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CSBG Archive

Cross-Hatchings for May 2013

A little of this, a little of that. Some pulp fiction, a couple of costumed-hero movies you’ve probably never heard of, and even some comics.

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Mockbuster Batman: So this is an odd little thing that I came across while I was doing some research.

If you have been reading this weekly thing of mine for any length of time at all, you know that I’m very fond of the old pulp heroes. As it happened, I had occasion to look up one of those heroes, a B-lister called the Black Bat.

Now, the character of the Black Bat has fallen into the public domain, so there have been several new attempts to revive him. He was a big player in Moonstone’s “Return of the Originals” thing not too long ago, and he’s also co-starring in the new Masks from Dynamite Comics.

Dynamite’s about to give him his own series, in fact.

But what took me completely by surprise is that there’s actually a Black Bat movie. A recent one.

It appears to be one of those straight-to-video “mockbuster” things, like you see from The Asylum– this one is from a different company, though, Tomcat Films, and clearly is designed to be mistaken for The Dark Knight Rises in a dim light.

But what tickles me is that this shameless attempt to lure the Dark Knight audience really kind of is the authentic Black Bat. The original backstory of the Bat is a bit complex and comes off to modern readers as a mashup of Batman and Daredevil: DA Tony Quinn is blinded by acid and believes his career is over until a mysterious woman, Carol Baldwin, arrives. She tells Quinn that her father is a small-town cop who is dying from a gangster’s bullet and he wants to donate his eyes to Tony Quinn so Quinn will continue the fight against injustice. She adds that a surgeon is willing to perform an experimental operation to graft her father’s corneas onto Quinn’s eyes to restore his sight. When the procedure is done, Quinn finds that he can not only see normally but can even see in the dark, because SCIENCE! Also, while blind, Quinn had developed sharper hearing, more sensitive touch, a better sense of smell, and so on, and he retains all those abilities as well.

A lot of this origin is adapted straight across in the movie.

Which is not to say this film is good. It’s not. It’s actually pretty awful and I couldn’t even get through the whole thing… and that’s coming from a guy who’s the proud owner of movies like Metalstorm and Road House 2: Last Call. (Here’s the trailer, for the morbidly curious.)

But what amuses me is that the Black Bat was ahead of all his other costumed contemporaries– his debut was virtually simultaneous with Batman’s back in 1939, and he was way before Daredevil or Dr. Mid-Nite– but once again, he is relegated to the status of cheap knockoff. Poor guy can’t win for losing.

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Moonlighting: I do occasionally sneak off and write things for other folks. Here’s something I did for Techcitement about Amazon’s new Kindle Worlds ‘official fan-fiction’ initiative. The short version– it’s a staggeringly bad idea. The longer version is here.

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Other Pulp Movies: Also discovered while noodling around trying to look up old pulp stuff– the original Spider serial is up on YouTube.

I mention this because, first of all, this is the version of the Spider costume that’s adapted for the new comics from Dynamite, and also because it’s actually one of the best translations of the pulps to the screen I’ve ever seen. Warren Hull plays Richard Wentworth as perhaps a bit more cheerful than I’d like but overall he does a great job. It’s one of the better serials I’ve seen… and certainly, it kicks the ass of the horrible Black Bat movie mentioned above. Check it out here.

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From the Review Pile: Some very cool stuff has been coming in the mail lately. For one thing, the latest from Titan’s Simon and Kirby reprint library arrived a week or two ago, Science Fiction, and I think it’s one of the handsomest volumes yet.

It reprints all of the “Blue Bolt” adventures, the first feature the duo collaborated on. These are mostly noteworthy for their historical interest– the Blue Bolt stories are not either man’s finest hour, but you can see a glimmer of what was to come.

The book also has a bunch of great fifties stuff from Race For The Moon!, a title I hadn’t actually known about before but am now swooningly in love with.

The stories are the standard EC-style 8-pagers with a gimmick or twist ending, but the artwork is breathtaking. I never would have thought of having a guy like Al Williamson ink Jack Kirby but he is just about perfect here. It’s just gorgeous stuff.

The hardcover retails for $49.95, but you can do considerably better than that if you look around online a little bit. I recommend it unreservedly– actually, all the Simon and Kirby Library books from Titan are awesome, but this one is definitely my favorite.

Also, Erik Hendrix from Arcana sent along a PDF of his new project. (Long-time readers may remember me talking about Mr. Hendrix a while back as being the writer of The Evil Tree, one of the few horror comics I’ve read that I found to be genuinely scary, as opposed to just unpleasant.) His new gig isn’t horror, but it is kind of cool. It’s called The Steam Engines of Oz.

The world of comics has been hip-deep in Oz pastiches for a number of years now, God knows, and I’ve even been snippy about it in this space before. But I like Mr. Hendrix’s writing and I think this is a pretty cool book with an interesting premise. It’s billed as a family-friendly steampunk take on the land of Oz, which is accurate enough, I suppose, but it really doesn’t give you the sense of the thing. It’s set a century or so after the events of The Wizard of Oz, and it’s the story of Victoria Wright, a young engineer who’s tasked with keeping the machines running that lie beneath the Emerald City. However, she soon finds there’s much more to it than that.

The art from Yannis Roumboulias is very cool; it suggests the style and design elements that original illustrator John R. Neill brought to the Oz books without slavishly aping them. Overall, this is the kind of engaging young-adult fantasy adventure that I often wish there was more of in comics. It’s ostensibly an Oz pastiche but really what I kept thinking of was how it felt like the same fun female-lead adventure strip as the original Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld was, back in the day. So far, there’s a Free Comic Book Day giveaway prelude book and then three issues that comprise the first arc. I’d recommend checking those out, and if you like the story then you could throw a few bucks towards the Kickstarter they’ve got going for the second one.

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And that’s the lot, this time out. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you next week.

13 Comments

Those Simon & Kirby collections indeed look nice – there’s also that romance volume that came out about a year or two ago (I think Fantagraphics published that one). I do periodic searches for these, but have yet to find any in my price range (remember, I also have to factor in foreign shipping charges). To be honest, I always thought Kirby’s art looked best in those pre-Marvel days when he was working with Simon – and I wouldn’t mind seeing that whole story with Williamson’s inks.

And sorry, I know you’re a big fan of Road House (which is apparently a franchise), but Road House 2?! Really? I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but … oh, man. Of course, this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black: e.g., I have this strange fondness for that really (really, truly) bad made-for-TV Kiss film…

Hmm, the spider symbol in that article has ten legs.

I wondered why the pulp heroes tended not to do so well in recent film adaptations. After all, if “normal people” hate comic books and people running around in spandex, with the various film adaptations of the indigenous comic book heroes compromising for live action, as the pulp heroes do not wear spandex, should they not have the advantage?

(I include the Tarzan films made after Ron Ely’s compilation films in this deliberation. Zorro presents a tricky situation, due to the various foreign Zorro films, although Zorro started as a US author written property. The three last U.S. Zorro films include Zorro the Gay Blade and The Mask/Legend of Zorro.)

If someone brings them up as less familiar than the native, indigenous comic book heroes, I will note that Tarzan appears in conventional dictionaries and the Shadow has received some homages on TV and films. Also, who had ever head of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones (obviously new properties)?

A possible point has to do with the pulp heroes appearing as period piece adventure films.

http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/search/topic/topic/14296

Someone observed this to compare and contrast the reception of those period piece adventure films to Raiders of the Lost Ark:

There’s another difference between RAIDERS and these other films (besides the
fact that it’s just a better film, I mean)… TEN YEARS. Seriously, those ten
years make a big difference; in the early 1980’s, your average moviegoer under
25 would have been exposed to the old movies,and to a lesser degree, the pulp
fiction, that inspired RAIDERS (remember, there was a bit of a nostalgia craze
in the 1970’s, and although it was focused on the Fifties, there was also some
renewed interest in the Thirties, with films like THE STING and reprints of guys
like Robert E. Howard). By the 1990’s, reruns of black-and-white movies were
almost non-existant, and the whole CONCEPT of “nostalgia” had been co-opted.
[Reruns on UHF channels of black and white films had petered out due to infomercials.]

Later comic book based films seem to emphasize modern slang and music, which obviously a period piece film set in the 1930’s or 1940’s would less obviously do.

Also, of course, Conde Nast, ERB, Inc., etc. own these properties such as Doc Savage and Tarzan, not conglomerates such as Warner Bros. or Disney to hype them. Tim Burton’s Batman stands as a poorly written project which merited from the brute force of the marketing and hype.

Re: Race to the Moon. I get sincerely shocked whenever I hear you never heard of something. It reminds me you’re human. Sometimes I think you literally know everything about comics and pulp.

I get sincerely shocked whenever I hear you never heard of something. It reminds me you’re human. Sometimes I think you literally know everything about comics and pulp.

Ha! Well, I’m no Mark Evanier, but I’ve got some game. Although I’d put our friend Kurt ahead of me.

My knowledge tends to be deep but narrow. Hero pulps, original Star Trek, James Bond, schlocky paperbacks from the 1970s, Marvel stuff from the 60s and 70s, the television oeuvre of Kenneth Johnson. Beyond that, I have to go look things up.

Although I LEARN a lot, writing this weekly thing here; many of the columns tagged “Comics History” involved research, which is great fun. Most of the Charles Sinclair stuff from last week’s column was all new to me. Likewise all the stuff about old superhero movie serials and so on. That’s why the historical overview pieces are my favorite ones to write, although they rarely generate comments; more often than not it starts with me wondering about something and trying to look it up, and sometimes the rabbit trail I go down seems interesting enough to write about.

going to have to track down black bat for can’t believe that not only did some one try to beat batman to the punch but the guy is a combo of daredevil and batman. that oz book just when i think the world of oz has been mined for all it could be some one fines some more hidden gold of the franchise.

Travis Pelkie

May 26, 2013 at 3:36 am

I read the FCBD Steam Engines of Oz, and it was decent, although I wasn’t exactly sure why/how it tied into Oz-mythos. Otherwise, it was a perfectly good comic.

I like that Spider serial picture with the character with the pulp mag in his hands. “How the heck am I supposed to do this, then? Let me read the book!”

Up until the part about getting the new eyes and fighting crime, the Black Bat sounds a lot like someone else…DA horribly scarred by acid…oh, wait, I almost started going on about stuff from last week’s column!

I’ll probably get the Black Bat from Dynamite in trade, as your praise of some of their books in the past suggests that the trades are the better package (like having all the variant covers, which is a pain for me — it’s always either several cool covers or several meh covers, isn’t it?).

I’ll just have to figure out what you do to look for way cheapo books online, which I know you’ve said before but I can’t remember. Something with a certain search parameter, I think.

And I’ll throw it out here, I’m seriously considering selling off some of my comics (WHAT!?!?), but I’m not sure the best way to go about it online. EBay? Craigslist? Where do you guys go to buy stuff? I know you bought a book from buttler recently, was that via Amazon?

I gotta join up with the 21st century at some point, man!

I’ll probably get the Black Bat from Dynamite in trade, as your praise of some of their books in the past suggests that the trades are the better package (like having all the variant covers, which is a pain for me — it’s always either several cool covers or several meh covers, isn’t it?).

Their trades are much better than what you get from Marvel or DC. They still include extras– not just the covers, but usually some kind of behind-the-scenes thing too. Marvel still sometimes does that as well, but it’s like DC’s not even trying any more. Their trades, especially the middle-tier stuff like Supergirl or World’s Finest, look like jumped-up Annuals.

I’ll just have to figure out what you do to look for way cheapo books online, which I know you’ve said before but I can’t remember. Something with a certain search parameter, I think.

Pick a comics character or a publisher on Amazon. Hit search. Sort the search “Price Low to High”.

And I’ll throw it out here, I’m seriously considering selling off some of my comics (WHAT!?!?), but I’m not sure the best way to go about it online. EBay? Craigslist? Where do you guys go to buy stuff? I know you bought a book from buttler recently, was that via Amazon?

I almost always BUY stuff on Amazon, and have sold things there as well. Still are– here’s the link. That bookstore was kind of an experiment, though it’s still active; the idea was to try and bring in a few extra bucks to offset us having to dig into our savings with Julie out of work. It seemed really simple and easy, especially since I’d decided to liquidate some of the valuable first-edition things along with a lot of the junk that just seems to show up and stick to us. But we’ve had mixed results. The REALLY good stuff flew out of here in 24 hours — Trixie Belden, Superman From the 30s To the 70s, stuff like that. Four books went out the door and I’m thinking HOT DAMN! But then, after the first couple of days, crickets. And still pretty much crickets today, months later.

Here’s the trouble with Amazon– it pits sellers against one another the way eBay auctions pit buyers against one another, it’s the flip side of that. If you have a relatively popular item and aren’t lowballing the guy with the lowest price listed, your own listing drops out of visual range pretty quickly. For our storefront I’ve listed a few things I have doubles on, picked the better of the two and left the reading copy for me, and overall I think we’ve made maybe twenty dollars the last few months. If I lowered the prices to the other top five guys listing that same item I probably could move more stuff but I just can’t bring myself to charge ten dollars for a beautiful first edition hardcover of Travis McGee that I KNOW goes for $75 most of the time. But nobody ever looks at condition– including me as a buyer, most of the time, i usually just take the low price and hope it’s not crappy. So it’s not really optimal for us. But, and this is important to us, it doesn’t COST us anything in money or time. An order comes in, I print the receipt and mail it out when payment comes through. When an order isn’t coming in, I don’t have to worry about it and can get on with my other commitments.

Ebay takes a lot more attention and fuss. They charge some minimal monthly listing fee– I think it’s still under $5, though I haven’t looked into this for a while– and you have to watch what you list there and keep careful track of the closings, because they all come with an expiration date, so you are always re-listing stuff… and with a sale, if customers don’t hear from you within a day they get all freaked out. For some reason a lot of the people I’ve sold things to on eBay seem to be a lot more high-strung. But overall we had better sales there. I just have too much other work to do to keep the listings updated, make sure that eBay gets paid, etc…. but overall I think eBay is a better deal if you want to put the time in.

Haven’t really considered other options. Craigslist and iOffer seem kind of sketchy to me, and AbeBooks is really more of a clearinghouse for the pros, they have minimums and fees that I’m not prepared to pay. Although we probably have enough books here to make it work, nevertheless I’d rather teach and write my columns and stories and such, thanks. We settled on Amazon because it’s low-maintenance and had the best percentage deal for sales commissions. BUT… it’s not terribly lucrative.

So there you go. I report, you decide. Maybe I should inflate all this into a column of its own down the line.

Travis Pelkie

May 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Well, thank you for the info. I appreciate you telling me stuff that I should do the research on myself :) But yeah, I’ll have to look into those things. I don’t really have access to a computer on a regular enough basis that I could keep up with some of it, and as of now, I don’t really know what all I could/should/oughta sell.

But if anyone wants to pay the crazy prices I’ve seen for Peter Panzerfaust 1, Walking Dead dollar edition of #1, or Rachel Rising 1, let’s talk ;)

I was looking at a local listing for Craigslist a while back, and someone was trying to sell a bunch of 90s era comics (the kind those of us who lived through the era saw a TON of) for outrageous prices. If I read the listing correctly, the person had 28 comics they wanted to sell for $7 EACH. This is stuff that I wouldn’t have paid 7 bucks TOTAL for, and based on the boxes and boxes taking up space, I clearly have no standards for what I’ll buy ;)

But yeah, thanks again for the info. Another reason I love CSBG!

hi Greg. You don’t sell to other countries? Why?

You don’t sell to other countries? Why?

Because now that the U.S. Post Office has done away with international ‘media mail’– what we call ‘book rate’ — the cost is prohibitive. We charge a flat fee for shipping– or rather, Amazon does. We aren’t big enough to broker our own rate. This is essentially a garage sale done by mail, really. So anything over that flat rate of $3.99, that we split with Amazon by the way, is out-of-pocket for us, it comes out of our profit, and the margins on the Amazon store are ridiculously low. Likewise, international First Class– the lowest-price option– is insanely high. Last time I shipped anything overseas (I think it was some student comics to Pol Rua a couple of months ago) it was something like seventeen dollars. If you look at the prices on most of the stuff we have listed you can see that doing international shipping with that handicap ends up being a net loss for us.

So it was just easier to say “no international” than to sit down and figure out some kind of special pricing. One of the reasons we went with Amazon is because it’s largely automated and I don’t have to do a lot of fussing with it.

But if something caught your eye, shoot me an email and we can figure something out. Fair warning, though, for anything that weighs more than a feather the international rates go ridiculously high very quickly.

Yep, Nuno, “small” sellers like Greg (with whom I’d otherwise much rather do business) can’t offer competitive shipping to us folks outside of the US, unfortunately. Otherwise, I’d snap up all of those issues of Unknown Worlds of SF he has listed…

Speaking of books, adaptations, etc.

Have you ever read the book that came out a few years ago (very small run) that has Heinlein’s “Project Moonbase” script, as well as the scripts for a stillborn TV series he was to do (The World Beyond), adapted from a bunch of his Future History stories? http://www.amazon.com/Project-Moonbase-Others-Robert-Heinlein/dp/1596061863

I’m lucky in that my local library actually has one, and it was an interesting read.

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