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Tag Archive: Titan Books


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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Review by C.J. Bunce

As with fans of the other big genre franchises, fans of the Harry Potter universe are always looking for what is coming next for their fandom.  While waiting for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the next best thing is a visual journey into the artwork of the film series via Harper Design’s new 364-page, giant hardcover book, The Art of Harry Potter.  A gallery of more than 600 images, The Art of Harry Potter covers the eight movies, all created under the watchful eye of Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig.

This collection is entirely different from any behind the scenes art book we’ve seen, breaking down the films by environments, characters, beasts, artifacts, and the most eye-opening: the graphic art that grounded the films in the real world.  The graphic art includes photographs of book covers, key documents seen onscreen, potion bottles, magazines and newspapers, blueprints, maps, heraldry, Quidditch signage, food and beverage containers, posters, and tapestries.  Trying to mock up a Harry Potter room in your house?  This is your sourcebook.  With only eight pages of descriptive text, no in-depth interviews with creators, or the like, and only photo captions to guide you on your journey, consider this volume the ultimate album of the concept artwork that inspired the films.

The most unique section of the book looks into all the artwork that adorned the Hogwarts school and other environments.  These were images that may not have been seen on the screen at all, or images seen only in the corner of a frame flashing by quickly, but all worthy of gallery display.  Don’t expect to find photographs of actors or as-photographed screen images–these images represent the ideas that were developed over the decade between 2001 and 2011 that were then crafted into the final screen costumes, props, stages, and Harry Potter magic.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Octopussy and The Living Daylights was the 14th and final book of Ian Fleming’s James Bond works.  Published posthumously in 1966, the stories would take on new lives in movies, the first starring Roger Moore, the second starring Timothy Dalton.  Before both of those films, Bond fans in England would see both stories played out in newspaper comic strips.  Titan Books has re-issued the comic strips in giant collected editions reprinting the strips at their original scale, first with its Dr. No (1958-60) collection, then in its Spectre edition (reviewed here), and next in its Goldfinger (1960-66) edition (reviewed here).  The Living Daylights story was captured in the Goldfinger collection, and Titan has just released its next edition in the series, Octopussy–The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond–The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-69.

This fourth book in the series leads off with Fleming favorites Octopussy and The Hildebrand Rarity, and it also includes two new stories featuring Bond from the newspaper strip series writer Jim Lawrence: The Harpies and River of Death.  Artist Yaroslav Horak’s work reflects the style of the era, and his characters have the look of Neal Adams’ comic book art from the 1960s.  And how many stories in comics from the 1960s and 1970s had to include the obligatory harpy story?

A common theme through these four stories is the use of animals in Bond tales.  Octopussy is obvious, with its titular character: Major Smythe’s pet octopus that he subjects to experiments.  In The Hildebrand Rarity, antagonist Milton Krest collects endangered sea life.  Jezebel the pet stoat is a feature of The Harpies, and a monkey, bats, a jaguar and Dr. Cat all factor in to the plot of River of Death.  As M mentions to Bond in River of Death, “Very interesting indeed, James… it’s the third odd case in five months involving an animal.”  That sort of sounds like a comment someone would have made in the office reading all these stories in a row back in the 1960s.

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new in-universe book finds Star Trek: The Next Generation captain of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E, Jean-Luc Picard, providing a first-hand account of his family roots, his Starfleet Academy days, and his career as one of the franchise’s greatest leaders.  The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard: The Story of One of Starfleet’s Most Inspirational Captains is edited by (actually written by) David A. Goldman, a Fall release published by Titan Books.  Goldman’s portrayal of the inner monologue of Picard paints a picture of the famous captain that most fans will recognize, a man who would acknowledge his roots in France, his ambition to join Starfleet, his valued friendships in people like Marta Batanides and Jack and Beverly Crusher, Boothby the groundskeeper, Professor Galen, and many more figures that he would encounter throughout his life.

Most of the book is the backstory that fans have only glimpsed of Picard via episodes of the series including Family, Conspiracy, Tapestry, The Best of Both Worlds, Yesterday’s Enterprise, The Chase, All Good Things…, many more episodes, and Star Trek Generations, but here many blanks are filled in.  Key to the series and the character of Picard was his long relationship with Guinan, and the Autobiography recounts their first meeting.  Readers will also find Picard’s surprising personal ties to the crew of the original starship Enterprise, via James T. Kirk’s nephew Peter, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter Admiral Demora Sulu, Admiral Pavel Chekov, and even Dr. Leonard McCoy and President Uhura at one of Spock’s weddings, where Picard served as member of the honor guard.  Of course, McCoy, Scotty, and Spock would all appear in Picard’s life in his Enterprise-D years (seen in Encounter at Farpoint, Relics, and Unification) and Enterprise-E years (seen in the prequel book to the Star Trek 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek: Countdown).  The Autobiography shows Picard in his own primary timeline fans know from the series (not his Q-guided revisitations of the past), all the way to his encounter with Spock before Spock returned to the past after the destruction of the planet Romulus, and ending at Picard’s retirement to his family’s vineyard in France, where we encounter Picard during the finale of the television series, and see an image of him with beard in his portrait gallery.

In many of these in-universe books, readers familiar with the character whose voice is being emulated may find it difficult to embrace the characterization.  Writer David A. Goodman handles that risk well here, interspersing some believable stories to bridge gaps from Picard’s past as told in the television series, and stitching together key pieces of his life toward the final quarter of the book into a complete and honest view of the character that many fans would call their favorite of all the Star Trek series.  Goodman also peppers his narrative with some Easter eggs via subtle throwbacks to not just Star Trek: The Next Generation but to other Star Trek series and movies, plus he also throws in some Star Wars references for good measure.  Are all the inner thoughts just as Picard would think and say them?  So much of the character of the Picard is in the British accent of actor Patrick Stewart, making both seem so much one and the same.  Stewart would add his own inflections, words, and phrases, supplementing the scripts.  The character in the Autobiography does not adhere to that same British voice, but the thoughts are still believably very “Picard.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as you may hear general moviegoers asking if we may be near the end of the Alien franchise–and earlier this month Alien director Ridley Scott said as much, that the franchise has basically “run out”–you probably won’t hear that from fans of Alien who keep coming back for more.  But no worry: two future movies are expected from the franchise.  Along the way tie-in authors continue to expand the universe before and after the first film that premiered way back in 1979.  The best of these so far is arguably Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows (reviewed here at borg.com along with an interview with the author here).  In that novel Lebbon cleverly intercut between films a new tale of Ellen Ripley encountering xenomorphs again.  Earlier this year we reviewed an anthology, Alien: Bug Hunt here, and a new interactive in-world book in the Alien universe will be reviewed here soon.  Ridley Scott returned to direct another film in the series this year with Alien: Covenant, and a new tie-in novel bridges the gap between 2012’s Prometheus and Covenant.  Titled Alien: Covenant–Origins, it features the return of one of fandom’s favorite writers, Alan Dean Foster, and readers will find the story completely unexpected.

Since the 1970s Foster has written famous science fiction expansion stories that brought classic films home to audiences before the days of home video, including the novelization of the original Star Wars and the first Star Trek tie-ins.  His success with those would lead him to write the novelizations of the first three Alien films and Alien: Covenant, Terminator: Salvation, The Chronicles of Riddick, the first two Transformers movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, adding to a catalog of books that include The Thing, The Black Hole, Outland, The Last Starfighter, Starman, and AlienNation.  So Foster knows the Alien world well and with Alien: Covenant–Origins, Foster looks beyond the monstrous xenomorphs of the franchise to the political and corporate machinations behind the first effort to colonize outer space by Earthlings.  Springboarding off what we can imagine to be a Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun-inspired corporate takeover of CEO Peter Weyland’s tech company by competitor Hideo Yutani after the events of Prometheus find Weyland lost in space, we encounter the new Weyland-Yutani Corp. as it prepares to send a ship full of colonists to habitable planet Origae-6.  But on Earth the company first encounters espionage, intrigue, and sabotage, earthbound topics wrestled with similarly in Carl Sagan’s classic novel Contact. 

More action-thriller than sci-fi, Foster plants us into a mad dash to get the Covenant into space, with Yutani’s daughter kidnapped, assassination attempts, and a strange faction bombarding the company at every step to stop all efforts to go into space to avoid what one human is foreseeing as an invasion of horrible alien demons in Earth’s future if Weyland-Yutani proceeds with its flight.  It’s the same warning Sagan and NASA encountered from members of the public when the United States sent two Voyager space probes to the edge of the galaxy and beyond in the 1970s–what if aliens find us and they’re not so friendly?

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