Tag Archive: Mike Grell


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Review by C.J. Bunce

I’ve been a fan of the DC Comics character Green Arrow and his partner in fighting crime Black Canary for four decades, but the Robin Hood-inspired superhero with bow and arrow has been around for twice that long.  This month he gets the red carpet treatment in a tribute anthology issue, the Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular The anthology provides 12 stories reflecting creators known for their Green Arrow work like Mike Grell, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Jeff Lemire, plus stories by new writers and artists in the style of the character as published in the decades since 1941, when Oliver Queen first saw newsstands.  Some things are missing, like no story featuring the artwork of Neal Adams, whose art was synonymous with Green Arrow and Green Lantern for so long (although he drew a variant cover for this issue) or Jim Aparo, Rick Hoberg, Scott McDaniel, Cliff Chiang, Jock, or Freddie Williams II from later points on the Green Arrow timeline.  There are no stories by Judd Winick, Brad Meltzer, or Kevin Smith, and creators Mort Weisinger and George Papp are of course long gone, as is Denny O’Neil, who does get a tribute story.  But there is plenty Green Arrow fun for fans to love–nice homages, especially to the Golden Age incarnation of Green Arrow and Speedy, and two stories that will take readers right back to their favorite eras of Green Arrow.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s crazy.  Only a year ago audiences were getting ready for the arrival of the next James Bond film No Time to Die.  Flash forward a year and here we are again, awaiting the same movie.  Also a year ago I reviewed an intriguing new book by Mark Edlitz called The Many Lives of James Bond (reviewed here at borg).  I instantly loved that Edlitz wasn’t the typical non-fiction franchise tie-in writer–he was a diehard fan and loved Bond as much as I did (actually more).  And it came through in his interviews with some of the key people in front of and behind the lens, as well as those who dabbled in the James Bond creative space over the years.  As luck would have it, Edlitz is back with more from his research.  In his new book The Lost Adventures of James Bond, Edlitz recounts story treatments, screenplays, and more, adventures that didn’t make it to the screen or your bookshelf.  More Roger Moore as Bond.  More Timothy Dalton as Bond.  More Pierce Brosnan as Bond.  Who’s in?

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If Neil Gaiman’s prose adaptations of historical works haven’t held your interest, perhaps this new visual adaptation of his novelistic collection of stories in Norse Mythology may be a better entry point.  Adapted by writer-artist P. Craig Russell (whose adaptation of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung should be required reading for all graphic novel enthusiasts), this new series is sure to get those with Viking heritage their needed fix for all things Nordic.  Thanks to key visual contributions from Russell and artists Mike Mignola, Jill Thompson, David Mack, and Jerry Ordway, and color work by Dave Stewart and Lovern Kindzierski, get ready to get immersed in some ethereal, surreal, classical surroundings with the stories of Thor, Loki, Odin, and more.

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One hundred comic book artists have come together over the past year to create the next great joint art project, this time featuring the Dark Knight Detective and Bruce Wayne alter ego, Batman.  Previous subjects have included Adventure Time, Wonder Woman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, The Uncanny X-Men, and Captain America.  This year a new group of some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring the Caped Crusader (how many nicknames does he have anyway?) penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a DC Comics Batman #75 blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to–and in effect pays forward–comic book creators that have come before.  It’s called the The Batman 100 Project.

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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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Last night’s episode of CW′s Arrow brings eight seasons of one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes to a close as the CW aired the show’s series finale.  Focused on Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow–one of the costumed characters off to the sidelines over the years in the shadow of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–the series would be a resounding success for the network and executive Greg Berlanti, sprouting several other DC Comics adaptations under the banner of the Arrowverse.  And what a long, strange trip it has been.  It’s been seven and a half years since I first watched the premiere of CW’s Arrow in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 at the panel featuring the creators and stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy (I reviewed the pilot first here at borg).  My initial reaction found the show a “refreshing, intriguing update to the superhero game,” and “even for a fan of the traditional character’s story, updates made for TV were well thought out and did little to detract from the core of what makes Green Arrow the unique character that has survived as a key comic book character for 70 years,” and that the pilot “deftly managed to alter far less of the source material than, for example, the Green Lantern movie released in 2011, and in doing so created a truer, more refreshing story with appropriate nods to the past, and one that promises to survive, should it find its fan base.”  Who knew that survival would mean greenlighting so many more superhero shows, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and the forthcoming Superman & Lois?

The series accomplished a lot even if it didn’t get everything right.  Arrow suffered when it veered too far from the DC Comics stories, or when it pursued too deeply the more arcane corners of the DC universe, the biggest side trip being the dominance of fan-favorite minor character Felicity Smoak in the series, ultimately knocking Dinah (or Laurel in this version) Lance aside to be Oliver’s romantic partner, which again took center stage in the finale episode.

This winter’s ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event killed off Oliver Queen in the grand tradition of killing any superhero character (aka until his inevitable return, which we’ve seen in Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ comics story arc).  Although the finale itself, “Fadeout,” was much like an old 1980s “filler” episode (with many scenes spliced from past episodes) and like the final Crisis episodes it was about mourning Oliver and preparing for his funeral.  But the penultimate episode, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” (which aired last week), would make for a good spin-off.  That episode took Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (the only actor we ever expected to be Black Canary in 2012), and teamed her up with Katherine McNamara’s Mia (Oliver and Felicity’s daughter trained by Oliver last year), along with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, all in a future world of Earth in 2040 (introduced earlier in the series).  How long will the CW Arrowverse continue without its flagship series?  Only time will tell, but viewership already switched over to make The Flash the CW’s #1 watched show.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you can align the right fan with a project and come up with something great.  Add Mark Edlitz to that list and his fascinating, broad look at the James Bond franchise in The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy As audiences get ready for 2020’s No Time to Die, the franchise continues to be as popular as ever, through new fiction and non-fiction books, comics, music, posters, and more.   But how do you translate the master British spy from Ian Fleming’s original stories into new stories, or adapt the character to the big screen, to audio books and radio plays, and to spin-off comic books and novels?  Mark Edlitz is a long-time fan who took his tape recorder along to Bond conventions over the years and interviewed everyone he could find in front of and behind the camera, then expanded that into people behind the books and everything else he could find.  The result is the largest collection of Bond oral histories anywhere.  The result is The Many Lives of James Bond, now available for the first time, from Lyons Press.

Supplemented with sketch art (from artist Pat Carbajal) and peppered with black and white photographs of the interview subjects, Edlitz makes up for some of the big creators he was unable to interview by interviewing people close to them.  Interviewing people is not easy: Sometimes the subjects aren’t good at being interviewed, and oftentimes subjects are evasive for whatever reason.  But most subjects in the book said they felt a certain family connection to the honor of working on a Bond project, and were open with their thoughts.  It’s full of all kinds of surprises, and more insights than you can imagination about being Bond, from interviews with Roger Moore and George Lazenby, a stunt double, Hoagy Carmichael and David Niven’s sons (Fleming’s initial visions for Bond), and Glen A. Schofield, who provides his account of working with Sean Connery as voice over actor in a video game 20 years after his last Bond performance.  The Many Lives of James Bond also looks back to some early, pre-Bond film era performers.

  

Edlitz covers casting the role and directing Bond (from movie directors Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), Roger Spotiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), and editor and unit director John Glen (who worked on eight films with four Bond actors)), writing words and working with the famed producers who own the Bond legacy (from interviews with more than a dozen writers, including three-time Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein), creating music for Bond (from songwriters Leslie Bricusse (Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice) and Don Black (who wrote songs for five films)), creating clothes for Bond (from Jany Temime (Skyfall, SPECTRE)), and even marketing Bond (in movie posters created by Robert McGinnis (Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die), Rudy Obrero (Never Say Never Again), and Dan Goozee (Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill)), all while trying to be faithful to Fleming’s vision while adapting when necessary to changing times.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all it’s not really Bruce Lee.  The character’s name is John Lee, and he’s an agent after the same target but backed by a different government–the South Korean intelligence agency–and with different objectives than our title character, Mr. Bond.  Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 is smartly written by Greg Pak and drawn by Marc Laming, Stephen Mooney, and Eric Gapstur in a way that makes it easy for readers to imagine what could have been one great movie.  More as if Bruce Lee was portraying his Dragon than Kato, this Mr. Lee and Mr. Bond are well-matched adversaries.

Until they aren’t.

Taking some of the best bits from the spy trope, what will happen when MI6 teams up with South Korean spies against a common foe?  It’s Man from U.N.C.L.E meets Bond, as villains from MI6’s past start popping up, including Oddjob and Goldfinger.  A suitcase will explode if removed from, or taken too far away from, its handler.  One town of innocent people has already seen the potential of this new technology.

This series has everything.  Great tech gizmos, exotic women counter-spies, and locations across the globe.  Mooney’s artwork is fantastic, reminiscent of Mike Grell and Rick Hoberg’s pencil work during the spy years of the DC Comics Green Arrow comic book series (including a great new character similar to their Shado).  And Bond’s dialogue reveals Pak knows the character well.

 

Take a look at this preview, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Comparable in every way to the team-up with Green Lantern and Black Canary in the famed Dennis O’Neill and Neal Adams run on Green Lantern in the early 1970s beginning with Issue #76, Mike Grell would take over the artwork on the O’Neill/Adams run sporadically for the next ten issues and create more than 80 issues about the bow-wielding superhero for the next two decades.  A four-issue series featuring Green Arrow would prove relatively unnoticed in 1983 (without Grell onboard), but in 1987 everything in comic books would change as Grell returned to Green Arrow with his three-issue series The Longbow Hunters Hot on the heels of the previous year’s groundbreaking, prestige format series The Dark Knight Returns, The Longbow Hunters was the perfect dark and gritty follow-up story only this time it presented the superhero lead inside the ongoing narrative of the DC series at the time.  It was Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, relocating from Star City to Seattle, and the DC Universe became more grounded in reality.  The success of The Longbow Hunters gave Grell the opportunity to take Oliver Queen (referred to in-story as Green Arrow only once in his stories) to the next level in the late 1980s, cementing the superhero as a title character in his own right.  DC Comics has reprinted The Longbow Hunters, and in recent years it has been peppering the market with reprints of Grell’s fantastic storytelling and sometimes artwork for 80 issues from 1988 to 1993.  DC Comics has now released the last of Grell’s incredible run on the Green Arrow monthly in its ninth collection from the series, Green Arrow: Old Tricks.

Green Arrow: Old Tricks is an even greater DC release because it also bundles in Grell’s last work of the era on Green Arrow in the 1993 four-part mini-series Green Arrow: The Wonder Year.  Unlike the past few years of the monthly series, which was illustrated primarily by Rick Hoberg and inker John Nyberg, Grell both wrote and illustrated the official Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin story in this mini-series along with inker Gray Morrow.  Along with the origin story that would stand until writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock’s mini-series Green Arrow: Year One in 2007, we see a flashback of Oliver Queen in the heyday of his 1970s “man of the people” political activism.  As for the story at the end of Grell’s run on the monthly comic and the mini-series, Grell went out with a bang.  The stories both hone in on the women in Queen’s life, primarily Dinah, but also Shado and a fling with a local woman half his age, all while Queen is out battling bad guys inside and outside of the city.   Grell’s story is great and the artwork by Hoberg and Grell equally vivid and compelling.

In the section of Green Arrow: Old Tricks reprinting the monthly ongoing series are four stories: the two-part “Trigger,” the single-issue “Auld Acquaintance,” the three-part “Killing Camp,” and the two-part “New Dogs Old Tricks.”  The most memorable to readers of the series will be the New Year’s Eve story “Auld Acquaintance.”  After 80+ issues of Oliver Queen messing up his romance with Dinah Lance, she finally says “goodbye” for good in the series pretty 75th anniversary issue.  Oliver then gets away from it all thanks to a story that calls back to Grell’s own real-life intelligence work, as Queen teams up with Eddie Fyres in a good ol’ James Bond-inspired adventure.

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Kansas City Comic Con 2017 has been an event full of fun for both visitors and the creative guests the attendees came to meet.  One of the show highlights was a Green Arrow Quiver/Sounds of Violence reunion of writer Kevin Smith and artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks.  The trio delved into the impetus for bringing Oliver Queen/Green Arrow back from the dead back in early 2001 after the character had been killed off and replaced with Connor Hawke as the Green Arrow for a generation of readers.  “I was a big fan of the character going back to the day.  I loved Grell’s Longbow Hunters and I loved the book that followed Longbow Hunters.  It was like a Vertigo book, but wasn’t technically a Vertigo book, but it was very grown-up.”  When Smith was visiting the DC Comics offices discussing a Superman screenplay back around 1996, Smith said he popped his head into Green Arrow editor Darren Vincenzo’s office and said, “Hey, man, if you ever want to put Green Arrow in the Top 10, let me write the book.  I think I got a story.”  A year later when Smith was working on Daredevil, Vincenzo recalled the conversation and asked if Smith was serious about Green Arrow. 

Smith, Hester, and Parks had each worked with editor Bob Schreck, who had just moved to DC from Oni Press, where Schreck had been co-founder.  Schreck wanted Smith for the Green Arrow project idea and asked who he’d like for his artistic team, and Smith suggested Hester and Parks in part because of their work on Swamp Thing.  “I fell in love with it deeply,” Smith said.  The team was solidified and they moved forward with the project.  “Having these two dudes enabled me to go where I wanted to go,” Smith added.  Already established artists at the time with a catalog of works, Hester and Parks expressed gratitude to Smith for selecting them for the project and Smith said the collaboration with Hester and Parks on the project helped cement his position in the comic book industry as a creator who is now regularly tapped for insight into the comics industry in documentaries on comics, among other things.  “The only reason I get to be in that stuff is because I have credibility in the comic book community because of stuff like Quiver.  Quiver was the one particularly,” Smith said, further noting the book won national awards.

And speaking of Mike Grell, Grell was also a guest at KCCC this year. Always great for a conversation, Grell was busy working on sketch commissions for attendees this weekend.

Smith also discussed working with Dynamite Comics to bring together later projects with Phil Hester and artist Jonathan Lau on Green Hornet and The Bionic Man.  Hester said there was much back and forth communication in creating the story, and Smith emphasized the collaborative effort, “I used to be a guy that was like ‘oh, I just want to write it myself–I don’t want any input.  And then one day you work with people who add something, and then it’s ‘God, that’s incredible!'”  He used as examples contributions from Chris Rock in his film Dogma and Will Ferrell in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back–both actors who made contributions to the script but didn’t ask for or want any writing creditsand creator David Mandel in the animated Clerks.  When fans reference great lines that Smith didn’t write he said he makes sure to credit the writer.  “It’s important for collaborators to cite those people who are your collaborators.”  The panel was hosted by the Worst Comics Podcast Ever’s Jerry McMullen (shown above after the panel with Hester, Parks, and Smith).

Lee Meriwether and Doug Jones at KCCC 2017.

In the celebrity autograph area at KCCC 2017, a reunion and momentous meet-up involved actress Lee Meriwether and actor Doug Jones.  Both Meriwether and Jones worked together on the film The Ultimate Legacy, which also starred Raquel Welch and Brian Dennehy.  Meriwether and Jones are unique in that they represent contemporaries in acting but also represent bookends of a sort for the 51-year Star Trek franchise.  In addition to her many famous roles in series like Barnaby Jones, All My Children, and Batman, Meriwether played the character Losira in the original Star Trek series episode, “That Which Survives.”  Jones, an actor who has performed both as creature characters where he is often unrecognizable–a Lon Chaney of today as one fan referred to him–as well as more standard roles, has performed in more than 150 films and TV series (from one of the creepy Gentlemen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” to the creature in next month’s new Guillermo del Toro release The Shape of Water).  Plus Jones has appeared in 100 commercials, including as the classic McDonald’s moon-shaped mascot “Mac Tonight.”  And Jones currently plays the alien leading character Lieutenant Saru on this year’s latest Star Trek incarnation, Star Trek Discovery.

Gary Fisher and his family meet attendees at KCCC 2017.

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