Category: Retro Fix


Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the past decade I have reviewed most of the books from publisher Running Press chronicling Turner Classic Movies’ in-depth research into the best of classic and genre films.  Yesterday I looked at the 2016 book TCM’s The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, by film historian Jeremy Arnold.  Today I’m reviewing and previewing a new volume in what has become a film library for the film historian.  It’s the second volume pulled from the 2001-2020 TCM series The Essentials, TCM’s The Essentials: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, a very different look at film than the first volume, with some interesting features–and great movies.  We have a peek inside the book for borg readers below.

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Eighty years ago Superman first hit neighborhood newsstands in Issue #1 of Action Comics–an issue that if you kept your copy could pay off your house, car, and retirement.  The cover was dated June 1938, but it was in kids’ hands first on April 18, 1938.  DC Comics is celebrating Superman’s big anniversary this week with a celebratory issue of Action Comics numbered 1000, created by some of DC’s top writers and artists, an anthology of stories just as you’d find in Action Comics’ first 500 issues.  The 1,000 issues is spot-on with the number of Action Comics issues released, but those counting the months since 1938 will come up short:  Action Comics shifted from a monthly to a bi-weekly once upon a time, and you won’t find numbered issues #905-956, which were replaced by 52 issues of the New 52 reboot numbering 1-52.  For American comic book fans, there’s something special about holding this issue in your hands.  It’s no small feat seeing such a truly undisputed iconic character get to this point.

The 80-page giant issue is one not to pass up.  For current fans, it’s a ramp-up to Brian Michael Bendis’s writing run beginning with the complete issue #1001.  For everyone else, it’s a nostalgic trip via variant covers and dozens of classic and modern creators offering up stories about the Man of Steel.  The writers?  Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, and Brian Michael Bendis.  The artists? Dan Jurgens, Pat Gleason, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, John Cassaday, Jim Lee, Norm Rapmund, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Williams, Hi-Fi Color, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin, and Alex Sinclair.  Cover artists include Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan, Lee Bermejo, Dave Dorman, George Perez, Neal Adams, Jim Lee (providing the main cover and two variants), Curt Swan, Felipe Massafera, Nicola Scott, Jock, Oliver Coipel, Jason Fabok, Kaare Andrews, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, Artgerm, Tyler Kirkham, Pat Gleason, Francesco Mattina, Ken Haeser, Doug Mahnke, and Tony S. Daniel.  Check out images of all the variant covers below.  Our favorite?  Danielle Dell’Otto’s take on Christopher Reeve at the Fortress of Solitude, and Pat Gleason’s cover, which includes Krypto.

   

Some comic book stores are holding events to celebrate the Man of Steel’s big day.  This Saturday if you’re in the Kansas City area head on over to Elite Comics, where you can pick up copies of Issue #1000 plus a limited exclusive Superman print (shown above) by artist Bryan Fyffe, a nationally-recognized artist whose licensed works include projects for Disney and Star Wars.  Or check out your own neighborhood store.

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Usually the books from Turner Classic Movies highlight lists of select genre favorites by a single author, with selections that are always on-topic, but can often provoke readers to pull out their hair, since it’s very likely nobody’s personal list will match the author’s–or anyone else’s.  We’ve seen great insights and and I’ve personally found numerous selections to track down from the likes of Must-See Sci-Fi, Dynamic Dames, Forbidden Hollywood, Christmas in the Movies, and most recently Fright FavoritesBut now I am going to double back to the book, and the list, that started it all.  It begins with the 2001 Saturday night series, TCM’s The Essentials.  The book is TCM’s The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, by film historian Jeremy Arnold, a very different look at classic films.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Any list of 10 or more items these days quickly becomes the stuff of argument.  But in the right context it can become the stuff of discussion and curiosity.  A list of 50 items takes some work to prepare and if that list accompanies a genre that has spanned more than a century, then it really invites discussion. Which brings us to Turner Classic Movies and Running Press’s new look at the science fiction genre in Sloan De Forest’s Must See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World This latest pop culture book to engage science fiction fans may show that, after all these years, the best and most important works of science fiction are not really all that controversial.  Yet it wouldn’t really be worth picking up if it only confirmed readers’ love for epic films.  Must-See Sci-Fi takes that next step and also serves that need of all fans of film to take another look at the classics and be open to those films we may have overlooked.

Consisting of 50 approximately 1,000 word essays on each film across 114 years, from 1902 to 2016, Must-See Sci-Fi covers the significance of each film selected in its 280 pages, including a plot overview, key memorable scenes, plus some good behind-the-scenes trivia, as well as plenty of color and black and white photographs.  From A Trip to the Moon in 1902 to Arrival in 2016, the book has a fairly consistent coverage (but weighted with more selections from the 1970s and 1980s, and the 1940s have no entries).  Most will agree with the films included from George Méliès’s groundbreaking beginning through the 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. But controversial for one person may not be controversial for another.  De Forest presents her case for those films you might not find on other lists–many firsts of sci-fi emphasized instead of the definite look at a sub-genre, like Alphaville, Solaris, Sleeper, The Man Who Fell to Earth, THX 1138, The Brother From Another Planet, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. One great feature is a recommendation of two “watch-alike” films after each section–If you loved a film, you have two more films to track down and compare, and if you missed a film but don’t like the two suggested films, the book may telegraph your level of enjoyment once you screen the entry.  Readers will also see the impact across a century of filmmaking from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of both H.G. Wells and Jules Verne on these selections.

Key to the fun of delving into science fiction film history is understanding the roots of science fiction–how modern science fiction 99% of the time derives (or combines) its story elements from key benchmarks from stories or films of the past.  As the book progresses readers can see author De Forest frequently referring back to those sources, and after 1977’s Star Wars the remaining 16 entries all seem to rely significantly on films of the past–sometimes they even appear to be merely another twist on one of the films in the first half of the book.  And yes, readers will find new discussion topics.  La Jetée may be an incredibly fascinating short film, but is it more of a “must-see” than Terry Gilliam’s update 12 Monkeys?  And how did a Woody Allen movie ever make the cut?

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Sorrow01-Cov-D-Sub-Hack    Sorrow01-Cov-G-Incen10-Lotay

Nothing in the past five years has been more fun as far as comic book events are concerned than Dynamite Comics’ ever-growing crossovers incorporating their huge roster of licensed characters.  The New 52 and Convergence events from DC Comics and the Secret Wars event from Marvel Comics are so much more of the same–pulling in dozens of titles and character crossovers over the course of several months.  All of these publisher events attempt to reinvigorate their brands–to bring more people in to try out the regular monthly series featuring their stock of characters, whether you’re looking at the Avengers or the X-Men or the Justice League.  Dynamite’s events also pull from their stock of characters, yet the publisher has managed to unleash something very new in the way these characters come together.

Dynamite’s Masks limited series introduced a pantheon of superheroes from the literary past: Green Hornet and Kato, The Shadow, Miss Fury, Spider, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, the Green Lama, Black Terror and The Black Bat (a second limited monthly follow-on series, Masks 2, is underway now).  Then Bill Willingham expanded and amped up the Dynamite characters with his Legenderry steampunk adventures.  Another limited series, this one introduced the Six Thousand Dollar Man, teaming up with a parallel world, steampunk era Red Sonja, Zorro, Flash Gordon, Green Hornet, the Phantom, and more.  It now has its own expanded event series of sorts with Legenderry universe monthly series featuring each of Vampirella, Red Sonja, and Green Hornet.

SwordsSorrow03-Cov-A-Lotay    STK673857

But Dynamite’s best crossover event series may have just arrived with writer Gail Simone and artist Sergio Davila’s new Swords of Sorrow.  A dark prince has enlisted an arsenal of women warriors to defend his interests, including the well-known red, horned villainess Purgatori.  But a mysterious and beautiful otherworld woman called the Traveller has assigned various swords to her own select group of women warriors via the Courier, across time and space–from Everywhere and Everywhen to Nowhen–to defend worlds menaced by this prince.  Her heroines include Red Sonja, Vampirella, Irene Adler, Dejah Thoris, Jennifer Blood, Jane Porter, Lady Zorro, Milan Kato, Masquerade, Black Sparrow, Miss Fury, Pantha, Lady Rawhide, and Jana the Jungle Girl.

Leading a select team of women writers in nine Swords of Sorrow tie-in series and one-shots, Gail Simone has her challenges here, required to pull together more than a dozen main characters quickly, explaining enough to let us know who they are for those unfamiliar with them all, and set up enough world-building to let us understand how they all fit together.  This may be the best we’ve read of any series from Simone so far, as Issue #1 of the six backbone issues gives us all we need to get excited to see what comes next.  Sergio Davila’s artwork is as detailed and interesting as his work on Legenderry, sure to keep us interested to come back for more each month.  Check out the full checklist of the crossover series below.

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Odds are, you’re going to find this year to be the best year yet for accessing your favorite Halloween movies in October.  Particularly if you have a DVR and basic cable, you’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and brand new shows–our annual compilation of the movies you get with the typical national basic cable packages.  Syfy’s 31 Days of Halloween is back, along with Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween.  AMC’s Fear Fest begins October 14, this year swapping out many movies for reruns of The Walking Dead, leads up to the new season premiere of the series (AMC’s listing below will be updated once they publish their final official schedule).  And TCM is back with monster classics and special theme days.

We’ve bolded some of our recommendations and other notable events in October.  A new Halloween movie will be in theaters and you can watch all the past entries in the series on AMC.  TCM honors the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein with several classic spin-offs.  You won’t want to miss Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, too.  A Stephen King movie marathon, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Bela Legosi, Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and lots of exorcisms.  Plus lots of animated movies on Freeform, and the Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month.

All month long on Netflix you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, plus series like Stranger Things, The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  On Starz you can find a mix of sci-fi and horror movies including John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more.  If all else fails, you can probably grab your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything.  (All times listed are Central Time):

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Superman Cyborg cover   Dead Shot JLA lenticular cover

September is Villains Month at DC Comics and the editors looked like they were having fun Wednesday with the release of a bunch of standard monthly superhero titles defaced and taken over by the huge pantheon of classic DC villains.  And along with the vandalized covers DC has released special 3D animated lenticular covers–those great retro plastic lined images you once found in cereal boxes and vending machines.

With the Justice League presumed dead (yeah, right), the Crime Syndicate of villains has arisen out of this summer’s Trinity War story arc.  The backbone of the multi-title storyline will be the Forever Evil mini-series, with Issue #1 in comic book stores this week featuring writer Geoff Johns and artist David Finch.   Following Villains Month, all of the New 52 titles not directly tying into Forever Evil will pick up where they left off in August.  All of the other books will catch up in April 2014 with the Forever Evil timeline after the miniseries’ conclusion in March.

Joker Batman lenticular cover  Count Vertigo Green Arrow Lenticular cover

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Movement fists

Fresh off their writing and art projects from New 52’s Batgirl and Green Arrow, DC Comics creators Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II are bringing real-world politics “Occupy Wall Street” style this May in their new monthly series The Movement.

The advance industry catalog Previews.com provided the following teaser this week:

We are faceless. We are limitless. We see all. And we do not forgive.
Who defends the powerless against the GREEDY and the CORRUPT? Who protects the homeless and poverty-stricken from those who would PREY upon them in the DARK OF NIGHT?
When those who are sworn to protect us abuse their power, when toxic government calls down super-human lackeys to force order upon the populace... finally, there is a force, a citizen's army, to push order BACK.
Let those who abuse the system know this as well: We have our OWN super humans now. They are not afraid of your badges or Leagues. And they will not be SILENCED.
We are your neighbors. We are your workers. And we are your children.

Win.  Count us in.  Where do we buy the RISE bracelets?

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Golden Age Superman Unchained 1   Superman Unchained 1 standard edition

The celebration of the 75th anniversary of Superman is in full swing this week as the new Superman movie Man of Steel opens in theaters across the country today.  DC Comics has coordinated with comic book stores with the release of a monthly Superman titles and a new monthly this week from some of DC Comics’ top creators.   Superman Unchained #1 is in comic book stores this week, bringing together writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing, The Wake) and artists Jim Lee (Justice League, Batman: Hush) and Scott Williams (Batman: The Dark Knight).  Snyder subtly and not so subtly ties in technologies and feats of our own world in his initial chapter of the exploits of the last son of Krypton.  Fans of Lee’s art will appreciate a two-sided, quad-fold pullout poster featuring key moments of the new story.

1930s Superman Unchained   Neal Adams Superman Unchained 1

Satellites circling Earth begin plummeting to the ground.  We encounter Superman as he plunges into a circling international space station, and he must quickly figure out a way to save the astronauts inside and the town below the station is barreling toward.  Superman references Guinness Book free-fall records once he drops off the astronauts.  If you track the actual International Space Station astronauts on Twitter or otherwise, you might find that what was once a passing destructive event in a quick read now carries a greater emotional impact.  Likewise, Snyder includes a prologue from Nagasaki in April of 1945 that reveals the creation of the new series’ ultimate villain–and what the “unchained” in Superman Unchained may be all about.

dc-comics-superman-unchained-issue-1d   Alt Superman Unchained

More than the standard monthly first issue, keep an eye out for a variety of alternate covers (see above and below), released by DC Comics as part of the 75th anniversary.  Look for a 1930s variant by Bruce Timm, a Golden Age variant by Dave Johnson, a Silver Age variant by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, a Bronze Age variant by Neal Adams, a Modern Age variant by Jerry Ordway, a Superman Reborn variant by Dan Jurgens, a Superman vs. Lex Luthor variant by Lee Bermejo a New 52 variant by Brett Booth.  The standard edition features a Lee/Williams cover, complete with DC Comics’ new 75 Years Superman logo.  Compare these re-creations of classic looks of Superman with our previous take on Superman with “The Many Faces of the Man of Steel.”

Superman Unchained alt cover Issue 1   Alt Bermejo Superman Unchained 1

If the glut of New 52 Superman titles since September 2011 left you walking away empty-handed from not knowing what to start with, and if All Star Superman isn’t your thing, Superman Unchained looks to be a Superman story with more classic elements and non-stop action.  The brief villain reveal indicates we may have an interesting new character and we get to revisit Superman’s relationship with Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and The Daily Planet.

Jim Lee alt Superman Unchained 1   Alt b Superman Unchained 1

Rounding out the month of June and the Summer of Superman, look for the new Batman/Superman series featuring writer Greg Pak and artist Jae Lee in comic book stores next week.  Look for a “Director’s Cut” of Superman Unchained to be released in July–it will have more original Jim Lee art as we found in the re-issue of his Batman: Hush called Batman: Hush Unwrapped, reviewed here at borg.com earlier, as well as Snyder’s script.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com