Tag Archive: Flash Gordon


Review by C.J. Bunce

I Love the ’80s was a ten-hour VH-1 series that waxed nostalgic for all things pop culture in the decade, and a new five-hour documentary strives to do the same thing with the sci-fi genre movies of the decade as its focus.  In Search of Tomorrow: A Journey Through ’80s Sci-Fi Cinema is the result of a crowd-sourced project, now available for pre-order exclusively at the project’s website here.  It is one of several projects we’ve seen like it over the years, the best being Must-See Sci-Fi (reviewed here), Turner Classic Movies’ guide to 50 significant science fiction movies, and James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (reviewed here), a book and series which gives insight into the genre’s most significant creations via interviews with the directors that made them.  In Search of Tomorrow features only a handful of A-listers in its interviews–the advertised top talent being Peter Weller, Billy Dee Williams, Dee Wallace, and Nicholas Meyer.  It pulls together a group of the few remaining actors, visual effects artists, and other creators behind the scenes who fans of the genre probably haven’t seen in decades (yes, it’s been more than 30 years since the 1980s).  Writer/director David Weiner focuses on a swath of 54 movies that reflects the best–and the worst–of the decade.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a 2004 alternate history and sci-fi/fantasy adventure amalgamation is one of those films that is best known for its visuals in a way similar to The Rocketeer and The Iron Giant, and, like those films, it maintains a bit of a cult following.  As with Dick Tracy, The Phantom, The Shadow, and Sin City, the movie attempted to emulate the look of classic comics, and like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, it borrowed heavily from creations of the past, especially Flash Gordon, film noir, and Captain America. 

Unfortunately, also like the movies noted above, it lacked a compelling script, which probably accounted for its lackluster showing with audiences.  For the majority of movie audiences, it remains an obscure, “nice-looking” picture that you may have tried on Netflix and probably given up on.  But for those who count themselves fans, you now have a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the movie’s visuals, Sky Captain and the Art of Tomorrow, launching today and available here at Amazon.  Take a look inside below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nine years ago here at borg we featured the first of what would become an eight-volume library of full-sized comic strips featuring Flash Gordon, the impetus for all science fiction and space fantasy heroes to come.  Rarely can you so precisely identify the source of “the modern.”  In science fiction film it is Georges Méliès’s 1902 French movie A Trip to the Moon.  For science fiction novels you much reach back further to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all the way back in 1818.  For the intersecting genre of “science fiction-fantasy” you must turn to January 1934 and a detail-oriented artist with an eye toward realism named Alex Raymond, and his new creation, Flash Gordon.  In Titan Comics’ Flash Gordon Dailies: Austin Briggs: Radium Mines Of Electra, readers will find all the daily adventures of Flash written by Don Moore and illustrated by Austin Briggs from May 27, 1940, to November 7, 1942, all reprinted for the first time, and available today here at Amazon and at comic shops everywhere.

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Darth Vader, Flash Gordon, The Incredible Hulk, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, characters from Supernatural, the CW Arrowverse, Stranger Things, Star Trek, Laverne & Shirley, The Brady Bunch, The Karate Kid, RWBY, My Hero Academia, your favorite writers and artists, and more are heading to Kansas City this week

For twenty-one years Planet Comicon Kansas City has been one of the Midwest’s biggest comic book and pop culture conventions and that was no less so in 2014 when it became the largest attended event in the history of the Kansas City Convention Center.  And it’s only gotten bigger.  The last show featured guests including Henry Winkler, William Shatner, John Wesley Shipp, Cary Elwes, and Joonas Suotamo, and this year more memorable names from TV and movies from the past and present are scheduled to attend.  Leading things off is Misha Collins and a slate of actors from Supernatural (and one of the Winchester brothers’ cars from the series), the series making its biggest ever regional fan appearance at the annual event, which takes place at Kansas City’s convention center at Bartle Hall, August 20-22, 2021.

Making their second appearances at the event are Darth Vader actor (and Guardians of the Galaxy and Harry Potter universe actor) Spencer Wilding and Star Trek legends–Dr. Crusher herself Gates McFadden and Worf’s brother Nikolai Paul Sorvino (…and The Firm, Goodfellas, Law and Order, etc.).  They’ll be joined by Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo from Stranger Things, The Doors and Entourage star Kevin Dillon, The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai stars Martin Kove and William Zabka, and a host of superhero performers from past and present, including CW Arrowverse actors Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy plus original The Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno and Flash Gordon actor Sam Jones.

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There’s something for every TV and movie fanboy and fangirl at this year’s show.

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Monster Hunter Jovo

Review by C.J. Bunce

Possibly the biggest surprise of Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson’s latest action spectacle Monster Hunter is that Milla Jovovich isn’t the title character. That role goes to Furious 7’s Tony Jaa, a Mandalorian-meets-Bone Tomahawk or Predators brand of survivor and monster hunter, who Jovovich and a band of soldiers in our time meet after they get sucked into a portal to a very different place.  The plot of this latest adaptation of a video game series is like Planet of the Apes, with a team falling into a world of beasts that are a cross of Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers.  It has a Ray Harryhausen look, which is good for those who like vintage monster nostalgia, but perhaps not so good for those after impeccable, cutting-edge visual effects.  In the opening scenes we meet Jovovich as Captain Artemis, a believable unit commander leading soldiers in Humvees looking for a missing squad.  For the most part this is a showcase of the Resident Evil heroine in action mode with bits of goofy humor, with Jaa’s Hunter showing off his stealth survival.  But really it’s about framing the star actress in increasingly cooler action shots.  Monster Hunter is now streaming on Starz, Hulu, and other platforms, and you might want to check it out.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the early 1980s a segment of genre films was eclipsed by blockbusters like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they were important and unique and genre fans loved them every bit as much as the box office winners.  Films like Tron, The Dark Crystal, and Flash Gordon.  Now after 40 years fans of Flash Gordon at last have a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the making of the film.  John Walsh, author of Harryhausen: The Lost Movies (reviewed here at borg) unearthed concept artwork, original costumes, props, and sketches, and new interviews with the director, production staff, and cast members for the 40th anniversary tribute, Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film, the only comprehensive look at the art, promotional material, and music available for this classic sci-fi/fantasy favorite.

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Strange Adventures is a 12-issue limited series, resurrecting the title of a famous 1950s series, with that familiar DC superhero vibe you’ve seen in series like Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s successful All-Star Superman.  Tom King (Batman) is writing the story, and the first issue of the series is available this month at your favorite comic book store.  Much like the CW series Arrow, the series featuring DC Comics space fantasy hero Adam Strange tells its story in staggered flashbacks.  And it has the distinct vibe of the limited series Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer–good comic book fantasy fun with a serious edge.  Many comic book stores and other bookstores remain open, many with call-ahead and drive-up options, and Strange Adventures is one you may want to add to your own comic shop pull list.

Inspired by Flash Gordon and a progenitor of Rocketeer, Adam Strange is a classic, iconic character from the end of the Golden Age of comics, created by Julie Schwartz and Murphy Anderson, with the great Gardner Fox–master adapter of both Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard characters, writing early stories, among others.  It’s space fantasy, more than science fiction–think Guardians of the Galaxy–and in the premiere issue of the new series Strange is a national hero, living with his wife on Earth, recounting images from his war-torn past.

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Strange Adventures even has a similar artistic style as All-Star Superman, courtesy of alternating artists Mitch Gerads and Evan Shaner–you may not notice the difference since they use the same color palette–but one style is a bit more painterly than the other.  That’s Gerads, whose present day world is visually stunning like Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow in the 1990s.  In images of the past, Shaner seems to aiming at more of a Tomorrowland or Darwyn Cooke look at the character.  Both shuffled together actually work.  Each artist will provide a cover option for every issue of the series.

Here is a look inside the first issue:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

These days most movies translate just fine from the big screen to a home high definition television.  Late December’s release from Warner Brothers, DC’s Aquaman, is a surprisingly good transfer, showcasing the film’s epic fantasy seascapes and truly unique otherworld sea creatures without the sound contrast and lighting issues that plague recent action film releases.  Aquaman is available now on 4D, Blu-ray, DVD, and in digital formats, and it’s available both on Vudu and Amazon Prime.  A single word to describe this rare, solid entry in the DC franchise?  Epic.  Throughout the film viewers will see concepts from the history of fantasy films absorbed into its plot, from the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, to Ray Harryhausen fantasy classics, King Solomon’s Mines and Tomb Raider, and even Harry Potter and Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories.

It all begins with the cast, and in particular the chemistry between the always cool and confident actor who looks born to play superheroes, Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, and Amber Heard as a beautiful grown-up Ariel turned badass named Mera, who may be the best realized heroine from the comics in the DC universe.  Aquaman director James Wan (Furious 7) does something rare for the superhero genre and forms his film around a romance between the two as they embark on a quest across the planet for the legendary trident of King Atlan, first king of the earliest water-breathers living under the sea.  Wan makes that happen more successfully than other DC romances of the past, including even Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  What is not lost on the small screen is the CGI-heavy undersea universe, but this time a film is CGI-heavy in a good, exciting way (Aquaman knocks the much lauded CGI film Avatar out of the water in every way).  Atlanteans riding sea horses, sharks, whales, and turtles.  Aquaman and Mera hiding out inside a whale, Pinocchio-style.  The film hits its visual zenith with a giant Kraken-like beast with an appearance as awesome as seeing Godzilla for the first time.  The visuals have all the imagination and colorful execution that makes for a rewatchable film, and the score has a pounding synth feel, with a mixed vibe of Daft Punk from Tron: Legacy and Queen from Flash Gordon.

The home release is accompanied by 15 behind-the-scenes features.  The best has Dolph Lundgren explaining the connections between key characters and concepts in the comic books with the portrayal in the film, in Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman.  You get a feel for how energetic and how fun Jason Momoa is in real life in Becoming Aquaman and A Match Made in Atlantis.  Details of how the director expanded on the comics and where he mixed Kaiju and historical sea stories can be found in James Wan: World Builder.  Heroines of Atlantis will leave viewers convinced future films in the series need more women characters, with only two to speak of in this film.  Other features include Aqua Tech, Atlantis Warfare, Black Manta, Villainous Training, Kingdoms of the Seven Seas, Creating Undersea Creatures, three Scene Study Breakdowns (the Sicily battle, the early submarine attack, and the underwater trench climax), and a sneak preview of Shazam.

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If Classics Illustrated was ever your thing or you like peering into fantastical worlds, a new graphic novel series online will be worth checking out.  It’s not really about a fantasy setting as found in Black Panther or Flash Gordon or Tarzan or Conan, but it has the same appeal, the same visual cues, bold colors, and feel.  It’s Aztec Empire, by writer Paul Guinan (known for his time-bending mash-up Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel and his participation in the documentary 24 Hour Comic) and comic artist David Hahn.  It features an incredible culture from the past along with good storytelling that will keep you coming back for more.  And it’s timed right, as this spring is the 500th anniversary of the events featured in the introductory pages of the series.

As with the Eisner Award-winning writer-artist Eric Shanower’s look at ancient Greece in his Age of Bronze graphic novel series, Aztec Empire is a heavily researched time travel voyage back into the daily lives of a people in history, in this case the period before the fall of the Aztec peoples to the Spanish in 1521, only three years after the arrival of Europeans.  Guinan researched dozens of primary sources (including contemporary writings from the 1500s) as well as secondary historical sources, and the end of each episode of his series provides six pages of equally fascinating explanatory annotations to the historical record to support each panel.  Some of these feature photographs of the source materials used to derive the look of references like glyphs on walls, or embellishments on character clothing.  In many ways Aztec Empire is an attempt to update the writings of the past with the benefit of today’s resources and knowledge, but its sources are very much contemporary to the events chronicled.  Human barbarism to other humans is also not reserved for only one side of the story–here the atrocities of each side of the conquest come to the fore.

Guinan is not only the series writer, he provides layouts, coloring, and lettering.  “In telling this story, my main challenge is keeping it as authentic as possible,” says Guinan.  “All the persons and events depicted in Aztec Empire are based on the factual record, with some extrapolation as to specific character motivations, dialogue, costume details, etc.  I’m cross-referencing primary sources from different viewpoints, looking at Mesoamerican and European sources with an awareness of their cultural biases as well as my own.”  Hahn designed the look of the characters and provides the finished pencil work and inks.  The combined artwork shares a style in common with the animated style of Doug Wildey and something of P. Craig Russell’s work on his illustrated novels.

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Steve Rogers.  John Spartan and Simon Phoenix.  Han Solo.  Austin Powers and Doctor Evil.  George Taylor.  Mr. Scott and Khaaaaaan!  

Now meet Chen Andalou and Dark Horse Comics’ new mini-series, Astro Hustle.

Not just another Space Station 76, it’s a four-part tale of space pirates out beyond Cosmic Coffee and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  It has the space action of Killjoys and the fun of 1980’s Flash Gordon. The lost ship Sinnematica has been adrift in space, and with it one Chen Andalou, preserved for the past 60 years in cryo-freeze.  Another sci-fi fish out of water, Chen is unstuck in time, surrounded by a future costumed like Barbarella meets the 1979-81 Buck Rogers, and filled with the more off-the-wall elements of Spaceballs and the animated version of Space Ghost, all thrown in for good measure.  And then what?  Chen runs right into the cop–Captain Igor, a mix of Javert and Prince Barin who is all ready to arrest him.

Plenty of aliens are around to judge him, too–robots like the crazed guard in Logan’s Run and a mix of everyone else you might find aboard the Fhloston Paradise.  Lucky for Chen he meets up with Carbon John the space pirate and his trusty Number One, Svetlana.  But he soon learns while he was asleep his brother became President of the Galaxy.  Wait–are they going to end up like the princes of England or the Kim Jong brothers?

 

What’s missing?  The Cannon Films adaptation and a soundtrack by MECO (that’s the band with Tony Bongiovi, cousin of the Bon Jovi brothers, and Mr. Fabulous Alan Rubin of The Blues Brothers), and it should ship with one of those MPC model kits of a van with the space logo on its side.  Astro Hustle has the crazy/cool of both Vandroid (the comic) and ManBorg (the B-movie), thanks to a creator-owned story by Jai Nitz (El Diablo, Toshiro, Kato Origins, Tron: Betrayal), artwork by Tom Reilly, color by Ursula Decay, and letters by Chris “Crank!” Crank (Rick and Morty, Ciudad, Toshiro).

Take a look at this preview:

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