Category: Comics & Books


Five Man Midget Death Squad

The title and cover of Five Man Midget Death Squad makes for an easy purchase decision (midgets! death squad! Gatling guns and a skull!), but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Nicholas Forrestal’s 2014 novel isn’t about midgets wielding machine guns as I initially expected, but a warrior tribe in the British Isles on a parallel Earth as told from a historian in the year 2201.  The “midgets” of the title are a famed band of dwarves of the Tolkien tradition, who we meet along with goblins, giants, and humans.  If you like the noble tribe of Orcs in Warcraft, you’ll find Forrestal’s fantasy world races familiar.

Beginning with the legend of Gith of the Tundri clan we meet one-by-one those influential leaders of the dwarves recounted to the best of the chronicler’s ability from stories passed down through the generations–this is not so much the “historical truth” as a tribute to carry on the noble dwarf culture in good Old World oral tradition.  Via separate vignettes about the history of the Tundri we learn about their culture, religion, and politics, Gith, the goblin race, the next great dwarven leader Kaiden, the giant Balor the Evil Eye and the deal he made with Cora the dwarf to protect all dwarves that resulted in the formation of the famed Death Squad, and lastly the contributions of Ethne and Caleb, and the story of M and the Leper Kahn.

Five Man Midget Death Squad in Lerwick

Death Squad is full of deep world building–characters here make appearances throughout Forrestal’s Chronicles of M series of novels–and his prose is similar to the writing of real-life ancient chroniclers.  Early chapters read like a recollection of Herodotus, and later chapters like Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, Plutarch’s Lives, and primary writings of Augustus in his Res Gestae and Julius Caesar in his The Gallic War.  Forrestal has developed plenty of classic fantasyscapes here to expand into future novels.

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An unusual art exhibition premiered this month in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Museum of Art, and it is being expanded into a book available later this month.  Director Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy.  Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House.  Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is a companion to the exhibition of artworks purchased by del Toro and featured in his strange home.  The book includes photographs, pages from his journals, and interviews with the director and other art connoisseurs.  The book promises to provide an engrossing look into the mind of one of the truly unique storytellers of today.

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Below, after the break, is a preview of pages from At Home With Monsters.  It is available now for pre-order here from Amazon.com.

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Aliens Set Photography book Titan

Review by C.J. Bunce

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of James Cameron’s sci-fi film classic Aliens, writer Simon Ward has assembled a photograph-dense book full of never before released images from the movie stage.  Aliens: The Set Photography fills each of 144 pages with views of cast members, camera crews, and special effects artists as they created the follow-on to Ridley Scott’s horror classic, 1979’s Alien.  Less of a space drama and more of an action-packed rollercoaster ride than the original, Aliens won two special effects Oscars and earned Weaver a nomination for Best Actress as well as nods for set and art decoration, sound, film editing, and James Horner’s musical score.

Simon Ward also authored the behind the scenes look at the Independence Day films reviewed here at borg.com last month.  We discussed the creation of this book at Kansas City Comic Con this weekend with film co-star Carrie Henn, who played Newt, the only survivor discovered by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the marines.

Paxton Aliens

Henn told us that this book had been in the works for a few years.  She provided the foreword and much of the commentary for what amounts to a photo scrapbook of behind-the-scenes stills.  She also provides some surprisingly thorough recollections of stage direction from director Cameron and mentoring from Sigourney Weaver, who appeared as a larger-than-life heroine to the nine-year-old actress.  Her comments are also full of humorous anecdotes and reflect the care taken by the filmmakers to make certain the little girl wasn’t terrified by Stan Winston’s alien creations.

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KCCC 2016 Mystique and Beast    KCCC 2016 Predators and Liv Moore

The third day of Kansas City Comic Con wrapped with attendees making last-minute purchases, obtaining remaining autographs and photos with celebrities and cosplayers, and picking up sketches and comic books from the hundreds of creators on site throughout the weekend.  No doubt the weekend was a success for vendors, and visitors had a great time.

And as promised yesterday, we have more photos from the weekend.

It wouldn’t be a Kansas City Con without a merry duo of those Nausicaan cousins, the Predators.  As with prior years Elizabeth C. Bunce (above) hunted them down, this time as iZombie’s Liv Moore (seriously, this keeps happening–check this out).

What makes for great cosplay?  Surprises.  Characters that are classic or iconic that you’ve never seen before are a real treat.  Like this spot-on Beetlejuice cosplay–Wynona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz:

KCCC 2016 Beetlejuice and Liv Moore cosplay    KCCC 2016 Joker and Liv Moore cosplay

Superb!  And while we’re in 1980s mode, wait ’til you get a load of this:  We spotted the very best Joker cosplay we’d ever seen, Jack Nicholson’s Joker from the 1989 Batman movie (above).

The rest of the cosplay we singled out mainly followed the superhero genre.  Like the dynamic indigo X-Men duo pictured under the headline above.  We’ve seen Mystiques before but this was the best constructed outfit and Beast’s make-up was excellent.

We saw two great Wonder Woman outfits, first from the new movies and then a classic comic book variant:

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KCCC 2016 X-Wing pilot and Luke

Kansas City Comic Con 2016 kicked into high gear today at the Kansas City Convention center at Bartle Hall.  Probably the largest assemblages of writers and artists in the region, literally several hundred with tables on display, are coming back once again today to share their work with fans.  The big themes this year seemed to be 101 fun variants of Deadpool, Suicide Squad Harley Quinns walked every aisle with the classic version sadly absent, some great Wonder Woman cosplay creations, and Star Wars was alive and well.  I can’t wait to see what cosplay comes after Rogue One is released in December.  I’ve seen plenty of professionally crafted costumes of Rebel pilots but the above X-Wing fighter pilot from The Empire Strikes Back was the best I’ve seen, built by the cosplayer’s older brother.  Below are more photos with Star Wars cosplayers–come back tomorrow as we round out even more great cosplay we saw this year at the show.

On a personal note, I had a one-of-a-kind day today walking the floor as Luke Skywalker with his pal R2-D2, a fully-functional radio-controlled droid perfectly re-created by Chris Rice from the KC R2 builders group.  There was no doubt about the joy brought to Star Wars fans young and old as we walked the floor and stopped for photos.  It was among the most photos and hugs I’ve been apart of since cosplaying in Kansas City and a great feeling to spread around and share with others, from little kids wanting to hug R2 to adults wanting to share in a photo.  What a strange thing to get home and learn of Kenny Baker’s passing away at 81.  Elizabeth and I were lucky to meet him and his wife years ago.  What we all shared today at KCCC was a real tribute to Mr. Baker and the character he helped to create and the enduring legacy of Star Wars.

KCCC 2016 Castle Creations and Luke

With Padme, Leia, Mara Jade and Obi-Wan from Another Castle Creations.

KCCC 2016 Luke and Rey

Luke and Rey–are they related? We won’t find out until 2018. What a great Rey!

We also caught up with friends and met some celebrities…

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Uhura Nichols    EP5_KEY_266_R-store

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans will converge on Kansas City as Kansas City Comic Con returns to the Bartle Hall.  The show again has booked the very best comic book and fiction writers and artists in the U.S. as well as some great movie and TV guests.  Kansas City Comic Con features one of the largest assemblages of nationally known as well as local writers and artists, with more than 300 creators featured.

Headlining this year’s show as part of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek is Nichelle Nichols, well known for her groundbreaking role as Uhura in three seasons of Star Trek and six major motion pictures.  Star Wars fans can meet Billy Dee Williams, best known as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and Brian Herring, the puppeteer behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ lovable new droid BB-8.  Motion picture and TV star Ksenia Solo, star of Lost Girl, Orphan Black, and Black Swan, will be in attendance Saturday and Sunday.  And fans of classic TV can meet the original Bo and Luke of Dukes of Hazzard, John Schneider and Tom Wopat.

BB-8    Ksenia Solo

Nationally known comic book creators featured at KCCC include legendary writer/artist Mike Grell and artist Michael Golden, as well as current Star Wars writer and Eisner winner Jason Aaron and Star Trek writers Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, Star Wars artists Joe Corroney and Bryan Fyffe, and DC Comics artist Ant Lucia.  Plus fan favorite writers and artists including CW Cooke, Sean Von Gorman, Ande Parks, Nicholas Forrestal, Damont Jordan, Arie Monroe, Thaddeus Nowak, Bryan Timmins, and Darryl Woods.  But that’s only scratching the surface–check out the full list of national and local creators here.

Green Arrow by Michael Golden    Grell GA BC

Costume contests, a cosplay wedding, a Friday night concert, gaming room, live art, panels, photo ops, autographs, collectables, toys, comics, a scavenger hunt, video games, and an offsite movie screening for Star Trek fans.  It will be a full weekend for anyone who is a fan of comics, movies, TV, superheroes, sci-fi, and fantasy.

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joshhowarddottypepaddotcom copy Josh Howard artwork

Deep Space Nine:  The Animated Series.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

When so many years pass between projects, everyone ages and actors no longer reflect the look they had from decades ago.  But that isn’t so for voices.  What better way to continue a series that is no longer realistic as a live-action show but than to create a respectable animated version?  Just look at all the actors from the original Star Wars trilogy that came back to perform for DisneyXD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels–James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz.  And the opportunity for guest stars!  Rebels has seen characters voiced by Firefly’s Gina Torres, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar, Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs, and Doctor Who’s Tom Baker!  The sky (galaxy, etc.) is truly the limit.

The Star Trek franchise is relatively untapped compared to what Disney is exploiting with its Star Wars franchise in only its first year in “let’s make money” mode.  What is CBS and Paramount waiting for?  So why not get to work on a Deep Space Nine animated series?  Former DS9 writer/producer Ira Steven Behr announced this weekend that he has been creating a DS9 documentary, which he says includes contributions from original Deep Space Nine writers.  As part of the film he had the writers break down the story for how they might see an episode one of Deep Space Nine Season 8.  Insert mic drop here.

Odo idw

Who doesn’t want to see that?  But why stop there?  The dismissive, easy answer is that coordination of schedules will make it difficult, another Trek TV series and movie are in the works, etc.  But all CBS and Paramount need to do is think bigger.  Like Disney.  And if the idea isn’t enough to spark some momentum, how about this great mock-up of the DS9 cast as they might look in a Season 8 created by artist Josh Howard (above, top) from the artist back in 2013 (check out his website here), the countless comic book adaptations published over the years (above), or illustrator Anna Rettberg’s vision from 2012 (check out her website here):

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Three years ago I reviewed a comic book from an aspiring artist named Mickey Lam.  Lam, a self-taught illustrator based in London with a degree in biomedical materials who was then a secondary school science teacher before committing to illustration work, creates a variety of artworks for his clients, using all types of media.  He also writes and illustrates comic books to experiment with his style.  With his most recent projects it’s clear that it is time for publishers to take note of not only Lam’s finely honed illustrations, but his excellent writing, too.

I read three recent works by Lam: two from his cheerful Fwendly Fwuit characters and a more serious book about the horrors of deforestation.  When I first reviewed Lam’s stylish action book Mr. Yang Fights Aliens here at borg.com I took note of his great artwork.  What jumps out at me today is his incredible writing.

As for Lam’s Fwendly Fwuit books, these are perfect for kids of all ages.  His first in the series, Summer Adventure, shows the coming together of a banana and strawberry as pals, and reminds of me of Frank Cho’s early writing in his University² comic strips.  The content is completely different, but like Cho, Lam’s characters pop off the page from the get-go as fully realized, likeable leads.  With his high-quality, magazine-sized follow-on book, Winter Wonders, Lam catapults into the realm of Adventure Time and SpongeBob SquarePants.  These are unique and creative characters in the same vein as the outside-the-box critters in those popular lines.  His environments visually are superb and his creations, like the Melon Wagon in Summer Adventure and his updated Space Melon Wagon from Winter Wonders, are like imaginative features you’d see in a Hayao Miyazaki movie.  Lam could be writing the next Adventure Time series, with his Fwendly Fwuit pals or with whatever the mind of Lam creates next.

Mickey Lam Please Save Our Rainforests

His more serious content work, Please Save Our Rainforests!, is entirely different and shows a very clean writing style conveying a message that can change the minds and actions of its readers.  Please Save Our Rainforests! is the kind of publication that should be picked up and distributed by groups like Greenpeace and PETA, and reminds me of the classic 1960s Smokey Bear comic books handed out by the U.S. Forest Service carrying Smokey’s “Only you can protect forest fires” theme.  Lam’s message in his book is no less important.  His characters are cute and adorable, and they are juxtaposed against an effort to spread awareness of the ugly, illegal deforestation in Malaysia for palm oil production in Malaysia involving the mass slaughter of orangutans.  The story and the message are completely effective.

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New Pompeii cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

In a thick 459 pages, British author Daniel Godfrey begins a new time travel series full of twists and turns in New Pompeii, his first novel from a major publisher (Titan Books).  Billed as a novel in the tradition of Michael Crichton, New Pompeii is evocative of Crichton’s early novels, but more closely follows the plotting and style of the time travel science fiction novels of Connie Willis (Lincoln’s Dreams, To Say Nothing of the Dog) and the pacing of a Tom Clancy thriller.  Fans of Crichton’s Timeline and Westworld, Philip K. Dick’s short stories and his novels Time Out of Joint and Man in the High Castle, Doctor Who’s “timey wimey” stories and films like TimeCop will appreciate this new entry in the time travel and parallel universe sub-genres.

Despite a daunting 75 chapters, New Pompeii is a quick read.  Godfrey follows Nick Houghton, a history scholar who has yet to earn his doctorate as he is inexplicably courted into joining a venture with a corporation that promises the impossible–Novus Particles plucks people from just before the point of death and brings them into the present, cheating the timeline manipulation restrictions like the field trips in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.”  Think Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck meets Final Destination.  The company is not a secret–it is well documented that it saved a flight of passengers from a plane crash.  But why are all the survivors now committing suicide?  Who is the ghost student that has been emerging from a bathtub at a college campus over the course of thirty years?  And how do you hide an ancient civilization in the modern world?

Told in short, alternating chapters from the perspective of Nick as he walks among ancient Romans in a secluded Eastern European town in the present day, and college student Kirsten Chapman as she appears unstuck in time across a span of time periods like Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie or Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five, the truth behind the corporation’s purpose is slowly revealed.  You won’t find a lot of complexity in the time travel elements here, which makes this appealing for the most casual sci-fi reader.  Fans of any Star Trek or Doctor Who time travel story will be familiar with the rules here.

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moon base concept art idr

While some approaches in the “Art of” or “Making of” category of film books provides explanatory text describing the moviemaking process, others are primarily photo essays.  Both approaches have their merits.  Titan Books has offered a mix of the approach with its Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Art of the Film, reviewed here, was a more visual snapshot of the filmmaker’s journey.  Although it has less explanatory material and more in-world story background, the new book The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence is most like Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, reviewed here.

Like the Planet of the Apes work, The Art & Making of Independence Day: Resurgence covers a behind the scenes account of two films, here the original 1996 Independence Day and this year’s sequel.  The reader is reminded of the history of the key characters in the original film in the first third of the volume, which also provides a review of the movie’s key special effect scene–the alien destruction of the White House.  Not only providing movie stills, we get to see the relative size of the model used for the building and the process for the explosion.  This sets up a good introduction for the special effects for the next two sections of the book: the rebuilding of Earth after the first invasion, and then the return of the aliens that is the focus of the sequel.

art and making of idr

Titan’s usual quality hardcover design and thick full-color pages include in-universe accounts of the next generation of Earth’s defenders, followed by concept art and sketchwork, extensive coverage of space vehicles and fighter plane designs and futuristic weaponry.  Director Roland Emmerich provides a foreword introduction.

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