Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mission: Impossible '89

Picked up the second season of the 80s Mission: Impossible series last night. 

In 1988, in order to circumvent a long-running writer's strike and get some "new" programming on the air, ABC commissioned from Paramount Television a new version of the spy show Mission: Impossible as a mid-season replacement. The idea was that the studio would simply re-film the best of the scripts from the 1966-1973 version of the show with a new cast in Australia, and thus, not need to wait for the union writers to come back to work. That was the plan, anyway, but they only ended up using old scripts for about four or five early episodes before the strike ended.

This was actually the first version of M:I that I ever saw, so my reaction was quite different from those who found it inferior to their memories of the original series. I thought it was the coolest thing on TV at the time, and now, watching it on DVD, it's still better than most adventure shows from the late 80s.

Admittedly, the writing is generally not up to the standards of the original show's early years, but it's often better than the later, early-70s "mob-busting" seasons. Also, it was shot in Australia which offered a lot more variety in locations/environments. Unlike the 60s version, they didn't have to try and pass off the Paramount offices, parking lots and soundstages for Iron Curtain foreign cities every week. In Australia, they were able to pretty well simulate everything from London streets to the American southwest, to the Caribbean islands. In one episode, they even constructed an eerily believable replica of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie.

The 80s M:I is also fun because it acknowledges the original show in a variety of ways. Aside from the presence of Peter Graves - reprising his iconic role as IMF team leader Jim Phelps, Greg Morris comes back as Barney a couple of times (his son, Phil Morris, is a regular - as Barney's son!), and Lynda Day George even shows up for one episode, reprising her original role as Casey.

So - overall, while the 80s M:I is not as good as the original show (and the cast is much less memorable), it's better than it has a right to be, all things considered, and at least a handful of episodes are just as good as the original series' best.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New At DVD Late Show

I'm still not quite back to speed with my DVD Late Show reviews, but I'm getting there. This week I've posted my reviews of the Warner Archive DVDs of the awesome, 1966 Tarzan television series, and the much-maligned B-monster flick, Creature, which came out on DVD last week. (I may be the only reviewer on Earth who actually kinda liked that one....)

Wednesday, I expect to have reviews posted for the documentary Corman's World, about B-movie maverick Roger Corman, and the SyFy bug movie Camel Spiders (produced by the aforementioned Corman), both of which go on sale this week.

I hope you'll swing by and check 'em out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cover Design: THE DEAD BEAR WITNESS by James Chambers

The first volume in my pal James Chambers' Corpse Fauna cycle, The Dead Bear Witness, is now on sale from Dullahan Press, an imprint of Dark Quest Books. As Jim explains:
This is volume one of the four-volume Corpse Fauna series, which will complete a story cycle which I began writing in 1997. Although some of the Corpse Fauna stories were previously published, these new editions will present them in revised and greatly expanded versions with new stories to be published for the first time.
Jim is a terrific horror writer. He and I were both editors and writers for Tekno*Comix back in the 90s, and collaborated together on several projects, including our Shadow House comic book series. The Dead Bear Witness is a fantastic, terrifyingly fresh take on the zombie genre, and highly recommended.

By the way, I designed the cover above, which features an illustration by the great Glen Ostrander. The plan is for me to layout and design the covers for the remaining three volumes as well.

You can order the book from Amazon here: Dead Bear Witness

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Cover: A Princess Of Mars

I first collected Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars paperbacks in the early 80s, when Ballantine/Del Rey issued the series with gorgeous, colorful cover art by Michael Whelan. This is the cover to the first volume in the series, A Princess Of Mars, and it's one of my favorites. A lot of fantastic artists have visualized Burroughs' Barsoom over the years, including masters like Frazetta and Roy Krenkel, but I find that I keep going back to Whelan's interpretation. I just love the way he sees Mars and its wonders.

On a related note, Brandi and I went to see Andrew Stanton's John Carter last night. Saw it in 3-D because it was the most convenient showing, time-wise. Overall, I was pleased with it and look forward to watching it again on Blu-ray when it comes out. The effects were extremely good (I had no problem believing that the CGI Tharks were actual, living characters), and Taylor Kitsch was better than I expected as Carter.

As for the most important character - considering that it's impractical to travel back in time and bring 1976 Caroline Munro to the present to play Dejah Thoris, I am quite satisfied with the actual casting of  the lovely Miss Lynn Collins, who did a fine job as The Princess of Mars.

I have a few quibbles with the changes and alterations made to the story, but really, it was a terrific movie, and should be raking in money like nobody's business - but we were virtually alone in the theater. It's a shame.

Some people just refuse to have fun, I guess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Week at DVD Late Show

I started off this week at DVD Late Show with "Z-Day:" three recent DVD and Blu-ray releases that begin with the letter "Z." Specifically, the MGM Limited Edition Collection (manufactured-on-demand) edition of 1985's weird war tale, Zone Troopers; the latest horror offering from The Asylum, Zombie Apocalypse; and the 1971, monster-on-the-loose drive-in "classic," Zaat!

Tomorrow, I'll be posting a review of The Slams, a gritty 1973 prison flick starring the great Jim Brown. On Friday - well, hopefully, I'll have my review of the 1966 Ron Ely Tarzan television series, new on DVD from Warner Archive. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back To The Grind @ DVD Late Show

I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but what was intended to be a two-week break at the end of December for the holidays somehow grew into an unplanned 3-month hiatus at my DVD Late Show site. For some reason, time just kept slipping away from me, discs kept piling up, and I simply couldn't muster the energy or focus to write up reviews.

Well, whatever the hell was wrong with me, I seem to have gotten over it at last. Today I posted two new reviews at DVD Late Show - Apollo 18 and Sugar Hill - and intend to get at least one more online before the end of the day, with two more to be posted tomorrow. In order to catch up, I'll be mixing discs that came out over the last three months or so with new releases and advance reviews over the next few weeks and will try like hell to update the site at least twice a week.

Among the many titles you can look forward to seeing reviewed on the site in the next few weeks are 2-Headed Shark Attack, Captain Power And The Soldiers Of the Future - The Complete Series, Zaat!,The Dead, Godzilla (The Criterion Edition), Cleopatra Jones And The Casino Of Gold, The Slams, Corman's World, Chillerama, Zombie Apocalypse, Gog, Doctor Blood's Coffin, Camel Spiders and Zone Troopers....

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Original Science Fiction Stories

The signature on this striking cover for Original Science Fiction Stories appears to read: "EMSH." I have no idea who that is (now I do; thanks to Rip Jagger's comment below, I know that it's Edmund Emshwiller), but I love this painting. Dig that gorgeous composition.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Introducing Ziggy

Ziggy. Photo by Brandi
We added a new member to our household over the weekend. Since China passed away last November, the house had been feeling a little empty over the past few months, and Brandi and I had started thinking it was time to adopt a new pet. We considered trying to find another dog, but it was just too soon. So we decided we'd probably like another cat, and on Saturday, we visited the Kennebec Valley Humane Society shelter in Augusta, to see what felines they might have available for adoption.

It didn't take us to long to zero in on the handsome devil pictured above; actually, he zeroed in on us. Most of the other cats in the place were sound asleep, but when he saw us coming he let out with a medley of miaows. We visited with him for a while, and then went home to think some more and be certain that we wanted to bring another cat into the house. Our cat Zoe isn't the most sociable of creatures, and we were concerned how she might handle the arrival of another kitty in her territory.

Anyway, we decided to risk it, and returned to the shelter on Sunday morning. We filled out the paperwork, paid the fee, and brought him home. His name was "Wiggy," but I re-christened him "Ziggy." It seemed slightly less wimpy... and actually suits him pretty well. He's remarkably affectionate, mild-mannered and quite comical.

For the first day, Zoe hissed at him every time she saw him (and at us, too, for bringing him home), but she's calmed down some. She still tries to bully him, but he doesn't let her cow him too much. Today they even shared the bed during nap time (at opposite sides, of course), so I'm hopeful that a mutual tolerance pact is in the offing.

I'm already quite attached to Ziggy, and I look forward to having him around for a long time to come.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ron Ely TARZAN Coming to DVD!

The Sy Weitraub-produced Tarzan television series, which aired from 1966 through 1968 and starred the athletic Ron Ely in the title role, has long been desired on home video by fans and collectors of Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary Lord of the Jungle. Well, Warner Archive has announced that the first season of this show - packaged in two 4-disc, 16-episode volumes - will finally be available next week.

My personal memories of this show are dim. I was too young to have watched it when it originally aired, but when I was a kid around eight or nine years old, WLBZ Channel 2 in Bangor aired it for a year or so on weekday afternoons. Unfortunately, in those days, we couldn't always get that channel to tune in all the way down in Belgrade. So, when I'd get home from school, I'd watch the reruns of the George Reeves Adventures Of Superman and the Adam West Batman that ran back-to-back on a channel that we did get, and then, when those were over, I'd struggle with the antenna for a while to see if I could catch the broadcast signal from Bangor.

Usually, I couldn't tune in anything but snow and a faint, static-riddled audio. Every once in a while, though, when the atmospheric conditions were just right, I could snag it. On those rare and glorious occasions,  I'd round out my TV superhero afternoons with an episode of Tarzan.

As I said above, I don't remember much about the show, but I absolutely do remember that terrific title sequence above, especially the shot of Tarzan atop those spectacular waterfalls.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get my hands on those DVDs.... and maybe Warner Archive will get around to releasing the Filmation Tarzan cartoon series from the 70s one of these days!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wednesday Cover: The Spirit

Yesterday was the late Will Eisner's birthday (March 6, 1917 – January 3, 2005). Eisner was an amazing cartoonist, writer, innovator and teacher. Obviously, his most famous creation, The Spirit, was a huge inspiration to me and influence on my work - especially Femme Noir. In fact, the initial spark of an idea for Femme Noir was to create a "female Spirit" (though I think the character evolved beyond that). I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet Eisner and shake his hand, and I also treasure the extraordinarily kind note he sent me years ago regarding one of my projects.

I met Eisner at the Capital City Distribution trade show in '94, just prior to the release of The Crow motion picture (the first one). Publishers Kitchen Sink Press had both Crow creator James O'Barr and Eisner at their booth. There was a huge line for O'Barr and not a single person talking to Eisner when I happened to walk by. I was shocked by how little attention the man was receiving from the crowd - but also pleased at the opportunity the situation presented. I went over to Eisner, thanked him for all he had contributed to the medium and for all the joy he had given me with his work.

As we shook hands, he graciously thanked me.

I feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to tell him how much his work had enriched my life. A year or so later, I sent him a copy of the short-lived crime fiction/crime comics magazine that I created and edited, Noir, on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised when he took the time to send me a short, complimentary note on the first issue. I was walking on air that entire day.

From 1983 to 1992, Kitchen Sink published a regular Spirit reprint title, and Eisner managed to create a new cover illustration for every issue. The cover above, from Issue #38, is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Help Wanted!

I'm looking for a fan / friend who is familiar with customizing the WordPress "ComicPress" theme to help me set up a webcomic. Anyone got the skills and time and interested in giving me a hand? I've installed the software, but I'm completely lost.

What I'm looking for specifically is someone to help me build a customized ComicPress site for a property that I intend to serialize online, probably starting this Summer. I'd like to have something as cool - though different in terms of imagery - as Nate Piekos' ATLAND site or Greg Rucka & Rick Burchett's LADY SABRE pages.

Basically, a clean, attractive layout, with appropriate stylistic touches. I've done all my previous webcomics in clunky html. Hopefully, with the ComicPress theme for WordPress, updating and maintaining the site will be a lot easier. That's the theory, anyway - but as noted above, I'm hopeless when it comes to figuring it out. There's no money in it at the moment, but if someone's willing to help, something can be worked out, I'm sure.

If anyone is interested, drop me a line at

Monday, March 05, 2012

Filling In The Gaps

Thanks to some recent freelance income, we were able to catch up on our overdue medical and veterinary bills, and even had a little left over. I've used some of that small surplus to fill in holes in my various pop culture collections. Specifically, I've bought the handful of seasons of the WB/DC Animated series Batman Beyond (seasons 2 & 3) and Teen Titans (seasons 3-5) that we were missing. I'm a big fan of both programs, and I'm grateful that I now have the complete runs of those shows on my shelves, especially since I missed the last couple years of both shows when we chose not to get cable TV here.

I also ordered the last Mickey Spillane/Max Allan Collins "Mike Hammer" novel, Kiss Her Goodbye. It came out last year, but I was unable to purchase it when it was released. Now I'm nearly caught up with my Collins collection... just in time to look forward to the next Spillane/Collins collaboration, Lady, Go Die! - which is due out in May.

Since I stopped buying comics on a regular basis several years ago, I have still tried to follow a couple of ongoing titles in trade paperback form. One of these is The Walking Dead, the other is Dark Horse' Conan. Unfortunately, money's been so tight the last couple of years, that I've fallen behind on both of them. I'm still behind (I think they're up to Volume 11 or 12... or maybe even beyond), but I was able to find volumes 7 and 8 of Conan on sale online at a very reasonable price, so I'm closing the gap slightly.

The two books arrived today, and I'm really eager to read them.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


And, in celebration of "Creator-Owned Comics Day," here's 5-page Femme Noir sampler by yours truly, Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton, Mark Stegbauer and Michael Watkins, an action-packed, tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of my favorite Poverty Row Bela Lugosi pictures. This short originally appeared in the 2009 Free Comic Book Day special from Ape Entertainment. (I've actually posted this story here on the blog before, back in '09, but the images were hosted elsewhere and have since disappeared...)

And, of course, the trade paperback collection of the first Femme Noir comic book miniseries, The Dark City Diaries, is still available.

Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries

PERILS ON PLANET X: Lair of The Science-Witch

This short comic story was originally created several years ago when the ultra-talented Jon Plante and I were doing the weekly webcomic version of the interplanetary swashbuckler, Perils On Planet X, at the short-lived AdventureStrips website. Steve Conley offered us 4 pages in the back of his terrific Astounding Space Thrills comic book to give his readers a taste of the Planet X strip. Unfortunately, everything kinda collapsed at that point, the webcomic disappeared, and the short story above never saw print.

A couple years later, I teamed up with the equally ultra-talented Gene Gonzales to reinvent
Perils On Planet X as a comic book/graphic novel. That version has also had a tumultuous, start-and-stop history so far, but... I'm hopeful that we will wrap up the first storyline ("Volume 1") this year and finally get it out to the world - probably in both print and digital form. Gene and I have been working out a plan, and I'm optimistic. Stay tuned for announcements in the months to come.

This 4-pager was designed simply to provide a quick intro to the POPX world and characters. It does give the first glimpse of the raknyri - the deadly scorpion-men of the planet Xylos - and if I ever get around to writing the second and third "volumes" of the epic POPX trilogy I have lodged in my head, we'll be seeing a lot more of those critters.

I hope you enjoy it, and Jon's unique artwork.