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

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Reading Stack

I've been trying to read more prose fiction lately, and to that end, I've recently picked up a fair number of new books. Most of them have been in the crime/mystery genre, but there's been some sci-fi and spy-fi stuff in there, too.

I already mentioned Into The Volcano, a 60's spy novel by Forrest DeVoe Jr (Max Phillips), which I finished last week, and really enjoyed. I'll definitely be ordering the sequel novel as soon as I can.

In the past month, I also finally read Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. I knew the story so well through comics and reading the later novels in the series that I was sure I'd read it before, but upon getting a new hardcover omnibus of the first three Barsoom novels, I discovered that I'd never actually sat down and read the original book before. That was kinda embarrassing, but at least I got to finally experience it firsthand at age 42 – almost 30 years after I discovered the series on the bookmobile with with Swords of Mars.

After that, I read two "historical mysteries" – Robert J. Randisi's Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime, the first of two mystery novels set in early-60's Vegas and featuring Sinatra's Rat Pack as supporting characters, and Max Allan Collins' A Killing In Comics, set during the Golden Age of comics, right after WW II. I loved the Randisi book, and even re-watched the original Ocean's 11, after I finished it. I'll definitely be ordering the sequel. Killing was a lot of fun, too.

Still to be read are two Hard Case Crime paperbacks – Christa Faust's Money Shot and Lawrence Block's A Diet of Treacle, Greg Rucka's latest (and long-awaited) Atticus Kodiak novel, Patriot Acts, and the new space opera by Gary Wolfe and his pal, the Archbishop John Myers, Space Vulture. Looks promising.

And I still have some more Burroughs to get to, too. It should keep me busy for another month or so... and of course, I've got a bunch of graphic novels to catch up on, including a couple of 70's Justice Society reprint collections that Joe Staton sent me, and the spy comic Left On Mission, a copy of which I just won in a contest over on the Double 0 Section blog! How cool is that?

So... what are you reading?

KOLCHAK Review @ Comics Bulletin

There's a nice review up over at Comics Bulletin of the first issue of my Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of The Living Dead miniseries.
Mills knows the premise is old. So he wisely enlivens the deceased dog with inventive, well constructed characters such as a sheriff of the female persuasion who Carl attempts to woo. Mills even deepens the characterization of some of the victims that are briefly seen. Kolchak of course is pitch perfect, and I like how Mills does not forget his experience in dealing with matters of the outré.

The art by Tim Hamilton and Ian Sokoliwski is suitably dark but neither dreary nor murky. Instead, it creates atmosphere without going too over the top. There's a blue sky in Nebraska, almost as blue as the Sheriff's blouse, and the colors at the fair are bright in contrast to the inky shadows.
And yes. I am going to keep posting links to reviews & interviews & such. It's that "Shameless Self-Promotion" thing, you know?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

FEMME NOIR Review@Broken Frontier

Tonya Crawford of the popular Broken Frontier comics news site, just posted a nicely-written – and positive – advance review of the first issue of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries.
Mills obviously has a love of comic books, noir movies and books, and the supernatural as well and all of those loves are poured into his work here. Each of the three short tales (all totaling up to 28 pages worth of story) here are tightly woven and each illustrates a different aspect of the heroine – her dark sense of justice, her detective abilities, and her calm handling of the weird and strange. There is more than one tip of the hat to Will Eisner’s work on The Spirit but there is also a wittiness and sneaky satire that Raymond Chandler would have appreciated and slam bang action that Dashiell Hammett would have loved. Mills makes no bones about his sources of inspiration but the way his stories are told, his setting, and his tough, no nonsense heroine, all make it seem fresh and new and most of all, thrilling.

As with the web comic strips the penciler here is Joe Staton, a veteran of the industry. While many may remember him for his run with the character Green Lantern for DC, his work here deserves just as much praise. His action sequences literally explode off the page. If this were in 3-D it would need a warning label. His panel layouts are also wonderfully designed to increase the action and, at the same time, recall those great old noir movies of the 1940’s and 1950’s. His depiction of the nameless heroine can be smooth and sultry one minute and diamond hard the next; the perfect complement to the stories.
Aside from being pleased that she enjoyed it, I was also gratified to see that she seemed to "get" what I was going for with the introductory issue.

Computer-free, Cardboard TRON

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pre-Order Now: FEMME NOIR #1

Yeah, I know I'm pushing this hard, but, hey, this is a big deal for me. My first new, creator-owned comic book in four years, and the book I'm hoping will help jump-start my moribund comics writing "career."

Anyway, as I've mentioned several times in the past week, the first issue of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries, is now available for pre-order through Diamond Comics Distributors' PREVIEWS catalog.

It's the April edition, with Indiana Jones on the cover. The catalog itself is available at better comic book shops for $4.50, but you don't need the catalog to order the comic as long as you tell the retailer that you want it and where in the catalog to find it. Not sure where your closest comic shop is? Try the Comic Shop Locator Service or call 1-888-COMICBOOK.

Femme Noir is listed on page 212, under Ape Entertainment. The editors of PREVIEWS saw fit to single it out as one of their "Spotlight On:" listings, which is greatly appreciated. The Diamond Item Codes are: APR083544 for Cover "A" (Staton & Lopez) and APR083545 for Cover "B" (Brian Bolland).

Now, if you're just not able to get to a comic book store to pre-order the book, you can wait until June and order it online, but if you can pre-order it, please do. Not only does every individual order help, but it shows the retailer in question that there's interest in the book, and he might order a couple of extra copies for shelf display.

Thanks, guys!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More March Passings

Boy, it's been a bad couple of weeks. Visionary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke went to meet the monolith on the 19th – Childhood's End and Rendezvous With Rama are still two of my favorite SF novels of all time – then film noir icon Richard Widmark, of Kiss of Death and Night And The City fame, experienced his final fade to black on the 24th.

I'll never forget the first time I saw Kiss of Death and Widmark's terrifying portrayal of giggling sociopath Tommy Udo. I had bought the VHS of the movie – which had just been re-released on home video to tie-in with the inferior, 1995 remake – and was eager to catch up with another classic noir that I'd read about in my many film reference books. Well, it more than lived up to its reputation... and Widmark was why. No written description could have possibly conveyed the chilling impact of Widmark's Udo.

I just found out today that crime novelist Arthur Lyons, whose "Jacob Asch" private eye novels were a huge influence on me, died last Friday. Not only were his private eye novels a big part of why I became obssessed with the P.I. genre back in the 1980's (and "obsession" may be too mild a word), but his book, Death On The Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir, was a treasured resource as I began delving deeper and deeper into that shadowed realm on my own. Paul Bishop has a nice remembrance of Lyons at his blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday Cover: Femme Noir

Utterly shameless, I know. Here's Brian Bolland's (Batman: The Killing Joke, Camelot 3000) variant cover for the first issue of my comics miniseries, Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries, which, by a bizarre coincidence, is being solicited in the Diamond Distributors' Previews catalog that arrived in comics shops today.

Weird, huh?

Even weirder: here's a review of the first issue!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Comic Shops THIS Wednesday:

The first issue of KOLCHAK TALES: NIGHT STALKER OF THE LIVING DEAD is on Diamond's list for books shipping this week, and should be on your local shop's shelves this Wednesday.

I'm really pleased with the way this miniseries came out, especially with Tim Hamilton's marvelous artwork and Ian Sokoliwski's evocative coloring.

Also, this hitting stores this week is the April edition of Diamond Comics Distributon's Previews catalog, with the solicitation information for the first issue of FEMME NOIR: THE DARK CITY DIARIES from Ape Entertainment. The listing is on Page 212.

The Diamond Item Codes are: APR083544 for Cover "A" and APR083545 for Cover "B."


Friday, March 21, 2008

"...When The Autumn Moon Is Bright..."

I'm a big fan of the old Universal Monster movies of the 30's and 40's (end even the 50's; i.e. The Creature From The Black Lagoon). I haven't written much about that particular pop culture obsession in this blog because, well, over the last few years, there hasn't been much new and interesting to discuss. All the major films of the cycle hit DVD long ago, and even the collectible market's been kinda thin the last few years. (And even if it hadn't been, I couldn't afford to buy any toys nowadays, anyway....)

When it was announced a year or so ago that Universal was remaking The Wolf Man, well, frankly, I didn't much care.

After The Mummy "remake" turned out to be more of an Indiana Jones knock-off than anything resembling the Karloff (or Tyler or Chaney) original(s), followed by the fetid abomination that was Van Helsing... well, I didn't have much confidence in the studio doing justice to the character and film that's probably my favorite of the original Universal Monsters series.

In recent months, though, I have to admit, I've started to allow myself a little hope. Plot synopses online suggest that this one really is a remake of the original film's storyline, and the casting sounds interesting, with Benicio Del Toro playing the Lon Chaney Jr. role and Anthony Hopkins assuming Claude Rains' role. And further fueling my burgeoning – if cautious – optimisim, this past week, photos were released of Rick Baker's reimagining of the classic Ken Pierce Wolf Man make-up...

... and I like it.

I mean, I'm not surprised that the make-up's great – this is Rick Baker we're talking about, after all – but I'm impressed that they're using make-up at all, instead of going strictly for a CGI cartoon.

I understand that Del Toro's a big fan of the original 1941 film, and is also a co-producer on the remake. Dare I hope that this one will be respectful and be a worthy remake of a legendary – and damned fine – horror classic?

We'll see....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cool Crime Jazz

This may well be my very first music post. I don't generally write or talk about the music I like because I don't really feel qualified to discuss it. I have no musical talent, no musical education, and no musical knowledge to speak of. I don't know what's popular, and I don't really care. I like what I like, and that's about it.

I mostly listen to film scores on CD or blues and rock on the radio. I like 60's era lounge music, too. 70's rock. 80's pop. 90's neo-swing. Disco, when I'm in a rare, upbeat mood.

If I'm writing, I prefer instrumentals, either jazz or a film score that suits the mood of whatever I'm working on. If I'm doing graphic design work or surfing the Interweb, I generally have the radio tuned to the local blues or classic rock stations.

For the last couple of days, I've been mostly listening to a CD compilation of two different 50's TV crime show soundtracks – music from the series M Squad, which starred a young Lee Marvin, and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, the syndicated show with Darren McGavin. Both albums on this CD are comprised of some amazingly cool jazz, and it's the perfect music to listen to while working on Femme Noir. Especially since I know the Peter Gunn soundtrack by heart, I've listened to it so much.

In fact, I only mention it because I think it's a remarkably good disc, and wanted to recommend it to anyone out there who likes jazz. I bought mine at Amazon, but you can find it elsewhere, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday Cover: Matt Helm

In keeping with the espionage trend in this blog of late, here's the cover to an early edition (the first?) of the late Donald Hamilton's second Matt Helm novel, The Wrecking Crew. The Helm series is my favorite fiction series of all – sorry, Mr. Bond – and I love this cover, obviously issued before Gold Medal decided to give the Helm series a uniform trade dress.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Spy-Fi

Okay, so I'm clearly in one of my spy-fi moods. I just purchased Into The Volcano, by Forrest DeVoe, Jr. (a pen name of Hard Case Crime co-founder Max Phillips), a Sixties spy adventure patterned after the escapist espionage flicks of the era. The book's been out for a couple of years, but I hadn't gotten around to picking it up until I saw it offered by an Amazon marketplace dealer for one cent (plus postage). I've only just started reading it, but so far, it's pretty good.

I also recently picked up 20th century fox's Ultimate Flint Collection, which re-packages the two Derek Flint movies – Our Man Flint and In Like Flint – which had been previously released as bare-bones discs, with a third disc loaded with new bonus features, including the 1975 TV movie, Our Man Flint: Dead on Target, with Ray Danton.

Oh, it's just awful.

Still, the completist in me is glad to have it, and the two features now have new commentary tracks by the editors of Cinema Retro, so the set's a pretty decent deal and worth the double-dip.

Finally, I only just got a look at the cover for the forthcoming U.S. edition of the new Young Bond novel by Charlie Higson, Double or Die. It's friggin' gorgeous. I can't wait to read the book.

Yep it's going to be a big year for Bond books, between this, the Sebastian Faulks novel, and the domestic release – finally – of the first volume of The Moneypenny Diaries... never mind all the stuff that will be released to tie-in the Fleming Centenary and with Quantum of Solace in the fall...

Hell, it's looking to be the biggest Bond year since Octopussy and Never Say Never Again both hit theaters in '83.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Celebratory Advice: When you see this guy, it's time to lay off the green beer.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Special Mission Lady Chaplin

Wow, that was fast! It took less than a week for my Special Mission Lady Chaplin DVD to arrive from Dorado Films. Certainly can't complain about the service.

Can't complain about the movie, either. It was, by far, the best Eurospy movie I've ever seen. Sure, the English dialogue and dubbing was pretty horrible, but the plot was solid (if a bit implausible) the cast was generally good (as far as I could tell with the dubbing) and Ken Clark made a fantastic action hero.

Basically the plot is this: an American nuclear sub sinks with a full complement of Polaris missiles aboard. International salvage expert Kobre Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac) steals the missiles, intending to sell them to a foriegn power. Zoltan's top aide is the chameleon-like Lady Chaplin (From Russia With Love's Daniela Bianchi) a high-fashion designer and mercenary hit woman with a penchant for disguises. When the theft is discovered, CIA agent 077, Dick Malloy, sets out to retrieve the stolen warheads.

As I said above, the plot actually holds together, and the pacing is very much like a Connery-era Bond film. The ruggedly handsome, athletic Clark is flat-out awesome in the fight scenes, which are as brutal and well choreographed as anything in the early Bond flicks. Hell, I think agent Dick Malloy would give Jason Bourne a workout! There are none of the big futuristic sets or seismic pyrotechnics customary in the 007 series, but that's somewhat compensated for with authentic international locations and the aforementioned fight scenes. Bergerac is a great villain, and Bianchi seems to be having a lot of fun with her amoral role.

Now, don't get me wrong. Special Mission Lady Chaplin is no Goldfinger or Thunderball, but considering its budget and its exploitative raison d'etre, it's a winner.

Dorado's DVD is solid. The print is far from pristine, with plenty of debris, specks and the occasional missing frames. But it's very watchable, and presented widescreen. The sound is a bit muffled or fuzzy at times, but Dorado has – somewhat surprisingly, for such a small label – included subtitles. The disc also includes brief text bios of the stars and trailers for other Eurospy flicks, including several others with Clark.

I liked it a lot, clearly, and I'll be ordering the other two "Dick Malloy, 077" flicks – Mission Bloody Mary and From The Orient With Fury – when I can scrape up the dough. I wouldn't recommend it for everybody – but if you have the patience to put up with the atrocious dubbing, and you appreciate the genre, you'll probably enjoy it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eurospy Trailers

As a James Bond/60's spy-fi buff, I'm intrigued by the Eurospy films that were cranked out by various studios on the continent during the height of Bondmania.

I haven't seen many of them, but of the few I've seen, I've enjoyed most of them. Made on low budgets that would probably not even cover the craft services of the Bond films, the best of them benefit from the use of great, picturesque locations and enthusiastic stuntwork, even when the plots are questionable or the clumsy English dubbing almost unbearable.

Unfortunately, very few of these "Spaghetti Spy" flicks are available on video, and most of the ones that are, are only available in pan & scan, full-frame versions on VHS.

Thanks to a link on the Double O Section blog, I recently came across this Cinema Retro article about a series of Eurospy flicks that featured an American actor named Ken Clark as superspy Dick Malloy, Agent 077. The article made them sound interesting, so I followed another link to boutique DVD outfit Dorado Films, and ordered one of the discs, Special Mission Lady Chaplin.

Here's the trailer (warning – it's pretty long):

And here's the trailer to an earlier 077 film, Mission Bloody Mary:

Looks like fun, huh? After I get my disc of Lady Chaplin, I'll be sure to post a review.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Cover: Madame Buccaneer

Well, buckle my swash!

I don't know who painted the cover above, nor have I read the book – though I'd certainly like to – but as I was searching the interweb for a scan of a different Gold Medal paperback, I stumbled across this artwork and fell in love with it. As a big fan of both writer Gardner F. Fox and lady pirates, how could I not?

For those unfamiliar with the late Mr. Fox, he was a prolific Silver Age comics writer and author of the Kothar and Kyrik sword & sorcery paperbacks in the 1970's. He's best known for long runs on the Justice League of America and the Adam Strange feature in Mystery in Space. In fact, I just got the big, 500+ page DC Showcase Presents collection of Adam Strange tales and I'm really digging it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens R.I.P.

I don't know what I could say about the passing of Dave Stevens, one of my favorite artists of all time, that Mark Evanier hasn't said, and said better. I didn't know Dave, except through his work, but it was his marvelous talent that helped make the 80's my Golden Age of comics.


Rest in Peace, Dave.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bond, James Bond

I've been a huge fan of the James Bond character since I was in Junior High. It was then that I met David Deneen, a young man a year or so older than myself, who's brother had just married one of my favorite cousins. Well, one evening we were both visiting the aforementioned cousin's apartment in Newport, Maine, and he informed me that we would be watching Goldfinger, as it was scheduled to be run that night on HBO.

I'd never seen it – hell, I'd never seen HBO! – but David was already a dedicated Bond fan. Before the movie started he gave me a fairly detailed description of the character and the films, and after watching enraptured as Sean Connery outwitted Gert Frobe and saved the U.S. gold reserve from irradiation, I was well and truly hooked. I sought out and watched every Bond film I could, which wasn't easy, pre-home video (remember when they used to air exclusively on ABC?), hunted down all the Signet Ian Fleming paperbacks, and, starting with Moonraker in 1979, made a point of seeing each new James Bond film in the theater – usually on opening day.

In '81, John Gardner started writing original James Bond novels, and after a decade or so, the Ian Fleming estate signed author Raymond Benson to pen a few more. I never really warmed to Gardner's series. Some individual books were good reads, but his Bond didn't really seem very "Bondian." I enjoyed Benson's novels more. They occasionally came across a bit like fan fiction, but at least it was clear he was a fan, and thus, really trying his best to be faithful to Fleming's creation.

Well, it's been a few years since Benson had his literary license to kill revoked, and this Summer there will be a new Bond novel out, written by Sebastian Faulks, Devil May Care. I'm not familiar with Faulks, but I gather he's a respected literary type in England. I'm looking forward to his novel, which is reportedly set in the Fifties, but I am annoyed that his byline on the book is "Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming." I mean, c'mon. Fleming was a real guy, not a pseudonymous creation like "Franklin W. Dixon," "Kenneth Robeson," "Maxwell Grant" or "Robert Markham." It's kind of insulting, isn't it?

Anyway, that's the U.S. dustjacket design up above. For once, it looks the the American market finally got a better Bond jacket design than the Brits (at right). Very retro and very cool.

By the way Charlie Higson's "Young Bond" novels are actually worth reading, too. Very faithful to the spirit of Fleming, and very well-written. So far, I've only read Silverfin and Blood Fever, but I'm hoping the others will be released in the States soon.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Femme Noir – Guns Blazing!

Here's the public debut of artist Matt Haley's (Birds of Prey, Ghost, G.I. Spy) variant cover for the second issue of the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries miniseries, which should be on comic shop shelves in July.

Obviously, Matt's an incredible talent, who's particularly great at drawing strong, beautiful, butt-kicking women. Much of his efforts of late have been in the service of Hollywood producers; among other things, he drew all the on-screen illustrations for SciFi Channel's Who Wants to Be A Superhero?

Matt's also got a great art blog, which I highly recommend. Check it out.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kolchak #2 in March PREVIEWS

The second issue of my Kolchak Tales miniseries, Night Stalker of the Living Dead, is listed in the March 2008 edition of Diamond Comics Distributors PREVIEWS catalog, which should be available now.

To be sure to get this zombie-riffic horror epic, you'll want to visit your local comic book retailer and have them order you a copy. (If you misssed Issue #1, they'll be able to backorder that for you, too, I bet.)

Here's the solicitation copy, with the Diamond Order Code at the bottom.

Moonstone Books:


- Coming May/June!

by Christopher Mills & Tim Hamilton

Kolchak and the local sheriff are up to their ears — pun intended! — in zombies at a small-town corn festival! But what is the terrible secret behind these walking, lifeless people, and what else besides people has it affected? This is one story Kolchak may not want to get to the bottom of!

32 pages, Full Color, SRP: $3.99

KOLCHAK TALES #2 is solicited in the March PREVIEWS (available February 27th).

The Diamond Item Code is MAR083874.