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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Femme Noir #3 PREVIEW

Here are the first few pages from Issue #3 of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries, which is currently being solicited in Diamond's PREVIEWS catalog. Orders on the first issues were low, so if you want a copy of this issue, you really should pre-order it. You'll find it at the bottom of page 206 under "Ape Entertainment," and the Diamond Order Codes are JUN083647 for Cover "A" by Joe Staton and Alfredo Lopez and JUN083648 for Cover "B" by Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Nightwing, The Irredeemable Ant-Man).

Click on the images for a bigger view:

Script & letters by yours truly, pencils by Joe Staton, inks by Horacio Ottolini, and colors by Matt Webb.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Quick Thought....

It's a good thing that one can hunt for and purchase used books over the Interwebnet at very reasonable prices. Today, for example, I ordered the three Gardner F. Fox Kyrik sword & sorcery novels I don't already have, and two planetary swordplay books by Charles Nuetzel (after reading about him on Charles Gramlich's blog) and not one of them cost more than two bucks.

The shipping, on the other hand... well, let's just say that once everything was tallied up, they didn't seem like such a bargain anymore. Postage was around $4 a book.

Ten years ago, there were dozens of good used book stores in Central Maine, and I would often take a Saturday afternoon and hit as many as I could, which was usually about six or so. They're pretty much all gone now. Aside from the fun of hunting among the shelves for cool stuff and rare treasures, there was the instant gratification of just buying the books you found and going home to read them.

Buying online just isn't as much fun.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fleming @ 100

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, Agent 007 of Her Majesty's Secret Service, licensed to kill.

A mere dozen novels and two short story collections beget a series of 21 "official" Bond films (plus two rogue productions), various radio adaptations, a long-running newspaper comic strip, a handful of comic books, scores of non-fiction tomes, an astounding range or merchandise, spin-offs (i.e. James Bond Jr.) and a highly-successful series of pastiche novels by authors like Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Raymond Benson. The latest of these, Devil May Care, by Sebastian Faulks, goes on sale today.

It's no secret that I'm a Bond fan, but I'm a Fleming fan, too. That's not always the case, as I know many people who love the movies, but have never cracked the cover of one of the source novels. And that's a shame. Fleming's prose style is definitely of an earlier era, but it flows so smoothly and moves so quickly, that it's not difficult to read. On the contrary, I can't imagine anyone not getting caught up and swept along by an Ian Fleming adventure novel.

Recently, I transferred my VHS tapes of two Ian Fleming TV biopics – The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (alias Spymaker) with Jason Connery and Goldeneye, starring Charles Dance (in an amazing performance) – to DVD. Both films took great liberties with the details of Fleming's life, striving to enhance the similarities between Fleming and his famous creation. And now there's talk of another one – this time intended as a big-budget theatrical feature – to be produced by (and possibly starring) Leonardo Dicaprio.

I find that astounding, and a great tribute to the man and an indication of the significance of his impact on global popular culture. Seriously, how many writers' lives are made into movies, never mind three?

Happy Birthday, sir. And thanks.

Wednesday Cover: Moon Knight

I haven't read any of the later incarnations of the title, but the original Moon Knight series from Marvel back in the early 80's was awesome. In some ways, MK was Marvel's take on Batman, with one of the Dark Knight's most prominent creators, Denny O'Neil, handling the series' editorial chores – but Moon Knight had some pretty unique character traits of his own.

As well as an incredibly cool costume.

The series featured clever, twisty, noir-influenced mystery scripts by Doug Moench, playing up the character's multiple identities, and literally groundbreaking artwork by a young Bill Sienkiewicz, who evolved from a loose Neal Adams clone into one of the medium's most innovative artists over the course of the first year or so of the series. This cover is from Issue #8, with Sienkiewicz still in his Adams phase, but beginning to exhibit some of the strong graphic design sensse that would later make his reputation.

A great series, and a great cover.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chris In Real Life (or what passes for it)

Sorry I haven't posted much lately.

I've been struggling – as always – with my various writing assignments and my similarly varied health issues. I recently started a new diet (yeah, I know), and I've lost around 15 pounds. Not a lot, but a start. The hardest part is that I've had to cut out caffeine, and the past week of caffeine withdrawal was a singular sort of hell. I also went to the dentist for the first time in probably 25 years. Lucked out there, though: not a single cavity, just some minor bone damage from gingivitis, which I'm told should be easy to clear up with a couple of cleaning sessions and a little more diligence with my oral hygiene.

Currently reading the Donald Westlake novel, What's So Funny?, the latest – I think – Dortmunder book. So far, it's starting out promisingly. I'm also reading In The Courts of the Crimson Kings by S.M. Stirling, a modern take on the interplanetary romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs, et al. I'm hoping to pick up the new James Bond novel, Devil May Care soon, which I believe is supposed to be released this week.

The initial orders for Femme Noir were not as good as we'd hoped, but my optimistic and far-seeing publishers, Ape Entertainment, are still firmly behind the book, and not only will they be publishing the entire 4-issue miniseries as promised, but they've asked for an immediate, 48-page, one-shot follow-up. Joe Staton and I have already come up with a story idea, and we'll be starting on the new book – which I'm referring to as the Femme Noir Annual – just as soon as we've got the last issue of the miniseries off to the printer. The title will be Femme Noir: Supernatural Crime, and will guest star the skull-visaged vigilante known as Brother Grim. The idea is that our heroine and Grim will work the same macabre mystery separately from different angles, and then collide at the climax.

Should be fun, if I can pull it off.

By the way, I would still appreciate it if people kept plugging Femme Noir around the web and to their comics retailers. The third issue (which is probably the strongest issue in this miniseries) will be in the June edition of the Diamond PREVIEWS catalog, which comes out this week, and we can use all the help we can get. I'd be thrilled if we could buck the odds and actually increase the numbers for the later issues in the mini.

Here's the order info: Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries #3 of 4, from Ape Entertainment, at the bottom of page 206. The Diamond Item codes are: JUN083647 for Cover "A" by Joe Staton and Alfredo Lopez and JUN083648 for Cover "B" by Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Nightwing, The Irredeemable Ant-Man).

Thanks for your continued interest & support, guys!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My New Toy

A few weeks back, we were shopping at a local discount store called Mardens. Because they basically pick up overstock or remaindered items from other businesses, you never know what you're going to find on their shelves when you stop in, but if you're lucky enough to find something you want, the price is usually fantastic. Well, on this particular visit, they had a small stack of name-brand DVD recorders marked down to less than half their normal price. It was too good a deal to pass up, so we bought one.

Since then, we've been going through our boxes of old VHS tapes, and slowly transferring most of them to DVD. We have lots of obscure movies and TV shows on tape that are not available commercially on DVD, so we've been busy. My wife, in particular, spent a lot of time years ago taping movies off TV and she has piles of these tapes that she now wants to preserve in a more convenient (and theoretically more permanent) format. In my case, I spent a lot of the 80's and 90's accumulating new and used pre-records of strange shit, most of which just hasn't made it to DVD yet.

And frankly, the VHS tapes take up way too much room, and with over 3,000 DVDs, a couple hundred laserdiscs, and another few hundred VHS tapes – never mind all our books, comics, magazines and CDs – well, space is becoming a huge issue in our little old farmhouse. Also, with all those tapes packed in boxes and stacked away, it was a real pain in the ass digging out a specific tape when the urge hit to watch one.

So, what sort of things are we recording?

About ten years ago, AMC (when it was still "American Movie Classics") had a big Tarzan marathon, and I taped a bunch of those off the tube. While all the Weismuller films are on DVD, none of the later ones with Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney or Mike Henry are, so I've been preserving those off-air recordings on DVD-R. They don't look so great, as I originally recorded them in EP mode, and I've watched them a lot over the years, but it's a lot easier to watch Tarzan's Greatest Adventure or Tarzan The Magnificent on disc than on tape.

I've been transferring the few Eurospy tapes I've picked up over the years, like Lightning Bolt and Operation Atlantis to disc, and I made a fun double feature of the two 80's teen spy spoofs If Looks Could Kill and Never Too Young To Die (oh man, that last one was just as horrid as I remembered!). I also put both of the Ian Fleming television bioflicks – The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (a/k/a Spymaker) with Jason Connery and Goldeneye with Charles Dance – on one double feature disc.

Been saving the contents of some rapidly-deteriorating mystery tapes, too: anybody remember Showtime's noir series, Fallen Angels? You do? Then how about the Dan Turner Hollywood Detective TV movie with Marc Singer? Or Sherlock Holmes in New York with Roger Moore as Holmes? Or A Study In Terror? Well, my tapes may not look that great (especially Holmes in NY), but as far as I know, none of those are on DVD at all.

I've transferred my Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and The Maxx cartoons – and my sole Thundarr The Barbarian episode – to DVD-R, too, with a bunch of old rare anime tapes soon to follow.

Anyway, the best thing about this new toy, is that as long as I don't plan any fancy editing (that's my wife's thing!), I can just set up a tape and leave it to record while I go do other things. Hopefully, by the end of the Summer, we'll have saved pretty much everything we want to keep and will have cleared out a bunch of storage space... fill up with other stuff!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

(Barely) Wednesday Cover:

I came to the X-Men late – and it took this marvelous John Byrne/Terry Austin cover to put the book in my hands. I'd always been a DC guy, and although I'd read the random Marvel book here and there growing up, X-Men was the first one I picked up with any regularity. I read it for a year or two after this issue, and then dropped it, never to really return. But this is a great issue.

I haven't been online much in the past week. Instead, I've been putting the finishing touches on the first two issues of Femme Noir and getting them off to the publisher... and I've been sick. I have a very painful, recurring gastrointestinal issue that the docs can't seem to diagnose nor treat effectively, and while it had been some time since I'd had an "attack," the past week has been pretty bad, and I haven't felt up to doing much.

Still don't, actually, so I'm signing off. More ramblings soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Iron Man Soars

Finally got to see Iron Man this evening. I'm not going to gush and declare it the best comic book movie ever... but it's damned good.

I'm not as critical of comic book film adaptations as many comics fans, and I've liked several films that have been generally dumped upon, including Daredevil and Ghost Rider (in both cases, the DVD Director's Cuts), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Phantom, The Rocketeer, etc. Iron Man is much better than most of those, and ranks up with the first two Spider-Man and X-Men films for me. It may even be marginally better, but until I'm as familiar with it as I am with those, I'll say it's about the same.

John Favreau, like Sam Raimi, just gets it. He understands the nature of the super-hero story, and knows how to realize it on-screen. There's no sense that he feels he's above the material (and thus, sneering at it), nor embarrassed by it (thus playing it as "camp."). Robert Downey Jr. owns the role of Tony Stark, and makes the character far more interesting than he ever was in the old comics. Gwyneth Paltrow is surprisingly warm and human as Stark's aide and confidante, Pepper Potts... and she's prettier now than she ever was. Maturity looks good on her. Jeff Bridges is nearly unrecognizable as the duplicitous Obidiah Stane, and plays against type brilliantly.

Favreau made the wise choice to handle a considerable amount of the effects work "practically," with real suits of armor and other gizmos on-set, saving the CGI mostly for the big action stuff. Worked great, and it was refreshing to see a little restraint in a Summer FX blockbuster.

With Iron Man, Marvel has taken personal control of their characters exploitation on film, and the attention to detail, character and even continuity shown in this first production, makes a big difference. Can't wait for The Incredible Hulk, the second flick from Marvel Studios. Bring it on, guys!

If you haven't seen it yet, and you like comic book movies at all... see it in the theater. It's worth the hassle.

Speaking of hassles – didn't really have any this time. My back pain made the experience uncomfortable, but the audience was small and well-behaved, for a change. Saw some trailers of interest, too – I grinned like an idiot through the previews for both Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight, while the trailer for Frank Miller's adaptation (or is that, "abomination?") of The Spirit, just plain made me want to cry. God, it was just so wrong....

John Phillip Law R.I.P.

Cinema Retro is reporting that International film star – and the best Sinbad ever – John Phillip Law passed away earlier this week at the far-too-young age of 70.

The handsome actor starred in various films, most of which were made in Europe. He was the lead in two of my favorite movies: Mario Bava's amazing Danger Diabolik, where he played the masked super-criminal, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, where he played the only film Sinbad who didn't look and sound like he came from the American Midwest. He was also featured in Barbarella as Jane Fonda's sightless, nearly-nude angel lover, and in the memorable Spaghetti Western Death Rides A Horse, opposite the great Lee Van Cleef.

I always liked watching Law, and when I picked up the Diabolik DVD a couple years ago, I was pleased to find that he had recorded a commentary track. I was even more pleased when I heard it – Law came across as a very intelligent, erudite and witty individual, with a genuine love of his craft and an appreciation for his eclectic career. His commentary was insightful, humerous and filled with fascinating anecdotes about filmmaking on the Continent in the swinging Sixties.

As a fan of outre cinema, I'm really going to miss him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Feeling the Love...

Our pal Michael May wrote about my proposed Sinbad graphic novel over on the Newsarama Blog, and sure enough, it didn't take long for one of their infamous trolls to find his way over here, as the most recent comment, from "anonymous," in the "Lost At Sea With Sinbad" post shows:

"Why not create your own character instead of hinging on someone else's creations and then making your interpretation of a story already done? Why be a hack? It's pathetic."

I wonder if Alan Moore gets e-mails like this?


Wednesday Cover: Ka-Zar

Dynamic, lost world jungle action courtesy of the great Gil Kane (and an unknown inker – unknown to me, anyway). I like this Ka-Zar cover a lot – in fact, I like this run of the Ka-Zar comic book quite a bit.

The more character-driven Bruce Jones/Brent Anderson version in the 1980's started well before becoming tedious soap opera, but the last incarnation (at least the last I read), in the 90's sucked, despite having a good creative team. Taking the blond-haired Tarzan knock-off out of the jungle and dropping him down in Marvel's super-hero glutted New York City to fight super villains was a just plain stupid idea.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Random Musings from Ground Zero

• Friday I received the new Burke's Law DVD set from VCI Home Video. This early-60's detective series was produced by Aaron Spelling, and like his later productions, it's slick, a little sleazy, and lgimmicky. And man, Burke's Law may just be the most gimmick-laden detective series ever!

The first gimmick is that Amos Burke (Gene Barry), a L.A. homicide captain, is a multi-millionaire, spending his nights in an alcoholic haze, romancing starlets and debutantes and engaging in the other sordid pursuits of the insanely rich. But, when duty calls, Burke orders his Asian manservant Henry to bring around the Rolls Royce, and is chauffeured to the crime scene – usually still in his black tie and tux.

The second gimmick is that each episode is loaded with big name guest stars, both the young, fresh faces of 1964, and a whole lot of Hollywood legends and almost-legends. This first set includes the first 16 episodes of the first season, and the guest stars in those episodes alone include: William Bendix, Bruce Cabot, Rod Cameron, Zasu Pitts, Will Rogers Jr., Elizabeth Montgomery, Soupy Sales, Jim Backus, Mary Astor, Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, Paul Lynde, Lizabeth Scott, Chill Wills, Joan Blondell, Juliet Prowse, Barbara Eden, Don Rickles, Ed Begley, Rita Moreno, Keenan Wynn, Arlene Dahl, Sammy Davis Jr., Burgess Meredith, Diana Dors, Carolyn Jones, Nick Adams, Cesar Romero, Howard Duff, Ida Lupino, Tina Louise, Niancy sinatra, Gloria Swanson, Edward Everett Horton, Dean Jones, June Allyson, Jack Haley, Agnes Moorehead, Yvonne DeCarlo, Hoagy Carmichael, Broderick Crawford.... and a whole lot more.

The third gimmick is "Burke's Laws," pithy little bits of wisdom that the suave homicide cop occasionally likes to pass along to his junior officers.

But, gimmicky as it is, it's also damned entertaining. If you're a fan of old TV detective shows or enjoy spotting familiar faces – as the wife and I both do, since we're huge old movie buffs – Burke's Law is definitely worth checking out. The writing is sharp (two of these episodes were penned by Harlan Ellison), the production values slick, Gene Barry is charming, and the mysteries are engaging.

VCI's set is pretty decent, with really nice transfers and some vintage television commercials. My only complaints are that it's only half the season on 4 discs, and each disc has its own, full-sized DVD case. For a guy with over 3,000 DVDs, I have some serious storage issues, and, frankly, this set eats up too much shelf space. I really wish VCI had packaged these 4 discs in a couple of two-disc slimpaks – it would have taken up probably about a third of the space, and be more in line with most other TV-on-DVD releases.

• Over the weekend, I re-read the Richard Stark novels Nobody Runs Forever and Ask the Parrot, and then read the latest installment in the Parker saga, Dirty Money. If you're a Stark fan, I highly recommend you do the same, as these three volumes comprise a single narrative, a marvellous, twisty caper that's probably Stark's magnum opus. When Nobody Runs Forever was released a few years back, I remember finding it a rather unsatisfying read, but now that the story is finally completed, I think it's one of the stronger books of the "second wave" of Parker titles. Good stuff.

• Remember the doughnut adventure? Well, I got screwed again. For a long time, I've wanted the DVD set of the first season of the 90's Adventures of Sinbad syndicated television series. After writing those Sinbad posts last week, I finally decided to see if I could find a set online to buy. Well, the set was only released in Canada, and is long out of print, and I couldn't find a set for sale anywhere. None... except – a single private seller had it offered on the Canadian Amazon site.

Well, the price seemed reasonable, so I placed my order. But when I contacted the seller today to get an ETA on my discs, I was confused when she asked me if I wanted to buy the "other volumes" at 50% off. Other volumes? As far as I'd been able to determine, only the first of the series' two seasons had been released on DVD. I started to be concerned that maybe I'd bought some bootleg DVD-Rs instead of the authorized, commercial release, so I wrote back and asked for a clarification.

It was actually worse. What I bought was "Volume 1" of Season 1 – the first disc of the 5 discs in the Season 1 set. The seller had broken up the set and was selling each of the five discs separately. The "reasonable price" – in Canadian dollars, mind you – was actually pretty damned unreasonable for just three or four episodes! Seriously, who the hell would sell a TV box set that way?

So now, I've been exchanging a bunch of e-mails with the seller and trying to figure out how I'm going to get my money back. Sigh....

• My favorite sword & sorcery flick from the 1980s is Albert Pyun's 1982 epic, The Sword And The Sorcerer. I won't claim that it's particularly high art, but it's fast-paced, funny, and friggin' entertaining. It's got an appealing lead in Lee Horsley, some great make-up effects, bare boobies, well-staged action scenes, and a rousing score. And an incredibly silly, rocket-propelled tri-bladed sword.

I love this movie!

Well, at the end of the movie's credits, the producers promised a sequel: Tales of the Ancient Empire... and according to Ain't It Cool News, that long-promised follow-up film is finally being made. Apparently, Lee Horsley is returning, and genre vets Kevin Sorbo, Christopher Lambert, and Yancy Butler (Witchblade) will also be in the cast. The original film's director, Albert Pyun, is allegedly shooting Tales now.

I'm really curious about this one – The Sword And the Sorcerer is a real anomaly in Pyun's filmography in that it's actually watchable; most of Pyun's movies are unbearably bad. And around 26 years have passed since the original film, so I'm wondering just how much of a sequel it's really going to be...

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Second-Favorite Trek...

I was a Trekkie back when there was only one Star Trek, and that was Star Trek. I can't claim to have been on board with the show from the very beginning, although I suppose that as a toddler I may have staggered through the living room when the episodes originally aired (although knowing my parents, I'd be surprised if they ever watched the show), but by the mid-Seventies and my ninth or tenth year, I was already a confirmed Trek fan.

Early on, I was familiar with Trek more through the Saturday morning animated version and James Blish's paperback short story adaptations, which I spent most of my allowance money on and voraciously devoured on the school bus, playground and on long car trips. I also had non-fiction books like The Making of Star Trek, The World of Star Trek, and The Star Trek Concordance. One of my most treasured possessions was the Starfleet Technical Manual (though I never had the Enterprise blueprint set, damn it).

I still have all of those books, by the way.

As to the show itself, it took me a long time to see all of the original 79 episodes, as reruns aired infrequently in our television market, and when they did air, the schedule was maddeningly irregular. WCSH was the station most likely to slot in a Trek on a Sunday afternoon if a sporting event was delayed or ended early, though WMTW aired the series on weeknights for a few months around '74. Unfortunately, it was on during homework time, right after the news, so I rarely got to see it. On occasion, we would visit relatives or family friends who lived in major markets, and I'd catch an episode on their sets... man, it was tough to be a Trekkie then.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture in '79 was a big event for me. The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock helped me get through High School, and in '83, when I went off to art school in New Jersey, I finally found regular Trek on the tube, courtesy of cable and the New York TV stations. I only had an 8" black & white TV, but it was good enough.

When The Next Generation debuted in '87, several of my geekier friends and I gathered in my first apartment to watch the premiere... and while it was good to see new Trek, it just wasn't the same. While I watched the show regularly, I never really warmed to Picard and company the way I had to Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and the rest of the original crew. It certainly didn't help that that pompous, Anglo-Franco fop surrendered his ship three times in the first four episodes! The 24th Century just wasn't very exciting to me. Everyone got along too well, and there was virtually no conflict among the cast. Too much technobabble and pop psych, and not enough shooting of phasers and photon torpedoes. The final frontier had become far too tamed.

Deep Space Nine, on the other hand...

At first, I was unimpressed, and didn't make much effort to keep up with it. But while I was living in Florida, the show aired on Saturday afternoons in a large block of syndicated fantasy shows with Babylon 5 and Xena, so I started catching more episodes, and was soon watching it regularly. And I started to recognize that this one was different from Next Gen in some significant ways.

In this show there was a solid episode-to-episode continuity. The characters – and their relationships – grew and changed as the overall story progressed. Further, this show wasn't afraid to reference directly the original Trek, bringing back characters (Klingons Kor, Kang and Koloth) and concepts (Tribbles, The Mirror Universe) from the classic series, and like that series, DS9 wasn't afraid to do a comedy episode once in a while, either.

And then, they did something completely unexpected – they shook up the status quo by starting a galactic war. Plenty of phasers and photon torpedoes were unleashed, but more than that – alliances – both between individuals and governments – crumbled, and new ones were forged. New races and political entities were introduced from another part of the galaxy, and our main characters were forced into situations that required them to reevaluate their beliefs and codes of conduct/honor.

The final frontier got wild again.

(Unfortunately, subsequent ST series didn't measure up to DS9. Voyager was a cosmic bore, and Enterprise – well, I'd had high hopes for that one, but it just didn't work for me. I was never convinced that Scott Bakula's universe was the same as William Shatner's. It played far too fast and loose with continuity, and, like TNG and Voyager, it had no edginess at all.)

Recently, the wife won an Amazon gift certificate in an online contest, and as we had just completed acquiring the classic Star Trek on DVD, she decided to use it to purchase all of the DS9 seasons on disc, as well. The fact that Amazon was having a huge sale on sci-fi DVDs at the time influenced the choice, too.

We've been watching an episode or two each evening, and are now about halfway through season 2. I'm surprised to find that the producers and writers had planted the seeds of their universe-shaking star war earlier than I remembered. Also, the main characters started out a bit more three-dimensional than I originally realized, with a number of character conflicts built right into the original premise. Even episodes that I remembered being unimpressed by back in the early 90's, when the show originally aired, seem a lot better now.

As you've guessed, I'm really enjoying watching DS9 again, and I've decided that it's the best of the Trek spin-offs – at least as far as I'm concerned. In addition to everything mentioned above, there's something about Avery Brooks' broad overacting that brings to my mind the enthusiastic thesping of the great William Shatner....

...And that's Trek to me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wednesday Cover: Son of Sinbad

According to the Grand Comics Database, this beautiful cover is from St. John Publishing's only issue of Son of Sinbad, and is the work of a young Joe Kubert (Tor, Tarzan, Sgt. Rock). The Caliph's Dancer certainly looks like one of Joe's women, and the composition is certainly dynamic enough. Man, I'd like to get my hands on a copy of this 1950 comic!

Lost At Sea With Sinbad

One of my very first posts in this blog (the third, in fact), back in September of '06, was about the legendary Persian mariner Sinbad, and my affection for movies that featured the character. I wrote then about my love of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad trilogy, the Doug Fairbanks Jr. film, and even the goofy Lou Ferrigno version. I also mentioned at that time that a publisher had expressed interest in a Sinbad graphic novel that I had plotted and that the great Eduardo Barreto had agreed to draw.

Well, that publisher turned out to be, let's say, somewhat less than trustworthy, and when the promised contracts failed to materialize, and then he stopped answering my e-mail and phone inquiries... well, it doesn't take a house to fall on me. Not usually, anyway.

After that fell through, I continued to shop around the proposal for our graphic novel, The Coils Of The Serpent, for the next year or so. Unfortunately no one seemed to be interested. The biggest reason seemed to be that nobody could "see a movie in it." Their argument was, that since Sinbad is a public domain character, no studio would want to buy our story as a film property because they could come up with their own story for free. Well, sure. But I wanted to do a comic, not a movie – and apparently that's not the business we're in anymore.


We did find one other publisher that was interested, but his offer turned out to be unacceptable on numerous points, so we passed.

In the past year, at least two small publishers launched their own Sinbad comics miniseries. One, Bluewater Comics, has Sinbad, Rogue of Mars, allegedly based on an unfilmed Ray Harryhausen treatment. It's possible, I suppose, and he's certainly put his name on it, but I have difficulty imagining Ray coming up with a story so damned dull. Another outfit, Zenescope Entertainment, has something called 1001 Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad out now, as well. I haven't actually seen it, but the cover art on their website is frankly underwhelming.

Well, even with all the new competition, I haven't given up. I'm still pushing to make my Sinbad book happen. For one thing, I want to read a new Sinbad adventure that thrills me the way Harryhausen's films did when I caught them on Saturday afternoon TV showings as a kid. For another, I really want to have Eduardo Barreto draw a story that I've written. For my money, he's one of the best – if criminally under-appreciated – comic artists alive, and I've been a huge fan of his work since he took over DC's New Teen Titans back in the 1980's.

I'm talking to some people now, and I'm hopeful. One way or another, I'm going to make this happen, and when it does, it's going to be something very special. If you don't believe me, click on the Barreto illustrations accompanying this post for a bigger view....

Wish us luck.

Monday, May 05, 2008

No Doughnuts!

So, Sunday evening, I drove to Augusta to return some video rentals. On the way back, I succumbed to the temptation to stop at a 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts store with the intention of picking up a delicious dozen.

Now, I probably shouldn't have stopped at all, as I'm perpetually struggling with my weight, and I'm more gigantic than ever. But regardless of whether or not I actually needed those sugary pastries (are doughnuts pastry?), the fact is, I wanted them. I don't eat stuff like that nearly as often as my squash-like physique might suggest, and I was really craving the guilty pleasure of some honey-glazed evil.

Well, I walked into the store around 8:30 PM, and the racks behind the counter were bare. There were no doughnuts, no crullers, muffins, doughnut holes – nothing but a couple of what looked like very stale bagels. And coffee, of course. Plenty of coffee.

The teenaged guy behind the counter asked if he could help me, and I had to admit to him that it seemed unlikely. When I told him that I had intended to purchase a dozen doughnuts, I was told that they only got one shipment a day, and had sold out before noon.

"You know," I said, "If the name of your business has the word 'Donut' in it, you probably should have some to sell."

I was then informed that if I wanted doughnuts, I should know enough to show up in the morning. This information was delivered with thinly disguised, youthful contempt and a snarky impatience. Properly chastised and feeling sufficiently stupid, I turned and left.

It used to be that Dunkin' Donuts made their product on the premises, and you were assured of being able to find something round, sticky and sweet no matter when you stopped in. I remember numerous long winter road trips where a lonely, only-business-open DunkinD made a welcome, warm and inviting pre-dawn oasis. But apparently, now those tasty treats are made elsewhere and shipped to the stores once a day. And this wasn't one of those little drive-thru Fotomat-style DunkinDs, this one was one of their bigger, sit-down establishments, where they definitely had room to make their own doughnuts. Obviously, like every other chain out there, someone decided it was cheaper to mass produce the product at a central location, and if the stores run out before the next delivery, well, that's just tough luck for somebody.

As I drove home doughnutless, I began to get pretty damned angry. First, I was pissed that a 24-hour doughnut shop didn't have any doughnuts. Secondly, I was annoyed that I was made to feel stupid for expecting it to have doughnuts. Thirdly, I was angry that this sort of thing seems to happen more and more frequently, and I just put up with it.

Last month, I went to the local comic book store to purchase a copy of the PREVIEWS catalog, and the guy wouldn't sell me one because he only ordered copies for himself and subscribers who requested them. Never mind that the catalog is supposed to exist to help customers know what's coming out so they can order the books they want, and that it's an important tool for stores to attract new clientele... he just didn't have any to spare. Of course, this is the same store that allows homeless guys to sit right inside the front door, that has teenagers constantly hanging out eating aromatic take-out at the gaming tables, and keeps all the new independent comics in a longbox on the floor instead of displayed on the racks... and an owner who complains because the distributor is "going to put him out of business."

Oh yeah, it's his distributor that's the problem.

And then there's the local Hollywood Video that rarely has the titles I'm looking to rent, although they're so overstocked on all the mainstream "blockbuster" crap that half their floor space is devoted to trying to sell off the surplus DVDs. And it's not like my requests are that obscure. I mean, Blue Thunder?

Of course, it's my fault. What the hell am I thinking? How idiotic of me to expect to buy doughnuts at a doughnut shop, comic books at a comic book store or find a specific video at the video store!

Anyway, I know it's probably for the best that I didn't get the doughnuts – I'm fat enough – but I'm still irked that this sort of thing seems to happen to me so often lately.

Sorry for the rant.

Joe Staton Speaks!

I knew that this was coming for a while, but I didn't find out that it had been posted until this weekend! A brief podcast interview with Femme Noir artist and co-creator Joe Staton, is now online and "live" at Chris Shields' CindyCenter site.

You can hear it here.

By the way, those are Joe's original pencils above for the third issue cover of Femme Noir, which Freddy Lopez digitally painted "over" for the final version. Go ahead and click on it for a larger look.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Weekend Update

Drove down to Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine on Saturday for Free Comic Book Day. Spent a bit of time with proprietor Rick Lowell and his wife Laura, bought a handful of comics, and picked up a few freebies. It looked like Rick's store was doing brisk business, and I was pleased to see a lot of families there.

On the way home, Brandi and I stopped at a used bookstore in Freeport, where I scored all of Gardner F. Fox's Kothar the Barbarian PBO novels in very good condition. In fact, I bought new, better copies of the two I already had, as well. I'm on record as being a big fan of Fox's fantasy novels, and I'm thrilled to finally have the whole series. Now I just need to find all of his Kyrik books. I also found a copy of John Jakes' Mention My Name in Atlantis, and a first edition of the George Takei (Mr. Sulu)-Robert Asprin science fiction adventure novel, Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe, so it was a pretty good day.

Before reading any of my new scores, though, I have the new Parker novel, Dirty Money, to read. And before I read that, I'm going to re-read the two preceding novels, Nobody Runs Forever and Ask the Parrot. I'm jonesing for a Richard Stark fix, and will be shooting that triple dose of hardboiled right into the main vein, brothers. Talk about a "lost weekend!"

On the film front, we watched I Am Legend Saturday night, and while I thought it was well-produced, directed and acted by Will Smith, I didn't find the CGI cartoon "darkseekers" very frightening at all; stuntmen in make-up with a little CGI "enhancement" would have been so much more effective. I also didn't care for the ending – but then, I think the ending of Matheson's novel is flat-out perfect.

Over the next week, I plan to work on my next DVD review column, finish up a comic book script and try to get a start on scripts for two short stories I've promised to do for a couple of 2009 comics anthologies. One is a revenge story featuring my Gravedigger character, the other is a Western. Want to keep the momentum going, after all!

I also hope that Brandi and I will be able to finagle a screening of Iron Man – by all reports, it's one of the best comic book movies yet!