Cross-Hatchings for December 2012
Just stuff. Cool books people sent me, footnotes to some previous columns of the past few weeks, this-n-that.
Into Darkness: You know how, if people know you are into comics and SF and so on, you become their human information kiosk for everything geek-related?
For me the latest iteration of this is the people that keep asking me if I’ve seen the new Star Trek trailer and what I think of it. In particular, they want me to weigh in on whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan or Gary Mitchell.
What really struck me about the Into Darkness trailer, though, is that it really, really has a bad case of Avengers.
Psycho supervillain under glass? Check.
Mass destruction in a major city? Yeah.
And so on. Now, this is only the trailer, and it’s probably quite a different sort of story, but whoever cut together that trailer is making a pretty brazen grab for some of that Avengers money.
Between that and totally stealing the Dark Knight Rises graphic for the poster, it makes you wonder if there’s any actual Star Trek going on in this new movie at all. I’m still very much looking forward to Into Darkness, but I wish the advertising wasn’t all so hell-bent on persuading me I’ll like it because it’s just like all these OTHER loud movies.
Burroughs Bibliophile Footnotes: It was pointed out to me several times in emails and such that I omitted to mention Tarzan: The Epic Adventures in last week’s Tarzan roundup column. It’s true, I did. Because it’s really, um… Not Good.
It pains me to say it because of all the attempts people have made to bring Tarzan to the screen, this one actually looked to be trying to give us the authentic Burroughs Tarzan, with Nikolas Rokoff and the lost city of Opar and even a trip to Pellucidar.
But it’s awful. It’s shot so completely on the cheap that it looks like a student film, and Joe Lara as Tarzan just looks perpetually perplexed. Allow me, once again, to point out that the Conan approach doesn’t work– you don’t hire someone who looks the part and try to teach him acting. That never ends well. Much better to take the Superman approach– you hire a guy like Christopher Reeve who can really act and talk him into bulking up.
You don’t have to take my word for it. All the episodes are now available on Hulu –basic, not “Plus”– and you can see for yourselves.
In fairness, the novel that R.A. Salvatore did based on the pilot is okay (considering it’s not handicapped by Joe Lara’s lugubrious delivery) and it has the ‘official’ seal of approval from the Burroughs estate… but honestly, the Burroughs pastiche to beat these days is still Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar.
Putting an angry biker chick in the traditional John Carter role is so inspired I don’t know how no one thought of it sooner, and Long’s writing strikes exactly the right balance between affectionate parody and straight-up adventure. The second in that series, Swords of Waar, just showed up and it’s every bit as much fun as the first one. I did mean to mention that last week and forgot, so I wanted to be sure and rectify that.
Also, between last week and this one, because I’d enjoyed Arvid Nelson’s take on Tarzan so much in Lord of the Jungle, I made it a point to acquire the two Warlord of Mars trade collections from Dynamite also scripted by Mr. Nelson.
I liked those a lot too– the flaws in the story are built-in, the fault of Mr. Burroughs, not Mr. Nelson. Overall he does a good job of papering over most of the cracks without losing the sense of the original or, God help us, trying to “update” anything. I especially liked that, in the same way Burroughs originally structured the Mars series, Nelson’s not afraid to do stories without John Carter in them at all, since that means that we might eventually get to my two favorites in the Mars series, Chessmen of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars.
The art by Stephen Sadowski is pretty good too– he seems to be enjoying himself more here and trying out different ideas, much more than he ever did on the DC superhero books he worked on. I’m on board for the trades– which are, again, a much better package than Marvel or DC is currently putting out. Eight or nine issues instead of six, plus bonus material, feels much more like an actual book. Recommended.
From The Review Pile: People keep sending me cool books to review and I keep running into this brick wall of having nothing to write about them other than this is good, you should buy it.
For example, Titan Books sent me their two hardcover collections of the Flash Gordon Sunday strips by Alex Raymond, and I just don’t have a lot to say about them other than “Wow.”
This is Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon from the beginning, and I can’t think of anything to add to the reams of critical praise already written about this strip other than yeah, it’s as good as everyone says it is.
My experience with Flash Gordon, oddly enough, has been limited to ancillary stuff like the paperback books from the 1970s and the Dan Jurgens version DC put out a couple of decades ago.
But this is the real thing, Flash from the beginning, and it’s clear why everyone in comics stole from it for decades.
I haven’t really read the book so much as paged through it and stopped to be awed by the art.
Plus there’s all sorts of ancillary material– essays from folks like Alex Ross and Doug Murray, photos from the Flash serials, all sorts of stuff, and all of it put together in really stunning coffee-table art-book hardcover. There’s two volumes so far and I hope Titan does well enough with these to keep going and eventually give us the whole run. Each volume is priced very reasonably at $39.95, but you can find them on Amazon for considerably less than that. Well worth it either way.
Another terrific book Titan sent is the first volume of Major Eazy strips, Heart of Iron.
These originally ran in Britain’s Battle Weekly, back in the 1970s.
Major Eazy was kind of an odd strip in a book full of odd strips. Forced to define him, I guess I’d say he’s sort of a cross between Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and Jack Bauer on 24… if that guy was fighting in World War II alongside the Rat Patrol.
Unlike most stateside World War II comics heroes, Major Eazy is not particularly noble, nor is he devoted to the other guys in his unit. He’ll use anyone and do anything to accomplish his objective.
These are fun stories, though perhaps you shouldn’t read through the book in a sitting; it gets a little repetitive in places. But writer Alan Hebden is clearly having a good time, and the art from Carlos Ezquerra is suitably hard-edged and tough-looking. If your idea of World War II stories isn’t about history so much as it is macho guys shooting people and blowing shit up, this is the book for you.
…hmp. Even promising myself I wouldn’t go on and on, I seem to be going on and on. Okay, two more quick recommendations.
The first is the new autobiography of Lou Scheimer out from TwoMorrows.
A really good book on Filmation was long overdue, and it’s nice to get one this comprehensive at last. Lou Scheimer: Creating The Filmation Generation is co-written with Andy Mangels, who is pretty much the authority on this stuff– I’m old enough to remember his old TV column in Amazing Heroes, and he’s carved out a niche for himself as being THE go-to guy for the history of super-people on television. Good stuff and also available digitally at $9.95 if the $29.95 price point’s a little much for you.
And finally, I wanted to put in another plug for Pro Se Press. I’ve talked about their Pulp Obscura novels before, but somehow I’ve neglected to mention their ongoing pulp ‘zine, Pro Se Presents.
This is a monthly anthology of various ‘new pulp’ efforts, some continuing character stuff and some one-offs, but all of it great fun. Really I love it because it’s the closest anyone’s ever come to my beloved Weird Heroes books from the 1970s, it’s got a very similar vibe. Six bucks to Pro Se will get you a hard copy, or you may prefer the $1.99 e-book version. Occasional e-correspondent and friend of the blog Adam Garcia has a nice story in the upcoming #15, which reminded me that I’d been wanting to mention the magazine here for a while.
And that’s all I’ve got, this time out. Everyone have a happy and safe holiday, whatever particular occasion you observe this time of year… and I’ll see you next week.