About these ads

Archive for August, 2011


Comic-Con Panel:  Wild Cards or Recommendations from Friends

By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain)

I know what I like and I think most people do as well.  We often don’t go looking for things that are going to go against that grain and instead look for things that reinforce our beliefs.  For example, people labeled with the generalization of “liberals” generally will not watch Fox News and conversely those labeled as “conservatives” will generally not watch Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow.  Why watch something that will just anger you or go against your beliefs that you have worked your whole life to create?[i]

Politics is an easy example as people tend to avoid the other side.  However, it is just as easy to see in popular culture[ii] or in comics.[iii]

We find what we like and we go with it.  How do we find what we like though?  Sometimes it is at home (my father brought home copies of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy for our bookshelf and I just started to read them) or school (isn’t that how we all find The Great Gatsby?) or a bookstore (I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower by just sitting on the floor in a Barnes and Noble and picking a book at basically random from where I sat).

Oftentimes it is because of a recommendation of a friend.  Because a friend from college, Jason Teiken[iv], lent me Wild Cards I ended up going to the George R.R. Martin hosted panel[v] at Comic-Con this year. It has been probably 20 years since I read those books, but because I loved the stories of Aces and Jokers within each novel’s prose, I knew that sitting in a panel would be a great way to think back to that experience and maybe reopen it in the future.

However, at the time I first read the Wild Card books, I remember thinking, why would I want to read about superheroes in a book and not a comic?  Once I started reading, I remember thinking who in the hell is this guy Fortunato? Powers from tantric sex and building up a giant orgasm?  What the #$%?  Is this pornography?  Daredevil wouldn’t do this.  Oh God, can the villains out there sexually take advantage of Daredevil?  Won’t someone think of Matt Murdock?[vi]

Years later in graduate school, having drifted away from comics, I found them again thanks to “Kingdom Come”, a recommendation from a fellow student, Matt Massey, and it still is my favorite mini-series/graphic novel of all time. Moving around the country tends to prohibit you from accumulating things beyond what can fit in your car, comics included, and if you aren’t going to be buying comics, there isn’t a point to going to a comic book store to keep up with what is out there.

Coming back to comics at several different points always leads to new things. Once I had a more stable existence, a friend who worked in a comic shop[vii] turned me onto Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski.  My good friend, the editor of this site C.J. Bunce, turned me onto the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Hard-Traveling Heroes run of Green Lantern and Green Arrow which led to a great panel in the 2010 Con about Batman becoming a nocturnal hero instead of the campy cartoon of the 60s.  I loved listening to them talk about the behind the scenes moments that led to how we view Batman today.

This doesn’t just lend itself to comics either. Books (my friend David Popham recommended On Writing by Stephen King and it was a great read that I’ve recommended to other writers and my friend Jon Dunkle keeps a blog of book reviews at Rain of Error that I will go to when I hit a library or go crazy on Amazon and he led me to Aimee Bender’s “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”), movies (my friend Steve Sides recommended the wonderful Lars and the Real Girl and kept reminding me to watch until I saw it and loved it), podcasts (I thank Marcus Janzow for my exposure to the not-updated-enough, “The Memory Palace,”) and music (comps from my friend Scott Eggimann led me to “The Weakerthans”) have all entered my consciousness through friends.

Now, I feel I can recommend these items to people everywhere. Then I suppose they’ll recommend and so forth. I suppose I’ve really just outlined the inner workings of the ever-elusive word of mouth marketing in pieces of art that relate to me. However, it’s still my friends that end up giving me some of the best recommendations that I’ll ever have and those help to shape my tastes. When you start to think about it, isn’t that what friends are for on the larger levels as well?

So, thanks to friends I still see and friends that I don’t. I thank you for the time you take to let me know about the things you love and sharing them with me. No matter if it is forgotten how those loves got to me in the first place, they are there because of a good friend and that won’t be forgotten.

[i] Assuming people work for their beliefs because some might just take some beliefs and be happy not having to worry about working for them. It’s the whole division of labor thing.

[ii] If a friend recommends to you that you really need to give Justin Bieber a listen because you don’t understand the beauty in his music, would you be more likely to listen to the Biebs or refuse to listen to your friend talk about music?  What about Ke$ha?  Phish?  Lady Gaga? Motley Crue?  AC/DC?  Prince?  Oasis?  Nickelback?  Is there a band that would cause you to kick your friend to the curb?

[iii] I won’t say more than “Marvel or DC?”

[iv] He also introduced me to Twin Peaks and I’m enjoying watching those on Netflix streaming right now.

[v] The panel had all the different contributing authors talking about favorite characters and possible future routes of the series and it was pretty interesting to just reminisce. However, the people that were just waiting for the next panel with Nathan Fillion gained an interest in the series just from listening to the authors. That was probably the most intriguing part of the hour. I mean, isn’t Comic-Con just a big gathering of “friends” sharing their different loves of fantasy/sci-fi/comics/pop-culture with one another?  I would go on, but any pronoun use in this sentence with the verb “share” would just lead to an unintended double-entendre.

[vi] Yes, that is an overreaction on behalf of Matt Murdock because he can take care of himself.  Plus, the language was probably different from a generally naïve Midwestern undergraduate but the idea of reading about tantric sex, delaying orgasms or even mentioning orgasms felt weird within what I knew about comics. I think at that point I had yet to put together the meaning of the band name “Queen,” let alone read about sex in comics period especially when comic heroes are supposed to be saving the world and drinking their milk. Needless to say, I had yet to find Alan Moore. My friend Jason Vivone changed that later.

[vii] Kind of similar to the whole “is a drug dealer a friend” thing as the only times we interacted were in his comic store as he fed my addiction to “Planetary,” “Powers” and “Rising Stars.”

 

About these ads

If only the physicists would crank up their research and get us a time machine.

The 41st Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is out and as usual it is chock full of the obvious: prices, of course, but also commentary for dealers and collectors, year in review articles, the guy who says he paid $30,000 to advertise on the back cover, and inside, more ads than you could ever read.  As price guides go you can actually spend a lot of time learning about the history of various books and characters, and see new books you may not have noticed otherwise.

If you shuffle through it all, the Overstreet Guide provides some great information.  What stood out to me first in this year’s guide is the showcase of the great swing in prices today for rare, key comic issues compared to when the Guide was first published back in 1970.

Here are some great examples:

  • Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, could be bought for $300 in Mint condition back in 1970.  Today’s guide price?  $1.4 million.  Talk about an investment!
  • Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, could be bought for $275 in Mint condition in 1970.  Today? $1.2 million.
  • Superman #1 could be bought for $250 in 1970 in Mint condition.  Today’s price is $560,000.  As much as I am hoping for good things from the new DC #1 issues in September, it’s pretty unlikely any will fetch $500,000 in 2052.  But maybe $250?
  • Marvel Comics #1, the first appearance of the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, could be bought for $250 in 1970 in Mint condition.  Today its guide price tag is $460,000.
  • All-American Comics #16, the first appearance of Green Lantern, could be bought for a mere $50 in 1970 in Mint condition.  Today that same book would sell for $400,000.

   

Of course, back in 1970 most people would have thought your screw was loose for buying a comic for $300 or even $50.

Books that haven’t had 70 years to appreciate–Silver Age comic books from the 1960s also have some substantial increases over the past 41 years.

  • Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, could be bought for $16 back in 1970 in Mint condition.  Today that comic book sells for $125,000.
  • The Incredible Hulk #1 sold for $14 in Mint condition in 1970.  Today, you might find one for $75,000.
  • Fantastic Four #1 sold for only $12 in Mint condition in 1970.  Today? $80,000.  Not bad at all!

   

It is interesting to see the steep lowered tier of values when you compare Golden Age DC Comics titles to their Silver Age Marvel Comics counterparts.  Yet the Silver Age DC Comics characters also drop off significantly compared to their Marvel Comics counterparts.

Check out the new Overstreet guide for even more comparisons.  The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide Volume 41 SC (Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide) is available at Amazon.com as well as comic books stores, or add it to your pull list at Comixology.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Wow.  It’s not every actress that puts her pregnancy in plain sight.  Mary McCormack did just that this season on the USA series In Plain Sight, the show about two federal witness protection program marshalls officed in Albuquerque.  From the first episode of the summer season to the last we figured out Mary McCormack’s character Marshall Mary Shannon was pregnant even before she did and got to watch her reaction and choices as her character begrudgingly grew.  And over the course of the season both Marys got bigger, with no hiding behind office desks, no oversized concealing clothing, no disappearing from episodes with action sequences.  Mary McCormack was openly and unabashedly pregnant and her character was, too.

To be sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional approach.  Even in the past few TV seasons we saw both the female leads of White Collar and Leverage carry on with their characters unaffected by the actresses’ real life pregancies.  But this was so much more fun.

Mary Shannon is about as cynical as they come.  In the opening episodes of season one it was difficult to fathom how this series could move forward with such a harshly snarky, pretty-much-always-unlikeable character.  Yet she grew on us and we went back for more each week, despite her failed relationship with her sister’s ex-boyfriend Raph, her poor decison-making sister, her cringeworthy mother, and Mary’s non-stop cranky hatred of everyone and everything.  As characters go, she’s pretty awesome.

So some proof that she is a great actress?  This is actress Mary’s third child.  With all the ranting by character Mary about stinky kids and her genuine dislike for humanity, how could the actress be so convincing?  At Emmy time someone should stand up and take notice.

And who would have thought weekly conversations about the increasing size of Mary Shannon’s breasts would be so funny, so real?  And this year, more than past seasons, the writers have created a universal aura that constantly hovers over us–partner Marshal Marshall Mann played by Fred Weller is somehow cosmicly linked to Mary Shannon.  More than partners, more than BFFs, they are soulmates of sorts–Marshall knew it early on, especially when Mary was dying at the end of the first season, but since then he moved on to a live-in girlfriend who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Marshall.  But their bond never goes away, as highlighted at the end of the season finale this week.  Finally, the bitter, grumbly Mary opens up for two sentences in the midst of all the chaos of her life, an Assault on Precinct 13-influenced shoot-out, the denial of how she feels about how she looks, and darned near missing her sister’s wedding when she is the maid of honor.  All for something unsaid to finally be said–to fall apart as a season cliffhanger.  The alliteration is not lost on us, two sides of the same coin, Mary and Marshall, would be horrible as a couple.  But their bond, however unexplainable, is believable, and makes us care about people we might not normally care about.

What can we expect for next season?  The father of the baby sticking around?  The fallout of her sister’s actions on her wedding day, after a full year of upward momentum, growth and positivity?  Mary hauling a baby around town like her failed attention to the dog she eventually pawned off on Marshall?  It is hard to imagine the writers concocting a better season of stories but for Mary McCormack’s real-life pregnancy.  And going with it, instead of denying it, now sets up even more opportunities for both Marys next season.  When other characters’ failed relationships served as Mary Shannon’s foil for past seasons, unimaginably Shannon’s baby played the foil all season long.  For pure drama fans this meant dealing with all the traditional questions every mother must face with an impending due date.  But with a no-holds-barred character on modern cable, this seems like the first time we got to live alongside a lead character of a television series sharing all the unstated negatives of carrying a kid around for the bulk of a year.  The truth of the cravings, body out of control, unwanted reactions of her peers, uninvited advice, suffocating family pressures, and the sweat could hardly have been dramatized in a funnier way, by a better actress.  Up against the likes of actresses like Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer playing equally off the wall characters, it says a lot that McCormack stormed ahead of the pack (actually slightly waddled ahead of the pack) this year.  Poking fun at real life pressures, common angst-inducing circumstances and life’s surprises proved to make a great season of a good series.

Watch for an iconic scene toward the end of this season’s finale: like Sigourney Weaver marching away from a pile of dead creatures in Aliens, or Linda Hamilton walking away from a squashed Terminator, our heroine in flak jacket forges ahead, emerging victorious, on to her next battle.

As a postscript, 100 years ago this week Lucille Ball was born.  Those who watched I Love Lucy when it first aired or in re-runs on Nick at Nite as I did, may recall that Lucy was the first actress to be openly pregnant in an ongoing series.  Although censors wouldn’t let the show say the word “pregnant”–Lucy was “expecting”–it was a first for the growing medium of television.  Since then networks have shied away from a pregnant woman playing a pregnant woman, or even a non-pregnant woman playing a leading role as a pregnant woman in an ongoing series or feature film.  Only Frances McDormand’s performance as a pregnant police officer in Fargo comes to mind.   McCormack did something ordinary this season, but in a venue and way both unusual and interesting.  We can hope for even more fun next season.  Who says there is nothing good on TV to watch?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

A few weeks ago borg.com previewed several great photos that Warner Brothers released from next year’s highly anticipated 2012 release The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  The film will be the first of a two-part movie adaptation of the first book of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien and follow-up to the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings series.  Since then Warner Brothers released two of the dwarfs not posted here, Nalin and Dwalin:

With those cloven-toed boots, red coat and white beard, Balin looks like a certain jolly old elf as opposed to a Tolkien dwarf.  But we like it!

Then, after several fans attempted to circulate a similar image, Warner Brothers compiled the dwarf cast costume images into this great poster:

How would you like this group dropping in for lunch?  The dwarf cast and characters are (left to right): Jed Brophy (Hercules, Xena, District 9) as Nori, Dean O’Gorman (Hercules, Xena, Legend of the Seeker) as Fili, Mark Hadlow (Xena, King Kong) as Dori, James Nesbitt (Young Indiana Jones, Waking Ned Devine, The Deep, Monroe) as Bofur, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, Graham McTavish (Red Dwarf, Lost, 24) as Dwalin, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Ken Stott (King Arthur, Chronicles of Narnia) as Balin, John Callen as Oin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, William Kircher (Xena, Legend of the Seeker) as Bifur, Adam Brown as Ori, and Aidan Turner (Being Human) as Kili. (Photo by James Fisher).

Then, Warner Brothers released this great shot of Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield top of post), with trusty sword Orcrist (wouldn’t it have been great if that naming of weapons/tools convention had caught on?).

Close-up from the full cast shot:

If Armitage sounds familiar, it may be because he played Guy Gilborne in the BBC TV series, Robin Hood.

Robin Hood had a great run, in part because Armitage played the villain so well, often upstaging the Sheriff of Nottingham.  With they way the production has created his make-up and warrior costume, he looks pretty convincing.  Armitage most recently appeared as the vile Heinz Kruger in Captain America: The First Avenger, reviewed here Monday.  He also appeared in the Vicar of Dibley and as an unnamed Naboo fighter pilot in Star Wars: the Phantom Menace (in good company with Keira Knightley, who also had a small role in the film).  For those Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon players, you’ll have yet another bridge between the Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings franchises.

Keep an eye out for more releases of photos from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

Whether you are a Star Trek cosplayer or a collector of the real thing, the more information you have the smarter buyer of replica or real props and costumes you can be, and the more accurately you can create replicas from the Star Trek universe.  Yesterday we ran down the best resources for Star Trek information focusing on the various Star Trek TV series.  Today we will cover books that include reference material for the Star Trek feature films.  Some of the information in the general categories overlaps so we will repeat those that apply to movies here.

The eleven Star Trek movies are available on DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, and streaming video, by series and in compilations.

Here are the key websites you need to know about:

  • Memory Alpha – A detailed, currently maintained encyclopedia of all things Star Trek.
  • Trek Core – A great source for screen caps of all series episodes, including some HD versions.

As to reference books, several licensed Star Trek books are available, many still in print, and the following are what I consider the best resources publicly available. I have also provided links to the books at Amazon.com, but your local library can also get these for you.  (Book cover thumbnails are a bit fuzzy since I used direct links to Amazon listings).

Running through the general books from yesterday again that also include information on the Star Trek feature films:

Star Trek – General

Star Trek: The Art of Star Trek, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1997.  If you only have one book about Star Trek behind the scenes, it should be this book.  Full of original paintings, behind the scenes photos, and close-ups of costumes and props, this is the best book available on the Star Trek television shows and feature films.  If you have it you will read it over and over again.  It is only lacking in the fact it was made before Star Trek Generations, so for everything after that you should seek out some of the other suggested books.  Also, you’ll notice on this list the Reeves-Stevens are a great source of all sorts of Trek material.  Highest recommendation.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia, by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, 1999.  With two Star Trek insiders like the Okudas writing this reference guide, it’s no wonder this is such a popular book.  Literally the A to Z guide to the Star Trek universe, make sure you get this most recent version that includes all updates.  Unfortunately it has not yet been updated to include the latest films and the Enterprise TV series.  Still, a single source for the obscure and the general in the franchise.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future, by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, 1996.  Another reference by the Okudas, this time aligned in chronological order of the events of the Trek universe, as opposed to the order of production of the series, which is the format of all other Trek reference books.  Handy to see overlap between series and whether the Battle of Wolf 359 comes before or after the destruction of Praxis (in case you get confused on that).

Star Trek The Next Generation: Technical Manual, by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda, 1991.  An unprecedented look at the science and technology of Star Trek.  The masters of the Trek art production team include here detailed drawings and explanation to support the science behind the stories portrayed in the television series and films.  A must for all Star Trek fans.

Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, by Michael Westmore, Alan Sims et al, 2000. This book provides key views from the main make-up artist and the propmaster for the later Trek series. Lots of close-up photos of alien races and make-up, but a lesser focus on props. Good behind the scenes stories. Highly recommended.

   

Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages and Captains’ Logs Supplemental: The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages-Entire Deep Space Nine & Voyager History, by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 1996.  Although this episode-by-episode guide has has been replaced for the most part by the TrekCore free website, it’s still worth flipping through to find episodes you may have forgotten about. The first contains the original series, the supplement expands into later episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Star Trek Generations.

And the books that focus on the feature films:

Star Trek Movies

The Making of the Trek Films, 1995, edited by Edward Gross, 1995.  Chock full of detailed insight into the creation of every Star Trek movie from The Motion Picture through Star Trek Generations.  Extensive scuttlebutt on what actors and crew thought of each production, including trials faced, marketing successes and perceived failures.  Surprisingly good resource for being more of an assemblage of data than a cohesive narrative.  Recommended.

Star Trek:  The Motion Picture

The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry, 1980.  Invaluable sourcebook for the decisions behind the creation of the first Star Trek film.  Low on photographs, but good insight into the movemaking process.  Recommended.

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan

The Making of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, by Allan Asherman, 1982.  This book includes several interviews with the actors and creators of the best of the Trek films.  Includes contemporary stories and behind the scenes accounts.  The only book focused on this movie in this detail.  Includes some good behind the scenes photos in black and white.  Recommended.

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier

Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, by Lisabeth Shatner, 1989.  What you would expect in a book by a daughter about her father.  Manages to document the uphill battle to make what is generally thought of as the least successful of the Star Trek movies.  Gives insight into Shatner’s inexperience with directing and how that translated to film.  For STV fans.

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country

Charting the Undiscovered Country: The Making of Trek VI, by Mark A. Altman, Ron Magid and Edward Gross, 1992.  The smallest of the “making of” books yet it provides good detail of Nimoy’s direction and story influences for one of the best films the franchise has to offer.  Also includes black and white photos of props, each cast photo from prior films, and information about costumes.  Recommended.

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek Generations

Star Trek, the Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, Generations & First Contact, by John Eaves, 1998. Great illustrations and text from the artist behind several Star Trek properties.

See The Making of the Trek Films, 1995 referenced above.

Star Trek:  First Contact

The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, by Lou Anders, 1996. A great resource–lots of photographs of the borg, weapons, sets and cast interviews. Recommended.

See Star Trek, the Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, Generations & First Contact referenced above.

Star Trek:  Insurrection

The Secrets of Star Trek: Insurrection, by Terry J. Erdmann, 1998.  One of the best looks at a Star Trek production, including great tidbits like photos of stunt cast members, art production, close-up of background characters, and costume and prop design.  Nice behind the scenes text and photos.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek:  Nemesis

See The Star Trek The Next Generation Companion: Revised Edition referred to in yesterday’s post.

Star Trek 2009

Star Trek: The Art of the Film, by Mark Cotta Vaz, 2009. Great photos of the art behind the new film, some used and some that didn’t make it to the screen. Good sketches of costumes and details of alien masks and make-up. Nice explanations of the different locations from the movie.

Also, invaluable costume and prop information can be found in the following catalogs:

  • Christie’s December 2006 Auction Catalog
  • Profiles in History 12, 14 , 41, and 44 Auction Catalogs
  • Julien’s 2010 Star Trek Catalog

Happy reading!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

Whether you are a Star Trek casual watcher or an uber-fan, whether you are a cosplayer or a collector of real Trek memorabilia, there is always more out there to catch up on or watch all over again.  Unlike any other franchise, there is more information available today than ever before in case you want to check out more about a replica of your favorite tricorder or disrupter, or get into real props and costumes.  Or maybe you like to make your own replicas, and the more info you have available the more accurately you can create replicas from the Star Trek universe.  Resources today fall into four categories: First, the episodes and movies themselves, the primary source material, including the artifacts from the actual shows.  Second, websites have an endless supply of Star Trek information on any subject.  Third, general reference books have been created by various publishers since the first series.  And fourth, auction catalogs get you as close to costumes and props from a show as you can get other than looking at the real thing.

The TV series are available on DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, and streaming video, by series and in compilations.

Here are the key websites you need to know about:

  • Memory Alpha – A detailed, currently maintained encyclopedia of all things Star Trek.
  • Trek Core – A great source for screen caps of all series episodes, including some HD versions.

As to reference books, several licensed Star Trek books are available, some still in print, and the following are what I consider the best resources publicly available. I have also provided links to the books at Amazon.com, but your local library can also get these for you.  Today we will run down the best Star Trek reference books for the TV series.  Tomorrow we will continue with reference material for the eleven Star Trek movies. (Book cover thumbnails are a bit fuzzy since I used direct links to Amazon listings).

Star Trek – General

Star Trek: The Art of Star Trek, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1997.  If you only have one book about Star Trek behind the scenes, it should be this book.  Full of original paintings, behind the scenes photos, and close-ups of costumes and props, this is the best book available on the Star Trek television shows and feature films.  If you have it you will read it over and over again.  It is only lacking in the fact it was made before Star Trek Generations, so for everything after that you should seek out some of the other suggested books.  Also, you’ll notice on this list the Reeves-Stevens are a great source of all sorts of Trek material.  Highest recommendation.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia, by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, 1999.  With two Star Trek insiders like the Okudas writing this reference guide, it’s no wonder this is such a popular book.  Literally the A to Z guide to the Star Trek universe, make sure you get this most recent version that includes all updates.  Unfortunately it has not yet been updated to include the latest films and the Enterprise TV series.  Still, a single source for the obscure and the general in the franchise.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future, by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, 1996.  Another reference by the Okudas, this time aligned in chronological order of the events of the Trek universe, as opposed to the order of production of the series, which is the format of all other Trek reference books.  Handy to see overlap between series and whether the Battle of Wolf 359 comes before or after the destruction of Praxis (in case you get confused on that).

Star Trek The Next Generation: Technical Manual, by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda, 1991.  An unprecedented look at the science and technology of Star Trek.  The masters of the Trek art production team include here detailed drawings and explanation to support the science behind the stories portrayed in the television series and films.  A must for all Star Trek fans.

Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, by Michael Westmore, Alan Sims et al, 2000. This book provides key views from the main make-up artist and the propmaster for the later Trek series. Lots of close-up photos of alien races and make-up, but a lesser focus on props. Good behind the scenes stories. Highly recommended.

   

Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages and Captains’ Logs Supplemental: The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages-Entire Deep Space Nine & Voyager History, by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 1996.  Although this episode-by-episode guide has has been replaced for the most part by the TrekCore free website, it’s still worth flipping through to find episodes you may have forgotten about. The first contains the original series, the supplement expands into later episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Star Trek Generations.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, 1996. A source for those wanting an insider’s look at the making of the original series. Not much on costumes and props. A lot of information on the business of television production. Useful here for the impact of the business and budgets on creative decision-making.

The Star Trek Sketchbook, by Herbert F. Solow and Yvonne Solow, 1997.  Great images of the art of the original series, including sketches and paintings in full color as well as a look at the various Starfleet and alien costumes created by William Ware Theiss.  A great art book.  Recommended.

Star Trek: The Animated Series

See Star Trek: The Art of Star Trek referenced above.

Star Trek Phase II

Star Trek: Phase II : The Making of the Lost Series, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1997.  The TV series that never was.  The only detailed account of the Phase II series that turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture after the success of Star Wars.  Includes hundreds of pages of material, with sketches and photographs of production material that didn’t make it to the screen.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Continuing Mission (Star Trek: The Next Generation), by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1997. THE sourcebook for all things Next Generation. Episode summaries. Costumes and props, including photos of original art and design. Text includes the environment in which each season was created. Insight from cast and crew. Next to The Art of Star Trek, the best Trek resource out there. Highly recommended.

The Star Trek The Next Generation Companion: Revised Edition, by Larry Nemecek, 2003. The only comprehensive look at all Star Trek: The Next Generation seasons and movies through Star Trek: Nemesis. Well researched trivia about each episode and movie is covered. Delves into the world building for the series, including a look at technical and scientific continuity across episodes. Hundreds of good black and white photos. A great book even compared to The Continuing Mission. Nemecek shows he really knows his Trek trivia.  Highly recommended.

Editor’s Update:  Check out this new addition to resources from this series: Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 here.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The Making of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1994. Lacking only because it was made too soon, this look at Deep Space Nine was created before the third season got underway. It provides good black and white illustrations of props, costumes and set design. This also has some good information on alien creation, including make-up decisions.

Deep Space Nine Companion, by Terry J. Erdmann, 2000.  The best book available documenting the series with episode descriptions and behind the scenes information.  Recommended.

Star Trek Voyager

Star Trek Voyager: A Vision of the Future, by Stephen Edward Poe, 1998. I only recently discovered this book. It provides a wealth of information about the business of creating a television show, including insight about Star Trek Voyager’s specific creators and what role each person plays (note several individuals worked on several series so this is a good guide for TNG and DS9, too). The book covers in a journalistic style the background events surrounding a few first season episodes of Voyager. It includes a detailed analysis of what happened when Genevieve Bujold commenced filming as the original Captain Janeway, and manages to avoid “dirt digging” type commentary. Includes a small peek at key staff such as Alan Bernard, Alan Sims, and Michael Westmore, Michael Okuda, Rick Sternbach, and the entire writing staff.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek Voyager Companion, by Paul Ruditis, 2003.  One of the best written of all Star Trek source material, this book delves into each episode with great sidebar material, insight into the cast and crew and hundreds of black and white photos.  Highly recommended.

Enterprise

Unfortunately, the best resource for Enterprise information is Memory Alpha, TrekCore and the current Star Trek Magazine. One of the biggest gaps in the Star Trek universe is a comprehensive book about the last series in the franchise.

Also, invaluable costume and prop information can be found in the following catalogs:

  • Christie’s December 2006 Auction Catalog
  • Profiles in History 12, 14 , 41, and 44 Auction Catalogs
  • Julien’s 2010 Star Trek Catalog

Check back tomorrow for some recommended books covering the eleven Star Trek feature films.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

Everyone I know who beat me to Captain America: The First Avenger, recommended this movie.  Of all the summer releases, the trailer seemed a bit ho-hum, so I wasn’t in a hurry to see it.  As for the character, I read back issues of Marvel Comics’ Captain America as a kid and liked it.  His nemesis, Red Skull, was always a great villain.  But since the 1960s for some reason Hollywood has trouble making good World War II movies.  Captain America is not only a good comic book movie, it’s a good World War II movie.  Its basic, good story, solidly bridges the real-life comic book hero from the 1940s with a now modern myth-like Marvel universe and the result is a character we’d all be proud to know, successfully played by Chris Evans.

Just like the lack of a good modern western movie, we haven’t had a lot of modern World War II movies that give us a real sense of time and place.  One interesting recent film that comes to mind is Quentin Tarentino’s over-the-top Inglourious Basterds, a quirky, dark, humorous, revisionist bit about an elite unit trying to take out Hitler.  Next to that, Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie, based on a true story, made for good movie watching, but both of these didn’t re-create the feel you get from tried and true contemporary war films like Captain America does, such as Back to Bataan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Great Escape, or Stalag 17.  Even giant, modern epic war films like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List–mainly because they cover the darkest periods of the war but also because they seem to have tried too hard—fail to reflect the patriotism of the “greatest generation.”  You really have to go back to the often overlooked but brilliant Memphis Belle from 1990 to see a movie that reflects the American spirit that won the war.  Captain America isn’t “better” than any of those films.  But it is worthy of comparison, and for a film about a comic book superhero to deserve such comparison is a great achievement.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a skinny everyman, with health issues that result in his “4F” status, meaning he is ineligible for military service.  Subtle state of the art special effects, which would go unnoticed by viewers unfamiliar with Evans more “built” status, show Evans as a puny fellow at first.  (He looks like the star of Superbad or Scott Pilgrim).   He tries five times to make it past the military entrance tests and only on the fifth try does he meet up with an expatriated German scientist played superbly by Stanley Tucci, looking for a few good men as candidates for a “superman” project that only Stan Lee could create.  Here the director lays out a fictional character that borrows from the real lives of soldier heroes Audie Murphy (To Hell and Back) and Gary Cooper in Sergeant York–good, peaceful guys that don’t want to kill anyone, but just want to defend their families from bullies, and end up tougher than the rest.  Captain America, more than anything else, has heart.  For its adapted story to harken back to Frank Capra films but with a more subtle delivery as to his propaganda themes, the writers deserve serious accolades.

   

Several movies come to mind that Captain America borrows from, in ways you want a movie to borrow from great movies of the past.  A siege on a train by Steve Rogers and friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has the feel of Von Ryan’s Express, a motley but tough multicultural band of tough fighters is reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen.  And the overall mission to take out evil German organization HYDRA, led by a psychotic Nazi turned into the Red Skull, played perfectly by Hugo Weaving, feels like Guns of Navarone.

   

As superhero movies go its treatment is up there with Watchmen.  As to comic characters coming to life, Captain America is right up there with Chris Evans’ other superhero performance for Marvel as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four.  This Captain America will easily hold his own in next year’s The Avengers among Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, or anyone’s rendition of the Hulk.  Evans showed again, as he did as the star of Cellular, that he is up to the task for leading roles.

Other supporting actors of note include Tommy Lee Jones as a crotchety general cut from the same cloth as Patton.  Neal McDonough (Walking Tall, Minority Report, Star Trek: First Contact, Timeline) comes right off the comic page, maybe more than anyone, as the Scottish, larger than life, handle bar moustached Dum-Dum Dugan.  J.J. Feild plays a British member of the team straight out of Bridge on the River Kwai.  Kenneth Choi and Derek Luke are refreshing additions, showing a Japanese- and African-American taking the fight to the Nazis.  The film does its best to avoid a standard romantic subplot, but for those that need it, Hayley Atwell fills the part well (but why again we have another superhero story needing a European-accented leading woman makes no sense to me; she’s an American officer after all).

With all the new composers on the scene this summer, it is also welcome to have a tried and true master like Alan Silvestri (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Predator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Abyss, Forrest Gump, Eraser, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) with a lively musical score.  Along with the music, the costume design was dead on, and the art and set design was great–including creating futuristic machines of the day that seemed to be derived from World War II airplane engines and parts.

As for the villains, Weaving’s Red Skull and Peter Lorre-inspired Doctor Zola, played by Toby Jones, are the perfect villains we love to hate, straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  For taking a tough sell and turning it into a good story–a 1940s era comic book character with a loud supersuit and trash can-shaped shield, putting him in a modern comic book universe, staying true to the mythos, appealing to a modern audience’s scrutiny, for filling a theater a month after its release, and making us care about the character’s plight–Captain America:  The First Avenger gets 4.5 of 5 stars.

Captain America: The First Avenger is in theaters.

Today marks the last day of the annual Creation Entertainment Star Trek convention in Las Vegas celebrating the 45th year of Star Trek.  If you were unable to attend this year’s show you still have a chance to watch The Three Captains Panel featuring Patrick Stewart from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Kate Mulgrew, from Star Trek Voyager, and William Shatner from Star Trek the Original Series.  The panel will stream live at this link from 1:20 to 3:15 p.m. local time.  It’s not free, online streaming isn’t the price of going in person but is still $14.99.  So if you want to watch it grab a few friends and share the price!

And if you can’t make the live show you can watch re-broadcasts at this link.  Re-broadcasts are also not free.  Each show from this year’s convention carries a different price.  Here is a rundown of this year’s other panels:

  • Voyager’s Ensign Harry Kim – Garrett Wang
  • Return to the Sixties – Lee Meriwether (Losira), Yvonne Craig (Marta), & Clint Howard (Balok, Muk)
  • Return to Enterprise – Dominic Keating (Malcolm Reed) & Connor Trinneer (Trip Tucker)
  • Deep Space Nine Aliens – Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Shran), Nicole de Boer (Dax), Vaughn Armstrong (Forrest, Korris, Korath, Klaax, etc.), Casey Biggs (Damar), Max Grodenchik (Rom)
  • Mr. Chekov – Walter Koenig
  • Voyager’s Tuvok- Tim Russ
  • Deep Space Nine’s Odo & Kira – Rene Auberjonois & Nana Visitor
  • Star Trek The Next Generation Panel – Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar), Suzie Plakson (K’Ehleyr, Dr. Selar), & John Delancie (Q)
  • Klingon Empire – JG Hertzler (Martok, Kolos), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron), Barbara March (Lursa) & Gwynyth Walsh (B’Etor)
  • Deep Space Nine’s Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax – Terry Farrell
  • Captain Janeway – Kate Mulgrew
  • Mr. Spock – Leonard Nimoy
  • Voyager’s Neelix – Ethan Phillips
C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton, founder of team G.I. Joe?  That’s just what the franchise needs to re-ignite interest as we approach the 50th anniversary of the guy that launched the modern action figure.

G.I. Joe has gone through several incarnations since “America’s movable fighting man” was released as a 12-inch action figure by Hasbro in 1964.  He started out as one of four U.S. Service soldiers.  In 1970 with the Vietnam War all over television Hasbro switched gears to Joe as member of the Adventure Team, when the action figure also got “life-like” hair.  (Personally, I had the army soldier with the brown beard and later added the dark-haired soldier without the beard).  Here are 12-inch Joes landing at Comic-Con this year:

In 1974 G.I. Joe got the famous kung fu grip to replace the hard plastic, reversed-hand that had served as Hasbro’s trademark (and was actually used to catch international imports of fake Joes).  He always had a trademark facial scar, too.  Hey, so did Willis in Hart’s War

 

In 1975, to compete with the popular 12-inch Six Million Dollar Man action figure, Hasbro introduced Mike Power, the Atomic Man.  These two characters duked it out on many occasions in living rooms across the country.  The last of the original Joes was released in 1976.  In 1982 G.I. Joe would return in 3 3/4 inch action figures, closer in size to the popular Star Wars action figure line, but with knee and elbow joints.    In 1985 these little G.I. Joe figures were the top selling American toy.  They have been available in varying versions ever since, and between 1991 and 2005 the 12-inch line of figures returned.

Meanwhile between 1980 and 1994 Marvel Comics had a G.I. Joe title that mirrored the action figure line.  In 1985 a cartoon series focused on good (G.I. Joe) vs. evil (Cobra) as opposed to true-life war.  In the cartoon G.I. Joe became synonymous with an early Seal Team Six type of special forces.  This was followed by various animated movies, including many that went direct to video.  In 2009 G.I. Joe finally hit the silver screen in the movie G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra, a good action movie that didn’t take itself too seriously, had a lot of great action, great writing, and–with a lot of references to the original Joe story and toys–was just all-out fun.

So who is Joe Colton?  It wasn’t until the 1980s that the action figures and cartoon characters got their own names, origins, and developed stories.  For decades there never was a single action figure or character named Joe, consistent with the historic reference to the G.I.s as G.I. Joes from years past, derived from an earlier comic strip with no relation to the Hasbro line.  General Joseph B. Colton did not appear as a named character with the early toy line, or with the animated series, but surfaced with the Marvel Comics comic book series, first with Issue 86.  His character is flushed out in later comic book series as the leader of the elite G.I. Joe special forces unit.

Which brings us to the sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, titled G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  If Retaliation follows the comic book line, Cobra may have some success against General Hawk, the hero of Rise of Cobra, played solidly by a tough-as-nails Dennis Quaid.  Which leaves a key role for General Joe Colton.  And Bruce Willis is now in discussions to play Colton in Retaliation.  I can’t think of anyone better as an action hero in G.I. Joe.  Even at 56 who better can face an uphill battle, walking barefoot across broken glass if need be, especially against the likes of the evil Cobra?  What more could you want?  Maybe a cameo by Arnold Schwartzenegger and Sylvester Stallone?  Although it is not yet confirmed that Willis has signed on as Joe, the Internet Movie Database lists Willis as the lead.

Already signed up for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Channing Tatum will return as Captain Duke Hauser, Ray Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I) as Snake Eyes and Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow.  New characters out of past incarnations that will appear include Dwayne Johnson (fka The Rock) as Roadblock, Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye, Joseph Mazzello (the little kid in Jurassic Park!) as Mouse, Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep from The Mummy) as Zartan, Elodie Yung as Jinx, and as D.J. Cotrona as Flint.  But no Scarlett or Baroness??? While you go back to watch Rise of Cobra, in case you haven’t seen it yet, try counting the classic nostalgic catchphrases, like “you have kung fu grip” and “you’re a real American hero.”

Other reasons why Bruce Willis is made for a G.I. Joe role?  He’s already trained for the part:

  

He’s saved American cities four times as Detective John McClane in the Die Hard movies

  

He sleuthed out the bad guy as Detective Sergeant Tom Hardy in Striking Distance

 

Butch Coolidge, son of a war hero who gets his watch back, in Pulp Fiction

   

He saved the whole planet as Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element

    

He saved the world (again) as driller turned Astronaut Harry Stamper in Armageddon

   

And he actually played a soldier as Major General William Devereaux in The Siege

 

and again, as a special ops commander as Lieutenant A.K. Waters in Tears of the Sun

Convinced yet?  Go Joe!  Go Bruce!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

On February 17, 2012, Studio Ghibli releases Arrietty, its first Hayao Miyazaki project since Ponyo in 2008.   Miyazaki, for anyone who hasn’t explored anime before, is considered to be the master of the medium, and if you have watched any Disney or Pixar DVD special features you will be hard pressed not to have seen John Lassiter and his American animator brethren praising Miyazaki as their mentor, and their inspiration for their own animated storytelling.

Miyazaki has served as writer, artist and director, often painting frame after frame of his own films, where other studios might rely on studio artists for detail work.  For Arrietty, Miyazaki wrote the screenplay, based on Mary Morton’s The Borrowers.  Arrietty is a little girl, a very little girl, who lives in a world of tiny people called the Borrowers, who live by borrowing items when humans are not around, in the spirit of the fairy tales told in Miyazaki’s past films.  She befriends a human boy and encounters trials not unlike other “incredible shrinking person” stories.  Released last year in Japan and soon in the UK, Arrietty won’t hit U.S. theaters until next year.  In the meantime several great anime films are available on video to get caught up on Miyazaki’s works and other Studio Ghibli films.

Years ago we stumbled upon an AMC Network Monday night marathon that played two Studio Ghibli movies per night.  First up was Princess Mononoke (1997), and we were sucked right in.  It played first in English dubbed with American voices, but later we re-watched it in its original Japanese, with added English subtitles, and it was a different, far better film.  We are not fans of movies with subtitles, but this communicated its story seamlessly, and pretty much every other Miyazaki film we have seen plays better without the American dubbed actors.  The dubbing choices for Ghibli are typically known actors and actresses and they can sometimes detract from the story and are a bit distracting.

Princess Mononoke at first viewing reflects the animated movie Battle for Terra, in its interesting and inventive visuals, exciting action and mythic story.  Princess Mononoke surpasses that film and is a more complex story, but it plays like Star Wars in its energy.  Clone Wars should be this good.  The soundtrack is spectacular.  The story centers around a warrior on a quest to cure a curse.  He must walk a line between competing factions of a village and the forest and along the way encounters natural and spirit world obstacles.  Nothing is predictable in this world, but elements like sword fights, bravery, and sacrifice make the story familiar to any audience.

Another worthy film from Ghibli and Miyazaki is Spirited Away (2001).  A little girl is literally and figuratively spirited away when she wanders away from her parents and enters a strange and bizarre world of unique creatures, gods, witches and unworldly monstrosities.  She is forced to work for the creatures in a bath house.  The story and direction is imaginative and descriptions of the admittedly bizarre plot do not do justice to the compassion and angst you feel for the lost girl of the story.

Characteristic of Miyazaki is his sweeping panoramas of nature, whether through water, mountains or forests.  No film surrounds the viewer in these elements more than Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984).  Both written and directed by Miyazaki, Nausicaa follows a young princess who must forge through warring factions in her attempts to save her world.  Nausicaa is an ecological parable and a satisfying and sweet film.   Miyazaki’s storyboards were once available in book form (now out of print, but can still be found from time to time on eBay).  They showed in still form the great details and care he used in making the film.

The most fun of Miyazaki’s films is the first movie that made him a global name, My Neighbor Totoro (1988).  Two girls move to the country to be with their ailing mother and befriend several strange nearby animal creatures called Totoros.  This is a charming story of children having a fun adventure, despite the realities of their lives.  One highlight is a giant 12-footed wide-smiling Cheshire cat that serves as a bus to transport the girls and their spirit friends.  A story in the realm of Alice and Wonderland, but without all the dark and twisted places.

1995’s Whisper of the Heart marks a departure from Miyazaki’s trademark fantasy, focusing on a sweet romance between two Tokyo teens. But Studio Ghibli lavished the same care and detail on the scenery and cinematography of Whisper that characterized such masterpieces as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and the result is a fully-realized and richly layered film that gives depth and majesty to this deceptively simple tale of two young people learning to follow their dreams.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) plumbs the darker potential of anime, turning the delicate artistry and storytelling to this heartbreaking tale of two young siblings struggling to survive in Postwar Japan. This film pulls no punches, exploring the war’s effects on the Japanese homeland, a side of history seldom presented in Western film, with tremendous empathy and perspective.

The above are our top Ghibli recommendations. Other notable Studio Ghibli films include Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and Ponyo.

C.J. Bunce and Elizabeth C. Bunce

borg.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 514 other followers

%d bloggers like this: