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Category: Con Culture


It all started when Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari to boost Ford Motor Company.  But Enzo Ferrari said “no.”  It’s long overdue that we get to see automotive legends Ford and Ferrari in a biopic about the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans road race.  Ford worked with Lee Iacocca to direct a team of engineers and designers to build a car for Ford to compete with Ferrari, and the result was the GT40 Mark II.  At the June 18-19, 1966, Le Mans they would face off.  It’s a legendary battle so good it’s getting two titles for the big screen: Ford v. Ferrari in the U.S. and Le Mans ′66 everywhere else.  James Mangold, who has directed some brilliant movies, including Cop Land and Logan, is directing the coming film, so it’s going to be an easy pick to see when it arrives in theaters this November.

It was the subject of a 2009 book, Go Like Hell, and the 2016 documentary based on that book, The 24-Hour War But the leads in this version seem to be not the legendary opponents in the battle, Ford and Ferrari, but Matt Damon as racecar driver-turned-designer Carroll Shelby of Shelby Mustang fame, and Christian Bale as Daytona and Sebring winning driver Ken Miles.  These were the days of racing when every other name would become a racing legend, names like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, and Lloyd Ruby.  Playing Iacocca is Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, The Walking Dead), with Tracy Letts (Homeland, The Post) as Ford, and Remo Girone (Live by Night) as Ferrari.  Rounding out the cast are Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, and Ray McKinnon.  (While you’re waiting for the movie, check out the LEGO kit).

Beyond the fictional stories in Steve McQueen’s 1971 movie Le Mans and Tom Cruise’s 1990 movie Days of Thunder, here is the first trailer for 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of the events leading to the 1966 24-hour race, Ford v. Ferrari aka Le Mans ′66:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Stickers as art?  Why not?  You’ve seen stickers for decades and used them for all kinds of purposes.  And they are all around you–on telephone poles, on city benches, on subways, on bus seats, on the walls of bathrooms in bars and pubs, even 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as Miles sticks his artwork all over his Brooklyn neighborhood–places not quite intended for communicating via a form of art.  Are they art, or just stuck-up pieces of crap?  This is the question posed by DB Burkeman, skateboarder and punk rocker turned DJ who bounced between London and New York collecting these images over the past 40 years.  He tells the story of stickers as street art in a book that updates his first book on the subject from 2010.  The new collection is Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap, From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, coming in June from Rizzoli New York Publishing.  The out-of-print first volume, Stickers: Stuck-Up Piece of Crap, documented the subgenre as its own art scene, sought after by sticker enthusiasts, and the new volume reproduces more than 3,000 more sticker images.

Burkeman’s sticker art is contemporary art in the Banksy sense.  Often irreverent, sometimes humorous and even political, they are quick, cheap ways to convey messages and meaning between the artist and the pedestrian.  A fair analogy is our world of DIY culture where people can self-publish or do anything else because of technological advances–how can more artists become street artists any cheaper than making their own stickers and leaving them anywhere they can be seen?  Some artists even print their own stamps (also stickers) and send them to each other around the world.  The stickers Burkeman examines also include the nostalgic: Remember scratch-and-sniff stickers from the 1970s?  They’re still being produced, and a few are pictured in this volume (sorry, no scent).  From stickers on your fruits at the grocery store to billboards mocking corporate brands or politicians, and art pranks from artist-activists (and simple power socket stickers stuck on the walls at every other major airport these days), Burkeman connects it all together.

Stickers 2: More Stuck-Up Crap includes commentary from a variety of collectors, DJs, artists, and others influenced or inspired by the medium, from Nathalie Richter, 1988 German half-pipe champion (and vintage sticker collector), to BMX legend Mike Humphrey (he put ’em on bikes), to Mark Mothersbaugh from the band DEVO (and one of filmdom’s great composers), to famous mosaic street artist INVADER, to indie film director Aaron Rose, to graffiti writers and DJs who leave there mark behind in sticker form.  The “OBEY” signs from John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic film They Live–they have a particular influence on artists, who have reinterpreted the signage in several ways, many pictured in the book.

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The detective strategy game Clue is making another comeback.  Today IDW Publishing is releasing the first issue of a three-issue comic book miniseries called Clue: Candlestick.  Writer-artist Dash Shaw is also serving as series letterer, bringing his stylized look to the usual suspects: Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Mrs. White, and Miss Scarlet.  Hasbro’s game turns 70 this year, so Shaw has compiled a new crime wrapped in secrets, lies, and puzzles, including a maze and coded message.  The puzzles can be unraveled by readers as they make their way through the mystery.

The best feature is Shaw’s incorporation of all the elements of the board game, including the familiar map of the house with connecting floor tiles, stone game pieces that serve as useful art on the grounds of Mr. Boddy’s estate, and, of course, the familiar weapons of choice.  To find out who is searching what rooms and when, you’ll need to solve a logic puzzle.  As with the expanded Master Detective version of the game, you may have more than you bargain for in the story’s first issue, including a focus on Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. White.  It turns out those weapons might have had some history.

 

In addition to Shaw’s main cover art, variant editions of each issue will form a triptych of the classic Clue suspects and their legendary weapons of choice.  Illustrator Jed McGowan (Time in Nature) designed a third variant cover for the first issue.  Each issue features additional story content and will feature new, removable Clue game cards on the back cover, based on the comic art in the series.

Here’s a preview of the first issue of Clue: Candlestick, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago the last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered, and for its anniversary a crowdfunding project funded a feature-length retrospective on the series.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind will be familiar to any fan of Deep Space Nine who has delved into the special features found in the DVD sets or online via YouTube.  It’s full of those reminiscences, albeit updated, diehard fans have viewed countless times in interviews with cast and crew and via panels at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.  But the unique feature for this new documentary is a reunion of writers from the series who sit down and block out what a possible next episode of the series might include.

Deep Space Nine showrunner and executive producer Ira Steven Behr leads the documentary, hitting the high points of his seven years creating Deep Space Nine, intercutting new and old interviews with key and supporting cast members, a few members of the production staff, co-creator Rick Berman and the man representing the business side of production, Kerry McCluggage, former chairman of Paramount Television Group.  Deep Space Nine: What We Left Behind does not look closely at the production from a design, costumes, props, music, or technical standpoint, but is almost exclusively focused on the writers and actors, and why the crew thinks its show was different from competing programs in the 1990s (although some art production familiar faces including Herman Zimmerman, Michael and Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler make brief appearances).

The writers room reunion of Behr, Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Hans Beimler, and Robert Hewitt Wolfe talking through a spec script idea for a new 20th anniversary reunion episode is a great guide for anyone wanting a glimpse at the process of developing a television show.  Backed by a cartoon art/Ken Burns-esque multimedia mock-up of characters and sets by artists Magdalena Marinova, Kai De Mello-Folsom, and Luke Snailham, it’s a better presentation format than watching more talking heads.  The result feels quite like a Brannon Braga or Ronald D. Moore series finale episode (see Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” and Star Trek Voyager’s “Endgame”), complete with a time jump and appearances by grown-up regular players, in this case Jake Sisko and Molly O’Brien.  Vedek Kira?  Captain Nog?  With some make-up and new costumes, the writers’ episode creation would have actually made a fine final episode to the series, providing some resolution to the fate of Avery Brooks′ Captain Sisko.

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Everyone keeps something on their desk to distract them from what they are supposed to be doing.  Whether at your home or office, this includes photographs, and probably little oddities that have a message or memory only you understand.  Miniature Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy?  Check.  USB drive that is shaped like a Game of Thrones house symbol?  Check.  A shiny medal with ribbon, but you can’t remember what you won?  Check.  That plastic… thing?  Check.  Now publisher Running Press has a new desk ornament for your favorite cat fan.

It’s the Zen Garden… Litter Box.

It’s not for your cats.

I had a zen garden on my office desk credenza as a lawyer for 20 years.  On conference calls, it was easy for my hands to hover over to it and rake some new design among the shiny rocks while strategizing through the next work problem.  This sand garden fits in your hand–it’s a black plastic sand box, complete with sand, a wooden rake, some rocks, and two cats (if you ever played the game Pig Mania or Pass the Pigs, you could pull the pigs out of the box and they’d match the size of these little cats).  It’s a mash-up of the traditional zen garden or Japanese rock garden, the litter box, and the sandbox your neighbor cat “played in” in your backyard when you were a kid.

But why?  Zen gardens are a traditional way to reduce stress, improve your focus, and develop a sense of well-being.  Life is stressful, work is stressful, plus what brings down blood pressure better than cats?

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The annual Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, is back again–an excuse to watch the movies again and meet up with friends and talk all things of a galaxy far, far away.  And again it is overlapping with Free Comic Book Day, a good excuse to visit your local comic book shop and get re-introduced to some series you may have missed.

You can’t beat the “gold line” of comics this year, with Jody Houser writing two free comics, Doctor Who and Stranger Things Jason Aaron serves as a writer on the Avengers issue (including a great Wolverine story), which is always a good FCBD title.  Archie Comics has a new Riverdale Season 3 FCBD story.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman is back writing the featured TMNT issue.  And fans of the Whedonverse won’t want to miss their copy of the BOOM! Studios twofer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, complete with a great cover by Moon Knight cover artist and Vampironica creator Greg Smallwood.  And for adults, Vampirella fans should check out its Issue #0/FCBD issue, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the character, complete with art by Bruce Timm and work by the late Forrest J. Ackerman.  Two other interesting titles for the older crowd worth checking out are Antarctic Press’s Punchline with great art by Matthew Weldon, and Shout Comics’ Midnight Sky.

 

The above issues are also good choices for kids, but some other titles are more targeted at the younger set including Casper the Ghost in Casper’s Spooksville.  Dear Justice League lets kids go one-on-one with their favorite superheroes.  Go Fish! is a great looking fish tale.  You can never go wrong with a new Little Lulu story.  Lumberjanes is back with another campfire story.  And last but not least, Star Wars Adventures is a great pick for any Star Wars fan this May the Fourth.

Take a look at some covers and previews to books available free (supplies may be limited) at Elite Comics or your local comic book shop today only:

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Peter Mayhew, the actor known best for playing Chewbacca in all three Star Wars trilogies, passed away Tuesday, April 30, 2019, according to a message distributed by his family yesterday.

I was lucky to have gotten involved in the past 20 years with the convention circuit.  It allowed me to meet some interesting people, including the gentle and soft-spoken actor.  I saw him at five conventions over this time, and he was always that friendly gentleman you’d expect the man behind the furry suit to be.  My first encounter was shaking his hand at the opening of an early Planet Comicon show.  Unless you’re also 7 foot 3 inches tall, your hand was immediately lost in his King Kong-sized hand.  When I met him he was either late or early to the show and had no helper so I offered to help him set up his table.  His conversation getting ready for a line of fans eager to meet him was generous and warm.

I next saw him in that lull between the prequels and the current trilogy at San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, when nothing much was going on in the Star Wars universe and for all intents and purposes the movies were done for good.  Folks wrongly accuse San Diego Comic-Con of being too busy to have meaningful experiences with others, but I always have found the opposite true.  I spun around in one of the wide floor walkways to see Mr. Mayhew alone, leaning back in his chair, nobody around at all, just watching the attendees walk around, walking past him and not even realizing they’d passed by one of film’s greatest icons.  It seemed sad that he didn’t have the longest lines of all, but I also felt lucky to get that much more time to chat and get his autograph.  He wasn’t bothered by not being swarmed, just an older gent enjoying a day of people walking about.  But the limelight would return only three years later after George Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney and J.J. Abrams tapped Mr. Mayhew to return to the role literally billions have loved him for over the past 42 years.  And there he was again, back in the thick of it at the table read for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, only five years ago.  Over the past five years his health gradually left it more difficult for Mr. Mayhew to do appearances, but I would see him three more times, each time still showing up for fans with a smile, happy to take a photograph or sign whatever nostalgic keepsakes fans brought to share with him.

My favorite memory of Mr. Mayhew was asking him about his experience working with Jim Henson on The Muppet Show in the famous Star Wars episode that aired February 21, 1980.  He had been answering questions from the crowd at a Planet Comicon panel, questions he’d clearly answered hundreds of times before.  But he lit up when I mentioned the Muppets.  Watching the show as a nine-year-old, I found the episode to be the perfect, rare event (like the Holiday Special), with Mark Hamill being featured with R2-D2, C-3PO, and our favorite Wookiee, not just another guy in the suit but the real deal, Peter Mayhew, along with Kermit and friends.  When TV shows aired in 1980 you had your eyes glued to the screen, because the idea you’d ever be able to watch the episode again was still a pipe dream.  Mr. Mayhew said he hadn’t been asked about that episode before and it had been years since he even thought about it, but details all snapped back for him.  He remarked about the joy of working with Jim Henson and said he was amazed that the Muppets above the floor were real characters that could interact with him and Hamill as if they were as real, as if by magic, and yet he stepped back and looked down to see a dozen people underneath, intertwined and synchronized to make it all appear so seamless to the audience.  You can imagine what that giant, usually soft-spoken fellow looked like when he was excited about something.  And anyone who ever met him could attest to the twinkle in his eyes that was part of who he was, those same eyes that revealed plenty of the real Mr. Mayhew behind the Wookiee suit that made it onto film and became part of his famous character.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, probably no other sci-fi property has branched out in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day inside the Alien universe, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.  There’s even more reason to look back this year, as 20th Century Fox is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ridley Scott film.  Check out the Fox contest (expires tonight) here.  The recognizable Reebok stomper worn by Ellen Ripley in Aliens is coming back, too–part of the contest, and expected to be for sale soon here.

Next week for the first time U.S. audiences can access a documentary on legendary Alien concept artist and designer H.R. Giger streaming on OVID.tv, and we’ll be reviewing it soon here at borgDark Star: H.R. Giger’s World is a documentary on the artist’s unique vision, available May 3.

An eagerly awaited book for Alien fans is coming.  You’ll want to pre-order the new J.W. Rinzler guide to the 1979 film, The Making of Alien, here (we’ll be reviewing it in July).

No book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White envisioned them in his novel released for Alien Day 2018, Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  The Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas, to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge is Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.

Last year we reviewed Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton (check out our review here).  This boxed edition contains two books, providing readers an insight into the most intriguing character from the Alien prequels.  The in-universe sketchbook contains more than 200 illustrations from the set and will take you inside the mind of David.  Plus Developing the Art of an Android provides an interview with Hallett and Hatton, the artists behind the sketchwork.

And there’s Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey (reviewed here), which reminds us: In space, no one can hear you meow.  Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted.  The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house trained.  This full-color illustrated book offers a cat’s eye view of all the action from the movie Alien.

Not enough?  You say you want a full-on fix of Alien today?  Check out any of these Alien tie-ins and films previously reviewed here at borg:

The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams

Alien Covenant: Origins, by Alan Dean Foster

The Art and Making of Alien Covenant, by Simon Ward

Aliens: Bug Hunt, anthology

Alien: The Coloring Book

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, by S.D. Perry

Aliens: The 30th Anniversary Edition

Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, by Roger Christian

Aliens: The Set Photography, by Simon Ward

The borg interview with Alien universe author Tim Lebbon

And yep, there’s more…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

TV historian and Star Trek expert Marc Cushman has returned with his next volume in the history of the creators of Star Trek, the 1960s television series, the hardcover book These Are the Voyages: Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in the 1970s, Volume 1 (1970-75).  At a massive 763 pages, Cushman uses his trademark style of sifting through every available source to collect details about Hollywood, executives, writers, actors, and everyone in between to provide a history of television via the extensive use of contemporary, primary source materials.  The book includes dozens of black and white photographs, screen shots, marketing images, and behind the scenes photographs.

Fans of Star Trek: The Animated Series and the tie-in novels that began with author James Blish should take note: Much of the book is about Star Trek: The Animated Series, the marketing of Star Trek by Roddenberry’s company Lincoln Enterprises, and several studio tie-ins during the 1970s, including the Gold Key comics, and Blish’s famous run of novels–all which kept Trek fans engaged for a decade without a live-action presence.  The rest is devoted to Roddenberry’s personal projects before and after The Animated Series.

Many themes are brought to light as Cushman tracks Roddenberry’s career and efforts to revive Star Trek after the 1960s series cancellation.  Roddenberry’s in-your-face nature with studio executives didn’t help him any, yet his persistence kept him in the business.  William Shatner was able to rely on his past success as an actor to easily move ahead with his career and lay the groundwork to become the icon he is known as today.  Leonard Nimoy benefited the most directly from Star Trek–he became a sex symbol, and moved from a music career to becoming co-star of the original Mission: Impossible.  He also didn’t miss a beat continuing his acting with major stage productions.  The rest of the cast was type-cast, having more difficulty finding work, especially Walter Koenig, who was even denied a voice-acting role on The Animated Series.  But The Animated Series would prove several things: Every member of the cast was ready to jump at the chance of returning to Star Trek despite their other projects.  Nimoy was at first hesitant, but when seeing the rest of the cast join up he seemed to not want to be left behind.  This included the writers for the original series–everyone asked to provide a script for The Animated Series wanted to return to the unique science fiction material–and did.

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