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Tag Archive: Dave Stewart


Review by C.J. Bunce

For me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the film that got away.  I was lucky to have been taken to every great sci-fi classic and Spielberg film from Jaws forward, but multiple Star Wars viewings probably nudged out my chance to see this one back in 1977.  Close Encounters didn’t arrive in theaters until the Christmas season that year and it would likely have generated some nightmares as I was only about a year older than the boy co-star of the film–so it was probably a good thing.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind is back in theaters this week to celebrate its 40th anniversary.  Watching it for the first time on the big screen was like filling in a last brick in the wall.  It’s a satisfying re-watch, and every time you screen a classic in the theater again you learn something new.  The film is being preceded this week by a behind-the-scenes featurette, including an interview with Steven Spielberg and excerpts from the home movies he routinely films as he directs his movies.  It also contains a clip of each iconic scene in the film, so those who haven’t seen the film and want to view it for the first time may want to duck out for popcorn during the previews.  Close Encounters is screening only for a few more days, so no matter how many times you have seen it, it’s time to go back again.  Nothing beats a classic, especially a Spielberg film, on the big screen.

You might find Close Encounters’ pacing to stand out as a bit slow.  Movies today need to be action-packed to grab viewers.  The elements the viewer needs to know are laid out methodically, and yet the film is not told in normal storytelling fashion.  Richard Dreyfuss’s innocent everyman Roy Neary is not your normal protagonist.  Every bit the victim here, he also may be more like a lottery winner, selected to do what many dream of.  He asks for none of the personal invasion he encounters–ripped from his family and job, this uncontrollable compulsion arrives, pursuing him with only a realization that whatever this vision is about it’s somehow important.  From the film’s abrupt start it feels very avant-garde, a bit like modern independent filmmaking, with its back and forth explanation of a communication project in progress spliced with a utility worker who experiences a strange event.  Sequences of real world end-to-end conversations that other directors might have edited to more quickly get to the point also illustrate unusual directing decisions.  Only in what doubles as a horror movie sequence–basically a child abduction–do we get a clear realization of aliens as one possible antagonist of the film.  And when the movie really kicks in at Devil’s Tower the audience can see the international marriage of scientists and military is possibly another villain.  Or is there a villain at all?  Many scenes suggest dissonance itself is the culprit–all the barriers to clear communication that get in the way–the ongoing, pounding barrage of multiple interpreters in a single conversation, air traffic control operators speaking at once, Neary’s wife played by Teri Garr and her kids all talking or screaming or beating toys to pieces, Roy’s co-workers on the radio all speaking at once, a room full of scientists babbling at each other as they try to interpret these six repeated numbers beings sent to them from outer space, aliens playing rapid tones against humans doing the same.  And the sound of all the toys turning on at once, the toys of little Barry (Cary Guffey) that wake up his mom Jillian, played by Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon, forcing her to join the story as a victim along with Roy.  Then the resolution of conflict only arrives as the aliens and humans finally reach clarity with the tonal communication between them in the film’s climactic encounter.  In the preview to the film, Spielberg mentions Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket’s crooning “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are” as his inspiration–what the film is all about.  That familiar Disney motif is certainly present thanks to John Williams’ beautiful score.  Maybe Roy is his own enemy–unable to break away from the influence of these beings?  Or by following this calling does he rescue himself from a family that doesn’t understand or listen to him, and a mundane job and neighborhood of zombie-like suburbanites who always seem to be watching him?

Whatever the through line of the story is intended to be, the film is sweeping and enormous in scope, addressing subjects everyone can get sucked into: telepathy, conspiracy theories, all the UFO theories (from cattle mutilations to Area 51 to alien abductions and flying saucers), and unexplained phenomena (from missing people to the curious fascination of aliens with rummaging through refrigerators).  It’s all there in this suspenseful package, all from this brilliant young filmmaker who said he and his cast just couldn’t wait to show everyone this great thing they had created.  Hints at so many films are contained here that you could wonder if Spielberg starts generating every subsequent project idea by first watching Close Encounters:  We see the young child’s parents terrified in their home by some strange force in Poltergeist as Jillian tries to prevent the aliens from breaking into her home.  We see the quiet standing crowd at night waiting at the foot of Devil’s Tower for something good or bad to happen filmed similar to the soldiers waiting as the Ark is opened at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And it’s almost a surprise to realize the mother ship at the end of Close Encounters is not the ship from E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, another giant, flying, lit-up Christmas tree-house transporting that curious little botanist who would arrive only five years later.

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Hellboy in Mexico

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is doing some traveling in his next trade edition coming next week from Dark Horse Comics.  In 1856 the red, brick-armed, demon with sawed-off horns called Hellboy journeyed across Mexico in a five-month blur of drinking with wrestlers and fighting along the way against monsters.  A few months later some agents found him blacked out in a bar near Morales.  This is Hellboy In Mexico, Hellboy’s own Lost Weekend story.  It’s a good assemblage of funny encounters in nicely creepy locales.

Mignola serves as writer and creator of the stories, with artwork by Mignola, Richard Corben, Mick McMahon, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, and color work by Dave Stewart.  Corben’s work really shines.  He evokes the elaborate styling of Alex Niño in his Aztec environments, while Corben’s version of Dr. Frankenstein has a crazed Robert Crumb quality.  Mignola’s style is a constant, and his work–and the entire book–is a great start point for anyone who thinks they might like the character, or fans of the two Hellboy movies.

Hellboy in Mexico cover

Vampire hunting with luchadores, searching for Aztec gods, fighting evil turkeys and Frankenstein’s monster, drinking way too much tequila, and a bad marriage–this is one of Hellboy’s strangest, and maybe even one of the best, collections of his adventures so far.  Check out a preview below after the break.

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abrams-star-wars-comics

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three new Star Wars comic book series beginning this year as the license returns to Marvel Comics, we’re taking a look at the second book in Abrams Books’ series of hardcover art house books on the franchise, Star Wars Art: Comics.  From the series that also brought us Star Wars Art: Posters, Star Wars Art: Concept, Star Wars Art: Illustration, and Star Wars Storyboards, Star Wars Art: Comics hones in on sequential art found in the comic book medium.

Star Wars and comic books have been in lock-step since Star Wars first hit theaters, thanks to George Lucas and an early meeting with writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin.  The transcript of that meeting is included as an appendix to the book.  Beginning with the first comic book adaptation from Marvel and running through the Dark Horse years, Abrams has compiled a solid overview of thirty years of interpretations of the myth and magic of the Force.

Star Wars original cover art to Star Wars Howard Chaykin

Plates from cover and interior artwork were hand-picked for the book by George Lucas.  Star Wars Art: Comics is worth its price alone simply for the clear photos of Howard Chaykin and Tom Palmer’s original cover art for Marvel’s Star Wars Issue #1 and Dave Cockrum and Rick Hoberg’s original artwork to the oversized edition, both also featured on the book’s binding under the jacket.  Al Williamson’s stunningly rendered imagery from his adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back pepper the volume as well.

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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hawkeye-fraction-aja-hollingsworth-2

The winners of the 2013 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced at a gala ceremony held during Comic-Con International: San Diego, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, on Friday, July 19.  We’re particularly happy with the choice of David Aja’s Hawkeye, one of borg.com’s favorite series of 2012 and Dark Horse Presents, the source of some of the best stories last year, as best anthology series.  We also liked the judge’s selection of Dave Stewart for colorist, who had such incredible work last year on several books including the Batwoman series.

Here are this year’s winners:

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

“King City,” by Brandon Graham (TokyoPop/Image)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips

“Pogo, Vol. 2: Bona Fide Balderdash,” by Walt Kelly, edited by Carolyn Kelly and Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books

“David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again: Artist’s Edition,” edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

“Blacksad: Silent Hell,” by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

“Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys,” by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Batwoman is a bit of an enigma. To one extent she is historically just another Batman in women’s garb.  If you really wanted to bring Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl up to date in a new universe, the logical way to do it would be to drop the dated “girl” reference and finally give the adult Gordon her due as the “woman” superhero.  By way of background, Batwoman was originally brought into the DC universe to show fans that Batman was straight, several decades ago.  With Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, she was virtually extinguished from the DC timeline.  She was only brought back a few years ago as part of the DC series 52.  To diversify readership DC made her of Jewish background and a lesbian.  So she is unique in the DC universe for several reasons, but her alter ego as Kate Kane was so interesting and integral to the storyline of 52 that DC left readers begging for more.

The new Batwoman #1 (written and drawn by J.H. Williams III, with co-writing credits to W. Haden Blackman) is so good, as was Batgirl #1, you’ll easily push any reservations you may have aside and embrace this fully realized, modern superhero.

Batwoman has a lot going for it.

A driven, smart, savvy, sexy heroine?

Check.

Stunning visuals, including two-page spreads with a floating trio of story panels that carries you across the pages, and a truly unique storytelling style that you won’t see in other books?

Check.

A great costume, highlighted by Dave Stewart’s eye-popping choice of colors?  And a redheaded superhero that wears a red-haired wig?

Check.

Romance–Batwoman’s love life–her relationships–are one focus of her ongoing story.

Check.

Women in all the leading roles, from the superhero, to the sidekick, to the police detective who is after Batwoman.  And we get one brief scene with Commissioner James Gordon for good measure.

Check.

I had flipped through recent graphic novel pages of J.H. Williams’s work on Batwoman and was bothered by the strange, unique art style.  I couldn’t place it but it was almost like someone wasn’t using enough black ink on the artist renderings.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for me.  The new Batwoman doesn’t have that.  The style is not only unique it is stylish, from the covers to the flashbacks in black and white to the fight scenes and bridges between the main plot points.

For those new to the character, Kate Kane has a few pages that give us some back story–to bring us up to speed with her world from the 52 series to the present.  Kane has past relationships and current ones, both of the friend and romance varieties.  In the first issue she is after a criminal element that is taking the children of Gotham.

As Batwoman she appears as an equal to Batman.  She is no longer a secondary character relegated to fill-in roles in crossover series.  By making her not just a woman version of Batman, it seems to have opened up storylines and possibilities for this character.  Along with Batgirl this is at the top of the new DC series, for both its design, story and colors, to its interesting storyline.

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