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Archive for September, 2016


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The best artwork in a graphic novel you will find this year is at your comic book store this week.  Seven-time Eisner Award winner Jill Thompson has created the definitive Wonder Woman origin story with Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, written and painted in the spectacularly vibrant manner only America’s most acclaimed writer-artist could create.

You may be familiar with Diana, Amazon Princess, and her ancient origin story, but this new version is a keeper–a storybook you’d read to your kids with lush colors and mythology steeped in classic folklore.  The action and storytelling are similar in execution to the best work of Alan Moore and his bold layouts, as well as the action and story development in Frank Miller’s 300–an easy comparison because of the setting and theme–yet Thompson’s story and art is far richer.  Thompson’s watercolor-painted comic pages and layout work is up there with the 1980s-1990s work of Mike Grell, and Wonder Woman: The True Amazon may very well be not only looked back on as the benchmark for all Wonder Woman: Year One attempts to come, it’s very possibly the best looking graphic novel from DC Comics since Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

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Best of all, Thompson’s story is surprising.  For much of the tale Diana is anything but heroic.  An early subtitle was The Very Selfish Princess–should that give you a hint.  Thompson looked deep into the mythos of Wonder Woman–celebrating her 75th year this year–and asked “what did Diana go through to become this iconic figure?”

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lost-in-space-cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

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Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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This year Funko ReAction proved it can create the ultimate mix of nostalgia and quality.  The toy line famous for bringing to fanboys and fangirls action figures that were never made when these modern classics played in theaters has released images of its sculpts and packaging for The Dark Crystal.  The first figures from the ultimate 1980s fantasy film reveal Funko’s ReAction division’s best work so far.

We first heard about the ReAction line working on a project to bring to the market a set of figures from The Dark Crystal here at borg.com way back in November 2013 when its first retro line-up hit the market, featuring characters from Alien.  Funko has come a long way and proven to be a toy industry driver, particularly with its other toy lines like Pop! and Dorbz figures.  The small yet surprisingly complete set from The Dark Crystal is reminiscent of the successful and similarly small set of Raiders of the Lost Ark figures from the early 1980s.  Kudos are owed to Nena Ijiomah, aka Queen of Gates on Tumblr, the Funko 3D sculptor who simply nailed these designs.  You really see the care that went into these figures from images of her original designs.

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Jim Henson and Frank Oz, directing The Dark Crystal, along with Brian Froud’s Muppet creature creations, showed us a glimpse at what might have been had Henson lived out a longer life.  Each of Froud’s unique beings–from the cute and toothy Fizzgig to the beautiful Landstrider, the creepy Skeksis, the haunting Garthim, the solemn mystic Ursol, and heroic Jen and Kira–all receive a loyal and respectable re-creation in this series.  And each figure includes a piece of the purple crystal, so, as the Pokémon Go kids say “ya gotta catch ’em all.”

Two boxed sets are exclusives and not so easy to track down.  The rest can be pre-ordered now from Entertainment Earth by clicking on the images above and below (after the break).

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Tomorrow IDW Publishing is beginning a new bi-monthly anthology series, Star Trek Waypoint.  And we have a preview for borg.com readers from Issue #1 below.  The series is billed as a 50th anniversary look across all the Star Trek incarnations, and it features a host of writers we haven’t seen before in IDW comics.  Issue #1 includes a Star Trek: The Next Generation story featuring Geordi and Data and an Original Series story featuring Uhura.  Fans of the Star Trek Countdown prequel series should take note:  Although the anthology stories aren’t specifically pegged in the canon timeline, writer Donny Cates and artist Mack Chater’s story “Puzzles” feels like a continuation of the Star Trek 2009 prequel story, after Spock and Nero return to the past and create what we now know as the “Kelvin timeline.”

Star Trek Countdown (reviewed here back in 2011) was one of the comic medium’s most fascinating stories so far, revealing Captain Picard working again with Data, with new Starfleet uniforms and an engrossing future.  Similar uniforms appear in “Puzzles.”  It’s an exciting starting point for fans who want to see Star Trek continue to move into the future beyond past TV series.  The second story in Star Trek Waypoint features Uhura, and has the look and feel of authentic, classic Star Trek episodes.  Sandra Lanz serves dual roles on that story, titled “Daylily,” as both writer and artist.

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In November Issue #2 will feature two more Original Series stories.  Look for a preview here in two months.  You can look forward to fan favorite Star Trek novelists Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore creating an homage to the classic Gold Key Star Trek comics (remember the great photo covers?), featuring Kirk and Spock on an uncharted planet.  Artwork will be provided by Star Trek comic book artist Gordon Purcell.  The second story is a “red shirt” story, written by author Sam Maggs with art by Star Trek and Doctor Who artist Rachael Stott.

Check out this great preview to Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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magnificent-seven-banner-2016

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

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Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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A new line of Suicide Squad action figures from the Funko ReAction line is coming soon from the toy line that has provided fans of the 1970s Kenner action figures everything from Jaws to Gremlins and Alien, from Big Trouble in Little China to Back to the Future and Terminator, and from The Nightmare Before Christmas to CW’s Arrow.  Check here at borg.com for a look back to many of Funko’s variety of licenses.

Unlike Funko’s more popular bobblehead Pop! line of toys, these 3 3/4-inch figures, which have added articulation at elbows and knees to the classic format, can be played with in conjunction with countless other toy lines from the past 40 years.  But mainly this means the many ships and environment toys from the classic Star Wars toys from Kenner.  Want to see Harley Quinn rescue the Joker on the bridge of the Death Star?  Want to see Batman take out Greedo in the Cantina at Mos Eisley?  This new collection of figures can help you make it happen.

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Entertainment Earth has scooped Funko’s own corporate online catalog, posting for sale seven of what may be an even wider collection of characters from the movie.  These are available now for pre-order.  The first release will feature Harley Quinn, The Joker, Katana, Enchantress, Dead Shot, and Killer Croc–plus a Batman figure.  We don’t know yet whether we’ll see Funko release figures for El Diablo, Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, or Slipknot.

Click on any of the individual images above and below to see more detail on these figures and get your pre-order in at Entertainment Earth.

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Unlike the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the canon series Star Wars Rebels takes place in the classic trilogy timeline, where we get to see our favorite characters, like Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian, C-3PO, and Yoda, with the original actors voicing the characters (Leia excluded) in an era that is the most loved by the fan base.  It takes place five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, and it’s canon, which means all that happens there influences Star Wars Episode VIII and onward.

As one example, if you think Finn (the Stormtrooper who defects to the Resistance in Star Wars: A Force Awakens) is the first famous Star Wars character to defect from the Empire to fight for the good guys, think again.  Season Three has many reasons for Star Wars fans to keep watching.

The biggest news has been revealed in the DisneyXD previews:  Grand Admiral Thrawn becomes a part of Star Wars canon beginning tonight, voiced by Lars Mikkelsen.  Created by Timothy Zahn in the first expanded universe Star Wars trilogy novel, the excellent Heir to the Empire, Thrawn was the rare intelligent Imperial officer like Grand Moff Tarkin.  Dressed in the formal white uniform seen worn by a background actor in the original Star Wars, he is the blue-skinned humanoid who helped rebuild the Empire after the second Death Star was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.  We even see from the preview that his attending ysalimir are back.

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But that’s not all.  There are many other reasons to come back for more:

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Where are they now?

After spending nearly 11,000 workyears on the Voyager space program so far, or one-third of the estimated effort required to build the great pyramid at Giza, the Voyager space probes are currently in the “Heliosheath” – the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, more than 19 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 1, and 9.5 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 2.  Thirty-nine years ago this past August 22, Voyager 2 was launched and a few weeks later on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 was launched.  Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN), according to NASA.

The focus of the original mission for the Voyager probes was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn.  After making several discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and photographing the intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended, with Voyager 2 going on to explore Uranus and Neptune–the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets.  The current mission–Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM)–is exploring the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain.  In 2008 the probes were two of only a handful of objects that man had successfully sent beyond the edge of our solar system.

What the Voyager program did that no other program has done is send a distinct and comprehensive message to be intercepted at some point by a hopefully intelligent and friendly lifeform somewhere beyond our own solar system.  The means was a golden record and record player.  The music and sounds found on that record are the subject of a current Kickstarter campaign, seeking to release an LP version of the Voyager record to the public for the first time.  Back in the 1980s you could buy a limited box set that included the book Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record (an indispensable Voyager reference) as well as a CD of the complete music, languages and sounds and a CD-ROM of the photos included on the space record.  We first discussed the golden record and CD-ROM set here at borg.com five years ago.  Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth book and disc set is still available from time to time at Amazon from $100 on up for the deluxe setThe book alone is also available and is inexpensive despite being long out of print.

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One of the standout artists of the past 20 years, British artist Jock’s work has appeared on comic book covers and movie posters, and his concept art has provided the vision behind the look of movies like Dredd, Ex Machina, Battleship, and in the works is next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.  A new high-quality hardcover from Insight Editions available this month is showcasing some of his best images.  The Art of Jock establishes a new standard for photographic reproductions, with some of the very best color and crisp detail found in any recent coffee table edition we’ve reviewed.  It features hundreds of illustrations from a creator really only at the early stages of his career.

Born in Scotland as Mark Simpson, Jock broke into comics with the British sci-fi comic book 2000 A.D., and today is an internationally-recognized artist and Eisner Award nominee.  We’ve seen his work in DC Comics series like Green Arrow and Batman, in Marvel series like Savage Wolverine and Daredevil, in the Image series Wytches, and in Vertigo series Scalped and Losers.  Highlights of early sketches and final versions of his work on these series can be found in this book in large, full color pages.  Fans of Jock will love the many original comic book covers and interior art included.

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The Art of Jock was written by DC Comics editor Will Dennis, with commentary by Battleship director Peter Berg, and DC Comics’ Jim Lee and Scott Snyder.  But the most valuable insight is provided by the artist himself.  Jock recounts his process and critiques his own work, comparing his style between phases of his own development.

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Next week Riverdale’s most famous band is getting back together.

Archie Comics is releasing a new Josie and the Pussycats monthly series.  Much like its release of its hit Betty & Veronica series this summer, Josie & Co. is getting a premiere with plenty of cover variants with works by J. Scott Campbell, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Veronica Fish, Francesco Francavilla, Jessica Garvey, Robert Hack with Steve Downer, Gisele Lagace with Shouri, Alitha Martinez with Kelly Fitzpatrick, Wally McNair, Sam Payne, and Marguerite Sauvage.  The standard cover was drawn by Audrey Mok.  Andre Szymanowicz is providing the colors.  Archie Comics will also release a blank sketch cover version.

Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio are scripting the series.

Josie, Valerie, and Melody make their current debut after Afterlife With Archie’s dark look at the band in the haunted parallel universe of that title’s October issue.  Plus, the CW Network has its own new Archie series premiering in only a few weeks–Riverdale stars K.J. Apa as Archie, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Lili Reinhart as Betty, Ross Butler as Reggie, Casey Cott as Kevin, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.  And of course, the band is in the series as well, with Josie played by Ashleigh Murray, Valerie is played by Hayleau Law, and Melody is played by Asha Brom.  Luke Perry, Lochlyn Munro, and Madchen Amick will also star in the series.

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While you’re waiting for the TV series, check out these covers to Josie and the Pussycats: 

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