Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spy-Fi Flashback: A Man Called Sloane

Anybody else remember Robert Conrad's short-lived Seventies spy show, A Man Called Sloane?

All I really remember about it is that Conrad drove a vintage, cream-colored Cord and had a sidekick with a cybernetic hand. There was also a TV movie, alternately known as Death Ray 2000 and T.R. Sloane, which was the pilot for the series, but it starred Robert Logan as Sloane, and the metal-hand guy worked for the villains instead of the good guys.

I'd really love to see Sloane again, but then, I'm strange that way.

I'd also like to see a few other made-for-TV spy-fi flicks/failed pilots that I remember from when I was a kid, like Billion Dollar Threat, Once Upon A Spy, and S*H*E.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that none of those will be coming out on DVD any time soon....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Well, it's official – the next James Bond movie is Quantum of Solace.

It's a Fleming title, from a short story in the Bond collection For Your Eyes Only, but it's also probably the least cinematic title in the Bond canon. The story isn't even really a James Bond adventure – all Bond does in it is listen to a man at a cocktail party tell a story about a couple's screwed-up relationship and then go back to his hotel. It's an interesting, atypical Fleming story that I've actually always liked, but it certainly doesn't seem to be movie material.

Still, it's an actual Fleming title, and it indicates that the producers are sticking with the back-to-basics approach of Casino Royale. Tanner, over at the awesome Double O Section blog, has a very thoughtful post about this title, the original Fleming short story, and what it may bode for the new film. He also has pix of the new Bond Girls™, if that interests you.

Quantum of Solace is filming now and is scheduled for a Christmas release.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monster Movie(s)

Brandi and I went to see Cloverfield last night. I enjoyed everything about it – except for the idiots in the theater.

Why do people pay to see a movie if all they're going to do is play with their cellphones and talk to each other? Every time I get excited about seeing a movie in the theater, it seems like these same damned teenage assholes show up and just cheat me out of my enjoyment. It's bad enough that they talk loudly, but those friggin' cellphone screens are so bright, it distracts me and pulls me out of the movie.


Anyway, Cloverfield.

It's about as inherently goofy as any other giant monster movie and doesn't hold up to a lot of heavy critical analysis, but you know what? It's a GIANT MONSTER MOVIE. It doesn't need to. All it needs to do is be fun, and I thought it was definitely that.

Awesome giant monster? Check. Massive and spectacular scenes of destruction? Check. Surprises? Check. Scary scenes? Oh yeah. Moderately interesting characters? Close enough.

And, for what it's worth, I really enjoyed seeing a giant monster movie from the perspective of the civilians on the ground, rather than from the POV of yelling generals, brilliant scientists and heroic soldiers. The creature design by the Tippett studio was really cool, too.

SPOILER: Some folks are going to be frustrated by the lack of an explanation for the creature's existence and/or its motivations, but I thought leaving it unexplained was a great touch... although if you watch carefully, there's a hint to the beastie's origin near the end.

As a warm-up for Cloverfield, I rented the direct-to-DVD knock-off, Monster over the weekend. It was made by a low budget studio called The Asylum, which specializes in fast, dirt-cheap imitations of big studio blockbusters. Among their other titles are I Am Omega, AVH: Alien Vs Hunter, and Transmorphers. (!)

Working from the same basic premise of a giant monster attack on a city being recorded on home video by civilians in the middle of things, Monster was mildly entertaining, with a couple of good moments scattered amidst a lot of really boring crap. Still, it could have been worse. At least Monster was set in Tokyo, traditional stomping grounds of gargantuan critters. The cover art is particularly amusing as it not only riffs on Cloverfield, but the Korean monster film from last year, The Host. Those Asylum guys are sneaky.

Anyway, I recommend Cloverfield. It's may not be the greatest monster movie ever made, but it's damned good, and a heck of a thrill ride.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The People Have Spoken

...and the winner is: the original webcomic logo.

I want to thank everyone for sharing their opinions; I appreciate it.

I think what happened with this book is that it's been in the works for sooo long, that I've had too much time to think about and re-think about virtually every aspect of the project.

I'd been noticing over the last couple of years all these snazzy, ultramodern, typographic cover layouts on various comic book titles – cover layouts that really get away from the standard "comic book" look and employ the type-oriented approach of book and magazine design. I think a lot of these comics look really cool, and I got the itch to play around with that sort of look. Something more grown-up and classy.

Thus, the type-driven, art-deco cover "dress" that I decided to use on Femme Noir.

I do think it's a solid design, and I'm pleased with it. I also like the way it showcases the artwork. But, I have to admit, finally, that Femme Noir's not the right book for that sort of approach. It's not grown-up and classy.

Femme Noir is cartoon pulp, with robot mobsters, jungle girls from monster islands, gorilla crimebosses with human brains, and mad scientists with magnetic ray cannons. It's a fantastic crime comic full of color and action and bigger-than-life characters.

When I commissioned Nate Piekos to design the Femme Noir logo shown above, I wanted a logo that would convey all that, and Nate, as usual, delivered. It's served the feature well over the past seven years or so on numerous websites and I would be an idiot to ignore that brand equity.

Now, I am an idiot quite often – but I'm not so dumb that I won't listen when people point my idiocy out to me. The art deco type treatment might work on a trade paperback aimed at the bookstore market, but the original logo is pure comic book... and so is Femme Noir.

Thanks again for the feedback, folks. Look for that logo up there in your favorite comic shops this Summer!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Let Your Voice be Heard!

Okay guys, I need some help. I'm trying to decide which cover layout/logo to use on the upcoming Femme Noir comic book miniseries.

For the past year or so, I've been pretty well set on the layout/logo above left. I felt that it was less intrusive to the great art I was getting and looked kind of, well, classy.

But recently, various people – including my publisher – have been pointing out that the original Femme Noir logo by Nate Piekos (above right) has a certain amount of brand value, as we've been using it in association with the property since it began as a webcomic back in March of 2001. That's nearly seven years! Their argument is that we have spent a lot of time building brand equity into that logo and that it would be foolish to not use it on the comic book. It's a good point.

Now, I still personally prefer the "deco" look I came up with, but I'm open-minded, and the original logo certainly "works." I guess I'd just like to get a few more opinions before I make up my mind....

So what do you think? Post your choice in the comments and help me out, okay?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Those of you who read this blog here, at it's own site rather than on a RSS feed like my wife, may have noticed that I've been tinkering a bit with the layout and features.

Nothing earth-shattering, but for a while I had neat little Amazon widgets over on the sidebar with direct links to some of my books, and a link to my Amazon Wish List. Well, after a short trial run, they're gone. Aside from the utter shamelessness of the Wish List's presence on my blog, the links to Amazon seemed to really slow down the loading of the page, and for me, anyway, seemed to cause my browser to lock up sometimes. Besides, I already have text links to Amazon in the "Buy My Books" section over there, so the widgets seemed to be overkill.

Today I added a couple of new widgets, though. I think these will be helpful to you guys, especially if you have any interest in what I may be posting over in my Guns In The Gutters or Planet X Production Blog. These widgets display the headlines of my most recent posts to those blogs, so you can quickly see from right here when I've updated them and whether the new post is of any interest to you.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be tinkering with this site off and on indefinitely, but I wanted to mention these new features and get your feedback on them, if you've got any.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Meet John Law!

My good pal Gary Chaloner is an extraordinarily talented cartoonist. But don't take my word for it – the late, great Will Eisner was so taken with Gaz's talents, that he entrusted him with several of his classic characters, including old Spirit back-up stars Lady Luck and Mr. Mystic, as well as the one-eyed Crossroads City cop, John Law.

A few years back, IDW published a nice John Law collection, featuring both the handful of original Eisner stories from the late Forties, along with some newly-created adventures, brilliantly written and drawn by Gaz.

Now Gaz has set up a new website to archive all of the existing Law stories, and plans on continuing the series with a bunch of new adventures in the weeks and months to come. If you dig The Spirit, or crime comics in general, you should check it out.

(And, as you can see above, Gaz was gracious enough to contribute a pin-up to the forthcoming Femme Noir miniseries – a team-up, of sorts, featuring both the mystery woman of Port Nocturne and Crossroad's Finest!)

Kolchak Interview @ PULSE

I was just interviewed by Jen Contino over at the Comicon PULSE comic news site about the Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead comic book miniseries.

It unavoidably covers a lot of the same material as my post below, but she asked a few different questions, too.

Check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More on Kolchak

I thought I'd write a bit more here about my upcoming Kolchak miniseries from Moonstone Books, "Night Stalker of the Living Dead."

When I was first approached to pitch ideas for a Kolchak miniseries, I was told they were looking for an "event" – something to excite the existing Kolchak fans and maybe bring some new readers to the comic.

My first pitch, "Deadlyland," had Kolchak investigating a series of fatal freak accidents at a famous amusement park, being chased through the empty park at night by life-sized, homicidal cartoon characters, and eventually facing off against the insane spirit of the cryogenically-frozen creator of the aforementioned animated 'toons, who was entombed beneath the park in a forgotten freezer.

That story was deemed to not be suitably "event-like" – or maybe they just thought it was goofy (ha!) – and was rejected. (I'd still like to write that tale someday, though....)

I then decided on a strictly commercial approach. If the success of such comic books as The Walking Dead, Zombies Vs. Robots, and Marvel Zombies, along with the plethora of George Romero rip-offs on the shelves at Hollywood Video, were a reliable indicator of pop culture trends, then flesh-eating zombies were hot. The new vampires, in fact. And although Carl Kolchak had once faced down an old school, voodoo-type zombie back on the TV show, he'd never been faced with a full-blown, modern-styled, "zombie" apocalypse.

Carl Kolchak and zombies. Two great tastes that just might taste good together – and I even had the perfect, if obvious, title: "Night Stalker of the Living Dead." (Of course, I had to have Carl point out at one point in the story that these flesh-eating ghouls weren't – strictly speaking, anyway – "zombies.")

Moonstone liked it, too. I was told that I had to adhere to their continuity – Carl and the rest of the old cast work for L.A.'s Hollywood Dispatch now, rather than the Independent News Service in Chicago – but I was given a pretty free hand, otherwise.

In writing the character of Carl Kolchak, I went back to the first two TV movies written by Richard Matheson. This was, as far as I'm concerned, the best incarnation of ol' Carl.

Now, Kolchak has had a number of different incarnations over the years (and I'm not even including that recent "reimagining"). The character in the Jeff Rice novel isn't quite the character from the Richard Matheson teleplays, and the guy from the TV movies isn't quite the same guy as in the TV series.

In the ongoing series, for instance, Kolchak was a bit of a bumbler and oddly asexual, but in those original movies, he was surprisingly hardboiled and definitely had an eye for the ladies. In fact, in the first film he clearly had an intimate relationship with a sexy young Vegas cocktail waitress, and in The Night Strangler, he was romantically involved with a belly dancer. While I didn't plan on giving him an outright romance in my story, I did want to at least acknowledge that he found women attractive.

I also thought it would make a nice change of pace if, for once, the local police chief was his ally instead of his enemy. By making the sheriff a woman, I managed to kill two birds with one stone, narratively speaking, and I'm rather pleased with the way their relationship developed.

The nature of the menace also allowed me to stray a bit from the established Kolchak formula. Instead of having the usual "Carl investigates and unravels the mystery" sort of plot, I instead treated Carl more as a war correspondent, swept up in the current of events, reporting on what he observes and the actions of the other characters as they are faced with the overwhelming threat of almost unstoppable, cannibalistic hordes of undead.

I struggled to try and capture Kolchak's "voice," and although I don't think I was a 100% successful, it mostly "sounds" right... to me, anyway. Fortunately, Moonstone also hired me to letter the book, so I had the opportunity – rare for a comic book writer – to go in and fine-tune the dialogue and captions a bit after Tim Hamilton finished drawing the book.

And speaking of Tim Hamilton – man, how lucky am I?

Moonstone recruited Tim to draw the miniseries, and he brought an awful lot to it, with atmospheric, moody compositions that really helped sell the horror of Kolchak's situation. I am thrilled with his work on the book, and love how he delineated the characters. His Kolchak isn't a perfect likeness of the late Darren McGavin, but certainly captures the character's rumpled, doggedly persistent persona. His rendition of Sheriff Kristin Collins is not your typical comic book bombshell, either, but is instead, an attractive, distinctively believable woman with a realistic face and figure.

Anyway, we're wrapping this up now, and the first issue is schedule to hit stores in March. Both Darren McGavin and producer/director Dan Curtis passed away (and an ill-conceived revival TV series came and swiftly went) during the time that this book was in the works, and I only hope that this comic book miniseries successfully conveys my respect and admiration for the character they helped create.

When all is said and done, I'm grateful I had a shot at the property, and I hope the fans enjoy what I wrote.

I know they'll dig the art. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sneak Peek: Kolchak Tales #2

Moonstone has just posted the solicitation copy for the second issue of Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead, due in stores in April, 2008. Issue #1 has been solicited for March. Be sure to tell your local comics dealer to order you a copy or three.

The page above is from that second issue, and is just about the most text-heavy page in the book. Still, as Diana Rigg once explained to Miss Piggy, you gotta put plot exposition somewhere!

The three-issue miniseries – and the page above (click on it for a readable version) – is written & lettered by yours truly, with art by Tim Hamilton and colors by Ian Sokoliwski.

Here's the solicitation copy:
Written by Christopher Mills

Illustrated by Tim Hamilton
Cover by Dave Aikins
32 pages, color, $3.99

Forget the Children of the Corn... Kolchak and the local sheriff are up to their ears (pun intended) in ZOMBIES at a small-town corn festival.

But what is the terrible secret behind these walking, lifeless people...

and what else besides people has it affected?

This is one story Kolchak may not want to get to the bottom of!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Winter Bloggin'

Brandi and I caught up with some recent movies courtesy of a discount coupon from Hollywood Video this past weekend. We saw Live Free or Die Hard, 1408, Stardust, Hairspray, and Shoot 'Em Up.

The fourth Die Hard was entertaining, but, like the other DH sequels, just didn't live up to the original. 1408, based on a Stephen King story, was disappointing and non-scary. Stardust, based on a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, was actually a pretty decent fantasy film, with a great cast and solid story. I can only assume it didn't do better theatrically because it didn't have any CGI talking animals for the kiddies or pop songs. Speaking of songs, Hairspray was a fun musical version of the 1998 John Waters film, with very good retro-60's tunes and a surprising performance by John Travolta in drag (in the Divine role). It's always nice seeing Christopher Walken dance, too.

My favorite of the batch, though, was Shoot 'Em Up – an hysterical action film spoof with Clive Owen. Imagine a live-action Bugs Bunny cartoon turned gun porn. I loved every ridiculous, over-the-top minute of it. I'm going to have to pick this one up for my collection.

Writing-wise, I expect to be extraordinarily busy over the next six weeks or so – I've taken on a bit more work than I can probably handle, and all of my procrastinations have caught up with me – so I may be kinda scarce in these parts for the next month or so.

Nonetheless, I'll still try and post here whenever I have a few minutes and can think of something to write about, and even moreso at the Guns In The Gutters site (which I'm determined to update at least once a week) and Planet X Production Blog, both of which have new material today, so keep checking in, okay?

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Reading Stack

My mother-in-law sent me a check for Christmas, part of which was used to buy some new clothing without holes, and part of which went toward a stack of new trade paperbacks in an attempt to combat my increasingly stressful symptoms of comic book withdrawal.

So I zipped over to InStock Trades, a great discount graphic novel site, and ordered a big, heaping stack of stuff.

First, I picked up the latest volume of Dark Horse Comics' Chronicles of Conan series (Volume 13), reprinting the old Roy Thomas-John Buscema Marvel Conan the Barbarian comics. As much as I like Dark Horse's current Conan material, I like these more, and Thomas' back-of-the-book commentary is always a fascinating read.

Then I snagged DC's Sword of the Atom trade, collecting the 80's miniseries (and three specials) written by Jan Strnad and illustrated by the legendary Gil Kane. I loved these books when they came out back in '83-'88, as they took one of my favorite DC super hero second-stringers and plopped him down into an Edgar Rice Burroughs' inspired adventure with a bunch of six-inch tall sword-swinging aliens living in the Amazon jungle.

I also picked up the second Criminal trade by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. I really enjoyed the first story arc, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Brubaker's solid, hardboiled storytelling.

Next, I grabbed the first two volumes of Checker Books' Dick Tracy: The Collins Casefiles, collecting the first two years of Max Allan Collins' tenure on the classic newspaper strip, with art by the underrated Rick Fletcher. I'll definitely be reviewing these two volumes – and the Criminal trade I mentioned above – in my Guns In The Gutters blog once I've had a chance to read 'em.

Best of all, though, I was able to get DC's Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons, a collection of those gloriously kooky stories from World's Finest Comics back in the Seventies about the groovy, sideburned teenage sons of DC's most famous heroes. Written by Bob Haney and drawn by Dick Dillin – one of my first "favorite" artists – these stories are fantastic! Dated and goofy, to be sure, but I loved them as a kid, and a few years back, I tried to hunt down and pick up all the original issues that featured the boys. I'm still missing a few, so this trade paperback is a godsend. I never imagined that DC would ever reprint these since they're so period-specific and a continuity nightmare, but I guess they're now considered "kitsch."

Anyway, thanks to the generosity of my wife's mother, I've got plenty of stuff to read over these next few cold, winter weeks. I think I'll start with Sword of the Atom and see how it holds up.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Another Femme Noir Cover

This just showed up in my e-mail this evening. Digital painting by Alfredo Lopez Jr. over a pencil drawing by Joe Staton. Currently scheduled for Issue #3, due out in August or so.