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Category: Con Culture


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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One hundred comic book artists have come together over the past year to create the next great joint art project, this time featuring the fan favorite characters of the Adventure Time animated and comic book series.  Last year Wonder Woman was featured for her 75th anniversary.  This year a new group of some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Adventure Time, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a BOOM! Studios Kaboom imprint Adventure Time 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 The Adventure Time Get-a-Sketch 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 beginning May 30, 2018, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll find some of the very best Adventure Time-inspired sketch images you’ve ever seen in this group.  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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Review by Art Schmidt

This week the team over at Wizards of the Coast that produced the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is coming out with the newest addition to the line of hardcover books which make up the rules and playable content for the game.  Fifth Edition is by far the most popular and widely-played edition of the grandfather of all role-playing games for the last few decades and may be the most popular edition ever.  This newest book is titled Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, and its primary function is to provide nearly 150 new monsters for use in the game’s adventures, but the book itself is so much more than that.  Previous editions have focused their monster books on stuffing as many creatures into them as possible.  The more monsters, the more players will find the book useful, and (presumably) the more copies will sell.  What the current team has excelled at is deviating away from that “more stats are better” mentality, and instead focuses on the “why” of the monsters instead of the “how many”.  And Wizards of the Coast continues to pull this off beautifully in Tome of Foes.

Whereas previous D&D editions would have had the Monster Manual, and then Monster Manual II, followed by Monster Manual III, etc., 5th Edition has the requisite Monster Manual (reviewed here) but then wowed fans with Volo’s Guide to Monsters (reviewed here).  Essentially a book full of monsters, Volo’s deviated from previous norms and expectations in that it provided a wealth of information (re: text) about the monsters, their origins, histories, societies, clans and behaviors rather than just their hit points and ever-more-creative ways to wreck a party of characters.  And people bought in, big time.  The stories behind why mind flayers eat brains and how they manage to have a functioning society, or about the different kinds of giants and how drastically different their societies were and how they view their own roles amongst giants and their gods, were fascinating, and provided many a DM (and player) ideas for running their campaigns and players.

Limited edition, alternate-art cover by Vance Kelly.

At its core Tome of Foes still is a book full of monsters, but the background information it provides is just as deep and satisfying as that found in Volo’s.  The chapters on The Blood War and the Elves are especially valuable in providing players with more sparks for their imagination.  There are many new player options available in Tome of Foes in the form of playable races and sub-races.  Of particular note are the new options for tieflings (a playable race from the Player’s Handbook) and the gith (a D&D favorite dating all the way back to the 1st Edition Fiend Folio).  The gith are a race with two sub-races who roam the Astral plane with their silver swords, marauding and fighting each other in an endless conflict that sometimes spills over into the players’ world.  Tieflings currently have only one race option in the Player’s Handbook, as compared to other playable races such as elves, dwarves, and halflings, who each have two or more sub-race alternatives to customize their characters.  In the Player’s Handbook all tieflings are described as being infused with the essence of Asmodeus, the ruler of the Nine Hells in D&D lore, and they have one set of abilities for their race.  In Tome of Foes tieflings are provided with eight other alternatives, one for each of the rules of the eight layers of Hell that are ruled in Asmodeus’ name (he himself rules the bottom-most, or ninth layer of the Nine Hells).  These options provide a wide range of play for tiefling characters, specifically different stat modifiers and innate spellcasting abilities.

For the gith, the playable race is an interesting addition to the game, with two sub-races, the githzerai and the githyanki, the two original 1st Edition races of gith.  The gith are structured as other races, with a major and minor stat bonus (depending on sub-race chosen), additional abilities, alignment tendencies (though again, as with all previous 5th Edition publications, no restrictions or mandates), and of course, psionics.  As with previous psionic abilities, these are spellcasting abilities with a “psionics” attribute, which allows for casting without components.  In other words, a mental method of casting.  Although many players continue to clamor for a psionics mechanic in this edition, it seems as though the designers are sticking to their guns: psionics is just spellcasting without mumbling, hand-waving, and balls of bat guano.  And in the current version of the game, which nicely balances a wealth of meaningful character-building choices with rules mechanics that are easily accessible to the game-playing public at-large, this seems a wise choice.

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If you are a fan of Italian comic book artist Francesco Francavilla, you probably make sure you’ve kept up with his work on series like DC’s Detective Comics, his creator-owned noir series The Black Beetle, Dynamite’s Zorro, Marvel’s Black Panther, Archie Horror’s Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and loads of other series and comic book covers.  In July you’ll even be able to purchase his variant edition of the forthcoming comic Archie Meets Batman ’66.  Francavilla burst onto the comics scene a decade ago, and quickly his trademark style–a mix of classic pulp, noir, and retro color combinations and designs–helped earn him the Eisner Award in 2012.  But if you’re a completist, get ready to for a brief course change this week.

Here’s something to think about: Not all comic book artists stick exclusively to the comic book medium.  Today Francavilla’s artwork is taking on the non-fiction route, as the artist is the featured creator of visuals in today’s issue of The New York Time Magazine.  It’s a clever pairing as the magazine’s annual money issue is taking on the mystique of the classic Crime Does Not Pay comic book series of comicdom’s Golden Era, instead of featuring images of the criminals themselves in its pages.  Titled “Crime Pays,” today’s issue has plenty of Francavilla’s unique imagery for his fans to soak up.  And–what a concept–get caught up on the news at the same time.  Here is the new cover image compared to a classic 1940s cover design:

   

For Francavilla’s comic book fans, he says there’s nothing to worry about.  Via Twitter Saturday he responded to one fan, “I’m not leaving comics at all – working on the new @TheBlackBeetle mini right now as matter of fact 🙂 #IheartComics”.

The New York Times Magazine created this video look behind the scenes at Francavilla’s contribution to this issue of the magazine.

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Now that you’re all recovering from your Star Wars Day activities and readying for Free Comic Book Day today, let’s look at the latest from Solo: A Star Wars Story.  We seem to be transitioning from the high of the Avengers: Infinity War in April and heading toward the premier of Solo on May 25.  And there seems to be no stopping the marketing folks at Lucasfilm.  If you’ve been a fan of Star Wars since the beginning, you may find a new Lucasfilm video the greatest thing since blue milk.  It’s the beginning of the scene where Lando and Han play cards, and Han offers up ships as the stakes.  Is this the exact scene we’ll see in theaters, or one pretty close to it?  It seems pretty likely, although don’t rule out last-minute edits as was done with Rogue One–the other awesome Star Wars Story–where much of the trailer footage ended up on the editing room floor.  Check it out below, unless you want to wait to see it in the theater, but you’re not going to see it in this “virtual reality” 360 degree way in the theater.

Does this sneak peek hint at the future of the theatrical experience?  We’ve seen the 360 degree clips before for other films, and some home video formats do allow the viewer to take control and move around during a film to some extent.  How will that translate to the theaters years from now?  Something like you’d find in a high-end theme park ride?  Never before could moviegoers have such a detailed look at a film, in advance of release.  Take a look at those aliens, like the two-headed fellow to Lando’s right, or the arthropoid with chelipeds to his left (that’s Therm Scissorpunch).  These aliens are exquisite, instantly evoking the original Star Wars cantina where most of us first met Han and Chewbacca.  We’re in for a great ride.

But there’s more: a new clip featuring the first scene with Chewbacca and Han flying together, backed by some of John Williams’ best music: sweeping, evocative cues from his “The Asteroid Field” music from The Empire Strikes Back.  And another clip from director Ron Howard features some new looks at Chewbacca in front of and behind the camera.  It just gets better and better.

  

In case you missed it yesterday, we have two highlights of this year’s Star Wars Day, both out of the UK.  First up is the latest Abbey Road album cover homage.  The Beatles albums have been parodied and honored in thousands of ways over the decades, but we love the above image of the original four cantina action figures from Kenner incorporated into the famous zebra crossing (if you know the source, let us know and we’ll credit it).  And Heathrow airport went above and beyond for May the Fourth, with this fantastic flight schedule.  Bravo!  (But Alderaan?  Too soon!).

Our new Lando, Donald Glover is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight.  The show released a revised Solo poster for him.  Take a look at it, plus a dozen new Solo posters and marketing image updates below (glasses, collectible tickets, buttons, and three trading card sets of 28 cards, too!), and the latest great clips, and don’t forget it’s Free Comic Book Day!  Glover recently provided a tour of the Millennium Falcon (we’ve included that below, too):

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If you love comics and especially if you haven’t read a comic book in years then this Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day is all about you.  See what you have been missing at comic book stores across the United States as shops hand out free issues of new comic books from your favorite franchises and publishers: Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, Archie Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Titan Comics, BOOM!, Oni Press, Aftershock, and more.

Marvel fans won’t want to miss out on the lead-in to the new Avengers comic book series discussed here at borg.com earlier this week.  Doctor Who fans will find all-new stories featuring the 7th, 10th, and 11th Doctors and the first appearance of the 13th Doctor!  Today is May the Fourth–the annual Star Wars Day, and tomorrow Star Wars fans can find Han Solo and Chewbacca facing off against Zuckuss and 4-LOM from The Empire Strikes Back in Star Wars Adventures.  Riverdale features a story with Betty and Pop at the Chock-lit Shop.  In all, 52 new FCBD stories will be available. Keep in mind not all stores will have every title available and most stores limit each person to five issues to meet demand.

While you’re there, take a look around at the shop and purchase a comic or graphic novel or two.  Don’t know which one?  How about New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, or Wonder Woman: The True AmazonIf you liked Avengers: Infinity War, ask to see the shelf of Thanos and Avengers titles.  Getting ready for Ant-Man and The Wasp coming to theaters?  Ask about all the available related titles.  You don’t know who this Venom character is that Tom Hardy is playing in the new movie?  Your comic shop can get you caught up for Venom.  Do you like Batman, Miss Fury, the Bionic Man, Squirrel Girl, Spider-man, The Eternals, Ghost Rider, Ghost, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Moon Knight, Liberty Meadows, classic Archie Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy, Green Arrow, the Shadow, Star Trek, Valerian and Laureline, or Katy Keene?  Just ask, and someone will point you in the right direction.  Giant trade paperback editions are much less expensive than you might think, and they can get you caught up quickly on years of content.

 

If you’re in the Kansas City area check out Elite Comics between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., where you’ll also find lots of deals, get your Avengers issue signed by writer Jason Aaron, and meet other creators–and there’s cake.  Or use this comic book store locator to find your nearest participating shop.  Here’s an advance look at all 52 covers from the FCBD 2018 comic books you will find Saturday, a look inside the pages at some artwork from the Avengers issue, plus a video about the event:

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Guest review by Alec Jessen

The newest addition to Nintendo’s Kirby game franchise, Kirby: Star Allies, is now available for Nintendo Switch (known in Japan as Kirby of the Stars: Star Allies).  The release of the new game is centered around an interesting new mechanic that has not been seen before with previous games in the Kirby series: a multiplayer/cooperative story and gameplay.  This fun, new mechanic is an interesting addition to Kirby games, giving fans a chance to experience adventures not only with Kirby, but also with friends from either the real world or via the AI/CPU.  As with past games in the series, players help the young, pink, spherical hero Kirby as he fights to save his home.  In the new version of the game all of the characters are still as cute and lovable as ever.

It’s a great way to play as a team.  Kirby: Star Allies features Kirby having a new ability–the ability to make friends.  This allows players to turn most of Kirby’s enemies into allies, which can then be either controlled by the computer or by friends in a local co-op of up to four players.  The ability is not only so that Kirby can have a few buddies to travel along with.  The abilities of his new friends are a necessity for Kirby to progress on his journey.  For example, the fiery abilities of the character Burning Leo are needed to ignite bombs that open up new paths, and only the electricity of Plugg can activate certain doors.  And the combined power of Kirby and his newly converted allies allows them to complete tasks using abilities such as the Friend Bridge, where Kirby and his friends form a bridge for certain characters to travel across. The teamwork in Kirby: Star Allies is both fun and heartwarming, especially playing in the company of friends.

It’s Kirby in a great new high-definition version.  One of the most interesting elements of Kirby: Star Allies is the use of the beautiful, vibrant Nintendo Switch graphics, while still being a side-scroller video game.  Its use of graphics along with the aspect of a side-scroller is a refreshing, near-3D experience.  The designers created a great combination, keeping the classic feel of past Kirby games, while also giving it a modern, unique update–It’s a great blend of new and old.

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It’s been fifty years since talking apes first took over theater screens across the world.  Planet of the Apes first screened for U.S. audiences in the spring of 1968, ushering in the dawn of a new age in sci-fi and dystopian film and the rise in a level of movie make-up on a scale not seen before.  In the battle for your movie-going dollars, the conquest was won many times over by each additional entry in the franchise.  All told nine times the story would gain new light on the big screen–so far–it would return with four sequels, two television series, numerous graphic novel adaptations, a remake, and a modern film saga.  Fortunately for fans the war will never end.  Beneath it all was Pierre Boulle’s original novel published only five years before, La Planète des singes, still in print and available here.  All these years later you still cannot escape the iconic imagery, first and foremost that way-too-far-past the spoiler alert image of the upper half of a destroyed Statue of Liberty perched on the beach.  And we eagerly await each new way to title a sequel that the next creators taking over can come up with.

How many kids sat up at the end of the film asking how the Statue of Liberty got all the way to the ape planet?  Somehow even the young ones got it, and we’d get our early taste of movie tie-ins in the form of trading cards and model kits (my own prize for weathering a hernia surgery at 4 years of age was the great Dr. Zaius model from Addar Plastics Co.).  As part of the observance of 50 years of the original film, Entertainment Earth has just begun accepting pre-orders for its first-ever line of Kenner-style vintage action figures (click on each of the six images below to learn more and/or order).   General Ursus looks great!  (Toymaker Mego had its own line of larger figures back in 1974).  The 50th anniversary is also celebrated with a Monopoly tie-in, 1960s style (available here) and a great retrospective look from Abrams Books at the vintage trading card series (reviewed here).  No single box set assembles all the films, although you can get a recent release of the original five films here and the recent trilogy here, all at Amazon.

   

When we speak in terms of genre landmark franchises we usually begin with the 50-year mark of longevity with the big or small screen, including James Bond, Doctor Who, Superman, Batman, and most recently Star Trek.  Planet of the Apes took its first step into that rare class with the novel’s anniversary in 2013, but it is now forever cemented with legendary status.  Here is a vintage TV trailer that played on your wood-grained Zenith console 50 years ago this week (although most of the U.S. watched this in black and white, as the new-fangled color TV was too expensive for the average household):

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Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station in 2015, has been in the news this month as scientists learn more about his health after such an extended stay in space.  NASA admitted Scott and his identical twin brother Mark into its elite astronaut program in 1996, and after many years the brothers’ back and forth missions resulted in Scott accepting a Russian mission to test human reaction to extended space travel, in part contemplating a trip to Mars one day.  At the end of his 2015 mission not only did his body change, but he encountered what travelers to Mars will encounter: living in weightlessness, relying on the tools, food, and oxygen processing technology, and experiencing work stress for a similar period of time as a voyage to Mars.  Although readers of his recently published memoir will learn the selection of the brothers into NASA and the selection of Scott for his record-breaking ISS mission initially did not contemplate use of the twin brothers as comparative test subjects, NASA soon realized the knowledge they could gain from such an endeavor.  Although scientists have since backed off on early claims that Mark and Scott now have different DNA, their analysis continues, and Scott said he and his brother will continue to be tested and observed as part of the study for the rest of their lives.

In his book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly recounts his life story and the details of his four trips into outer space: via the space shuttles Discovery (STS-103) in 1999 and Endeavour (STS-118) in 2007 and later via Soyuz TMA-19 in Expeditions 25/26 in 2010 and Soyuz TMA-18M in Expeditions 43/44/45/46 in 2015 with a record-breaking mission The Endurance in the title reflects both the ship captained by Sir Ernest Shackleton in the 1901 expedition to Antarctica (and Shackleton’s book Kelly took on his journey into space for inspiration and reflection) as well as the mettle and resolve required to push his mind and body to the limits to survive his many journeys off-planet.  Readers learn through his experiences the detail, perfection, and self-discipline that makes up “the right stuff” for the military fighter pilot turned test pilot, Navy captain, and astronaut commander are the same things that seem to make him so focused that he was perceived as less communicative and responsive to those closest to him.  Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is very much another chapter in a continuing history of books by astronauts recounting their circuitous and unlikely paths to NASA, yet Kelly’s account reveals less of a superman and more of a flawed but committed adventurer, and his flaws will no doubt engage any reader and fan of real-life adventure stories.  The personal details, openness to discuss his own reservations, concerns, and mistakes, make this unlike any other of the more famous accounts of human travels in space.  Kelly is most likeable when he’d seem unlikeable to us back on Earth–when he shows his frustrations, when at the end of a year in space little comments from his peers simply annoy him.  He seems preoccupied with the ISS toilets and carbon dioxide levels throughout his year on the ISS, both of which he knows could mean the end of any Mars mission if they can’t become more reliable.  And it’s these kinds of details he hopes will drive NASA to improve these components of space travel to hope to make a mission around the moon, around an asteroid, and ultimately a mission to Mars, a reality one day for mankind.

That’s Commander Scott Kelly (bottom right) in the crew photo sporting Jedi robes for Expedition 45.

Kelly credits another book, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, as his inspiration for taking on a career as jet pilot and astronaut–he even called Wolfe from space to thank him at the end of his ISS mission.  Kelly’s descriptions of several of his experiences, especially his three harrowing spacewalks while aboard the ISS, provide for a riveting read, and readers shouldn’t be surprised if they find themselves breathless as they follow along with him as he floats 254 miles above Earth orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour.  Some sections of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery are as nailbiting as Jon Krakauer’s extraordinary account of his ill-fated Mt. Everest climb, Into Thin Air.  Some of Kelly’s more minor details are the most startling, like his description of hand rails outside the station that are riddled with bullet-sized holes, caused by space debris.  Any new arriving piece of debris could poke a hole in him, too, as he floated in space.  In one mission he encounters the same tile problem that caused the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia.  A chunk of an old satellite careening in the vicinity of the ISS provides another dangerous condition for the crew that illustrates another theme of life on the ISS–international relations.  Kelly speaks nothing but admiration for Russia, its space program and its cosmonauts, but their processes and procedures sometimes vary widely.  When the satellite approached, the Russians kept on working just as he and his team hunkered down.  The Russians figured any collision likely would kill them all instantly, so why worry about it?  Readers will learn a lot about those less exciting parts of being a 21st century astronaut, especially about the required extended stays required these days in Russia, the departure point for American astronauts in the post-Space Shuttle world.  In between flights, Kelly served as NASA’s Director of Operations in the legendary town of Star City, Russia, and we learn much about his many encounters with other astronauts and ground crew.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you only could choose one book to represent the potential–maybe even the highest form–of the comic book medium, a new book hitting the stands today may be on your short list.  IDW Publishing is releasing a stunning anthology of the history of the Holocaust as seen in comic books of the past, presented with an introduction and afterword by Stan Lee, the creator who broke more stereotypes in his stories than anyone in comic books’ first century.  In We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust, artist Neal Adams, who changed the way comic book stories were told in the early 1970s with his Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman series, Holocaust scholar Rafael Medoff, and comics historian Craig Yoe have compiled what is arguably the most noble use of comic books–educating kids in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s on a subject of history virtually ignored in mainstream circles.  Along with Congressman John Lewis’s March series about the civil rights movement, We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust should be in every library and taught in every history class.

My high school history teacher was astonished to learn none of us knew the details of Watergate–we were only infants at the time–and I recall the realization he saw of what he and his peers were not teaching. This weekend my eighteen-year-old nephew mentioned watching the footage of 9-11 in school this year for the first time.  In the 1980s only the last paragraph of the last chapter of our World History textbooks discussed the Holocaust, yet we at least spent a week talking about the subject.  But not until the 1990s was the Holocaust taught in most of American school systems.  Even today only 35 states require education in the subject in school curriculums.  Certainly the most important lessons in history can be taught with its study, and in that light We Spoke Out should serve as a wake-up call to everyone, citizens, educators, and leaders.  Oddly enough, for generations of American kids, the only place they learned about the murder of six million Jews, the stories of concentration camps, of the atrocities committed by Hitler and his Nazis, was in the comics pages.

   

The stories in the anthology present the atrocities of World War II without the overdone blood and gore of many 1950s “horror” comics.  In an April 1955 story from Impact Issue #1 we meet a Jewish man post-War still haunted by his memories in what would now be called PTSD.  In the pages of December 1951’s Frontline Combat, Issue #3 story the then-lauded Nazi general Rommel is dressed down, revealing the villainous truths of his leadership in the face of contemporary efforts to re-invent Rommel as a military hero.  Based on the real-life Nazi Ilse Koch, in a story from Beware! Terror Tales, Issue #4, we are reminded of the vilest of humans who made household goods from the tattooed skin of captured Jews–a real-life horror some may think is only the stuff of fiction from Silence of the Lambs.  Among these stories ripped from real life, Adams, Medoff, and Yoe fill in the blanks of time with historical context, including details of what the stories leave out.

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