Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

That Man Marvin

There's no question, that, like Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs, I'm a big Lee Marvin fan.

Not only do I love watching his movies – especially his hardboiled crime flicks like Point Blank, Prime Cut, and The Killers – but Rick Burchett and I have even used the late actor as the model for our crime comic protagonist, "Gravedigger" McCrae. In fact, the art accompanying this post is the from our new, forthcoming Gravedigger graphic novel, The Predators. (See, Craig? We're really doing it!) And although using a character resembling Marvin got us a fair amount of notice, our only real intention was to pay tribute to the man, and express our gratitude for all the entertainment and inspiration he'd given us.

Hell, I'll even forgive him for Paint Your Wagon.

Lee Marvin died 20 years ago today. His last films were The Delta Force, with Chuck Norris, and a TV sequel to The Dirty Dozen – and, yes, I have both of those on DVD. Even at the end of his career was convincingly hardboiled and tough, the kind of action star we no longer have today.

Hollywood – and audiences – are poorer for it.

I think I'll watch one of his movies tonight – maybe The Professionals or Death Hunt or The Dirty Dozen... or maybe, Cat Ballou!

A Day Late...

Jack Kirby was born 90 years ago yesterday.

What an incredible, imaginative mind he had. I so envy the man's endless invention and creativity.

I mean, seriously: Devil Dinosaur? How unbelievably friggin' cool is that?!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Death to the Dealers of Death!

I had a nice surprise this week.

A Spider fan named Jack Maxwell picked up a few extra replica Spider "premium" rings (issued as a promotional item by Baen Books for their new Spider pulp reprints) in San Diego and kindly sent me one. Apparently, he thought I handled the Master of Men with some degree of competence in my short story, "The Spider and the Monster Makers," which appeared in Moonstone Books' Spider Chronicles anthology.

I've had very little feedback on that particular tale, so receiving this neat gift and Jack's gracious letter was very gratifying. I tried very hard to capture the flavor of the original pulps and do justice to the character with that story. It's nice to know that someone thought I succeeded.

Thanks, Jack!

Deadly Beloved

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Max Allan Collins was kind enough to send me an ARC of Deadly Beloved, the forthcoming Ms. Tree novel from Hard Case Crime.

It's been a busy month, so it took me a while to get around to reading it, but once I did, I breezed right through it. Collins' first-person prose is, as always, honed to a razor sharpness; terse and taut, with a relentless, driving narrative thrust that sweeps you along and makes the book difficult to put down.

The novel essentially retells – and retcons – the first two Ms. Tree comics serials, originally published in the early 80's, which means that for long-time readers like myself, some "surprises," well, aren't all that surprising.

But Collins has wisely re-arranged the particulars, added some previously-untold elements, and changed enough details that the reading experience is still fresh and exciting. All the familiar supporting characters are there – Rafe Valer, Dan Green, Roger Freemont, Dominique Muerta – and all pretty much as we remember them. There are also a few new (and intriguing) characters added to the cast, and I hope Collins gets an opportunity to sequelize this someday, so we can learn more about them.

While I enjoyed the book a great deal, and admire Collins' deftly executed updating of the 80's "origin story" to the present day, I have to confess that I was a bit put-off by the main character's apparent obsession with repeatedly name-dropping famous clothing designers, and her new propensity for foul language. I'm not offended by swearing – I can toss off vulgar expletives with the best of them – but it did seem somewhat jarring coming from Michael Tree. Maybe it's the lingering awereness of her funnybook origins, but it just "sounded" odd.

But those are really minor quibbles. It's great to have Ms. Tree back in any form, and her return is certainly a triumphant one. I highly recommend Deadly Beloved. It's a top-notch mystery thriller, with a formidible female protagonist, and I suggest that every crime fiction fan – whether they're familiar with the original comic books or not – pick up a copy when the regular edition is published in November.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

City of Violence

I just got a press release about an upcoming 2-disc DVD of a recent Korean martial arts/crime flick, City of Violence. I don't know much about this, but the trailer looks great:

Hopefully, I'll be getting a review copy of this soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The New Kid

As you poor, regular readers of this self-indulgent tripe I call a blog already know, my wife and I recently had to put our beloved cat, Audrey, to sleep. Her cancer was terminal, and we wanted to spare her pain.

It left a very large hole in our life.

Over the last few weeks, Brandi had been looking into possibly adopting another cat. As it turned out, the local shelter was having free cat adoptions this month, so Saturday we drove over to see if there was some abandoned feline that we could provide a new home for. Well, right inside the door was a cage with a beautifully charismatic brown & white kitty named Snickers.

Well, we looked at another cat, but came back to Snickers, and thought we could live with her. Our only concern was whether she could get along with our dog, China. So we brought her home.

She spent a while exploring our old farmhouse and ignoring the dog – which hurt China's feelings – but quickly settled in, and was soon even giving the dog friendly head-butts. The name "Snickers" had to go, though – especially since she hadn't had it long – and she was soon rechristened "Zoe."

She's only been around for a day and a half, and she's still a bit aloof, but she seems to be coming around. I think she's going to be a very important part of our family.

Also brought home a few DVD rentals this weekend, including Children of Men, Hollywoodland and The Darwin Awards.

Children of Men was a terrifyingly believable hellride, with strong performances from the entire cast and brilliant direction by Alfonso CuarĂ³n, (who also directed the best Harry Potter film to date, Prisoner of Azkaban).

Hollywoodland was okay. Diane Lane was gorgeous, Bob Hoskins was great, I still don't think much of Adrien Brody, and Ben Affleck never convinced me he was George Reeves. Too bad the studio wouldn't let the filmmakers go with Kyle McLachan.

The Darwin Awards was a decent indie dark comedy, with a great premise that I thought they didn't quite do justice to. I also thought Joseph Fiennes was miscast, but Wynona Ryder looked great and turned in a truly decent performance.

Of course, I also watched Steel Dawn. In fact, I bought Steel Dawn. I'm pathetic.

Friday, August 17, 2007

CROOK BOOKS: The Action Man

Jay Flynn was a writer of paperback originals in the Sixties and Seventies. He was, basically, what people think of as a "hack," usually managing to string together a reasonably coherent narrative that met a predetermined word count for undemanding editors at second-string houses.

But that's not to say that he didn't have some talent, or that his books weren't entertaining. Some of them are delightfully unpolished examples of low-rent pulp, and a lot of fun to read, like his "McHugh" spy series. He was also a man struggling with a lot of inner demons, and an eccentric of the first order. His friend, mystery writer Bill Pronzini, has written quite eloquently of Flynn's colorful life and the trials and tribulations that filled it.

His 1961 novel, The Action Man, is a great little heist thriller, which Pronzini calls Flynn's magnum opus, and based on the few Flynn books I've managed to track down and read, I tend to agree. It is the story of Denton Farr, a fairly unlikable bastard and bar owner who cheats on his wife, treats his girlfriend like dirt, and one morning decides to lift an Army payroll from the local bank.

The pacing is brisk and suspenseful, as Farr methodically plans and executes the caper. As a protagonist, Farr is well-developed and psychologically complex, his actions logical and believable. Like most good crook books, the ending is violent, unpredictable and ironic. It's fun stuff.

Flynn's books aren't easy to track down, and most of them literally aren't worth the effort, unless you're a freak like me who can get an occasional charge out of really bad writing. But The Action Man, while by no means a classic in the genre, is certainly worth a little web surfing and maybe spending a buck or two on.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Digger's on MySpace

Another of my fictional characters now has his own MySpace page.

That's right, "Digger" McCrae, the protagonist of the acclaimed crime comic, GRAVEDIGGER: THE SCAVENGERS, now has his own MySpace Page!

It may seem out of character for someone like McCrae – what with all the warrants out on him and all – to participate in something like MySpace, but what can I say? The old bastard's got balls. Check it out.

Oh – and by the way, there will be some exciting news about the future of McCrae's criminal career coming soon....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mike Wieringo, RIP

I'm stunned almost beyond the capacity to form a coherent thought.

Comic book artist Mike Wieringo has passed away from a massive heart attack. He was 44.

My only contact with Mike was when, on a whim, I suggested to Joe Staton that we ask him to contribute a cover to our upcoming Femme Noir miniseries. We did, and Mike agreed without hesitation because he wanted to help a couple of other comics creators in getting their dream book published and noticed.

The pencilled page is Joe's hands, and Joe will ink it as Mike requested.

As a faithful reader of Mike's blog, I am also saddened and disappointed that we'll never see his own dream projects (like The Saturn Kid and more Tellos) come to fruition. And as a man of about the same age, who lives a considerably less-healthy lifestyle than he did, this is a resounding wake-up call.

RIP, Ringo. Your unique vision will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's Official!

The fine folks at Ape have now officially announced the addition of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries to their 2008 line-up to the comics press. The press release has just been posted over at Newsarama. Please swing over there and check it out – and if you feel like leaving a comment, it would be greatly appreciated.

But if you'd rather not go to the trouble (or don't like Newsarama), here's the text of the release:

Ape Entertainment invites you to take a midnight stroll down the rain-slick streets of Port Nocturne, where the bitter odor of gunpowder hangs in the air like cheap perfume, where every dark alley comes to a dead end, enemy and ally are but temporary distinctions, and justice is… blonde.

Writer Christopher Mills (Gravedigger: The Scavengers) and veteran comics artist Joe Staton (E-Man, Green Lantern, Scooby Doo) are pleased to announce that they have signed with Ape Entertainment to produce a four-issue, full-color miniseries based on their popular webcomic, Femme Noir.

The series, entitled Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries, is composed of four, standalone, 28 page stories, revolving around a mysterious, unnamed woman in a cobalt blue trenchcoat and black fishnet stockings as she fights crime and solves mysteries in a perpetually night-shrouded metropolis.

"The Femme Noir series is my unabashed valentine to the crime fiction genre," says Mills. "All the conventions of the genre - and the cliches - are happily and enthusiastically embraced. It's an amalgamation of 40's Poverty Row B-movies, Golden and Silver Age comics, old radio shows, pulp stories... a little bit of everything I love in Pop Culture, old and new."

"The webcomic ran off and on for over five years, and is now archived at, where the stories can still be read for free," Mills continues. "These strips have been featured on several websites – including Kevin Smith's Movie Poop Shoot, Komikwerks, and Thrilling Detective – and were singled out for praise by USA Today."

The webcomic version of Femme Noir has been very well received by readers and critics. Andrea Speed of Comixtreme commented that: "(Femme Noir is) ...a serious comic, but serious fun, of a kind you don’t see anymore on the shelves... giving the reader dark mysteries and action with a feminist and contemporary twist on a retro backdrop…" while Tonya Crawford of Broken Frontier said: "For those who love old movies, radio shows, pulps, or simply crime & detective dramas ... A city on the edge of darkness has an angel of hard justice."

The miniseries – which is entirely new material and does not reprint any of the comics produced for the web – is inked by Horacio Ottolini and Mark Stegbauer, with colors by Melissa Kaercher. In addition to covers by Staton and digital painter Alfredo Lopez, Jr., the series will feature variant covers by guest artists Brian Bolland, Phil Hester, Matt Haley and Mike Wieringo.

Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries will be published by Ape Entertainment in early 2008.


Femme Noir was created and is written by Christopher Mills, whose other comics credits include scripting a year's worth of Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals for Tekno•Comix in the mid-90’s; and writing, editing and co-publishing the independent horror series Shadow House. More recently, he was the writer of the highly-acclaimed crime one-shot, Gravedigger: The Scavengers, which was illustrated by artist Rick Burchett, published by Rorschach Entertainment and named "Best One-shot (Adult)" comic of 2004 by Alan David Doane of Comic Book Galaxy, and "Best Crime Noir" comic of 2004 by Andrea Speed of Comixtreme. Other credits include the graphic novel The Night Driver, which he adapted from a screenplay by John Cork, and a forthcoming Kolchak: The Night Stalker miniseries for Moonstone Books. His website is

Femme Noir is illustrated by Eisner and Inkpot Award-winning artist Joe Staton, whose numerous credits include such major Marvel & DC characters as the Hulk, Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, Batman, The Huntress, Plastic Man, Scooby Doo, and many others. He illustrated the Paradox Press graphic novel Family Man (written by Jerome Charyn) and is the co-creator (with Nicola Cuti) of the Charlton Comics superhero E-Man and private eye Michael Mauser, as well as DC’s Huntress and The Omega Men. In 1998, he received an Eisner award for his work on World's Finest: The Superman-Batman Adventure

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Okay, maybe THIS is Ming, still...

Okay, I admit it. I may have been wrong, but in my defense, that other photo didn't have a caption when I found it on the SciFi Channel website.

Apparently that guy was just a lackey.

From this new Flash Gordon cast photo (click on it for a bigger view), it looks like Ming is marginally more imposing than I originally thought, even if the costuming and set design here just reeks of cheapness and unoriginality. I mean really – where's the glamour? The romance? The style?

Oh yeah – that stuff just doesn't "fly" these days.

But even by the standards of made-for-cable TV, the sets and costumes (for more shots, check out the SciFi Channel website) just look terrible; like Sliders and Andromeda had a yard sale, and then the Flash folks bought up stuff in bulk but took out all the interesting details.

And having watched some of the promo material online, my reaction is that they've sucked all of the adventure, romance and fantasy out of it. And that's not Flash Gordon, to me.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

THIS is Ming the Merciless?

Ewwwwww.... what the hell? Seriously, this guy's got third-string, nameless henchperson written all over him. Or maybe Ming's lawyer. But Ruler of the Universe?

I mean, not even a goatee?


I dunno. Maybe this guy's such a good actor that we'll be able to get past the most uninspired, off-the-rack sci-fi villain costume ever and stupid rubber brain headpiece.... and be blown away by his awesome malevolence and terrifying presence...

But somehow, I doubt it.

I can't imagine that this guy'll be making anyone forget Charles Middleton or Max Von Sydow any time soon.

Mystery Scene's Top 100 Private Eyes

I just found out that my pal Kevin Burton Smith, proprietor of the Thrilling Detective website, has written an article for the 100th issue of Mystery Scene magazine wherein he names the top 100 private eyes created since the magazine's debut in 1985.

To my complete surprise, he included my character, Portland P.I. Matthew Dain, among such luminaries as Robert Crais' Elvis Cole, Andrew Vachss' Burke, Stuart Kaminsky's Lew Fonesca, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins, and TV's Veronica Mars and Adrian Monk.

Listed alphabetically, Dain comes in at #16: "16 Matthew Dain (Christopher Mills) In just two short stories, Mills created an eye as memorably dark and brooding as the Maine woods he calls home."

Now, personally, I think Kevin's being too generous, but I'm flattered and honored, nonetheless. If you want to read the two Matt Dain stories he references and decide for yourself, they can be found here and here. But if you decide Dain doesn't belong on the list (and I'm not certain he does!), take it up with Kevin.

Mystery Scene #100 is on newstands now, I think.

(Thanks to Glen for letting me know!)