Sunday, July 23, 2017

BASS REEVES RETURNS IN AIRSHIP 27'S FRONTIER MARSHAL, VOL 2!!!


Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves was the real deal, so much so that some have called him (albeit erroneously) the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. That such attribution has occurred isn’t so surprising, for Reeves was as persistent and clever as John Reid when it came to hunting and capturing bad guys. In fact, he rounded up thousands of them, sometimes accompanied by Indian Scouts and always equipped with a handy rifle and/or pistol to ensure his success. However, as an African American/ex-slave, Reeves faced the fierce, racial tensions of his time, but miraculously managed to maintain his dignity despite the bigotry. 

More than a year ago, Ron Fortier's Airship 27 Productions presented the first anthology of fictional adventures based on Reeves's legacy (see February '16 review), and--hallelujah!--another compilation has finally hit print.


“Bass Reeves: Frontier Marshal Vol 2” is as thrilling an anthology as its predecessor, with tales penned by Michael Black; Milton Davis; Derrick Ferguson; and Mel Odom. In addition, the second volume is graced by wonderful, interior illustrations by Rob Davis and an effectively brooding cover by Marco Turini.

The stories are full of gusto and grit, with Reeves protecting a gold shipment fraught by confounding circumstances; wrestling with the dastardly Pritchard gang; tracking down the robbers of the train he rode; and teaming with Quickshot Katy Calhoun in defense of black settlers, threatened by a callous colonel. 


Not only does Reeves deserve the same respect awarded to such characters as the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, but real-life icons like Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok. It's for this reason that Fortier's Airship 27 is publishing these fine fables. This latest volume is yet another honorable way to extend Reeve's legacy further into the American and (fingers crossed) global consciousness. 

Can’t wait for Vol 3!  

(The current entry is available at...https://www.amazon.com/Bass-Reeves-Frontier-Marshal-2/dp/1946183199/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500841687&sr=8-1&keywords=bass+reeves+vol+2.)

Long live the legend of U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves!!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

FAREWELL, JOHN HEARD...


Though you weren't exclusively known for the offbeat and macabre (as fans of the cheerful "Home Alone" films can attest), you nonetheless left your mark on more than a few horror and fantasy entries: "Cat People '82"; "C.H.U.D."; "The Insomniac"; "The Seventh Sign", "Sharknado"; "Too Scared to Scream"; "Would You Rather?" and of course, the ever magical, "Big"; as well as a memorable guest appearance on the acclaimed "Battlestar Galactica" revival. 

You gave each of your roles an amiable, common-man touch, which your fans identified with and appreciated. We were with you every step of the way, no matter how humorous or terrifying the events, seeing through your eyes as each story unfolded. You did you're job well and then some, Mr. Heard, with a legacy that most actors can only envy. God bless...

Monday, July 17, 2017

RIP MARTIN LANDAU...


You were always there...always inspiring with a talent that was respected but often shortchanged of the praise it deserved. 

You impressed me first in "Mission: Impossible" and later "Space: 1999", but there were so many other performances I was to admire, including your guest roles on "Twilight Zone" (in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"; "The Jeopardy Room"; "The Beacon") and "Outer Limits" ("The Man Who Was Never Born"; "The Bellero Shield"). And man, oh, man, did you ever give me joyful chills in Jack Sholder's "Alone in the Dark" and the Sun Classics edition of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher". 

Your most remarkable performance was perhaps in Tim Burton's "Ed Wood", where you (at long last) gained a well deserved Oscar for your portrayal of the great Bela Lugosi. This led to your portrayal of Geppetto in two wonderful Pinocchio films, for which fans young and old are still in sentimental awe. 

You could perform it all--and did it all, Mr. Landau--and today the acting world is a significant degree less in its splendor for your passing. 

Collectible TIme #89: Planet of the Apes, The Original Topps Trading Cards Series Book


To coincide with Matt Reeves' "War for the Planet of the Apes", Abrams ComicArts has granted us evolved-simian fans an extra treat by releasing the hardback "Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series": a chunky (6" x 1.7 x 7.2 ") collectible about a specialized type of collectible, which youngsters (and many adults) avidly consumed in '69/'75 and beyond. 


Author Gary Gerani (who's taken a similar approach for volumes on Topps' "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" trading cards) presents all three "Apes" series for our heartfelt delight.

The initial set stems from the Rod Serling/Michael Wilson adaptation of Pierre Boulle's "Monkey Planet, which hit mom-and-pop stores a year after Franklin Shaffner's "Planet of the Apes" became all the rage. 


The second is derived from the short-lived '74 CBS series, which spawned a profits bonanza which (as Roddy McDowall so astutely acknowledged at a Fangoria convention I attended in the '90s) could have sustained the show for an indefinite time. Oh, well...

The third set comes from the Tim Burton's controversial, though financially successful 2001 reboot, which in its own right, spawned a slew of toy and novelty tie-ins.  

What made the '60s/'70s sets particularly endearing was their convenient reproduction of story lines. VHS, after all, hadn't yet hit the scene, and the Super 8 "Apes" offerings were at best abbreviated and often in black-and-white. Through these cards, one could relive "Planet of the Apes" via a string of dynamic, mini stills and at an affordable, stick-of-bubble-gum-included price. 


Also, as with other such card sets, the "Apes" entries featured illustrated, back-of-card data on the characters and their related scenarios. The photo reproductions were for the most part clear and focused; and in the case of each release, designed similarly, with the '60s/'70s versions featuring curled captions at the bottom, right-hand corners. (The '70s release even allowed one to construct puzzles of scenes.) Though the Burton set has a border-less distinction, it nonetheless imitates the back-of-card format and included among its content (if one were lucky to land the right packs), authentic, autographs from the cast. Wow!


The book's graphic design is most pleasing, printed on high-quality stock and features such supplemental images as the cards' display boxes and fanciful wrappers. The book, itself, is adorned by a simulated card-wrapper jacket, taken from the '70s release. 


For those who experienced these sets (particularly the '60s/'70s ones), their pop-cultural impact goes without saying, but for those out of the loop, the "Apes" tie-ins (cards and otherwise) set the marketing standard for later merchandising sprees, including Fox's next, big franchise: "Star Wars". 

As an incentive, Gerani's book costs under $20, with each volume containing several, reproduced "Apes" cards: a nice touch to an homage that's certain to bestow readers with hours of enjoyment. Ah, how sweet those apocalyptic memories can be...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

RIP GEORGE A. ROMERO...


Through "Night of the Living Dead"; "Dawn of the Dead"; and "Day of the Dead", you set forth a flesh-feasting pattern that others have copied, but never truly captured. Your variations on the theme, with your collaboration on Tom Savini's "Night...", as well as "Land of the Dead"; "Document of the Dead"; and "Survival of the Dead", only further cemented your fame as the macabre master of your game.

Your exquisite filmmaking skills also bestowed us with "The Crazies"; "Jack's Wife/Season of the Witch"; "Martin"; "Knightriders"; "Monkey Shines"; "The Dark Half"; "Bruiser" and the offbeat "There's Always Vanilla". Additionally, you left your mark on some of the finest, horror anthologies of our time: "Creepshow"; "Creepshow 2" and of course, "Tales from the Dark Side"; and let's not overlook your devilish hosting chores on "Deadtime Stories, Vol 1 and 2", as well as your delicious team-up with Dario Argento on the Poe-inspired, "Two Evil Eyes". 

You weren't afraid to push the envelope or offer social commentary in your mad dreams. Though your films were charged with carnage and fright, you graciously and poetically changed the way I looked at the world, and for that, I'll always be in your debt. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

MORE ADVENTUROUS CURVES AWAIT...FEMFORCE #178!!!


It took forever and a day for me to land a copy, but at long last I've obtained AC's FEMFORCE #178!!!

As with all Mark and Stephanie Heike publications, it's a true-blue winner, with plenty of high-flying adventure and sturdy curves galore!!! The issue's headlining beauties are Firebeam; Ms. Victory; Nightveil; She-Cat; Stardust; Synn; and Tara: a delicious line-up, indeed, and they're only the start of the gorgeous wonders contained!!!


Incidentally, my good buddy, Rock Baker lends his imaginative skills (as both illustrator and writer) to "Crystal Clear", "Masks in Lace", and the sensationally satirical "Super-Cutie: the Bare Facts": the latter a new concept in the FEMFORCE scene, which I, for one, hope continues. (Truly, it's too darn good to stay solo!!!)


For whatever odd reason, copies of this swell issue appear quite scarce; so visit your local comic shop or any number of fine, online establishments to see what's cookin'. (For what it's worth, I finally nabbed my copy at www.atomicempire.com.) You sure as heck don't wanna miss this one!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Alternate Reality #17: I saw the Apes at War...


Matt Reeves' retelling of “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” wasn’t through, as we now know, for “War for…” takes elements of the ’73, so-called "final chapter" to a new, belligerent level. As with the original-cycle entry, this parallel “Apes” chapter determines whether simians or humans will dominate Earth. This time, however, we don’t have Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus standing in lieu of Severn Darden's Kolp, but instead Woody Harrelson’s Colonel McCullough. And man, oh man, is the ol' Colonel ever a determined bastard.


Considering what’s at stake in director/writer Reeves' sequel (coauthored by Mark Bomback), one can’t fault the military man, any more than one can fault Caesar (Andy Serkis) for amplifying the adversity. As in real-life, this alternate-reality take of an established alternate-reality history, demonstrates how explosive opposing sides can be. Under the Colonel, however, the humans appear on the upswing, though perhaps not for long. An onslaught of desires, contempt and bloodshed awaits both ends, with an unexpected faction ultimately entering to turn the story on its head. 

“War”, in this respect, lives up to its title. Even in its gentlest parts (and oh, there are many and so lovingly blessed by Michael Giacchino's sweet score), it stays hard-hitting. It honorably lifts “Battle’”s most confrontational scenes, but also pays homage to "Apocalypse Now"; “To Hell and Back”; “Hacksaw Ridge"; "A Walk in the Sun"; plus any number of John Wayne pictures, war or western based. 


At "War'"s start, we learn that Caesar has molded his apes into a well-oiled, fighting machine. The noble chimp doesn't wish hostilities to rise, but nor does he want his followers to be left unprepared in the event of attack. No matter how hard he tries, though, his people gain casualties and unfortunately, those close to Caesar's heart fall victim to the enemy. 

Despite this, the prospect of peace isn't entirely off the table, and its symbolism comes via a human girl (Amiah Miller), whom the apes discover along the way. She comes to be named Nova (a gracious nod to Linda Harrison's shapely character). Caesar, thanks to Maurice (Karin Konoval)'s insistence, comes to care for the lass, just as he does those of his kind. He's a well rounded "emperor", after all: one with an open mind, a caring heart, but at the same time, one who acknowledges the risk in growing soft, regardless of Nova's contagious innocence. 


Alas, for all his noble intent, Caesar soon finds himself in the Colonel's clutches. The two have an opportunity to talk, negotiate, but due to the Colonel's contempt, the fires of animosity get stoked ever higher. 

This is by no means surprising. Whether one likes it or not, tensions regarding who-rules-what are unavoidable, with war generally the result. Though this idea might unsettle many a millennial, it does appear to be the film's predominate theme and is a common part of existence, no matter what the "reality". In other words, that a peaceful outcome appears unattainable in "War" is realistic and makes the circumstances more credible throughout. 


As fans know, this no-nonsense approach has become an "Apes" tradition and can be found, to some extent or another, in any of the adventures. The Colonel may be insanely hardheaded, but that he holds his ground only sharpens the tale's merciless sting. The Colonel's stance allows others, on either side of the coin, to test their mettle, even if their reasoning sometimes proves as faulty as their hearts prove courageous. 

Because of this, "War'"s greatest strength lies in its purposeful participants. Isn't characterization, after all, the ticket to any quality drama? If we can't identify with (or for villainy's sake, resent) characters, why bother engaging in their journey? "War" makes us care. 


Beyond dispute, Caesar and the Colonel set the standard for this, but they're not alone in their influence. The eccentric (if not occasionally Gollum-like) Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) becomes the movie's scene stealer, just as Serkis' famous character had become in Peter Jackson's Tolkien films: quirky, charismatic and for a brief time, enigmatic. When push comes to shove, however, he does prove to be an asset to Caesar, and more than any other character in the film, epitomizes its nervous optimism and continual grasp for a satisfying resolution, to the point where one wonders why Reeves didn't introduce him sooner into the saga. 


Regardless of its strength of characterization, many will still debate whether "War" is the franchise's most profound chapter: whether in comparison to Pierre Boulle's "Monkey Planet"; the original theatrical series; or its alternate offshoots. However, no matter what its rank in the grand scheme, "War" stays tight and focused throughout: an admirable quality for any imagi-tale.

I only wish more films could march to the same beat. Too much hollow talk, just like too much hollow action, only goes so far, but identifiable characters and scenarios can sustain a saga for decades. I imagine that's why "Apes" has never slipped from the culture's collective consciousness. It's why its latest chapter (along with the film's contained archetypal personalities and "God damn you all to hell" destruction) won't be its last, which leads me to declare with war-ravaged gusto--Hail Caesar! Hail Bad Ape, the Colonel, Maurice, dear Nova and all the rest! Hail forever and always the incomparable Planet of the Apes! We've already gained much from this franchise, but we've so much more yet to learn, as "War" so generously exemplifies.