Tuesday, September 27, 2016


BLOKE'S TERRIBLE TOMB OF TERROR reaches Issue #15 with a magnificent, Mike Hoffman/King Kong cover tribute!!! 

In addition to the rip-roarin' Kong image (or is it more precisely, Kong Meets Tarzan and Jane? Then again, maybe Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow merely lost their clothes during the arduous trek--oh, my!), the contents of Jason Crawley's latest endeavor feature a varied range of quirky horrors. They're all in the EC and Warren Publishing vein and successfully spark nostalgic scares with spanking, new weirdness. 

This superb package was not only conjured via the talented Crawley and Hoffman, but by David Brana; Keith Braun; Jose Torres Brocal; Alfonso Bueno; Antonio Di Cicco; Marc Gras Cots; Scott Rosema; Daerick Gross; Rob Moran; Juan Carlos Abraldes Rendo; and Santos Zaballos. Quite a sturdy line-up, indeed!!!

Beyond a doubt, Issue #15 is a stand-out, and for those who haven't yet tasted the ghastly glory of Crawley's gory comic series, you'd be wise to take a sip. Purchase your spine-tingling copy today at Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Blokes-Terrible-Tomb-Terror-15/dp/1537439480/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474373848&sr=8-1&keywords=bloke%27s+terrible+tomb+of+terror+%2315.

Marvel/Netflix's Luke Cage Kicks Butt--Solo Style!!!

For me, Netflix's "Jessica Jones" seemed a backward way of introducing Marvel's kick-ass hero, Luke Cage: that is, I thought Cage (damn it) should have had a series first. However, Michael Colter's presence in Jones' re-imagined world proved influential enough to grant him his own series, which Netflix premieres this Friday (9/30). Its arrival has many fans rejoicing, and I dare say, I'm now included in that avid crowd.

As with other Netflix shows, "Luke Cage'"s cast is most impressive. In addition to Colter, there's Mahershala Ali as nightclub-owner/villain, Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes; Alfre Woodard as Cottonmouth's politician cousin, Mariah Dillard; Theo Rossi as slick baddie "Shades" Alvarez; Simone Missick as Misty Knight, a moral-based detective partnered with Frank Whaley's tough and cynical Rafael Scarfe. (Also, "Daredevil'"s Rosario Dawson will be visiting for a significant chunk of episodes.)

All thirteen episodes will be available for viewing on the first day of release, and as we witnessed in "Jessica Jones", Cage will be devoid of his '70s blaxploitation trimmings. However, the show's tone will still be action-oriented, though more in the atmospheric vein of M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable": a formula also established in "Jessica Jones". Additionally, we're promised insight on how Cage's impenetrable skin came to be and watch him rise as a Harlem guardian. 

The Cage series demonstrates how serious Netflix is in presenting a Marvel equivalent to CW's DC universe. There seems little doubt that "Luke Cage" will capture the same successful essence of Netflix's preceding superhero shows and somewhere down the line, cross permanently into them. (Let's not forget that "Jessica Jones: Season 2" and "Daredevil: Season 3"; as well as the "Punisher" and "Iron Fist" series are yet on the way, just itchin' for some two-fisted visitors.)

Monday, September 26, 2016


You were one of a kind for sure, Mr. Lewis, redefining the horror genre, mixing ultra-gore with far-out humor. 

The likes of "Blood Feast", "Two Thousand Maniacs" and "Color Me Blood Red", to name the earliest, trendsetting entries in what became your long-lasting, horror saga, have inspired me no end, particularly in my writing. Your showmanship was also unsurpassed: a blueprint for all young filmmakers to follow, even though it's unlikely they'll ever match your macabre wonderment. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Hi, Folks: I'll be signing with local authors at the Hamilton Public Library, located off Whitehorse Avenue, at 1 Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Way, Trenton, NJ 08619, on September 28 (Wed) at 7 pm, in Room 03/Lower Level. 

I'll have copies for purchase of ENTER--THE PERSONA! (PERSONA, VOL 1); FLASK OF EYES; DEVOLUTION Z #1, which includes my story, BOG DEMON TRIUMPHANT; plus a few editions of WONDERFUL, MAGICAL, LITERARY ELIXIRS and CHAMBERS OF HORRORS. (If you already have copies of my work, don't be shy; bring 'em along, and I'll be sure to sign.)

My new friend, J. Dennis Papp, author of the acclaimed Vietnam memoir, FEAR WAS MY ONLY WEAPON, will also be in attendance for the meet-and-greet. 

Hope you can visit. It would sure be nice to chat with you. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I saw the New Magnificent Seven...

John Sturges' "The Magnificent Seven '60", like the film that inspired it, Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai", is a tale of courage and doing the right thing. It's about a group of men (mercenaries, if you will) who fight to protect a village from a group of bandits. The movie is also sprawling (particularly its Elmer Bernstein score), pulpish and at times, borderline superheroic: a western Avengers or Justice League, one could argue. (The concept has even translated into Peplum with "The Seven Magnificent Gladiators"; space opera with "Battle Beyond the Stars"; and cute animation with "A Bug's Life".) 

The star power of the '60 original set the bar high, with the presence of Yul Brenner; Steve McQueen; Charles Bronson; James Coburn; Robert Vaughn; Horst Buchholz; and Brad Dexter. Their adversary was portrayed by Eli Wallach, who makes the mad Mexican, Calvera, one of the screen's most memorable.

The film's sequels, "Return of the Seven"; "Guns of the Magnificent Seven"; and "The Magnificent Seven Ride!" are sturdy follow-ups with impressive casts in their own right. The same can be said of the underrated '90s television series, which I urge my readers to seek whenever the opportunity arises. 

It was only a matter of time before a new "Magnificent Seven" appeared, and it now comes courtesy of director Antoine "Equalizer" Fuqua and screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. It's not really a remake the trio offers, but more a Reconstruction Era extrapolation on the theme (i.e. a companion piece, which could be perceived as a roundabout, spiritual sequel).

The characters, for one thing, are new. There's no Yul Brenner/George Kennedy/Lee Van Cleef/Michael Biehn hero called Chris. Now we have Sam Chisolm, a Bass Reeves kind of guy, portrayed by Denzel Washington. Chisolm is, in fact, a bounty hunter: the sort of gritty gent that a particular group of Rose Creek citizens need in order to ward off invaders. For the record, it's actually persecuted and embittered Emma Cullen, portrayed by Haley Bennett, who sets the transaction for protection and revenge in motion, adding an offbeat sensitivity to the austere circumstances.

The baddie is Bartholomew Bogue, played with heartless relish by Peter Sarsgaard. Some of you may remember Sarsgaard's weird, but sympathetic villain in "Green Lantern", but here he's an all-out, unscrupulous, church-burning murderer of Cullen's husband, Matthew (Matt Bomer). Bogue is also damn proud of his power-hungry lust, an Old West equivalent to Jessie Eisenberg's Lex Luther, and to enforce his standing as a greedy rogue, Bogue has a small army of bullies to enforce his sadistic needs, while Chisolm has...well (with himself included), seven.

Chisolm's back-up consists of the charismatic and action prone Chris Pratt, as gambler Josh Farraday; his "Jurassic World" co-star, Vincent D'Onofrio as tracker Jack Horne; Lee Byung-hun as blade-tossing/Coburn-ish Billy Rocks; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as wayward outlaw Vasquez; Martin Sensmeier as skilled Comanche Red Harvest; and Ethan Hawke as the gentleman shootist Goodnight Robicheaux, a variation of Vaughn's character from the '60s version and Anthony's Starke's from the television series. 

Though they are small in number, they compensate such by the virtue of their hearts, which prevails even among those with bleak and questionable pasts. The seven not only want to save the town folk, but (if fortunate should allow) redeem themselves in the process, proving in an unspoken way that there's a distinction between right and wrong: that above all, right can emerge victorious in times of turmoil and despair.

The ending of Sturges' film questions (albeit subtly) whether Chris' intrepid band gained redemption, and in the case of the '16 version, much the same surfaces. However, as with the original, the ambiguity matters little. That a noble cause is pursued is what counts. After all, these men are proud (and when push comes to shove, conscientious enough) to take a stand and inspire Rose Creek's inhabitants to step up to the plate and hold their own. 

"Magnificent Seven'"s formula is obviously nothing new, but worth repeating. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., villainy tends to triumph when good people do nothing to thwart it. That concept characterizes many adventure films, because it defines the impetuous (and often perplexing) ups and downs of everyday life. Perhaps this is why the "Magnificent Seven" franchise continues to be rediscovered and why it's galloped forth yet again.

When indecisiveness and appeasement toward the enemy is advocated by our leaders and the general media, people naturally yearn for stories with a moral base and a sense of dutiful purpose. There are times when we have no choice but to challenge those who dare take our happiness and freedom away. Fuqua's "Magnificent Seven" reminds us of this. It may not be special-effects laden like a DC/Marvel team-up, but this cowboy sojourn (as with the chapters that precede it) continues a fine and reassuring history. Its message is too precious to ignore, and this reboot wouldn't exist if the need for such failed to resonate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Exorcist Series Possesses TV!!!

I’m not surprised that “ The Exorcist” has gone the television-series route. Heck, for what it's worth, I wasn’t surprised when it happened to “The Omen”. However, “Damien” only lasted a season and never effectively expanded upon its already existing fan base. With its handful of testing-the-water episodes, will “Exorcist” meet the same truncated fate?

The Fox series, produced by Jeremy Slater and commencing 9/23, takes a slow-burn approach to evil's ascent, with matters growing more sinister with each installment, underscored by the familiar good-vs-evil thread. 

I always thought that a Father Lankester Merrin prequel series would have worked splendidly, if only based on Rennie Harlin's "The Beginning" and Paul Schrader's "Dominion", but in this instance, we have newcomers, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) getting involved in the demonic action, with Geena "The Fly" Davis playing a continuing, anguished character named Angela Rance, whose family falls victim to the burgeoning terror. 

There much anticipation for intense scares with this one, with Fox publicizing a "parental discretion advised" angle, but it seems unlikely the series will match the original William Friedkin adaptation for shocks (the other films, though effective in their own ways--and yep, that includes John Boorman's "Heretic"--never came close to striking the original's jarring mark), so we can only hope an emphasis on William Peter Blatty's intense perception of faith defines the show.

Anyway, considering the no-holds-barred approach of shows like "American Horror Story", my hunch is "Exorcist" will still try to freak folks out. We'll see how it goes and what impact it has among older fans, if they do, in fact, tune in. As was the case with "Damien", I'll be watching, hoping and above all, praying for the best outcome with this one.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Ghostly Season 4 Appears!!!

Well, folks, at this point, I really don't know what to make of an ongoing supernatural element in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (premiering 9/20 on ABC), but when it comes to comic-book adaptations these days, the formula for success seems to be a varied "more the merrier". 

Ghost Rider has now entered the Marvel super-spy scene. He's a cool, vengeance-driven character, who (with a different alter-ego) occupied two swell, theatrical films. His addition to the series, even if he's not Johnny Blaze, ought to make Season 4 one to remember, with a guaranteed new and refreshing direction. (I thought last season wavered between extremes and sometimes felt more like "Outer Limits", with its Inhumans approach, than what we normally find in derring-do Marvel.)

Incidentally, for the sake of the series, Gabriel Luna will play Robbie Reyes, the current comic-book Ghost Rider. (So, where does that put the potential Norman Reedus series, if it's even being seriously considered? Would a possible Netflix show be a prequel, or is even that just another hopeful extension of fanboy speculation?) 

Guess we'll just have to see how it plays out, but for the time being, the Ghost (as he'll be referenced on the show) must elbow his way among existing characters: Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg); Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen); Alphonso MacKenzie (Henry Simmons); Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge); Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker); Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah); and of course, Daisy Johnson/Skye/Quake (Chole Bennet). (Yeah, the whole Daisy deal is far from over and will occupy a portion of the new season, no doubt, but in what way will it link to the Ghost, if at all?)

Season 4 could be a defining moment for the series. It all depends on how elaborate and/or clear-cut the producers/writers are this time out. I'm confident they'll do well, but gosh, if only we could get a stronger link to the "Avengers" movies (or vice versa), that would be most beneficial. Got my fingers crossed, since there's speculation that the Ghost's mythology may connect somehow with the upcoming "Doctor Strange", but if Season 3 was any indication of the way things are played, I've a hunch we may also face more of the same ol' distanced-at-best approach.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Gotham Season 3: The Mad City Rises!!!

“Gotham’”s second season was a ratings winner. Even so, I found it uneven at times. Others would argue that the initial season was the awkward one, but I felt that the tonality was at least steady throughout that introductory phase. With Season 2, early episodes were Burton-esque, while later ones had Chris Nolan's no-nonsense approach; and still several see-sawed between the extremes, all within the same, commercial-laden hour. Throughout it all, the biggest highlight—and blunder—was the use and misuse of Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), the Clown Prince, heir apparent.

We’re promised a continuation of the Jerome saga this season (commencing 9/19 on Fox), and by golly, why not? Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong)’s Frankenstein experimentation justifies it. All the same, I’ll believe it when I see it. Season 2 could have easily resolved the matter in its final episode ("Transference") and made us even more excited for Season 3, aptly subtitled "Mad City" (those-in-the-know will understand the label), but I guess that's just the way the misleading ball bounces. 

At least the bulk of our established players are back: Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie); Harvey Bullock (Donal Lague); Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz); Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee); Oswald Copplepot/Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor); Ed Nygma/Riddler (Cory Michael Smith); Selena Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova); Mr. Victor Fries/Freeze (Nathan Darrow); Hugo Strange (the aforementioned Wong); Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin); Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis); Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk); and Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell). Also, we can expect the advent of Jervis Tetch/the Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel); as well as a new Poison Ivy (moving from Clare Foley to Maggie Geha). 

Season 3 could hurl “Gotham” to even higher heights of popularity, but if certain insinuations go unfulfilled (or if we're simply teased along without resolution), the series could falter, which would be a embarrassment to all involved. The show (i.e., its basic premise of presenting character origins) has intriguing appeal and specific expectations. The producers would be wise to pay heed to what the fans desire; if not, a particular chance for iconic villainy could be foolishly squandered. 

Let’s hope that "Mad City" has the decency to make our crazed-clown wishes at long last come true.

Monday, September 12, 2016


GUNS OF THE BLACK BAT #2 is now available from Moonstone, featuring a powerful first-part story from Ron Fortier and Aaron Shaps, with spectacular artwork by Silvestre Szilagyi and a stirring cover by Michael Stribling!!!

This installment teams the mysterious Black Bat with the dashing Phantom Detective; the gorgeous Domino Lady; the high-flying Night Hawk; and the analytical Professor I.V. Frost, who face a monstrous virus unleashed by the diabolical organization, the Black Sun.

What enfolds is not only fast-paced, but beyond frightening, with our heroes tackling mutants that rival even the weirdest of H.G. Wells!!!

If you fancy horror and sci-fi with loads of movie-serial action, leap into the first phase of this rousing thriller. Copies are available at your local comic shop or order now from Moonstone Books at...http://www.moonstonebooks.com/shop/. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Monster Team-up Reflection #31: Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters

Made in Mexico in '62 and released by import maestro K. Gordon "Aztec Mummy" Murray in '65, "Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters" (aka, "Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs the Monsters"; "Caperucita Pulgarcito contra los monstruos") is, in fact, a sequel to two prior, fairy-tale features: "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Little Red Riding Hood and Friends". 

One could argue that director Roberto Rodriguez's third entry works on two levels. In one sense, the film acts as a sublime, if not awkward, piece for snobbish adults to degrade. In another (broader) sense, it's an unapologetic children’s movie that easily enchants anyone with a sense of wonder, despite its arguable shortcomings.  

In truth, "Riding Hood Meets the Monsters" makes use of the best elements of the best children’s movies, though on a much lower budget than most. Through the Fernando Morales Ortiz/Adolfo Torres Portillo script, one finds traces of Disney’s "Snow White", particularly through the Witch Queen/Queen of Badness (Reina Bruja)'s actions and physical make-up. The film's colorful costumes and musical numbers also give it a "Wizard of Oz" feel. In other respects, it becomes a character rally on the level of Rankin/Bass' "Mad Monster Party", though without the stop-motion puppetry, but then as such, one could argue it's similar to such '70s children's television productions as Stanley R. Ross' "Monster Squad" and Sid and Marty Krofft's "H.R. Pufnstuf".

The story is simple, but epic, commencing with a trial, where a wayward, red-headed Ogre (Jose Elias Moreno, star of the Mexican "Santa Claus", which Murray also imported) and a talking Wolf (Manuel "Loco" Valdes, for all intents and purposes, the story's affable werewolf) are to be punished for not having devoured Riding Hood (Maria Garcia) and Tom Thumb (Cesareo Quezadas). As the jovial oafs are sentenced to death (by a "circular saw"), the Queen of Badness uses her crystal ball to search for Riding Hood and Thumb, as well as the high-pitched Stinky the Skunk (character actor, Santanon) and their always present (though nameless) white canine. The quartet hopes to spring the Ogre and Wolf from the Queen's castle, even though there's a strong chance they'll be captured and/or killed in the process.

To thwart what little chance of success they have, the Queen dispatches her spellcasting sister, who turns the youngsters' friends and family into chimps: thus, for a segment, making the film a pint-sized "Planet of the Apes". Also during their journey, the gang encounters a friendly fairy, who for convenience sake, turns Thumb into a regular-sized boy, but these antics are just silly sidetracks to pad the trek before our intrepid band reaches creepier territory (i.e., "the Devil's Dominions"), where they discover children are imprisoned by the Queen's dog-catcher-like henchman, ultimately to be used for broth...

For better or worse, the monsters predominately populate the beginning of the film, though a few generic ones emerge with more prominence later in the story. Nonetheless, the primary participants include the aforementioned Ogre and Wolf; a John Carradine-ish vampire (horror veteran, Quintin Bulnes); the Frankenstein Monster; an evil Schlitze named Carrothead; the attached Two-In-One; and Hurricane, who with a hardy huff, more than lives up to his name. Also, a movie-serial type robot makes a cameo in an early round-up scene and returns later for an atmospheric, forest sequence; and to balance that anachronistic event, a traditional, fire-breathing dragon surfaces during the film's climax.

Against all odds, Riding Hood and Thumb remedy all wrongs with their whimsical tenacity and impressive know-how. The youthful duo should be easy for both kids and adults to identify with, even though Thumb sometimes gets a tad too boastful when he's made regular size, but on the whole, the heroic leads never become so precocious to grate on one's nerves.

The exchanges between the Ogre and Wolf, however, are the movie's highlight, even if their outbursts sometimes turn more argumentative than required. The Wolf's costume, though a far cry from Rick Baker, works nicely in the movie's context, perhaps because it allows the actor's eyes to emote a wide range.

Those inclined to scorn films like "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", "Ship of Monsters", "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Magic Sword" would be wise to avoid "Riding Hood Meets the Monsters", but for those who still possess a spark of childlike wonder, this one will certainly charm. In fact, don't be afraid to share the movie with younger children. One might find that, against all modern odds, they'll enjoy the story as much (if not more so) than any founding fairy tale.