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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Covers: Kane Of Old Mars

a/k/a The City Of The Beast
These are the Lancer Books editions of Michael Moorcock's "Kane of Old Mars" trilogy, a highly enjoyable, if fannish, pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" cycle. These three books chronicle the adventures of American physicist and Olympic fencer Michael Kane, who invents a teleporter that accidentally sends him to ancient Mars. There, he fights blue giants and wins the love of a beautiful martian princess. You know - the usual.

These three paintings are by the great Gray Morrow.

I actually own these books in multiple editions - the DAW Books paperbacks from the 70s-80s with the Richard Hescox covers and the omnibus edition published by White Wolf in the 90s, with its John Bolton cover painting. These Lancer editions are my favorites, though.

Although these books are unabashed imitations of Burroughs, written by Moorcock when he was still quite young, and, as such, have all the weaknesses inherent in pastiche, they will always hold a special place in my fantasy-loving heart. You see, when I was in Junior High, I found a copy of this Lancer edition of Warriors of Mars (later, with the other two volumes, re-titled by the author - see captions), with that gorgeous and exciting cover, on the school bus. I turned it in to the driver, who put it in the lost & found box under his seat. After a week, no one had claimed it, so he gave it to me. It was my first taste of interplanetary romance, and it - obviously - had a huge impact on me and my reading tastes. I still pull these books down once a every year or two and revisit them.

a/k/a Lord Of The Spiders

a/k/a Masters Of The Pit

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Godzilla's A Pepper.

Well, we may not be seeing Godzilla 1985 on DVD any time soon, but thanks to someone over on YouTube, the commercials that the Big G starred in for Dr. Pepper around the time of that film's American release are once again available to fans of the prehistoric pitchman/beast.

That's right – years before throwing down with Charles Barkley for Nike, 'Zilla shilled for soft drinks.

Apparently Dr. Pepper had already made arrangements to use Godzilla in their ads when New World Pictures, who had acquired the Big G's 1984 "comeback" film from Toho, contacted the Pepper people about cross promoting their (heavily edited) version of the movie with the soft drink campaign. This is why, in various scenes of Godzilla 1985, a Dr. Pepper vending machine is prominently placed in the hallway of the "Pentagon." Reportedly, the guys at New World really pushed returning star Raymond Burr (reprising his role of "Steve Martin" from the 1956 Godzilla King of the Monsters) to drink a Pepper onscreen, but iron-willed Ironside flat-out refused. (Another character is seen sipping the beverage instead.)

Two commercials were made: the one above, and another one - a sequel, actually - posted below, with a cutesy female monster with a bow on her head and ray-beam eyes, whose love is won by the Big Guy with the help of a giant Diet Dr. Pepper...

I like the ad above a lot better. Aside from the unfortunately under-detailed Godzilla suit, I love the B&W photography and the humor of the spot. Enjoy.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Waiting For Magnus

As I've said before, I buy very few comics and graphic novels these days. I don't live close to a comic book store, and I don't have a lot of extra money. What cash I do manage to scrape up usually goes toward DVDs and the occasional crime or fantasy novel. Besides, I don't really have a lot of interest in modern mainstream comics.

But, once every few months or so, I come across a graphic novel or reprint collection online that I'd like to have. A few weeks back, I was reading Rip Jagger's Dojo, and came across a post about Dark Horse's Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. Volume One trade paperback, reprinting the first seven issues of the fantastic Gold Key science fiction series, written & drawn by the legendary Russ Manning. I have a few Magnus comics stashed away in my longboxes, and have always loved the series. The stories are fun and exciting, and graced with Manning's astoundingly clean art and clear, straightforward, graphic storytelling. Plus, you know, robots.

Anyway, I found a used copy online for a reasonable price, and ordered it. I'm waiting for it now, and hope that it will show up in my mailbox in the next few days. I also hope that it's in good shape. The seller had it listed as "Very Good," but I've noticed that, unlike comics, there appears to be no universal grading system for used book dealers.

This is the downside to buying old books (especially paperbacks) online - sure, you can find almost any title that you're looking for, and often at very reasonable prices (shipping'll kill you, though). But you can't hold it in your hand and inspect it before shelling out for it, to make sure that the spine isn't broken or the cover bent back, or the pages loose or overly yellowed. Most of the time, I've been pleased with my purchases... but there have been a couple of disappointments.

Anyway, fingers crossed. I'm looking forward to having these great comics in a single, handy, bookshelf format.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

She's a Wonder...

Another incredibly awesome "cold open" from Batman: The Brave And The Bold - this time featuring the amazing amazon, Wonder Woman, in her classic costume... and accompanied by her original 70's TV theme music!

I'm collecting The Brave And The Bold cartoon on DVD, and I'm going to really miss it when it's gone. The creators of the show - unlike the cynical jokers currently in charge of DC Comics, who just published a comic book with Catwoman and Batman having sex actually on-panel- remember that super-hero stories are supposed to be good-spirited fun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Covers: Star Hunters

Here's the cover, by Rich Buckler & Joe Rubenstein, to the 7th and final issue of DC Comics' Star Hunters. The book was the company's attempt to ride the Star Wars comet, premiering in the Fall of 1977. Written by David Micheline, it chronicled the adventures of an Errol Flynn-inspired space rogue named Donovan Flint and his crew of renegades as they battled an oppressive regime. I was a big fan of this book back in the day, and would like to someday re-assemble the run.

The characters were first seen in issue #16 of the company's catch-all title, DC Super Stars, which alternated as a reprint book and a showcase vehicle. That first appearance benefited from the classically-styled adventure art of Don Newton. I liked Rich Buckler's art on the series okay, but it lacked the gracefulness of Newton's work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Atomic Hotties: Carla Gugino

As part of my effort to keep this blog alive and interesting, every once in a while, I'm going to post a tasteful-but-sexy picture here of a female celebrity that I find particularly attractive.

Frankly, I thought a little glamor might brighten up the place a bit.

Kicking off this irregular photo feature is the stunning Carla Gugino. I will watch pretty much anything this beautiful, smart actress appears in: Sin City. Watchmen. The Spy Kids movies. Faster. The One. Race To Witch Mountain. And I loved her on the short-lived - and cancelled way too soon - Karen Sisco television series.

New & Coming Soon @ The Late Show

This week at DVD Late Show, I've got new reviews of Culp & Cosby in Hickey & Boggs, the Man From Atlantis television series, the animated Conan The Adventurer, and the Blu-ray editions of cult favorites Maniac Cop and The 10th Victim.

Over the remainder of the week, I expect to post reviews of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series, Master of The World, starring Vincent Price & Charles Bronson, The Incredible Melting Man, the Sword & Sorcery Collection  (Deathstalker, Deathstalker II, Barbarian Queen and The Warrior And The Sorceress) and the Women In Cages Collection (The Big Dollhouse, The Big Bird Cage, and Women In Cages) - both from Shout! Factory's "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line - and Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes on Blu-ray.

Recent reviews include James Glickenhaus' The Exterminator on Blu-ray & DVD, the Norweigian monster flick, Trollhunter, Thundarr the Barbarian, and the 1990 DTV version of Captain America.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. After a Summer of admittedly erratic posting I now have a bunch of discs on the review stack that I need to get to soon, as well. Stay tuned!

Check 'em out!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Casting U.N.C.L.E.

Now that George Clooney has had to back out of Steven Soderbergh's 1960s-set Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie for health reasons, the role of Napoleon Solo is wide open. There was concern among fans that Clooney, 50, was too old to play Solo (the original Solo, Robert Vaughn, was 50 when he appeared in the 1983 reunion movie, The Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a retired agent!) anyway, so the studio now has the option of casting a younger - and less expensive - actor in the role (which would certainly make potential sequels more viable, as well).

Not that anyone cares what I think, but here are my choices for Solo and his Russian colleague, Illya Kuryakin: Topher Grace, age 34, as Napoleon Solo, and Alex Pettyfer, age 21, as Illya.

Grace has yet to really find a star-making film role, and I think his charm, sense of humor and looks would well-suit the part of U.N.C.L.E.'s top Enforcement agent. He's even worked with Soderbergh before in Traffic and the Ocean's 11 movies

Pettyfer was great in the under-seen Alex Rider teen spy movie, Operation: Stormbreaker, and has a quiet, thoughtful charisma reminiscent of the original Illya, fellow Brit David McCallum. And the blond hair, of course. He's a little young, but Illya could easily be portrayed as a rookie agent paired with the more experienced Solo.

Anyway, those are my choices. As for Waverly - Ian McKellen of course!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Wednesday Cover: Wake Up Dead

Never read the book (though I think I'd like to), and have no idea who painted the cover. But I love it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Into The Wild "Blu" Yonder

I am pleased to discover that one of my favorite adventure films, Joe Johnston's 1991 adaptation of the late Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer, is coming to Blu-ray disc in December.

I'm guessing that I have the success of Johnston's other World War II-era comic book movie, Captain America: The First Avenger to thank for Disney actually making the effort to prepare and release a high-definition version of The Rocketeer. It certainly wasn't a big hit for the studio in '91 - like pretty much every other period comic-based movie of the 90s (i.e. Dick Tracy, The Phantom - which I think is somewhat better than its reputation - and The Shadow - which was really rather bad, actually), it pretty much bombed at the box-office. But it is a charming film, well-cast, and extremely faithful to the spirit - if not the letter - of Steven's comic book stories, and I'm excited to see it released on Blu-ray.

I won't lie - nor apologize for it: I'm now addicted to high-def. I friggin' love my Blu-ray player and our big TV, and am dismayed at how poor many of my older, standard-def DVDs look on that screen. Newer DVDs look fine, but a lot of titles from the early years of the format - like the DVD of The Rocketeer, for instance - look really soft and fuzzy.

Obviously, I cannot afford to upgrade all of my old DVDs to Blu-ray (and, really, most of them will probably never even be offered in HD), but The Rocketeer is one that I will definitely be picking up again.

I'm especially looking forward to enjoying the young Jennifer Connelly's big, beautiful... uh, eyes... in HD.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Still Missing on DVD: THE SOLDIER (1982)

I just reviewed director James Glickenhaus' 1980 vigilante flick, The Exterminator, over on the DVD Late Show website. It's not a great movie, but I enjoyed revisiting it, and I began to wonder whatever happened to Glickenhaus' follow-up film, the 1982 low-budget, action-espionage flick, The Soldier.

Again, I wouldn't really say that The Soldier is a particularly good movie - like a lot of the director's films, it has a few truly terrific action set-pieces tenuously linked together by a somewhat dodgy script. But in the early 80s, the movie was ubiquitous - you could find the VHS tape in every mom & pop video store, and it ran endlessly on HBO in late night/pre-dawn slots for several years.

Starring Ken Wahl, pre-Wiseguy, a few other tough-guy actors (most notably, the late Steve James), and Klaus Kinski as the heavy, The Soldier was a definite cult favorite - especially among teenage males and insomniacs. The director even paid tribute to it in his 1988 cops 'n robbers flick Shakedown, where he had it playing constantly at the 42nd Street grindhouse frequented by Sam Elliot's character. For some reason, though, it's never made the jump to digital disc - at least not in U.S. As far as I have been able determine, the rights might be held by MGM, so maybe there's a slim chance that they'll release it as one of their Manufacture-On-Demand "Limited Edition Collection" titles.

I'll have to keep an eye on Netflix. If The Soldier shows up on Netflix's Instant service, that will be a definite indicator that someone has finally dug it out of the vault and may be working on a MOD DVD release (that's been MGM's pattern so far).

Friday, September 02, 2011