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Category: Retro Fix


Review by C.J. Bunce

A new print edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden is coming to bookstores next month, and its artistry and design could stand as the definitive version–a storybook that could be a new favorite for the next generation of readers.  Originally published in serial form for both adults and children in 1910, Burnett’s classic book of children forced to grow up in difficult times and the value of friendship to their growth was initially not so well-received.  Burnett would be better known for her novels Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Little Princess even years past her death, but over time The Secret Garden flourished to become a beloved favorite, frequently ranked high on British and American reading lists, including those of School Library Journal, the U.S. National Education Association, and the BBC.  The novel made its way into the public domain, and has been the subject of countless print editions, as well as plays, musicals, television features, and theatrical films.  Actors Dean Stockwell, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Glynis Johns, and Honor Blackman have all found roles in various adaptations of the book.  And soon another big-screen adaptation is coming your way from StudioCanal starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

Design studio MinaLima has partnered with Harper Design to release a truly beautiful version of The Secret Garden incorporating three-dimensional elements and hundreds of pieces of colorful line art and decorations.  A garden’s worth of vibrant flowers hug the footer numbers at the bottom of each page, colorful end papers adorn each new chapter, the off-white pages have an antiqued appearance, each chapter finds an old-fashioned stylized introductory letter, and pop-up images emphasize story elements.  It even includes a traditional paper doll, and cleverly folded paper gardens.  The 384-page hardcover features a gilded, textured cover, and tucked throughout the book are symbols and images found in Burnett’s sumptuous text.  The fifth in a series of children’s classics illustrated by MinaLima, including Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales, The Secret Garden is the pinnacle of these accurately self-described “lavishly illustrated” editions, finding a story that doesn’t require illustrations, but is enhanced so well by MinaLima’s application of them.  At two points in the story, letters are received via post by key characters, and instead of merely printing them in text as found in the original novel, the illustrators include two actual letters, designed as replicas, neatly folded just as you would have found real letters in the late 19th century, ready for readers to pull out and read as they move through the story.  That tactile experience will move readers young and old.

The style of artwork is suited to the story, combining British and Indian influences the young lead character Mary Lennox would have been familiar with, plus ink color choices and wallpapers similarly found in her era.  In this tale, Mary, an initially angry, “quite contrary” daughter of a British couple living in India that dies of cholera, finds herself nearly abandoned at a widowed uncle’s giant mansion back in England.  There she discovers the widower’s abandoned garden, and her relationships with three young people, an older girl and two boys, allow her to grow and move beyond her past.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story should take note of the fourth installment of Abrams Books’ Star Wars artbook series.  The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak not only looks behind the scenes of the production of the second of the modern anthology movies and fourth of the modern sequels, it reveals the finest and the most evocative Star Wars-styled concept art created since The Empire Strikes Back.  Taking a different path from the episodic sequels, the creators that imagined the look for Solo took their inspiration directly from the work of Ralph McQuarrie (original trilogy production illustrator and concept artist), Joe Johnston (original trilogy ILM art director), Harry Lange (original trilogy art director and set decorator), and Colin Cantwell (the first Star Wars spacecraft designer), concept artists behind the original Star Wars movie.  Including artwork both used for the final creation of sets, effects, and costumes, as well as imagery that didn’t make it to the final cut, The Art of Solo provides visuals fans back to the 1970s have only dreamed about.

Solo is also the first movie of the post-Disney period of Star Wars to draw back to the actual input from George Lucas for more than merely sketches and early descriptions of his earliest ideas from 1973.  Lucas was involved from the beginning, planning a Han Solo movie since before the Lucasfilm sale, and so this sequel has inspiration and concept direction from the creator of the franchise himself.  Lucasfilm/ILM lead concept designer James Clyne, production designer Neil Lamont, costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, Neal Scanlan‘s creature department, and Rob Bredow and Pat Tubach‘s visual effects team were aware of the unique challenge facing this film–creating something faithful to the original trilogy and beloved characters while also taking the look and feel of the space fantasy into new territory.  The result is a film full of different worlds that still feels “Star Wars-y,” as the designers call it.  For this film, that meant a Western homage mirroring the American journey of settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast, and also importing story elements found in Akira Kurosawa’s Westerns, among many other classic films.

Many of the portraits and landscape paintings are poster-worthy.  Earthbound physical locations were tracked down to define new worlds Corellia, Mimban, Vandor, Kessel, and Savareen, along with CGI renderings, all to look like they belong in the Star Wars galaxy.  As Star Wars was created in the 1970s–taking place ten years prior to the original Star Wars–the artists looked for styles and ideas from the 1960s via movies, bands, computers and technology, and other cultural influences for costumes and set decorations.  So before Emilia Clarke was cast as Qi’ra, images of the character needed to establish her locations and costumes included drawings that look very much like Grace Kelly.  Incorporating images of younger versions of both Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams were obvious choices for creating their first looks, like the duo at the gambling table where Lando would lose the Falcon to Solo.  But soon Alden Ehrenreich’s image became the face of Han Solo.  All along, Chewbacca was Chewbacca, only the crew aimed to convey a different view of the Wookiee, where having all his hairs styled in place was no longer important–this was the young, wind-blown companion from the past, the one quicker to tear someone’s arms off.

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The second trailer for The Predator is out, and this time we get some clips of the latest incarnation of the classic intergalactic headhunter in action.  20th Century Fox released the first full movie trailer for the autumn release of The Predator in May, and the studio’s buzz for the alien’s return is now gearing up.  Cinematographer Larry Fong (Watchmen, Super 8, Kong: Skull Island) has said audiences shouldn’t expect a CGI-heavy film (like those recently flooding cinemas), but more old-school practical effects including a live-action Predator as seen in the original film.  From this new trailer, it looks like that means not just one–but at least two–Predators.

Although we initially surmised that the film would disregard the 21st century sequels, it looks like director Shane Black (who played the joking marine in the original Predator) is merely setting the film between 1990’s Predator 2 and 2010’s Predators.  The role of Jake Busey places the new film 30 years after the first sequel.  He plays the son of the character played by his dad, actor Gary Busey, in Predator 2.  The new trailer shows more of Boyd Holbrook, who played the cyborg villain of last year’s Oscar-nominated film Logan, and Sterling K. Brown, who played the king’s brother in Black Panther and the defendant in Marshall.

Other actors appearing in the movie include Lochlyn Munro (Riverdale), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, Dexter, The Handmaid’s Tale), Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse, Iron Man 2), Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland), Thomas Jane (Buffy the Vampire SlayerCrow: City of Angels), Trevante Rhodes (Westworld), and Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica).

Now check out this new trailer for The Predator:

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The ultimate shark sighting?  A make-ready skit when Jason Momoa finally gets to host Saturday Night Live?

We have seen some great team-ups that also served as great mash-ups.  One of the best came last year when DC Comics took a side trip with Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters, especially in the Batman/Elmer Fudd crime-noir, one-shot story “Pway for Me,” by Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Lovern Kindzierski.  It was our pick for last year’s best team-up/mash-up.  This year DC Comics is back, but this time they paired off again with characters from Hanna-Barbera.  Last year for DC Meets Hanna-Barbera, Volume 1, that meant pairing Jonny Quest and Adam Strange, Space Ghost and Green Lantern, Flintstones and Booster Gold, and Suicide Squad and Banana Splits.  In comic book stores and coming soon in a compilation edition, DC Meets Hanna-Barbera, Volume 2 features even more great team-up/mash-ups:  Who wins when you pair The Flash and Speed Buggy?  How serious can cartoon characters get when you’ve teamed Black Lightning and Hong Kong Phooey?  Or “Super Sons” Robin and Superboy taking on Dynomutt?  But the winner is clear… How could you possibly lose with a team-up of Aquaman and Jabberjaw?

With the right amount of seriousness (mainly from Aquaman) and the right amount of nostalgic humor (mainly from fun-loving land shark Jabberjaw), Dan Abnett strikes throwback gold with a story full of seaside quips and Jaws references, pulling ideas even from the classic favorite Superfriends show.  The result is one of the best Aquaman stories we’ve read.  And Abnett completely tapped into the pulse of the classic Jabberjaw cartoon, tying in his band of friends The Neptunes.  Artists Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy, and Rain Beredo created a unique, incredible look, something out of Syfy’s Haven town and Luc Besson’s future world in Valerian and Laureline.  THIS is the ongoing series that needs to continue, although, understandably the pairing is a big stretch even for comic books and animated series, bridging time and space to get these two worlds together.  But it works.  From the setting, a seaside tourist town called Amnesty Bay (playing on the Jaws town of Amity), to the return of the world’s best drumming shark, to the sound of fingers on a chalkboard, to those Rodney Dangerfield meets Curly Howard catch-phrases, to the final entanglement with shark hunters, this one has it all.

DC has already featured Hanna-Barbera together in ongoing comic book series from the favorite characters of 1970s Saturday morning cartoons in the series Future Quest, Scooby Apocalypse, The Flintstones, Wacky Raceland, Dastardly and Muttley, The Ruff and Reddy Show, The Jetsons, and Exit, Stage Left!: the Snagglepuss Chronicles.  A great writer should be able to find unlimited potential for Jabberjaw and his friends.  Check out these preview pages from the publisher for the story “A Bigger Beat”–

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The crazed killer in the William Shatner Captain Kirk mask returns.  Again.  Much has been said about John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween.  It launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis and an entire genre of movies.  Curtis is back for more in the eleventh film in the franchise, this Halloween’s holiday horror release, Halloween.  Yes, that makes the third movie titled only Halloween.  A plus for horror fans is Nick Castle returning as Michael Myers–the first time since 1978.  Castle has had an interesting and varied career, directing films including The Last Starfighter, and writing films like Escape from New York.  Even better, this sequel disregards everything but the original: Halloween 2 (1981), Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) (the only film not about Michael Myers), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and the reboots Halloween (2007) and Halloween 2 (2009).  So forget that stuff about Myers being Strode’s sister.  Or Myers being dead.  Or Strode being dead.  It didn’t happen.  And best of all, John Carpenter is back, this time as executive producer and composer (cue the creepy piano keys now).

Laurie Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors. Like Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise as Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton in the Terminator franchise as Sarah Connor, Jamie Lee Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s best loved cinematic heroines. Like fans hope for Hamilton returning as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks only edgier, and, well, more badass than ever before.

This will be Curtis’s fifth time playing Laurie Strode.  First was Curtis’s first appearance as Laurie Strode in the original film.  Keep an eye out for film audience’s first look at Curtis as Laurie Strode, plus Carpenter movie staple Donald Pleasance (Escape from New York, Halloween 2, 4, and 5), a young P.J. Soles (Stripes, Law & Order), and an even younger Kyle Richards (The Watcher in the Woods, ER).  Curtis was back one more time–we thought, in 1981 as Carpenter and Debra Hill tried to bank on the original’s success with Halloween 2, finding Strode stalked by Michael Myers in a hospital (with an appearance by The Last Starfighter’s Lance Guest).  Twenty years later Curtis returned as Strode again, this time teaching at a private school, and protecting her son from the return of Michael.  The 1998 sequel is pretty good for a horror sequel, and so is the trailer (keep an eye out for Curtis’s real-life Mom or horror icon Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Fog), Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, and four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams).  And Curtis then came back another last time five years later in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, possibly the lowest point in the franchise (yep, that’s Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff in the trailer).  Strode returned to confront… her brother (?) Michael and he didn’t seem to make it out of Halloween H20, and Laurie didn’t make it out of Halloween: Resurrection.  Now we forget all that:  Donald Pleasance’s psychiatrist character did shoot and wound Myers, and he’s been in jail since.

Check out clips of their last stands and film trailers featuring Curtis below–you can really see comparisons like those between Linda Hamilton’s transition from Sarah Connor in The Terminator and Terminator 2 comparing Curtis as Strode in Halloween (1978) versus Curtis as Strode in 2018.  But first here is the trailer to the latest, director David Gordon Green’s Halloween:

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Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner in 2017 and a Golden Globe nominee again this year for best actress in a television series, all for The Crown, Claire Foy is quickly becoming an actor to keep an eye out for.  Her career continues on an upward trajectory this Fall when she stars in two big screen movie releases.  Both of these films saw their first trailers arrive this weekend.  One is a historical biopic and the other a crime story, both adaptations of bestselling books.

Coming first is director Damien Chazelle’s First Man from Universal Pictures, a film about astronaut Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, The Nice Guys), with Foy co-starring as Armstrong’s wife Janet, based on a book by James R. Hansen.  The film also stars Corey Stoll (Ant-Man) as Buzz Aldrin, Lukas Haas (Witness, The Revenant) as Mike Collins, Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Winchester) as Ed White, Ethan Embry (That Thing You Do!, Batman Beyond) as Pete Conrad, Kyle Chandler (Super 8, Argo) as Deke Slayton, and Ciaran Hinds (The Sum of All Fears, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) in an undisclosed role.

Next will be director Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web from Sony Pictures.  This is a sequel to the film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Foy takes on the role of Millennium series star Lisbeth Salander, formerly played in the Swedish film by Noomi Rapace and later the American production by Rooney Mara.  This is the first story in the dark and violent series not written by Larsson–David Lagercrantz was tapped to pen the novel this film is based upon.  The film co-stars Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049).

Here is Claire Foy in new trailers for First Man and The Girl in the Spider’s Web:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you hear the name Winnie-the-Pooh, what comes to mind?  Phrases like “Oh, bother,” or “Let’s Begin by taking a smallish nap or two”?  For many it’s the images of Pooh and his friends, images that have been around now for ninety years.  Never out of print, the original four books by author A.A. Milne make up a finite set of the stories of the original animal friends of Christopher Robin from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Milne is also who we first think of when we think of these stories, yet as much of Pooh is owed to the drawings and coordination with artist E.H. Shepard, who continued to draw images for new editions and authorized derivative works of Pooh and Friends for 50 years after Milne wrote his last Pooh story.  Shepard is the subject of a new book, The Art of Winnie the Pooh: How E.H. Shepard Illustrated an Icon, written by James Campbell.

The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh is a bit of a family story.  Campbell, author of a previous account of Shepard’s days in World War I called Shepard’s War, is married to Shepard’s great-granddaughter and manages the Shepard artistic and literary estate.  Minette Shepard, the artist’s granddaughter, provides a foreword to the book.  As a child in the 1940s, she was the caretaker of Growler–the original Teddy bear that inspired the look of Pooh we know today.  Fans of the four Winnie-the-Pooh books: When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner, have long known the story of Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne and his toys as the inspiration for the stories.  Yet the wider story reveals a working relationship between two creators in a manner not common for the era, and an artist who used his own son, Graham, as much as Milne’s son for his imagery.  Known nearly as well for his famous illustrations of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Shepard’s story is a chronicle of a long lifetime of artistry, duty, ups and downs, and a legacy for generations of children and adults alike.

The Winnie-the-Pooh books are one of the earliest examples of a writer and artist working together on a book.  When first published in 1924, publishers typically brought in artists to add images throughout a book after the text had been completed.  That changed with Milne and Shepard, particularly so after the immediate success of the first book.  As Campbell sees it, “Shepard and Milne had torn up the rulebook and made the public look at literature, and particularly children’s literature, in a different way.  Rather than reading to children the books inspired authors to write for children, and in the period up to the Second World War, this opportunity for adults and children to sit and enjoy books together grew rapidly.”  Collaboration became key to the appeal of these books, both the writing and the pictures, and although the publishing industry to this day continues to default regularly to keeping a wall between authors and illustrators, the ready combination of the two can be seen throughout the various niches of children’s picture books, comic books, and graphic novels.

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A month ago here at borg.com we discussed looking outside the comic book medium for the artwork of your favorite comic book artists.  You don’t need to look too far outside of comic books to find the next great artwork from fan-favorite cover artist Ryan Sook.  Every year just in advance of San Diego Comic-Con, comic book stores are stocked with the annual update to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  First published in 1970, the 1,200 page log of nearly every comic book published to-date arrives at its 48th volume this summer, dated 2018-2019.  Known as the go-to guide for prices for a generation of collectors, Robert M. Overstreet’s book of prices and thumbnail photos is also a source to glean what’s happened in the past year by way of comic book trends.  It features its own hall of fame for comic book legends, plus full-color sections highlighting some of today and yesteryear’s best covers.

For this year’s comic book store exclusive hardcover edition, Gemstone Publishing tapped Ryan Sook to create a cover to commemorate 50 years of Planet of the Apes films.  Sook reached beyond the original to reflect imagery from throughout the Planet of the Apes movie saga– a great homage to the original shocking environment as Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor arrives in the future horrifying world of human scarecrows, with General Ursus leading the charge and the creepy denizens in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the return to the past by spaceship for the apes in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, to the militant world and apes under arrest in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, culminating with the eagerly-awaited first appearance of The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  The familiar image of Roddy McDowall behind John Chambers’ Oscar-worthy make-up takes center stage–McDowall connects all of the films alternately as Cornelius and Caesar (and later as Galen in the TV series), and here he cleverly blocks the identity of the planet.

You can only purchase this edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in comic book stores, so put in a call to Elite Comics to make sure you get a copy when this new edition arrives in July.

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Fans of pop culture and comics have one more day to attend the fourth annual Wizard World Comic Con in Des Moines this weekend.   Held at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, thousands of attendees from Iowa and neighboring states toured the halls and giant celebrity autograph and photo-op room, many in cosplay garb Friday and Saturday.  Even more people are expected to turn out for the show Sunday as Wizard World rolls out a “bring a friend free” promotion.  The show continues today 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Check out the event website here for more information.  Wizard World continues its national presentation of comic book and pop culture conventions next week as the show moves on to Columbus, Ohio.  After the success of the first two days of this year’s event in Des Moines, the fifth Wizard World Des Moines show is already being planned by show organizers for next year, to be held May 10-12, 2019.

Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Black Panther’s Winston Duke, and many other celebrities talked with fans in the show’s celebrity row signing area.  Comic book creators talked about books, and autographed books and art for fans.  We loved this new Green Arrow print from guest comic book creators Phil Hester and Ande Parks (with color by Mouse Baumann):

Even more than 20 years after the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Marsters (Spike) maintained a steady stream of fans waiting in line to meet him all day Saturday:

Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols returned to the Midwest.  Here she is being interviewed at the event for a local radio station:

Genre actor Jim Beaver (Supernatural, The X-Files, Deadwood, Enterprise) met and signed autographs for crowds of fans:

Nationally-known comic book creators were well-represented at this show.  Artist Phil Hester returned to Wizard World–here he is featured on the creator stage demonstrating illustration techniques:

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