Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I also received the two Ken Clark spy DVDs I wrote about on Monday. Once again, the discs showed up in about three days. You know, I'm not wondering why my orders from Dorado Films get here so fast – no, I'm wondering why my orders from everyone else take so long! (By the way, I watched them both last night. I wasn't disappointed. Good stuff.)
Speaking of other orders, I just ordered the new Richard Stark novel, Dirty Money, from Amazon. I'm a huge fan of the Parker series, and this book apparently wraps up the storyline that began in Nobody Runs Forever and continued in Ask The Parrot. Can't wait to read it!
I also decided to pick up the novels The Wheelman and The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski. Craig recommended The Wheelman to me long ago, and I'd had both books on my Amazon Wish List forever, so I finally decided to give Swierczynski a try.
Well, that's enough for now. I'm hittin' the hay.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Now that I've read and enjoyed a few Rider novels, I'm hoping to rent the Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker DVD next weekend. I hear it's not very good, but what the hell. I liked the first Agent Cody Banks film (tho the sequel sucked), and if it's even as entertaining as that teen spy flick, I'll enjoy it.
Speaking of teen spies, why isn't Richard Grieco's If Looks Could Kill on DVD? It wasn't that horrid. Now, John Stamos' Never Too Young To Die – that was horrid, despite a cameo by George Lazenby.
Anyway... I finally ordered the other two Dick Malloy Agent 077 DVDs from Dorado Films, Mission Bloody Mary and From the Orient With Fury (a/k/a Fury on The Bosphorous), both starring Ken Clark. As posted previously, I recently bought the third 077 film, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, and loved it. Hopefully these two earlier productions will be as much fun as that one.
Sadly, there aren't very many quality DVD releases of Eurospy films available. Aside from the 077 films from Dorado, the only other ones I know of are the Dark Sky Films Drive-In Double Feature DVD of Assassination in Rome and Espionage in Tangiers (which also calls its hero "Agent 077"). Unfortunately, while the films look very good, neither of them are as much fun as the Clark movies. Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia issued a triple feature disc of three of the Kommisar X films, but they're pretty crappy, fullscreen prints.
I just remembered a few others. Several years ago, Hen's Tooth Video released a beautiful DVD of the excellent Deadlier Than The Male with Richard Johnson (The Haunting) as an updated, very Bondian, "Bulldog" Drummond. Unfortunately, the sequel, Some Girls Do, hasn't made it to DVD. And back around the time of the last Austin Powers movie, Fox released the dreadful Modesty Blaise film along with Fathom, with Raquel Welch. I have the Blaise disc, but I never picked up Fathom. Maybe I should see if I can track down a cheap, used copy somewhere...
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Most major publishers – and many of the smaller ones – will be offering FCBD-specific titles to be given away. Some will be reprints, some will be special issues of popular series, and some will be "samplers" of the publisher's line of books. Ape Entertainment, the remarkably sharp publishers of three of my upcoming comics series – Femme Noir, Perils On Planet X, and Gravedigger – will be one of those outfits offering an anthology-styled "sampler," in this case, Ape Entertainment's Cartoonapalooza.
This special comic contains an all new, 5-page Femme Noir story/vignette, entitled "Night In The Life," written by yours truly, pencilled by Joe Staton, inked by Mark Stegbauer, and colored by Melissa Kaercher. The book also contains sample stories from other Ape titles, including: Monstroids, White Picket Fences, Go-Go Gorilla and Ursula Wilde. I don't know how many retailers have stocked Cartoonapalooza, but I'm sure the bigger, indie-friendly shops will have copies on hand.
Now, I'll probably try to get down to Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine at some point during the day, though I won't be signing or anything. But Femme Noir artist Joe Staton will be making a public appearance and signing copies of Cartoonapalooza at McRae’s Li’l Comic Shop in Matamoras, PA, from 2-6 PM.
ADDENDUM: Femme Noir inker Mark Stegbauer just sent me a note about his own FCBD plans: "I will be appearing at Kowabunga Comics in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin from 12-5 PM and at the first annual Oconocon the following Sunday from 10-5 at the Olympia resort. Tons of guests and a charity art auction."
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I liked it so much that I picked up the third novel, Skeleton Key, yesterday, and intend to read it just as soon as I finish the third – and latest – Young Bond novel, Double Or Die, by Charlie Higson... which I bought at the same time.
Sticking with the spy genre, last week I read the second "Mallory & Morse" spy novel by Forrest Devoe Jr (Max Phillips), Eye Of The Archangel, and found it too to be an improvement over the first in the series, Into The Volcano. I believe there's only these two M&M novels so far, but I hope Phillips writes at least one more and makes it a trilogy.
Other recent reads include Luck Be A Lady, Don't Die, the second "Rat Pack" mystery by Robert J. Randisi, and the excellent Hard Case Crime paperback original, Money Shot by Christa Faust. Speaking of Hard Case Crime, I've also got the Double Novel, Spiderweb and Shooting Star, by Robert Bloch, on hand to read soon.
I also read two Conan comics trade paperbacks from Dark Horse Comics, The Blood-Stained Crown & Other Stories, a collection of Conan stand-alone adventures, and Rogues In The House & Other Stories, writer Tim Truman's adaptation and expansion of the titular tale by Robert E. Howard. The first collection is mixed bag, story-wise, but has some really gorgeous art by veterans like John Severin, Rafael Kaynan and the aforementioned Truman, while Rogues was a solid adaptation with decent – if under-detailed – art by Cary Nord & Tomas Giorello.
It's been a while since I've managed this much recreational reading, and it's nice.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
What I did know was that it was a lot of cool heroes in a story that spanned three different alternate Earths, all expertly rendered by Dick Dillin. I also know that this is the book that made me a DC Comics fan, and despite my disdain for much of what's been done to many of these characters lately, I'll always love the DC superheroes best.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Personally, I've always liked NSNA – it's superior to most of the "official" Bond films of the era (even if it is a remake of Thunderball), and has a top notch cast, including Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Bernie Casey. Granted, the pacing is a little too leisurely at times, but it's the uninspired (and uninspiring) musical score by Michel Legrande that really wounds it.
The song, which is vastly superior to the tune used, was composed by Stephen Forsyth and Jim Ryan and performed by Phyllis Hyman, and you can hear it here.
Lucas' blog (always a fascinating read) explains why it was replaced in the finished film by an inferior song by NSNA composer Legrande and singer Lani Hall.
That’s what I’ve come to expect from Mills though. He’s always figuring out ways to liven up traditional concepts by looking at them from a different way or exploring corners that we haven’t been into before. Even that first issue of Femme Noir: I don’t want to call it a set-up issue, because – like “pulp” – I have a knee-jerk, negative reaction to that term. Mills certainly sets up his series, but he does it in an exciting way that works as a complete, stand-alone story and doesn’t make you sorry that you didn’t just wait for the trade.
I’ve neglected to mention Joe Staton’s illustrations before now and that’s as criminal as anything Femme Noir’s characters are up to. Staton is a legendary artist who’s clearly still in the game and is very comfortable with the series’ noir setting. Staton is too “Staton” to suffer comparison with any other artist, but damn if I wasn’t constantly reminded of The Spirit the whole time. In fact, if you’re at all enjoying DC’s current Spirit series and would enjoy reading more like it, you really need to give Femme Noir a try when it starts in June.
It's interesting that everyone so far assumes that the narrator of the first issue is a private eye. He's not... but his identity won't be revealed until the second miniseries.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
As with the first issue, #2 will feature two variant covers: the "A"cover by Joe Staton and Alfredo Lopez, Jr., and a guest cover by Matt Haley (Ghost, Birds of Prey, G.I. Spy). Each version has its own order code (see below) so you can choose in advance which version you want to get.
Here's a brief synopsis of issue #2, "Dead Man's Hand:" A husband's bad luck at cards results in a violent, twisted web of lies, blackmail, murder, and an explosive climax at sea with Port Nocturne's beautiful and deadly protector.
And here's what "Mistah Z" at Project Fanboy had to say about this issue:
This story continues the compelling crime/noir feel that was initiated with the first issue. While archetypical to the genre, I found the story to still manage to be fresh and compelling, giving some pulpy nods to its inspirations. The sub-plotting introduces and develops some "lesser" (for now, at least) characters, drives the main plot, and continues the mystery of "who is Femme Noir?" by trotting out all the possible suspects just long enough to keep you wondering. Joe Staton's art continues to be top notch and, once again, really ties the whole crime/noir vibe together. I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-series develops.The Diamond Item Code is MAY083591. (Staton & Lopez)
The Diamond Item Code is MAY083592. (Haley)
Remember, if you can pre-order it from your local comics shop, please do. Every pre-order helps a lot, and shows the store owner that there is interest in the book, which may lead him to order a few more copies for the shelves. Not sure where your closest comic shop is? Try the Comic Shop Locator Service or call 1-888-COMICBOOK.
But if you're unable to do so, the series will also be available from various online retailers, including the Discount Comic Book Service. I've used them myself, and they're a very reliable dealer with good prices.
Also appearing in the May PREVIEWS is the solicitation for the third and final issue of my Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead miniseries, published by Moonstone Books.
Here's the Solicitation Copy:
KOLCHAK TALES: NIGHT STALKER OF THE LIVING DEAD #3 - Coming in July! by Christopher Mills & Tim Hamilton This is it, Kolchak fans! One more small town that thought "it couldn't happen here" is overrun with the animated corpses of men — and pigs? Hey, zombies are zombies, and they're everywhere! Carl Kolchak just wants to finish his story before lunch, especially since he's on the menu! Just what is the terrible secret behind this little farm town? 32 pages, Full Color, $3.99The Diamond Item Code is MAY084041.
The first issue has generated some pretty good reviews and fan mail, and I think that Tim Hamilton's art just gets better with every issue. Ditto the colors by Ian Sokolowiski and covers by Dave Aikins.
As far as I can recall, this is the first time I've had more than one comic listed in the PREVIEWS catalog the same month. Here's hoping it's the first of many....
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Also, there's a fairly in-depth interview with me on the subject over at the Comicon PULSE comics news site.
The Femme Noir PR train keeps rolling along...
We're not the only ones. Here's a great list of twenty cinematic stars who were the real thing – or at least convincing enought to make us believe it on the silver screen, where it really matters.
Check it out.
Thanks to Bish for the head's up.
No lie. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, I defy anyone to not enjoy the hell out of this jaw-dropping Spaghetti space opera, starring the stunning Caroline Munroe, the apparently stoned-out-of-his-gourd Christopher "Captain von Trapp" Plummer, a pre-Knight Rider Hoff, and former child evangelist/Food of The Gods lead, Marjoe Gortner.
Normally dismissed as merely another astoundingly awful Star Wars knock-off, director Luigi Cozzi actually manged to craft an astoundingly awful knock-off of not only Star Wars, but all three Flash Gordon serials, Barbarella, hundreds of pulp space operas and comic books, and a half-dozen Ray Harryhausen movies. It literally has everything: a scantily clad heroine, a comic relief robot, stop-motion monsters, lightsabre duels, space amazons, space troglodytes, a galactic villain with a beer belly, ray guns, awful spaceship miniatures, beach ball planets, Christmas tree light stars... and a score by Academy Award winning composer John Barry!
Still, it's so mind-bendingly insane – like the bit where space troopers board an enemy starship by hiding in torpedos and crashing through their target vessel's plate glass windows before jumping out, rayguns blazing... without space suits! – and Caroline Munroe is just so breath-takingly beautiful, that really, how can I not love it? It's more fun than all three Star Wars prequels combined.
I would kill to have a widescreen, digitally remastered DVD of this, unfortunately the only ones floating around seem to be unlicensed, gray market, full-frame bootlegs sourced from VHS.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The scan was just a routine follow-up to see if there was any sign of my cancer coming back. I won't have the results for a few days, but I'm not overly concerned. Not about that, anyway. From everything I've been told, the cancer seemed to have been fully contained within the kidney they removed and the chances of it having reappeared are really slim.
But, still, I felt lousy all day, and was completely unproductive.
Did a little reading over the weekend. After a couple of years of hearing good things about the series, I finally picked up the first two "Alex Rider" teen spy novels by Anthony Horowitz. I read the first novel, Stormbreaker, Sunday afternoon. It was an entertaining update/homage of Ian Fleming's Moonraker novel, and I understand that the other Rider novels all parallel the Bond books, as well. I've got book two, Point Blank, here also, and will most likely read it this week. I enjoyed Stormbreaker well enough, but not as much as the first two Young Bond novels, which are aimed at pretty much the same audience. Still, there's seven books in the Rider series (so far), so maybe they get better.
Saturday, I found a new place where I could trade in used DVDs for store credit (the store I used to go to closed), and hauled in a bunch of discs I didn't want anymore. Came home with a couple of season's worth of Scrubs (a sitcom my wife and I have recently got hooked on) a few Doctor Who adventures, and a few cheesy B-movies that I'd been wanting, including the 1985 Golan-Globus/Cannon Films classic, American Ninja. It's not a "good" movie, by most anyone's definition, but I enjoyed seeing it again... and frankly, I had more fun with it than just about any new action film I've seen in the past decade.
Over the weekend, I also recorded another podcast interview, this time along with my collaborator Joe Staton, about Femme Noir. That should go live at the Ape Entertainment website sometime this week. I also did yet another Femme Noir interview for The Pulse comics news website. Again, it should be up shortly. I'll post links when available.
Well, that's it. Time to hit the sack and hope that I feel better when I get up.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Overall, Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries #1 takes a relatively underutilized genre in comics and makes it a viable one. The action is fast and the women look even faster. And while the story concludes without the big reveal of the title character, it does whet the appetite for the next issue, which is what any good introductory issue should do.While the fine folks at Project Fanboy take looks at Issue #1:
This book has it all: mobsters, tough guys, tougher gals, no nonsense cops, and lots of gunplay! Everything you'd expect from a book titled Femme Noir. Christopher Mills' story has a great feel for the time period, and is very engaging. Each of the three sub-stories leaves you saying, "It's gotta be her!!!" until you read the next one, which is exactly the way it should be. The art is expertly executed (what you'd expect from and Eisner award winner) and compliments the story perfectly. Staton hits the mark of bridging everything you love about old crime/noir stories and gives it a slight modern sheen. It's safe to say that everything really comes together, and the noir vibe is in full effect!...and Issue #2:
This story continues the compelling crime/noir feel that was initiated with the first issue. While archetypical to the genre, I found the story to still manage to be fresh and compelling, giving some pulpy nods to its inspirations. The sub-plotting introduces and develops some "lesser" (for now, at least) characters, drives the main plot, and continues the mystery of "who is Femme Noir?" by trotting out all the possible suspects just long enough to keep you wondering. Joe Staton's art continues to be top notch and, once again, really ties the whole crime/noir vibe together. I'm looking forward to seeing how this mini-series develops.Let's hope the good press attracts some paying customers!
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Now, a lot of Doc fans don't like Brian's version, and feel that The Man of Bronze is too massive on these covers. I won't argue the point – but I find this cover, in particular, very pleasing. Maybe because it's one of the very few times we've seen Doc's distaff cousin Pat showcased on a cover (and showcased very nicely, too), or maybe because I just love Brian's distinct and unique style. In any case, this cover's one of my favorites.
As it came up a couple of times in the comments section of one of last month's Bond posts, I thought I'd share the opening titles of the early 90's James Bond Jr. cartoon, complete with catchy theme song... and Hip Hop Oddjob. Enjoy.
ADDENDUM FOR CHARLES: The cartoon was very loosely inspired by the 1967 children's novel 003 1/2: The Adventures of James Bond Junior by "R.D. Mascott." Here's the Wikipedia entry on that rare book.
This week's column includes reviews of the digital versatile disc releases of Cloverfield, The Evil Dead Ultimate Edition, Hatchet: Unrated, Beowulf: Unrated, Dragonlance, Ricco The Mean Machine, George of the Jungle: The Original Animated Series, Gone Baby Gone, The Phantom Creeps, The Phantom Empire, The Wild Wild West: Season 4, Walker, Texas Ranger: Season 4, The Equalizer: Season 1, Schoolgirl Reports Vol. 3, 42nd Street Forever: Exploitation Explosion and Trailer Trash!
That's a lot of DVDs. Check it out here. (And no, I don't know why all the apostrophes are messed up. That ain't my fault!)
Sunday, April 06, 2008
When I was a kid, my folks often went on a vacation around Easter, leaving my sister and myself with my grandmother. This meant that we would be watching The Ten Commandments on ABC. The first time I saw it, I was enraptured, and swept up by the cinematic spectacle... and Heston's charismatic, commanding performance as Moses.
Personally, I loved the scenery-chewing vigor with which he attacked his roles; let's face it, it took that sort of forcefulness to hold his own surrounded by guys in ape masks and still dominate the original Planet of the Apes film. And while The Omega Man may not necessarily hold up that well, the third of his sci-fi troika, Soylent Green, still packs a punch today, even though we all know the punchline.
The world is definitely a smaller place with his passing.
Watched Cloverfield on DVD last night, and found that, for the most part, I still liked it as much as I did in the theater. Better, in fact, 'cause the only idiot talking during the movie this time was me. Watching it on the TV screen does somewhat diminish the effectiveness of some of the more apocalyptic sequences, but it was still a fun ride.
Another advance Femme Noir review has popped up online. Britt Schramm, who used to have a comics column over on the old Movie Poop Shoot site (before it became Quick Stop), wrote up his thoughts on the first issue in his blog. I'll be repaying him for his kind words by killing him off in Issue #4. What can I say? I'm like that.
Well, I had a long day today, shopping with the wife. We needed groceries, pet supplies and other essentials, and Brandi wanted to do some shopping for gardening stuff. This entailed driving around about a third of the state and walking for several hours through numerous stores, and I'm just not in good enough shape to handle that as easily as I used to. I'm beat.
Of course, I guess it was good exercise, right? And lord know I need more of that.
Speaking of my which, I had a doctor's appointment and some tests done last week to see how my remaining kidney was handling things since losing it's brother last year. Well, it's holding in there. Years of hypertension and sleep apnea have done a lot of damage to the poor thing, and it's not working quite as well as we'd all like, but it seems to be handling the load okay, and function has actually improved a bit since my last tests. Hopefully, it will continue to do so.
Well, as I said above, I'm beat from the day's consumerism, so I'm going to watch a movie and hit the hay so I can get up bright and early tomorrow and finish a couple of scripts.
The writing is intentionally unsophisticated and more than a little corny. The simple story pits sterling, square-jawed space marshall Victor Corsaire against the galaxy's greatest villain, a criminal genius and space pirate who goes by the name Space Vulture. There's also a small-time crook with an alien eye and arm, a couple of precocious kids, and an army of mind-controlled "zombies."
While the plot is slight and episodic, it keeps moving and is an entertaining, low calorie diversion. I enjoyed it.
Apparently Wolf (who created Roger Rabbit) and his collaborator the Archbishop, grew up together and shared a fondness for lurid sci-fi pulps. Space Vulture is their homage to the stories they loved as kids, and it certainly reads that way. The eye-catching cover art by Glen Orbik (above, right), who also paints a lot of covers for the guys at Hard Case Crime, is particularly nice, perfectly capturing the old school pulp vibe.
If you like 30's and 40's space adventures in the vein of E.E. "Doc" Smith, you might get a kick out of this. It's not earth-shatteringly good, but it's fun and it's damned cool that it exists at all.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Well, last night before hitting the sack, I watched Charlie Chan in Reno again, one of the films in the last Chan DVD set from Fox. It was Sidney Toler's second film as Chan. Not only did he do a fine job in the role, the setting of Reno, Nevada – the divorce capital of the world – during the 30's made a fascinating backdrop for crimes of passion. But more than that, this little 1939 B-mystery movie is a virtual treasure trove of cinema crimefighters – nearly all of them playing suspects in the murder case!
First is suave ladykiller Ricardo Cortez, who I know mostly from having played a miscast Sam Spade in the first, pre-Bogie, version of The Maltese Falcon. One of the other suspects is Robert Lowrey, who played the caped crusader Batman (!) in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial. Another suspect is Morgan Conway, who portrayed America's top cop, Dick Tracy, in the first two of RKO's quartet of 40's Tracy B-features!
And finally, the romantic lead is square-jawed Kane Richmond, who played both Fawcett comic book hero Spy Smasher in the classic Republic cliffhanger of the same name and The Shadow in a couple of low-budget features!
So... in one 70-minute film, we've got Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, Dick Tracy, Batman and The Shadow (or Spy Smasher, if you prefer).
I think that's one helluva line up!
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I still remember buying this comic at the corner store here in Belgrade. I miss covers like this Nick Cardy classic, which would set up a situation that made you really want to read the story inside, either because the cover image was really cool, or – as in this case – so friggin' nuts.
This was the first "Super Sons" story I read, and I thought it was pretty damned cool. Of course, I was 8 years old. Fortunately, DC recently reprinted this story, and the rest of the World's Finest stories that featured the "Super Sons" in a handsome trade paperback. The stories are dated, corny and bizarre in that distinctive Bob Haney way, but you know, they're still pretty damned cool.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
So... if you'd like to hear the voice that goes along with that scary photo over on the right, click here and have a listen.