Category: Comics & Books


He-Man print in limited edition of The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Review by C.J. Bunce

Next month Dark Horse Comics releases a must-read for fans of He-Man, She-Ra “Princess of Power,” and the Masters of the Universe world of toys, animated series, magazines, chapter books, posters, comic strips, and comic books.  The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover includes more than 300 pages full-color art, a portfolio featuring an exclusive print by Gerald Parel, a foil-embossed cover, and a die-cut two-piece Castle Greyskull slipcase.  A standard edition of the book will also be available.  Many well-known creators worked with these characters since its inception in the early 1980s, including Ralph McQuarrie, Drew Struzan, Dick Giordano, J. Michael Straczynski, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Boris Vallejo, Tony Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Geoff Johns, and Tommy Lee Edwards.

Designers from every stage of the creation of He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, and the large cast of sword and sorcery heroes and villains, offer insight into character development, decision-making, and the impact on 1980s kids.  The best feature is the inclusion of hundred of pieces of full-color art, concept artwork, page layouts, sketches, storyboards, packaging art, prototypes, never before seen and unused imagery, advertising art, original comic art, and final comic book pages, covers, and animation cels.  It features restored art from master illustrator Earl Norem, as well as interviews with Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 movie, director Gary Goddard, well-known TV producer/comic book writer Paul Dini, and voice actress Erika Scheimer, among many others.  Captions for photos were written by comic book creators Tim Seeley and Steve Seeley.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover slipcase edition

Particularly of interest to toy collectors are the original notes from the development stage of the toy line at Mattel.  Mattel, which had passed on the ground-breaking Star Wars action figure line, developed He-Man as a direct competitor to that toy line.  Mattel drove the look of the characters–this was first and foremost a toy line, inspired in part by the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta.  But it grew beyond that.  Artists and writers and other creators remark with pride about the focus on the stories that went beyond the toy line.

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Frank Miller The Master Race DK 3

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  Comic book readers all remember first reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  Most of the world would acknowledge it is one of the top 20 most influential graphic novels of all time and belongs on many a top 10 list for any kind of novel.  We all look ahead each week to the next good read, and can’t wait to read the next DKR.

We just don’t mean that literally.  We once thought that is exactly what we wanted, once upon a time.  Then Frank Miller delivered what we thought we wanted with his sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, or DK2.  It was pretty much unreadable, made worse because it was released on Miller’s trademark staggered “I’ll release it when I feel like it” schedule (remember All-Star Batman and Robin?).

So DC Entertainment just issued a press release late Friday announcing The Dark Knight III:  The Master Race.  Really?  The Master Race?  From the guy that wrote the offensive, bigotted Holy Terror?  What is DC Comics thinking?

DKR 2

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, DK2. Be careful what you wish for.

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Absolute Green Arrow cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Oliver Queen was dead, to begin with.

The average superhero fan today probably wouldn’t know Oliver Queen today but for three events: (1) the modernization of the character by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in the 1970s, (2) his update to urban longbow hunter by writer/artist Mike Grell in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and (3) the literal resurrection of Oliver Queen in the early 2000s by the partnership of writer Kevin Smith, penciller Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks.  No TV series would have arrived without the survival of the character thanks to these stories–reprinted and available in a deluxe hardcover for the O’Neil/Adams stories here, and in paperback reprinted only recently for Mike Grell’s stories here, here, and here.  In light of Green Arrow/Arrow’s popularity today being greater than ever before in his 73 year history, it’s only fitting that DC Comics is releasing the third great chapter in the character’s history with Absolute Green Arrow this month.

Absolute Green Arrow, available here from Amazon.com, reprints Issues #1-15 of Green Arrow, Volume 3, in a matte black with gloss hardcover with slipcase  in a sharp, over-sized, 9.6 inch X 15 inch format.  It includes all of Matt Wagner’s stylish painted covers, previously released introduction by Smith and afterword by Hester, and original artwork in an appendix by Hester.  If you ever wonder how much work the inker must conquer, just take a look at Hester’s pencil work and you’ll have a great appreciation for Parks’ inks.

Green Arrow Hester Smith Parks original Batman art

Hester and Parks did shading and shadows like nobody else. Original art seen in full color as published in Absolute Green Arrow.

The first ten chapters form the “Quiver” story arc, and the last five the “Sounds of Violence” arc.  This is the entire run of Kevin Smith’s stories for Green Arrow.  Phil Hester took over writing and artistic duties for the next several issues with even better stories than found in these early chapters.  But these Smith stories present a Green Arrow in a way a bit like Frank Miller played with Batman’s mythology in The Dark Knight Returns.  Smith’s Green Arrow is not as innovative as the seminal Miller work, but it’s plenty fun, and each new chapter feels like Smith saw this opportunity to play with DC Universe characters like a kid in a toy store.  You’ll encounter the Justice League, memorable encounters with Aquaman and Hawkman, and even a quirky adventure featuring Stanley and his Monster.  Former sidekicks Roy Harper and Connor Hawke are here, too, but most importantly Oliver Queen rebuilds his relationship with long-time love interest Dinah Lance aka Black Canary.  Difficult to come back from after being presumed dead.

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Wizard World Des Moines

Convention planner Wizard World will hold its first pop culture convention in Iowa this June–one of dozens of Cons it is holding across the country this year.  Wizard World Comic Con will introduce Des Moines to sci-fi icon William Shatner (Star Trek), horror icon Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back), and Jewel Staite (Firefly), plus Emily Kinney and Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead), and a giant roster of other celebrity guests from film and TV, past and present.

Arrow Manu Bennett

Arrow’s Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, actor Manu Bennett.

Other familiar genre actors scheduled to attend include Manu Bennett (Arrow, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), J. August Richards (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Angel), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Psych), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), and both Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco from Boondock Saints.

Dean Cain Superman

Dean Cain, from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Several well-known comic book writers and artists will be featured in Wizard World’s Artist Alley: Des Moines’s own Ant Lucia (DC Comics “Bombshell” covers and posters), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mike Zeck (Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars), Iowa-based artist Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Flash), Michael Golden (Star Wars, The ‘Nam), and many others.

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Batman v Superman

When it rains, it pours.

It’s was a heckuva weekend for movie fans.  First a new trailer dropped for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (we revealed it at borg.com here).  Then three more:  A second Fantastic Four trailer, the first full-length Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer, and today, yet another Jurassic World trailer.

But see if you agree:  Not one of these three new previews really compares to the excitement of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, or the time-bending fun of Arnold returning in Terminator: Genisys (shown here).

Zack Snyder, who we’d had hopes for after his unusual but interesting interpretation of the Watchmen graphic novel for the big screen, is just auguring in the DC Comics cinematic universe after the dismal Men of Steel and now this preview for an equally grim Batman and Superman.  Thankfully the best superheroes can be found not on the big screen but every single week with DC Entertainment’s superb TV productions: Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham.  

Dr Doom new Fantastic Four 2015

Try on for size this first full-length trailer for Batman v Superman and see if you wouldn’t rather watch Brandon Routh as The Atom fighting some bad guys in Central City with Grant Gustin’s The Flash:

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Thieves Fall Out

Review by C.J. Bunce

Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out is being re-released by Titan Books after more than 60 years out-of-print, as part of its Hard Case Crimes imprint.  During his lifetime Vidal refused to re-publish Thieves Fall Out, his “lost pulp novel,” thinking it not up to the quality of his later, more serious works.  The both complex and complicated American author of fiction and non-fiction died in 2012.  His estate authorized the release of this novel, which hits bookstores tomorrow, giving readers an opportunity to see a phase in the development of the celebrated writer before he received his fame.

His tenth book and the only novel written under the pseudonym Cameron Kay (after his great uncle), Vidal wrote the crime novel in 1953 while he was in essence blacklisted by a New York Times critic for the then controversial themes in his novel The City and the Pillar.  To make a living he was also writing crime novels as Edgar Box and this novel was written while those mysteries were moderately successful.  Forget about any controversy surrounding this book’s release–if you like pulp crime novels and you’re someone who shies away from the works mainstream audiences gravitate toward–like Vidal’s numerous celebrated works–then Thieves Fall Out just may be the kind of novel you’re after.

Original cover of Thieves Fall Out Gore Vidal as Cameron Kay

Thieves Fall Out is the post-World War II story of an American who finds himself looking for work in Egypt while young German expatriates were reeling from the wartime acts of their elders and the fall of Nazism.  The American becomes a puppet for local Cairo gangster types and has a few romantic encounters as he stumbles into a group of jewel thieves.  Like Michael Crichton’s crime novels (that were also written under a pseudonym and reviewed previously here at borg.com) and even like Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels (especially with the womanizing leading male), Thieves Fall Out is, on the one hand, another spy-genre novel that you can imagine was just one of hundreds of gobbled up by readers in the 1950s–a quick, easy read.  Its plot and style are familiar–a cocky American attempts to make the world his own despite local cultures and politics and in turn finds himself in over his head through his own missteps.

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Jackie Brown Pam Grier

This August thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans will attend the inaugural Kansas City Comic Con, a new comic book and pop culture convention to be held at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall.  Four months away and the show has already booked some great movie and TV guests as well as the very best comic book and fiction writers and artists in the U.S.

Headlining the show will be none other than Jackie Brown herself, actress Pam Grier.  Not only is Ms. Grier known for her leading role in Quentin Tarentino’s hit film, but she has also starred in the classic 1970s films Coffy and Foxy Brown, as well as Fort Apache The Bronx, Something Wicked This Way Comes, John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. and Ghosts of Mars, and TV series including Night Court, Crime Story, Knots Landing, Miami Vice, Bones, The L Word, and Smallville.

Colin Baker Doctor Who TARDIS

Many Doctor Who fans will get their first chance to meet Colin Baker, who played the fan-favorite Sixth Doctor on BBC’s original series from 1984 to 1986.  Known for his bright patchwork jacket, you may have seen him most recently in the funny film The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, discussed earlier at borg.com here.

Barriss Offee   Shaak Ti

In this big year of Star Wars, Kansas City Comic Con attendees will get an opportunity to meet two actresses known for their roles as Jedi Knights in the Star Wars prequels.  Nalini Krishan played Barriss Offee, a Jedi Knight and General in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.  Also scheduled to appear is Orli Shoshan, who played Jedi Knight Shaak Ti, also in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (as well as deleted scenes in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith). 

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Star Wars Battlefront

This weekend’s Star Wars Celebration held this year in Anaheim has seen a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which we revealed here at borg.com earlier this week, and today new previews just dropped for the coming season of Star Wars Rebels and a new video game, Star Wars Battlefront.  It makes sense that Disney and its new company Lucasfilm would be pulling out all the stops in this banner year for the franchise.

Since Disney took over the Star Wars brand, we’ve seen new canon universe novels (Star Wars: A New Dawn, previewed here, Tarkin, previewed here, and Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi, previewed here, thanks to advance copies from LucasBooks).  And we saw a record for bestselling comic book release with this year’s new Marvel Comics Star Wars monthly, discussed here.  We can only expect more from now until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December.

Star Wars Rebels clip season 2

If you’re not in Anaheim this weekend, you can still catch what’s going on via live streaming on YouTube here:

You can see new Stormtroopers (and their weaponry) on stage with director J.J. Abrams and members of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast old and new here (worth checking out):

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Atari box

Atari, the company that brought us the Atari 2600–the game system that revolutionized what it meant to be a zombie–offered families in the early 1970s the benefit of the neighborhood arcade without that annoying quarter-gobbling component.  Adults who shake their heads today at kids zoning out over their smartphone games forget what it was like when they first zoned out over  Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and all their pixelated friends.

When Space Invaders was introduced, kids lined up at Woolco stores for hours on end to play the in-store demo model to try to beat the current high score.  The earlier Pong and Breakout games were revolutionary–and addictive–but Space Invaders was exciting, nerve-wracking, and required a different take on an old skill.  Hand-eye Coordination became a new, finely-honed, almost magical power.  Wielded the best by teenagers.

Then something strange happened.  We got distracted by something else.  Most of us didn’t even notice when Atari vanished.  When modern video games playable on PCs via compact discs came around we all went searching for the original Atari games and for years, nada.  What happened to Atari anyway?

Pac-Man game over    ET video game

If you didn’t track the business pages for Atari back in the 1970s and 1980s, a new documentary will get you caught up.  Atari: Game Over is a nostalgic look back at the first video game designers and how one designer created the first great game for Atari, and later the last, and then vanished into anonymity.  His journey parallels several die-hard fans’ strange and curious search to prove or disprove an urban legend–that Atari lost so much money on the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600 (thought by many to be the single worst video game of all time) that Atari dumped at least a million of the unopened boxes in a desert town landfill back in 1983.  It’s also a story of one of the first Dot Com economic busts long before there were Dot Coms.

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Ant-Man Rudd

The next movie in Tier 2 of the Marvel Universe is coming our way and finally giving us all good reason to get excited with its latest trailer.  It’s Ant-Man.  Paul Rudd plays the irredeemable Ant-Man opposite Academy Award winner Michael Douglas and Lost and The Hobbit’s Evangeline Lilly.  Could it in be the next surprise hit–the next Guardians of the Galaxy?

After the first teasers (revealed earlier here) for the film we didn’t know what to think.  But after viewing this weekend’s new full-length preview, we’re thinking this tiny superhero may make for a solid summer blockbuster.  Just check out those action scenes with Ant-Man and Yellowjacket.

And the dialogue looks to be pretty smart and funny, too.

Yellowjacket b

After the break, check out the first full trailer for Ant-Man: 

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