Tag Archive: The Rocketeer


Review by C.J. Bunce

Some concept artists light the spark for the visuals of a film or television project.  A few create something truly novel, something that endures.  The late artist and designer Ron Cobb has something of both.  Fans of pop culture know his work even if they don’t know his name.  Now he’s the centerpiece of the next look at the greatest artists and artisans behind the scenes of cinema.  With Titan Books’ new work The Art of Ron Cobb, the publisher adds to the film enthusiast’s bookshelf of sci-fi designers like Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, The Artistry of Dan Curry, Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron, and a stack of books on John Eaves, including Star Trek: The Art of John EavesThe Art of Ron Cobb is available for pre-order now here at Amazon.

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Forty years ago this month, a surprise World War II era character arrived that would become a sci-fi cult favorite, an homage to the 1930s to 1950s Saturday serial adventures, writer/artist Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer.  A four-issue limited series begins this month for the character’s 40th anniversary–The Rocketeer: The Great Race Cliff Secord is a stunt pilot in 1938 who finds a jetpack that allows him to fly.  This new story, by writer/artist Stephen Mooney, recounts some of the character’s backstory and finds him hunting Nazis rumored to be hiding in California.  The best part?  The actual queen of pin-ups Bettie Page is Cliff’s girlfriend–a concept creator Dave Stevens originally wanted as part of his story.

Cliff of the new story is that wide-eyed young optimist, a bit of a George Bailey in his desire to help the war effort while not an actual soldier.  The artwork has all the war era styles and early 20th century brand of steampunk.  The story should be well-received by Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow fans.  As part of the 40th anniversary, you can also pre-order the giant hardcover 40th anniversary edition of Dave Stevens’ Eisner Award-winning, The Rocketeer–Artist’s Edition now here at Amazon, coming later this month from IDW Publishing.

Here’s a preview of the first issue of The Rocketeer: The Great Race:

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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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Coming in at about the same price as the actor’s screen-used prop blaster from Return of the Jedi this summer (discussed here at borg), Harrison Ford proved again he is #1 among pop culture and entertainment memorabilia collectors.  At Prop Store‘s entertainment memorabilia live auction in London yesterday, called Treasures from Film and Television (which we previewed from San Diego Comic-Con here in July), one of the fedoras worn by ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark brought record bids for a prop from the franchise, taking in an estimate of between $522,500 and $558,000, including fees and taxes.  Ford’s Han Solo blaster sold in June for $550,000 (before tax).  The hammer price for the hat was £320,000 when the winning bid was placed and the hammer struck, or about $424,755.  Provenance for this hat was not provided by Prop Store in its catalog, but the company said it could be screen-matched through identifying marks to several key scenes in the movie.  An Indy bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sold for $74,460, including buyer’s premium, at the auction.

One of the other auction lots worn by Ford was supposed to be the crown jewel of the auction, a simple stylized blue jacket worn in The Empire Strikes Back said to have been screen-matched to the film’s Cloud City scenes.  Although it was expected to garner $660,000 to $1.3 million, bidders were just not willing to push bids past the $600,000 mark and the seller’s minimum reserve price.  The jacket was one of the only hero costume pieces from the original trilogy to be offered at public auction.

This week’s big star prop of the Prop Store auction was crowded among other Hollywood props on display at San Diego Comic-Con this past July.

Several other key props from the four corners of genredom sold in excess of six figures (including buyer’s premium and net of taxes) in yesterday’s auction.  A light-up T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) fetched a massive price of $326,500.  A Christopher Reeve costume from Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) sold for $212,200.  A Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) sold for $180,000 and an Ian McDiarmid Emperor lightsaber from the film sold for $114,000.  A background First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone, selling for a whopping $180,000.  A Johnny Depp costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) sold for $106,100.  Of several original comic book art pages that sold, the star was Page 15 from The Amazing Spider-Man (1966), Issue #32, by artist Steve Ditko, which fetched $155,000.

More than two dozen other memorable props and costumes from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and horror classics fared well (prices quoted include pre-tax conversion from British pound, including buyer’s premium):
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Bradley W. Schenck’s sci-fi-meets-retro novel Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, was our favorite read of 2017.  Schenck created a unique story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom handled science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same imagination and fun, Schenck is back again in Retropolis with a new book of short stories, Patently Absurd: The Files of the Retropolis Registry of PatentsAll but one of the stories were originally published in 2016 and 2017 in Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and the new story ties together the other stories in the volume, which all really read like a single narrative with clever titles to the chapters.  As with last year’s novel, it’s all great fun and smartly written.

Readers again revisit Retropolis’s day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary, but this time Schenck hones in on one segment of the city, the Registry of Patents and new heroes of the office: Ben Bowman, investigator of patents, and secretary to the Registrar, Violet the humanoid robot.  Ben does not have aspirations of greatness, he’s content to do his job, but Violet is a robot who knows she was built to be an investigator.  The problem is that she’s gone through more than 14 bosses now–the Registrars–and still hasn’t been promoted.  Is it because they leave each other notes in the locked safe in the Registrar’s office about Violet?  And is it possible the office keeps losing Registrars because Violet is working her way through them?  Nah.

Big, bright, and detailed, like Tron, Logan’s Run, Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland, a bit Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, a larger dose of Metropolis, and an equal dose of Office Space and The Office–readers won’t find anything like Scheck’s world elsewhere.  The final story in the volume, “The Enigma of the Unseen Doctor,” is as compelling, rich, and poignant as any other master of science fiction’s take on what it’s like to be a robot.  Scheck turns the tables as we meet a robot with compassion for what it’s like to be human.  Patently Absurd provides the next step in science fiction’s investigation of the soul.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A great imagination is a rare thing.  Science fiction has always been, at its core, an avenue for writers to express the endless breadth of their imaginations.  In Bradley W. Schenck’s new novel from Tor Books, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Schenck creates a story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom deftly handles science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same awe and amazement that readers flocked to the future worlds created by Philip K. Dick in his myriad short stories, readers will be glued to the visuals Schenck introduces here.  Painted with shiny blue enamel and chrome, his details are filled with answers to questions from yesteryear.  Answers to questions about the handling of the day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary.  After all they have ray guns and rockets and use slide rules like we use smart phones.

We’re introduced to Retropolis, its immense size and cities inspired by an Art Deco-era mindset and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, yet a world not at all dark or dreary.  This world is new, big, and bright, as detailed, and as big as the original world audiences discovered in Tron in 1982, but far more developed than the future world we met earlier in Logan’s Run.  Closer to anything else, this is Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland.  The hero is everyman, like Korben Dallas, a Plumber-Adventurer, with all the dash and dazzle of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, whose nemesis is a Bondian villain pulled right out of Moonraker, with an equally vile plan to destroy the world as we know it–or at least as our grandparents might have dreamed it.

Like Metropolis, Schenck delves into the trials of human nature at the personal level in an industrialized world, as he follows a crew of switchboard operators whose jobs appear to have been displaced by robots.  But even the robots of Retropolis are like nothing you’ve seen before.  They are several steps before Replicants, but they are People in an early climb up the ladder toward autonomy.  It’s a 1930s vision, with a 1950s shine, bogged down with 21st century problems.  But don’t think this is a political book–the plight of the humans and the robots merely give credibility and gravity to this exciting and fun reality as a small band of average Retropolitans attempt to save the world from certain doom.  And there’s more–Schenck is not only the author of the novel, but the artist supplying futuristic illustrations of his world, complete with end pages featuring a useful guide to each of the story’s main characters.  With so many books written to drive you to the happening at the end, it’s the whirlwind fun of the ride that will prompt you to slow down and enjoy every word–and not want to finish the book so quickly.  It’s great fun.  Even each chapter has a classic, grand, Saturday morning serial title.

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cover_template_text    STII vinyl

The great composer James Horner died last year in a plane crash, leaving behind a legacy of some of the biggest and most memorable soundtracks that defined nearly 40 years of film history.  One of the most memorable for sci-fi fans is his score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  To celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Mondo–the guys known for their redux poster interpretations–are releasing an extended LP edition of Wrath of Khan with music never before available on vinyl.  And the release includes Mondo’s killer level of artwork interpreting Khan and Kirk on Ceti Alpha V and the Genesis Planet.

But Mondo didn’t stop there.  The vinyl albums reflect the look and colors of the Mutara Nebula, where the Enterprise and the Reliant faced off.

10WoK-Discs2--FINAL2_1024x1024    STII LP reverse

Horner’s work on Wrath of Khan is impressive and established Horner as a major film composer.  His score adapts themes from Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Romeo and Juliet, and Horner would work cues from classical masters in many of his film scores over the course of his career.  Order your copy of Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 2-LP set today here at the Mondo shop.

Never heard of James Horner?  You certainly have heard his work.  His last score will be featured in the remake of The Magnificent Seven due in theaters September 23, 2016, but the variety of films he wrote for is unprecedented.  He wrote themes that made many an actor look good–many in multiple films, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Matthew Broderick, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt, and collaborated on movies with the likes of big filmmakers, including Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Phil Alden Robinson, Wolfgang Petersen, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Michael Apted, Joe Johnston, and Edward Zwick.

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