. The covers have been digitally painted by Alfredo Lopez over Joe's pencils, and we have variant covers by Brian Bolland, Phil Hester and the late Mike Wieringo. This looks like it'll be hitting shelves around May or so.

Following within a month or two of that title, comes Perils on Planet X, another full-color, 3-issue miniseries from Ape. Based on another of my webcomics (originally drawn by Jon Plante), this interplanetary swashbuckler is illustrated by the talented Gene Gonzales and colored by Ian Sokoliwski. We're shooting for a Summer release.

Speaking of shooting, Rick Burchett and I, aided and abetted by Fred Harper, are currently plotting a new caper for Gravedigger. Right now, it looks like it'll be an original graphic novel called The Predators, with the original one-shot, The Scavengers, included as a back-up "Bonus Feature." Rick pencils, Fred inks, and we're hoping it'll be out in late '08 or right at the beginning of '09.

I'm also still working on the Captain Midnight revival for Moonstone Books, and working on a graphic novel adaptation of an upcoming theatrical horror film.

There's a few more prose stories on tap for '08, as well, including my Avenger story, a Captain Midnight adventure, and some new crime fiction.

Health-wise, I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm hopeful that I will continue to improve. The bi-pap machine has not only helped combat the effects of my sleep apnea, but it's aided in bringing my blood pressure under control for the first time in my adult life. After consulting with my doc, I've also formulated a weight-loss program, and have high hopes in that area.

Now, I just need to scrape up some steady paying work.

I want to thank all of the readers of this blog for their continued interest, support, feedback, and friendship over the last twelve months or more. Not only has it been extremely gratifying to know that people were making a point of reading my self-indulgent drivel, the occasional words of encouragement from you folks helped me through some very rough times.

Thanks.

Here's hoping that we all have a great 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Am *SO* Pathetic....

I am actually looking forward to this weekend's release of Galactica 1980 on DVD.

Yes, I know that this series is utter crap, and in fact, sinks to whole new depths of sci-fi crapitude, but still...

I want to see it again.

For one thing, I absolutely loved the original Battlestar Galactica when I was a kid and was friggin' traumatized when it was cancelled. I was further traumatized when the low-budgeted, kiddie-oriented spin-off, Galactica 1980 came about, because I missed damn near every episode! I never saw the three-part premiere (although I did eventually rent the truncated "movie version" on VHS) and only caught the ends of the next few episodes because my family never seemed to be home at 7:00 on Sunday nights.

I do remember seeing the Halloween episode (or the first part of the two-parter), "The Night The Cylons Landed," which introduced human-looking Cylons (long before the new series) and guest starred Wolfman Jack. My folks were visiting friends and to keep me occupied, I was sent into their rec room to watch TV.

But I never saw the final and best episode, "The Return of Starbuck," until Goodtimes Home Video released it on budget videotape in the mid-80's.

Anyway, thanks to the success of the new, reimagined Galactica series on SciFi Channel, someone at Universal obviously thought they'd try trading off the name, and decided to let this one out of the vaults. I suspect a fair number of consumers are going to be really disappointed in this, though, 'cause it's as about far from the new show in terms of quality and tone as it's possible to get.

But I still want it. Sad, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Howling @ the Dead Moon

I received my contributor copies of the Moonstone Monsters prose anthology, Werewolves: Dead Moon Rising, today.

The book turned out great, with no apparent printing or formatting problems. The illustrations by Ken Wolak are consistent and well-drawn, and the design of the book is very slick. Effective cover by Dave Dorman, too.

Turns out that my story, "The Beast of Bava Pass," is the lead story in the volume, which is nice. I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's contributions now.

The book is available in some comic book shops and bookstores or it can be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Brief...

Hey, guys. Been struggling with various projects and winter ennui, trying to get some things wrapped up before New Year. My sciatica's been flaring up a bit, too, which doesn't help.

Man, this is the coldest, whitest December I can remember in a long time. This old farmhouse isn't as cozy as it could be – for example, the kitchen was a later addition and has no basement, insulation (to speak of) or central heat. The last few weeks, it's been very much like a walk-in freezer, so we haven't spent a lot of time on meal preparation.

Finished the third series of Doctor Who with David Tennant, Really fantastic stuff, with writing that makes me feel really... untalented.

More soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comics-2-Film: 2008

Here are two comic book based films I'm really looking forward to in '08: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, based on Mike Mignola's delightful series, and Whiteout, based on the graphic novels by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.

I was a big fan of the first Hellboy film, and I'm pleased to see that it's pretty much the same cast and crew this time around. As for Whiteout, I greatly admire the original comics, and although I think Kate Beckinsale is too pretty to be the comics' Carrie Stetko – a freckle-faced U.S. Marshal assigned to an Antarctic station – I'm eager to see how well Hollywood brings the property to the screen.

And, um, hey... it's Kate Beckinsale.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

15 Favorite DVD Releases of 2007

2007 was a great year for DVD collectors, despite the rise of competing high-priced, high-definition formats and the inevitable proclamations of the imminent death of the regular DVD disc. As a reviewer, I've been fortunate to get a look at a lot of 2007's releases, even though my column was rather irregular and I wasn't able to quite cover everything I received.

Here are fifteen of my favorite 2007 releases. In every case, these are films I like a lot, and they were especially well-served by their DVD releases.

1. FROM BEYOND. After a very long wait, while various rights issues were worked out, MGM finally unleashed Stuart Gordon's gooey follow-up to Re-Animator in an unrated, digitally restored – and, most importantly – properly framed widescreen edition. Beautiful hi-def transfer, uncut content, and solid extra features.

2. THE MONSTER SQUAD. Repeat pretty much everything I said about From Beyond. Another awesome release of a long-anticipated and beloved flick.

3. TWIN PEAKS: THE GOLD BOX COLLECTION. David Lynch and Mark Frost's influential, mindbending and tragically short-lived surreal soap opera finally receives a damn-near definitive home video treatment, with every episode completely remastered. The set also includes the rare, original Pilot Film and European Theatrical/Home Video feature version of same, tons of comprehensive behind-the-scenes material, original TV promos and commercials, a featurette with Lynch, and much, much more. One of the best TV-on-DVD sets ever.

4. WITCHFINDER GENERAL. For years I've been wanting to see this acclaimed Vincent Price film, originally released in the U.S. as The Conqueror Worm. It's reputation – and that of its young, tragic director, Michael Reeves – was so great, that I was certain I was missing out on something truly special. As it turned out, I was. While maybe not quite as wonderful as I'd come to expect, it was still a fine period horror flick, with an extraordinarily nuanced and effective performance by Price. MGM's "Midnite Movie" release of this title sports a beautiful transfer, the original music and U.K. cut.

5. THE ICONS OF HORROR COLLECTION: SAM KATZMAN. Who would have thunk that Columbia would release a box set of low-budget B-movies produced by one of Hollywood's most notoriously cheap producers – and put his name on the box? Not only does it contain gorgeous transfers of The Giant Claw, Creature With the Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau and The Werewolf, but the set also includes a chapter of the Katzman-produced Mysterious Island serial, a Mr. Magoo cartoon, a comedy short, and tons of vintage Columbia sci-fi trailers!

6. THE SERGIO LEONE ANTHOLOGY. Remastered, restored versions of A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Duck, You Sucker! Okay, I already had the special edition of TGTB&TU, but the restored Fistful and More were revelations. Eastwood and Van Cleef never looked so good. And I'd never seen Leone's Duck, You Sucker!, with James Coburn and Rod Stieger, before. Each movie is also loaded with informative extras.

7. FLASH GORDON: SAVIOUR OF THE UNIVERSE EDITION. 'Nuff said.

8. PAYBACK: STRAIGHT UP. Brian Helgeland's "Director's Cut" of the Mel Gibson -compromised Richard Stark adaptation is a definite improvement over the already pretty good theatrical version. This cut is much grittier, with a completely different musical score and third act, and it possesses a real 70's crime flick vibe. The behind-the-scenes documentary is a a real revelation and effectively illustrates how screwed up and second-guessing Hollywood studios have become.

9. INVASION OF ASTRO MONSTER. Better known as Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, this was but one of several awesome, widescreen, restored kaiju releases in 2007. Godzilla, Rodan and Nick Adams battle the mighty King Ghidorah and evil aliens from Planet X in what's probably my favorite Godzilla film. A gorgeous transfer of the Toho classic, both English and Japanese versions, and a handful of solid extras. So much fun.

10. JASON OF STAR COMMAND. This 70's Filmation release from BCI was a childhood favorite and it was awesome to see this satisfyingly silly space opera (with its stellar special effects!) again on DVD, complete with a retrospective documentary, interviews with stars Craig Littler and Sid Haig, and other bonus features.

11. THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION. I'm including Volumes One and Two in this, as both sets came out this year, and include new, improved versions of pretty much all the most important titles in the legendary maestro's filmography: Black Sunday, Black Sabbath (Three Faces of Fear), The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Knives of the Avenger, Kill, Baby...Kill!, Lisa And the devil/House of Exorcism, Bay of Blood, Baron Blood, Kidnapped, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack, 5 Dolls for an August Moon and Four Times That Night. Not every film is particularly great, but Mario Bava's distinctive visual sense and directorial style is evident in virtually every frame. Good, cleaned-up transfers, some fine commentaries on the most important films by Tim Lucas, and nicely packaged. Oh, I would have liked better it if they'd been able to include the U.S. versions of Sunday and Sabbath, but overall, it's an awesome collection.

12. MICHAEL SHAYNE MYSTERIES. Four snappy B-movie mysteries – Michael Shayne: Private Detective, The Man Who Wouldn't Die, Sleepers West and Blue, White and Perfect – starring Lloyd Nolan as Brett Halliday's wisecracking Irish-American private eye, assembled into one sharp boxed set by Fox. The bonus features aren't quite as good as the ones on the Charlie Chan and Mister Moto discs, but the package artwork – new paintings by the great Robert McGinnis – more than compensates for any deficiencies. Gorgeous transfers, too.

13. RATATOUILLE. Another instant classic from Pixar and Brad Bird. The DVD isn't as loaded with extras as usual – expect a "Collector's Edition" to come along soon – but the movie is both gorgeous to behold and deeply involving. Who would have figured a movie about a gourmet rat could be so wonderfully written, designed and executed?

14. DOCTOR WHO – THE COMPLETE SECOND/THIRD SERIES. Series 2 was released at the beginning of the year, and I just picked up Series 3. Despite all the crappy reimaginings and remakes of old TV shows, this Who – and the new Battlestar Galactica – are the best arguments for continuing to mine TV's past for new entertainment. While I enjoyed the first series with Chris Eccelston, David Tennant's take on The Doctor is more to my tastes, and the show really found its footing once he took over. Sharp, funny and emotionally moving writing, great performances and delightful special effects have breathed new life into the U.K.'s most venerable sci-fi franchise... and the DVDs are "bloody brilliant," too.

15. FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. Finally, one of the most fondly remembered kaiju classics from Toho Studios comes to U.S. DVD courtesy of Media Blasters – in three different versions! There's the Japanese language version, the U.S. dubbed version, and the "International" version, complete with the legendary – and never before seen in U.S. – "Devilfish" climax, in which the mutated, giant Frankenstein's monster inexplicably battles a landbound giant octopus that appears out of nowhere during the climactic forest fire! All three versions look pristine, and there are a handful of cool extras.

These aren't necessarily the best DVD releases of '07, but they're the ones I'm most enthusiastic about. A couple that almost made the cut include Warners' Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland Collection, The Evil Dead Ultimate Edition (and would have, if the extras were just a little better) from Starz Entertainment, and MGM's Return of the Living Dead Collector's Edition. I only wish I'd been able to afford the complete Get Smart and Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series sets and the new Blade Runner: Final Cut collector's set.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Werewolves for Christmas

I haven't received my contributor copies yet, but I got a call from my editor a couple days ago telling me that the Werewolves: Dead Moon Rising prose anthology from Moonstone Books, has finally arrived from the printer and is shipping now.

Here's the publisher's description:

Moonstone proudly steps up during the full moon to launch this first book in a line of monster/horror prose fiction anthologies, with this one featuring our favorite ferocious and furry fiends, werewolves! The blood will run red in the dead of night as both horror-fiction and comic book writers alike unite to bring you an unlucky 13 chilling tales of howling horror, just in time for Halloween. With stories by Elaine Bergstrom, Tom DeFalco, Dave Dorman, Clay Griffith, William R. Halliar, C.J. Henderson, David Michelinie, Christopher Mills, Mike Reynolds, Beau Smith, Paul D, Storrie, Dave Ulanski and Fred Van Lente! Interior illustrations by Ken Wolak and a fang-tastic cover by fan-favorite Dave Dorman, this chilling collection of short stories is sure to keep you cringing under the covers all night long!

My story is a tribute to old school Universal, Hammer and Paul Naschy werewolf films, and is entitled, "The Beast of Bava Pass."

So, if you're interested, you can now order the book from Amazon, Moonstone or look for it at your favorite comic shop or bookstore.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Deadliest Man Alive! (Until 1975)

I just read a fascinating article about John Keehan a/k/a "Count Dante," the legendary martial arts guy who used to have those scary ads in comic books offering kids everywhere "the world's deadliest fighting secrets."
IN THE 60S and 70s John Keehan was one of the most notorious figures in American martial arts. He ran dojos and had sidelines in salons and porn shops. He took a pet lion cub for strolls by Lake Michigan. He trained minorities and caught flack for it, and after one fight—part of Chicago’s “dojo wars” of the 60s and 70s—he was implicated in the death of one of his students. He was also a fierce self-promoter: comic-book readers might know him best as Count Dante, the persona Keehan used to sell membership in his Black Dragon Fighting Society, as well as a pamphlet, World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets, that promised to teach readers how to maim, disfigure, and kill.
It's a really bizarre and amazing story. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Back in the Gutters

Just a quick head's up: after three months of neglect, I've just posted a new review over in my crime comics blog, Guns In The Gutters.

Today I take a look at the 70's Atlas/Seaboard title, Police Action #1, featuring the hard-boiled exploits of forgotten crimebusters Lomax, NYPD and Luke Malone, Manhunter (by Mike Ploog & Frank Springer)!

I'll be making an effort to post reviews over there more frequently; I'm currently working on articles about James Hudnall's criminally short-lived series, Shut Up & Die!, and the late 90's Acclaim Comics miniseries, The Grackle, by Mike Baron and Paul Gulacy.

Check it out!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New DVD Late Show Column Posted!

My latest – and much-delayed – DVD Late Show column is now posted at Quick Stop Entertainment. This is my extremely belated Halloween column (don't ask!), and features reviews of a bunch of recent horror and monster titles.

Among the discs reviewed are: Witchfinder General, Yongary, Konga, Alligator, Return of the Living Dead Collector's Edition, Hellraiser 20th Anniversary Edition, The Icons of Horror: Sam Katzman Collection (containing The Giant Claw, Creature With The Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau, and The Werewolf), The Fly Collection (The Fly, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly), Planet of Dinosaurs, 28 Weeks Later, Planet Terror, Dan Curtis' Frankenstein, and Dark Sky's new Amicus Collection (Asylum, The Beast Must Die, And Now The Screaming Starts!).

I'm working on a new column now, focusing on some recent TV-on-DVD releases, including complete collections of Twin Peaks, The Addams Family, Northern Exposure and Miami Vice, and single-season releases of Magnum P.I. Season 7, The Wild Wild West Season 3, and more.

After that, it's back to the sleazy exploitation stuff. Boobies and blood galore!