Category: Comics & Books


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Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

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Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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Tomorrow IDW Publishing is beginning a new bi-monthly anthology series, Star Trek Waypoint.  And we have a preview for borg.com readers from Issue #1 below.  The series is billed as a 50th anniversary look across all the Star Trek incarnations, and it features a host of writers we haven’t seen before in IDW comics.  Issue #1 includes a Star Trek: The Next Generation story featuring Geordi and Data and an Original Series story featuring Uhura.  Fans of the Star Trek Countdown prequel series should take note:  Although the anthology stories aren’t specifically pegged in the canon timeline, writer Donny Cates and artist Mack Chater’s story “Puzzles” feels like a continuation of the Star Trek 2009 prequel story, after Spock and Nero return to the past and create what we now know as the “Kelvin timeline.”

Star Trek Countdown (reviewed here back in 2011) was one of the comic medium’s most fascinating stories so far, revealing Captain Picard working again with Data, with new Starfleet uniforms and an engrossing future.  Similar uniforms appear in “Puzzles.”  It’s an exciting starting point for fans who want to see Star Trek continue to move into the future beyond past TV series.  The second story in Star Trek Waypoint features Uhura, and has the look and feel of authentic, classic Star Trek episodes.  Sandra Lanz serves dual roles on that story, titled “Daylily,” as both writer and artist.

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In November Issue #2 will feature two more Original Series stories.  Look for a preview here in two months.  You can look forward to fan favorite Star Trek novelists Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore creating an homage to the classic Gold Key Star Trek comics (remember the great photo covers?), featuring Kirk and Spock on an uncharted planet.  Artwork will be provided by Star Trek comic book artist Gordon Purcell.  The second story is a “red shirt” story, written by author Sam Maggs with art by Star Trek and Doctor Who artist Rachael Stott.

Check out this great preview to Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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suicide-squad-figures

A new line of Suicide Squad action figures from the Funko ReAction line is coming soon from the toy line that has provided fans of the 1970s Kenner action figures everything from Jaws to Gremlins and Alien, from Big Trouble in Little China to Back to the Future and Terminator, and from The Nightmare Before Christmas to CW’s Arrow.  Check here at borg.com for a look back to many of Funko’s variety of licenses.

Unlike Funko’s more popular bobblehead Pop! line of toys, these 3 3/4-inch figures, which have added articulation at elbows and knees to the classic format, can be played with in conjunction with countless other toy lines from the past 40 years.  But mainly this means the many ships and environment toys from the classic Star Wars toys from Kenner.  Want to see Harley Quinn rescue the Joker on the bridge of the Death Star?  Want to see Batman take out Greedo in the Cantina at Mos Eisley?  This new collection of figures can help you make it happen.

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Entertainment Earth has scooped Funko’s own corporate online catalog, posting for sale seven of what may be an even wider collection of characters from the movie.  These are available now for pre-order.  The first release will feature Harley Quinn, The Joker, Katana, Enchantress, Dead Shot, and Killer Croc–plus a Batman figure.  We don’t know yet whether we’ll see Funko release figures for El Diablo, Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, or Slipknot.

Click on any of the individual images above and below to see more detail on these figures and get your pre-order in at Entertainment Earth.

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Where are they now?

After spending nearly 11,000 workyears on the Voyager space program so far, or one-third of the estimated effort required to build the great pyramid at Giza, the Voyager space probes are currently in the “Heliosheath” – the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, more than 19 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 1, and 9.5 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 2.  Thirty-nine years ago this past August 22, Voyager 2 was launched and a few weeks later on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 was launched.  Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN), according to NASA.

The focus of the original mission for the Voyager probes was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn.  After making several discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and photographing the intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended, with Voyager 2 going on to explore Uranus and Neptune–the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets.  The current mission–Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM)–is exploring the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain.  In 2008 the probes were two of only a handful of objects that man had successfully sent beyond the edge of our solar system.

What the Voyager program did that no other program has done is send a distinct and comprehensive message to be intercepted at some point by a hopefully intelligent and friendly lifeform somewhere beyond our own solar system.  The means was a golden record and record player.  The music and sounds found on that record are the subject of a current Kickstarter campaign, seeking to release an LP version of the Voyager record to the public for the first time.  Back in the 1980s you could buy a limited box set that included the book Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record (an indispensable Voyager reference) as well as a CD of the complete music, languages and sounds and a CD-ROM of the photos included on the space record.  We first discussed the golden record and CD-ROM set here at borg.com five years ago.  Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth book and disc set is still available from time to time at Amazon from $100 on up for the deluxe setThe book alone is also available and is inexpensive despite being long out of print.

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One of the standout artists of the past 20 years, British artist Jock’s work has appeared on comic book covers and movie posters, and his concept art has provided the vision behind the look of movies like Dredd, Ex Machina, Battleship, and in the works is next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.  A new high-quality hardcover from Insight Editions available this month is showcasing some of his best images.  The Art of Jock establishes a new standard for photographic reproductions, with some of the very best color and crisp detail found in any recent coffee table edition we’ve reviewed.  It features hundreds of illustrations from a creator really only at the early stages of his career.

Born in Scotland as Mark Simpson, Jock broke into comics with the British sci-fi comic book 2000 A.D., and today is an internationally-recognized artist and Eisner Award nominee.  We’ve seen his work in DC Comics series like Green Arrow and Batman, in Marvel series like Savage Wolverine and Daredevil, in the Image series Wytches, and in Vertigo series Scalped and Losers.  Highlights of early sketches and final versions of his work on these series can be found in this book in large, full color pages.  Fans of Jock will love the many original comic book covers and interior art included.

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The Art of Jock was written by DC Comics editor Will Dennis, with commentary by Battleship director Peter Berg, and DC Comics’ Jim Lee and Scott Snyder.  But the most valuable insight is provided by the artist himself.  Jock recounts his process and critiques his own work, comparing his style between phases of his own development.

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Next week Riverdale’s most famous band is getting back together.

Archie Comics is releasing a new Josie and the Pussycats monthly series.  Much like its release of its hit Betty & Veronica series this summer, Josie & Co. is getting a premiere with plenty of cover variants with works by J. Scott Campbell, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Veronica Fish, Francesco Francavilla, Jessica Garvey, Robert Hack with Steve Downer, Gisele Lagace with Shouri, Alitha Martinez with Kelly Fitzpatrick, Wally McNair, Sam Payne, and Marguerite Sauvage.  The standard cover was drawn by Audrey Mok.  Andre Szymanowicz is providing the colors.  Archie Comics will also release a blank sketch cover version.

Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio are scripting the series.

Josie, Valerie, and Melody make their current debut after Afterlife With Archie’s dark look at the band in the haunted parallel universe of that title’s October issue.  Plus, the CW Network has its own new Archie series premiering in only a few weeks–Riverdale stars K.J. Apa as Archie, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Lili Reinhart as Betty, Ross Butler as Reggie, Casey Cott as Kevin, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.  And of course, the band is in the series as well, with Josie played by Ashleigh Murray, Valerie is played by Hayleau Law, and Melody is played by Asha Brom.  Luke Perry, Lochlyn Munro, and Madchen Amick will also star in the series.

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While you’re waiting for the TV series, check out these covers to Josie and the Pussycats: 

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i-am-jane-goodall

Do you remember your first book?  Was it Grover and the Monster at the End of This Book?  Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore’s Birthday?  A Child’s Garden of Verses?  De Angeli’s Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes?  The Pokey Little Puppy?  Milton the Early Riser?  Horton Hears a Who?  The Little Golden Book of Manners?  The Five Chinese Brothers?  The Ugly Duckling?  Curious George Goes to the Hospital?  I remember all of these (all recommended), but am not sure which was my very first.  A Child’s Garden of Verses was my first exposure to 3D via its magical lenticular cover.  I’ve read them all years later and they have much in common–compassion and respect for others and yourself is a common theme of them all.

Throughout the past year Brad Meltzer, noted fiction and non-fiction author and television personality (and DC Comics writer for the Identity Crisis and Green Arrow series) joined former Marvel Comics artist Christopher Eliopoulos to produce the Ordinary People Change the World series of books for young readers from Dial/Penguin/Random House.  Each of these could–or should–be your child, your nephew, niece, grandchild, or other young friend’s first book.  The latest, released this month, feature Dr. Jane Goodall and President George Washington.  As the holidays get closer, make a note of I Am Jane Goodall.   It’s a storybook written in an autobiographical style incorporating actual quotes from the noted scientist, environmentalist, and animal rights advocate, and belongs at the top of our recommendation list for today’s young readers.

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Meltzer and Dr. Goodall have gone back to young Goodall’s decisions and thinking as a child to relate to readers her influences, desires, and dreams, and how she went about carving a path to change the world.  Eliopoulos draws Dr. Goodall as an adorable girl throughout.  We meet her first stuffed chimp named Jubilee, and witness her thinking about moving to Africa to study chimpanzees at a young age, then actually saving the money to go to Kenya at 23 to visit the animals, meet Dr. Louis Leakey and eventually work for him, then to go on and live among the animals and learn more about communication and primates than anyone before her.  The story is sweet, inspiring, and beautifully written and drawn.

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It’s a useful story tool when used right: The historical talisman presented to a modern character who uses the power of that talisman to do harm or save the world.  We’ve seen it throughout The Librarian, Warehouse 13, Ray Bradbury Theater, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander, Witchblade, Wynonna Earp, The Shannara Chronicles–it’s everywhere, and it’s timeless.  Frank Cho uses the same method to drive the story forward in his new five-issue, creator-owned, limited monthly series Skybourne.

Released this month from BOOM! Studios, Skybourne has what every comic book reader could want–Cho created the covers, the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new action heroine.  The title character Grace Skybourne has been compared to James Bond–she has Daniel Craig’s Bond’s lightning reflexes and ability to level a room with her little finger.  And she’s an agent every woman wants to be and every man wants to be with.  So the Bond comparison rings true.  Cho used covers originally intended for DC Comics’s Wonder Woman series for this series, and it may very well be true that Grace Skybourne–and Cho’s series–is the Wonder Woman series we all wish he’d write.

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In Issue #1 we meet Grace Skybourne and witness her abilities firsthand as she eliminates one baddie Terminator style and gracefully slips through a cover-to-cover fight scene straight out of John Carpenter’s They Live.  And because this is a Frank Cho project–being tough doesn’t mean she can’t be gorgeous and feminine along the way.  She’s searching for the story’s MacGuffin: King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.  Be prepared for some surprises.  Most of her foes take her for granted, but not all.  Cho’s choreography of combat and layouts are clean, simple, and as superb as you’d expect.  And his humor is back as well.  Color work is nicely rendered by Marcio Menyz. Continue reading

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We’ve seen some celebrities turn to the unlikely medium of comic books to tell their stories recently.  First, we saw Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels turn to comic books to tell his own story under the DMC label.  Then Congressman John Lewis wrote a graphic novel about the civil rights movement called March–winning countless awards this year.  Now basketball legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has adapted Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes into the next best steampunk comic book series.

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook, co-created with writer Raymond Obstfeld, artist Joshua Cassara, colorist Luis Guerrero, and lettered by Simon Bowland, is the ultimate mash-up of 19th century science fiction and fantasy motifs.  Sherlock’s smarter brother has been kidnapped by Queen Victoria, tasked with deciphering a building full of broken doomsday machines capable of doing the unthinkable.  Think Warehouse 13, if a suave Brit (think James Bond), with a quirky analytical mind (think Doctor Who) is plunged into a world-ending event and an impossible task to solve.

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Mycroft Holmes reads like Bill Willingham’s Legenderry–A Steampunk Adventure and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only with five issues to speed through the story the action is quick, the dialogue is brief, and the banter is witty and fun.  Abdul-Jabbar, who became a fan of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories early in his NDA career, grew to become a connoisseur of 19th century fiction including Holmes and his infamous brother, enough to write the novel Mycroft Holmes–A Novel with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, published last year.   Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook takes Mycroft on a parallel-world adventure from the Mycroft of Abdul-Jabbar’s novel.

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Some of our favorite books we’ve reviewed at borg.com are the pulp noir novels from Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime imprint.  We’ve read the obscure-but-excellent, previously unpublished or out-of-print works from the likes of Stephen King, Gore Vidal, Ed McBain, Michael Crichton, and more, all from one publishing house.  Next month Hard Case Crime is turning to the comic book medium to offer new, serialized stories that could have come straight from early 20th century magazines.  And we have previews below for borg.com readers.

First up is Triggerman, Issue #1, available in comic book stores this week.  It’s a Prohibition era story from producer/screenwriter/director giant Walter Hill (Deadwood, Red Heat, Aliens film series, Last Man Standing, Geronimo, Rustler’s Rhapsody, Crossroads, 48 Hrs, Brewster’s Millions, The Getaway, The Long Riders), French writer Matz, and the artist known as Jef, who supplies some evocative, classic pulp style imagery.  It’s billed as a Lawless meets Bonnie & Clyde story.  Fans of Road to Perdition will love this series.

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Peepland, Issue #1, begins a semi-autobiographical, neo-noir tale from novelists Christa Faust (Money Shot, Nightmare on Elm Street) & Gary Phillips (The Underbelly, The Rinse).  Peepland is billed as Taxi Driver meets Goodfellas, with gorgeous art from Andrea Camerini (Il Troio).  Fans of Howard Chaykin’s Satellite Sam should check out this new series.

Here are preview pages and cover art, courtesy of Hard Case Crime:
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