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Tag Archive: Zorro


  

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the next inaugural TKO Studios series we’re reviewing here at borg, classic fantasy meets action-adventure in The Fearsome Doctor Fang A modern update to early 20th century mystery stories like The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, The Fearsome Doctor Fang blends elements from Doctor Strange, The Shadow, Tomb Raider, Allan Quatermain, Indiana Jones, and H.G. Wells’ sci-fi and fantasy novels.  No relation to the DC Comics Doctor Fang, readers meet this Doctor Fang in San Francisco–he’s a mysterious Chinese hero cloaked as a masked villain in pursuit of the location of the legendary treasure of Kublai Khan, all to save the world from a deadly menace.

Writers Tze Chun (Gotham, Once Upon a Time) and Mike Weiss (The Mentalist) create a story mixing stylistic influences from the likes of Alex Raymond and Alan Moore.  The Dr Fu Manchu comparison is obvious–the writers even incorporate the unusual character name Nayland from Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories).  Artist Dan McDaid (Firefly) provides the Amazing High Adventure look to the story, with layouts and close-ups reminiscent of Neal Adams, full of turn of the (20th) century exotic locations and historically costumed denizens bustling among the city streets.  Doctor Fang is a Zorro-esque hero for the people of China–and the world.

Readers will find great surprise twists and several funny scenes.  Think the 1999 big-screen version of The Mummy–the male and female leads darting between Doctor Fang and the book’s arch-villain have much in common with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in that film.  Bright period color choices by Daniela Miwa (Shaft) and interesting lettering by Steve Wands (Batman) support a unique look for the new adventure series.   Where the first two books from TKO Studios we reviewed feel more like standalone one-shots tales, this is a book you’ll no doubt want to see continued in subsequent series.  (*Editor’s Note:  Every time I type or say The Fearsome Doctor Fang, I hear the classic Dramatic Sound Effect).

Here’s a look at some covers and the first pages from The Fearsome Doctor Fang:

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Heroes is the subject and title of a new gallery show featuring artwork of nationally-recognized artist Ande Parks.  Parks, a professional comic book inker and artist, as well as a comic book writer and novelist, created ink drawings and watercolor works for the exhibit, which showcases some of his own personal heroes, both real and imaginary.  Celebrated for three decades as an inker of superheroes for all the major comic book publishers–he was nominated for the prestigious Harvey Award for his work–Parks has established his own grand, heroic style.  An artist reception for the show is tonight at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lumberyard Arts Center in Baldwin City, Kansas.

Expect to see from the imaginary side works featuring Green Arrow (Parks created a groundbreaking run of the famous longbow hunter series with actor/director/writer Kevin Smith and artist Phil Hester beginning with the story Quiver), Uncle Slam (an “out-of-touch patriotic superhero” who, along with sidekick Fire Dog, were both created by Parks in the pages of Action Planet Comics), and Batgirl (Parks and Hester worked with writer Devin Grayson on bat-family tales in the Nightwing series).  Works from Parks’ real life heroes will include icons like Truman Capote (Parks wrote the graphic novel Capote in Kansas, chronicling Capote’s days in Kansas writing In Cold Blood).

We’re speculating the show may (or may not) include characters Parks is also known for, like El Diablo (Parks worked on the origin of the character in The Haunted Horseman with Hester and writer Jai Nitz), Ant-Man (Parks and Hester created a zany series featuring the irredeemable superhero a decade ago with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman), and Kato, Lone Ranger and Zorro (Parks has written comic book series featuring all these classic characters), and maybe even J. Edgar Hoover?  (Parks wrote the historical graphic novel Union Station with artist Eduardo Barreto, featuring a massacre in Kansas City that influenced the FBI director).

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Last week The Princess Bride turned 30 and it returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies partnership (more classics are on their way to your local theater so keep an eye on the Fathom Events website for updates).  We’re big fans of The Princess Bride here at borg.com–more than five years ago it made 3 of our 4 lists of all-time favorite fantasy films.  This week’s screenings included Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director and producer Rob Reiner, and what shines through is Reiner’s enthusiasm for the film, three decades later.  He’s had several hits, from This is Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and The American President, and more, and now in theaters is his latest–LBJ.  But so few films are beloved like The Princess Bride.

Why does it work so well?  Part of the film’s success is due to its sincerity.  It’s true to its source material, William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride–the favorite of the author’s works.  Reiner tells a story of the difficulty in getting novelist William Goldman to sign over the film rights.  After countless big names were denied, Reiner was successful by agreeing simply not to change the story.  Goldman, who won Oscars for his screenplays to All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also penned the film adaptation, further ensuring his original vision.  The story is bookended as only a fairy tale could be told (with a few interruptions) by Peter Falk’s Grandpa and Fred Savage’s Grandson, just having storytime.  The Grandson’s 1980s room provides plenty of nostalgia for kids from the period–a “Refrigerator” Perry poster, a Cubs pennant, Burger King The Empire Strikes Back drinking glass, He-Man action figures–this Chicago kid had a fun room.  But the family bonding is the thing–an old book keeping a story that bridges generations, inside the movie and out, told by an old man with glasses, gray hair, and a fedora.  And the story is sweet and about love–nothing in the movie is embarrassing or gross or disturbing–it’s safe territory to kick back and have a good time–for everyone.

Rob Reiner’s humor must also be a big component of the film’s success and appeal.  His choices, his casting, his own humor comes through, no doubt influenced by a lifetime in film thanks to his comedy dad Carl Reiner.  Carl belonged to that classic comedy school that also includes Mel Brooks.  It’s Brooks’ Young Frankenstein that The Princess Bride reminded me of the most in the theater.  What Young Frankenstein was to classic monster movies, The Princess Bride was for the fantasy film genre.  Is The Princess Bride a parody?  It doesn’t have those obvious, direct ties to specific classic scenes like Young Frankenstein, but it’s an homage to several–from Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to Zorro and from Ivanhoe to Captain Blood and Sleeping Beauty.  The Pit of Despair, where Cary Elwes’s Dread Pirate Roberts is tortured, looks as if it could have been designed by the same crew as the laboratory set in Young Frankenstein (it didn’t but it did share its set designer–Richard Holland–with fantasy classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal).  But Rob Reiner’s humor is his own.  He never sits on a joke like the old masters of Hollywood comedy.  He leaves a laugh and keeps moving, which keeps in step with classic fantasyland storytelling.  You can laugh but the goal is the goal:  Rescue the Princess!

The classic archetypes are there: the Princess (Robin Wright), the Farmboy Hero (Elwes), the Three Woodsmen (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant), a Wizard (Billy Crystal), a Crone (Carol Kane), an Albino (Mel Smith), and plenty of Villains including the Evil King (Chris Sarandon)–with a classic “rescue the Princess” plot.  But the movie is also unique.  What else has Rodents of Unusual Size?  The accents of Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman?  An ad-libbing Billy Crystal partnered with a wonderfully badgering Carol Kane (Humperdinck! Humperdinck!)?  A real giant?  Two brave, swashbuckling heroes and two key villains (don’t forget Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen).  And the quotable lines!  It surely has as many big lines as Caddyshack: As you wish… My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die… Never get involved in a land war in Asia!…  Inconceivable!…  I do not think that word means what you think it means… Mawwiage! … And an endless litany of “boo”s.  The Pit of Despair!  The Cliffs of Insanity!

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lost-in-space-cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

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Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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Last year long-time comic book fan Quentin Tarentino used the original version of his Academy Award winning screenplay to create an unprecedented eight-issue limited series from Dynamite Comics of his acclaimed film Django Unchained.  Tomorrow Tarentino teams up with writer/artist Matt Wagner and artist Esteve Polls to release the first ever sequel to one of his films with the Dynamite crossover series Django/Zorro.

Django returns years after the events of the film as a bounty hunter out in the Old West.  He has settled his wife safely in Chicago, and meets up with the legendary Diego de la Vega, that masked man with the sword known as Zorro.

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Django joins up as a bodyguard for the tough de la Vega and begins their first adventure together protecting the interests of the innocent.  It all begins tomorrow.

Courtesy of Dynamite Comics, check out this preview of Django/ Zorro, Issue #1:

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Legenderry07-Cov-Benitez    legenderry-a-steampunk-adventure-7-concept-cover-a

We say “first” in a hopeful way.

Legenderry is the seven-issue mini-series from Dynamite Comics written by notable Fables writer Bill Willingham.  Legenderry is also the steampunk setting where in Issue #7 Red Sonja joins up with Six Thousand Dollar Man Steve Austin, Zorro, Vampirella, the Green Hornet and Kato, Captain Victory, Silver Star, and the Phantom, all to face off in a final showdown with Ming the Merciless, Queen Flor Zora, Kulan Gath, Lydia Valcallan, General Tara, and Doctor Moreau.

And we hope this is the first of several series with these classic characters in their newest and most creative incarnations.

The best character development in the series is that of Red Sonja, who has spells leaving her to think she is actually the mild and citified Magna Spadarossa, sister of Sonja.  By the end of the series her primitive side breaks through and she is the savage we’re all familiar with.  A close second is Willingham’s Six Thousand Dollar Man and his then-pricey 19th century prosthetics.  Including Oscar Goldman as his companion was a brilliant move.

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Artist Sergio Fernandez Davila creates a visually stunning location, and Willingham’s fun take on these classic characters makes the series one of the best steampunk stories to enter the comic book medium.

Issue #7 hits comic book stores this week.  Take a look at the first five pages of this final issue after the break.

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Masks trade cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re a connoisseur of classic superheroes, you’d be remiss not to grab the trade edition of Dynamite Comics’ Masks series for your bookshelf.  Inspired by a 1938 story by Norvell Page called The Spider vs. The Empire State, it’s an examination of pre-World War II Law vs. Justice, as nine classic pulp superheroes unite to fight a fascist political party blossoming in New York, bent on taking over the country.

Writer Chris Roberson looks at justice through the eyes of each of these classic superheroes, each having a different take on the evolving political climate, and how to deal with the story’s bad guys.  Where the original source material was a story featuring The Spider, here the heroes take a backseat to The Shadow, whose perfectly shadowy dialogue manages to allow him to steal the scene in each of the story’s eight chapters.  The book starts with a bang–a chapter we previewed here at borg.com in its original printing as Masks, Issue #1, back in November 2012.  Alex Ross provided the interior art for the first chapter, and as much as we’d hope for a full book featuring Ross’s art, artists Dennis Calero provides an excellent look at the 1930s with a very pulp novel feel.

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Downton Abbey

For you genre TV and film fans that got sucked into the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey, now that the series is on hiatus are you ready to entirely re-immerse yourself back into sci-fi and fantasy?  Or do you still need a bit of the British manor fix now and then?  A great feature of British manor series and movies is the overlap of actors back and forth into the best of sci-fi and fantasy.  So if 12 inches of snowfall has stranded you inside and you want to further investigate your favorite performers on Netflix or other streaming media as they stretch their acting chops, here’s an excuse to dive into some films and TV series you may not have otherwise tried, featuring the best of the world of sci-fi and fantasy.

Remains of the Day Dyrham Hall

Christopher Reeve plays an American who buys this estate in Remains of the Day.

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Although it is not as big as the two-major comic book publishing houses, Dynamite Comics continues to impress and present exciting new series featuring some of the best writers and artists around.  Cover artist Alex Ross has been a headliner lately for Dynamite, painting several licensed character covers for numerous series, from Flash Gordon to The Shadow to Green Hornet to the Bionic Man.  His marriage of realism and idealism makes these larger than life figures almost come off the page, or, more accurately, the covers.  Ross pounds out so many covers they seem to take up all his time, and so we rarely get to see a cover-to-cover Alex Ross project.  We’ve seen such projects in the past with the iconic Kingdom Come, but he’s also done it with Marvels and Justice, all superb graphic novels.  And now we get to see his next cover-to-cover project.

Dynamite and the comic industry’s Previews magazine have released the details of an eight-issue cross-over series combining some of the 20th century’s most recognizable characters from very different yet classic sources.  The new series, Masks, brings together the ultimate in mid-century masked avenger/heroes, including The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Kato, and The Spider.  The series will also feature other masked heroes, including Zorro, Black Bat, Miss Fury, Black Terror, Green Lama, and possibly The Lone Ranger.

Taking place in New York City in 1938, masked characters band together to take on corruption and a powerful criminal syndicate.  Chris Roberson will serve as writer for the series.

“For years now, Dynamite Entertainment and I have desired to unite all of the varied pulp characters they’ve been publishing into one big crossover event,” said Ross in the Dynamite news release. “When the Green Hornet and Kato paved the way for a successful relaunch of the original masked duo characters, we knew that the grand prize of revivals should then be the ultimate original, the Shadow. Now, to be able for the first time in history to have these legends meet, along with fellow mysterymen; The Spider, Zorro, Black Bat, and others, makes this project a unique accomplishment. I always thought that illustrating the first hero archetypes like The Shadow would be a milestone in my career. I’m thrilled to touch upon the legends that began the very concept of the superhero in Masks with a crossover that is literally the longest overdue.”

Masks Issue #1 is scheduled to be released by Dynamite Comics in November 2012.  More images and details can be found on the Dynamite Comics website.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

My exposure to the Lone Ranger was via Saturday movie serials featuring Clayton Moore’s portrayal of the masked lawman and his partner Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels.  I watched these with my dad, and he had watched them in the theaters as a kid.  My exposure to Zorro was via Guy Williams’ portrayal in a similar series I watched with my dad.  Williams, of course, later played Will Robinson on Lost in Space.  Moore and Williams looked alike to me, and I’ll admit if you told me George Reeves (who portrayed Superman in the 1950s alongside these other shows) had starred as Zorro or the Lone Ranger I would not have been surprised.  I mention all three together here because they all could be the same forthright hero played by the same lead actor.  So from my view it is a no-brainer that you would hook up the two Old West characters from this period of classic TV.  (I also was familiar with the Antonio Banderas films The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro).

   

The Lone Ranger: The Death Of Zorro Issues #1-5, published last year, was released this week in a trade paperback edition and it’s one you’ll want to check out if you like Westerns, especially the old Lone Ranger and Zorro serials, or if you’re just looking for something different.

This is not a team-up–It is more like The Godfather, Part 2, in its structure with Don Diego/Zorro in the Don Corleone slot and John Reid/The Lone Ranger in the Michael Corleone slot.

A fully realized historical fiction novel is lurking somewhere between the pages of this book, held back only by the required page count for the comic book format.  Expect something much more complex than, say, the current All-Star Western series by DC Comics (which is brilliant in a different way).  Unlike the Jonah Hex story, this is a shoot ’em up only secondarily.  Like Jai Nitz’s work on Dynamite’s Kato Origins series, Ande Parks delves deeper into the characters we only know on the surface.  I have been getting the vibe reading Dynamite Comics titles in the past year that this rich writing of background and relationships is becoming a hallmark of the publisher’s writer choices.  This trade paperback edition features another stellar retro homage to Zorro and The Lone Ranger by cover artist Alex Ross.

Note that this is not a Zorro book as much as a Lone Ranger book, as the Spanish masked hero dies early on, which should be no surprise based on the title.  But his spirit and legacy fuels the actions of the Lone Ranger and the rest of the story.  The audacity of killing off one of the heroes so early was surprising, but in that good way just as Steven Seagal had shared billing in the trailers with Kurt Russell in Executive Decision, yet was eliminated within minutes of the opening credits.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see Parks and artist Esteve Polls branching off on some past Zorro stories down the road.  Polls’s artistic style for this book has a very classic Western look and feel.

Look for themes of honor, loyalty, racism, brutality, corruption, Civil War aftermath, Spanish influences in America, the legacy of Native Americans–all here.  There is plenty woven into this story.  Parks even works in a subplot involving bushwhackers who have a James brothers vibe.  Plenty of strong-willed characters can be found here, and villains who are not just the guys in the black hats but characters with their own rules and motivations, however clouded or deluded as seen through the eye of hindsight from the modern reader.

You need only have a passing interest in the Old West to get sucked in.  Those who wouldn’t think to give the genre a try are missing out on some good storytelling.  Place this story alongside DC Comics’ El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman as a good entry point for new readers (Parks served as inker on El Diablo) as Dynamite currently has several titles featuring The Lone Ranger available.

Ande Parks will be known here to fans of Green Arrow as inker for several years on the DC Comics title, along with artist Phil Hester.  He also has written several works, including Capote In Kansas, Union Station, and The Green Hornet: Blood Ties.

The Lone Ranger: The Death Of Zorro is now available at Amazon here.

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