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Tag Archive: J.W. Rinzler


In the summer of 1979, Ridley Scott revealed the next evolution in science fiction and horror with his landmark creation Alien Thanks to Star Wars art director Roger Christian, audiences saw the first lived-in look into our future, a sci-fi world that felt more realistic than nearly any sci-fi movie before it (space fantasy Star Wars excluded).  Dismissing the brand new, antiseptic look of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was Christian’s realism and H.R. Giger‘s creepy creations that made the scares of Alien that much more jolting.  Arriving for the 40th anniversary of Alien, go-to behind-the-scenes movie book writer J.W. Rinzler is back after last year’s The Making of the Planet of the Apes (reviewed here at borg), with his next book, The Making of Alien.

Emerging first from the mind of writer Dan O’Bannon, Alien would become one of the most memorable sci-fi/horror thrillers of all time.  The film brought us Academy Award-winning concept art, new alien monsters, gore, ships, and other spectacular effects thanks to Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Dennis Ayling, and groundbreaking set work by Christian, Michael Seymour, Leslie Dilley, and Ian Whittaker.  Including new interviews with Ridley Scott and other key staff from the original production crew and featuring many never-before-seen photographs and artworks from the Fox archives, The Making of Alien promises to be the definitive work on this masterpiece of sci-fi/horror.

Above and following are some preview pages from The Making of Alien Pre-order The Making of Alien now here at Amazon, and come back this summer for our review here at borg:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

Black-Widow-5

Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

AfterlifeWithArchie_07-0

Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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The Star Wars hardcover version Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse bestseller

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week Dark Horse Comics released the trade paperback and hardcover of The Star Wars—the eight-issue comic book series adapting George Lucas’s original screenplay for Star Wars from 1973, including its original three-word title.  Writer J.W. Rinzler, artist Mike Mayhew, and colorist Rain Beredo created a parallel universe for Star Wars that stands by itself as the single best Star Wars universe graphic novel ever produced.  It’s now hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic Books and #3 for Hardcover Graphic Books.  If you dodge Times bestsellers because they are usually trite, banal and over-hyped, The Star Wars is certainly commercial, but it’s the exception to the rule.  You will not have read a Star Wars comic book this much fun and so brilliantly and vividly illustrated since the classic Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back

Lucas’s giant story, fleshed out over six movies via his Episodes I-VI, was concise in its infancy, and greatly right-sized and polished by Rinzler for this adaptation.  Its genius is in its essential Kurosawa-inspired story elements: last of their breed wizard-warriors versus a suffocating empire led by heartless dictators, a broken royal family saved by a band of rogues, a mix of disparate races and conflicts, and an unlikely pair of androids.

The planets and systems are not the same, yet they are entirely familiar: the desert planet Aquilae for Tatooine, a wookie battle on Yavin for Ewoks on Endor.  Some of the occupants of the story are familiar, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Yet here they are very different.  Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller and brother Deak would later become the impetuous Luke Skywalker.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was far more energetic and a hands-on warrior when he was the bearded and military garbed Jedi-Bendu General Luke Skywalker.  Han Solo by every appearance was a cousin of Swamp Thing.  Princess Leia would become more dynamic and tough in the movies, but was originally more like Padme Amidala in her infatuation with her young love, Annikin Starkiller.

Deluxe The Star Wars Rinzler Mayhew Beredo Dark Horse Bestseller

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Star Wars Storyboards The Original Trilogy book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new collection of artwork upon which the original Star Wars trilogy was built will have fans who have seen the films hundreds of times delving back in again, this time to match memory to history.  Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy is the second archive of selected storyboards edited by J.W. Rinzler revealing the works of a variety of artists hand selected by George Lucas and his visual design team to share ideas about what the movies would become.  The first was Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy, released last year.

Rinzler, known for several books on Lucasfilm, including his work on The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Frames, reviewed previously at borg.com, also partnered with artist Mike Mayhew and colorist Rain Beredo this year to write The Star Wars–an eight-issue mini-series based on Lucas’s original draft screenplay of Star Wars.  Now that fans can examine the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, The Star Wars, and Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, they can have a complete view of what is, what was, and what might have been, for the Force, the characters, the Rebellion, and the Empire.

SW Storyboards excerpt 2

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The Star Wars cover art 1

If you really want to see the best of popular comic book publishing titles in 2013, you need look no further than Dark Horse Comics’ series The Star Wars.  You have a great independent publishing house with the enviable license to the greatest genre franchise, add in an original script by a young, pre-fame George Lucas, an adaptation by Star Wars expert J.W. Rinzler, and the best interior art panel work in the industry, and you have the first four issues of a sci-fi classic in the making.

Regular comic book readers, and diehard Star Wars fans already know about The Star Wars, first a 1974 script that is the stuff of sci-fi legend that has sat in a file drawer for nearly four decades–Lucas’s first draft of Star Wars, before editing, when all the big fantasy ideas first danced around his mind, and now a limited edition monthly series.  What is amazing is that your average passing Star Wars fans may not be aware of this new comic book series that is bringing the original source material to the public for the first time in dense, colorful, action-packed pages.  We’re no doubt that the hardcover edition that will ultimately bring together the eight-issue series and a director’s edition due out next week (“The Official Guide to a Different Galaxy”) will be a mainstream bestseller.  Dark Horse Comics just needs to get this series in readers’ hands.

the-star-wars-1 cover

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Yoda and Luke

Review by C.J. Bunce

After the completion of the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas sat down and went frame by frame through all six Star Wars movies, examining literally hundreds of thousands of images and selecting about 250 screen grabs from each film, frames that he believed showed particular artistry, each in its own right.  The result was 2011’s limited edition of 1,138 boxed sets called Star Wars: Frames, sold for $3,000, and now only rarely available with one set being sold at Amazon.com for a whopping $11,500.  Thanks to Abrams Books, Star Wars: Frames is being re-released this month in a far less expensive but complete edition, collecting 1,472 stills from all six films in the Star Wars saga.  It is without a doubt the definitive visual work on Star Wars, in a rare league of deluxe book editions along with long out-of-print Dressing a Galaxy: The Costume of Star Wars and Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop as the best Star Wars books ever released.

Star Wars Frames

This more affordable, unabridged version of Star Wars: Frames includes two hardcover books, each covering one of the two movie trilogies in 368 pages, housed in a hefty Death Star-themed silver box.  Listing at a published price of $150, you can buy it for less than $100 at Amazon.com.  The only difference between the $3,000 version and this version is the original was issued in a six-book set (one book for each film instead of one for each trilogy), with each image taking up a full page, packaged in a wooden crate instead of cardboard.   The content is the same.  Star Wars: Frames will be released November 5, 2013, but we received an early review copy this week.  The book lives up to its promise, in surprising ways.

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The Star Wars #2 cover

If you picked up the first issue to J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew’s The Star Wars then you already have probably added The Star Wars to your pull list at your local comic book store.  If you think all the good stuff was included in the first issue, then you’ll be happy to know the action and excitement doesn’t wane with Issue #2.  In fact, after Issue #1 required adequate room for the introduction of characters, Issue #2 beams forward with non-stop action.  If you missed Issue #1 check out our earlier review here then run to your comic book store now to get a copy and see what all the buzz is about.

Middle-aged Jedi General Luke Skywalker has a heightened sense that everything is wrong on the planet Aquilae.  Appealing to the king for a declaration of war against the Empire, he draws trepidation from the peace-loving royals.  What does the future hold for Skywalker, his new padawan, and his protectees?  Luke Skywalker never looked better and Annikin Starkiller may very well be your next favorite Star Wars character.

McQuarrie variant cover The Star Wars 2

Ralph McQuarrie variant cover The Star Wars Issue #2.

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The-Star-Wars-comic-logo

Review by C.J. Bunce

It might not be the best thing since sliced bread, but it is the best thing since the original Star Wars trilogy for fans of the original classic, maybe even the best thing since The Empire Strikes Back.  It is Dark Horse Comics’ new Star Wars eight-issue limited series titled The Star Wars.  Regular borg.com readers today get a chance to see what all of our whooping and hollering has been about as Issue #1 hits comic book stores across North America.

What’s the big deal?  As much as Dark Horse Comics is the rightful home of all Star Wars expanded universe comic book series and every month proves why the Star Wars licensing should stay with the Oregon-based publisher, this new series raises the bar even higher.  First off, it for the first time adapts the equivalent of “The Lost Ark of the Covenant” of original movie scripts–the original 1974 George Lucas fully fleshed-out screenplay for Star Wars, then titled “The Star Wars.”  This makes it a once in a lifetime opportunity for both script writer J.W. Rinzler and superstar comic book artist Mike Mayhew to really show-off their best work of their careers so far.  And it gives us not only what Star Wars fans already want: more Star Wars, but it’s giving us more of the kind of Star Wars that caught us all up in this crazy Star Wars Universe in the first place, where half of the population of the United States has hocked their life savings to own complete sets of every Star Wars trading card, comic, action figure, bust, poster, coin, stamp, glassware, stuffed figure, game, book, sticker, costume, mask, prop weapon, toy, shoes, shirt, cereal, fruit roll-up…  And it’s something altogether new.  It’s retro-Star Wars.

The Star Wars Issue 1 cover

Dark Horse Comics already presented us with an interesting comic book series this year, bridging the period between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in a new monthly series.  It was a good way to give us some of that nostalgia.  The Star Wars is even better.  The Star Wars Issue #1 begins with a series opener that will instantly convince you this is something unique.  It’s own sci-fi event.  Raw, gritty story elements that never would have made it to a Hollywood movie in the 1970s.  Would this story have made Star Wars as beloved as what we saw in the original trilogy of films?  Who’s to say, but after all that happens in Issue #1 you will be left thinking it very well could have.

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Alternative cover to The Star Wars

Imagine General Skywalker not as a whiny farmboy but as a swaggering force to be reckoned with very much like John Wayne in The Searchers.  He’s father of two boys:  Annikin, the tough older brother with the look of Alan Tudyk, and Deak, well, Deak is a bit like Anakin, the excited little farmboy from the movie prequels.  Imagine a very young Princess Leia Nash with her mother and father and siblings Biggs and Windy on their home planet before war comes along.  The Emperor, with the look of Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, presides over the capital city of Alderaan, where he has aligned his political influences to wipe out the last of the outlawed Jedi, based in the Aquilean System…

556177tsw1jc Cassaday incentive cover

We’ve previewed the first issue of The Star Wars, probably the most eagerly awaited Star Wars event since the prequels were first released in theaters, and we think everyone will want to get their hands on this eight-issue mini-series from Dark Horse Comics that hits comic book stores on September 4, 2013.  Based on George Lucas’s original rough draft screenplay, you will absolutely find more than a few story and character elements that are better than… dare we say… those found in the original Star Wars: A New Hope movie.  Blasphemy?  Maybe, but J.W. Rinzler, whose worked we’ve reviewed here at borg.com before, no doubt has connected missing pieces from the Lucas source material to begin for us this intriguing parallel universe of the world of the Jedi-Bendu, the Great Rebellion, and the Knights of Sith.  And of course, The Star Wars couldn’t have a better artist on this project with the new futuristic yet familiar worlds required for this story via borg.com favorite artist Mike Mayhew.  Mayhew has a way of letting his characters show gripping emotion, conveying in just one panel feelings that some artists never achieve in their work–and his first issue is simply stunning.

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