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Review by Art Schmidt

Dungeons & Dragons continues to enjoy an increased popularity among gamers and folks open to roleplaying experiences, and continuing the excellent line of campaign adventures is the latest offering, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. This is an excellent 224-page book and contains a large fold-out map of the massive city of Waterdeep in the back.  The folks at Wizards of the Coast have listened to their community of players and dungeon masters, who have lamented past maps, which provided the DM with a numbered and heavily marked map–not that useful for players as it displayed all areas of interest.  The map in Dragon Heist is two-sided: one side marked and numbered for use by the person running the campaign, and the flip side unmarked and for use with the players.  Huzzah!

Waterdeep has always been the “City of Splendors,” once the most important and influential city in the Forgotten Realms, the imaginary world where the adventures of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons all take place (but not for long!).  The adventure Dragon Heist takes players from 1st to 5th level during a heavily investigative and dynamic mystery involving a missing treasure and evil villains who want to beat the players (and everyone else) to the prize.  Unlike other adventures, Dragon Heist contains multiple paths to progress through the story, depending on the dungeon master’s choice of villain to pit the characters against.

This latest “season” adventure was announced during the live streaming weekend event The Stream of Many Eyes where several actors and D&D aficionados along with the Wizards of the Coast staff and some high-profile game streamers all played several games of D&D and discussed the new campaign book and associated gaming paraphernalia.  Joe Manganiello (Rampage, Magic Mike XXL, True Blood), Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil, True Blood, The Punisher), Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo, Bosch, Twin Peaks (2017)), Ashley Johnson (Blindspot, Teen Titans Go!, Marvel’s The Avengers) and Matthew Mercer (Critical Role, Attack on Titan, Overwatch) were just some of the celebrities involved in the three-day extravaganza.

Dragon Heist is the first in a set of two hardcover adventures, the second being Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (available November 13, 2018).  It follows the adventurers as they perform a favor for famous explorer, raconteur, and part-time scoundrel Volothamp Geddarm.  The favor nets them a base of operations in the middle of Waterdeep, and from there things escalate as the characters are caught up in a grand mystery concerning the whereabouts of a lost treasure hoard of golden coins (called “dragons,” hence the name of the adventure).  The characters investigate some mysterious happenings and eventually can discover the whereabouts of the hoard and must battle other interested parties to try to claim it.


The adventure takes a cue from the previous hardcover campaign Storm King’s Thunder, offering dungeon masters four alternate ways to run the adventure for their groups.  This choice comes in the form of four different villains which the party is pitted against in their race to discover what is going on in Waterdeep and eventually recovering the hoard of gold dragons.  Each villain is assigned a season (winter, spring, summer or fall) and this choice dictates not only the time of year in which the adventure takes place, and the main villain, but the order in which various locations around the city are visited while in search of the clues. View full article »

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Coming in at about the same price as the actor’s screen-used prop blaster from Return of the Jedi this summer (discussed here at borg), Harrison Ford proved again he is #1 among pop culture and entertainment memorabilia collectors.  At Prop Store‘s entertainment memorabilia live auction in London yesterday, called Treasures from Film and Television (which we previewed from San Diego Comic-Con here in July), one of the fedoras worn by ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark brought record bids for a prop from the franchise, taking in an estimate of between $522,500 and $558,000, including fees and taxes.  Ford’s Han Solo blaster sold in June for $550,000 (before tax).  The hammer price for the hat was £320,000 when the winning bid was placed and the hammer struck, or about $424,755.  Provenance for this hat was not provided by Prop Store in its catalog, but the company said it could be screen-matched through identifying marks to several key scenes in the movie.  An Indy bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sold for $74,460, including buyer’s premium, at the auction.

One of the other auction lots worn by Ford was supposed to be the crown jewel of the auction, a simple stylized blue jacket worn in The Empire Strikes Back said to have been screen-matched to the film’s Cloud City scenes.  Although it was expected to garner $660,000 to $1.3 million, bidders were just not willing to push bids past the $600,000 mark and the seller’s minimum reserve price.  The jacket was one of the only hero costume pieces from the original trilogy to be offered at public auction.

This week’s big star prop of the Prop Store auction was crowded among other Hollywood props on display at San Diego Comic-Con this past July.

Several other key props from the four corners of genredom sold in excess of six figures (including buyer’s premium and net of taxes) in yesterday’s auction.  A light-up T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) fetched a massive price of $326,500.  A Christopher Reeve costume from Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) sold for $212,200.  A Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) sold for $180,000 and an Ian McDiarmid Emperor lightsaber from the film sold for $114,000.  A background First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone, selling for a whopping $180,000.  A Johnny Depp costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) sold for $106,100.  Of several original comic book art pages that sold, the star was Page 15 from The Amazing Spider-Man (1966), Issue #32, by artist Steve Ditko, which fetched $155,000.

More than two dozen other memorable props and costumes from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and horror classics fared well (prices quoted include pre-tax conversion from British pound, including buyer’s premium):
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Following up on the first trailer that premiered this year at San Diego Comic-Con, today BBC released the next look at the new 11th season/11th series for Doctor Who.  In case you missed it, we included the first trailer below, which was embedded in the Comic-Con panel video coverage here.

You’ll find more of Jodie Whittaker as the new, 13th Doctor.  And more of her new companions played by Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole.

Check it out:
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The Strong’s National Museum of Play has announced twelve finalists for induction into the 2018 National Toy Hall of Fame.  Only a select few will take their honored places in the Hall this year when they are announced at a ceremony at The Strong in Rochester, New York on Thursday, November 8, 2018.  The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys “that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play.”  The Hall of Fame, which began in 1998, is celebrating its 20th year.  Criteria for induction include: Icon-status (the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered); Longevity (the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations); Discovery (the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play); and Innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).  A toy may be inducted on the basis of innovation without necessarily having met all of the first three.  So who are this year’s finalists?  American Girl Dolls, chalk, Chutes and Ladders, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, the Magic 8 Ball, Masters of the Universe, pinball, the sled, Tic-Tac-Toe, Tickle Me Elmo, Tudor Electric Football, and the card game Uno.

Reviewing the 65 previous inductees should provide you with an incredible flashback of nostalgia: alphabet blocks, the Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Clue, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Hula Hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, marbles, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, paper airplane, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, View-Master, and Wiffle Ball.

This year’s 12 finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame.  Which would you choose?

The beauty of all these toys?  We did some of our own research and they are still available for today’s generation of kids.  Just click the toy name and you’ll find it available at Amazon right now.  Want to spoil your kid and get them one of each of the 65 toys in the Hall (or donate a set to your local community center)?  It’ll cost you about $1,390.  That total is skewed a bit by the more expensive toys on the list:  the current equivalent of the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Gameboy, a bicycle, a dollhouse, an Easy Bake Oven, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, and roller skates.  Yet eight toys in the Hall can be purchased for less than $5.00, 24 toys cost less than $10.00, and 50 of the 65 toys in the Hall cost less than $25.00–most of the classics are pretty affordable!  And if you want to save your money, how about getting your kid a cardboard box, a paper airplane, a kite, and a stick for Christmas this year–they’re pretty much free.

What do you think is missing?  How about Spiro-graph?  The Fisher-Price telephone and See ‘n’ Say?  Shrinky Dinks, Colorforms, and the Kaleidoscope?  Finger paints?  The sprinkler?  Playskool cobbler’s bench and mailbox?  Hello Kitty?  Past nominees include Battleship, Care Bears, coloring books, Jenga, Lite Brite, Matchbox cars, My Little Pony, Nerf, Pez, Playmobil, pogo stick, Operation, Pac-Man, pots and pans, Risk, sand, scooter, Slip ‘n’ Slide, stilts, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and the top.

Here are the Hall of Fame’s descriptions of each of this year’s nominees:

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Two tough guys from very different times.  Earlier this summer here at borg.com we first discussed the 88th birthday of Dick Tracy and the return of the famous detective just before Fall arrives.  Here we are with three days left of summer and that long-awaited first issue of his new comic book series arrives today at comic book stores everywhere.  Arriving beside Tracy you’ll find a different breed of determined hero, as John Wick’s story continues today.

Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive is a bit of a family affair.  Michael Allred writes and inks the series, co-written with brother Lee Allred, with coloring by Laura Allred–Mike’s wife and frequent creative partner.  Interior artwork is provided by Rich Tommaso.  The familiar hero you just haven’t seen in a while is back like you remember him, complete with his one-of-a-kind pantheon of criminal foes.

Written by Greg Pak with artwork by Giovanni Valletta, the story of John Wick’s first mission of vengeance continues in Issue #3 of his series, John Wick. On the streets of El Paso, Wick enters the world of the Continental Hotel, and threatens to upend the balance of power among assassins — and earns a new enemy.

We have a preview for borg.com readers of Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive, Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing, and a preview of John Wick, Issue #3, courtesy of Dynamite Publishing.  You’ll notice each reflects a different style that fits its character and his times.  And both have a few cover variant options to track down.  Check them out:

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In addition to Doctor Who’s new “woman who fell from the sky,” there’s another new heroine arriving soon the same way…

Not many pop culture events topped Infinity War discussions in 2018.  It’s probably more fun to talk about the end of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War with passing fans than regular comic book readers.  “Wait–where did everyone go?” and “Are they coming back?”  Before we learn the answers to those questions, recall that, for those who stayed after the credits (and we know many of you walked out before that, despite the warnings, you know who you are), Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury sent a last-minute pager message to someone with a strange new symbol, right before he disappeared into dust.  That was the symbol we see for the next new character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the next movie in the franchise, Captain Marvel.  (For the passing fan, that’s the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel, played in the new movie by 2015 best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson, not the DC Comics Captain Marvel played by Zachary Levi in the new Shazam movie).

Wait, why does Alison Brie look so different here?  No, that’s Alison Brie from Community and GLOW, not Brie Larson, who was in an episode of Community, but you probably saw her in Kong: Skull Island or 21 Jump Street, or lots of other things.  Keep up!

A big roster of acting talent will appear in this movie–Jackson joins Brie, with the return of Lee Pace as Ronan, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, with Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Talos, Gemma Chan (Humans) as Minn-Erva, and we get to see a bit of everyone’s second favorite British actor, Jude Law (Gattaca, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) as Mar-Vell.

Marvel released the first trailer for Captain Marvel today–Check it out:

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That’s the trouble with regeneration… you never quite know what you’re going to get!

Some things are worth stopping the presses for.  This time it’s a review copy of the forthcoming first issue out of the gates for Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor–Issue #0.  If you’re already a fan of the 55-year-old sci-fi television series and especially if you haven’t yet jumped on the Whovian bandwagon, there’s no better way to start than with this unprecedented voyage across time.  It stars all twelve regular series Time Lords plus the War Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness, River Song, and plenty of companions, all intertwined as the new Thirteenth Doctor readies to emerge from her latest regeneration.  With so many reboots and remakes these days with new actors that arrive with a bit of a resounding jolt, it’s Doctor Who that best found a way to overcome the need to replace actors over time.  And that mechanism was regenerating from one human form to another.

Few events are as significant in pop culture as the introduction of Jodie Whittaker as the first woman Doctor this year.  In this first issue of a new monthly series, the Doctor relives previously unseen adventures from each of her past lives.  The result is a book full of great Easter Eggs and special references for passing fans and diehards alike.  And every incarnation of the Doctor is featured in the story by Richard Dinnick with a different well-known comic book artist re-creating the changing TARDIS, sonic screwdrivers, a companion or two, and even more fan-favorite supporting characters.  Along with Dinnick’s great voice for each incarnation of the Doctor, each artist puts a special twist on their part of the story.  This may be one of the biggest comic book issues of the year, to prep you for what will be without a doubt pop culture’s biggest television event of the year.

Here’s a new image promoting the new series just released by the BBC, featuring stars Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole:

So get ready for some exciting imagery in the new Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, Issue #0, from artists Rachael Stott, Mariano Laclaustra, Georgia Sposito, Arriana Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Brian Williamson, Carlos Cabrera, and more.  And borg.com readers get a first look right now with preview pages from this landmark story, courtesy of Titan Comics.  Check it out:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If the Scots abandoned Scotland to nature, it would be the birch that would be the first tree to seize its chance, and a birch forest would walk the streets of Edinburgh.

Thomas Pakenham was referring to a gigantic pioneer birch tree in Rothiemarchus, Scotland, but he may have well been writing about the Ents, the grand, wise, old leafed characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In his book Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Pakenham reproduces his real-life journey across continents meeting some of the oldest inhabitants of the planet, even if they never actually “walked” the Earth.  In beautiful photographs and stories, he introduces readers to the most noble of Earth’s elders, a chance to marvel in awe at their enormous height, or breadth, of their obvious beauty or strikingly twisted, meandering, slim, or expansive forms.  Pakenham, the 8th Earl of Longford, an Anglo-Irish writer, historian, and tree enthusiast, selected trees “mostly very large, and mainly very ancient, and all with a strong personality,” highlighting the unique qualities unique to each remarkable individual.  His folksy speech and storytelling is refreshingly regional, providing an herbivorous mirror to fellow Brit James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.

To visit these trees, to step beneath their domes and vaults, is to pay homage at a mysterious shrine.  But tread lightly.  Even these giants have delicate roots.  And be warned that this may be your farewell visit.  No one can say if this prodigious trunk will survive the next Atlantic storm–or outlive us all by centuries.

Thomas Pakenham’s photograph of the great Fredville oak, named “Majesty” at least as early as 1820 when it was sketched by artist Jacob Strutt.

And, indeed, even some of the trees pictured in Meetings with Remarkable Trees are no longer around, having succumbed to storm or man-made destruction.  Pakenham’s tome is something profoundly sacred or spiritual.  It’s peppered with historical references, literary allusions to specific trees, and including some very famous trees, whether a thousand years old or more than 200 feet tall.  It seems preposterous humans travel the globe to see manmade creations when we could be on pilgrimages to commune with these ancient living beings.  Sixty trees are grouped by personality: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies, and Survivors.  Once you’ve met Pakenham and his craggy acquaintances in this book, you’ll want to move on to accompany the champion of trees on a year in his life in his book, The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest.

A different approach to individual trees can be found in photographer Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s Wise Trees (you’ll find a 16-page preview below).  Some ancient and many not so ancient, the trees in this book include 50 selected from five continents and identified for their historic or inspirational stories.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a bit of an oddity this year to have a choice of watching on television or at the movie theater what might have been a forgotten footnote to the strange 1970s life styles of the rich and famous.  In many ways the only real value of the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the once richest man in the world, is the almost Aesop’s Fables inspired punchline of the movie title, All the Money in the World.  Mark Wahlberg as security man Fletcher Chase gets to deliver the goods to Getty at film’s end:  It doesn’t matter how much money the billionaire Getty had, it didn’t bring him happiness.  Based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film is now streaming on multiple platforms.  This year’s television series Trust, featuring Donald Sutherland as the senior Getty, offered up the same story over a much too long 10 episodes.  Sutherland’s Getty is shown as far more disturbing than in the movie, and other than providing an example of Sutherland in another creepy role, the show had very little to offer.

All the Money in the World, the film version of the story, features a showcase of acting talent in a script that is almost up to the task.  Christopher Plummer is Getty I, the grandfather who in 1973 refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, even after those who kidnapped him cut off and mailed-in the young man’s ear.  Plummer stepped in late in production after Kevin Spacey was ousted from the film because of Spacey’s sexual misconduct scandal.  The result proves that at any age Plummer can create a compelling character, even if the real man behind the character seems far less interesting than one might think.  Wahlberg is playing what has become one of his stock character styles–this is the brash Boston cop in The Departed and the decisive marksman from Shooter.  Wahlberg plays the tough guy well here, in a role that echoes private investigator Jay J. Armes’ rescue of Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son just one year before the events in the film.  Young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) is Getty’s grandson, an atypical twist on the typical troubled youth character.  French actor Romain Duris is compelling as a member of the captor group who helps keep Getty alive during is confinement.  Always delivering a strong performance, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton unfortunately is underutilized as Getty’s loyal lawyer Oswald Hinge.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is similar in execution to last year’s Steven Spielberg historical drama The Post.  The film has themes in common with Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, but Scott didn’t opt to add any memorable style as Welles did with his classic story of a man acquiring possessions to the exclusion of family or love.  It’s not great, but it’s a solid drama.  But the biggest success of the film comes through via its lead actress, four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams.  Williams portrays the grandson’s mother not as an emotional wreck but a determined mother who works frantically to negotiate her son’s release, with no help from the elder Getty or her disaster of an ex-husband.  And she couldn’t justify those Academy nods any better than balancing an affected accent, the billionaire family lifestyle, and that single mom angst as she attempts to reflect a parent handling a tragic event most people will never have to encounter.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of pulp novel cover art and the classic 1940s and 1950s steamy and smoky night scenes and dark places spotlighted on book covers probably already know about artist Reginald Heade.  His fans even refer to him as the best British artist–ever.  Heade created hundreds of striking and memorable images to sell the aura of a niche of fiction that reflected the times, and this master of “that by which readers are not supposed to judge the book” was previously featured in a 168-page work, The Art of Reginald Heade by researcher Stephen James Walker.  Telos Publishing and Walker have extensively revisited the material and historical archives to nearly double the volume of the book with newly found artwork and commentary to form a new expanded, giant 320-page edition, The Art of Reginald Heade: Special Edition.

In the word of the day, these novels featured covers spotlighting the “dames” of their story, femme fatales, sultry, sexy, sometimes in charge, and a lot of times beaten down by the gangsters and thugs of the story, often objectified, and in misogynistic situations.  Some of these could be called repellant by current–and contemporary–mores, created in the world approaching the pinnacle of criticism of blatant depictions of slavery, bondage, crime, and violence, a backlash that would gain a firmer footing in the 1950s of Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent.  Heade didn’t dodge the criticism, and in some countries Heade’s work was censored and the subject of scorn.  Some of his final artwork was pre-emptively censored by the publisher and ultimately not used in his lifetime, and the original art can be found in this book.  Sometimes referred to by the oddly incongruous “good girl art,” Heade’s art reflected an expert in drawing the feminine form.  A true working artist, he seemed to crank out new, unique, and fresh designs for his subjects as much as any great genre creator has ever done.  Seventy and eighty years after their publication, many of the books featuring Heade’s artwork have become grails for book collectors and mid-century pin-up art fans, with a few more obscure books practically lost and gone forever.

With beautiful color and black and white illustrations, The Art of Reginald Heade: Special Edition is the most comprehensive overview ever published of Heade’s life and work.  Walker includes his trademark paintings from the great Perry Mason writer Erle Stanley Gardner’s crime books, Stephen D. Frances’ Hank Janson books, covers for books by Paul Rénin, Roland Vane, Michael Storme, Spike Morelli, Gene Ross, David Hume, Carol Gaye, Margaret Pedler, Helena Grose, William Elliott and Zane Grey, plus hundreds more pulp fiction covers, as well as other works, like Major Charles Gilson’s well-known Robin of Sherwood, Nella Braddy’s biography of Rudyard Kipling, Son of Empire, and editions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe–including interior illustrations, and Heade’s comic art.  Yes, the artist known for his images of vixens in distress created equally impressive paintings for the covers of children’s books, plus mainstream novels and magazine covers (some under the nom de plume Cy Webb).

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