Thursday, June 28, 2012

Acquisitions

Good night at the comic book store last night. Picked up The Gods of Opar, a great big heavy hardback that collects Philip Jose Farmer's Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar, along with a new book in the series, The Song of Kwasin, begun by Farmer, and finished from his notes by writer Christopher Paul Carey. Opar, as every schoolboy knows, is an African outpost of Atlantis that featured in several of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels. By the time Tarzan discovered the city, it was in ruins, but Farmer writes about Opar at the height of its power and grandeur in the ancient past. Also picked up Dracula the Un-Dead, the official sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, approved by the family estate, and written by Bram's direct descendent, Dacre Stoker. Will being official and related make the book any good? No.That will depend, as ever, on the skill of the writer. I'll let you know what I think. The third thing of interest I got was the (supposed) final volume in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which brings his meta-fictional series up to contemporary times. Picked up a couple of comic books too, so all in all, a good haul.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Chronicles of Professor Elemental

Of the various kickstart and other such projects that I have donated to (Yes, I am a patron of the arts, thank you.) the one I'm looking forward to the most is The Chronicles of Professor Elemental. The good professor is a Chap Hop rapper extraordinaire, as well as a steampunk adventurer with a monkey butler. What more do you want? Filming has wrapped on the pilot episode of the web series The Chronicles of Professor Elemental and the trailer is available here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjFx6ldryJQ I was introduced to Professor Elemental's rap stylings by comic book artist and swell guy, Mike Hawthorne. You can check out the truly awesome song Fighting Trousers here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iRTB-FTMdk And if you like that, have a look at Cup of Brown Joy.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Crimson Hand

I picked up this collection of Doctor Who comic strips, originally published in the Doctor Who Magazine, primarily because I'd recently become a fan of the work of British comic book artist/writer Dan McDaid. I ran across a pin-up McDaid had done of the eleventh Doctor wrestling with the Fantastic Four's arch nemesis Doctor Doom and had been really taken with McDaid's expressive inkwork and his Jack Kirby-esque action sensibility. This led me to McDaid's blog and many examples of his art. Once I learned he was also a writer, I became curious and so I ordered the trade paperback from Amazon UK. Really glad I did because many of the stories in this volume come very close to replicating the feeling of the TV series. In fact, the first one in the book, Hotel Historia, could easily be adapted into an episode. This story is both written and drawn by Dan McDaid and it's a tremendous amount of fun as the Doctor finds himself in a hotel where guests can witness events from history, actually look into time. Of course there's a catch. There's also the menace of an invading alien army. it all dovetails much in the way the series does, giving a satisfying conclusion where the tenth Doctor uses something that already exists in the plot to save the day. As a writer, Dan McDaid manages to mimic the speech patterns of the Doctor. I can almost hear David Tennant saying those lines. As an artist, McDaid has a nice mix of cartoonishness with old school action drawing. As I mentioned before, there's a lot of Kirby in McDaid's approach. He also does a good likeness of Tennant without resorting to tracing photographs. (His Matt Smith is pretty spot on as well.) Unfortunately, Hotel Historia is the only story in the collection illustrated by McDaid. There are plenty of other good artists though. Anyway, this is a great volume of adventures of my favorite Doctor. There's a ton of extras in the back of the book and there's even an introduction by Who writer/producer Russell T. Davies. Recommended. Check out Dan McDaid's Blog here: http://danmcdaid.blogspot.com/

Back in Action

Jim (aka James A. Moore) and I started the next book in the Price & Griffin series last night. Not really a sequel, but just another adventure of the lead characters from Blind Shadows. Both of us had been working on other things but we came up with an idea we liked so much that we were like, "What the heck. Let's just write it." So it's back in the saddle with the first two chapters already done and many ideas for mayhem bouncing back and forth. Have to say I'm enjoying being back in Griffin's head again. I like the character quite a bit. And Jim stepped back into Sheriff Carl Price's point of view like he'd never been away. Time for more horrific events in the small town of Wellman Georgia. As the saying goes, there will be blood...

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Occult Files of Donald F. Glut

When I was a kid one of my favorite comic books was Gold Key's The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor. Adam Spektor was an occult investigator who fought ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, demons, and all kinds of other supernatural menaces. I have always loved monsters so this book was tailor made for me. It didn't hurt that I really liked the art of the series illustrator, Jesse Santos, either. Spektor was written by another guy who loved Monsters, Don Glut (rhymes with flute). Don was a major fan of Universal Horror movies, Famous Monsters of Filmland and all things macabre and as he moved from fan to pro he carried the love of monsters along. I was fortunate enough to interview Don a few years back for Sword and Sorcery .org, and over the years I've occasionally found reason to email him with questions about his writing. Did so the other day with a Spektor related question and Don mentioned he was putting some one of a kind items from his files up for sale on Ebay, including an original typed script from Doctor Spektor #18. This was one of my favorite issues when I was a kid because it took place in Rutland Vermont at Tom Fagan's famous Halloween parade, a real life event that often popped up in comics from Marvel and DC. In a bit of synchronicity, that auction only had an hour to go, so I bid and I won, and now the script, personally inscribed to me, is winging it's way to my door.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Report

I took Friday off, so I had a long weekend. Spent it reading and watching DVDs. I already reviewed Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows below. The other stuff I watched was mostly episodes of Dark Shadows. I've been watching them steadily since I bought a bunch of box sets on the cheap several weeks back. Made it through the justly popular 1897 storyline which took the whole cast back into the past. That was followed by the unpopular Leviathan storyline, which concerns a sort of Lovecraftian pre-human race. It's not a bad story but it goes on for too long and it lacks the variety of the previous storyline. Next up is the "Parallel Time" sequence where Barnabas Collins travels into a parallel universe where all the Collins family live vastly different lives. That's where my DVDs run out though, so I had to do a little online digging and find some equally inexpensive sets that go through the end of the storyline. Got those on the way. I read F. Paul Wilson's revised version of his novel Nightworld. Nightworld is the final book in the six volume Adversary series and it's also the last book in Wilson's long running Repairman Jack series. The novel originally came out in 1992, and then was released again as a heavily revised limited edition by Borderland Press a few years later. The 2012 edition is a further revision. Why all the changes? When Wilson originally wrote Nightworld, Repairman Jack had only appeared in one novel, the Tomb, which is also the second book in the Adversary series. Wilson eventually ended up writing much more about jack (15 novels) so all of that continuity needed to be retconned into Nightworld. In my opinion it made for an even better novel than the Borderlands edition. Also did a re-read of Manly Wade Wellman's final John Thunstone story, Rouse Him Not. Just was in the mood for some Wellman. Another fun story I re-read was C. Dean Andersson's Slim and Swede and the Damn Dead Horse, which is, I kid you not, a Sword & Sorcery Western. This one appeared in the Monkey Brain Books collection Cross Plains Universe and it teams Andersson's series character Bloodsong with a couple of cowboys. You should read it. It's nifty. There's a ton of good stuff in that collection, well worth your time. All and all, a pleasant if uneventful weekend.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Conan the Outsized

Back in the 1970s and 80s, Marvel Comics put out a bunch of oversized comic books (10"X13") called Marvel Treasury Editions. They usually contained reprints of older comics, though some featured brand new stories. DC Comics had their own line of oversized books as well. At one time I owned a lot of them but I got rid of the majority of them when I moved back in 2004. Oddly enough, though Marvel published four Treasury editions featuring my favorite barbarian Conan the Cimmerian, I only owned one of them. Given the poor distribution of comic books in the small town where I grew up, I probably never even saw the others. The other day I was bumping around Ebay and I saw one of the Conan Treasury Editions, #23 in Fine shape for a pittance, so what the hey, I bought it. Some of the Treasury editions have become very collectible and thus very expensive, and I don't really care to collect them again, but if I can get one in decent shape for under 10 bucks, I'll go for it. This one arrived in the mail on Wednesday and it was indeed in Fine shape. Cover was glossy, pages cream colored and not yellow, colors vibrant. Not at all bad for a 33 year old comic book. The comic contains two stories. One is a reprint of the Roy Thomas/John Buscema adaptation of the Robert E. Howard Conan story A Witch Shall Be Born. This originally appeared in black and white in an issue of Savage Sword of Conan. It's reproduced here in full color. The second story is more interesting, being a color version of the first seven weeks of the Conan newspaper strip. Didn't know Conan had once had his own comic strip? Yep. Daily and Sundays too. The strips have recently been reprinted in a hardback from Dark Horse Comics but they are larger here and with much better reproduction. It was fun to get my hands on this comic. I'd forgotten how the larger size made the Treasury editions very fun. Just something about a great big comic book, I guess. Of the two remaining Conan Treasury Editions I have one more on the way. I'm keeping an eye out for an inexpensive copy of the last of the three. As I said, I'm only willing to pay a certain amount for this kind of silly fun. And fun it is.

Blind Shadows at Horror World

An very nice review of Blind Shadows is up at Horror world. Does give away some plot details so if you plan on reading the book and don't want to know too much up about what's going on, tread carefully. http://horrorworld.org/hw/2012/06/blind-shadows/

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I'd ordered Game of Shadows from Amazon so that I'd receive the DVD on the day that it was released, however I didn't get around to watching it until today. I liked it quite a bit, though it contained precious little ratiocination of the Conan Doyle variety. It was far more an action movie than a mystery, but I thought it quite a good action movie. Since TV's Sherlock is working the 'brilliant deduction' side of the street and doing it well, Robert Downey Jr. seems to be pushing the bohemian side of Holmes. His take is far more quirky than Benedict Cumberbatch's version of the character. Downey and Jude Law are comfortable in their roles as Holmes and Watson and the movie counts on their chemistry to carry it through the less convincing elements of the plot, which involves Holmes's nemesis, Professor James Moriarty in a bid to start a war in Europe so that he may profit by it. I was very taken with Jared Harris's performance as Moriarty. He really did seem like a Mathematics professor gone bad. I thought the script made good use of some actual Doyle dialogue from The Final Problem in a couple of places too. And I liked the fact that their final confrontation was mostly cerebral rather than physical. I did get a little tired of the Holmes and Watson as bickering old married couple bits, but I know a lot of fans really liked that part. Not the way I see the characters. Then again the original portrayal of the pair was far less 'buddy movie' like than the two most recent interpretations. Watson was always a steadfast admirer of Holmes. The new TV version and the movie version are far more critical of the great detective than Doyle's Watson. The movie has a big feel to it. Lavish sets. Exotic and varied locations. Obviously expensive production values. The portrayal of Victorian London is particularly sumptuous. This is the sort of thing that Hollywood does well. So yes, two thumbs up for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It ain't canon, but it's a lot of fun.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finding the Ghost Finder

I've always enjoyed stories about Occult Detectives. From Jules de Grandin to John Thunstone and from Anton Zarnak to Adam Spektor. Somehow though, I'd never gotten around to reading any of William Hope Hodgson's Carnaki tales. Couldn't really say why. I like Hodgson's classic horror novel The House on the Borderland quite a bit. Reading Carnaki would seem a natural. Just slipped past me somehow. Anyway, I have corrected that oversight in the last couple of days. I found I could get the short story collection Carnacki, the Ghost Finder as a free download for my Kindle, so I downloaded the book and I've read the first four stories and I've enjoyed them quite a bit. What I find interesting about the Carnaki stories is that sometimes Carnacki runs into 'real' supernatural menaces, but sometimes the ghosts turn out to be fakes. As a result you never know what to expect. Is it a Scooby-doo ending or will some horrible creature of darkness loom up out of the night? You won't know until you get to the end. The book came out in 1913 but the prose has a nice, modern feel to it. Carnacki narrates his own stories, usually telling then to a group of friends. And Carnacki isn't some self assured, unflappable narrator. When things go bad he gets just as scared as any of the other characters, but he has knowledge and experience and usually manages to pluck up the courage to do what has to be done. An interesting character. So if, like me, you've somehow missed the adventures of Carnaki, check them out. All manner of spooky goings on are guaranteed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tales From the Crypt

I'd been meaning to pick up Crypt of Cthulhu issue #69 for a while, as it was a special Lin Carter themed issue and I collect Carter's work and things related to him. However this issue usually went for more than I was willing to pay for it at Ebay, so I bided my time and waited for someone to post one at a more reasonable price. Last week someone did and I picked up what looks like a new copy at a very good price. I'm glad I did, as the booklet contained several stories by Carter that I hadn't read, mostly in the Cthulhu mythos, as one would expect. It also has a very nice essay by Carter called Nameless Gods and Entities, which is a listing of Robert E. Howard's contributions to Lovecraft's mythos and the stories in which they appeared. While Carter often gets a bad rap as a writer, most fantasy aficionados agree that he was an excellent editor and compiler, and that quality shows through in the Howard essay. Anyway, Carter is one of those interests of mine which waxes and wanes. He's made a strong showing in the last few weeks with the publication of the Thongor collection (my copy should arrive next week) and with the fortunate finding of this issue of Crypt of Cthulhu. On an interesting note, if you look closely at the cover I've posted you'll see that the illustration is by Bruce Timm, now famous as the designer for many animated cartoons such as Batman, Superman, and Justice League.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Farewell Ray Bradbury

I just learned that Ray Bradbury passed away last night. Bradbury was one of my absolute favorite writers. I have read and reread Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree, and my absolute favorite, The October Country, until the books have fallen apart and had to be replaced. See, when many people think of Bradbury they think of childhood filtered through a haze of nostalgia, and that's fine. There is much of that in Bradbury's work, particularly in the classic Dandelion Wine. Or they may think of his science fiction books like R Is For Rocket, The Martian Chronicles, and perhaps his most famous novel, Fahrenheit 451. I love all that stuff too, but for me, my childhood memories of Bradbury are all bathed in the glow of Jack-O-Lanterns. I can't recall where I got my copy of The October Country, but once I started reading it, I knew I had stumbled into something not only rich and strange, but dark and eerie and perhaps dangerous too. There are so many stand out tales of the macabre in that one. Just reading the titles can still produce a pleasurable shudder. The Dwarf. (Going nightly to the hall of mirrors.) Skeleton. (We all have one inside of us but mostly we don't think about it.) The Small Assassin. (No description of this one can do it justice.) The Jar. (Just what IS floating in that jar?) And of course there is the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. Will Halloway. Jim Nightshade. The lightning rod salesman. Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. The Dust Witch. I can never awake at 3:00 a.m. without thinking of it as "the soul's midnight". Can't tell you how many times I've read that book. These are the things I think of when I hear the name Ray Bradbury. That and his amazingly personal, unique prose. No one can imitate Ray Bradbury. I know. I tried. Anyway, I was very sad to hear of Bradbury's passing. He was one of the greats. May be time to pull out my most recent copies of his work, and visit yet again the shadowy realms of The October Country.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Baltimore: The Curse Bells

Lord Henry Baltimore returns in another dark and brooding Graphic Novel, written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden and illustrated by Ben Stenbeck. Baltimore is still on the trail of the ancient vampire Haigus, whom he first encountered on the battlefield during World War One in the amazingly good prose novel Baltimore. This is Henry's second appearance in comics form. He hasn't mellowed any. Haigus crippled him and killed his family and Baltimore is willing to do just about anything to get revenge. Not that I blame him. In his situation I'd be much the same. I can't begin to tell you how truly creepy this story is, both in terms of art and writing. Mignola and Golden are both formidable writers of horror and this is strong stuff indeed. Vampires and nuns who are vampires and a madman who is probably Hitler and a shrunken homunculus who is definitely Helena Blavatsky.(Made from the dead woman's ashes and the blood of a vampire.) I mean this is warped stuff. Ben Stenbeck's art is understated, very down to earth, without the bombastic flourishes so often common in comics. Somehow this makes the story even scarier because he draws everything, be it demons, vampires, or whatever other horrors the writers have dreamed up, realistically and believably. The reader is trapped at ground level with these nightmare creatures. In his introduction to the story, writer Joe R. Lansdale, no stranger to horror aficionados, mentions that this comic will stay with you. I'll second that. I read the story right before bedtime and I was still running it through my head as I drifted off to sleep. I probably need some lighter reading material. Anyway, I recommended the novel Baltimore and the previous graphic novel The Plague Ships, and I definitely recommend The Curse Bells.

Coming Attractions

Well, this absolutely makes my day. Blind Shadows is on Bill Thom's Coming Attractions website. This is one of my most used bookmarks. Coming Attractions is a site which showcases all the upcoming Pulp related books, magazines, movies, comics, and such. I go there every week and I had no idea my book would be there. Just to see my name on the same page with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent (Kenneth Robeson), Robert E. Howard, and all of my heroes just tickles the heck out of me. It's like, there's Doc and the Shadow and Tarzan, and Conan, and ME. Please excuse me while I have a mild fanboy breakdown.... http://www.pulpcomingattractions.com/

Friday, June 01, 2012

About Blind Shadows

The book Blind Shadows basically came about because my buddy Jim Moore said, "Hey, I want to write a book that mixes crime fiction with horror. You want to write it with me?" And I said, "Yes, that would be cool." I've heard collaboration described as twice the work for half the money, but that wasn't my experience. Jim and I were on the same wavelength from the beginning and we sent chapters flying back and forth with astounding regularity, basically alternating chapters, though each of us would sometimes write two or three chapters in a row. We decided we would use two protagonists. I would take private eye Wade Griffin and Jim would write about Sheriff Carl Price. Then we both threw in a bunch of other characters and wrote away. To keep things moving smoothly we exchanged hundreds of emails and met for dinner several times to have story conferences. There was a lot of riffing off of each others ideas. A lot of "hey wouldn't it be neat if..." and "I know! Let's throw this at them!" Our stated goal was also to write a "Southern Gothic crime/horror" novel. We were shooting for something in the Manly Wade Wellman, Karl Edward Wagner mode. Something distinctly Southern in setting, like Wagner's "Where the Summer Ends" or Wellman's stories of the North Carolina mountains. You will find many nods to Wellman in the book, even the name of one of the characters and of the rural Georgia town where much of the action takes place. Real locations in Georgia turn up as well. I was drawing on my lifetime spent in the northern part of Georgia and I hope that comes through on the pages. Several people have asked me what the book is about. Not to give too much away, the plot is driven largely by a classic horror idea utilized by H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Manly Wade Wellman, and many other writers. The idea that before mankind became the dominant species on our world, other beings held sway. Somehow they lost their place, but they've never given up trying to reclaim what once was theirs. Be they elder gods, snake men, Shonokins, or whatever, they wait out there in the outer dark, looking for a chance. Ours have just been waiting in the dark backwoods and shadow haunted hollows of the Georgia Mountains. Blind Shadows isn't a Lovecraft pastiche, but there are definitely some Lovecraftian elements. To that, add murder, martial arts, guns, hard boiled dialog and a bit of police procedure. Oh, and the world's most dangerous English professor. I think that the book has a very pulpish feel to it. I grew up reading Pulp Magazine reprints. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Robert E. Howard. Lester Dent. C.L. Moore. H.P. Lovecraft. Dasheill Hammett. Raymond Chandler. I was definitely going for a fast action pulp feel and I think Jim would agree with me on that. Anyway, that's the most I've had to say about Blind Shadows so far. I hope folks like it, of course. I certainly had a good time writing it.