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Archive for November, 2018


A new book is bringing classic projector and transparency technology to 21st century kids.  It’s Batman Flashlight Projections: Heroes and Villains, a new interactive activity book from publisher Insight Kids.  For generations boys and girls used flashlights for night-time fun.  Who hasn’t made animal silhouettes with their hands with lights and shadow, with sun through a window, or via the light from a campfire at night?

Years ago, Kenner’s Give-a-Show Projector was among the most sought after toys for kids, allowing you to place slides in a viewer, backed by a powerful (and sometimes not-so-powerful) light source.  Star Wars, Doctor Who, Yogi Bear, Tom & Jerry, Speed Racer, Fat Albert, Jonny Quest, Popeye, Disney movies, and yes, Batman, all were available in projectable slide form for kids.  Beginning in the 1970s virtually every TV and movie franchise was available for similar viewing via View-Master’s battery-powered projector.  The same effect can be found using the transparent images in Batman Flashlight Projections: Heroes and Villains.

 

Simply use a flashlight to read along and project Batman scenes from the book onto any wall or ceiling.  It works shone against nearly any surface.  If you don’t have a flashlight–and even if you do–you may be better off with your mobile phone flashlight, which probably packs more light power than a standard home flashlight.  With a strong light the images appear with even greater clarity than pictured above, even at 6-10 feet away.  And one page has a transparency that is blank, so kids can make their own scenes by using their own non-permanent, dry-erase marker.

Here is a preview of some of the images you’ll find in the book, courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s an event to make a Browncoat teary-eyed.  Firefly fans have not seen a story that rivaled the original series episodes, until now.  Tomorrow a new era in the Firefly universe begins as the first novel arrives in bookstores, carrying on from those revered 14 original episodes.  Firefly: Big Damn Hero is the big, bold story fans have been waiting for, and it’s even better than the Serenity movie or any other tie-in since the last episode first aired 15 years ago.  Fans will find here a story that would make a great roadmap for a movie, a great radio drama, or a new episode.  That’s probably not going to happen, but put on the soundtrack as you read it and you’ll feel like you’re right back with the crew again.

In Firefly: Big Damn Hero, author James Lovegrove found his way into the core of each character, their motivations, and most importantly their voice, to create a novel set in the years the series takes place, well before the movie Serenity killed off two key characters.  Joss Whedon served as consulting editor of the book, which was written from a story concept by Nancy Holder.  Lovegrove brings readers back to what made the series great–the interaction of the crew of the Serenity–and then he splits them off on a couple of missions that go sideways.  One by one he focuses on each of the nine as Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, Book, River, Simon, Inara, and Wash each get a focal subplot that hits the spot for fans who have their favorite or love them all.  But best of all is Lovegrove’s treatment of River, the erratic and seemingly confused young genius who always seems a step ahead of everyone.  Here she practically speaks through the story and across the other characters directly to the reader.  We know what she’s up to even if her friends don’t.

The story itself is part science fiction, part war novel, part Louis L’Amour Western, all rolled up together as one rip-roaring space Western story, just like the series was known for.  Fans who know the ‘verse well, particularly its warring factions that were fleshed out in the series and tie-in comic books, will feel right at home in this story that spans the era before the series, with callbacks to events in the series, and right afterward as if it were a 15th episode.

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You may not remember it, but if you were a kid in the 1980s you probably heard of GoBots before you ever heard the word Transformers.  The Tonka transforming machine toys hit the shelves in 1983, a year in advance of Transformers, although Tonka (the classic truck toy company) was unable to give its characters and toys the success Transformers would achieve.  GoBots only were available as toys for a few years in the States, plus some book and animated series offerings.  With the legal rights to the toy designs later reverting back to the Japanese toy company Bandai, the character names and stories were assumed by Hasbro, merging with the Transformers family after business consolidation in 1991.

The return of GoBots for the 35th anniversary of the release of the toys was announced by IDW Publishing executives at the retailer panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.  IDW’s Transformers vs GI Joe writer-artist Tom Scioli has created a new five-issue series, and the first issue arrived Saturday for the annual Local Comic Shop Day.  It will get a wider distribution everywhere this Wednesday.  The new Go-Bots series (now with the hyphen) is both written and drawn in that “neo-Golden Age” style of comic books like those created by Matt Kindt and Ed Piskor.  The artwork has that blend of retro styling that rejects the latest comic book capabilities, a de-evolution from modern artistic mainstays and tropes built over the past 50 years.  It also reflects a bit of the style of the 1980s animated series.

 

As kids would see with Transformers, Go-Bots in the States were sentient robots, as opposed to the human-operated machines as seen in Japan.  Familiar characters Cy-Kill, Turbo, Scooter, and Leader-1–and more–make a return in the new series.  Go-Bots have some 1980s “cartoony” backstory bits to overcome, but in Issue #1 Scioli uses them to update the character origins and begin to forge a 21st century comeback for this 1980s franchise.  For many, the vibe of the series will reflect their favorite Transformers and GI Joe animated series from the 1980s.

Take a look at some interior pages and variant covers from Scioli, Dash Shaw, Ben Marra, and Diego Jordan Pereira (and a blank sketch variant) for the first three issues:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next exploration of a supernatural school and visit to a town full of secrets is here.

Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is an in-universe book by video game tie-in author Matt Forbeck.  Based on the Life is Strange adventure game franchise from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix, it’s a hardcover flip book, taking the form of a student guide to Blackwell Academy from one direction and a welcome guide to the town of Arcadia Bay when viewed from the other side.  The book is presented as Max’s personal used copy, and it’s overlaid with handwritten notes, doodles, and sketches from both Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, the focal characters of Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2.  (The original Life is Strange game is available here at Amazon, a prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available here, and the first episode of Life is Strange 2 was just released and is available now here).

Blackwell Academy is a private senior high school located in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The school, which has the feel of the Miss Quill’s classroom in BBC’s short-lived series Class, specializes in the Sciences and Arts, but there’s more to the school than meets the eye.  An X-File type of occurrence happened there back in 2013, changing the course of the town forever.  Based in a town that could be Bodega Bay in Hitchcock’s The Birds or Antonio Bay in Carpenter’s The Fog, Arcadia Bay could be this dimension’s parallel timeline version (think The Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko) of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or a sister city to Stephen King’s seaside Haven.

   

Coming next Wednesday is the first issue of a Life is Strange four-part comic book series.  Creators Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, and Andrea Izzo provide an up-close and personal look at the relationship between Max and Chloe, and their friends in Seattle, a year after an event in Arcadia Bay allowed Max to save Chloe.  Both Max and Chloe realize something is wrong.  Can one or both of them be unstuck in time again?  Take a look at our preview of Issue #1 below, courtesy of Titan Comics.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s the first time in print since 1968.  Erle Stanley Gardner‘s The Count of 9, sixty years after its first printing, the 18th novel featuring the crime detective agency Cool & Lam is back thanks to the Hard Case Crime imprint.  Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, penned a classic crime mystery of stolen rare artifacts and murder.  Featuring protagonist Donald Lam, the low key sleuth who ends up a punching bag by the bad guys as often as not, is joined by the trademark brief encounters of the brash, hard-boiled Bertha Cool, simply the best female detective in all of noir crime novels.

Cool tries to promote the agency, trying to get its name out there to establish a reputation for serving a higher brand of clientele.  She personally takes on the security for a wealthy world traveler, when her idea goes bust.  So why not bring in Lam and hand off the clean-up to him?  This time Lam is left to dodge two sultry art world dilettantes, both accused of the thefts, but only one will be his client.  When one of their husband’s is murdered, Lam must double back and solve both cases.  But first he must also dodge some hired thugs and worse, the local cops.

 

Will Donald Lam ever get a break?  Favorite noir secretary Elsie Brand is also back, but this time the office picks up a new file clerk, who can’t stop attracting the roaming eyes of the men who stop by the agency.  More Cool losing her Cool, more bruises for Lam.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The ginger tomcat named Jones, aka Jonesy.  He co-starred with human actor Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Alien.  Now nearly 40 years later, Jonesy gets his own book.  Recounting from his perspective the events aboard the USCSS Nostromo on its fateful mission encountering xenomorphs, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo is now available in bookstores.  It is much, much, better than you might think.  And it’s a contender for best gift idea for the holiday season, especially for anyone who likes cats.

Lots of books aim for humor and don’t quite get it right.  The balance between cutesy and adhering to the parameters of the source material is not an easy thing.  Writer-artist Rory Lucey has cats and he is a fan of Alien.  When he showed the movie Alien to his wife for the first time, her natural question was: Does Jonesy survive?  From there, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo was born.  And like a really fabulous look at a day in the life of a dog, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye Issue #11 (2013’s single best comic book issue), readers will not encounter any actual words in this book.  And that’s as it should be.

That’s the original Jonesy in Alien (left), and Rosie the cat (right), who is just a little afraid of what Jonesy might encounter in this new book.

Lucey takes his knowledge of cat behavior and fills in the blanks of the film–those times when we didn’t see Jonesy hissing at the xenomorph behind you, what was he up to?  Scratching, taking a bath, sleeping, licking things he shouldn’t be–yes, all that, and much more.  And all of it fits into the story from the original film perfectly.  It’s even better than A Die Hard Christmas.  Here are some images from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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The first season of Star Trek Discovery is finally available today on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time.  The four-disc Blu-ray and four-disc DVD collections will feature all fifteen Season One episodes of the series, along with more than two hours of special features.

You can check out previews of some of the special features included with the discs below.  Features include a look at the music for the series, segments discussing the show’s props, profiles of characters including Ambassador Sarek and Captain Georgiou, interviews with costume designer Gersha Phillips and the makeup crew, a feature on the female characters, special effects and production design segments, and two other features with overviews of the series, plus deleted and extended scenes.

You can order your copy of season one of Star Trek Discovery now on Blu-ray here at Amazon and on DVD here.  Take a look at some clips from the special features: Continue reading

Stan Lee, 1922-2018

borg salutes the great Stan Lee, who has passed away.

His characters and ideas entertained generations of comic book readers, both kids and adults, and more recently movie audiences on a global scale.

Have a listen to this great bit of nostalgia that will take you back to Stan’s famous Soapbox column antics and advice, an old record created for comics fans:

His legion of fans mourn his passing, but his legend and influence will live on.

Excelsior!

C.J. Bunce

Editor
borg

 

Review by C.J. Bunce

This month Marvel is celebrating the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a look back at the first three phases of the films in a new hardcover book, Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years With the March 2019 release of Captain Marvel the official fourth phase of the MCU will begin.  With that shift to a new era quickly approaching, as well as an uncertain future thanks to the imminent completion of the acquisition of the X-Men characters, and the 10-year benchmark, it’s a good time to assess all Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was able to pull together beginning way back when we first saw Robert Downey, Jr. don the Iron Man armor for the first time.  This nostalgic trip back over the past decade will be published by Titan in conjunction with Marvel.

Readers will find interviews with Feige, co-president Louis D’Esposito, Stan Lee, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, Chadwick Boseman, Evangeline Lilly, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, and Josh Brolin.  Multi-page sections focus on each of the 22 films in the series.  High-quality color photographs accompany the discussion of each film in chronological order, most with behind-the-scenes images, like a great image of all the parts to Ant-Man’s helmet laid out on a table.

Fascinating discussion points include D’Esposito pointing out how the produces intentionally made each new film a different genre, not just a superhero movie.  He also indicates that casting Robert Downey, Jr. was the most important casting decision of the franchise.  Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn talks about using the soundtracks on set for everyone to get the feel of the two Guardians movies.  The book even provides some preview information for next year’s Captain Marvel movie.  And there are several Easter eggs that most fans will have never read about anywhere else, often 10 or more for each film (the Collector and the Grandmaster are brothers?).  Here are a few pages from Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years:

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