Category: Comics & Books


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One of the most popular characters and series to emerge from DC Comics’ New 52 reboot in 2011 was J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman.  Not only was the series popular, it received critical acclaim for Williams’ gritty storytelling and the stylish and spectacular, ethereal, and surreal artwork by Blackman.  The classic B-level superheroine of the 1950s had been reintroduced as Kate Kane with a new Alex Ross-designed costume in 2006.  In the DC Comics weekly series 52 the character became the most memorable legacy of the series–ex-military, a lesbian, of Jewish descent, with her ex, Renee Montoya, a Gotham police detective—rare constructs for any character in comicdom.  In the best of ironies, the character created to combat accusations of Batman’s sexuality in the 1950s became a symbol of the very thing she was made to deflect.

Beyond the symbolism of the modern character and success as a new iconic character, Williams and Blackman wrote a great Bat-book.  But after several successful months as a New 52 series, editorial decisions and creator ideas crossed streams and the series fizzled out.  Happily for fans of the character, DC is bringing Batwoman onto center stage once again.  Beginning this month in Detective Comics Issue #948 and continuing in February with Issue #949, the two-part “Batwoman Begins” arc forms the prologue for the monthly Rebirth continuity one-shot Batwoman: Rebirth in February and the series Batwoman, beginning in March.

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Writers Marguerite Bennett and James T. Tynion IV are co-writing the initial story with Bennett to take over the series later in the year.  Artwork will be provided by Steve Epting and Ben Oliver.  Jae Lee will be creating a variant cover for the series’ first issue.

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When Elmore Leonard said that Laurence Block grabs the reader and never lets go, he showed he had Block figured out.  Apparently that applies back to Block’s first crime novel, just released for the first time under Block’s name after more than 50 years.  Sinner Man is one of the rare books sought out and released by Hard Case Crime, known for its publishing of never before seen, shelved novels of well-known writers and reprints of out-of-print novels from decades past.  As with Michael Crichton’s and Gore Vidal’s early lost novels, reviewed previously here at borg.com, Block knew how to craft a compelling noir piece from the start of his career.

Sinner Man follows an insurance salesman, a hothead, who accidentally kills his wife during an argument.  Instead of turning himself in and facing a manslaughter charge, he plots out a plan to create a new life, in modern parlance “off the grid.”  What will keep readers glued to the story is the path he takes, the methodical “how to” guide Block lays out for anyone who wants to disappear in the Northeast U.S. circa 1950s.  As he discusses in an afterword, some of the details allowed a criminal to vanish more simply then compared to today, which almost begs for a modern-day update.  Readers will not be able to avoid adapting and contrasting his plan to today’s world as the story develops.  According to Block, the title Sinner Man was derived from the spiritual song about a man who could not escape no matter where he turned.

Block’s anti-hero ends up working for a small city mob network.  His lead is a typical bad man with tastes for booze and good clothes.  Readers will not be cheering for him as much as wondering when and how he is going to “get what’s coming to him” if the classic Crime Does Not Pay lesson from pulp stories rings true.  He’s a thug, he’s violent toward women, and becomes a killer for hire.  The mob here isn’t the kind you’d find in the Godfather, but more like the lower echelon heavies in Casino and Goodfellas.

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nordgren-devils-tower-copyright-2015    rocky-mountain-nordgren-2015-copyright

In the short days of winter, even if you are in the city with the imposition of urban skylights, the night sky seems to release a better view of the stars.  Something about the snap of the cold and the clean smell of the air almost lures you to stay outside a little longer when the darkness appears as an almost otherworldly blue.  But how long will we be able to have this kind of view of the universe?  It’s this kind of moment that an astronomer and artist has captured in a series of spectacular posters, promoting educational viewing events at the National Parks.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren, artist, astronomer, photographer, professor, and national parks “Night Sky Ambassador” is one of those multifaceted people who shares his knowledge with others, giving us all an appreciation for the world around us, and beyond.  His 2012 poster series first spread in a colorful and compelling way word of ranger naturalist programs at the U.S. National Parks Service, including the solar eclipse.  Dr. Nordgren created a series of retro-style travel posters beginning in 2005 exploring a “what if” of planetary travel referring to a “United Nations Department of the Exterior.”  His 2014 Milky Way “Half the Park is After Dark” posters stand out as uniquely magical.  All feature a blue and white color scheme, a national park location, and a constellation or star view visible overhead.  Although they immediately recall–and were inspired by–the famous Art Deco Works Progress Administration and Department of the Interior posters from the 1930s-1940s discussed previously here at borg.com, his 44 designs form their own museum gallery of wonder.

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Dr. Nordgren’s latest project?  The August 21, 2017, solar eclipse.  According to Dr. Nordgren, “Every single man, woman and child in North America will be in the shadow of the moon together on that day and never before has a total solar eclipse passed over such a densely populated country for over 2000 miles.” Dr. Nordgren has created a new set of poster images, featuring 22 designs of varying style influences, each highlighting the total solar eclipse coming this year on August 21–not to appear again until April 8, 2024.  As the appropriately themed mod style poster for Oregon declares, this will be the first such eclipse since 1979.  Dr. Nordgren’s Willamette Valley design evokes those colorful fruit crate labels used throughout the early and mid-20th century.

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Felix Leiter. 

He’s James Bond’s American CIA counterpart, played onscreen by more actors than have played James Bond himself: Hawaii Five-O’s Jack Lord (Dr. No, 1962), Cec Linder (Goldfinger, 1964), Rik Van Nutter (Thunderball, 1965), Norman Burton (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971), David Hedison (Live and Let Die, 1973, and Licence to Kill, 1989), Bernie Casey (The Living Daylights, 1987), John Terry (Never Say Never Again, 1983), and most recently Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, 2006, and Quantum of Solace, 2008).  Leiter was a key player in six Ian Fleming novels–Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and The Man with the Golden Gun–where he drove a Studillac, which was a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine.

Leiter gets his first solo adventure ever this month in his own series, Felix Leiter, from Dynamite Comics.  James Robinson (Starman, Scarlet Witch) is writing the series with artwork by Aaron Campbell (The Shadow, Uncanny).  Issue #1 features a cover by Mike Perkins and Andy Taylor and an alternate cover by Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd.  Leiter’s first appearance in comic books was in Mike Grell’s Permission to Die, reviewed here at borg.com.

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The new series finds Leiter in Japan, where he is pursuing Alena Davoff, a woman he has a close past with.  She happens to be a Russian agent.  He’s a detective since the loss of his hand and leg, but the CIA pulls him back into the mix with a Connery-esque Bond as Leiter pursues Davoff.

Check out a preview for Issue #1 of Felix Leiter, courtesy of Dynamite, after the cut.

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artr1

Review by C.J. Bunce

What many don’t realize about movie concept art books is that, from the best of them, you can learn more about the filmmaking design process from the accompanying text than from the images selected.  Make no mistake–The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is chock full of many stages of concept artwork.  But what unfolds over its more than 250 pages is a rare peek behind the scenes at director Gareth Edwards, Lucasfilm executives, and the art design team as they figured out what story to tell in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

We learned last year in Roger Christian’s Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien (reviewed here at borg.com), that George Lucas knew immediately he wanted to create the look of Star Wars as a sort of documentary, a historical account of a long ago event.  To that end he tapped Christian to create environments made from real world components.  As explained in The Art of Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards knew he needed to emulate that style of filmmaking and overall look, and his route was using a readily available team of concept artists to create the visuals of Rogue One from day one, even partnering with artists to create the ideas for the film’s story elements in advance of a completed story.  These elements included featuring a female lead, a rebel strike squad like that in Force 10 from Navarone, a key droid team member, a battle reflective of Vietnam, a battle reflective of Paris during World War II, and a dark planet for the home of Darth Vader.  Edwards wanted to create an echo of Luke Skywalker’s hero–who wished he could join the far away war–with Jyn Erso, a heroine raised in a life of war who only wished to escape it.  The proof of the efficacy of Edwards’ process is in the result.  Has Edwards begun a new way of making movies, and will future filmmakers take this tack?

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“I look at Star Wars as a real historical event that took place in the universe, and George Lucas was there with his crew to capture it.  And now we’re there with our cameras and our crew, filming as it passed through us,” Edwards says in Abrams Books’ latest film art book, The Art of Rogue One.  “When you look like you’ve come in with a plan, it can feel too prescribed and a bit false–but when it looks like you’re capturing the images, like you’re watching them unfold in real time, it just feels more real.  I’m always trying to find that little thing that knocks you off your path–the idea or the ingredient that we didn’t come in trying to create, the curveball that makes the story feel unique.” Edwards directive was similarly unique:  How the artists remembered the images of seeing Star Wars for the first time became a more important focus than copying the look of the environments exactly from the original Star Wars source material.

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pudi

No doubt loads of fans from different areas of interest will be all over a new NBC series coming in February.  First and foremost, each of the lead actors of the new superhero series Powerless have their own following.  One of Hollywood’s highest paid young actresses, Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, High School Musical) has the lead role of Emily, who works in Research and Development for Wayne Enterprises as the Bruce Wayne company develops products to protect regular citizens from the kind of havoc wreaked by Superman in Man of Steel. 

Then there’s Alan Tudyk, star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Firefly–two of the most outspoken and loyal fanbases of any franchises in any genre–who plays the office boss.  Fan favorite Community’s beloved Danny Pudi is a co-worker on the show.  And securing yet another fanbase, Powerless is a DC Comics tie-in, featuring plenty of references to the pantheon of superheroes.

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If it can only deliver some good humor and have some solid writing that is up to the quality of the cast, the series should be a hit.  But don’t confuse this Powerless with the Marvel Comics mini-series from more than a decade ago.  Also, don’t confuse this series with the Powerless previewed this past summer.  Same actors, similar roles, but the storyline has obviously been significantly reworked.  Check out a preview for Powerless followed by the preview for the series before it was reworked:

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Anyone who has ever played with action figures has had the thought.  What would it be like to be as small as the figures and roam around with them in their vehicles, or what if they were as large as life and roamed around with us?  Daniel Picard enjoyed collecting the high-end, Sideshow Collectibles 12-inch “statue” figures.  He was also a photographer.  So Picard blended them together and posted them online.  He then sent some of his photos to Sideshow Collectibles’ management and the result is Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard, a hardcover collection of his creations, published by Insight Editions.

What makes Picard’s photographs work is the “magic” of lining up light and shadow so that his photographs of real world situations blend seamlessly with spliced-in images of 12-inch figures.  The Sideshow Collectibles figures are exclusively used in this collection–these are the figures that sell for hundreds of dollars because of their highly detailed production quality.  (Sideshow made the borg.com Best of 2016 list here last year, and we discussed the Star Wars line last year here).  So this line of figures was ideal for Picard’s project.

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The situations Picard selects, the clever humor, the juxtaposition of the fantastical and the mundane, all combine to make Picard’s work stand out from the standard attempts at similar combinations you might find on the Internet.

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atari

If you didn’t live through life with an original Pong video game console or the groundbreaking Atari 2600, then you missed out on the beginning of the video game phenomenon.  Coinciding with the advent of the coin-op video game, the home version ultimately sold 30 million units, making Atari the legendary brand it became to this day.  And it all started with a couple of visionaries and an idea to get a dot on a television screen to be moved using the vertical and horizontal hold.  The history of Atari is interwoven with the early history of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza and gaming parlors, creators who would leave to form competitor Activision, and countless others who finally get their story told in Tim Lapetino’s book, Art of Atari.  We have a preview of the book for borg.com readers below, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

If you’re like many, including Lapetino, you likely threw away the boxes that housed the video game cartridges to your Atari 2600 immediately after getting the game home.  If you missed out on the Atari games altogether, like classic games Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Pole Position, Jungle Hunt, and hundreds more, you may not be aware of the role the box art played for early video game buyers.  The artwork on the boxes was much closer to the video game realities of today than the original games of the past, which frequently were as simple as boxes and line barriers with the same dot representing a football, a cannonball, a bullet, or a laser bolt.  But, as the designers interviewed in the book recall, it just didn’t matter.  It didn’t really, as the new form of gameplay was exciting in its own right.  Yet the box art is memorable for many, providing an easy recall to every game from Atari you once owned in an instant flashback.

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Lapetino provides interviews with former Atari designers and staff, including those who created everything from the games, to the consoles, and the marketing materials that sold it all.  The artists who created the box art are identified and featured in their own sections.  No doubt Atari fans will likely encounter games they’ve never seen, including countless movie tie-ins.  You might recall the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, but how about Superman, Dukes of Hazzard, Pigs in Space, and Gremlins?

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The Wizard of Oz–whether or not you may be a fan of L. Frank Baum’s classic book or one of the best fantasy films of all time, you may want to tune in for a new NBC series airing Friday nights this winter.  Featuring well-known actors Joely Richardson and Vincent D’Onofrio, Emerald City stars Adria Arjona as twenty-year-old Dorothy Gale, who is sucked into a tornado and transported to the otherworldly Land of Oz.  D’Onofrio plays the famous Man Behind the Curtain who runs Oz.

But don’t expect the bright and cheery world of the 1939 production or something like you’d see from Disney.  Look for a dark world in this modern-day retelling.  It’s gritty and somewhat dystopian as seen in the first trailer for the series, below.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Gerran Howell and Jordan Loughran co-star in the series.  Series writers and executive producers include Shaun Cassidy, David Schulner, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, Matthew Arnold, and Josh Friedman.  Dhandwar directs the series.

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Star Wars fans take note: Trisha Biggar, costume designer for the prequels and featured in the landmark book Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, has created the costumes for the series.  Keep Padme Amidala in mind when watching the wardrobes of the various featured witches.

Check out this preview for Emerald City followed by several character posters released by Universal to promote the series:

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borg-label hall-of-fame-label

Masters of the Universe.  Red Dwarf.  Mortal Kombat.  And we revisit Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

Let’s start this year’s borg.com Hall of Fame ceremony by talking a little about who is NOT in the Hall of Fame who might come close if borgs were more loosely defined.  We still haven’t included the non-organic: like automatons, androids, or robots.  Think Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation before he met the queen in Star Trek: First Contact–despite his perfectly life-like appearance.  For the bulk of the series Data was always an android, not a cyborg.  He’s just a highly advanced C-3PO–until First Contact. 

Droids from Star Wars, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robot B-9 from Lost in Space or Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, the Autobots and Decepticons of Transformers, the police force of THX-1138, Box in Logan’s Run, the perfectly human appearing kid-like star of D.A.R.Y.L., the several automatons of episode after episode of The Twilight Zone, Beta in The Last Starfighter, Tron and Flynn and the other microscopic, human-like bits of data in Tron, Hellboy II’s Golden Army, the future Iowa Highway Patrolman in Star Trek 2009 (we assume he’s just wearing some police safety mask), Rosie the maid in The Jetsons, Hogey the Roguey from Red Dwarf, Marvin the Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, X-Men’s Sentinels, Lal and Juliana Tainer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the title character of CHAPPiE, or Iron Giant, despite their human-like or bipedal nature, none are actual borgs because they lack biological matter, living cells, or the like.

The same applies for the robotic hosts in Westworld–Michael Crichton’s original was clear these were merely automaton robots and we’ve seen nothing from 2016’s HBO series to show that has changed (even the NY Times got it wrong).  Which explains why The Stepford Wives aren’t on the list, or Fembots, either from The Bionic Woman or the Austin Powers series, or the Buffybot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So who’s in?

Here is Round 4, the twenty-eight 2016 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order, some from 2016 and others from the past, bringing the roster count to 134 individuals and groups:

First up is Time, yep… Time itself.  From Alice Through the Looking Glass, a powerful Father Time-esque human/clockwork hybrid who rules over Underland–

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From George Lucas’s original Force-wielding character as envisioned by Mike Mayhew: Kane Starkiller from Marvel Comics’ alternate universe story, The Star Wars:

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The Major, from 2017’s Ghost in the Shell:

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Max Steel got his own movie in 2016:

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Steel hails from the Mattel action figure who received multiple super powers due to an accidental infusion of nanobots:

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Cave Carson from the update of the classic DC Comics comic book series spelunker, the new series Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye:

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Although he was a charter member of the borg.com Hall of Fame, Darth Vader returned in Rogue One, providing some new images of the classic borg:

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More of our inductees, after the cut…

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