For this week’s episode of show, I went to my comic trade To Read pile in the garage and grabbed five different books from five different companies to put in my eyeballs. How’d that go? You’ll have to listen to the show!
On today’s episode, I’m running down five rad horror authors working right now who are not the master Stephen King. Over the course I talk about a dozen different books that have really hit me over the past decade or so. Hopefully you’ll find someone new to read as you listen!
I’ve written about a lot of these books here on the site: Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied, A Head Full Of Ghosts, HorrorStor, Paperbacks From Hell, Locke & Key, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, NOS4A2, 20th Century Ghosts, The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters.
Another day, another pile of trades! This time around I’ve got a very cool haunted house story starring a longtime DC scare characters, a comic adaptation of a film I haven’t seen and a trip to Mega-City Two drawn by one of my favorite artists working in comics now!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but M.A.S.K. may have been the perfect 80s toy line. Shrink down G.I. Joes and put them inside Transformers? Yeah, I’m on board that idea all day long. It’s been a while since I shined the spotlight on these rad 80s ads, but I was dazzled by the use of actual race cars in this one to sell toys! Back at my folks’ place, I have two duffle bags filled with these vehicles and after watching this spot, I want to dig them out! This reminds me that I should watch the animated series on DVD and also catch up on the IDW comic. I’m missing out on so much M.A.S.K. goodness!
Another week has gone by and I’ve knocked out another pile of comics, most of which came from my local library system. As you can see, we’ve got a mix of amazing indie artists, classic comic visionaries, crossovers and newer books. Hit the jump to see what I had to say on this batch! Continue reading Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT
A few weekends back we found ourselves in the enviable position of experiencing a light snowfall without much else to do so we decided to scroll through our On Demand options for a family movie. As it turns out we have free Showtime for a bit and The Rocketeer was on there, so we decided to give it a watch.
I don’t remember if I saw this movie in the theaters when it came out, but we did subscribe to Disney Channel back then (long before it was free) so I remember seeing a lot about it and probably caught it on TV.
Set in 1938, it’s about a stunt pilot named Cliff who discovers a rocket pack in his plane, designs a costume and helmet and fights bad guys including local mobsters (lead by Pau Sorvino) and movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) all while trying to keep things going with his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelley).
Directed by Joe Johnston who went on to eventually helm Captain America: The First Avenger, the movie not only works as an action-packed superhero film, but also a fun period piece that references a number of classic actors, actresses and other historical figures from the era (including Lost star Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes!). Add to that that real-life elements like potential Hollywood stars working with the Nazis and mobsters refusing to do the same and you have a great film that holds up really well aside from a few clunky special effects scenes here and there.
As a kid, I had no idea who the Rocketeer was before the film hit, but now I know that it was an indie comic book created by Dave Stevens in the 80s during that boom. However, I never got around to reading the actual comics until last year when I got my hands on the IDW-published reprint of Stevens’ entire run, though I was more interested in the pictures. You really don’t need to read the words because the art is just so crisp, clear and expressive. Plus, the colors in that book are just amazing. I don’t know how they compare to the original, but imagine they’re much better given IDW’s reputation for doing super high quality reprints and today’s far better printing techniques.
While scrolling through the options to get to The Rocketeer, I also saw Dick Tracy as an option. I LOVED this movie as a kid and realized that, given the obvious similarities, it would make for an excellent double feature mate with Rocketeer.
Based on the classic comic strip created by Chester Gould in the 1930s, Dick Tracy was directed by and starred Warren Beatty as the yellow-clad copper. He’s joined by Charlie Kormo’s The Kid, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney, Al Pacino’s Big Boy and a variety of others as Tracy attempts to bring the mob boss down while keeping his relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) together and figuring out what to do with his new ward.
The beauty of this movie is that Beatty went full boat when it came to recreating the look and feel of the comic strips on the big screen. The suits and cars are all wildly colorful, matte paintings give the world an ethereal feel and the bag guy make-up brings characters like Little Face, Flat Top and Pruneface fully to life. Add in the idea of a kid trying to constantly get in on grown-up cop action, the pseudo love triangle with Breathless and the mystery of No Face and you’ve got a super fun and compelling movie that doesn’t get enough kudos from the comic-loving crowd.
As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of this flick when it came out. I definitely remember seeing it in the theater and as scenes appeared on my TV I remembered them from that viewing experience as well as moments captured by the trading card set. That feeling has lingered to this day when I basically want an Apple Watch just so I can feel like Dick Tracy (anyone else remember the wrist watch walkie talkies they sold?).
My four year old daughter slept through most of the first film and was looking at Disney princess dresses during the second, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend these for kids her age. Given the presence of mobsters, shooting, concrete and Madonna’s crazy dresses, it might not be appropriate.
That reminds me. I’m not a fan of Madonna’s outside of this movie and A League Of Their Own, but man, she just KILLS it in this movie. I’m sure I was dazzled by her sheer dresses as a kid, but this time around I really found myself feeling bad for her when she was ever so desperately trying to convince Dick Tracy to love her. Her character adds an interesting intensity to this film that just adds to the overall unique nature of a project that could have easily become what all the terrible late 90s comic book movies turned into: exaggerated cartoons with no concept of what made the source material work.
So, while these might not be the best movies to show a couple of kids (like we did), they are a ton of fun and act as a kind of vanguard for quality comic-based films that would come a decade or so later.
2015 was the fifth full year that I worked as a freelance writer. It’s wild to think about. I got unceremoniously and somewhat surprisingly laid off from Wizard in September of 2009. With no idea what I would do with the rest of my career (a fun thought to have at 26) my friends jumped at the chance to set me up with freelance work. I wasn’t sure if it would stick, but dove in and am still rolling today.
That year I wrote for Marvel.com, Maxim.com, Topless Robot, Wizard, ToyFare, UGO, MTV Geek, Click and even a bit for CBR and realized I could actually do alright for myself with just my brain, a computer and a solid internet connection. Since then, a few of those outlets have gone defunct (I miss seeing my work on the magazine stand) and some completely changed directions since then. These days I find myself mainly working for three sites: Marvel.com, CBR and Geek.com and I’m digging it. Looking back at the past year, it seemed like an okay time to reflect a bit on the ups and downs of the year. Continue reading Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015
As I said earlier this week, I was a big fan of Buffy. For whatever reason — most likely scheduling conflicts or a bit of a weak first season — that did not carry over to Angel. I loved the character’s twists and turns on Buffy and the intensely insane relationship with her, but I just never got into his solo show. Looking in from the outside, it seemed like the show moved so fast and added so much mythology and so many characters that it was difficult to jump into an episode later on down the line. I did catch the finale, which is good because that’s right where Angel: After The Fall picks up.
When I was at Wizard, I was the IDW contact (and actually am again these days for CBR), so I interviewed writer Brian Lynch a few times about his Spike and Angel comics for the company. He worked with Joss Whedon to figure out the beats and then got to work writing the comic along with artists like Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney and others to bring this story together about what happened after the evil Wolfram & Hart corporation sent LA to hell. Continue reading Angel: After The Fall Trade Post Volumes 1-4
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1: Change is Constant (IDW)
Written by Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz, drawn by Dan Duncan
Collects Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4
Much like Marvel Masterworks Thor from a few weeks back, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant Volume 1 found its way my way thanks to a sale on Comixology. I knew nothing about this new-ish TMNT book from IDW aside from that fact that my buddy Rickey liked it and that Kevin Eastman, one of the franchise’s creators, was on board.
I actually tried reading this one several months back and couldn’t get into it because I was confused by the opening. See, it starts with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello facing off against a mutated cat called Old Hob. I thought this was supposed to be a continuation of the traditional TMNT story and it clearly wasn’t. It just wasn’t what I expected so I moved on to something else.
Later I returned to the story with more of an idea that I was dealing with a reboot instead of a continuation which opened my mind up to all the cool differences this volume explores. In this new world, April works for a company developing biological-based defense tech that ninjas want to steal. In the process, the turtles and Splinter wind up with the ooze in the sewer along with the cat who would become Old Hob. Raphael gets separated from the pack and eventually goes on to meet Casey Jones. The thrust of this particular volume revolves around Splinter and the three turtles trying to find Raph and setting up the new mythology which is actually pretty cool.
Change Is Constant does a solid job of setting the stage for this new world of Turtle comics, introducing the characters to new and old fans alike while also establishing a tone that fits these characters. That tone is somewhere between the satirical nature of the original TMNT comics and the current cartoon series on Nickelodeon. I was a huge fan of the Turtles as a kid, accumulating as many of the toys and Archie comics as I could, but didn’t do much with it beyond that. So, once I got used to the idea of this new take, I was on board and will be looking for more Comixology sales to see if I can get the next volume!
GrimJack is one of those characters that I had a vague awareness of, but never really knew anything about, aside from the fact that he had a funny hat and a big sword. It wasn’t until I was listening to one of the SmodCast podcasts (I think it was either Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave or The Secret Stash) and Walt Flanagan started talking about how much he loved the book that I thought, “Hey, I should check that out.” To Sequential Swap I went and made a trade for the first two volumes of the 80s First Comics offering as reprinted by IDW.
If you’re unfamiliar with the character, GrimJack is an old soldier who now works as a kind of gun-for-hire helping people who need it. That alone is interesting as he’s essentially a Clint Eastwood character (Clint’s voice circa Dirt Harry was GrimJack’s voice as I read), but then you’ve got the book’s imaginative setting. GirmJack lives in a place called Cynosure which is a city that exists in a pan-dimensional city that touches different dimensions at various times. Because of this, there’s a lot of dirty dealings going on, dirty dealings that GrimJack sometimes runs afoul of.
This first collection is interesting because, in addition to intros by John Ostrander — a writer whose later work on Suicide Squad I like very much — Tim Truman and editor Mike Gold, there’s also a new wraparound story that introduces the reader to many of the characters who will show up in the series including GrimJack himself and his bar, Munden’s. This is interesting because the second volume has absolutely no extras.
Anyway, this book collects the short stories that originally appeared in the back of Starslayer and while they obviously share characters, they’re mostly one-and-dones which is good because they offer the reader the chance to get to know GrimJack by way of the things he does and doesn’t do. These tales really run the gamut, from the first one about a god who has abandoned his people and taken to drinking in a Cynosurian bar to sci-fi/fantasy story co-starring Starslayer. There’s also a vampire one and one where he goes to a world populated by adorable cartoony animals.
I’m a big fan of the variety found in this collection. In addition to the character stuff I talked about, it also gave Truman the chance to draw, well, pretty much everything. It also shows how crazy GrimJack’s world can be. While reading this collection, I kept thinking about how cool a movie, TV series or even video game series would be. There’s so much meat here that could be explored and exploited. With Eastwood probably too old to play the part, who would make a good GJ?
Soon enough, GrimJack proved popular enough to warrant his own series from First Comics, which wound up going for 81 issues. While still crossing all kinds of genre ground, these issues definitely carried over into one another a lot more. I’ve got no problem with this because, unlike a lot of stories these days, there’s no decompression at all as you’re constantly propelled forward either in the story itself or from one to the other. You also get to learn a lot more about GrimJack, his world and his past. He’s one of those characters like John Constantine where he’s got this big huge past filled with battles, friends and foes. The nice thing about reading from the beginning, though, is that you know what’s actually been on the page before and what’s new, unlike when I’ve read random Hellblazer trades.
After reading these two trades, I definitely see what Walt saw in these books and agree that it’s worth a read. I do have a bit of a problem, though. As I said above, the series wound up going for 81 issues, but there are only 8 volumes in this series from IDW which get up to #54. For whatever reason, they stopped making these books and switched over to the smaller omnibus format collections. It’s kind of annoying to not finish out one format and switch to the other, but I could adapt. The real problem is that those books seem to have stalled out too with the second omnibus hitting in 2011 and nothing else. I’m sure GrimJack collections aren’t exactly burning up the charts, but I do wish that companies would finish reprint projects like this once they start. I don’t know how it all breaks down, but it seems kind of crummy to promise a full run of a series and not follow through on it.