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Tag Archive: Titan Books


Review by C.J. Bunce

A new PlayStation 4/Insomniac action-adventure game arrives September 7 and it’s anticipated to be one of the best superhero games yet (check out a preview for the game below).  Leading up to the launch of the game Marvel’s Spider-Man is a new prequel novel to be published in two weeks by Titan Books as part of its rollout of Marvel paperback novels (see our previous reviews in the series of Avengers: Civil War here and Deadpool: Paws here).  Author David Liss has put together a densely packed story finding Spider-Man confronting Wilson “Kingpin of Crime” Fisk seven years after he first tried to put the mobster in jail and eight years after Peter first donned his supersuit.  Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover pits Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man up against more than Fisk–with criminals old and new taking a crack at Spidey in the hefty paperback’s 398 pages.

Liss focuses on Peter Parker adjusting to life after high school and college, after his Daily Bugle photographer days and years of taking on supervillains, in the workforce as a scientist–yet the angsty Parker is still the same everyguy struggling to balance listening to the needs of girlfriend Mary Jane, keeping his difficult supervisor at work happy, remembering his breakfast meet-ups with Aunt May (did someone say wheatcakes?), and saving the people of New York.  Yep, he still mostly falls short.  Although Fisk is the Big Bad in this tale, others are lurking, like Mayor Norman Osborn, Scorpion, Shocker, Tombstone, Electro, the most vile J. Jonah Jameson yet, and Martin Li (aka Mr. Negative).  But Spidey’s strangest riddle involves new threats, including a masked deaf woman who calls herself Echo, with mad martial arts skills and a hidden past, and a Spider-Man doppelganger called Blood-Spider, an imbalanced foe who thinks he’s the real Spider-Man (unfortunately for Spidey, he has the moves and webs to prove it).

Peter grows farther apart from Mary Jane when she lands a job at the Bugle, and he meets a new co-worker intern named Anika (who may be a bit of a stalker).  And he’s losing his other best friend and confidante as Harry Osborn takes off for a trip overseas.  A contact with the D.A.’s office and a driven Misty Knight-inspired member of the police force (Captain Yuri Watanabe) could be his way to more information.  But something is just not right everywhere Peter turns, and no facet of his life is getting better.  Liss weaves all these characters together for Peter to sleuth his way to the surface.  He will lose plenty.  What more is he willing to lose to finally put Fisk behind bars?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’ve seen the unique retro artwork of Juan Ortiz before, first in his episode-by-episode feast of posters in 2013 for the original Star Trek series (reviewed here at borg.com) and then in 2015 he attacked Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here).   With Ortiz’s original series posters, they all rang with a similar nostalgia vibe, applying mid-century retro imagery from advertising, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  Some of his Next Generation posters followed the rules he created with his first series, but they also veered in more symbolic and subtle representations than for his look at the original series.  Juan Ortiz is back with his next homage to episodes of classic TV in the new oversized, hardcover, full-color artbook from Titan Books, Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Art of Juan Ortiz.

Ortiz’s posters for Lost in Space are likely to appeal to fans of his original Star Trek poster art.  This is likely because Ortiz has commented that he watched both the original Star Trek and Lost in Space before taking on his poster project, but much of Next Generation was new material he needed to watch for the first time.  That passion and familiarity with the material follows through in each of his Lost in Space works–each one pulling something from the episode it honors.  And the animated introduction to each episode (that was backed by John (“Johnny”) Williams classic theme) was tailor-made for Ortiz to incorporate those details, like the ship and the spacesuits, into several of his images.  Better yet, you’ll find many images that feature the Robot.

Definitely among Ortiz’s best work, for fans of the series or not. You may want to cut some pages out of the book and frame a few for your wall.  Who knows what is next for Juan Ortiz, but The Twilight Zone had 156 episodes–less than the 178 Next Generation episodes but more than the 83 episodes of Lost in Space, so maybe someone should talk him into giving those a try next?  Especially because each episode was so vastly different, it would seem perfect for Ortiz’s imagination.  Until then, you’ll want to see how the artist interpreted this great classic science fiction series that starred Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, and Jonathan Harris.  Here is a look at four more posters from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It only takes a few pages of David Tilotta and Curt McAloney’s new book Star Trek: Lost Scenes to realize this fantastic new book is like discovering the Lost Ark of Star Trek fandom.  Beginning with a spirited foreword by Doug Drexler (life-long Star Trek fan and later multi-award winning creator of later Star Trek series), who provides personal context for the book, it is like no other Star Trek book published in the five decades since the original series wrapped.  As the annual Star Trek convention gets under way in Las Vegas, thanks to Titan Books we at borg.com are providing this first look and review of what is sure to be the biggest hit for fans of the original Star Trek series this year.  For early Star Trek fans who collected original film clips (also called cels) from Gene Roddenberry’s personal Lincoln Enterprises company after the series first aired, this book will be viewed as a gold mine they only dreamed about–an almost archaeological recreation of the lost past.  For fans that have longed for anything truly new from the 1960s series, this is what you have asked for, as it includes images never before published of deleted scenes from 36 episodes, plus never before published angles of actors, sets, costumes, and props from the series.  For fans of Hollywood television history, carefully assembled rare images take readers onto the studio stages, backlots, and on-location sets, providing a detailed explanation of how the production shot the actual visual effects and used the technology of the day to create a vision of the future that continues to inspire generations 50 years later.

As explained in Star Trek: Lost Scenes, “Everything that went before the cameras during the production of Star Trek: The Original Series, both intentionally and unintentionally, can be seen in the film frames.”  In the late 1960s fans wanted any souvenir they could get from Star Trek.  Thanks to Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, a legion of fans could purchase the actual film from the TV show in the form of film clips.  You’ve no doubt heard of the concept of footage shot in TV and movies that “hits the cutting room floor”–parts of film roll footage, called “dailies” or “rushes” that were filmed and then printed in color for viewing the next day by production staff, taken either from bad takes or alternate takes attempted but not preferred by the director, or maybe footage shot that was intentionally deleted from the show for time constraints or editorial decisions, and unused for any number of reasons.  Where every other production threw away these trimmed film roles and segments of footage, show creator Roddenberry was savvy–he collected them and took them home to sell in his side business.   From 1968 through about 1990, Roddenberry’s company sold fans these film clips by the millions, most images containing a single frame from episodes that were seen in the final cuts of the episodes (initially at eight clips for $1).  Because of the nature of the film stock used, most of these film clips are faded, and many simply have been lost to time.  But some collectors over the years, including the books’ authors, chose to focus on collecting and preserving those most rare and obscure images that went beyond the scenes everyone knows so well.  Those otherwise “lost” images are what readers will find collected in this book, and they’ve been methodically restored to reveal their original quality and colors for the first time.

The authors match collected film clips to the actual text pulled from the production scripts that was edited out of the final cut of 36 episodes, re-creating scenes that almost made it into production but didn’t (like more Vina and Captain Pike from “The Cage,” more Romulan footage from “Balance of Terror,” more Khan footage from “Space Seed,” new views of the Mugato from “Private Little War,” more Gorn from “Arena,” and much more footage of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and the rest of the Enterprise crew).  For aficionados of television history, the film clips and the authors’ commentary provides a film school study guide on Star Trek’s optical effects, demonstrating the use of filming miniatures (models of iconic ships, space stations, planets, and other models), blue screen photography, matte paintings, split-screen effects (as used to see two Kirks in a single frame), superimpositions, animation-based effects, dissolves, cloud tanks, and combinations of these (like phaser beams and the transporter effect), plus make-up, costume, and stunt effects.  Fans of bloopers will enjoy pages devoted to outtakes and production gaffes, plus a section delves into information that tells even more surprising stories from the production via clapper boards and the most obscure details in frames discovered by the authors after years of study.

Check out these preview pages from Star Trek: Lost Scenes (available to order now at a pre-order discount here at Amazon, to be released August 21):

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When he first wrote a Deadpool tie-in novel back in 2015, writer Stefan Petrucha was still a year from the arrival of the movie Deadpool in theaters.  But he would have known Ryan Reynolds was cast in the title role.  Either Petrucha had a good idea forecasting Reynolds voice and view of the role, or both the filmmakers and Petrucha had a complete take on the famous “merc with a mouth” from the comic books.  Either way for most of the Marvel novel Deadpool: Paws, the author gets Wade Wilson–the cancer-battling Weapon X experiment who becomes the wisecracking anti-hero known as Deadpool–exactly right.  In fact there is only one scene in the novel that would have you step out of the voice of Ryan Reynolds’ incarnation of the character–when Petrucha has Wilson bad-mouthing Canada.

As part of Marvel and Titan Books’ release of a series of tie-in novels of the Marvel Universe (including Civil War, reviewed here at borg.com last month), they have issued a new paperback edition of Deadpool: Paws Deadpool: Paws combines all the cringeworthy ideas you’d expect from a Deadpool tale.  It’s a blend of Ace Venture: Pet Detective, John Carpenter’s The Thing, John Wick, and a twisted look at Dick and Jane, and, if you are a fan of Deadpool 2, take note:  You’ll find that same balance of over-the-top humor, in-your-face-action, and inappropriately placed melodrama right here.

Whenever an author takes on the job of writing a tie-in story for a well-known character, and especially when the writer crafts the story in first person, readers will know quickly with even a misfire of one phrase or sentence whether the author knows what he or she is doing.  If you read a lot of tie-ins you can catch the mistakes simply in dialogue.  But Petrucha (who has written tie-in series from Nancy Drew: Girl Detective to The X-Files) mastered Deadpool’s audacity, raunch, snark, sass, whine, inner-monologue, repeated breaking of the fourth wall, and strange charisma, in every action and retort.  He also throws in as many well-placed pop culture references as you’d find in an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of novels based on Marvel Comics characters is being published beginning this month from Titan Books, including reprints of past novels as well as entirely new works.  First in the series is Stuart Moore’s 2013 prose novel Civil War, based on the giant, 98-issue, comic book event from 2006 and 2007 (not a novelization of the Marvel Studios movie).  The release of the novels is well-timed to capture new readers drawn in by Avengers: Infinity War, and Moore’s Civil War is the perfect follow-up for fans of the movie looking for more stories featuring the majority of the publisher’s roster of superheroes.  Just like the movie Captain America: Civil War only loosely tapped into concepts from its source material in the comic books, this novel may be a little jarring to those who only follow the movies.  But Moore’s book is a great way to see even more characters than made it into Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War working together and against each other.  In short:  It’s a blast to read.

As in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Civil War the novel features a split between Earth’s superheroes, pitting Steve Rogers’ Captain America against Tony Stark’s Iron Man.  But the similarities end there.  A devastating explosion that kills hundreds of people resulting from a failed attempt by the New Warriors (a young superhero team filming a reality show) prompts American citizens to fear the superhero community and push for an invasive regulation of superheroes.  Stark initially opposes the Act, but ultimately favors it as the lesser of two evils and the best way for superheroes to continue to serve and protect.  Captain America and those loyal to him see the new Superhero Registration Act as a fascist restraint on their freedom and refuse to comply.  In the conflict that ensues Moore streamlines the original story from the comic books into an exciting and engaging read, drawing together most of the Marvel universe’s major characters and many minor characters.

Thor, Nick Fury, and Scott Lang are dead, Hulk has been exiled off-planet, and Wolverine and the X-Men refuse to take sides, not participating in the story, except for Storm.  The Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm and Doctor Strange remain neutral, but the rest choose sides, with Sue Richards, Hawkeye, and Spider-man switching sides throughout the story.  Falcon, Cloak & Dagger, Johnny Storm, Tigra, Prince Namor, Dr. Hank Pym, Black Panther & Storm, Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, Cassie Lang, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and newly appointed S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill all have key roles, with She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Valkyrie, and Black Widow actively involved as well.  But the bulk of the character development follows Peter Parker, revealing for the first time to the world he is Spider-man, by far the most engaging and endearing hero of this tale.  The leadership challenges of Captain America and Iron Man as they oppose each other and keep Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. at bay is the girth of the story with a great thread involving Sue Richards as she struggles to deal with her husband Reed who she feels is on the wrong side of the issue Act implementation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ahoy there, matey.  Gaming developer Rare and distributor Microsoft have said they expect their new shared world action-adventure game Sea of Thieves to be a major success for Xbox One and Windows PC, with a Rare company executive stating he expects the game to become a franchise as popular as Halo, Gears of War, and Minecraft.  As part of its efforts to bring in players, Rare has partnered with Titan Books to publish a tie-in to the game, Tales from the Sea of Thieves.  Sea of Thieves the game is a first-person pirate adventure allowing players to sail a legendary world alone or with a crew of up to four players.  Released in March, the game’s greatest appeal so far for fans has been its great visuals, opting for a cartoon-like palette versus a photo-real world, and its cooperative gameplay.

Written by Paul Davies, Tales from the Sea of Thieves is a fictional journal written loosely in the style of seafaring lore like you’d find in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, more recently William Goldings’ To the Ends of the Earth, and countless other historical accounts.  Its design becomes a real-world take-home prop from the game, a mock “battered and beaten” textured hardcover that looks and feels like a 19th century book that will go well with your tricorn, Jolly Roger, parrot, compass, and telescope.  The contents are in-universe, providing the accounts of pirate crew experienced years before the events of the game, introducing the types of adventures players can encounter in the game.

The tales are light fare, suitable for any age.  They don’t go so far as the darker side of the high seas as you would find in Lovecraft, but the voices are similarly evocative of his style.  The artwork is stylized from the game and fun, full color with the icons and emblems you’d expect from pirate lore.  Even the page edges are untrimmed as with journals and books of years past.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Already taking in more than $1 billion at the box office, Marvel’s Black Panther is one of the biggest and most successful movies to come out of any genre or studio.  This is the third day and final look at the major tie-in books that have been developed for Black Panther fans here at borg.com.  The first book (reviewed here) consists primarily of concept art for the film, the second book (reviewed here) features the history of Black Panther in the comic books, and this next book, Black Panther: The Official Movie Special showcases the film in photographs with a behind the scenes view of the making of the film.

Fans of the film will love the many 8″ x 11″ stills featuring key characters and scenes.  The book includes interviews with actors Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, and Winston Duke, stunt/fight coordinator Clayton J. Barber, costume designer Ruth Carter, special effects coordinator Jesse Noel, Marvel Studios president and “mastermind” Kevin Feige, and director Ryan Coogler.

Part souvenir book, part photo guide, Black Panther: The Official Movie Special also includes sections on the setting of the film in Wakanda and on the film’s newly designed fantasy-world props.  The section on Ruth Carter includes images of costumes and some of her early concept designs.  Other interviews are interspersed throughout the book with behind-the-scenes set photos.

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A new political satire film is coming to U.S. theaters next week–The Death of Stalin.  Ahead of its U.S. release, it has already caused controversy in Russia and other former Soviet Union states, and it’s been banned in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.  Russian leadership has stated, “The Death of Stalin is aimed at inciting hatred and enmity, violating the dignity of the Russian people, promoting ethnic and social inferiority, which points to the movie’s extremist nature.  We are confident that the movie was made to distort our country’s past so that the thought of the 1950s Soviet Union makes people feel only terror and disgust.”  The Death of Stalin is based on a French graphic novel by writer Fabien Nury with artwork by Thierry Robin and Lorien Aureyre.

Sounds like something worth reading, right?

Nury’s The Death of Stalin is a dark comedy take on befuddled Russian leadership in the 1950s.  Strangled by Joseph Stalin’s paranoia and violent extremism, his lieutenants can barely function enough to call for a doctor when he suffers a heart attack that strikes him following his reading of a letter insulting him.  Who will lead after his death and how many Russians will die as power is re-aligned?  The story plays like a Quentin Tarantino film–think of the bulk of the political machinations in Inglourious Basterds mixed with Seth Rogen’s The Interview, plus the absurdity of Doctor Strangelove set against the historical visuals and serious edge of Valkyrie.  And it’s all a very British comedy.

Sourced with a handful of well-known British comedic actors, the film stars Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Star Trek Discovery), Steve Buscemi (Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski), Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion, Quantum of Solace), Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion, Never Let Me Go), Michael Palin (Monty Python & The Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda), Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), and Jeffrey Tambor.  Armando Iannucci (Veep) directs with cinematography by Zac Nicholson (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, The Scarlet Pimpernel) and costumes by Suzie Harman (The Bourne Ultimatum).

Check out this preview of the graphic novel The Death of Stalin and a trailer for the film:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Last year Fox’s science fiction series The Orville provided what many fans of sci-fi TV had been missing for the past decade: a rejection of a dystopian model of the future and a return to an optimistic outlook, a future where Earthlings succeed in their exploration of the universe.  Hands-on creator Seth MacFarlane and sci-fi royalty Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill, and even Jon Favreau and many other genre veterans created a new world full of real people, believable aliens, exquisitely designed ships and sets, and a 75-piece orchestra with the best music you can find on television.  In the old days of Hollywood, studios tried to give fans what they wanted to see.  Distancing itself from the new trend of laying on viewers quirky visions and forced constructs, the show instead unapologetically serves up what is frequently disparagingly called “fan service.”  In other words, MacFarlane is giving sci-fi fans what they want.  Fans of The Orville can marvel at the details of the production in a newly-released chronicle of the series, The World of The Orville Readers will walk away with a better understanding of why the series works: It’s a show by fans for fans, created by some of the best artists, artisans, writers, and actors around.

It’s pretty rare that any television series releases a companion book, let alone one that is published before the second season airs.  The World of The Orville covers the series from idea through concept art design, casting, art direction, make-up, costumes, prop design, and sound, up through the end of the season this past December.  The book is not just a compilation of concept art or film images, it’s a good mix of both, complete with explanatory text from across the several production departments.  Insight is provided from execs Brannon Braga, David A. Goodman, and Jason Clark, production designer Stephen J. Lineweaver, supervising producer Andre Bormanis, master visual effects veteran Rob Legato, effects supervisors Luke McDonald and Natasha Francis, concept designer Brandon Fayette, prop master Bryan Rodgers, display designer David Watkinson, construction coordinator Tony Lattanzio, makeup artist Howard Berger, music composer Bruce Broughton, and creator and actor Seth MacFarlane.  The book’s author Jeff Bond incorporates a good mix of behind the scenes photographs and text to provide a solid overview of the story path of season one.

Significant coverage is given of the ship The Orville itself, inside and out, including early concept art and alternative styles considered in arriving at the giant yacht that would make it to the screen.  Readers will get a look at costume designer Joseph A. Porro’s rejected designs, and various makeup designs attempted for key alien characters.  Ship designs, alien worlds, costumes and weapons, as well as a look at each key character and production set can be found here.

Check out some preview pages from The World of The Orville, courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Art of Ferdinand is the latest in a line of books chronicling the creative process behind genre movies, but this is the first we’ve seen that explores the director’s process for envisioning and executing an animated film from beginning to end.  Showcasing a fantastic film, December’s Ferdinand from Blue Sky Studios (reviewed here at borg.com), writer Tara Bennett uses interviews with the director and an army of production artists and incorporates digital artwork and final renderings from the film to explain how a film is made that merited an Academy Award nomination for the year’s best animated film.

Movie buffs and fans of the original story will likely encounter a new lexicon of moviemaking in The Art of Ferdinand.  Not only do readers see the typical concept art and production stills you’d find in a feature film, director Carlos Saldanha explains each step he took adapting one of the bestselling books of all time, Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s Ferdinand, and collaborating with a staff of artists to expand upon the original 30-page tale into a big-budget animated movie.  Saldanha tells how he started with the last third of the film, sequences he knew would need to look a certain way and more closely mimic the events of the storybook.  Each animated character was taken through an elaborate design process.  After development of both the young version and much larger version of Ferdinand the bull, they moved to the supporting characters with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and digital renderings of each in multiple poses with updated techniques but mirroring what you may have seen in “making of” features from animator Walt Disney from decades past.

A different language of animation is also explored in the book: light sources and bounce-light have greater meaning in an animated film such as Ferdinand, and the director and artists must sketch character turnarounds, color callouts, and texture art, as well as shape, movement, gesture, and expression studies of characters, and a color script similar to storyboards in live action movies, identifying the flow of color throughout the film.   Interaction and movement an actor would perform must be blocked out in the most intricate of ways.  Shape language must be considered, design themes and color themes, proportions of objects, and the use of negative space.

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