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Category: Comics & Books


Three hundred channels and nothing on television to watch this weekend?  Before John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen on the original series The Flash, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno starred in the best superhero television series since The Six Million Dollar Man in The Incredible Hulk.  For five seasons, from 1977 to 1982, The Incredible Hulk broke new ground on television, an early step in the history of superheroes coming to life on the screen.  This weekend Robert Rodriquez’s El Rey Network is hosting a marathon of the entire series run.

Originally airing Friday nights on CBS 40 years ago, The Incredible Hulk would be nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one for Mariette Hartley’s performance as Dr. David Bruce Banner’s wife.  Years before Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett would wander the map attempting to help people in need on Quantum Leap, David Banner was doing similar good deeds, hitchhiking across the country, a lone scientist trying to find a way “to control the raging spirit that dwells within him,” caused by exposure to gamma radiation thanks to the mind of writer Stan Lee and pen of Jack Kirby.

Look for plenty of early performances by actors that would later appear in well-known genre roles, like Simon & Simon’s Gerald McRaney, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Diana Muldaur and Mark Lenard, Deep Space Nine’s Marc Alaimo, Robert O’Reilly, Andrew Robinson, and Rosalind Chao, Lassie and Battlestar Galactica’s Anne Lockhart, Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson, Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Julie Adams, Castle’s Susan Sullivan, and WKRP in Cincinnati’s Loni Anderson and Gordon Jump.

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If you thought audiences may be souring on the onslaught of television series based on superheroes and comic books, you’d be wrong.  Hollywood is fully engaged in the realm of continuing to adapt comic books to the small screen.  Along with all the current series moving into next seasons this year, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Gotham, iZombie, Riverdale, Supergirl, and Wynonna Earp, you’ll have at least three more new series featuring superheroes to check out this Fall.  Check out previews for all three below after the break.

Black Lightning is the latest character from DC Comics coming to the CW.  Cress Williams plays the title character who is Jefferson Pierce by day.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning Issue #1 40 years ago.  Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by Trevor Von Eedon.  Black Lightning also stars China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, and Christine Adams.

The Gifted hails from a pretty powerful TV combo: Bryan Singer, known for everything from House, M.D., to The X-Men movie series, is co-producing the show with series creator Matt Nix, showrunner on the successful series Burn Notice.  The series stars Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker (Angel) as parents who take their family on the run after they discover their children’s mutant abilities.  The series producers have said it will not intersect with the X-Men movies, but you’ll see familiar characters like Blink, Polaris, Thunderbird, and Eclipse.  The show co-stars Burn Notice’s Coby Bell, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont, Blair Redford, Natalie Alyn Lind, and Percy Hynes White.  The show will air on Fox.

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Is this a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?

Would Aliens–that epic sci-fi war movie sequel to the groundbreaking sci-fi horror tale Alien–have been half as great without the performance of Bill Paxton as Colonial Marine Private Hudson?  Tens of thousands of fans came out to celebrate Paxton and his performance in the film when news spread of his passing this February.  Always willing to recite a line from one of his movies for fans, you have to think he would have loved a read like Aliens: Bug Hunt, a new anthology from Titan Books.  Aliens: Bug Hunt hones in on the gritty band of spacefaring soldiers as 19 authors share 15 new short stories of the Alien universe.

The new release, just after the Aliens 30th anniversary and nicely timed to this month’s theatrical release of Alien: Covenant, provides stories before and after Aliens, some sci-fi, some horror, action and drama, or a mix of each.  One story tells the tale of Corporal Hicks before the events in Aliens, and a personal mission to locate the cause of his wife’s death.  Another story details an operation of the Marines in an encounter with a hostile alien menace unrelated to the Xenomorphs.  One story provides insight into the synthetic Bishop and how he came to be the determined and decisive crew member we met in the series.

The anthology was edited by Jonathan Maberry with new works by Maberry and a “usual suspects” list of tie-in book writers and more.  Dan Abnett, Rachel Caine, Larry Correia, Keith R.A. DeCandido, David Farland, Matt Forbeck, Ray Garton, Christopher Golden, Heather Graham, Brian Keene, Paul Kuppenberg, Tim Lebbon, Marina J. Lostetter, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Mike Resnick, and Scott Sigler contributed stories.

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Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy–Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command–excited a generation of Star Wars fans when the original trilogy was in the past and no future movies were planned.  It’s greatest value was in its continuation of our favorite characters: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the droids.  But it also introduced two key players: Mara Jade aka the Emperor’s Hand who would one day become the object of Luke Skywalker’s affection, and a blue-skinned, white-garbed officer of the Imperial Navy called Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Thrawn became part of the post-Disney canon in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, which reflected the foreboding leader of Zahn’s original books.  This month Zahn brings Thrawn’s rise to power into Star Wars canon again in his new novel Star Wars: Thrawn.

Thrawn is a military overview of the Nazi Germany-inspired Imperial Navy, recounting an exiled, strategy-savvy “Chiss” (Thrawn’s alien race) who uses his unique abilities to climb the ladder and assume greater power as part of the growing Empire following the events of Revenge of the Sith.  Zahn includes first person narration by Thrawn in both introductory chapter paragraphs and observations inserted into the text as he keys in on descriptive details of every encounter.  Thrawn is Zahn’s attempt at a Holmesian genius, a calculating survivor who still must rely on a young cadet (his Watson) named Eli Vanto, used primarily for his ability to translate both words and culture.  Unlike Zahn’s original trilogy, Thrawn feels more enmeshed in Star Wars prequel storytelling than the original trilogy movies.  By showing Thrawn’s backstory as an exiled leader who finds his way out, Thrawn also reads as if Zahn was attempting to make Thrawn the Khan (a la Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) of the Star Wars universe.  Unfortunately we don’t really get to see Thrawn in any confrontation with a powerful foe as Khan saw in Star Trek II, although he is potentially as intelligent and crafty as Star Trek’s Khan.

   

It’s Thrawn’s backstory before the events in the Thrawn novel that appear to contain the action and intrigue missing here–Thrawn both before his exile and during his exile sound like the makings of a great book.  Instead here the focus on Thrawn’s own quirks, like a fascination for Clone Wars era technology, and Thrawn’s awkward attempts to navigate the lower ranks of the Imperial chain of command, make for a slow read.  This is in part due to an unnecessary but lengthy sideline story of the struggles of Ahrinda Pryce, who will become a governor of Lothal in Star Wars Rebels.  Pryce’s story takes over a fair chunk of this 448-page novel.  The time given to Pryce and Vanto pull away some much needed action, intrigue, and suspense.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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One thing missing from the latest round of Star Wars toys is the miniature catalogs that were included in playsets and vehicles back in the 1970s and 1980s.  These were not only features of Star Wars toys.  Other lines, such as LEGO brick sets, included similar booklets.  As a kid you either learned about the next round of Kenner toys from commercials tucked between Saturday morning cartoons or the big deal for all kids each year–the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs.

Along with the inserts and catalogs, kids would learn about new toys from other sources, like advertisements in comic books, magazines, and even local newspapers.  It’s these advertisements that Star Wars fan and chronicler Philip Reed has collected for his next book about toys.  Now fully funded is his latest Kickstarter campaign, A Galaxy of Action Figure Savings–a companion to last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories–a 96-page hardcover book loaded with more newspaper ads, toy photos, commercial screenshots, and images of related marketing materials.

We’ve read Reed’s eighth of now nine books on the history of toys, last year’s Collect These Figures and Accessories, an unofficial overview interspersed with trivia and close-up photos of marketing materials and the actual trilogy tie-in toys spanning 1977 to 1986.  It’s easy to spend hours gawking at these artifacts of the past again, comparing prices, and studying those items that may or may not have made it to store shelves.  But fair warning, comparing the costs of action figures to today’s prices is a bit depressing.

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Excelsior!  Legendary comic book writer, editor, actor, producer and publisher Stan Lee will be making a special appearance at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines tonight and Saturday, May 20.  The most iconic and well-known of all comic book legends and the spark that lit up the current heyday of comic books and comic book movies, Mr. Lee has done it all–the man behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and hundreds of other characters, he is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.  This weekend he will greet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, and conduct an interactive Q&A at the Iowa Events Center as Wizard World Comic Con celebrates its third year in Des Moines.

Mr. Lee will be joining fan-favorite genre actor John Cusack, another late addition to the headliners appearing at this year’s event.  Cusack’s impact on a generation of moviegoers can’t be overstated.  Most first saw him as a kid in Sixteen Candles and Stand By Me.  He became a household name in teen flicks like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead…, and One Crazy Summer, but it was Say Anything… that made him a star as the lovable Lloyd Dobler, the boyfriend with the boom box.  His adult drama work resulted in many cult classics, like Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Pushing Tin.  Films like Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, and Robert Altman’s The Player proved he was the real deal, and later films High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine proved he’s willing to return to his roots as the everyman good guy that audiences love.

John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the baseball film classic Eight Men Out.

This weekend Cusack joins a big pantheon of celebrities including Eight Men Out co-star Charlie Sheen, plus Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, Supergirl), James Marsters and Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th), Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), and more.

The convention will be held at the Iowa Events Center at 730 Third Street in Des Moines, beginning May 19, 2017, opening at 4 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A full list of Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines programming is available here (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).  For more on the event, visit the convention website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Shado–one of the best supporting DC Comics characters in the 75-year history of Green Arrow–is again front-and-center in this week’s re-release of the classic 1990s storyline, in trade paperback for the first time.  Green Arrow: The Hunt for the Red Dragon, reprints Green Arrow Issues #63-72, featuring long-time story writer Mike Grell with artwork by Rick Hoberg and inks by John Nyberg.

When a man appears with a gift for Oliver Queen, he leaves Dinah back in Seattle and takes off for Japan in search of a woman with a red dragon tattoo, his ex-lover and foe, Shado.  The gift?  The very same film prop bow used by Errol Flynn in the 1938 film classic, The Adventures of Robin Hood, a film with special meaning for Queen.  But what is behind the gift, and why this mission to give Shado a large sum of money?  After Queen finds Shado they both discover a darker plot, and a villain ripped from the pages of the national crime news in the early 1990s.

   

Shado was created by Mike Grell and first appeared in Grell’s landmark series Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  A modified version of the character appeared in CW’s Arrow.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

More than 100 comic book artists came together over the past year to create what is one of the best joint art projects featuring superheroes that has come out of the industry.  And it’s all about the biggest superheroine of all.  Some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Wonder Woman, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a 75th Anniversary DC Comics Wonder Woman blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to, and in effect pays forward comic book creators that came before them.

It’s called the Wonder Woman 100 Project.  All proceeds of the auction of the original artwork will go to the Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out the comic book industry by contributing funds to individuals and their families in the event of medical and financial crises.  Most of the comic creators the fund helps were piecemeal workers in their careers over the past decades or those without any kind of retirement program.

    

And for those who can’t afford the original artwork, the Hero Initiative is creating a hardcover and softcover edition compiling all the covers that will be for sale in June 2017, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll see some of the very best Wonder Woman images you’ll ever find.  Many are from well-known artists, but some of the finest works are showcased by more recent artists entering the industry.

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On the Big Wheel.  On the bedroom wall.  On the Trapper Keeper.  On the toy box.  On the dresser.  Everywhere your parents didn’t want you to put ’em.  If you were a kid in the 1970s and 1980s and you collected Topps Star Wars trading cards, your sticker collection might look like this today:

Because the stickers that came one per pack ended up going anywhere kids are going to think they should go.  Or you might have kept your stickers intact–maybe you even made a complete collection of the trading cards–but, because of the nature of random inserts, your sticker collection looked like this:

If this describes you, then this new throwback book is just for you.

As a supplement to the series of books chronicling the original Star Wars trilogy trading cards (reviewed previously at borg.com here), the stickers are now available in a single volume from Abrams, Topps, and Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Topps Classic Sticker Book.  Reprinting a selection of the original sticker images from these card sets as removable stickers, kids young and old can use them anywhere or place them on one of five double-sided pullout posters included.

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