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!


SHERLOCK HOLMES

CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol 12





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!!



AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!



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.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pro Se Presents October 2011: The Hunter Island Adventure by Wayne Reinagel


Originally published



After reading Pulp Heroes: More Than Mortal and Pulp Heroes: The Khan Dynasty I saw that Reinagel had written this shorter piece focusing on the female pulp sidekicks, Pam Titan (an analogue of Pat Savage from the Doc Savage Series), Cassie Greyson (an analogue of Nellie Gray from The Avenger), Megan Meriwether (Margo Lane from The Shadow) and Whitney Van Pelt (Nita Van Sloan from The Spider). Set between The Khan Dynasty and More Than Mortal , the four heroines are on a cruise taking the place of Simon Blake The Guardian who was suddenly called away on a case.
The four women are kidnapped and taken to Hunter Island where Simon Blake was to be put one the trial and hunted for the rape and murder of Judge Armstrong’s wife and daughter. Reinagel quickly lets us know that Hunter Island was formerly known as Ship-trap Island (from Richard Cornell’s The Most Dangerous Game) making this a follow on from that novel. One of the hunters is Lord James Roxton, the son of Lord John Roxton from The Lost World and the other Professor Challenger stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The women arrive at a time when there is some dissent between some of the hunters and the leaders Armstrong and Roxton. The mutiny sees the women on the run and hunted by the mutineers.
None of the women are fainting damsels in distress and react just as capably their male counterparts (in some cases they are more effective than their male counterparts simply because the hunters underestimate the women).
I really enjoyed this novel, The Hunter Island Adventure is not as epic in scope as More Than Mortal and The Khan Dynasty but that is not a bad thing as I felt that this brought a better focus on the plot with a smaller cast of characters.
(One of the problems I had with More Than Mortal when Doc Titan and The Guardian’s teams joined forces I had trouble recollecting who was who from what team although that might be more on my dodgy memory.)
The four women are written as four different characters with different skills and knowledge who seem to be genuine friends who interact often with a light hearted banter and girly gossip. Not surprisingly this relationship is consistent with what we see in the two other adventures.
The Hunter Island Adventure is a good rollicking adventure and well worth reading. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mr Holmes (2015) starring Ian McKellen

Based on the novel "A Slight Trick of the Mind" by Mitch Cullen.
Watching the Hobbit trilogy, I realised that Bilbo was played by Martin Freeman who played Dr Watson in Sherlock and Gandalf was played by Ian McKellen who played Holmes in this.  I had the idea of the Gandalf and Bilbo Mysteries.

I have seen many, many Sherlock Holmes films over the years and I've enjoyed several of McKellen's films. (Okay the X-Men and Middle Earth films).

The idea of an older retired Holmes in his 90's trying to recall the details of his last case is an interesting one.  The idea that the Holmes' mind will ultimately betray him is a scary one because dementia like all diseases doesn't discriminate. I'd heard that the author Mitch Cullen wrote his novel to help deal with his father's dementia.

Holmes in this is the most human in this movie I have ever seen. This is Holmes looking back on his last case the one that caused him to retire to beekeeping.  Holmes realises that he can logically deduce problems and give them a logical solution but people aren't necessarily logical and the last case ended badly and ended in the death of someone involved in the case. This lead Holmes to fall into a funk and eventually become estranged from Watson.

Holmes is unable to emotionally relate to people and later hear a horrible piece of advice given to someone that causes a third plot line.

This movie really brought a tear to my eye.

I have to give full credit to McKellen for such an emotional performance for a character who is not normally associated with emotions.  Another great feature is the makeup where we can visibly see the difference between "younger" and older Holmes.

There is a great Easter Egg at one point Holmes goes to the movies to see a movie based on one of his cases (in this instance based on Watson's write up of his last case) the actor playing Holmes was Nicholas Rowe who had played Holmes in 1985s Young Sherlock Holmes (also known as Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear) which was a pleasant surprise to see him revisit the role thirty years later even though sadly there was no dialogue.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pulp Heroes: More Than Mortal & The Khan Dynasty by Wayne Reinagel


Originally published Tuesday, June 5, 2012 7:51:27 PM

I’ve chosen to review these two epics together because I read them closely together and for these two related novels, what I’ll say about one will mostly be repeated for the other.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love for Philip Jose Farmer’s A Feast Unknown in the past where Lord Grandith (a Tarzan stand in) and Doc Caliban (Doc Savage stand in) meet and discover some shocking revelations about their histories. Wayne Reinagel takes Farmer and goes beyond, throwing in some Wold Newton speculations for good measure and adding some of his own theories.

Both stories features analogues of many of hero pulps but focuses on Doc Titan (Doc Savage), The Darkness (The Shadow with a smidge of Marvel’s The Shroud), The Guardian (the Avenger) and The Scorpion (The Spider).

More than Mortal in essence is an epic adventure that reveals that Doc Titan, The Guardian and several other characters (or their analogues) are shown to have a connection in case that serves as grand finale for a number of pulp heroes – that’s not a spoiler as the opening of More Than Mortal is the death of one of minor pulp heroes.

The Kahn Dynasty is an earlier tale that serves as the semi prequel to The Avenger Justice Inc and a sequel to Doc Savage: Brand of the Werewolf (the introduction of Pat Savage) revealing more interconnections between the great heroes as an earlier adventure in the 1880’s impacted on our heroes today.

I enjoyed these two adventures and it was fun to read these as alternate versions of heroes I know and love with some surprising revelations.

If I had any complaints, Reinagel could do with some tighter editing – there is a tendency to reuse some of the phrasing. Two examples spring to mind from The Kahn Dynasty.

In one scene Pam Titan is packing her belongings to travel to New York and she describes her grandfather’s gun in detail to the friend helping her pack. A couple of chapters later, the story has Simon Titan getting the gun as a gift with nearly the same description.

In another scene Henry Jekyll is talking with his father and he thinks about their relationship, the point of view then changes to Jekyll’s father and he describes his relationship with his son in the exact same terms.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Agent X (2015) - Pilot - Sharon Stone, Gerald McRainey and Jeff Hephner

Living in Australia can be interesting.  You hear about new TV shows from the States and hope that one of the networks here pick it up.  Sometimes it takes awhile (don't get me started on Season 2 of Arrow on Channel 9 or Agent Carter on 7) and other times we get fast tracked on the same day or within hours of the US or we just miss out.

So I hear about Agent X a couple of years back, the same time as The Player (Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester), Limitless and Intelligence (Marge Helgenberger and Josh Holloway). All four shows have a few things in common, they had an interesting premise that I found interesting and they all lasted only 1 season.  Where Agent X differs from the other three, it never aired in Australia.



I had seen Agent X promos on YouTube and it seemed like an interesting variation on the President's Man films starring Chuck Norris.  With Agent X being the Vice-President's man.  As pointed out in the episode the founding father's gave the Vice-President almost no duties to free him or her up to run this agent.  I presume that the Vice-President has access to all the same briefings as the President and is able to discreetly send one agent to resolve threats to America.

So I found the pilot on line and I quite enjoyed it.  Littered with familiar faces: Jamie Sheridan (Arrow), Sharon Stone (Catwoman, King Solomon's Mines) Mike Colter (Luke Cage), John Shea (Lois and Clark, Mutant X) and Gerald McRainey (The A-Team movie, Simon & Simon).

The premise isn't the most original but the use of a Vice-President was an idea I hadn't seen before.  I presume that as the series progresses we find out more about John Case.