Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Cover: Creepy #9

One last Creepy cover by Frank Frazetta for 2009. I picked this one because it played nicely into the sword & sorcery kick I've been on this month. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Peace on Earth! Give Me Presents!"

The headline quote is from one of my favorite Muppets, the drummer Animal, delivered with great enthusiasm during one of the Muppet holiday specials. And, like Animal, while I'm definitely down with all the "true meaning of Christmas" stuff - family, charity, etc. - I can't deny that even at age 44, a big part of the holiday for me is the swag.

And it didn't look like there was going to be any this year. Like a great many of our neighbors, we've had a rough dozen months financially, and we made the tough decision early on that we would not be exchanging gifts this year. Sure, we set aside a bit of scratch for the neice and nephews, but that was about all we could afford.

Surprisingly, though, my in-laws decided to go the gift card route with us this year and insisted that we spend them on "fun" stuff, so my wife and I were able to choose our own gifts. (And buying online, we were able to get some real bargains.) I was able to get some books that had been on my wish list for a long time - The Eurospy Guide, the Al Williamson Flash Gordon collection in hardcover at half-price, the fourth volume collecting the Justice League/Justice Society crossovers... and a few DVD sets like the Superman movie serials (for $4 new!) and the three seasons of Mission: Impossible I was missing. (Not to mention the Warlord volume and Wolfhound disc reviewed below)

Brandi also got some discs (Lost Season 5 and latest Harry Potter flick on Blu-Ray) and a new digital camera.

Overall, we had a good celebration, spending Christmas eve and morning with my family, and, thankfully, even got to enjoy a bit of the more materialistic side of the holiday. For that, I hereby publicly state, for the record, that I have the coolest in-laws on the planet.

I hope everyone else had a great holiday as well, and got some neat stuff, too. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Cover: Xmas Comics

Whatever you celebrate, have a great holiday! My most sincere season's greetings and best wishes to all of you for the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Of Warlords & Wolfhounds...

We've long established that I like sword & sorcery sagas, be they in the form of paperback pulp novels by Howard, Jakes, Carter et al, 70's comics like Claw and Dagar, or 80's drive-in movies like The Sword & The Sorcerer and The Beastmaster.

Well, this past week, I received some early holiday gift cards from my in-laws and, at their insistence, used them to acquire a couple more fantasy epics for my collection.

I always liked Mike Grell's Warlord comic book series from DC Comics, and have a fair number of issues from the middle of its long run. I also own a copy of its debut in the oddly-titled try-out series First Issue Special, and a handful of the earliest issues. But there are large gaps in my collection - especially during the book's initial years - so when I discovered that DC had collected the first 30 or so issues in one of its low-priced, B&W Showcase Presents volumes, I was thrilled.

I ordered the 500+ page book from Amazon and received it last Wednesday.

Great stuff. The Warlord is Colonel Travis Morgan of the United States Air Force, whose spy plane is shot down in 1969 over the Arctic during a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union. The plane descends through a "polar opening" and crashes into a jungle. Travis Morgan survives and finds himself in a primeval, savage world at the Earth's core. Yep, it's Burroughs' Pellucidar under a different name (Skartaris), and Morgan is immediately embroiled in a life of ERB-styled adventure.

First, he rescues a beautiful princess from a Tyrannosaur, then they're captured by slavers, then he's tossed into an arena as a gladiator, then he escapes and leads a rebellion, etc. etc.

It's familiar stuff, but Grell knows it, and has fun with it. The storytelling is relentless - the action moves at a breathless pace, doled out in compact, 17-page installments. The writing is a bit purple at times, but also self-aware and witty. The artwork is dynamic and detailed (at least until Vince Colletta takes over the inking chores about halfway through the volume) and Grell really lets his imagination have full reign, with a dizzying array of strange civilizations, bizarre creatures, plentiful cheescake (and beefcake) and frequent full-page and double-page action shots.

It's great fun and holds up really well as pure, old school comics entertainment. You can find the collection online for under $15 bucks, and it's one of the few bona fide bargains you're going to find in this day and age.

Also last week, I picked up the DVD of a movie I'd read about over on Ain't It Cool News almost a year ago, and had been eager to see ever since.

Wolfhound is a Russian sword & sorcery film, recently released on DVD by the Weinstein Company. While the story (based on a novel by Mariya Semyonova) borrows from numerous sources, director Nikolay Lebedev brings the tale to the screen with style and energy.

The story chronicles the adventures of an ex-slave-turned-warrior (Aleksandr Bukharov), who, like Conan in the 1981 film, is out to avenge the massacre of his clan and the murder of his parents by raiders. In fact, the first scene in the movie is a virtual remake of the opening of John Milius' Conan the Barbarian. But, fortunately, Wolfhound soon takes on a style and tone of its own, with an appealing hero, a solid fantasy plot, exciting (if a bit over-edited) swordplay, gorgeous photography, great, unobtrusive special effects, and a terrific climax. The performances are good, the music is suitably sweeping, and the production design is excellent.

Now, we all know that I'm not hard to please when it comes to sword & sorcery films. Heck, I can recite from memory the plots of all the Deathstalker films, and think watching Hawk the Slayer for the fiftieth time is a great way to waste a Sunday afternoon. But Wolfhound is a genuinely good movie that treads some familiar ground beneath its mud-encrusted boots, but does so in a satisfying and compelling way with a number of cool touches. It does slow down just a bit in the middle, but picks up nicely in the third act.

Seriously, what other movie has a barbarian hero with a bat for a pet?

The Weinstein Company/Genius Products DVD is a bare bones affair with no extra features whatsoever. It does present the movies in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, with both English (badly dubbed) and Russian audio options. I recommend watching it in Russian with the English subtitles.

Highly recommended for fantasy fans.

Friday, December 18, 2009

He's a Good Cop.

Someone has finally uploaded to YouTube the entire 1967 unsold pilot for Dick Tracy, produced by the producer responsible for the same era's Batman and Green Hornet television shows, William Dozier. With Ray MacDonnell as Dick and Victor Buono as the villiain, "Mr. Memory," the half-hour pilot falls somewhere between the camp of Batman and the somewhat more straight-faced Hornet.

MacDonnell's okay, but he's no Ralph Byrd!

Here's the whole show:

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New FEMME NOIR Review

Yep, even at this late date, people - or at least this guy - are still writing about the Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries paperback collection.
In an industry that seems to rate it's heroines less on how badass they are and more on how little they wear, Femme Noir is a welcome breath of fresh air. She's a lady who'll kick your ass five ways from Sunday, can shoot blazing, twin-pistol death with the likes of the Shadow or the Spider, and doesn't have to dress like the Phantom Lady to battle evil.
Thanks, Stacy!

Oh - and since this is my shameless self-promotion blog (see, it says it right up there in the header): It's not too late to treat the mystery or comics fan on your Christmas list to a copy of the Femme Noir trade paperback! It's still available from Amazon and In-Stock Trades, among other dealers.

And, as I've mentioned before, my friends in marketing keep telling me that nothing helps sell books these days more than positive reviews at Amazon. If you've read and enjoyed the book already, I'd appreciate it if you took a moment to post a short review on the Femme Noir product page.

As for those of you who have already done so, please know that you have my gratitude.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Old School Geek

Here's an oddity from my files. About six or seven years back I was considering creating another online comic, but unlike Femme Noir, Perils On Planet X and Gravedigger, I thought I'd try my hand at a humor strip instead of serialized adventure.

Since "geek"/gaming humor seemed (and continues) to be the most popular genre for humor webcomics, I thought I'd write a strip about my high school days in the early 80's and what passed for geek culture back then. The original Dungeons & Dragons and other classic RPGs, TRS-80 computers, Atari 2600 game consoles, cable TV, and whatever science fiction and fantasy fiction I remembered being particularly popular at the time among my peer group.

I called it "Old School Geek" - shortened here to "Old School" before I saw that awful Will Farrell movie - and asked my friend Chuck Bordell, an artist I'd worked with in the past, to draw it. It was actually based on a comic strip I had drawn back when I was in my 20s for the amusement of my old high school buddies, and like that strip, used my former classmates as the main characters. The goofball above with the curly hair, sideburns and glasses is a caricature of yours truly, circa 1982.

I'm pretty sure we only produced two finished strips, and this is the only one I can find. I decided that this kind of writing wasn't really my forte, and felt that the jokes (if you can call them that) were too "inside."

Anyway, I stumbled across this tonight and thought it would be interesting to post it here. Click on the image for a more readable size.

Yet One More Blog....

Yes. It's true. I have created yet another blog devoted to one of my many pop culture obsessions. A new addition to the "Atomic Pulp Network." This one is a bit different, however, as - for now, anyhow - I have no intention of writing anything new specifically for it.

It's called Cheap Thrills, and it's a one-stop archive for any and all reviews I have written of classic cliffhanger movie serials on DVD. The items there are all recycled from my DVD Late Show column (and, in some cases, blog posts you've already read here), so it's not essential reading for anyone. But - if you're interested in old serials on DVD and want to easily read one fan's opinion of some of the titles available... well, you'll find them here.

Now, I said above that I won't be writing anything new for the blog, and that's true. But, I do still have some old reviews in my files that I'm polishing up and will post on the site eventually, and any new articles I write of discs I receive in the future will also be posted there as well as in my column. For the time being, though, it's strictly a dedicated archive.

So... check it out if you want. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter of my Discontent

Or something like that. Winter's finally here, with roughly a foot of snow on the ground from today's storm. The farmhouse is drafty and chilly, and the dog isn't quite so eager to go outside during the day... and certainly doesn't dawdle when she does.

I've been going through a period of self-examination and trying to take some positive action toward improving my - and my family's - situation. Persistent health and financial problems (which go hand-in-hand) have had me down for too long - years! - and I'm hopeful that some of the steps I've recently taken will help me turn things around.

I'm working on more Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Midnight scripts for Moonstone, and have signed on to contribute further prose stories to the company's line of pulp anthologies. I also expect the Femme Noir webcomics collection and new Gravedigger graphic novel to see print in the new year. Other projects are also continuing to creep along, and I'll let you know once I have a firmer idea of their publication date.

Unfortunately, I've fallen off track a bit with my DVD Late Show column for Forces of Geek, and am working hard to get that back on schedule. I've got a lot of discs to review, and writing the column is something I really enjoy doing.

This winter I'm working out of a different room, having moved my office a few months ago. This one is warmer (with the space heater, anyway) and has a door I can close, so hopefully it will be a more conducive atmosphere to work and write in.

We're rapidly closing in on the end of the year. And, frankly, I can't say that I'm going to miss 2009 when it's gone. I'm hoping that as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, I can finally shake off some of the things that have been holding me back (both internal and external) and start making some serious progress toward accomplishing some long-held goals. Like writing that novel, for instance, or actually making a reasonable living again.

It's really tough to be - and then stay - positive these days, and it's not something I've got much experience with. But... I'm trying.

Thanks for being there, guys and gals. It helps.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Princess of Mars Trailer



Well, it looks like The Asylum's low budget version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars is getting closer to release. They've just posted the trailer on their site and YouTube. Interestingly, they're trying to tie it into James Cameron's upcoming megabudget opus Avatar.

I'm not going to go into everything that's wrong about this project creatively - clearly, there's a lot wrong with it - but I am curious to see how this challenge to the ERB Estate's interpretation of "public domain" plays out.

It's nothing personal on my part - I've nothing against ERB Inc. and both understand and sympathize with their desire to keep a tight grip on all of Burroughs' creations - but I do believe that they have been willfully misinterpreting the legal definition of "public domain" in order to maintain their hold over said creations, and unjustly using threats of litigation to prevent anyone from challenging them.

Part of the original intent of allowing works to fall into the public domain in the first place was to allow future creators to create new, derivative works from PD material (Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being probably the most obvious, recent example of this, along with Spielberg's War of the Worlds, and the many, many Sherlock Holmes and Dracula pastiches over the years), while the ERB folks have been insisting that the PD status of Burroughs' early works mean only that the works themselves can be freely reprinted, while derivative works (such as films or graphic novels) are not allowed. I believe that the law does allow such derivative works... and apparently, so does The Asylum's lawyers.

I'm very curious to see if this movie actually gets released and what happens if it does.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Gordon Scott's Tarzan on DVD!

At last! Gordon Scott's Tarzan swings onto DVD!

Having recently made available the five Lex Barker Tarzan titles, the Warner Archives online store is now offering all six Gordon Scott Tarzan films on burn-to-order DVDs.

These are not available in retail stores nor sites like Amazon, are a bit pricey and feature no extras, but at least they're in their proper aspect ratios (I can't wait to see Tarzan's Greatest Adventure and Tarzan the Magnificent in widescreen!). As with the Lex Barker titles, they go for $19.99 a pop, though you can buy them in a set for a better price (roughly $10 each). Here's the link.

Man, I really wish I had some money!!! There are now nearly two dozen titles offered through the Warners Archive program that I'm dying to get! Aside from the eleven Tarzan films, there's Gene Roddenberry's 70s sci-fi pilots Genesis 2 and Planet Earth, Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, Captain Sindbad, The Bermuda Depths, Captain Nemo & the Underwater City, and the pilot film for The Man from Atlantis.

Wednesday Covers: Detective Comics

Detective Comics #444 kicked off a great multi-part story where Batman apparently murders Ras ul Ghul's daughter Talia. Here are Jim Aparo's covers for the first and last part of the then-shocking epic...