Tag Archive: Kim Newman


Morbius novel cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

As each new superhero gets his showcase in Marvel movies, we’re getting more and more lesser known characters pulled from the history of Marvel Comics to meet on the big screen.  As we stray away from the actual superhero headliners, the obscure come to the fore.  Probably the best of the darker, horror comics can be found in DC Comics, members of Justice League Dark, in recent years including Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, and Shade.  But it’s the feel of JLD you’ll find in Brendan Daneen’s Morbius, The Living Vampire: Blood Ties, a new novel in the Titan Books library of novel adaptations of Marvel Comics.  Taking place after the origin story of Marvel’s take on a “bat-man,” to be adapted in the pandemic-delayed, big-screen debut of Marvel’s latest monstrosity Morbius starring Jared Leto, this story gives an accounting of that “living vampire” first created 50 years ago in the pages of Spider-Man comics by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In his fourth novel expanding on the world of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, writer and movie director Nicholas Meyer adds another mash-up to his repertoire, weaving Doyle’s dynamic duo together with real-life contemporaries and events in England and Russia in 1905.  In keeping with Doyle’s subtext of having his heroes address and attempt to thwart social injustices, Meyer takes a real-life hoax document used for more than a century to discredit Jewish people and weaves it into the fictional narrative to address and mirror racism, governance, and propaganda in current government and politics.  Meyer overlays his own lessons of history on a murder plot brought to Holmes by renowned brother Mycroft, the solving of which takes Holmes and Watson outside their familiar England to far-off Russia.

Readers who haven’t read the original Doyle stories would benefit by tackling a few of those first, or any of the several modern sequels, sidebars, and tie-in books we’ve reviewed over the past decade here at borg.  The Peculiar Protocols is a narrative for diehard Holmes & Watson readers, stuffed full with early 20th century psychology, Easter Eggs, callbacks, and a host of real historical figures interspersed convincingly in the style of a Kim Newman novel.  To absorb all the layers introduced into the story, readers will want to follow Holmes’ lead and pay close attention to the details–something readers will enjoy more after becoming familiar with Doyle’s original style.  Meyer’s “meta” conceit as backdrop for the story is the finding of diary pages believed to have been written by the real Dr. Watson, and so the Special Collections library folks at the University of Iowa, Meyer’s alma mater and keeper of his own original papers, deposited the material into Meyer’s hands for deft handling, knowing he’s done this before.

Meyer never forgets his Star Trek chops (having written three Star Trek movies and directed two).  Meyer, who I interviewed here at borg back in 2016, then confirmed his intent in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to have created Sherlock Holmes as a real character in the world of Star Trek by having Spock refer to Holmes as one of his ancestors.  That movie doesn’t hide its reliance on Spock as a future master sleuth inspired by Doyle’s detective.  Now if you want to see the source of where Spock got his own signature fighting move, you might check out Peculiar Protocols if only to find Spock’s ancestor using a familiar method to debilitate a foe.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It was such a big deal to prepare for, and then it was over in an instant never to be heard from again.  That’s Y2K, or the Millennium Bug, and it’s a fun time to look back on especially if it’s part of that richly detailed Anno Dracula universe created by British author Kim Newman (who we interviewed six years ago for Halloween here at borg).  The third story in Newman’s Christina Light arc (after the comic series Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem and novel Anno Dracula: One Thousand Monsters), Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju gathers a team of real and unreal, dead and undead, at a giant skyscraper in Tokyo on December 31, 1999, for the New Year’s party to end all New Year’s parties.

Newman is the master of world-building and mash-ups, and he doesn’t disappoint in this new October release.  In what horror universe is both John Blutarski a U.S. Senator partying in Japan (remember John Belushi’s character in Animal House?), the Apollo 13 movie included the first vampire astronaut, and Charlie’s Angels reconvene years later?  Anno Dracula continues its mix of historic characters of pop culture and politics and those throwback tangent characters from literature, TV, and movies.  In Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju readers can remember what it was like to “party like it’s 1999” with an alternate history where Dracula and vampires have always been real.

One of many tangent characters in Kim Newman’s latest Anno Dracula novel.

Newman includes so many Easter eggs in his books that finding them all–probably impossible for anyone that isn’t Kim Newman–should be part of some kind of international contest.

The New Year’s party of this story is in honor of Christina Light, famed vampire princess.  But will she show, and will anyone even get through the labyrinthine skyscraper to attend on the 88th floor by midnight?  Who is the shadowy Jun Zero?  Is Y2K really a bug, or is it a person, or worse: that daikaiju in the title is the name of the tower in Tokyo that houses the offices of an international conglomerate, but it also means “big monsters.”  So get ready for anything to happen, including the appearance of a cyborg and maybe even Dracula himself, as distinguished guests, leaders of finance, tech, and culture, are held hostage by yakuza assassins and Transylvanian mercenaries.  Enter vampire schoolgirl Nezumi–agent of the Diogenes Club–who finds herself and her trusty sword named “Goodnight Kiss” pitted against the deadliest creatures the world has ever known.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Much like Hergé and his Tintin and Christin and Mézières’ Valerian and Laureline, another story read by millions of Europeans in the 20th century but overlooked by the masses in America is finally making its way overseas.  This time its the villain Fantômas who is coming to America, the star of a series of some 43 novels and 15 films, a popular crime novel readers in Europe have flocked to read about beginning in 1911 with Marcel Allain and Pierre Souverstre‘s team-written novel Fantômas, followed by a succession of comics and other adaptations.  Writer Olivier Bocquet and artist Julie Rocheleau pulled ideas from the original novel series for their award-winning 2013 work, The Wrath of Fantômas, which is being released in an English translation for the first time tomorrow.

First previewed by Titan Comics at the Diamond Retailer Lunch at San Diego Comic-Con last year, The Wrath of Fantômas is steeped in literary history.  The masked, black-gloved Fantômas has been said to have inspired the 1930s comic strip character The Phantom (1936), who in turn inspired Batman (1939), but Fantômas isn’t the first superhero character.  That designation traditionally goes to the title hero of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, created a few years earlier in 1905, who inspired, in turn, Zorro in 1919.  But it won’t take long for readers to pick up the same disdain for corrupted governments and leaders throughout the 19th and 20th centuries from the vantages of Fantômas, Sir Percy Blakeney, and others, that continued to spread across the world, reflected well into the 20th century with anti-heroes like the Guy Fawkes-masked V in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Fantômas is pursued by the fiercely zealous and savvy Inspector Juve, a character that critic and author Kim Newman has cited as the inspiration for Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series.  Juve is as determined as Javert, and Victor Hugo’s chief antagonist from 1862’s Les Misérables was no doubt an inspiration for Juve–he’s Javert seen as noble and loyal, but also just, heroic, and good.  His nemesis Fantômas is merciless toward his targets and in his methods, killing for vengeance, and seemingly for no reason, and no woman or child or man is out-of-bounds for his fury.

Here is a preview:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is a series of novels and short stories that began in 1992, showcasing an elaborate and detailed parallel history of Earth set between 1888 and 1990 (so far), where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is seen as a true biographical account of the real Count, and the Count controls England by winning the hand of Queen Victoria.  Anno Dracula is a steampunk mix of fictional characters and real people spanning a century in a bit of a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry construct.  Gunga Din, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lestat de Lioncourt (from Interview with the Vampire), Prince Mamuwalde (from Blacula), Doctor Moreau, Allan Quatermain, and even Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker all show up in Newman’s fantasy world, alongside real people of the past like Billy the Kid, Catherine the Great, Joseph Merrick, William Morris, Beatrix Potter, and Orson Welles.  Newman’s entirely new story is in the form of a comic book series, Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey, and it is now available in a collected trade edition from Titan Comics.

As Dracula’s tenth jubilee approaches, an assassination plan is underway from radical forces in Great Britain.  Newman’s powerful lead Kate Reed–journalist, free thinker, and vampire–has joined a council of revolutionaries, but when Dracula’s secret police come crashing in she turns to a familiar old friend to try to save herself and the Count himself, but she must first get through Count Graf Von Orlok of Nosferatu fame.  As with past entries in the series, this is not a tale about Dracula, but more about every other living and fictional famous face of the day.  And my favorite piece of a Kim Newman story is his use of fantastic characters and historical figures sometimes only for a single page or, as with his new graphic series, in a single panel, but always for a reason, and often for a joke (Twilight books, you are not exempt).  So keep a lookout for a steampunk cyborg Thomas Edison and a ship captain with a striking similarity to Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera.  Artist McCaffrey’s artistry is a great pairing with Newman’s classic prose.

Few authors have a such a command of their subjects as Newman has of vampire lore and film.  Check out my interview with Newman back in 2013 here at borg.com, as well as our reviews of his sequels to the novel Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha here, and Johnny Alucard here.  Fans of Alan Moore’s several adaptations of classic characters will love Newman’s works, but be prepared:  Where Moore puts a few characters together to have an adventure such as in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Newman has deftly woven easily more than a thousand into his world.  Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem is proof that the entire Anno Dracula series should be adapted to the graphic novel format.  An exciting, rousing tale, it’s too good to pass up.

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Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is a series of novels and short stories that began in 1992, showcasing an elaborate and detailed parallel history of Earth set between 1888 and 1990 (so far), where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is really a biographical account of the real Count, and the Count controls England by winning the hand of Queen Victoria.  Anno Dracula is a steampunk mix of fictional characters and real people spanning a century in a bit of a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry construct.  Writers take note:  If you want to see a master storybuilder in action, read Newman–few authors have a such a command of their subjects as Newman has of vampire lore and film.  Check out our interview with Newman back in 2013 here at borg.com, as well as our reviews of his sequels to the novel Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha here, and Johnny Alucard here.

Gunga Din, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lestat de Lioncourt (from Interview with the Vampire), Prince Mamuwalde (from Blacula), Doctor Moreau, Count Orlok (from Nosferatu), Allan Quatermain, and even Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker all show up in the early stories of Newman’s fantasy world, alongside real people of the past like Billy the Kid, Catherine the Great, Joseph Merrick, William Morris, Beatrice Potter, and Orson Welles.  Newman’s entirely new story is in the form of a comic book series, Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey.  Here is the summary of the series, which will see its first issue available this week:

1895.  Prince Dracula has ruled Great Britain for ten years, spreading vampirism through every level of society.  On the eve of Dracula’s Jubilee, radical forces gather to oppose the tyrant.  Kate Reed, vampire journalist and free-thinker, takes a seat on the revolutionary Council of Seven Days, though she learns that the anarchist group harbors a traitor in its midst.  The Grey Men, Dracula’s dreaded secret police, have been ordered to quash all resistance to the rule of the arch-vampire.  With intrigue on all sides, the scene is set for an explosive addition to the Anno Dracula series.
   
Look for Thomas Edison, and his powerful, recurring leading women characters Kate Reed and Penelope Churchward in this all-new story, plus many more familiar names.  A variety of great covers to the first issue are available, with artwork by Paul McCaffrey, Tom Mandrake, Brian Williamson, Jeff Zornow, and Mike Collins.  Check out this preview of Issue #1 from Titan Comics:

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Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

sdcc-whedon-c shot

We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

Bunce Alien Nation cosplay x

What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Miss Fury Dynamite Comics

We tried on for size almost every new book that was released from comic book publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia/BOOM!, and Image.  We tried to sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics had to offer, too, and although we didn’t have enough time to review everything we did try to put out there for your consideration those titles we thought our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro bent.  Our pull list included issues from Afterlife with Archie to Django Unchained, from Liberator to Larfleezeand from Velvet to The X-Files.  This past month we have reviewed the year-long run of the best of these titles, as we narrowed our selections to 21 of the very best entries in genre entertainment outside of TV and movies, which we revealed here yesterday.  So here are the rest of our picks for the Best of 2013.

Kane Starkiller borg by Mike Mayhew

Best Borg Appearance — Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars.  Borgs showed up everywhere this year, from the lead characters on Almost Human, to Doctor Who, to countless comic book series including Justice League and RoboCop.  Our favorite appearance came from the young mind of George Lucas as he created the original script that would later be edited into the original Star Wars trilogy.  And through Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars monthly comic book event we learned one of his best ideas was merged into other roles and one of his best characters entirely cut.   That character was Jedi Kane Starkiller, who would reveal his cyborg chest implants that kept him alive, later to heroically give up this life-saving technology to save his friends.

MissFury001-Cov-Renaud

Best Comic Book Series — Miss Fury, Dynamite Comics.  A uniquely crafted tale, a compelling and seductive superhero, great action panel after panel, sourced in a long-shelved classic character of the Golden Age of comics.  Rob Williams and Jack Herbert’s Miss Fury is a carefully rendered update that rings true to the edgy spirit of the world’s first female superhero.  Beautiful panels set up an ever-changing time and place and pull readers along for the ride.  And stuck-out-of-time Marla Drake and her alter ego Miss Fury could not have looked better, whether carving out her place in the 1940s or as she was teleported into the future.  It’s a series no one should miss.

Clint Barton Hawkeye by Fraction

Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Fraction, Hawkeye.  Last year revealed one of the best comic book series we ever read, focusing on that “other” superhero archer, the second tier Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye.  Matt Fraction gave us the most interesting set-up and look into the daily life of a superhero who isn’t Captain America or Iron Man.  This year he kept up the momentum in his Hawkeye monthly series, providing stories that challenged readers, each issue taking a different peek into Clint Barton, another costumed superhero called Hawkeye, and their trusty dog.

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Author Kim Newman

Happy Halloween!

Readers of borg.com will be familiar with Kim Newman.  For years he has been a favorite horror and fantasy writer of millions of readers across the globe.  I have reviewed two of his novels in his Anno Dracula series here in the past two years, Dracula Cha Cha Cha (the re-release made our Best of 2012 list) and Johnny Alucard, reviewed here this month.  The Anno Dracula books describe a detailed and complex parallel world where Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a biographical account of a real vampire and vampires were integrated into our culture over the course of a century.  Kim graciously agreed to an interview with me recently about the latest book in his Anno Dracula series.

CB:  Kim, thanks for chatting with us here at borg.com today about your new release Johnny Alucard.

KN:  Thanks for having me.

CB:  Were there any real world people or fictional characters from early drafts of Johnny Alucard (or in prior Anno Dracula novels) that were left on your “cutting room floor”?  Any that you still want to find a home for in the Anno Dracula universe?

KN:  The novel features various real filmmakers/artists who talked about – or got quite far on with – Dracula projects that didn’t happen, or who made Draculas that aren’t the ones I imagined.  Ken Russell (whose Dracula script has been published) and Ingmar Bergman (who talked about being interested in the book) were on the list, but I couldn’t see a way of including them.  I do cast around for some key players – when I needed a fictional Los Angeles cop for a part, I could have selected several 1970s TV characters though the one I went with is the best fit.  That whole section of the book is informed a lot by 1970s TV shows, especially The Rockford Files – but I didn’t see a way of including Jim Rockford as a character since I’d used another LA private eye in an earlier chapter and he’d just have repeated the lesson.  I tend not to list characters I’d like to use and then find excuses for them – I think of the situations, the story points, or where my main characters are, and then look around for real or borrowed fictional or amalgamated characters who suit the purposes of the set-up.

Johnny Alucard cover

CB:  What kind of feedback have you received from living people who have ended up in your Anno Dracula series?

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