Tuesday, November 30, 2010

O Masters, O Noble Persons....

Here's the first page of the Sinbad: The Coils of the Serpent graphic novel/proposal, with art and colors by Eduardo Barreto and script & letters by me. Click on the image for a larger view.

The project is coming along, and I hope to be shopping it around to publishers shortly after the first of the year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

For many, Leslie Nielsen, who passed away this weekend at age 84, will be best remembered as a talented comic actor, with credits like Airplane!, The Naked Gun (spun-off from the brilliant, short-lived TV series, Police Squad!), and Dracula, Dead And Loving It. And while I like all of those, and think Nielsen was fantastic in them, to me, he'll always be Commander J. J. Adams, the proto-Kirk of Forbidden Planet.

Of course, he was funny.

Rest well, Sir. You will be missed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Meanwhile... at The Late Show

Just another periodic reminder that I also write and publish reviews of cult, B-movie and genre DVD and Blu-Rays at my DVD Late Show website.

Over the last month, I looked at a variety of interesting titles, including The Asylum's lowbrow teen sex comedy MILF, the new special "Hyperdrive Edition" of the John Carpenter/Dan O'Bannon cult sci-fi classic Dark Star, the Bulldog Drummond-esque British television serial, Dick Barton, Special Agent, and the "Roger Corman Cult Classic," Not Of this Earth, starring porn legend Traci Lords!

Also, I covered several great double feature discs, including the 80s sci-fi monster two-fer of The Terror Within & Dead Space, the Herman Cohen 60s classics, Horrors of The Black Museum and The Headless Ghost, the "Positively No Refunds Double Feature" of Cuban Rebel Girls (Errol Flynn's sad, final film) and Untamed Women, and the awesome Filipino action package One-Armed Executioner & They Call Her... Cleopatra Wong!

I've got reviews of the new Mad Max high definition Blu-Ray, the DC Comics Showcase collection Superman/Shazam!, and The Asylum's freewheeling, monster-movie adaptation of Herman Melville: 2010 Moby Dick!

So, if you're into these kinds of flicks, please take a moment and check out the DVD Late Show site. Thanks!

Sinbad in the Caliph's Harem

Here are Eduardo Barreto's rough layouts for two pages of our Sinbad: Coils of the Serpent graphic novel, wherein our swashbuckling Persian mariner gets caught dallying in the Caliph's harem. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

With luck, we'll have our proposal ready to be shopped around to publishers just after New Year's. I'll keep you posted, of course....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Cover: SHE

For this week's "Wednesday Cover," I thought I'd change things up a bit, and start to occasionally toss in some vintage VHS box covers along with the comics, pulp and paperbacks. These really bring back memories of haunting the local "mom & pop" independent video stores when I was in my late teens and early twenties, before the big (and now-defunct) chains took over, and before DVDs revolutionized the home video market. Don't get me wrong - digital video was a huge improvement, and I wouldn't give up my vast collection of discs for anything, but along with DVDs came lousy, dull Photoshop cover art.

At the height of the videotape era, VHS distributors really worked hard to sell their product, and produced "art" that lingers in memory even 25years later. For example, the cover for this 1982, post-Apocalyptic barbarian flick starring Sandahl Bergman, fresh off Conan the Barbarian. despite the title, this SHE has no connection with H. Rider Haggard's classic novel, and is a pretty standard, shot-in-Italy cheesefest. Still, that box art got me to shell out my three bucks for a rental...

More Love for Femme Noir

Even at this late date, reviews of the Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries graphic novel are still popping up here and there around the web. Today, my attention was called to this one on Dan Fleming's "My Year In Crime" blog:
In today's world of decompressed storytelling, where stories are stretched out to accommodate the inevitable collection, it's refreshing and welcome to see tales where so much can happen in a shorter page count.  It doesn't matter if the chapters are five pages or thirty, you'll get your money worth here.
I'm very glad Dan enjoyed it, and if you still haven't picked up your own copy - or just realized that it would make a great holiday gift for a friend - there's a link over there in the sidebar to Amazon, where the book is currently selling for about sixteen bucks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

R.I.P. Ingrid Pitt

The beautiful and exotic Ingrid Pitt, star of Hammer Films' The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, has passed away at age 73.

The Polish-born Ms. Pitt has always been my favorite lady vampyre, and, for my money, the sexiest. She also appeared in The Wicker Man and, memorably, The House That Dripped Blood for Amicus, where she spoofed her own vampiric image, as well as in action thrillers like Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton, and Who Dares Wins. She also appeared in two Doctor Who serials.

But she will always be best remembered for her vampire roles - as the seductive Carmilla/Mircalla in Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers, a still-potent erotic horror film, and as the voluptuous Countess Elizabeth Bathory in Countess Dracula.

Rest in Peace, Carmilla.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I'm Reading This Week

I'm currently reading the first of author David Hagberg's six Flash Gordon novels for Tempo Books, originally published in 1980 and '81. They're mostly remembered for the striking Boris Vallejo cover art on volumes 1-4.

Though they started coming out the same year as the Dino DeLaurentis/Mike Hodges movie, they are not connected to it. In fact, unlike the film, which was based fairly faithfully on the original Alex Raymond newspaper comic strip continuity, this series of books instead eschews that backstory in favor of a whole new fictional universe.

Instead of being set in the 30's (or even the then-present, as was the 1980 film) with our heroes traveling to the wandering planet Mongo to battle the evil Ming the Merciless and saving Earth, these books take place in the 22nd century. Colonel Flash Gordon is a young widower and an agent for the Federation Central Intelligence Division, for which Doctor Zarkov is a scientific advisor. Dale Arden is Zarkov's niece, and at least in these first early chapters, is just a friend to Flash and assistant to her uncle. No Ming or Mongo.

Actually, this pretty closely resembles the version of Flash Gordon from the short-lived 1950's TV series. On that show, set in the distant future, Flash (played by Steve Holland) and Zarkov were agents for the Galactic Bureau of Investigation, and Dale was their assistant.Of course, the Hagberg novels are much greater in scope, and aren't limited by the impoverished production values of that low-budget syndicated TV incarnation.

Anyway, I'm only up to chapter five, and I'm digging it so far. I also have book two, and if I enjoy them, I intend to hunt down the remaining four volumes.

After that, I hope to dig into the Ace Buck Rogers novel series from the 80s that were written by various authors, based on the original Philip Francis Nowlan novels, Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords of Han, from an outline by Jerry Pournelle & Larry Niven. There were four in that series, and I've had two of them on my shelf for years - which I've never read.

I am also continuing my program of re-reading the P.I. fiction that I first read in the Eighties. I just re-read Wayne Dundee's first Joe Hannibal novel, The Burning Season, and now I'm re-reading William DeAndrea's Killed In The Ratings. This was the first of eight novels featuring Matt Cobb, troubleshooter for a major television network. I have most of the books in the series, and look forward to revisiting them all. After that, well, probably either Robert J. Randisi's first Mile Jacoby book or one of the Peter Bragg novels by Jack Lynch.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Mechanic: Jason Statham as Charles Bronson

The 1972 Michael Winner film, The Mechanic, is a favorite of long standing. I remember watching it on VHS back in high school with a bunch of my friends, and we were all blown away by it. Now it's been remade with Jason Statham and Ben Foster assuming the roles originally played by Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent.

We all know I'm a big Statham fan, and from the trailer above, the remake looks to follow the basic plot of the original film fairly closely. I'm looking forward to checking it out.

And, is it just me, or does Statham's voice over at the beginning of the trailer seem to be imitating Charles Bronson's distinctive cadence?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wednesday Cover: Killraven

I received my Killraven hardcover today, collecting the six-issue miniseries written and penciled by Alan Davis and inked by his frequent collaborator, Mark Farmer. It's a fun, "action movie"-styled retelling of the early Killraven stories from Marvel's Amazing Adventures comic back in the 1970s, focusing on a group of human gladiators rebelling against the oppressive rule of alien conquerors - specifically, the Martians of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

Those early stories were drwn by a variety of artists and scripted by several different company writers in a fairly straightforward Marvel superhero action style. These writers included Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman. But with the fourth chapter of the saga, (Amazing Adventures #21), Don McGregor came aboard as the permanent scribe. For several issues, he maintained pretty much the same slam-bang tone as his predecessors, but around the time that artist P. Craig Russell came on the book, the series started to get more and more frankly philosophical and psychedelic. It was good, innovative comics, and very different from the usual Marvel fare of the time.

The 2003 miniseries went back to the property's roots as an action book, and under the pen of the extraordinarily talented Davis, it was an excellent action book. The art was dynamic, the story fast-paced and exciting. I'm really happy to have the whole thing collected in one volume.

Monday, November 01, 2010

What I'm Reading, Have Recently Read and Will Soon Read

A couple months ago, I got a new pair of glasses (well, lenses - I kept my old frames, even though they're no longer stylish). Bifocals, in fact. It had been many years since I had updated my prescription, and the fact that I had begun to find it a hassle to read finally prompted me to spend the money for new lenses.

Since then, I've been trying to catch up on my reading mixing new acquisitions with old favorites. Among the re-reads have been all of Max Collins' "Quarry" novels and some Alan Dean Foster Star Trek novelizations from my childhood. Among the "new" stuff was Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley and a couple of Star Wars "Han Solo" novels by A. C. Crispin. The weekend before last, my wife and I went out of town for a few days. As my sleep schedule still had me up all night, but without access to this internet diversion nor my vast video library, I had plenty of time to read.

I finally got around to reading Charlie Higson's fifth and final "Young James Bond" novel, By Royal Command. I really enjoyed it, and I hope that the Ian Fleming Estate commissions a second "cycle" of books from him. I continue to be impressed by Higson's fidelity to Fleming's sketch of Bond's history, and his ability to expand upon it in a respectful, logical, and enthralling manner. Great stuff.

Shortly before our long weekend, I received in the mail the last two "Joe Hannibal" private eye novels from their author, Wayne D. Dundee. I've been a fan of Dundee's writing since I picked up the first Hannibal novel back in the 80s, based on the blurbs from Max Collins, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, Bob Randisi and Andrew Vachss - five guys who pretty much defined the genre for me at the time. I read The Fight In The Dog and The Day After Yesterday back-to-back, and found it a very enjoyable experience. I can't recommend Wayne's books more highly.

Since I got home, I've dug out my older Dundee novels, along with a bunch of other hardboiled favorites from the 80s & 90s, and intend to re-read them over the winter in between new books. This stack of paperbacks includes books by Stuart Kaminsky & William DeAndrea (both of whom are no longer with us, sadly), C.J. Henderson, and Jack Lynch.

As my tastes seem to be alternating between hardboiled crime fiction and space opera, I've recently ordered a few of the latter, among them the first two (of six) "Flash Gordon" novels by David Hagberg, Massacre in the 22nd Century (1980) and War of the Citadels (1980). I also ordered the "Buck Rogers" novel, That Man on Beta, a tie-in with the 1980 TV series, based on an unfilmed teleplay. I used to see ads for it in the back of old Warren mags, and finally decided to try and get my hands on it.

Over the last month or so, I also picked up some cheap graphic novels and read them. Aside from the titles mentioned in that previous post, I also got the first 1001 Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad trade paperback collection, The Eyes of Fire, from Zenescope Publishing and writer Dan Wickline. While I thought he had some very interesting ideas and a perfectly valid interpretation of the Persian mariner, I had pretty much the same complaints with his scripts as I do with most modern comics writing. Characters not properly introduced (there were several members of Sinbad's crew that featured prominently but who were not named for several issues). Clumsy exposition (Sinbad is wanted for a crime in Bagdhad. It is his sole motivation for all that happens in the series. But we don't find out about it until the first story arc is nearly done.). Padded "decompressed" storytelling. Wickline also chose to handle Sinbad and his crew as a super hero team, and while that's a legitimate approach, it really didn't work for me. For one thing, the characters' names and "powers" are revealed randomly over the course of several issues, treated as if the readers should already know this stuff. You can kinda get away with that sort of shorthand in X-Men (though you shouldn't) because the damned book's run for years. But this one is just getting started....

Anyway.... I have one more graphic novel on the way, and I already know I'm going to like it. Back in September, I picked up the Marvel Comics Essential Killraven, which collected all the appearances of that sci-fi hero except one: the 2002 six-issue Killraven miniseries by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer, which I bought at the time and loved. I recently discovered that that series had been collected in hardcover, and I hunted around online until I found a new copy for under $5 (+$5 shipping). I'm looking forward to having this exciting sci-fi adventure story in a nice bookshelf edition.

Anyway, after a couple years of considerably less recreational reading than I used to do, it's good to be able to read for fun again without eyestrain and frustration. Now all I need to do is track down an affordable copy of the last Spillane/Collins collaboration...