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Category: Con Culture


Stan Lee, 1922-2018

borg salutes the great Stan Lee, who has passed away.

His characters and ideas entertained generations of comic book readers, both kids and adults, and more recently movie audiences on a global scale.

His legion of fans mourn his passing, but his legend and influence will live on.

Excelsior!

C.J. Bunce

Editor
borg

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re not a player of Dungeons & Dragons, a new journey through the hills and valleys of the roleplay game that started it all will get you up to speed quickly.  Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a comprehensive, authoritative, and licensed look back at nearly 50 years of gaming, storytelling, and artwork.  If you grew up with the game you are certain to find both nostalgia and page-after-page of new information in its more than 700 color images from the past, images of heroes and villains, monsters and other creatures, that brought in some 40 million players over the years.  Boasting some 10-15 million active players today, D&D now features the results of writers/D&D celebrity fans Michael Witwer (D&D historian), Kyle Newman (director of the movie Fanboys), Jon Peterson (game historian) and Sam Witwer (actor, Being Human, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica) pulling together published images and source art from each edition of D&D’s core books, supplements, and modules, magazines, advertisements, tie-in products, sketches, and draft rules.  Their sources include the archives at Wizards of the Coast, private collectors, and more than 40 designers and artists from every era of the game’s history.  Released in two editions, fans old and new can choose from the standard 448-page hardcover alone or a special edition Hydro74-designed boxed set with some intriguing extras.  You’ll find a 14-page preview below courtesy of publisher Ten Speed Press.

This… treatise… this behemoth of a book is smartly designed so readers can approach it for a quick burst of throwback fun or a detailed dive behind the creation and many changes of the game and the companies behind it.  You can find a side-by-side evolution and comparison of monsters and other characters, soak in old maps and character sheets, and compare the covers and key art across all editions.  Possibly the best contribution is comparative images showing specific pop culture sources for many of the designs that made it into the early books and supplements, everything from Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian paintings to panels of comic book art from Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales.

From Guidon GamesChainmail to TSR to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro and the latest 5th Edition rule books, the D&D story is one of corporate takeovers, failures, successes and strategies, all to survive and ultimately consolidate with games including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, World of Warcraft, and the entire Milton Bradley tabletop game catalog, all under one umbrella.  It all started with creators Gary Gygax and David Arneson, and their efforts to build on miniature figure battle games from centuries past, and modern rules for gaming that had a historic source:  sci-fi/fantasy author H.G. Wells first penned a gaming rulebook for miniatures titled Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books, an influential book inspiring gaming to this day.  The founders would pull in amateur artists and eventually professional artists, sprouting from a small headquarters in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, ultimately the source of Gen Con, the gaming convention that has been tied to D&D since the beginning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the 65 toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Radio Flyer red wagon weathered a few world wars and more to surpass its 100 anniversary last year, a feat achieved by very few businesses.  Boasting more than 100 million sold since Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin first offered to the public his wooden wagons, the iconic American toy that doubled as a plane, a car, and a spaceship is the subject of a new book, Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon, available today for the first time.  Check out several preview pages below courtesy of the publisher.

Written by founder Antonio Pasin’s grandson Robert Pasin and journalist Carlye Adler, Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon tells the story of a craftsman in early 20th century Chicago as the industrial revolution and over-population clashed.  As the Great Depression was arriving, Antonio Pasin found a way to lift himself out of the standard construction job.  After teaching himself English, he received an apprenticeship, and would go on to purchase steel and inexpensive materials, facing competitors using less-substantial wooden models, having migrated his business to support a full steel wagon.  The red wagon survived when many industrial products failed, even decades of toy stores that sold it.

The name Radio Flyer reflects the marketing mind of the toy company’s founder–blending two catchy new wave concepts: the radio and the airplane.  The name and colors would change a bit over time, including a Lindy Flyer following the popularity of Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight, but the wagon would always return and was its most popular in the familiar red paint, with more than a dozen line-art logos used over the years, pictured in the book.  A history of the wagon, photographs of 100 years of advertisements, and stories of those who loved their own wagon, this book is for anyone nostalgic for classic Americana.

I got my Radio Flyer for Christmas when I was a few years old (shown above, I’m the kid in red with my brother and sister).  Just looking at my eyes it’s anyone’s guess where I was soaring off to in my new wagon.  I hauled everything in it–toys, sand, plants, and lots of stuffed animals.  One vivid memory was being pulled in it when it suddenly came to a stop and my head crashed into the edge.  My mother called the 1970s equivalent of 911 and I took my one and only police car ride–to the hospital.  No harm done, just a lump on my head for a while, and another wagon adventure under my belt.  The wagon, now about 45 years old, is still functioning like it was new, regularly hauling 40-pound bags of top soil to the yard.  (My siblings and I also had the corresponding red go-cart and tricycle).  You’ll find plenty of stories like mine (without the injuries) in Radio Flyer: 100 Years of America’s Little Red Wagon.

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Each member of Queen was on another career path when they formed their band at the beginning of the 1970s: Freddie Mercury had been in art school, guitar player Roger Deakins studied electrical engineering, drummer Roger Taylor was in dental school, and guitarist Brian May studied astrophysics.  Years later May would go on to earn his doctorate in the field, and the rock star comes full circle this week blending a childhood hobby with his band and his passion for space science with the release of two new books: Mission Moon 3-D: A New Perspective on the Space Race and Queen in 3-D: Second Edition Many fans of Queen may not be aware that May had a unique passion for taking three-dimensional photographs.  He took 3-D photos as a young boy and transitioned to a 3-D camera as they became popular in the 1950s, and when Queen started to tour he continued.  The result is 300 previously unpublished 3-D photographs, capturing the history of Queen from the early 1970s to present day.  May has updated the book with more 3-D images, including images he took on the set of the new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and the premiere release of this updated edition is timed with the release of the film this week in the UK and next week in the U.S.

The first history of any rock group created in 3-D and written by a band member, Queen in 3-D was a labor of love for May.  The photographs include shots taken on stage, behind the scenes, on the road, and during leisure time.  May shares recollections of his bandmates for the first time.  The book is particularly unique in its coverage of Freddie Mercury, who was normally shy and private, but comfortable and even playful when May brought out his camera.  The book is the result of a project he worked on during nights while touring with the band, and continuing on with a company he founded, The London Stereoscopic Company Ltd (check it out at www.londonstereo.com), which sells books, viewers, and more, sharing a passion for 3-D imagery across every subject.

Dr. May put his astrophysics knowledge and interest in the space race to good use as we approach next summer’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, releasing this week his next 3-D book project, Mission Moon 3-D: A New Perspective on the Space RaceWritten by May and David J. Eicher (editor of Astronomy Magazine), the authors narrate the story of Apollo and space travel leading to Apollo 11’s lunar landing in July 1969.  The Apollo astronauts were trained to take 3-D images, but primarily Dr. May researched NASA archives to sort thousands of images to present the same image in stereoscope form which, when viewed with his patented Lite Owl viewer (a viewer accompanies each book), provide full, detailed 3-D images.  The same science behind the human eye and camera fundamentals applied to the 19th century with the popularity of the stereoscope camera and viewer as with May’s use of 3-D images included in his books.

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The most infamous, notorious, and maybe even most beloved of toymakers, Marty Abrams is back in the toy biz years after a stint in prison for fraud and the bankruptcy of his famous toy company (get the whole story on Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us).  The company he made famous–MEGO–gave kids the ultimate 1970s line of licensed 8-inch (1:9 scale) action figures, and it returned to stores with a vengeance this year.  Not to toy stores–since they seem to be a thing of the past after the bankruptcy of Toys R Us this year–but to the end cap at your neighborhood Target store.  Replaced in recent years by the 3 3/4-inch line of licensed small-scale action figured from Super 7, Funko, and Biff! Bam! Pow!, the classic MEGO figures are making a comeback.  Abrams has pulled in a bizarre cross-section of licensed properties to get his foot back in the door with kids, collectors, and anyone able to be sidetracked on their way to pick up school supplies and shampoo.  Abrams was a groundbreaking importer, manufacturer, marketing maven, inventor, and brand developer who founded MEGO Corporation, the first company to license action figures based on TV shows and comic book superheroes, and the first to sell dolls in clear bubbles on cards that hung on pegs instead of in boxes stacked on store shelves.  If you were a kid in the 1970s, you probably had at least one of his figures (I’m pretty sure we still called them dolls back then).  My three-year-old self was not excluded:

The first wave of figures are already on the discount shelves at Target.  Look around and you’ll find an eclectic mix of pop culture nostalgia, some figures resembling sculpts and costumes from the original MEGO figures, others representing characters that may leave you scratching your head, wondering who has been eagerly waiting to see this show in an action figure line.  So Wave One includes Sulu and Chekov from the original Star Trek series, Charlie’s Angels’ Kelly Garrett (complete with ’70s hairdo), Peg Bundy from Married with Children, Action Jackson (not the movie version) sporting a jumpsuit, NORM! Peterson from Cheers, Piper Halliwell from the original TV series Charmed, Dracula (sculpted after Bela Lugosi’s version), Alice the housekeeper and center square from The Brady Bunch, Tootie the youngest girl from Facts of Life, Jimi Hendrix in his Woodstock outfit, and probably the best of all (OK, besides Jim Hendrix): Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (aka Fonzie) looking like the original Mego figure from Happy DaysTwo dual figure sets feature Jeannie and Tony from I Dream of Jeannie and a Mirror Universe figure set of Kirk and Spock from Star Trek.  Mego also has a 14-inch (1:5 scale) DC Comics line, including Wonder Woman from the TV series, General Zod from the two original Superman movies, a classic style Harley Quinn, and a Golden Age Batman.

Wave Two, arriving this month at Target stores nationwide, includes Frankenstein, Greg from The Brady Bunch, John Ratzenberger’s Cliff Clavin from Cheers, Starchild from the band KISS, Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe from Charmed, Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, Cheryl Ladd’s Kris Munroe from Charlie’s Angels, Spock and the Gorn from Star Trek, Samantha from Bewitched, Kelly Bundy from Married with Children, Jo from Facts of Life, and dual sets featuring Dorothy, Toto, and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, DJ and Stephanie Tanner from Full House.  In the 14-inch DC Comics line look for Superman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, and Poison Ivy.

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The pop culture event of 2018 is finally here!

BBC America is airing its new season, the premiere episode for Jodie Whittaker‘s 13th Doctor earlier today than normal episodes will air on Sunday evenings going forward, at 12:45 p.m. Central Time (simulcast in the UK on BBC One at 5:45 p.m. GMT).  So if you want to be among the first to see it–and avoid any spoilers online, don’t miss out.

For those who like pre-shows, BBC America is also airing a 30-minute lead-in at 12:15 p.m. Central.

Season 11 episode 1 will be re-broadcast at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 9 p.m., and 11 p.m.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

One of the more unusual offerings previewed this weekend at New York Comic Con 2018 is a collectible taking you back to the original Jurassic Park.  That’s the good movie, the memorable one that faithfully follows the story of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel.  The one where Dr. Ian Malcolm was supposedly killed in the book, but kept alive in the movie thanks to the spark Steven Spielberg saw in Jeff Goldblum‘s performance.  Dr. Malcolm provided the powerful lesson of the movie with the punchline, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

And for whatever reason Spielberg included Goldblum in this GQ-worthy shirt-open pose.  It’s the image that would, years later, launch a thousand memes.

Now thanks to Chronicle Collectibles, you can get your own homage to this… infamous (?) scene, the first officially licensed, limited edition 1:4 scale Dr. Ian Malcolm statue.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not every day you come across the ultimate book for your barber shop, but this is in the running.  Along with a wall listing current local pro and college team scores and a stack of wrinkled sports magazines, a new book about Stan Smith should be on the table if your local haircut joint is like mine.  Who would have thought a style of shoe could reach across so many segments of pop culture?  Excepting basketball player Chuck Taylor’s association with the Converse All Stars shoe and Doc Martens’ famous boots, the Adidas tennis shoe (not sneaker, not trainer) that Smith put his name on is easily one of the most identifiable athletic shoes of the past five decades.  Smith and his shoes, known simply as “Stan Smiths” to most, have had a mutually beneficial relationship, and everything you’d want to know about the professional tennis player and his shoe can be found in the new book Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe, a collection of stories about the athlete who was the world’s #1 tennis player in 1971 and 1972 and a two-time Grand Slam singles champion–and his famous shoe.

It’s said to be the shoe Harrison Ford wore as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner–a pair of Stan Smiths spray-painted black.  From The Beatles to hip hop, the unassuming white shoe with green trim and perforated lines instead of stripes has been a preferred accessory across popular music icons.  David Bowie and John Lennon made their own statements wearing Smith’s tennis shoe with their otherwise more stylish clothes.  They were a regular sight among The Beastie Boys years later, Jay-Z included them in lyrics to one of his songs, and custom Kylie Minogue, Pharrel Williams, and Elton John versions of the shoe sold for big bucks at auction.  The shoe went through technology upgrades over time, but it has always remained instantly recognizable.  An A to Z section of Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe includes anecdotes from Smith from his trips around the world, history of the shoe from the decision by Smith to endorse the Adidas Haillet–the first leather tennis shoe invented in 1963–with his own name ten years after its creation, to Smith’s current status as mentor, coach, and philanthropist.  The hardcover volume with 336 pages of full color photographs feature Smith’s life, newspaper coverage of his key games, pop culture personalities and how they were affected by either Smith or the shoe, and dozens of versions, schematics, and designs that Adidas has introduced to the Stan Smith shoe since 1973.

   

The book is also a look at a long-lasting advertising idea, an endorsement that created an artifact of sub-culture tapped as a symbol of identity by Baby Boomers to Millennials, eclipsing a wide range of fields of celebrity.  The book reflects the art of self-promotion, including commentary from executives from Adidas past and present plus execs at places like PepsiCo, as well as artists and designers influenced by the shoe–the book itself is a promotion for the continuing sales of the shoe.  One commenter believes you’ll find more Stan Smiths on the streets of Paris than berets.  And it was added to the Guinness Book of World Records as the top-selling “named” shoe when it surpassed 22 million pairs sold.  The book interviews one fan who boasts 230 pairs in his home.  Former tennis pro Martina Navratilova wears Stan Smiths everywhere today.  According to a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, “The magic of the Stan Smith shoe is that it can pass as a normal sneaker but also be used as a dressed-up shoe to a black tie event.”  Some people even seek out beaten-up pairs of the shoe because they think they look better.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As part of the release of the new single-player action-adventure game Shadow of the Tomb Raider, two new companion books are coming your way, Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Path of the Apocalypse and Shadow of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book The game, available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, continues the adventures of Lara Croft following the conclusion of the story launched in the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider Players accompany Lara on her harrowing journey to become the survivor we know as the Tomb Raider.  The Official Art Book features exclusive concept art and developer interviews detailing the conclusion of Lara Croft’s origin story.

Path of the Apocalypse is the official tie-in novel to the game, written by S.D. Perry.  As we catch up with Lara, she has taken the Key of Chak Chel, setting off an apocalyptic flood–the Cleansing–foreshadowed by the ancient Maya (but she only did it because the agents of the secretive organization called Trinity were going to get to it first!).  She uncovers several clues that may help her prevent the next three foretold apocalyptic events from happening, but it seems like she may be the character in the ancient stories herself, acting to fulfill their prophecy.  Her first adventure is escaping the remnants of a flooded village.  Next, she and her companion Jonah must hire a plane that can sneak them under Trinity’s wide net of operatives, to re-trace the very steps of Trinity inside a system of deep caves, a path to the hidden Peruvian city where the silver Box of Ix Chel is hidden.  Halfway through her survival story inside these caves, readers might wish they had started to draw out their own map of the caves, lay out some kind of bread crumbs to find their way to the surface.  Lara continues deeper into the cave as Trinity operatives kidnap her friend and a pilot.  Do they wait for her to emerge from the cave’s entrance or take their weapons into the cave and pursue her?  And what are these toothy animals appearing in the dark corners of the cave?  With the fate of the world at stake, Lara is in no position to just give up.

Beginning with artwork from the 2013 Tomb Raider game and including great images from Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Official Art Book chronicles the video game production process, from concept to final design.  Art director Martin Dubeau, character artist Michael Verhaaf, and concept artists Maxim Verehin and Yun Ling, and hundreds of others served as digital costume designers, prop creators, and environment location scouts–just as if they were making a full-scale, live-action motion picture–incorporating their historical research on ancient Latin American cultures.  The game goes deeper into the history than the novel, introducing ancient peoples and the artifacts of their world.  These were all designed by Dubeau’s team and are incorporated in full-color layouts in The Official Art Book.

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This month Abrams Books released The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, an account of Fred (you know him as Mr.) Rogers, his show, and his lifetime of good works, written by Maxwell King, available now here at Amazon.  As part of the roll-out of the book, instructions to make a cardigan sweater like the famous one Mr. Rogers wore on his show is now available to download for a limited time.  From the publisher:  The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon.  Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development.  An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.

Abrams Books is releasing another book next month, Amy Herzog’s Ultimate Sweater Book, which ties nicely into the Mr. Rogers biography.  A big plus for Mr. Rogers’ fans:  It will include directions for a sweater like Rogers wore on his show.  You can pre-order Herzog’s book now here at Amazon, and we’ve included a preview of the book below.  He wore several sweaters and different colors on the show over the years, but has anyone counted the number of times he wore a sweater?

 

Knitters (and friends of knitters) should take note:  For a limited time you can download the complete pattern and instructions from Herzog’s book to make your own cardigan, just like the one Mr. Rogers had.  Who better to cosplay than America’s most beloved icon?

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