Category: Fantasy Realms


Review by C.J. Bunce

In the early 1980s a segment of genre films was eclipsed by blockbusters like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they were important and unique and genre fans loved them every bit as much as the box office winners.  Films like Tron, The Dark Crystal, and Flash Gordon.  Now after 40 years fans of Flash Gordon at last have a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the making of the film.  John Walsh, author of Harryhausen: The Lost Movies (reviewed here at borg) unearthed concept artwork, original costumes, props, and sketches, and new interviews with the director, production staff, and cast members for the 40th anniversary tribute, Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film, the only comprehensive look at the art, promotional material, and music available for this classic sci-fi/fantasy favorite.

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The #1 top selling issue of Vampirella is arriving in comic book stores this month.  It’s part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the popular horror character, and already pre-orders for #1 of a new series have surpassed 130,000 copies.  This makes the forthcoming first issue of the series, the fifth solo-titled Vampirella comic series, the biggest selling Vampirella issue ever, even beating sales numbers for the original classic magazine from decades ago.  Publisher Dynamite has pulled out all the stops, scheduled to release several variant covers from familiar artists for the first issue.  Pre-sales numbers also make this Dynamite’s all-time best selling issue.

Several creators had a hand in developing Vampirella back in 1969, from monster guru Forrest J. Ackerman to artists Trina Robbins, Tom Sutton, and Frank Frazetta, and editor Archie Goodwin.  The new series will be written by Christopher Priest, with interior artwork by Ergün Gündüz Frank Cho is providing the main cover, with variants available from Alex Ross, Joe Jusko, Adam Hughes, Ed Sanjulian, Guillem March, Jose Gonzalez, and J. Scott Campbell and Frank Frazetta “icon” covers, a wraparound Frank Cho cover, plus cosplay editions for each issue and a blank sketch cover, and limited no-logo and black and white cover editions.  Stanley “Artgerm” Lau will provide the main cover for Issue #2, J. Scott Campbell for Issue #3, and it seems there’s a hint from the publisher of a possible new Frank Frazetta cover coming, too.  If you’re lucky enough, you already picked up the 50th anniversary Free Comic Book Day issue we previewed here at borg back in May.

Gündüz′s use of color is probably the best contribution of the first issue, especially in his splash pages.  Fans of the character and monster-zines will find the story is filled with the body count, blood, and horror they’d expect in a Vampirella book.

Take a look at these variant covers for the first two issues, and keep a look out for the life-sized Vampirella display by Jose Gonzalez:

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here, and the Best in Television 2018 here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best Read, Best Sci-fi Read – The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey (Titan Books).  The Synapse Sequence is one of those standout reads that reflects why we all flock to the latest new book in the first place.  The detective mystery, the future mind travel tech, the twists, and the successful use of multiple perspectives made this one of the most engaging sci-fi reads since Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.  Honorable mention: Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).

Best Retro Read – Killing Town by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime).  The lost, first Mike Hammer novel released for the 100th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s birth was gold for noir crime fans.  This first Hammer story introduced an origin for a character that had never been released, in fact never finished, but Spillane’s late career partner on his work made a seamless read.  This was the event of the year for the genre, and a fun ride for his famous character.  Honorable mention: Help, I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake.

Best Tie-In Book – Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded Edition novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).  Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back had we encountered a Star Wars story as engaging as this one.  Lafferty took the final film version and Lawrence and Jon Kasdan’s script to weave together something fuller than the film on-screen.  Surprises and details moviegoers may have overlooked were revealed, and characters were introduced that didn’t make the final film cut.  Better yet, the writing itself was exciting.  We read more franchise tie-ins than ever before this year, and many were great reads, but this book had it all.  Honorable Mention: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove (Titan).

Best Genre Non-fiction – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young (Insight Editions).  A compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films, this new work on Hitchcock was filled with information diehard fans of Hitchcock will not have seen before.  Young incorporated behind-the-scenes images, costume sketches, and a detailed history of the circumstances behind key films of the master of suspense and his work with some of Hollywood’s finest performers.

There’s much more of our selections for 2018’s Best in Print to go…

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Less than one month away, San Diego Comic-Con returns to the San Diego Convention Center full of writers, artists, publishers, TV and movie studios, and vendors with representation from every major property and franchise.   Legos, Sideshow, Super 7, Mattel, Funko, Mondo, and more.  Already distributors have begun previewing convention exclusives–those sought-after rare collectibles usually available only at the show, but sometimes available afterward in small quantities if all of the inventory from the show isn’t pre-ordered or purchased on-site.

We think it’s time to share some of the best exclusives scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con this year for those of you who are attending or have friends attending that can pick up items for you.  Just can’t decide what to spend your money on?  Check out the SDCC 2018 website for even more information from the vendors and more collectibles.  There’s too much for anyone to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

These aren’t all the exclusives you’ll find at SDCC 2018–we’ve selected a sampling of some of the best items from popular vendors who have previewed their items with still three weeks until the convention.

Now on to the exclusives.

Gentle Giant is releasing a variety of exclusive mini-busts, plus this large-scale version of the classic Kenner Star Wars action figure.  You’ve seen Boba Fett from Gentle Giant here before–the original was borg.com‘s favorite toy of 2012 and one of the best action figure re-creations we’ve seen.

This exclusive provides one more chance to get this figure, this time reflecting original packaging from Return of the Jedi (sorry, no firing backpack).

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2415) pick up limited prints and comics, including these new variant covers for Amazing Spider-man, Issue #1:

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Here I come to save the day!

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Mighty Mouse, who first appeared in short animated films from Terrytoons for 20th Century Fox throughout the 1940s, including one that was nominated for an Academy Award.  So what better time to bring back the powerful mouse who can protect Pearl Pureheart from Oil Can Harry, and maybe even save us all?  Dynamite Comics is answering the call with a new monthly series beginning today with an initial story arc that deals with bullying.

Mighty Mouse was created by Ralph Bakshi (known also for Fritz the Cat, the animated The Lord of the Rings, and the Kim Basinger flick Cool World) and Paul Terry, whose cartoons with sound beat Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie to cinemas in 1928 (one of the first animators to use cel animation).  Mighty Mouse would appear as part of the Saturday morning cartoon line-up in various versions in each of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  A rather odd update, the 1980s version would feature a crossover episode with Bakshi’s Mighty Heroes characters, a group of middle-aged lawyers that included a superhero called Diaper Man, and comedian Andy Kaufman would make famous for another generation the Mighty Mouse theme song in a skit for Saturday Night Live in the 1970s.  Marvel Comics produced a 10-issue comic book series in 1990-1991.

        

Today, writer Sholly Fisch and artist Igor Lima are bringing the classic mouse to the 21st century.  It’s a book for kids of all ages–the kind of comic book to introduce young kids to the medium.  A boy is getting bullied in school, and he’s a young artist and fan of the classic Mighty Mouse cartoons.  As he is watching television, a portal across dimensions interferes with his show, and with the characters within the television.  The third wall is breached as a boy meets his hero.

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

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xena-cover4    sherlockholmesomnitp-cov-400pgs

Dynamite Comics is releasing three compilation editions of previously published work tomorrow, and we have previews of all three below for borg.com readers.

Sherlock Holmes Omnibus Volume 1 collects three stories:  The Trail of Sherlock Holmes, Liverpool Demon, and Year One, written by Leah Moore, John Reppion, and Scott Beaty, with artwork by Aaron Campbell, Daniel Indro, and Matt Triano, and a cover by John Cassaday.  At 400 pages this will keep Holmes fans busy.

Xena: Warrior Princess – All Roads includes the first six issues of Dynamite’s monthly series.  Written by Genevieve Valentine, with artwork by Ariel Medel and cover by Greg Land, this is a great series Xena and Gabrielle fans will love.

artofredsonjavol2    aors2-int-book-119

And finally, Art of Red Sonja Volume 2 collects more of various artist interpretations of Red Sonja published by Dynamite over the years.  The 336-page volume includes an introduction by the great Roy Thomas, and you’ll find plenty to love with works by artists including Alex Ross, Arthur Adams, Nicola Scott, Ed Benes, Jay Anacleto, Jenny Frison, Lucio Parrillo, Paul Renaud, Joseph Michael Linsner, plus several others.  Cover art is by Jenny Frison.

Check out previews of all three books after the break:

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DynamiteArtOfTheShadow    Shadow cover

Who knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men?

Lamont Cranston–The Shadow.

Dynamite Comics delved into its recent series that have incorporated the popular pulp character The Shadow and compiled select images into a hardcover edition to be published later this year.   The Dynamite Art of The Shadow will feature 320 images from the past four years from Dynamite works featuring the character.  Dynamite is also releasing the trade paperback edition of one if its titles featuring The Shadow tomorrow, The Shadow: The Last Illusion.  We have previews of both for you below, after the break.

Key artists you’ll find in The Dynamite Art of The Shadow include Alex Ross (his cover is pictured above), and pictured below, the works of Francesco Francavilla, Howard Chaykin, Alex Ross, Matt Wagner, Darwyn Cooke, and John Cassaday, among dozens of other artists.

Francavilla  Chaykin

A foreword will be provided by noted Batman movies producer Michael Uslan.  “If you go with the radio version, he was invisible and had the power to cloud men’s minds,” said Uslan in his foreword.  “If you prefer the pulp version, he mastered the art of stealth in the shadows.  Either way, what a challenge to artists to attempt to bring this character to life in a visual medium like comic books!  But without a Shadow of a doubt, the deed was done and the coup was pulled off by generation after generation of artists from the 1930’s to today, building a legend of contemporary mythology in the process and making The Shadow one of the most widely known characters in pop culture history. With a line-up of interior Shadow stories by top, cutting-edge graphic storytellers, Dynamite was able to hit home run after home run with its choice of cover artists, ranging from the top painters to top traditional comic book artists to top cartoonists.”

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B&V Evely    B&V Coover

What if every comic book cover artist also created the artwork inside the cover?  It’s a rare thing.  Cover artists tend to get discovered and begin churning out great cover work for a good rate and find less time for interior work.  Once in a while Alex Ross will take on a labor of love and work the interiors as with the Masks and earlier works like Kingdom Come and Justice.  Same with Frank Cho, as he did with a surprise Savage Wolverine series a few years ago and Mike Mayhew with his The Star Wars series after his cover work became more and more popular.

Adam Hughes is well known for his cover work, especially his DC Comics women renderings.  His Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan mini-series, a rare event featuring his own interiors, was probably the high point of the series.  This summer fans of his artwork and classic Archie Comics characters are in for another rare treat.

B&V Buscema    B&V St Onge

Hughes will be scripting and illustrating interiors for a new Betty & Veronica series.  Best friends and classic rivals Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge will be at each other again, this time over the fate of Riverdale’s hangout, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe.  Hughes has said he is attempting to make the characters timely and relevant.  It shouldn’t be too hard, as the duo is certainly timeless as seen in the updates–and retro inspired designs–of the characters on the variety of covers.  The standard cover will be by Hughes, featuring the two girls in his distinct style.  Thirteen covers will be supplied by women comic book artists.  And none of them chose the look of the gals from the classic series.

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