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

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Don't be sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be..."

I rarely take these kinds of online "tests," but I was curious...

Your result for
The Classic Leading Man Test ...

Humphrey Bogart

You scored 40% Tough, 19% Roguish, 43% Friendly, and 0% Charming!

You're the original man of honor, rough and tough but willing to stick your neck out when you need to, despite what you might say to the contrary. You're a complex character full of spit and vinegar, but with a soft heart and a tender streak that you try to hide. There's usually a complicated dame in the picture, someone who sees the real you behind all the tough talk and can dish it out as well as you can. You're not easy to get next to, but when you find the right partner, you're caring and loyal to a fault. A big fault. But you take it on the chin and move on, nursing your pain inside and maintaining your armor...until the next dame walks in. Or possibly the same dame, and of all the gin joints in all the world, it had to be yours. Co-stars include Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, hot chicks with problems.

Want to take the test?

High Midnight

So, I was browsing the local Best Buy Saturday night, annoyed again at their horribly slim sci-fi and horror DVD selection, when I came across a title that sparked a faint ember of recognition. It was the 1990 horror comedy Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat, directed by Anthony Hickox (Waxworks, Full Eclipse), which I remembered renting with some pals a decade and a half ago. That was pretty much all I remembered about it, though.

Because I enjoyed Hickox's early genre films, and I'm a fan of many of Sundown's eclectic cast – which includes David Carradine, John Ireland, M. Emmet Walsh, Dabbs Greer, Deborah Foreman (at her very sexiest) and the always-reliable Bruce Campbell – I picked it up.

The plot is actually quite original. Vampire Count Mardulak (Carradine) has gathered others of his kind, and bought up the desert ghost town of Purgatory for them to "live" in. With the aid of large sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and vast quantities of sunblock, the vampire population attempt to pass themselves off as mortal humans. It seems that Mardulak dreams of the day (night) when vampires and humans can "live" together, and to that end, he has built a factory to manufacture a synthetic blood substitute. Unfortunately, some of his followers are determined to stick to their old, bloodthirsty ways, and use the arrival of an engineer and his family – called in to help increase production at the plant – to trigger a rebellion. Campbell plays the hapless descendant of a legendary vampire hunter who shows up in town right in time to get caught up in the vampires' civil war, which involves the use automatic weapons loaded with wooden bullets, and culminates in a moonlit shoot-out.

There's very little horror in this modern-day (well, 90's) Western/comedy, but the cast is excellent, the pace brisk, and the special effects are delightfully Old School, with cool stop-motion bats and some very effective monster make-up. This was the last film produced by Vestron Pictures and ended up going direct-to-VHS, which is how I originally saw it, all those years ago.

The Lionsgate DVD is really quite nice, presenting the movie in the director's intended 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, which really showcases the gorgeous Utah desert scenery. The Dolby audio is bold and clear, and the transfer is pristine. The DVD includes a audio commentary by Hickox and his Director of Photography, as well as on-screen interview segments with David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, and M. Emmet Walsh.

I'm glad I picked it up. If you've never seen it, and you're interested in a moderately fresh take on the vampire theme, you might want to give it a spin.

(Coincidentally, my wife has also posted a review of this flick on her new pop culture blog.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman, RIP

Acclaimed actor Paul Newman passed away this past Friday of cancer, at age 83.

An impossibly handsome actor with trademark azure eyes, Newman was a movie star in the true sense of the word, with a wide range of roles to his credit, and more than a few legendary performances under his belt.

My favorite Paul Newman films are probably The Sting and Cool Hand Luke, but I'm awful fond of his two private eye films Harper and The Drowning Pool, where he gave a letter-perfect portrayal of Ross MacDonald's hero Lew Archer (albeit with a slight name change).

Aside from his remarkable acting career, he was also a renowned philanthropist, who parlayed his name and image into a popular line of food products, the profits of which he donated to various charities. He also established the Hole in the Wall Camps for terminally ill children.

By all reports, he was a genuinely good, honest human being, who kept both a sense of humor and a sense of proportion in regards to his fame. He never lost his idealism nor stopped standing by his convictions, and whether you shared his views or not, you had to respect him.

Rest in peace, sir.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quantum of Solace Poster Revealed

Well, it's not as exciting as the classic Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy James Bond posters of the Sixties and Seventies, or even Dan Gouzee's poster art for the Bond films Moonraker and Octopussy, but it's an improvement over most of the cut & paste/Photoshop jobs of the Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan eras. If you have to have a photographic poster instead of a painting, this is a decent approach. It at least sets a bit of a mood.

To see some truly awesome Bond film art from around the world, I highly recommend James Bond Movie Posters: The Official 007 Collection, by Tony Nourmand. It's one of my favorite art books ever.

In related news, as everyone probably knows by now, the Jack White and Alicia Keys theme song for Quantum of Solace, "Another Way To Die," is now available to listen to online. Personally, I think it's just awful. Of course, it's meant to accompany the opening titles, so maybe with the graphics it will be more palatable. And a lot of people who are more knowledgeable about music than me seem to think it's pretty good, so what do I know?

Here's a link.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Cover: World's Finest

Another great 70's DC cover by Nick Cardy, featuring the World's Finest team of Superman and Batman and a really friggin' huge footprint. I bought this one of the stands when I was a kid – how could I not? – and still have this issue in my collection. The cover's a bit of a cheat as there's no monster in the story quite that big, but the interior art by the magnificent Dick Dillin didn't disappoint!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Charlie Chan In...

I'm still sick, which means I've been spending my few waking hours wrapped in a blanket in my recliner, alternately sipping Theraflu and/or hot tea from my Femme Noir mug, watching DVDs with the window blinds shut tight.

This nefarious bug has ping-ponged around my body and has now settled in my chest, which feels like it's full of liquid mercury. It hurts to cough, my thinking processes are fuzzy, and my head and neck ache.

Thank god for Charlie Chan.

I received the fifth and final set of 20th Century Fox Charlie Chan films today. I had pre-ordered the set from Amazon, and it was supposed to have been here on Tuesday, but UPS was delayed by Ike. Still, as this flu/cold/whatever looks to be settling in for the weekend, I expect that Mr. Chan and Number Two Son Jimmy will be providing me with satisfactory companionship through the final stages of this viral assault.

I've only seen two of the seven films in this collection – Charlie Chan in Rio and Charlie Chan At The Wax Museum (one of my favorites) – so I'm eager to start spinning these discs. I think I'll start with Castle In the Desert. It's the last Fox Chan film, but its got a great setting (the aforementioned castle) and looks to have a lot of creepy, gothic atmosphere... not to mention the always sinister Henry Daniell.

With their formulaic plots, slick production values, and stock company of familiar Fox Studio contract players, the Charlie Chan films are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, and feeling as lousy as I do right now, they're just what I need.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Notice: I Have A Cold...

...and it really sucks.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday Cover: Scarlet Adventuress

I know nothing about this magazine, except that it apparently changed its name to Modern Adventuress later. I love this lurid, exotic cover, though...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kolchak #3 on Sale Tomorrow!

The Word according to publisher Moonstone Books:

Kolchak: Night Stalker of the Living Dead 3

By Christopher Mills and Tim Hamilton

Issue 3 of 3

32 pages FC $3.99

This is it, Kolchak fans! One more small town that thought "it couln'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?

Go to your LCS to get yours on Wednesday!
If you can't find your favorite Moonstone books at your LCS, you can always order direct from us

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Hazards of Spam

Usually, I just glance at the messages in my G-Mail Spam catcher as I click on "delete all" without looking at them too closely. Well, I just did that, and just before the messages were erased, I caught a glimpse of "it was good meeting you at BangPop Saturday..."

Anyway, I don't know who the message was from. If it was from anyone who reads this blog, please e-mail me again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Theater: Danger: Diabolik

The trailer from director Mario Bava's 1968 film adaptation of the Italian comic book series Diabolik, starring the late, great John Phillip Law. Enjoy!

BangPop! Report

Well, from my perspective, today's BangPop! show – the first comics & pop culture convention in Bangor, Maine in roughly 15 years – was a rousing success. There were more people there – both attendees and exhibitors – than I expected, I sold a lot of books, and found a few nifty bargains.

For the first time in my career, I didn't lose money attending a con. I more than made back the cost of the table and the gas to drive there. I was (and am) frankly shocked. While books weren't exactly flying off the table, I sold far more than I expected, and, in fact, more than I've ever moved, even at much larger cons. My Kolchak issues were popular, and so was Femme Noir. What was especially gratifying were the people who bought one issue of Femme Noir and then came back later to buy the other after reading the first. I also had one attractive young woman show up with her own copy of Femme Noir #1, who handed it to me to sign while informing me that it was her "favorite comic."

That's never happened before... and it really made my day.

I was on a panel called "Breaking Into Comics," along with artist/writer Mark Ricketts (creator of several Image Comics graphic novels, including Nowheresville, Night Trippers and Whiskey Dickel, International Cowgirl) and a couple of other local small press creators whose names escape my addled mind at the moment. We ended up talking for an hour and a half, and I was brutally honest about the difficulty of making it in the comics field. Surprisingly, I had several people come up to me afterwards to thank me for my honesty and for sharing my 28 years of hard-earned experience with them.

As the show wound down around 4:30, I raided some bargain bins and scored a couple of great Kitchen Sink Press Spirit issues I was missing, two Dick Tracy comics I was also missing, a handful of assorted Joe Staton E-Man, Green Lantern and Huntress comics and a couple of late Turok, Son Of Stone issues from Gold Key. I also stumbled upon an old Eternity Comics reprint book from the 80's called Tough Guys & Wild Women, which reprints four 1940's Saint comic book stories. (I plan on reviewing it for my Guns In The Gutters blog, which I hope to get back to updating regularly later this Fall.) Most of these were only 50¢ each!

I also got to meet and speak briefly with a few local genre authors, including Alex Irvine, Walter Hunt and Joe Hill. Everyone was very friendly and I enjoyed talking with them.

So, a big thank you and kudos for a job well done to BangPop! organizer Gibran Vogue Graham, who not only pulled off a minor miracle in putting together a good show, but who was also a very helpful and accommodating host.

I'm really looking forward to next year!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Femme Noir Review

Sci Fi Pulse's "This Week In Spandex" column reviews the first issue of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries here.
Though a basic introductory issue, Mills and Staton incredibly capture the romanticized settings of the noir genre. Mills' writing also conveys the traditional style of noir dialogue and manages to make it fresh. Yet the most incredible aspect of this story is how it depicts women. While the women are depicted as ‘attractive’ they are not drawn as hypersexual eye candy within the narrative - something that is still rare in comic books. Basically, this is definitely a comic that should be on everyone’s pull list.
More at the link above.

Issue #3 of Femme Noir should be in stores next Wednesday.

BangPop! Tomorrow

A reminder for anyone who might be interested: Tomorrow, September 13th, I'll be making my first convention appearance in several years at the one-day BangPop! comic book and pop culture show in Bangor, Maine. It's being held at the Spectacular Event Center at 395 Griffin Road, Bangor, Maine.

I'll have a table in Artists Alley with plenty of my work for sale. I'll also be appearing on the "How To Break Into Comics" Panel, although I'm not sure I can contribute much; after all, I've been "breaking in" for 28 years!

Other guests include comics writer/artists Mark Ricketts & Gareth Hinds, science fiction and fantasy authors Kristen Britain and Walter H. Hunt, and dark fantasy/horror writer Joe Hill, among others.

Admission is $10. For more information, check out the BangPop website.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Aren't Ninjas About Due For A Comeback?

• The cover of Femme Noir #1 made the front page of the Bangor Daily News (Maine) newspaper's "Lifestyle" section today, accompanying an article about the city's upcoming comic con, BangPop.

The article can be read on their website here.

I'm eagerly anticipating Saturday's show. It will be my first convention appearance in several years, and I'm looking forward to meeting some of the other genre creators who live in Maine. Here's hoping that BangPop has a decent turn-out, and becomes an annual event. I'd like to see Maine have its own, quality pop culture con.

• Over the weekend, Brandi and I went camping in Cobbscook Bay State Park. Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip short by a day when the weather turned bad, but we did have a pleasant Friday afternoon, evening and Saturday morning in the woods.

On the way home, I also got a chance to stop by one of my favorite used book stores and pick up a few vintage Men's Adventure paperbacks.

My big "find" was a copy of the mid-Seventies Spider paperback, Death Reign of the Vampire King. What's so cool about this item is that Pocket Books updated the 30's pulp hero to make him an Executioner clone! Check out that cover painting – the handsome, blond secret agent look is a far cry from the black-cloaked and masked original! I've been looking for these editions for years, and was thrilled to finally find one.

I also scored a couple of Black Samurai novels by Marc Olden. I've read good things about this blaxploitation/martial arts paperback series in the past, and am looking forward to checking them out.

• Speaking of martial arts, I've been revisiting a bunch of 80's Cannon Films ninja flicks lately. I've been watching Sho Kosugi in Return of the Ninja, and Michael Dudikoff and the late, great Steve James, in the American Ninja series. I don't know what it is, but I genuinely love these movies. Maybe it's just simple nostalgia, but I really get a kick out of these flicks, with their clumsy choreography and potboiler plots... and not in a cynical, ironic way, either. Maybe it's because they're so crude by today's standards, without the slick fighting moves and CGI effects, but something about them really appeals to me.

• Getting back to the Men's Adventure paperbacks for a minute, I'm also in the midst of re-reading the Omega Sub series from the very early 90's. It's essentially a post-Apocalyptic take on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It chronicles the adventures of the crew of an American super submarine, The Liberator, which survives World War III because it was on a mission under the Polar Ice Cap when the nukes started flying. Now, they sail around the world trying to aid survivors while battling radioactive mutants and a mysterious sub that appears to be a twin of their own.

I bought them when they came out about 15 years ago, and enjoyed them. I'm re-reading them now because a month or so ago, I received a nice fan letter about my work on the Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead miniseries. It turned out to be from author David Robbins, who wrote the majority of the Omega Sub series. Remembering how much I liked the books, I recently dug them out and started re-reading them. Fun stuff.

I guess maybe my taste in entertainment did peak when I was fifteen....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Weekend Theater: Buffy Animated

A few years ago, as Buffy The Vampire Slayer was wrapping up its seven year run, creator Joss Whedon announced that there was a Fox animated series in development that would feature the characters back in High School, and include the character of Dawn – who had magically been inserted into their timeline (if you watched the show, you understand). Scripts by regular Buffy scribes were written, virtually the entire original cast – with the notable exception of star Sarah Michelle Gellar – signed on to reprise their roles, and this demonstration film was completed.

Unfortunately, the series never came to pass. Too bad, 'cause this short film shows a lot of promise.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

BangPop! September 13

It's official: On Saturday, September 13th, I'll be making my first convention appearance in several years at the one-day BangPop! comic book and pop culture show in Bangor, Maine. It's being held at the Spectacular Event Center at 395 Griffin Road, Bangor, Maine. Other guests include comics writer/artists Mark Ricketts & Gareth Hinds, science fiction and fantasy authors Kristen Britain and Walter H. Hunt, and dark fantasy writer Joe Hill, among others.

Admission is $10. For more information, check out the BangPop website.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Breasts of Fury

When is a terrible movie good?

When it entertains.

This is the rationale behind the phrases "guilty pleasures" and "so bad it's good," and the reason why I really enjoyed the fightin' femme flick D.O.A. Dead Or Alive.

It's based on a video game, so anyone who goes into this expecting high art or even a coherent, rational narrative is just setting themselves up for disappointment. The plot – what little there is – is concisely described by one of the producers in the "Making Of" featurette as "Charlie's Angels meets Enter The Dragon," and that's pretty much all of it. But – it's fun.

Directed by HK action director Corey Yuen, whose multitude of credits include the quintessential Michelle Yeoh/Cynthia Rothrock ass-kicker, Yes Madam, and the entertaining (and underrated) So Close, D.O.A. is pure, mindless entertainment. Yuen is best-known as a martial arts choreographer on various Jet Li and Jason Statham films, so you know that the action scenes are extremely well done. But more than that, they're filled with humor, and even characterization – no two characters in this movie fight the same.

The film is pure eye candy, with the largest cast of bikini-clad butt-kickin' babes since Andy Sidaris passed away. Devon Aoki, the ninja hooker from Sin City, and statuesque siren Jaime Pressly are the main stars, and both acquit themselves nicely, managing to create likable characters out of the cyphers they've been given to play. Eric Roberts is a suitably campy villain, and Kane Kosugi, the son of 80's "ninja" star, Sho Kosugi, does his father proud as one of the few male fighters.

It's dumb, loud, flashy, and fast, and I enjoyed it a lot. Even my wife liked it. Your mileage may vary, but hey, from the description I've given in this review, you probably already know if its your slice of cheesecake. It's sure mine.

Here's the trailer;