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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Gentlemen of Horror!

I'm a bit late in acknowledging the anniversaries of the births of the three greatest horror stars of the 60's and 70's – Peter Cushing (May 26, 1913), Vincent Price (May 27, 1911) and Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922). Of the three, we are fortunate to still have Christopher Lee with us and still acting – according the IMDb, he has six movies yet to be released, in addition to his over 250 other film and television appearances!

Between them, they've provided me with countless hours of sinister cinematic satisfaction, and I can't imagine my life without their presence. Happy birthday, gentlemen!

Wednesday Cover: Black Diamond

Still in a spy-fi mood... Back in the early 80's, Bill Black's Americomics (AC) published a short-lived spy comic called Black Diamond. Now, I'm not sure if it was based on an unproduced Sybil Danning movie script or was a comic idea first, & attached to Danning afterwards. Either way, the blonde B-movie amazon was clearly the model for the lead character (See? Her name's right there on the cover!) and was featured in several photo spreads within the comic's pages.

Most of the covers (after #1 by Black) were stunning pieces by the best "spy artist" in comics, Paul Gulacy. Here's his beautiful B&W cover for Issue #2. I remember at the time thinking it was a ballsy move on AC's part to go with a stark, B&W cover illustration - it really popped on the racks amid all their competitor's colorful offerings.

One of these days, I'll have to dig these issues out again and review them in my Guns In The Gutters blog....

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Blog: Spy-Fi Channel

Yeah, so, I've created yet another blog that I won't post to nearly as often as I'd like to. This one's devoted to one specific fanboy obsession (of many): my love for spy movies and fiction, or as I generally refer to it, "Spy-Fi."

It's called Spy-Fi Channel, and like the Guns In the Gutters blog, it will be updated on an highly irregular schedule, as I feel like I have something to say on the topic. To kick it off, I've cross-posted some older posts from this site – the Lightning Bolt and Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD reviews, among others – but I've also started writing about individual episodes of the old 1979 Robert Conrad spy series, A Man Called Sloane, and intend to review spy fiction as well, beginning with the Alan Caillou "Ian Quayle" novels of the mid-80s.

Why another blog? Well, like my crime comics blog, it's a subject I like to write about occasionally and I wanted to have a special place to do so. It doesn't mean that I won't ever post spy-fi reviews and stuff here, because I probably will. But most of that material will be relegated to the new site. Of course, most likely, it will be like the crime comics blog, with infrequent bouts of prolific posting followed by months and months of inactivity. But, hey – that's me.

So, if you're interested, check out the new blog here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Am Not A Number!

A major hole in my Spy-Fi collection was filled this past weekend when I was finally able to purchase A&E's 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition of the Patrick McGoohan series, The Prisoner.

For years I've tried to collect the series – first on VHS and then on DVD, but for some reason, I never managed to accumulate more than a small fraction of the series' seventeen episodes. Fortunately, I finally managed to stumble upon a previously-viewed (i.e. "used") complete box set at a time when I actually had the cash to pay for it. My wife and I have been watching an episode each evening, and I'm finding the show even stranger than I remembered.

I first read about the series in Starlog magazine around 1977, and soon after, it started airing on our local PBS affiliate. I watched it whenever I could, but there are several episodes I have never seen. I'm looking forward to remedying that sad state of affairs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Cover: In Stores NOW!

According to the Diamond Distribution shipping list, the Spinetingler Award-winning Femme Noir Volume 1: The Dark City Diaries, 150 pages of pulp-flavored crime busting and thrilling mysteries, is arriving in comic book stores TODAY! This epic tome was written by yours truly and illustrated by Joe Staton, aided and abetted by Horacio Ottolini, Mark Stegbauer, Melissa Kaercher, Matt Webb and Michael Watkins.

If you were one of those who pre-ordered a copy from your local shop, then we thank you, because it was folks like you who made the trade paperback collection possible!

As I mentioned in a previous post, the book is also available through Ape Entertainment's online store, and should soon be on sale through bookstores and online booksellers.

The cover art for the trade paperback is by the amazing team of Joe Staton (pencils) and Alfredo Lopez, Jr. (digital painting).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MeCAF Report

The Maine Comics Arts Festival was held Sunday at the Ocean Gateway event building in Portland, Maine. Femme Noir artist Joe Staton and I – along with our wives – attended the show, and publicly debuted the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries trade paperback.

This was a creator show, and it skewed very heavily toward indy/alt/arty small press/minicomics creators and a small handful of kids' comics creators, so something like Femme Noir – or most of my stuff, for that matter – didn't really fit in. We did sell a half-dozen or so trades, and I sold a few other comics, as well, but didn't do as well as I'd hoped. We covered the cost of the table and the hotel room, though, so it could have been worse.

There were some cool people there. Heidi MacDonald of the Publishers Weekly comics blog, The Beat, stopped by to say hello to Joe, and I got to briefly visit with a few of the local creators I met last Fall at the Bangor BangPop show – Mark Ricketts, Ben Bishop, Alex Irvine and Joel Zain Rivers. I also got to finally meet, face-to-face, several long-time online acquaintances like John Platt, Dan Larson and Howard Hopkins. My old friend Bob Cram, who I hadn't seen in over 15 years, also made it to the show, and we were able to do a little catching up.

Like I said, I wish I'd been able to sell more stuff (and that fewer kids had pawed and mauled my books), but it was a pretty decent experience. Rick Lowell of Casablanca Comics (along with his wife, staff and volunteers), did an admirable job organizing the event, and the pre-show get-together on Peaks Island was fun. And, of course, it's always a treat to spend time with Joe and his wife Hilarie.

Brandi took a few photos. I may update this post with a shot or two later today.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Buy the Way...

My publishers, Ape Entertainment, have added the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries trade paperback to their online store. It's not yet in comic book shops nor available online elsewhere (to my knowledge), but if you just can't wait to get your hands on it, you can order it from them.

Here's the Link.

Of course, if you pre-ordered it from your local dealer, you should pick it up from them and support your comic book store.

Wednesday Cover: Star Trek!

In honor of the new Trek movie, I present the cover to Gold Key Comics' Star Trek #19 – "The Haunted Asteroid!"

Gold Key's Trek comics were a real trip; the crew was usually wildly out of character, the likenesses were vague at best (although the art was usually quite nice, it was drawn in Europe by artists who'd never seen the show), tons of technical errors (note Spock's red shirt on this cover!), and outrageously silly space opera plots. Still, for a lot of years, these comics were the only new Trek stories being produced in any medium, and when I was a kid, I ate them up.

I don't know who painted this cover, but it's actually pretty cool.

Maine Comics Arts Festival this Weekend!

Just a reminder: If you happen to be in Maine this Sunday, May 17th, you can drop by the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland, and get Joe Staton and I to sign your copy of the (award-winning!) Femme Noir trade paperback – weeks before it is available in stores! Yep, I'll be making one of my very rare public appearances with my Femme Noir partner Joe at this one-day celebration of indie comics. Joe will be drawing sketches, too!

Along with the new collection, I'll have copies of the individual Femme Noir issues, as well as copies of many of my other comics – Kolchak Tales, Gravedigger: The Scavengers, Leonard Nimoy's Primortals, etc. – available for sale.

The Festival, the first of it's kind in this part of the country, is being put on by my pal Rick Lowell of Portland's sequential art mecca, Casablanca Comics, and it looks like it's going to be a blast. It runs from 10 AM to 5 PM, and the guest list includes over 70 comic writers and artists; everyone from mini comics publishers to seasoned professionals. There will be comic book writers and artists, gag cartoonists, newspaper cartoonists, web comics creators and more.

For the complete guest list, programming and directions, check out the official Festival website.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hacked Off

Some of you may have received warnings from Google about my websites if you've tried to visit, or Those sites were apparently hacked by assholes who added unauthorized code to some of the pages. This code may (or may not) have been designed to infect unwary visitors with spyware or viruses. There is no way that I could have kept them out and I had no way of knowing I was hacked until – thankfully – one of my visitors informed me of the Google warning.

The atomicpulp site has been fixed and cleared by Google, and I am in the process of fixing the other sites now. They should be clear today, although it may take Google a while to get around to inspecting them and marking them as clear.

I simply don't understand the mentality of losers like these hackers, who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives and talents. If it was a personal act of revenge, that I could understand. But this? It's just stupid.

By the way – my blogs, being hosted by Blogger, were NOT effected by these hacks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eurospy DVD: Lightning Bolt

One of my favorites of the small number of Sixties Eurospy films I've seen is Antonio Margherti's Lightning Bolt, which stars Anthony Eisley of Hawaiian Eye fame and Mighty Gorga infamy.

I've owned a horrible, hideously pan-and-scanned full-frame VHS copy of this flick for years, and even with that tape's low quality, I enjoyed the movie a lot. Still, I kept hoping that someone would put out a good version of the film on video, preferably in its correct aspect ratio. I didn't know what that ratio should be, but my tape certainly wasn't right.

Anyway, Media Blasters has just released an anamorphic widescreen version of this deliriously demented spy-fi romp on DVD. Unfortunately, to get it, you have to purchase the RareFlix Triple Feature Vol. 4 boxed set, which also includes two other movies, both of which are virtually unwatchable. Still, the retail price of the set is only around $20 bucks. I paid $15 at Best Buy, five bucks less than I paid for my crappy VHS edition back in the early 90s.

This 1966 Spanish-Italian thriller, also known as Operation Goldman, pits American secret agent Harry Sennett against a diabolical brewmaster (who looks like a cross between Goldfinger and Oddjob!) who is sabotaging the U.S. space effort from his secret underwater base somewhere off the coast of (a surprisingly mountainous) Florida. The villain is planning to place a laser cannon on the moon, and is making sure that NASA doesn't get there first.

Sleazy Sennett is an unusual secret agent; instead of a gun, he carries a checkbook, and backed by an unlimited expense account, he uses it to buy information (no dreary detective work for Harry) – and to bribe his adversaries (beats bruising his knuckles!). He does have a few nifty spy gadgets, however – the obligatory geiger counter watch that doubles as a homing transmitter, and a gas-spewing pen. He claims to hate violence – hence, no gun – but proves to be quite adept at Roger Moore-styled fake karate when pitted against ski-masked goons. Also, for some reason, Sennett narrates the film in a private eye-styled voice over!

The movie starts out a bit slow, but picks up nicely at the halfway point. The villain's geothermal-powered underwater lair is actually pretty cool, considering the low budget (and predating the underwater base of The Spy Who Loved Me by a decade). Less successful, though, is the Spanish seaside trying to pass for Florida's Cape Kennedy.

The print on new DVD from Media Blasters/RareFlix is considerably better than any previous version I've seen. The widescreen presentation improves the viewing experience considerably, and colors are bright (especially striking is Sennett's crimson Jaguar.). The print is far from pristine, with lots of specks, scratches and other minor print damage, but it's very watchable, on a par with Dorado Films' 077 Eurospy discs. The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer, and it's in good shape.

Now, as a fan of Eurospsy flicks and this Eurospy flick in particular, I felt it was worth the $15 bucks to add it to my library. I'm going to probably toss or trade the other two discs (some unfunny 70's comedy called Boogie Vision and a 2005 dull-as-dirt crime flick called Transformed, which sells itself as a Fred Williamson flick, though The Hammer's only got a cameo).

Here's the trailer (though not the nice widescreen one from the disc):

Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek: First Impressions

What can I say?

It works.

J.J. Abrams and his collaborators have pulled off something remarkable – make that astounding and perhaps unprecedented – a reboot that not only respects the continuity of the franchise, but still comes up with a way to throw it all out the airlock without actually compromising it.

I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I will mention some plot points, so if you want to see the movie completely fresh, you may want to wait and read this after you've seen the film.

Here's the big spoiler, and the only one that I plan to reveal, because it's necessary, if I'm to discuss my reactions to the story overall: the whole plot hinges on one of the classic Trek tropes – time travel and the dangers of changing the past through one's actions. But this time the cast doesn't – and cannot – fix everything by the end of the episode. This creates a whole new Trek timeline, an alternate universe where the original characters can have all new adventures and the future is unwritten. It also introduces to the series the concept of Fate with a capital "F"– that this particular group of characters are meant to be together, and that even when history is changed and their paths are different, that somehow, the bridge crew of the Enterprise is destined to adventure together.

Now, "fate" and "destiny" aren't very Gene Roddenberry-esque concepts, but they are appealing (at least in a fictional context), and solve the filmmaker's biggest challenge – making a new Star Trek that will appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience, without pissing all over the loyal fanbase that kept the franchise alive for forty years.

For this to work, the film does have to trot out a few scenes that, upon reflection, are almost ludicrously contrived, but, they are handled so well and fly by so quickly, that they don't hurt the film at all.

And there are some surprises here, BIG ones, things that will knock old school Trekkies for a bit of a loop. I know, I'm one of them. This is absolutely a new continuity, and nothing is set in stone. At the same time, there are numerous call-outs to various past Trek adventures, subtle and not-so-subtle references designed to warm fan's hearts.

Star Trek is a fast-paced, almost fully satisfying adventure story that is not only recognizably Trek, but Trek with a scope and budget and filmmaking acumen that we've never seen before. This one does not look like a two-hour TV episode. It's loud, bright, sexy and funny – like the original show was before all the spin-offs and sequels bled away the humanity. Like TOS, these characters get angry, get drunk, get laid, and take incredible risks and make giant leaps of faith. There's no sitting around conference tables endlessly debating courses of action, no retreats, no surrenders. Our hero may look different and his path to the center seat may be considerably different, but in the end, he's still James Tiberius Fuckin' Kirk.

And that brings me to the elephant on the bridge; how do the new guys live up to the legends? For the most part, very well. Chris Pine doesn't imitate Shatner (wisely), but he's got much of the swagger, the humor, the sly glint in the eye. Zachary Quinto doesn't have the gravitas of Nimoy, but then, he gets to play a slightly different Spock than the one we're used to. This is a young Spock, still struggling with the emotions seething within him, and Quinto handles the role well.

In fact, almost everyone plays their roles well. I think Zoe Salanada's Uhura is too skinny, but she gets considerably more to do with the role than Nichelle Nichols ever did. John Cho's Sulu is suitably professional – and delightfully swashbuckling, when required. Simon Pegg is a bit more Simon Pegg than Montgomery Scott, but he's fun to watch. Unfortunately, Ben Cross and Winona Ryder, as Spock's parents, didn't quite do it for me. Cross is no Mark Lenard, and Ryder is definitely no Jane Wyman. I was also underwhelmed (as usual) with Eric Bana as Nero, the villain/plot device that drives the story. He simply doesn't play it "big" enough. He's just sorta there.

The real standouts among the players are Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime. With Urban, he's so perfectly Leonard McCoy that it's almost as if he's been temporarily possessed by the spirit of the late DeForest Kelly. And Nimoy is the heart and soul of the picture, the one who makes it all hang together and assures us longtime Trekkies that this is, indeed, truly Trek. If the real Spock recognizes these kids as his friends, then, really, who are we to argue?

Any complaints? Well, I don't like the interior Enterprise sets at all, but it didn't ruin the movie for me. I do have a few minor quibbles with the story, but no deal breakers... and, well, that's about it.

Oh yeah, the effects work is pretty spectacular; Industrial Light and Magic really pull out all the stops, and give us outer space as we've never really seen it before in Trek. Even though the Enterprise has been slicked up, I still got that warm feeling in my gut when we get our first good look at it – she's still the most beautiful starship around.

I haven't seen a movie more than once in the theater in years, but I'm going to make every effort to see this one again as soon as I can. It's good. Maybe great.

Star Trek lives!


Saw Star Trek Thursday evening. I liked it quite a bit. Need to organize my thoughts before I write much about it. I will say, though, that it's definitely worth seeing.

More later.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Femme Noir WINS Spinetingler Award!

Well, I'll be damned!

I still am waiting on the official notice, but apparently, Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries has won the second annual Spinetingler Magazine Award in the Graphic Novel category, over such high caliber competition as 100 Bullets, Criminal, Incognegro, Scalped and Hawaiian Dick.

At least, according to this site.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

In other news, I got my advance copies of the (now award-winning) trade paperback collection today, and it looks incredible. I am so thrilled to finally have this series collected. This has been the goal for the last nine years. If Diamond is on the ball, the book should be in comic stores in about two weeks! Hopefully, it'll be showing up in bookstores and with online retailers soon after.

UPDATED: Here are the official results. Looks like we really won.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Happy Free Comic Book Day!

At comic book stores all around the country, today is Free Comic Book Day. Among the day's offerings is a sampler comic from Ape Entertainment, Cartoonapalooza #2. Among the stories in this special comic is a new Femme Noir adventure by yours truly and Joe Staton, aided and abetted by our accomplices Mark Stegbauer and Michael Watkins.

So, get out to your local shop today and pick up a copy – and see what else your local comic shop has to offer! Maybe you can buy something, too, and help stimulate the economy! But just in case you can't make it to a store this weekend, or your shop doesn't happen to be stocking the Ape special, here's a FCBD offering from me to all of you: the 2009 Femme Noir story, "Demon Bat," for your enjoyment (click on the images for a larger view).

And don't forget – the Femme Noir: Dark City Diaries trade paperback will be on sale later this month!