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Category: Backstage Pass


Heroes is the subject and title of a new gallery show featuring artwork of nationally-recognized artist Ande Parks.  Parks, a professional comic book inker and artist, as well as a comic book writer and novelist, created ink drawings and watercolor works for the exhibit, which showcases some of his own personal heroes, both real and imaginary.  Celebrated for three decades as an inker of superheroes for all the major comic book publishers–he was nominated for the prestigious Harvey Award for his work–Parks has established his own grand, heroic style.  An artist reception for the show is tonight at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lumberyard Arts Center in Baldwin City, Kansas.

Expect to see from the imaginary side works featuring Green Arrow (Parks created a groundbreaking run of the famous longbow hunter series with actor/director/writer Kevin Smith and artist Phil Hester beginning with the story Quiver), Uncle Slam (an “out-of-touch patriotic superhero” who, along with sidekick Fire Dog, were both created by Parks in the pages of Action Planet Comics), and Batgirl (Parks and Hester worked with writer Devin Grayson on bat-family tales in the Nightwing series).  Works from Parks’ real life heroes will include icons like Truman Capote (Parks wrote the graphic novel Capote in Kansas, chronicling Capote’s days in Kansas writing In Cold Blood).

We’re speculating the show may (or may not) include characters Parks is also known for, like El Diablo (Parks worked on the origin of the character in The Haunted Horseman with Hester and writer Jai Nitz), Ant-Man (Parks and Hester created a zany series featuring the irredeemable superhero a decade ago with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman), and Kato, Lone Ranger and Zorro (Parks has written comic book series featuring all these classic characters), and maybe even J. Edgar Hoover?  (Parks wrote the historical graphic novel Union Station with artist Eduardo Barreto, featuring a massacre in Kansas City that influenced the FBI director).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Originally published last year in the UK as A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space, writer Libby Jackson, flight controller and flight director for the European Space Agency, brings her biographies for grade schoolers to U.S. readers re-titled as Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space.  An introduction to the space programs of the past and present for girls and boys, Galaxy Girls goes beyond being an assemblage of one-page stories of astronauts, looking back to women of many backgrounds and careers who heavily influenced the progress of space exploration, including many outside the field of aeronautics.  Most of the women in the book were not astronauts or “in space” as the title suggests, but it’s fair to say Earth’s space programs would not have been as successful–or continued to survive this long–without them.

Most fascinating is the scope of the book.  Readers will encounter standouts from expected fields including scientists and pilots, but also lawyers, doctors, textile workers and seamstresses, and women in the early roles as “computers” themselves.  The career path that women selected for the book took the most was that of engineer, but Jackson also includes others, like actress Nichelle Nichols, who, in addition to inspiring young women who would become astronauts from her role on Star Trek, assisted NASA in broadening their recruitment efforts in the 1970s and onward.  Wives of astronauts of years past are also spotlighted as influential and key to space exploration, and even the first woman tourist in space is included.

Readers will meet several women famous for their landmark firsts: Jeannette Piccard–first woman in the stratosphere, Jacqueline Cochran–first woman to break the sound barrier, Valentina Tereshkova–first woman in space, Eileen Collins–first woman shuttle pilot and commander, Svetlana Savitskaya–first woman spacewalker, and Peggy Whitson–first woman space station commander (who has gone on to create new records surpassing even male astronaut records in the past year since the book was written).  And they’ll learn about women who died in pursuit of space science: Christa McAuliffe, Judy Resnik, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark.  Some of the featured women worked behind the scenes to create the earliest space programs, and others featured are today’s pioneers in aeronautics and engineering, planning Earth’s space programs for tomorrow.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you hear the name Winnie-the-Pooh, what comes to mind?  Phrases like “Oh, bother,” or “Let’s Begin by taking a smallish nap or two”?  For many it’s the images of Pooh and his friends, images that have been around now for ninety years.  Never out of print, the original four books by author A.A. Milne make up a finite set of the stories of the original animal friends of Christopher Robin from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Milne is also who we first think of when we think of these stories, yet as much of Pooh is owed to the drawings and coordination with artist E.H. Shepard, who continued to draw images for new editions and authorized derivative works of Pooh and Friends for 50 years after Milne wrote his last Pooh story.  Shepard is the subject of a new book, The Art of Winnie the Pooh: How E.H. Shepard Illustrated an Icon, written by James Campbell.

The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh is a bit of a family story.  Campbell, author of a previous account of Shepard’s days in World War I called Shepard’s War, is married to Shepard’s great-granddaughter and manages the Shepard artistic and literary estate.  Minette Shepard, the artist’s granddaughter, provides a foreword to the book.  As a child in the 1940s, she was the caretaker of Growler–the original Teddy bear that inspired the look of Pooh we know today.  Fans of the four Winnie-the-Pooh books: When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner, have long known the story of Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne and his toys as the inspiration for the stories.  Yet the wider story reveals a working relationship between two creators in a manner not common for the era, and an artist who used his own son, Graham, as much as Milne’s son for his imagery.  Known nearly as well for his famous illustrations of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Shepard’s story is a chronicle of a long lifetime of artistry, duty, ups and downs, and a legacy for generations of children and adults alike.

The Winnie-the-Pooh books are one of the earliest examples of a writer and artist working together on a book.  When first published in 1924, publishers typically brought in artists to add images throughout a book after the text had been completed.  That changed with Milne and Shepard, particularly so after the immediate success of the first book.  As Campbell sees it, “Shepard and Milne had torn up the rulebook and made the public look at literature, and particularly children’s literature, in a different way.  Rather than reading to children the books inspired authors to write for children, and in the period up to the Second World War, this opportunity for adults and children to sit and enjoy books together grew rapidly.”  Collaboration became key to the appeal of these books, both the writing and the pictures, and although the publishing industry to this day continues to default regularly to keeping a wall between authors and illustrators, the ready combination of the two can be seen throughout the various niches of children’s picture books, comic books, and graphic novels.

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Fans of pop culture and comics have one more day to attend the fourth annual Wizard World Comic Con in Des Moines this weekend.   Held at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, thousands of attendees from Iowa and neighboring states toured the halls and giant celebrity autograph and photo-op room, many in cosplay garb Friday and Saturday.  Even more people are expected to turn out for the show Sunday as Wizard World rolls out a “bring a friend free” promotion.  The show continues today 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Check out the event website here for more information.  Wizard World continues its national presentation of comic book and pop culture conventions next week as the show moves on to Columbus, Ohio.  After the success of the first two days of this year’s event in Des Moines, the fifth Wizard World Des Moines show is already being planned by show organizers for next year, to be held May 10-12, 2019.

Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Black Panther’s Winston Duke, and many other celebrities talked with fans in the show’s celebrity row signing area.  Comic book creators talked about books, and autographed books and art for fans.  We loved this new Green Arrow print from guest comic book creators Phil Hester and Ande Parks (with color by Mouse Baumann):

Even more than 20 years after the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Marsters (Spike) maintained a steady stream of fans waiting in line to meet him all day Saturday:

Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols returned to the Midwest.  Here she is being interviewed at the event for a local radio station:

Genre actor Jim Beaver (Supernatural, The X-Files, Deadwood, Enterprise) met and signed autographs for crowds of fans:

Nationally-known comic book creators were well-represented at this show.  Artist Phil Hester returned to Wizard World–here he is featured on the creator stage demonstrating illustration techniques:

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Back for another four episodes, the documentary-style series about toy lines and toy companies of the past The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix with its Season 2.  As with the first four episodes reviewed here at borg.com in January, the series really isn’t a show for kids, but a behind-the-scenes account of the good and the bad of the history of the toy business.  Because of the toy lines covered in this short Season 2–LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek–expect a more international flavor to the show’s coverage than of Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Barbie, and Masters of the Universe.  You can’t get around the fact that this is about business and business politics, with the added opportunity for those who just want to spot their very favorite toy of their youth to shout out during at least one of the episodes, “I had one of those!”

Back is the sugar-coated dialogue of the enthusiastic narrator Donald Ian Black.  The series continues to be of value mostly for the gold nuggets nestled within its lighthearted framework.  Excerpts of an interview with former Mego President Marty Abrams tops the list.  Despite the high highs and the low lows of his days leading Mego, Abrams seems to have been in the middle of a great time for the toy biz, seen in the first of the new episodes, where he admits passing up the deal to secure the valuable Star Wars account, supposedly for being out-of-town at the time.  The episode of Transformers is surprisingly emotional, including interviews with Optimus Prime himself, lo-o-o-ong-time animated film voice actor Peter Cullen (who was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore), and the much revered Hideaki Yoke, the Japanese company Takara’s lead designer responsible for the brilliant puzzle-piece designs of the vast Transformers line of characters.  As with Masters of the Universe, comic books were important to the development and success of Transformers, and viewers will learn Hello Kitty originated with comic book artists.  The most unexpected storytelling may come from the Hello Kitty episode.  Hello Kitty, a Japan-originated phenomenon turned international craze not tied to any book, TV series, or film, benefited from the coup of celebrities using the products publicly (without paying endorsement fees).  The discussion of the Japan cultural concept of kawaii and its relationship to the development of the Hello Kitty brand, character, and mythos will come as a surprise to most.

For Star Trek fans the episode featuring the franchise’s toy pursuits might have a few surprises.  Yes, that crazy Spock and Kirk helmet from the 1960s rears its ugly head again.  It’s too bad the show feels the need to explain what each franchise is first (we probably wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t), because fans would probably instead rather hear more about subjects the show creators didn’t leave time for.  We were looking for a discussion of the advance release of a line of Star Trek Generations action figures with costume styles that were changed before the film was released (a rare mishap), coverage of the very extensive (and once popular) line of attractive 12-inch scale action figures, the scope of the segment of Playmates company toys featuring characters from not only the series (discussed) but the movies through Star Trek: First Contact, and a little about the “why” of decisions behind toy releases, like why every NextGen line seemed to have two different Worf figures.  From the LEGO segment viewers learn a comprehensive overview of the company, plus some interesting bits like the fact that the early color scheme was directly inspired by the artist Mondrian, and that the outer space series caused the modern line of toys to really take off.  LEGO goes back some 80 years, and the history of the town that made it famous and impact of the brand is a great piece of history.  As with the rest of the episodes business and marketing trends are a great focus, and the 1958 LEGO patent for the interlocking brick–and loss of the patent–is part of that.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarentino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

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Wizard World has added some major celebrities from genredom’s biggest franchises to this weekend’s event in Des Moines, previewed here at borg.com earlier this month.  David Tennant, one of Scotland’s greatest acting talents, has joined the slate of guests at the show.  Tennant is probably the most famous of the 21st century era stars of BBC’s Doctor Who, plus he has appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Blackpool, as the villain in Season One of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and he’s currently starring in Dean Devlin’s film Bad Samaritan, now in theaters.

He played the only Hobbit who could be trusted with the One Ring: Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, actor Elijah Wood is heading to Wizard World.  Wood starred as Frodo Baggins in both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, he appeared in Tron: Uprising, Sin City, Treasure Island with Eddie Izzard, and most recently he starred in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.  Also from The Lord of the Rings, Billy Boyd is scheduled to attend this weekend’s show.  Boyd played Frodo’s Hobbit friend Pippin and he appeared with Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, among other movies and TV shows.

Along with previously announced creators including Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Chad Hardin, Wizard World has added guests Ant Lucia, DC Bombshells creator and artist, New Challengers and Bionic Man writer Aaron Gillespie, and writer Jai Nitz, El Diablo co-creator (with show guest Phil Hester) and writer of Dream Thief, Toshiro, and other comic books.

Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture, movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, and collectibles.  This is the fourth year for Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.

Show hours are Friday, June 1, 2018, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, June 2, 2018, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 3, 2018, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult admission.

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You can expect to hear a familiar tune at every other instrumental band concert and from keyboard artists and other musical groups this year beginning this Memorial Day weekend.  For the annual anniversary of the release of Star Wars on May 25, 2018, and the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the first time most of us first heard of George Lucas’s sound company, THX Ltd. publicly released its sheet music for its theater ad promo with the theatrical release of Solo: A Star Wars Story.  It’s hard to believe that sound, which appears to most like a twisting, slowly deafening noise, has been around so long.  If you were around in 1983 you probably first heard it along with the movie trailers before screenings of Return of the Jedi starting May 25, 1983.

The music, a “synthesized crescendo that glissandos from a low rumble to a high pitch,” is called Deep Note.  First recorded by Lucasfilm employee Dr. James A. Moorer in 1982, it’s a trademark of the THX brand.  Categorized as a federal sensory trademark first filed in 1992, the original U.S Patent and Trademark Office registration defines Deep Note in more technical terms: “The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves.  The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure.  The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.”  The sound aired before all movies from June 1, 1983, until August 31, 1996.  Here is the post from THX on social media:

Back in the early 1980s George Lucas created THX (named for sound engineer Tomlinson Holman and an homage to Lucas’s film THX-1138, which was said to have been derived from a Lucas phone number: 849-1138) when attempting to perfect the movie-going experience along with his Skywalker Sound company.  So what’s the difference between THX and Skywalker Sound?  THX is a standards company first created to ensure the vision (err… the ear) of a filmmaker made it to the audience’s final in-theater experience (more recently branching out to car stereos, video games, and home theaters).  Skywalker Sound is a Lucasfilm/Disney company that specializes in the sound effects, sound editing, sound design, sound mixing and music recording for various award-winning projects.  THX was spun-off before Disney acquired Lucasfilm.

Here is a brief YouTube history of the THX Deep Note recording and trailer:

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For the fourth consecutive year, Wizard World will be invading the Iowa Events Center this June, bringing comic book writers and artists and celebrity guests to meet thousands of attendees for Iowa’s largest comic and pop culture convention.  Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines will again feature non-stop live entertainment, gaming, panels with celebrities, and cosplayers.  Celebrity guests scheduled to attend the show include Winston Duke (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Matt Ryan (Legends of Tomorrow, Constantine), Jim Beaver (Supernatural, Deadwood), Lisa Berry (Supernatural), Gregg Sulkin (Runaways, Faking It), hosted by Kato Kaelin.

Comic book creator guests include Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Bionic Man, Shipwreck, The Irredeemable Ant-Man), Ande Parks (Green Arrow, Capote in Kansas, The Lone Ranger), Chad Hardin (Harley Quinn, Justice League), Tom Cook (Masters of the Universe, Smurfs), and dozens of other writers in artists in the event’s Artist Alley.  Purchase books, sketches, and other original art, and get autographs from dozens of creators and entertainers.

Even more celebrity guests and creators are expected to be announced in advance of the event.

   

Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, and collectibles.

Show hours are Friday, June 1, 2018, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, June 2, 2018, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 3, 2018, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult admission.

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