Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Great Comics Reread: Jack Averice is The Courier

So I had just finished Danger Girl: Revolver with art by Chris Madden and on the back is an ad for Jack Averice is The Courier, by the same artist only he is also the writer.

Actually this is a nice companion piece to Danger Girl

"Looks fun." I think and about a week later I find all five issues at the Local Comic Shop.  So I grab them.

Madden has written a fun series.  He wears his inspirations on his sleeve but I didn't mind as it really gave a strong sense of the world Jack Averice is set.  it doesn't hurt that Madden and I share several influences.

The first issue  opens in Hawaii where Jack is longing for adenture in far off exotic lands, he is complaining that as an American he doesn't need a passport to travel there.

This interspersed with a suave almost Bondian spy Fox.  After getting out of several scrapes, the Fox lands in Jack's lap.

The second issue has Jack dragged into a world of adventure, The Fox was his brother and agent for The Courier  and Jack is to be the new Courier. (The Courier came out in 2011, Kingsman which has a number of similarities was a comic in 2012 and a movie in 2014  - any similarities would come from the same influences) Actually this a nice companion piece to Kingsman.

Jack then travels the globe having wild adventures stopping a supernaturally charged villian from acquiring the last piece for world domination.

This was a fun spy romp and even without Madden's easter eggs and refernces to Bond, Danger Girl and  Indiana Jones, this would still be a fun story.

As I said this a fun story and Madden's art sells that story.  It has a realistic style with a cartoonish touch.  It works really well.  The other thing is Madden's talent for likenesses which help several of the easter eggs

Check out this image from issue 2 (this is the clean art seen on Madden's Blog http://jackavarice.blogspot.com ) as the characters cover up part of it.  

Anyone with fondness for spy/adventure movie/tv/comics and games should be able to idenitify a good chunk of these.  (the complete list of Who's Who is on the Jack Averice blogspot)

I high recommend this as a fun adventure romp and hope Madden will be able to continue the story.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Great Comics Reread/This is the End Black Diamond

Maybe ten years ago or so, I found an issue or three of Black Diamond.  The cover of issue 1 declared "Sybil Danning is Black Diamond."

The centrespread talks about how Black Diamond was a movie created by Mike Frankovich Jnr to star Sybil Danning.  The first I'd heard of Danning, that I recall paying attention to her ( she was in Battle Beyond The Stars with George Peppard but I don't recall her).  Her filmography certainly suggested that Black Diamond would have been a good fit for her.  A female spy kicking ass sweet.

The idea would be that the comic would be a promitional tool with the comic serving as exposure for the characters.  The Comic debuted in 1983.  I hadn't seen the movie and I couldn't find any reference to the movie,  there was no IMDB page or anything.

I did some searching, there are a couple of different stories as to why the movie never got made - firstly Danning hurt her back.  Which would have been a bit of problem in an action heavy movie.  But her back healed and she made other movies since then.  A later search revealed that there was some sort of rights issue with the character - the articles I read weren't entirely clear.

For whatever reason, the movie never came out and the Black Diamond comic ended with issue 5, with the character appearing in a couple of AC comics titles like FemForce and Colt.   The promised Black Diamond Comic Novelette never appeared.

The first issue's editorial says that Danning contacted Bill Black of AC comics to put him in touch with Mike Frankovich Jnr (Danning and Black had earlier discussed Sheena with Black and auditioned for the Tanya Roberts Sheena Movie)  The five issues were original stories based on the movie and the Comic Novelette would presumably have been an adaptation of the screenplay.  Issue 5 mentions that Black Diamond might become a TV series - it didn't.

(side point there have been a tonne of unused scripts for movies Kevin Smith's Superman, Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman, etc why not turn them into comics?)

The comics are pretty good issues 2-5 have gorgeous Paul Gulacy covers (not Bill Black's cover to issue one is bad but Gulacy is just next level.)

The first three issues are a three part story The Darkfire Affair, where Infocom spy Tiana Matthews battles her opposite number Vanessa Cord, codenamed Darkfire and her all female mercenary team, Valkyrie Unit - in three different encounters.  These really fun spy capers.  Issue 4, has Tiana Matthews seaching for the killer of several agents and the final issue has Black Diamond searching for what might be a UFO.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New from Me!



Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to announce the release of the 12th volume in their internationally recognized bestselling series, “Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective.” 

Why do people cheat, rob and murder?  Why are people tempted to commit dark deeds?  These are the questions that have always plagued the great detective, Sherlock Holmes. In this, the 12th Volume of the best selling series, Consulting Detective, he and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson take on five new cases that will challenge their intellect and lead them through the twisted minds of nefarious souls.

“The demand for our new Holmes mysterious has never waned since we began the series almost ten years ago,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “And in that time, those devoted Holmes fans have recognized the consistent quality of both our stories and art featuring Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters.”

All the art for this volume was provided solely by Airship 27 Productions own, award winning Art Director, Rob Davis. For the first time in the series, Davis delivered detailed pencils only for each illustration and also produced the stunning color cover. “This one is clearly a collector’s item,” Fortier smiles. “Fans of the series are not going to be disappointed.”

From chasing after a notorious confidence man to solving the death of a twin; a stolen tattoo or a murder of a bride before her wedding day, writers I.A. Waston, Barbara Doran, Fred Adams Jr. and Brad Mengel have produced truly remarkable mysteries  guaranteed to keep Holmes and Watson fans up late night.

As ever, the game is afoot!!


Available now from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Jake Speed: The investigation closed

So I'm rather fond of Jake Speed (1986) which was a fun movie, which I reviewed here.  Then I discovered the prequel comic strip which was done as promo for the movie.

But the thing that had eluded me was the novelisation from Gold Eagle.  It has an ISBN (from Wikipedia "A novelization, written under the pseudonym Reno Melon, Jake and Des' writing nom de plume, was published on June 1, 1986, by Gold Eagle/Harlequin (ISBN 0-373-62102-7)."

Forces of Geek has a cover image, which may be a recreation from the movie.

The late Wayne Crawford said in an imdb post (from the now defunct message boards) that there was a novelisation. Amazon has a page for it.

The evidence all pointed that there was a novelisation.  People said that they had owned one that they had lost.

Then on facebook I found that Mark Ellis (who wrote for Gold Eagle under several names including James Axler) pointed out an article in the International Association of  Media Tie-In Writers newsletter.  by Ron Renauld.

Being a fan of serial vigilante TV, I recognised his name. Renauld wrote novelisations for Airwolf, Street Hawk and The A-Team both under his own name and under pennames Charles Heath and Jack Roberts. He says that those gigs got him his shot a Gold Eagle where he wrote several Able Team and Executioners but the first novel he was contracted to write was Jake Speed.  The movie's release was moved up six months and Gold Eagle scrapped publications plans and the book was never published.  So it was written but never published and the plans for publication would have included getting an ISBN before it was scrapped.

This mystery is solved ... for now.  Who knows the novel may come out or have gotten a facelift and been published (like 50 Shades of Grey started life as Twilight fanfic). 

There is a rumour that the first Jake Strait novel from Gold Eagle "Avenging Angel" by Frank Rich was a rewritten version of Jake Speed but the plot description "The city rises like an evil vision from its surrounding the heavily guarded suburbs, the garrisoned farmlands. Life is sweeter in the fortified elite Hill section where the privileged few live, but elsewhere the city makes its own rules for life and death.
Even in this ruthless, anything-goes world, Jake Strait has his limits-a line that he won't cross willingly. He won't do political jobs. But when a rich, pampered couple from Hill sets him up, he is drawn into a plot that plans to drench the city with blood." doesn't match up with what we saw in the movie at all..

Sunday, April 15, 2018

If looks Could Kill (Aka Teen Agent) 1992 starring Richard Grieco and Gabrielle Anwar

Back in the day 21 Jump St was one of the coolest shows and Richard Grieco was one of the coolest actors.  He was soon spun off onto his own show Booker. I'm not sure if this was his first movie but it's a cracker of a movie.  Like Austin Powers and Kingsman that followed this movie takes many, many queues from the James Bond films with several nods to other spy and action films.

The basic plot is high school student Michael Corbin has failed French and he must go on the French Club trip to Paris if he is to graduate.

At the same time British Secret Agent Blade is killed investigating the deaths of several European finance ministers.  As the British are concerned that they have been comprised so they asked the CIA to send a replacement agent.  They send Michael Corbin.

Not the same Michael Corbin as the high school student but there is much confusion as the agent is killed and the high school student gets the first class flight and the James Bond set up with gadgets and a cool car.

There is some fun with the French Teacher escorting the class which also happens to the code name of a cold war double agent.  The French club is on a bus and every stop they get a new driver as competing factions try to stop The French Teacher and a gang of mercenaries.

Corbin muddles through often accidentally surviving assassination attempts, setting off  missiles while trying to wind down his windows. By the time he realises what is going on, he becomes competent enough to save the day.

I remember watching this movie with my uncle and he called it "Jimmy Bond gone wrong"

It was a blast to watch this again it's a fun pulpish spy romp with a Bondian villain and henchmen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pulp Heroes: Sanctuary Falls (2017) by Wayne Reinagel

I don't know what to make of this novel.  It's a huge sprawling epic of a novel which completes the story started in The Khan Dynasty and More Than Mortal and I ultimately did enjoy the story but as I said in my review of those two novels Reinagel really needs a strong editor to look over his work.  While the repetition of sections wasn't in this novel, there were massive infodumps that almost made my eyes bleed. Reinagel has done his research and it shows in the story but I don't need the entire history of the atomic program in America and The Soviet Union to explain how an atomic bomb was stolen or the entire political career of James Forrestal.  Every time I saw one of these infodumps it took me out of the story.

Two of the chapters - 15 and 16 felt completely unnecessary to me.  Chapter 15 started with Lester Dent walking down the street and looking up at a lit window, where Stan Lee is closing up Timely Comics after Martin Goodman discovered Lee's inventory stories (which did happen) and reflecting on the Golden Age of Comics.  The next chapter has Lester Dent and Walter Gibson discovering that their magazines Doc Titan and The Darkness (Reinagel's stand ins for Doc Savage and The Shadow) had been cancelled and Dent reflects on the history of the Pulps.  While both chapters serve to highlight that this is the end of an era both chapters took us away from the main story.

The story ends with ten epilogues wrapping up some of the side plots. With some of these epilogues, it felt like Reinagel didn't trust his readers to recognise the characters he was referencing, I understand this as a fan of obscure characters I have been guilty of making references to characters that very few people know and there can be a tendency to want to explain everything and over explain it.

The story was really good I liked the idea of Doc Titan, The Darkness, The Scorpion and The Guardian all coming to a problem from different angles and teaming up to work on the problem but it felt like the first half of the novel was bogged down with side plots. Like I said in my review of The Hunter Island Adventure, Reinagel is much better when he is more focused.  One thing he did do in this story was not to utilise the full supporting casts of all the main characters, making use of Doc Titans aides meaning that there were less characters to follow in the bulk of the action and the final showdowns had two teams of four characters rather than a cast of thousands.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Secret Diary of Bettie Page (2017) by David Avallone (writer) and various artists

Bettie Page is a fascinating woman, one of the top pin up models.  She has been the subject of comics, a biopic (The Notorious Bettie Page starting Gretchen Mol) and a heap of photos and drawings.  I once heard that she was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most photographed person in the world, I cannot verify that.

Like many of my age, I discovered Bettie Page when Dave Stevens used her as the model for The Rocketeer's girlfriend Betty Page.  Stevens then created a revival of Bettie Page which gave her royalties.  There were several comics from Dark Horse in the 90s some with art by Stevens and others by Jim Silke.  Other comics of a more salacious nature.  Needless to say Bettie Page has a significant pop culture presence so a new comic isn't a surprise.  The idea that she was a secret agent in the 50s is in an interesting idea.

This miniseries has eight issues (and a six issue story in Playboy) all written by David Avallone with different artists. Issues 1-3 have art by Colton Wortley, with Esau Figueroa and Bane Wade sharing the duties for the last five issues.  Joseph Michael Lisner did the art for the Playboy story (which can be found here. Lisner provided covers for all the issues.

The eight issues are split into three parts. Issues 1-4 cover the events leading to Bettie's recruitment.  Issue 5 covers training and a small mission that pays homage to 50s drive in moves and issues 6-8 is the mission in Cannes. Personally, I would have gotten to the spy stuff sooner.

Issue 1 was a little confusing it starts with Bettie at a photoshoot in New York. The FBI raids the shoot and Bettie escapes down the fire escape.  At the bottom of the escape, just standing in the street is Rick Chaplain.  Chaplain helps her down and offers her a job.  A job in Los Angeles, where he proceeds to drive her.  I live in Australia but I know that LA and New York are a long way apart.
The whole set up seems off and a really bad way to get to her to Los Angeles.  I mean there wasn't even the opportunity for her to pack, Bettie is seen driving in the outfit she was wearing at the photoshoot.  Lucky it was the start of the shoot.

In LA, Bettie gets the lead role in a sci movie "Invasion of the Space Commies" while working as an assistant for Chaplain.  Seriously, the story could have started with Bettie in LA for auditions.  Hell she could have met Chaplain on the plane and it would have made more sense than what we got.

The story could have been tighter but it was far from the most disappointing part of the story.  Bettie Page Queen of the Pin-Ups this was a story begging for 'good girl' style art.  The Dark Horse stories had Dave Stevens and Jim Silke artwork.

See the source imageSee the source image

And Dynamite delivers for the covers with Joseph Michael Lisner doing all eight issues and Scott Chandler on variants.  Issue one had twenty odd variants including photo covers with and one by  Terry Dodson homaging Dave Stevens.


If only the interior art matched these covers, I found Colton Worley's  art to be muddy.  It looked like he was using photo references but it didn't work, In issues 1 and 2 Worley inked his own work but issue 3 had Esau Figueroa inking but the inking only made the effect worse:


Figueroa drew issues 4, 6-8 with Bane Wade drawing issue 5 and inking issue 4.  I found the art did not improve with the changes in artist. Dynamite as I mentioned did a six page stand alone with Lisner on art for Playboy magazine, which co-incidentally was the memorial issue for Hugh Hefner.  Lisner's artwork was the only one I liked. I'm not sure why the artists changed but I did not realise that the change had taken place until I was writing this.

This was an interesting idea, that could have been awesome.  I was on board, this hit my sweet spot. Bettie Page, spy hell yeah.  The art was my biggest problem, the muddy interior art drew me away from the story - look I can appreciate different styles but certain styles work better for different characters and stories. Any story on Bettie Page cries out for strong good girl art, people reading it based on the name are expecting a book about a pin up queen.  The covers promised us this and the interior failed to deliver.

I was so critical of the art that until I started to reread issue 1, I had not really noticed some of the story flaws.  If you spend half your story getting her to be a spy it is too long and then spend an issue on a side story (a cool and interesting diversion into the 50s giant creature features) not having her spy I'm going to feel a little cheated. The set up did tie into the spying in the last three issues but the whole thing could have been handled better.

I would not recommend this comic.