Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New DVD Column Up!

My latest DVD Late Show column for Forces of Geek has been posted.

This edition includes reviews of Transporter 3 (which you've already read), Quantum of Solace, The World Is Not Enough (Blu-Ray), Goldfinger (Blu-Ray), Moonraker (Blu-Ray), Andy Richter Controls the Universe – The Complete Series, Escape From Witch Mountain, Return to Witch Mountain, Pinocchio - 70th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray), and Space Angel Collection #1 in glorious SynchroVox!

Here's a direct link. Enjoy!

Transporter 3

As we all know, I’m an action film junkie and a rabid fan of the balding badass Brit known as Jason Statham. For my money, he’s the only action star currently working who’s worthy of that noble appellation. He is the sole legitimate successor to the blood-encrusted legacies of Eastwood, Bronson, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Norris, and his films are real favorites, as they manage to honor the no-holds-barred, balls-out action genre perfected in the 80’s… and keep it alive.

I’m particularly fond of the Transporter series. The first entry was a fun blend of kung-fu and car chase flix, with plenty of explosions, a hot babe (Qi Shu) and a suitably iconic protagonist. The second upped the ante, with even more outrageous stunts and sly wit, and now Lionsgate brings the third (and hopefully far from final) entry in the Transporter franchise to DVD and Blu-Ray Disc.

Once again written by producer Luc Besson (Leon, The Fifth Element) and Robert Mark Kamen, this latest installment of the series has another delightfully ludicrous plot: Frank Martin (Statham) is forced by a nefarious villain to drive a beautiful young hostage (fetchingly freckled newcomer Natalya Rudakova) across the European countryside. If he attempts to stop or leave the car, a bracelet on his wrist will detonate and blow him to hell. This set up makes for a bunch of interesting situations and action sequences, including a fantastic bicycle chase and some outrageous – and completely ridiculous – car/train stunts.

In other words, it’s awesome!

Personally, I'd rank it just below #2, but it's still a helluva lot of fun. (But remember, I like the old American Ninja movies, too.)

Director Olivier Megaton (!) is new to the franchise, but delivers a creditable job, keeping the pace brisk and imbuing the film with a slick, hip look. My only complaint is that he edits the action scenes and fights with the same ADD, hyperkinetic cutting style so in vogue today, instead of letting shots play out and allowing the audience to track and enjoy the efforts of the highly-paid and talented stunt teams.

Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray of Transporter 3, looks and sounds fantastic, with a razor-sharp, hi-def 2:35.1 widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital and DTS-HD audio. The package also includes a standard definition "Digital Copy" of the film (does anyone actually use these things? I don’t, and I resent paying for them.) There are a number of bonus features, including a commentary track by Megaton, various featurettes, and several BD Live applications.

If you’re a Statham and/or Transporter fan, number 3 is definitely worth picking up. And, if you’re HD equipped, the Blu-Ray is the way to go. At the store where I picked up my copy, the Blu-Ray was actually a buck cheaper than the standard def DVD!

Monday, March 30, 2009

March's Last Monday Morning

This weekend, I did a little writing, but mostly watched movies with the wife. It was pretty dreary, weather-wise, and it just seemed like the kind of weekend that was best suited to vegging out in front of the TV. Also, last week just seemed too long and rough, so we headed out to the local video store and brought home a stack of light entertainment.

And light was the word. A Disney film and a bunch of (mostly lowbrow) comedies.

Let's see if I can remember everything... we watched Role Models, with Paul Rudd, and thought it was pretty fun. Then the Seth Rogen double feature of Pineapple Express and Zack & Miri Make A Porno. Neither was quite as good as I'd hoped, but they were both entertaining. Pineapple Express almost worked as a stoner homage to 80's buddy action films, while Zack & Miri was a pretty decent – if vulgar – character study from Kevin Smith. Too long, though.

We also picked up a Simon Pegg comedy that we hadn't heard of before, How To Lose Friends & Alienate People. It had a good cast, and was a fair satire of entertainment journalism and the cult of celebrity, but lacked the spark of his collaborations with Edgar Wright.

The best of the comedies was Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, a sweet, smart teenage romance with some bite, featuring remarkably sincere performances from Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. In fact, I've got a bit of a crush on the pretty young Dennings, which, since I'm in my 40's is probably a little creepy, but if I had known her in high school, I would so have been in love with her. She's going to be a big star, I'm guessing.

Finally, we spun Disney's Bolt, a charming if predictable little flick, with some funny gags and a fairly smart script. Hell, I didn't even mind John Travolta's voice work.

Anyway, that was the majority of my weekend, though I did do a bit of development work on a new graphic novel idea and lettered a few pages of that Western comic I'm doing for Image's Outlaw Territory anthology. I also finished the Nick Carter spy paperback I'd been reading, and am contemplating cracking another one.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Femme Noir Nominated!

Joe Staton and I were shocked and honored to discover our own names – and that of our Femme Noir funnybook – among the nominees for the 2009 Spinetingler Awards, being given out by Spinetingler Magazine. These are awards given out for the best in crime fiction. Here we are, in the "Graphic Novel" category:
Graphic Novel:
• 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
• Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
• Femme Noir, by Christopher Mills and Joe Staton
• Hawaiian Dick, by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin
• Incognegro, by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece
• Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
As Spinetingler editor Sandra Ruttan explains, “Winners in each category will be determined by public vote. Voting will be open until April 25, 2009. Please follow this link to cast your vote in any or all of the categories, to see the covers nominated, and to follow the links to the short stories.” The victors will be announced on April 30.

Considering the competition, we don't have a shot in hell, but still, as they say, "it's an honor just to be nominated."

On the other hand, it'd be nice to win, or at least get some votes.

What are you waiting for? Go vote. Now!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Godzilla Endorses...

I just realized that I haven't posted a Godzilla video on this blog since July, 2007. That needs to be corrected. Here's two of the prehistoric pitchmonster's greatest hits:



And, my favorite:



Are you going to call him a sell-out?

The Invaders Reconsidered

I recently finished watching the second season of the Sixties television series The Invaders, which starred Roy Thinnes (The Norliss Tapes) as architect David Vincent, the only man on Earth to know that aliens are quietly infiltrating the human population in preparation for a full-fledged invasion.

It's probably one of the best pure science fiction shows that was ever produced for television, yet nobody talks about it much. Most likely because it only ran two seasons and didn't have quite enough episodes to be attractive for syndication, so it wasn't rerun much after its original network run. But it was a damned smart show, played straight and serious, with an over-arching "mythology" reminiscent of the ones we see on genre dramas today.

This wasn't camp. As conceived by independent auteur Larry Cohen (God Told Me To, Black Ceasar), The Invaders was TV's first real examination of sustained paranoia on a dramatic series. The alien invaders were indistinguishable from humans, except that they did not bleed, breathe or have a pulse. Some had oddly mutated pinky fingers that stuck out at an odd angle, but not all of them. They had infiltrated industry, the military, various police forces and institutions. They were allegedly emotionless. They were organized and ruthless. And they had cool rayguns and little discs that would give you a cerebral hemorrhage. Oh, and little crystals that could hypnotize you and make you do their will.

And the lone voice crying out to warn humanity? A handsome young architect who had the misfortune of seeing a saucer land late one night on a lonely desert road.

I've seen the series dismissed as being formulaic – Vincent uncovers an alien plot, tries to warn the authorities, is ignored, and then foils the plot himself before moving on. But that's really only the first half of the first season. As the series goes on, he manages to convince others of the extraterrestrial threat, and they become his allies. In Season 2, he actually joins a group of "believers," led and financed by a wealthy industrialist. By the end of the series, even the government is convinced, and preparing for war. I wonder what a third season would have been like?

It's a Quinn Martin production, and it feels very much like a sci-fi take on The Fugitive, Martin's popular hit of the same era. But it's influence has been huge, evident most of all in Chris Carter's The X-Files. (I suppose that's why he got Thinnes to guest star on several episodes.) It was the first ongoing, adult TV drama (as opposed to anthologies like The Outer Limits) to deal with the idea of an alien takeover, and it did so seriously, without goofy monster suits or inappropriate comic relief.

I never saw the show when it aired, nor in reruns later. I did have both the Big Little Book and Whitman juvenile novel based on the show (a very odd choice, as the show was clearly intended for adults), and I later picked up the paperback tie-in by Kieth Laumer. Some episodes were offered on VHS in the late 80's but they were priced beyond my budget at the time. Fortunately, both seasons are now available on DVD from CBS/Paramount, and they're highly recommended.

The transfers are excellent, and each episode is given an on-screen introduction by Thinnes. There are a couple of episode commentaries by Thinnes and producer William Ward, and the second season set has a full-length interview with the star. Both sets are attractively packaged.

I do wish the show was more highly regarded, and I'm glad that it's available again in an affordable, high quality format. Hopefully, this will allow others to get a fresh look at the show and re-evaluate it's place in the sci-fi TV pantheon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Cover: A Shroud for Jesso

Just a cool Gold Medal paperback cover for Wednesday. As to the artist, I can't quite make out the signature, but the style is familiar. Maybe Mort Kuntsler?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Podcast Interview

Chuck Moore, of the Comic Related website, interviewed me last week about the Femme Noir trade paperback. I'm not particularly coherent, and I sound like I'm mumbling, but if you are up to the audio challenge, you can find it here.

Tuesday Morning Musings

• My much-anticipated Man From U.N.CL.E. set showed up yesterday, a day earlier than Amazon had promised. I ended up taking the day off and going through all the bonus features and watching various episodes from the first two seasons. I'm in spy-fi heaven, brothers.

• To make it seem even more like Christmas morning, I also received in the mail, courtesy of my pal and collaborator Joe Staton, a copy of the new Tales of the Green Lantern Corps trade paperback, which collects the 1981 three-issue miniseries of the same name, along with a bunch of short features from the same era spotlighting various alien members of the aforementioned Corps. The main story, though, was the first time (I believe) the comic ever attempted to show all 3600 members of the star-spanning police force, and artistically, it's a bravura performance by Joe and inker Frank McLaughlin. Many of Joe's alien creations are brilliant! The story – by Len Wein and Mike W. Barr – is pretty nifty, too, and I understand that recent events in DC's Green Lantern titles have drawn heavily upon its ideas.

• I just discovered that Warners has launched a DVD-on-demand program, called Warners Archive, where they're taking some of their more obscure titles – or ones they don't have much confidence in commercially – and making them available on their website for about twenty bucks each. When you order a movie, they'll burn you a disc and send it to you. They have about 150 titles available so far; the three that interest me are all genre films – Captain Sindbad, Captain Nemo's Underwater City, and the George Pal production of Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, starring Ron Ely. Of course, since I just got the U.N.C.L.E. set, it will be a while before I can afford to try out the service. You can find the info here.

Sigh. Looks like I'll have to get back to work now....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Morning Musings - SpyFi Edition

Welcome to another installment of my early Monday morning musings, where I catch up on whatever's been going on over the weekend.

• OPEN CHANNEL "D." Last Friday, several of the spy blogs I visit were reporting that Amazon had the complete Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD collection on sale for more than half off the retail price, for one day only! It only took a little begging, but Brandi bought it for me, and it should be here Tuesday. I'm a huge U.N.CL.E. fan, and I've been rather desperate to get my hands on this set, and although money will be tight for a couple weeks because of it, I'm thrilled that it's on the way!

• Speaking of old TV shows, a couple weeks back, I traded in some old stuff and picked up the second seasons of Get Smart and the 80's private eye show, Simon & Simon. We're about halfway through the seasons (Brandi also likes S&S quite a bit), and having a lot of fun revisiting these shows. The second season of Smart is probably its best, and S&S is fun 80's escapism with a couple of charismatic leads.

At the same time, I picked up the latest Transporter movie on Blu-Ray (it was a buck cheaper than the 2-disc DVD). I loved it. It was ludicrous, and not quite as good as Transporter 2, but close, and a damned fun ride. Jason Statham rules.

• And, speaking of spies (U.N.C.L.E., Smart, etc.), I recently found all my Nick Carter, Killmaster paperbacks at my parents' house, and brought them home. I've got about thirty of them (nearly 300 were published), some from the 70's and quite a bunch from the 80's. Nick Carter was an American secret agent for AXE, whose paperback original adventures ran the gamut from straight Cold War intrigue to over-the-top pseudo-sci-fi adventures that would have embarrassed Roger Moore's Bond! Many different authors contributed anonymously to the series over the years. I loved the books as a teen, and I'm having a great time re-reading some of them now. I'm currently working my way through The Eyes of the Tiger, and it's silly, refreshingly un-PC fun.

• I also got an advance DVD screener of the Quantum of Solace DVD last Friday, and, well, I still don't like it. My least favorite Bond film in years. All my original complaints remain – except that I've warmed (slightly) toward the Jack White/Alicia Keyes theme. Otherwise, I still think it's a near-incoherent mess, and I think the film editors should be shot.

• Not spy related: I received the Buck Rogers statue from ReelArt Studios, last week, as well. It's friggin' gorgeous. Not only is it marvelously sculpted and flawlessly painted, but it's a minor marvel of engineering, with Buck and his flaming jetpack perched atop a billowing pillar of smoke. If you're a fan of the character and can afford it, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Cover: Captain Midnight

This week's cover – and it's going up very late, sorry – is a bit different, as it's not yet a comic book. You may remember some time back (almost two years ago), I mentioned that I was working on a revival of the old radio/serial/comic book/TV aviator hero Captain Midnight for Moonstone Books. Well, artist Richard Clark and I are finally getting it together.

This is our proposed cover for the Captain Midnight "Zero Issue." The painting is by Rich, and the logo and trade dress are my work. You're seeing it pretty much the same time that the publisher is. Enjoy.

Whew!

I spent nearly twenty hours straight yesterday – with only a few short breaks – doing all of the final production on the Femme Noir Volume One: The Dark City Diaries trade paperback collection and uploading the print files to the Ape Entertainment server. From roughly 6 AM Tuesday to 2 AM Wednesday, I sat in front of this computer, going over each page one last time, re-naming and re-numbering the files, and uploading them to the publisher.

My back is still killing me.

All four issues. All eight original covers. Two bonus stories. A foreword. An afterword. A sketch book. Biographies of me and Joe. 148 pages + covers... and I seriously underestimated how long it would take.

Whew, again.

And somewhere in there, I recorded a podcast interview for the Ape guys about the book. I'm not certain that I was very coherent. I'll let you know when and where it appears so we can all have a good laugh.

Now I have to get back to writing. I have a script and a short story I'm determined to finish by the end of the month. And then, a couple of big design jobs. And then?

Probably a nervous breakdown. :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Early Sunday Morning

It's been an interesting few weeks. I've been very busy writing and trying to write, and I turned in my first script for what is intended to be a new ongoing Kolchak series from Moonstone some days ago. Hopefully, it will pass muster with everyone necessary (it is a licensed property, after all), and I'll get to write more.

I've also put all the finishing touches on the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries trade paperback. I'm not going to beg everyone to pre-order it again – I figure that if you read this blog, you've already made up your mind and are sick of hearing me grovel. But I do want to say how exciting this is for me. This will be my first genuine graphic novel (The Night Driver was an adaptation; it wasn't mine), and I've been working so damned long on the project that having a nice, thick, bookshelf edition of the material to hold in my hand and place on my shelves is going to be so sweet.

That I also was able to personally design and lay-out the book makes it even more satisfying. This thing is going to be exactly the way I want it; of course, any mistakes will be mine, too. That's why I haven't shipped off all the files quite yet (that will be late tonight). I've been going over them with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, determined that there will be no embarrassing typos in this volume. (That, of course, just jinxed it. Sigh.)

The long-gestating Captain Midnight project finally seems to be coming together, as well. It's been an exciting week on that score – artist Rich Clark has laid out the "zero issue" completely, and we went over his layouts together a few days ago. They look great. He's also painted a knock-out of a cover. Once we've run it by the publishers and gotten their reaction, I'll be sure to share it with you guys here.

Finally, this past week, I was offered a design gig, one that will allow me to get a brand-new, state-of-the-art computer, with a whole bunch of software and software upgrades I've been needing for a long time. Not only will this make the aforementioned gig possible, but should make it possible for me to accept more of the opportunities that occasionally come my way, opportunities that I've had to turn down because I lacked the technical means to do them.

I'm also hoping that it will allow me to pursue a personal side project that I've been wanting to do for a few years. More on that later, if it comes together.

Anyway, it's late (or, more accurately, very early) and I should get to bed so I can rise at a reasonable (for me) hour. I'll try and post more frequently in the next few weeks, but I still have a lot on my plate, and I'm not sure how much blogging time I'll have.

Later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mugshots

A rather disreputable-looking pair, aren't they? Actually, they're Joe Staton's caricatures of me (top) and him, for the "creator bio" page of the forthcoming Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries trade collection. I just thought you guys would get a kick out of seeing them. I sure do! In fact, that's the only caricature of me that I've ever liked!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Busy Busy Busy...

Sorry I haven't posted here for a while, I've been swamped and trying to deliver some jobs in at least the same month as their deadlines.

The Femme Noir trade paperback's going to the publisher this weekend. If you haven't ordered your copy yet, you better do so soon!

More posts by the weekend. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

March Projects Update

Despite a bad bout of the flu that I'm only just now getting over, and some other recent crises, I'm working my butt off these days. I'm running a bit behind schedule, but I'm hanging in there.

I'm just wrapping up my script for the first issue of the new Kolchak: The Night Stalker Files ongoing series that I told you guys about last fall. It should be finished Friday. If it passes muster, it'll be winging it's way off to the artist right away. I've seen samples of the guy's work, and the book should look great.

Immediately after that document gets e-mailed off to Moonstone, I'll be calling up artist Richard Clark, who's illustrating the long-delayed Captain Midnight one-shot special, "Assault on Midnight Mesa." He's already done thumbnail layouts of the entire issue from my plot, and we'll be going over them panel-by-panel to make sure that everything works perfectly before he starts on the finished art. Then, I'll be calling Joe Gentile at Moonstone to discuss other Captain Midnight projects, including the equally long-delayed Midnight prose anthology I'm editing and a very exciting new comics project which is projected to feature the good Captain along with a couple of other famous Golden Age aces on a regular basis.

More on that as the plans finalize.

Lots of Femme Noir stuff is on the way! The page above is from this year's Femme Noir story in Ape Entertainment's Free Comic Book Day special, Ape Comics Cartoonapalooza! It's called "Demon Bat," and is penciled by Joe Staton, inked by Mark Stegbauer and colored by Michael Watkins. It will be available in comic book shops on Free Comic Book Day, May 2, 2009.

Also in May, the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries trade paperback collection will be on sale. As I mentioned a few days ago, it's listed in the current edition of Diamond Comics' PREVIEWS catalog, and if you want to be sure to get a copy, you should head for your favorite comic book shop and pre-order it now. Six complete stories, a cover gallery, original concept art by Joe, an intro by Max Collins... 148 pages on good paper stock for just $20 bucks. C'mon! How can you pass that up?

The original Femme Noir webcomics are currently being re-colored by the above mentioned Mister Watkins, and will be collected in book form as soon as they are completed, along with a brand new story, "The Beast of the City." Before that, though, these completely remastered strips will be appearing on Ape Entertainments new online comics site, ApeCMX.com, starting next month!

There are also plans percolating to make the Dark City Diaries miniseries available for download to people's iPhones in the next month or so. I'll keep you posted.

And if you happen to be in Maine on Sunday, May 17th, you can drop by the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland, and get Joe Staton and I to sign your copy! Yep, I'll be making one of my very rare public appearances with my Femme Noir partner Joe at this one-day celebration of indie comics. It's being put on by my good pals at Casablanca Comics, and it looks like it's going to be a blast.
Joe and I have also collaborated on an 8-page western story (a page from that tale is shown above) called "The Face on the Poster." It's inked by my Gravedigger collaborator, Rick Burchett, and is currently being colored by Femme Noir's ace colorist, Michael Watkins. It's scheduled to appear in the second volume of Image Comics' Outlaw Territory Western anthologies. I have no idea when the book is scheduled to come out, but I do know that the story looks gorgeous, and I'm eager to see it in print.

On top of all this stuff I've mentioned so far, Perils on Planet X with Gene Gonzales & Ian Sokolowiski, and Gravedigger: The Predators, with Rick Burchett & Fred Harper, are both continuing to chug along, and I hope to be able to announce publication dates soon.

I've also agreed to write a ghost story for another upcoming Moonstone Monsters prose anthology, this time in collaboration with my lovely wife, Brandi. And I still hope to get started on the Ravenwulf novel before Summer.

Plus, I'm still editing Otis Adelbert Kline's Swords of Venus and Fredric Brown's Martians Go Home! series for Sequential Pulp Comics. They're both looking great!

So, yeah, as I've mentioned before, I'm writing full-time these days, and I only hope that eventually it actually turns into an income-generating endeavor. Your continued support and enthusiasm for my efforts will help that happen sooner, and I truly appreciate it.

Thanks!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday Cover: Killraven

Amazing Adventures #32, cover by P. Craig Russell. My first exposure to Russell's art and Don McGregor's writing. A very dense, very bizarre comic, and when I bought it – and for several years afterward – I had no idea what it was about. It's gorgeous to look at, though.

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately; I've been squeezed painfully between several pressing deadlines, we've had some financial crises to deal with, and both Brandi and I have been battling (mostly unsuccessfully) particularly virulent strains of influenza. I feel besieged.

Spring cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New DVD Column Posted

My latest DVD Late Show column for Forces of Geek has been posted.

This edition includes brief, "fast and dirty" reviews of Cyclops, Terminal Invasion, The Final Countdown (Blu-Ray), The Way of War, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., Viva, American Scary, My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition, Tales From the Darkside: Season 1, Friday the 13th - The Series: Season 2, Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder (Blu-Ray), and The Invaders: Season 2.

Here's a direct link. Enjoy!