Category: Con Culture


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Whether you use it as the perfect stocking stuffer, for an office party gift swap, or you just want some convenient content to carry around in your backpack, publisher Insight Editions has the right book for you.  For Harry Potter fans we reviewed the detailed MinaLima-designed treasure trove The Art of Harry Potter–Mini Book of Graphic Design a few years ago, and for superhero fans we looked at two volumes of the history of Wonder Woman in comic book covers.  These are jam-packed books that literally fit inside your pocket, and the content spans the scope of pop culture and genre.  Love Batman?  Check.  Mickey Mouse?  Check.  Beauty and the Beast and other Disney favorites?  Check.

Today we have previews from four of Insight Editions’ books featuring Star Wars, one with the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie, a two-volume collection of Marvel comic book covers, and another with famous poster artwork that spans the 11 films.  Typically available at $11.99 or less, it’s an inexpensive source for the visual details of the movies, production, and marketing that you’ve never seen before, and a quick gift idea for your favorite Star Wars fan.

Here is a comparative look at the size of the books in the series:

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Check out these previews from The Complete Star Wars Marvel Comics Covers Volume 1 and Volume 2, Star Wars: The Concept Art of Ralph McQuarrie, and Star Wars: The Poster Collection:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For both film buffs and a new generation of a movie fans, a definitive guide to the most influential film directors–spanning a century of Hollywood creativity–will soon be a fixture in libraries everywhere.   Turner Classic Movies/TCM and film writer Sloan De Forest, author of TCM’s Dynamic Dames (reviewed here) and TCM’s Must-See Sci-fi (reviewed here), chronicle 58 directors, their works, and influence on the filmmaking in TCM’s The Essential Directors: The Art and Impact of Cinema’s Most Influential Filmmakers.  From Charlie Chaplin to Steven Spielberg, these are the directors that film aficionados will be unlikely to quibble with.  Some made their marks as household names, others are legendary auteurs, while others provided a singular film or image that has made them synonymous with Hollywood royalty.  From epic dramas, to laugh-out-loud comedies, readers will find TCM’s Essential Directors as the go-to source for the heavy-hitters behind the biggest movies in history.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest from Dungeons & Dragons following Candlekeep Mysteries and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft takes players back to Feywild and an adventure about a carnival that appears every 8 years.  The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is D&D’s next big adventure storyline that “brings the wicked whimsy of the Feywild” to the 5th Edition for the first time.  Wizards of the Coast promised and delivered new characters, monsters, mechanics, and story hooks suitable for players of all ages and experience levels.  It also allows a game without combat where you can use your wits to get to the end.  It’s layered and complex with several tie-in components, and you can pre-order The Wild Beyond the Witchlight with the standard cover here at Amazon now, or order the alternate “soft-touch” edition from your local game shop.

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Star Trek Designing the Future cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

For nearly 55 years sci-fi fans have been watching and re-watching Star Trek’s original series and rebuilding futuristic components from the show in their own homes.  In the 1960s it was easier, as many of the components that defined the early look of Star Trek were simply “found objects”–items existing in the real world that could be repurposed to create a vision of the future.  Midcentury Modernism was the artistic movement that coincided with the inception of the worldbuilding for Star Trek, and fans Dan Chavkin and Brian McGuire chronicled some of the Star Trek creators’ use of those designs in their new coffee table book, Star Trek: Designing the Future–How Midcentury Modernism Shaped Our View of the Future Take a look at a preview of this introduction to the artistic movement and the early Star Trek design aesthetic below, courtesy of publisher Insight Editions.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Last month I reviewed TCM’s Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics, the eighth volume reviewed here at borg in the TCM library.  TCM is busy with new releases this year, and its look at film noir takes a different approach.  Written by Noir Alley host Eddie Muller, The Art of Noir author and proclaimed Czar of Noir, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (available now in bookstores and at Amazon here) is actually an update of his 1998 look at film noir of the same name.  It’s an essential look at the genre for both novices and diehard fans, providing just enough about the key films to entice readers to add several movies to their DVR, and giving long-time noir audiences new ways to think about some classic films.  Whenever I hear someone referred to as an expert in genre, I make notes.  Here I made a list of what those essential and important obscure noir films should make any book on film noir.  Muller includes discussions of all of them except one, from Laura and Shadow of a Doubt to DOA, from Sorry, Wrong Number, Sunset Boulevard, and Call Northside 777, to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Chinatown.  So the book by all counts is the real deal and worthy of its accolades for both its original and new edition.  Unlike some of the other TCM books I’ve reviewed here at borg, Dark City: The Lost World of Film is not only an annotated guide to a list of recommended movies.  What film noir movies would you expect to find inside?

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WandaVision Hardback Cover WandaVision_Newsstand_Cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a surprising and unique story in Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It’s WandaVision, the almost hallucinogenic, time-tripping story of the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame through the eyes of Wanda Maximoff.  Now fans have their first look inside the making of the series in Marvel’s WandaVision: The Official Marvel Studios Collector Special, a full color, hardcover, souvenir guide to the characters, creators, and development of the Disney+ series.  It’s being released in three editions, one via newsstands, one via comic shops (add it to your pull list at Elite Comics now), and a hardcover version you can pick up here at Amazon and at brick and mortar bookstores (it’s currently an Amazon #1 Best Seller!).  Enjoy a preview for borg readers below from Titan.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

On the heels of last year’s landmark book Magic: The Gathering: Rise of the Gatewatch–A Visual History (reviewed here), Wizards of the Coast and Abrams ComicArts have come together to give Magic: The Gathering trading card game players their next must-have guide, Magic: The Gathering: Planes of the Multiverse–A Visual History, a chronicle of the lore-defining events of the fantasy roleplaying multiverse.  In bookstores and at Amazon (here) this week, it’s the latest of Abrams’ high-end, full-color, hardcover books highlighting the artwork of the best-known trading card series.  It documents 28 years of select artwork, mythology, and lore behind Magic: The Gathering, the first-ever trading card game, following Visual Histories focusing on Rise of Gatewatch, Legends, and The Art of Magic: The Gathering–War of the Spark.

The book includes character histories and images of the actual cards–many reproduced for the first time outside the trading card.  As with Rise of the Gatewatch, readers will find their favorite card images, accompanied by detailed descriptions of the planes of the story’s Multiverse, its fantastical creatures, characters, and Planeswalkers, with a focus on the game’s locations and the characters that inhabit them.  Lore-defining events chronicled here will take fans of the game from the Phyrexian Invasion to the War of the Spark, and Planeswalkers beyond those included in the Rise of Gatewatch volume, like Karn, Narset, Vraska, Sorin Markov, and more.  The highlight for fans will be seeing cards they’ve never had in their hands before, but it will also be seeing the full artwork before it was cropped for the card.  And the handy size will fit easily into backpacks, to take along to gaming sessions.

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Here is a look at artwork imagery from Magic: The Gathering: Planes of the Multiverse–A Visual History, courtesy of Abrams ComicArts:

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After a year-and-a-half delay from the COVID pandemic, the pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City slipped in what may be a final convention circuit event for 2021 this weekend, as COVID cases return to the worst of last year’s numbers.  The Kansas City community came together, complying with the city’s mask mandate, tens of thousands of attendees in the five-football-field-sized space of the Kansas City Convention Center over three days.  And masks and acrylic sneeze guards didn’t seem to detract at all from the fun of attendees, cosplayers, creators, and other guests, with only a few detractors not complying (we estimate 1% or less didn’t follow the rules, including, unfortunately, a few exhibitors).  The event hosted a pantheon of celebrities, this year focusing on actors from the long-running series Supernatural, plus nationally recognized writers and artists, all for its eighth year in its downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue.  Unless other conventions follow the new trend of requiring vaccination cards as happening in New York City, San Francisco, and at NFL games, plus more national businesses and restaurants joining in (or the rest of the outliers just get the shot), this could be the last of the big indoor Midwest events this year.  The show ran Friday, August 20 through Sunday, August 22.  Check out several photos below, which should give you a feel for the attendance, and some of the guests and fans.

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tcm summer movie cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re just a little over the midway point of Summer 2021, so there’s plenty of time to squeeze the pulp out of the sun and fun.  Summer means movies, often big movies, and Turner Classic Movies’ latest in-depth research into the best of classic and genre films continues in the new book, TCM’s Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics available now here at Amazon.  Think about it–What would you recommend for the 30 best summer movies of all time?  Writer John Malahy makes his selections, and pulls in an additional 30 movies as suggested “double features,” meaning you have 60 key suggestions that will either re-affirm your own picks, or more likely, provide at least a few new films you may want to try out.  Over the past decade I have reviewed most of the books from publisher Running Press’s chronicle from the TCM library, and this latest is on the heels of TCM’s The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter and its sequel (reviewed here and here least year).  Today I’m reviewing and previewing the new volume in what has become a major film library for the film historian.  You may quibble with some of the picks, but I bet you’ll find at least 20 movies that make your own list of movies or at least help get you in the spirit of summer.

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PCKC 2021 COMICS HEADLINERS

Friday the pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City is back, this time to celebrate its 21st year.  The event hosts a pantheon of nationally recognized writers and artists for its eighth year in its downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue at the Kansas City Convention Center.  The show runs Friday, August 20 through Sunday, August 22.  It’s a chance to step carefully back into normalcy for many pop culture fans–it may just be the biggest comic convention yet where everyone shows up in masks.  Some of the biggest names and most popular comics creators are in the line-up for the 2021 event, probably the best-known being Roy Thomas, the comic book writer and editor who was Stan Lee’s first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.  Characters he created or co-created include Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Vision, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Red Sonja, Ultron, Man-Thing, Red Guardian, and Valkyrie, the majority of which have become so famous they’ve made it to recent big or small screen adaptations.  Famous for his work on X-Men and Avengers, Thomas is also known for his work on classic titles All-Star Squadron and Justice Society of America.

PCKC 2021 HEADLINERS

Several other comic book creators scheduled to attend include Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Megan Levens, Seth Peck, Rob DavisJason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, Darryl Woods, Afua Richardson, Joe Corroney, and Darren Neely.  In addition to comics creators, novelists scheduled for the show include borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce, noted Star Trek authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, and Star Wars authors Kevin J. Anderson, John Jackson Miller, and Timothy Zahn–and many more.

Back again, the Elite Comics flight crew is planning its “Party on the Pillar” hoping for attendees to pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics.

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