Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year's Eve Toast

Anyone else remember when TNT used to have Man from U.N.C.L.E. marathons on New Year's Eve?

Here's wishing the half-dozen or so readers of this blog a very Happy New Year. For myself, I'm working to make 2013 the year that I return to comics in a big way, with the long-delayed publication of Perils On Planet X, a new Femme Noir graphic novel, and more. Have a great time tonight, and celebrate safely - perhaps you can take a cue from Napoleon Solo, and spend the evening at home with a few close friends...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cancelled 2 Soon And It's A Crime

A lot of interesting television series get cut down in infancy, usually because some network is too impatient to stick with a show through its early - and usually inevitable - growing pains and give it time to find its audience. Of course, some shows simply suck, and deserve to be strangled in the crib - to perhaps take the metaphor a bit too far....

Anyway, two cancelled-too-soon TV shows that I thought were pretty damned good right out of the gate and really wish would come out on DVD so I could at least enjoy repeatedly re-watching the few episodes that do exist are: 2003's Karen Sisco with Carla Gugino (sigh) and Robert Forster, & producer Mark Frost's Buddy Faro from '98, with Dennis Farina & Frank Whaley.

Karen Sisco was based on the character from Elmore Leonard's novel Out Of Sight with more than a little inspiration from its 1998 film version, which had starred Jennifer Lopez in the role of Miami-based Federal Marshal Karen Sisco. The short-lived (10 episodes) television series cast the always-gorgeous and intelligent Gugino in the role, and captured the breezy tone of Leonard's writing with remarkable success. Her father, a Miami P.I., was played by Robert Forster (Jackie Brown). The show looked terrific as well, with lots of sunny Florida scenery. ABC really screwed up by not scheduling  the show back-to-back with its then-hit show Alias, as the two programs were thematically similar and, as both had strong female leads, would probably have appealed to the same audience.

Buddy Faro was another breezy crime show with a fantastic, feature-film quality cast. Whaley (Swimming With Sharks) played Bob Jones, a struggling L.A. private investigator who idolizes a legendary private eye - the titular Faro (Farina) - a swingin' Rat Pack-type dick who disappeared in the late 70s on a case. Jones tracks him down in a gutter in Mexico, sobers him up, and takes him on as his partner. The stories were great fun, with Faro portrayed as a sort of fish-out-of-water, still living in the 60s, dealing with the modern world (of 1998) in his own retro-tough guy way.

Obviously, neither show managed the sort of ratings that would have kept them on the air, but man, I loved 'em both. Sadly, I don't think either show is a good candidate for DVD... but then, lots of oddball stuff has been hitting disc lately. Maybe there's still some hope.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hey Kids, Comics!

The FedEx guy just dropped an Amazon box in the door. Since I didn't have any orders pending, I was baffled. Turns out it was a box full of graphic novel goodies - a belated holiday gift from my bestest buddy, author (and occasional writing partner) James Chambers!

Along with some recent Daredevil and Punisher trade paperbacks by creators he knows I like, he included this handsome hardcover collection of vintage Batman comics drawn by the late, great Don Newton. Jim knows how much I admire Newton's work, and guessed that I'd enjoy the book, which collects most of Newton's Bat-art from the late 70s. Just a quick skim through its pages more than confirms my pal's assumption - it's gorgeous stuff.

Not having been a regular comics shop customer for the last ten years or so, the Daredevil and Punisher trades are all new stuff to me, but I do like the writers involved (Mark Waid and Greg Rucka, respectively), so I look forward to reading those, too.

I am so grateful that I have a friend like Jim - and not just 'cause he gives me stuff. (Though it helps!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Frazetta's BUCK ROGERS

Hope everyone had a terrific holiday! Once again, I present another fantastic Famous Funnies Buck Rogers cover by legendary fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta. This astounding image graced the front of issue #214 in November, 1954!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Meet Max

Meet Max (formerly known as Wags). This is how he rode home - quietly - from where we picked him up in from the Dog Transport folks in Kittery early this morning.

He's one exhausted pooch, fresh off two days crated up on a bus, now getting a lot of new stuff thrown at him all at once - new people, new house, new backyard... and two insane felines that aren't quite sure what to make of him, either.

It's going to be good having a dog around the house again.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The First Flash Gordon Story

Well, my first Flash Gordon story, anyway.

Along with the Dark Horse reprints of the Flash Gordon comics and the last two 80's Tempo Books Flash novels by David Hagberg, I recently purchased, I also bought this children's paperback, published in 1976 - Flash Gordon In The Sand World Of Mongo.

Written by Horace Elias, it's basically a Big Little Book, but in standard paperback format. Every other page is a full-page illustration, and the text is in large print, written in very simple language for young children. The artist is uncredited, and the art is, unfortunately, somewhat amateurish. But... I found it for about a buck (the 1976 cover price!).

And here's the thing: I remember reading this back in Junior High. Even then, I was a little old for the simplistic story and prose, but I stumbled across it in the school library, and found the sword-wielding guy on the cover intriguing. So I checked it out and read it during my lunch break.

It may not be a particularly good adventure story (it's not), but it was the first Flash Gordon story I ever read... and the last one I needed to complete my collection of Flash paperbacks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Well, I don't much like the fact that it's a Limited Edition disc, nor that it's so pricey, but I went ahead and pre-ordered the Twilight Time Blu-ray release of Our Man Flint, the first of two Derek Flint superspy capers starring James Coburn. It's supposed to come out in mid-January, with the sequel, In Like Flint, to follow in February. I'll probably pre-order that one, too. Because these discs are only issued in limited numbers, I can't really follow my usual method of buying used discs cheap on the secondary market; when these suckers go out of print, the price only goes up.

So, why did I bite the bullet on this one? Well, first of all, I'm a huge fan of the movie, and even though I have the very nice Ultimate Flint Collection DVDs that Fox put out a few years ago, this Blu-ray has a buttload of new bonus features, including a couple of new documentaries by John Cork - the guy who put together all the great documentaries on the James Bond and Charlie Chan discs. Ultimately, I just couldn't pass it up.

What can I say? I'm weak.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Frazetta's BUCK ROGERS

Action-packed! Fast-paced! Suspenseful! Another Wednesday in December, another amazing Famous Funnies cover starring interplanetary avenger Buck Rogers, drawn by the late, great fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta. This is issue #212 from July, 1954!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Retro Spaceships Under The Tree

Not only was I able to stock up on retro space adventures in book form this holiday season, but I was also able to order two retro spaceship model kits that I've had on my Wishlist for the last couple of years to place under the Solstice Tree. In this case, they're re-issues of kits that I coveted as a kid, but never owned. The "Interplanetary U.F.O. Mystery Ship" (which I wrote about over on my Space: 1970 blog recently), and the Lindberg "Space Base & Satellite Explorer," which is actually two kits - dating back to the 1950s - repackaged together in one box.

My best friend in elementary school had both the U.F.O. Mystery Ship and the Lindberg "wheel" space station kits, and I always envied him for having them on his shelves. Now I've got them... and maybe someday I'll even get around to actually building and painting them!

The Last Stand Of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Well, here's the new trailer for Lionsgate's The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger's action movie comeback (aside from his extended cameo in The Expendables sequel). I don't know about you, but it looks like fun to me, with some terrific action sequences and a nice, self-deprecating wit. Plus, Luis Guzman and the Conan sword. I'll definitely be seeing this one.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Spies No One Remembers.... Except Me

There are a few James Bond knock-offs that I remember watching on TV in the late 70s (& 1980) that I have never heard anyone else mention. One of these was Billion Dollar Threat, a 1979 TV movie that starred Dale Robinette as secret agent Robert Sands, who must foil the nefarious plan of mad scientist Horatio Black - played by none other than John Steed himself, Patrick Macnee - to destroy the ozone layer with a nuclear missile.

I actually taped this one off of TV, so I watched it a number of times. It was a pretty fair - if cheap - little Bondian adventure, written by Hammer Studios vet Jimmy Sangster (Deadlier Than The Male), who seemed to have a penchant for this type of stuff....

Because Sangster also wrote the 1980 ABC telefilm, Once Upon A Spy, which starred a pre-Cheers Ted Danson as a computer expert/reluctant spy who is drafted into a mission to stop another mad scientist - this time portrayed by The Man With The Golden Gun, Scaramanga, in the guise of Sir Christopher Lee - who has a laser cannon (another one?). I remember it as being a bit more deliberately campy than Billion Dollar Threat, in a Man From U.N.C.L.E. sort of way.

Sangster didn't write (I wonder how he missed out on this one), but legitimate 007 veteran Richard Maibaum (Goldfinger, Thunderball, et al) did, the same year's S*H*E - Security Hazards Expert, which starred Cornelia Sharpe as Lavinia Keane, a sort of female Bond in a globetrotting adventure that I remember watching but am unable to recall a single detail of. Omar Sharif played her adversary, an International blackmailer.

None of these are available on DVD, although S*H*E did get a VHS release.I would really like to see all of these again one day....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kline's Martian Tales

Along with all the Flash Gordon books I've got coming in the mail this month are these two novels of Martian swashbuckling by Otis Adelbert Kline. I've read some of Kline's other "planetary romances" - specifically, several of his Venusian novels - but I've not yet visited his version of the Red Planet.

Paizo Press re-issued these pulp tales a few years back, and I found inexpensive copies of these handsomely designed volumes online. With luck, they'll arrive before the holiday and in good shape. I'm looking forward to adding them to my ever-growing "To Be Read" pile....

For those of my blog readers who aren't all that into space fantasy and are waiting for me to write about hardboiled crime pulp/films again, just be patient. I'm in an outer space state of mind at the moment, but my pop culture passions tend to be cyclical. I'll be back working on the new Femme Noir graphic novel around New Year's and I'm sure I'll be totally immersed in that decidedly more Earthbound genre then!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Holiday On Mongo...

As I noted a few posts back, Brandi let me order the first three of Dark Horse's hardcover Flash Gordon comics collections as my holiday gift from her. Have I mentioned that she's a great wife? Well, she came home tonight and informed me that she'd finished the budgeting for the month, and that I could go ahead and order the remaining two volumes! (Fortunately, I'd found an online dealer offering all five at a HUGE discount - being perpetually broke means I've gotten really good at finding bargains. I purchased all five volumes for the cover price of just one - not counting shipping.)

Plus, she also allowed me a little extra cash to order used copies of the last two David Hagerberg Flash Gordon paperback novels published by Tempo Books in 1980 that I needed to complete the series. Have I mentioned just how awesome my wife is?

So, in a few weeks, I'll be kickin' back on Mongo, enjoying forty years' worth of interplanetary swashbuckling. In fact, I've been totally immersed in the space opera genre lately. Writing it (Perils On Planet X), reading it (Spacehawk), watching it... and if there's one thing I've learned, it's to....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Frazetta's BUCK ROGERS

Join Buck Rogers' Rocket Rangers! Here's another gorgeous Famous Funnies covers featuring space hero Buck Rogers, as rendered by the legendary fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta. This is issue #213 from September, 1954!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's official. We've got a new dog. Everything went through okay, and we'll be driving down to meet him and bring him home on the 22nd. The folks from the shelter call him "Wags," but I suspect we'll be changing his name once we get to know him a little. He kinda looks more like a "Max" to me....

Pacific Rim

There are several genre films I'm looking forward to in 2013, including Iron Man 3, the next Star Trek movie, and the new Wolverine film. But the one I'm most eager to see is the giant robots vs giant monsters flick from Pan's Labyrinth/Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro, Pacific Rim.

I think del Toro is one of the great visual stylists working in movies today, and when it comes to cinematic fantasy, I don't think there's a better director out there. Plus, you know: giant robots & monsters.

ADDENDUM 12/12/12: The full teaser trailer went online today. Check this out:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

So, let's see... what's been going on here at stately Mills Manor? One cool thing was that Brandi let me order the first three Dark Horse Flash Gordon hardcover collections as my holiday present. This series of volumes collect all of the Flash Gordon original comic book stories (omitting the newspaper strip reprints) published by Dell, King Comics, Charlton Comics, Gold Key and Whitman, from the late Forties through the early 80s. Can't wait for them to arrive - I've read most of the King Comics issues (in Vol. 2) by Al Williamson, but the early Dell issues (in Vol. 1) and the Charlton issues (in Vol. 3) are all new to me!

Now if I could just pick up a little freelance income (or holiday cash), I could get the remaining two volumes....

Along the same general theme: after ten years of distractions, detours and discouragements (almost entirely of my own doing), I'm finally finishing the third chapter of the first story arc of my own space adventure comic, Perils On Planet X, this week. You have no idea how pleased I am to actually be writing the concluding scenes of a story that has been in my head for so long... especially since the art for the damned thing has been more than half finished for, literally, years.

I'm so excited that I really hope POPX will be successful enough to warrant artist Gene Gonzales and I producing the two further story arcs that I have in mind (I've always planned it as a trilogy) - and that it doesn't take another decade (or two) to get around to telling them.

If all goes well, we'll begin serializing Perils On Planet X online, a page or two a week, sometime in 2013, and will probably try a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign to finance an eventual print volume. Stay tuned for further updates, and I'll be sure to let people know when we're ready to launch the new webcomic version.

And, finally, it looks like we may have a new canine companion sooner than anticipated. After losing our girl China last November, we didn't want to rush into getting another dog. For one thing, the loss was so great that honestly, we're still grieving. But in the past few months we'd been talking more and more about adding another critter to the menagerie - we just figured we'd wait until Spring to start looking seriously.

But last week, Brandi was browsing Craig's List, and found an ad placed by an Arkansas shelter/rescue looking for a home for one of their dogs. There were pictures and a video. After checking them out, she showed the ad to me, and we agreed that the dog looked like a good fit for us.

Anyway, Brandi contacted them, then filled out an application, and then had a phone interview, all of which went well... and barring any last minute complications, it looks like we'll be adopting "Wags" (chances are we'll be renaming him) before the end of the month. We just need to finalize a few details - like getting him to Maine - and scrape up the adoption fees, but it all looks good. 

Here's hoping all goes smoothly. Wish us luck. This house needs a dog.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Look, Up In The Sky...

Back when Superman Returns hit theaters, Warner Home Video released the first season of the Illya Salkind-produced Superboy syndicated television series from 1988 on DVD. Reportedly, it didn't sell very well, and that's probably because so few people even remembered the show existed.

Well, also because the first season (the show ended up running for a total of four) was pretty weak.

That first season starred John Haymes-Newton as the college student of steel, Clark Kent, attending Shuster University in Florida (where the show was shot as one of the first series filmed at the Orlando Disney/MGM Studios). Newton looked good in the classic red & blue union suit, but was, frankly, a wooden performer. It didn't help either that the scripts for that first season were generally pretty pedestrian and the shoestring budget was extremely obvious. Pretty Stacy Haiduk (later of Seaquest DSV) was a sexy and likable Lana Lang, though. I also liked the casting of Stuart Whitman as Pa Kent.

Somehow the show garnered good enough ratings (it aired on weekend afternoons in most markets) to get a second season, and things improved considerably. The writing - by a number of actual DC Comics veterans like Andy Helfer, Cary Bates, Denny O’Neil and Mike Carlin - got a lot better and more imaginative, and Newton was replaced by the more charismatic Gerard Christopher.

There were some cool guest stars in that second season, too, including George Lazenby (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and Britt Ekland (The Man With the Golden Gun) as Clark's Kryptonian parents Jor-El and Lara; Philip Michael Thomas (Miami Vice) as Brimstone; Michael J. Pollard as Mr. Mxyzptik; as well as Keye Luke, Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me), and even Gilbert Gottfried.

The budget was still low, but the producers were a lot more creative with their money, and the show looked much better in the second season, too. The special effects were about what you'd expect in 1989-90; you may not have believed a boy could fly... but it could have been a lot worse.

I guess in anticipation of the new Man Of Steel movie due next Summer, Warners' manufacture-on-demand label, Warner Archive, will be releasing the second season of Superboy on DVD next Tuesday. Those multi-disc MOD sets can be pricey, but I'm hoping to pick it up soon. I really enjoyed the show back in the day, and would very much like to add it to my vast DVD library.

I mean, what the Hell - I bought the first season.....

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Frazetta's BUCK ROGERS

I'm currently working on a space comic of my own, and I've been turning to classic pulp and comic book imagery for inspiration. I've been enjoying it so much, I thought I'd share my favorites here with you. Every Wednesday throughout December, I'll be sharing these fantastic Famous Funnies covers featuring space hero Buck Rogers, as drawn by legendary fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta. This is issue #211 from May, 1954!