TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT- All Things Pulp Reviewed by Tommy Hancock THEATER OF VAMPIRES by Guido Henkel Published by Thunder Peak Publishing 2010
I’ll admit that I’m usually (with a few exceptions) an easy reviewer of initial books in new series. And there’s a few reasons for that, but that doesn’t mean my praise on the first volume is false, it isn’t at all. The true strength, though, for me in a series is not simply how good the first book is, but if the second book in the series meets or exceeds my best thoughts of its predecessor. That’s how I gauge whether or not I’m going to stay with a series for awhile.
Guido Henkel’s THEATER OF VAMPIRES, the follow up to DEMON’S NIGHT and the second in the Jason Dark series definitely set the hook I’d already swallowed with the first volume.
In this adventure, Investigator of the Supermatural Jason Dark and his now apprentice/partner Siu Lin (one of the best parts of the first book) set out to investigate killings that may center around a theatrical production new to England. This extravagant, wildly weird stage show, considered an example of Grand Guignol, is allegedly about vampires and how they feast on humans. When Dark becomes concerned that reality may be stranger than staged fiction and a real threat might haunt the aisles and back stage of this production, he and Siu Lin turn to one of Dark’s old friends and jump neck first into the bloodiest, boldest adventure yet.
It’s a foregone conclusion with this book that Jason Dark will encounter something monstrous, something supernatural. As a matter of fact, that point is driven home even more in this volume due to a certain Doctor spying Dark at the Theater and imploring that Dark visit this Doctor and his ‘friend’ soon, a friend who, though in the same field as Dark, did not believe in the supernatural, only in the logical. Henkel fantastically weaves a believable world in his own version of Victorian England, even sprinkling it with real and fictional personages. One of the neatest is Dark’s inventor friend, Herbert, who although he doesn’t appear in this volume, casts a long enough shadow that I have a fair idea who he is. Combine this wonderful name dropping with Henkel’s horrifying descriptions, crackling dialogue, and excellent pulpy pacing and THEATER OF VAMPIRES is an excellent second chapter in the literary life of Jason Dark
TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT- All Things Pulp Reviewed by Tommy Hancock
DEMON’S NIGHT by Guido Henkel Published by Thunder Peak Publishing 2009
Ever since a particular detective first made his literary presence known in The Strand Magazine (and actually in other ways even before that), there’s been a bevy of creators find themselves drawn to tell imaginative tales replete with shadowy twists and tangled turns in the fog ridden streets of England in the late 19th Century. Many of those have dared to mimic Doyle, others have worked to flat out ignore him, and still others have gone steps beyond where his most notable creation ever went. It’s a rarity, to me anyway, when someone writes in that vein and simultaneously completely respects what came before while completely and totally having absolute fun with what they are doing.
Guido Henkel, the architect of the now 11 volume JASON DARK series, skillfully manipulates everything readers love about Victorian England and the supernatural while obviously having the best magical, mystical, monstrous time a writer can have in DEMON’S NIGHT, the novella featuring the debut of the Victorian Detective that handles the cases his better known peer won’t often even entertain.
People are dying in Whitechapel. Not an unusual thing, except the bodies being discovered are withered, drained of every fluid possible, dried like prunes. Tweaking the interest of Dark, the murders are the doing of a demon, a slave serving a master seeking release. And only Dark and a young Oriental woman with skills all her own stand in the way of this netherworldly plot.
DEMON’S NIGHT is a wonderful story and great introduction to Jason Dark. Obviously owing a bit of who he is to those who came before him, Dark is also a figure all his own. At times moody, often introspective, and dangerously spontaneous when it’s least advised, Dark applies logic while opening his mind to the weirdness the world truly has to offer. The supporting cast appearing around Dark for the first time is definitely an added asset to the story and the character. Siu Lin, initially a victim of the beast of the tale, quickly proves her worth to Dark and makes a great compliment to his rather complex lead.
Henkel keeps the story rolling, darting back and forth between Dark’s and the demon’s perspective, and makes sure the reader stays along for the action packed storm that unfolds from beginning to end.
FIVE OUT FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT- DEMON’S NIGHT is not only a great start, it’s a truly awesome tautly told, well crafted novella featuring the best of Holmesian influence and Henkelian talent.
We only post these stories to remind you that Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko hasn’t received a dime for any of this. And it now looks like there will be more money spent on the lawyers for arguing over who created what for this show than Steve Ditko got for co-creating the character, ever.
NEW YORK (AP) — Director Julie Taymor has hit back at her former creative partners in “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,” arguing in court papers that she was the victim of a conspiracy to unfairly push her out of the production and that her one-time collaborators were secretly working on a rival script behind her back.
Taymor’s legal team on Friday defended the Tony Award winner against claims in an earlier countersuit from producers, the latest installment in their bitter legal battle over financial rewards for Broadway’s most expensive show.
“While secretly conspiring to oust Taymor and use and change her work without pay, the producers also fraudulently induced Taymor to continue working and to diligently make improvements,” her team alleges.
Taymor, who was the original “Spider-Man” director and co-book writer, was fired in March after years of delays, accidents and critical backlash. The show, which features music by U2’s Bono and The Edge, opened in November 2010 but spent months in previews before officially opening a few days after the Tony Awards in June.
This past week, I read both Justice League #5 and Justice League Dark #5. To say they are worlds apart is a bit on-the-nose, but suffice to say… it’s the truth. Justice League proper is loud, dumb, and thin. Dark is the polar opposite.
With an issue left to finish its first arc, Justice League needs a near miracle to turn my opinion around. In issue #5, Dark completed its first arc and I’m amazingly sold on it. Funny then that I didn’t bring that book home. My wife, and mother to our newborn son, bought it cause she loves Zatanna. Trust me, I have a millions reasons to thank her everyday. Now? I have a million and one. But I digress. This here column is meant to compare and contrast just why JL: Prime is poop, and Dark is dynamite. I hope Geoff Johns is taking notes.
Let’s start with the good. Both Leagues assemble a pretty stellar line-up. I know there are those out there that have a soft spot for the less-than-great Leagues of the past (like when they were in Detroit, or the amazingly crappy team from right-before-the-flashpoint), but let’s be honest: The present day roster takes its Magnificent Seven approach ala Grant Morrison’s run, and it was damned smart to do so. On the Dark side, we get a team-up that’s a veritable who’s who of the mystic arts.
With the Vertigo imprint now a part of the DCnU proper, we get to see stalwart mystic go-to characters like Deadman team up with John Constantine, amongst others. All in all, the teams work on paper, quite well. And John’s use of Cyborg as the would-be-everyman makes me forget all about the obvious affirmative action. The only character I wish they’d put on the Dark team would be Detective Chimp. Face it, monkeys equal sales.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into the bad, shall we? Justice League takes too many cues from the worst part of comics from the 1990s. Jim Lee is delivering amazing work, but at the cost of quality narrative. Splash after splash, action panel after action panel, and everyone always screaming, wincing, and punching. Also, all of it is on fire. Now, is Jim to blame for this? I don’t know. Geoff Johns is the man behind the script, so one might ask him if he intended the first arc to be so… typical.
For a guy who built a career on amazing origins, here he delivers his first disappointing one. Think of all the stereotypical team-forming storylines you can think of. Heroes meet, and think each other is the villain? Check. Egotistical in-fighting for control? Check. The evil-villain-from-out-of-nowhere who can only be defeated by having the team form? Check. That basic premise has been done to death in just about every team book, and funny enough? JL: Dark uses it too! But somehow, they pull it off. I’ll get to that later.
As I recall comics of my youth (those pesky ‘90s), it was always about the pop and sizzle, never about the words. It was all about who could beat up who and how, never why. Then I grabbed Watchmen, Sin City, books by Scott McCloud, and Kingdom Come and learned that comics can be stellar cape and cowl adventures… and use nuance and subtlety to end a story. Justice League throws all of that out the window, so we can make way for everyone taking time to ask what Batman’s powers are. Snicker.
Justice League Dark takes that same convoluted plot and smartly dampens it for characterization. The first arc is the antithesis to the uniting of individuals for the greater good. Instead we have severely independent agents being routed to stop something against their will. Over the course of the book, characters do fight one another, but it’s done with nuance. When Deadman threatens John Constantine, it’s because he cares for June Moon, who Constantine is obviously hurting in order to save the greater good. No puffed up chests and snarky dialogue.
And the big bad of the book? Well it turns out to be the misguided Enchantress, who lost control due to Madame Xanadu’s misguided tinkering. And at the climactic battle, when the score is blasting, and characters shout… it’s not the uniting of the mystical mavens of the greater DCnU that saves the day. It’s just Constantine doing his job. When the dust settles, the team, as it were, stand as independent as they were at the books’ beginning. It’s a bold move by Peter Milligan, who opts to dose his Justice League with a bit of realism. Realism, is a comic featuring a guy who has a super secret all-powerful vest? Yup. And it’s pretty darned cool.
I’ve merely scratched the surface here. Now, before you fire up the engines of hate, let me act as my own Devil’s Advocate. Justice League has had some great moments. As I mentioned before, I think Cyborg has been a real highlight of the book, and Johns’ Hal Jordon is a cock-sure treat, especially when he gets his ass whooped. And truth be told, the sales figures put me in my place pretty quickly. And Justice League: Dark isn’t exactly narrative fiction perfected. Over five issues Milligan utilized the “two characters show up somewhere, and spend their time questioning why they’re there scene” about 27 times. And as ComicBookResources’ Chad Nevett noted in his review of issue #5. Milligan may need to do a ton of back-peddling to assemble his team for the next arc.
Overall though, I think it’s clear: Justice League thus far has been far too busy trying to bring the “oohs and ahhs” while Dark spent its time trying to develop its characters beyond witty retorts, and punching. The books are clearly targeting different audiences, but even those who prefer eye laser blasts and Batarangs to backwards spells and Photoshop glow effects…clearly see where the flagship of the DCnU is aiming only at the lowest common denominator. If the DCnU is to make those who don’t read comics pay attention, modeling their mainstay book off of Michael Bay mentality isn’t the way to do it.
There is absolutely nowhere near enough story to sustain the 2:30 running time of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This third installment in the live-action adaptation of the classic toys and anime is loud, noisy, and very busy but ultimately empty. I kept wanting to turn the channel as I watched the Blu-ray release of the film, available Tuesday in a variety of packages including the four-disc combo (Blu-ray 3-D, Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy).
Michael Bay by now has mastered how to fill the screen with kinetic action, spectacular explosions and CGI galore. What he continues to misunderstand is that all of this action needs to be grounded with characters we can care about and root for. While Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman gave it a valiant attempt in the first film, they were kind of coasting with the second feature and their writing partner Ehren Kruger was allowed to go solo this time out. Maybe the film feels so pointless because Bay himself didn’t want to make the film for another year, but Paramount forced his hand, announcing the June 2011 release, in 3-D no less.
Kruger had to find a story that would find the Autobots and Decepticons at one another’s throats with the fate of the world once more at stake, while putting good old Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in the middle. It’s a tall order, no doubt, but the thin story feels like so much linkage between action pieces.
We open three years later as the Autobots have been integrated into the United States’ intelligence community, working with the NEST (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers) military force, policing the international political scene. Meantime, Sam has finally graduated college and in a nod towards current economic times, is having a tough time finding a job. Now, for most people that should be a real issue, for a Presidential medal winning hero, he should be the exception, snapped up by NEST or some related field. But that would make him less the everyman; a conceit the franchise seems bent on maintaining. Of course, most Everymen don’t go from one hot girl friend to another and the film makes some comments about this, casually dismissing Megan Fox’s character, who was booted form the franchise because the actress couldn’t avoid pissing off Bay and Steven Spielberg. She is replaced here with English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, already in a deep relationship with Sam (who calls her “The One”). Unlike Fox’; character, who actually had some emotional stake in the first film; she is merely an attractive appendage throughout this film.
The Decepticons have not sat idle but have been manipulating events to bring about the enslavement of humanity in the name of saving Cybertron, their homeworld. And it all dates back to a Transformer crashing into the Moon in 1961 which we’re told is the real reason President Kennedy insisted we land a man on the satellite within a decade. They needed to beat the Russians to see what collided so near home.
Complicating Sam’s life is the no-nonsense director of National Intelligence Charlotte Mearing and Dylan Gould, his girlfriend’s boss and traitor to mankind. Both new roles are played by actors (Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey respectively) who either needed the paycheck or were slumming. Of course, once evil has risen once more, Sam finds himself working alongside the more familiar USAF Chief Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and Seymour Summons (John Turturro), the former Sector 7 thorn in his side from the earlier films.
And with that, we’re off across the world, climaxing in the utter destruction of Chicago as the forces of mechanical good and evil make a lot of noise.
The film is bloated, in need of editing and depth. No doubt it looked spectacular on both IMAX and in 3-D. This has to be why the film did so well on the international stage, bringing in over $1.2 billion.
Thankfully, it looks and sounds great on both the television and laptop. The CGI is better than ever and it’s fun hearing familiar actors voicing the various Transformers (Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving are joined by Leonard Nimoy, James Remar, George Coe and others).
There’s a disc of Blu-ray extras that are fun to sift through and certainly show the amount of effort went into the film’s production. We have the five-part Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon, which is all the usual making of stuff you would expect. Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences if a four-part exploration of the overblown climax and is really for filmmakers and CGI buffs. The Art of Cybertron gives you a plethora of views of the various mechanical lifeforms and their environments. The Dark of the Moon Archive includes some fun footage of the Russian premiere and other short featurettes. The Matrix of Marketing offers you trailers and a marketing gallery. The best of the bunch I the min-doc Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now, using the film’s premise to look at the real science.
Really, you have to deeply love this nonsense to put up with such an overblown film but at least it gets very nice treatment from Paramount Home Entertainment. It should be noted this is also included in the seven-disc limited collector’s edition that contains all three films and might be the version diehard fans lust after.
Producers of Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” have fired back in their legal fight with one-time director Julie Taymor, claiming the woman who they once called a visionary later failed to fulfill her legal obligations, wrote a “disjointed” and “hallucinogenic” musical, and refused to collaborate on changes when the $75 million show was in trouble. In a countersuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Taymor and her company, LOH Inc., the producers argued that the show “is a success despite Taymor, not because of her.” The lawsuit, which quotes from several private emails from members of the creative team, further exposes the deep rift that has opened between former collaborators who seemed to have reconciled — at least through forced smiles — on the red carpet this summer when the musical finally officially opened.
Remember, these people are arguing about more money than Steve Ditko has ever received for co-creating Spider-Man. So when they talk about what they’ve “created”, feel free to laugh at them.
More money in a week than Steve Ditko has seen from Spider-Man, ever.
Look who’s sporting a big smile behind his mask on Broadway — none other than the once-mocked Spider-Man. The Broadway League reported Tuesday that “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took in a whopping $2,941,790 over nine performances last week, which is the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history.The musical shattered the old record held by “Wicked,” which last January recorded the then-highest one-week take on Broadway with a $2,228,235 haul, though over an eight-show week.
HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. (December 27, 2011) – From director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg, in association with Hasbro, Paramount Pictures’ global smash hit Transformers: Dark of the Moon returns to Earth January 31, 2012 in a four-disc Ultimate Edition Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD combo pack with UltraViolet™ and a Digital Copy. A must-own film for every home media collection, Transformers: Dark of the Moon features “jaw-droppingly amazing 3D” (Harry Knowles, AintItCool.com) and fan-favorite characters OPTIMUS PRIME, BUMBLEBEE and Sam Witwicky amidst bigger and more spectacular action in an adventure that surpassed its predecessors to earn over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office and become the #4 biggest movie of all time at the global box office.
Bursting with nearly four hours of sensational behind-the-scenes footage, cast and crew interviews and more, the Transformers: Dark of the Moon Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD combo pack delivers blockbuster entertainment.
“This Blu-ray 3D of Dark of the Moon will blow you away. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to get a 3D television, this is it,” said director Michael Bay. “For fans who’ve been waiting patiently to bring Dark of the Moon home, this Ultimate Edition release delivers the goods.”
And, for a limited time, all three eye-popping films in the Transformers franchise will be available in a 7-Disc Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Trilogy featuring each film in high definition, Transformers: Dark of the Moon in high definition 3D, more than 10 hours of special features and a plaque of movie images signed by Bay. (more…)
Every item in the Philip José Farmer Estate Sale is now 20% off and 25% of all sales through December 15, 2011 will be donated to Magick 4 Terri!
Four days ago we announced here that 25% of all sales through December 15, 2011 would be donated to Magick 4 Terri. So far the response has been. . .underwhelming to say the least. But we think we know the problem. When you go to the Estate Sale page, the first item you see, a rare signed hardcover of A Feast Unknown costs $450, and the next book is a $100 paperback!
So we’d like to take a moment to point out that while there are very expensive books: $4,500 for The Lake Regions of Central Africa: Volumes 1 and 2 (1860) by Sir Richard Francis Burton, or $1,500 for a signed harcover first edition of Farmer’s The Fabulous Riverboat for examples, there are many affordable books as well.
There are over forty different titles under $50, many of them signed paperbacks, and other cool stuff like this:
Charles M. Doughty. Travels In Arabia Deserta. Heritage Press, 1953. Hard Cover. Near Fine hardcover in slipcase. Decorated beige linen cloth binding, pictorial endpapers, map, illustrated throughout by Edy Legrand. Introduction by T.E. Lawrence. $40.00
Nothing Burns in Hell. Advance Uncorrected Proof. Trade Paperback. Near Fine From the estate of Philip José Farmer. Advanced Uncorrected Proof in Near Fine condition. One of three author copies. These copies are NOT signed. $30.00
Dark is the Sun. Blackstone Audio, Multiple copies of this new audio book were sent to Philip José Farmer’s heirs. This unabridged audio book is 14.5 hours on 12 cds. We’re selling these for about half of the list price. Five author copies are currently available for $30 each.
There are almost another seventy titles between $50 and $100 that would make a great gift for any science fiction fan:
Forrest J Ackerman (ed), Best Science Fiction for 1973. Very Good+ Signed by Philip José Farmer on page 56. Contains a reprint of the short story “Seventy Years of Decpop.” $50.00
Byron Preiss (ed), Weird Heroes Vol 1. Very Good+ Signed by Philip José Farmer on page 194. Contains the first publication of the short story “Greatheart Silver in Showdown at Shootout.” $60.00
Robert Frazier (ed), Burning with a Vision: Poetry of Science and the Fantastic. First Edition. Hard Cover. Very Good+ Signed by Philip José Farmer on page 52. Contains a reprint of the poem, “The Pterodactyl.” $75.00
Fritz Leiber, Ervool. Roanoke: Chapbook. Very Good+ Pictorial wrapper. First edition. Number 158 of 200 numbered copies signed by Leiber on special limitation page. This publication was prepared for distribution at the Sixth World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, October, 1980. $75.00
Brian Ash (ed), The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Oversized Paperback. Very Good+ Signed “Property of Philip José Farmer” on the first page and signed again on page 223 at his entry on Religion and Myths. $85.00
You get the idea — and don’t forget, now everything is 20% off! — but only through December 15th.
So, do yourself, and more importantly Terri, a favor, and spend a little time browsing the list. There is bound to be something you suddenly realize you can’t live without.
You have to give Julie Taymor credit. She rarely repeats herself and brings a sense of creative vision to every project, making each effort unique. For every brilliant stage work, The Lion King, there is a creative misfire, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. And on screen, she scored a bullseye with Across the Universe and disappointed with The Tempest. The adaptation of William Shakespeare’s final play is now out on DVD from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
The Bard’s works have been interpreted and reinterpreted since they were first staged at the Globe Theater so it’s no surprise Taymor wanted to bring her own ideas to the script. Her bold move was to turn Duke Prospero into Prospera, the duke’s wife and then cast Dame Helen Mirren. Taymor said at the time that no male actor seemed to fit her idea of the lead so tried a woman for a staged reading and decided the story held up.
Translated to the screen, Prospera, the sorceress, presides over the inhabitants on a small island, dealing with her daughter Miranda’s (Felicity Jones) romance with Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) while fending off the schemes of Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) and Stephano (Alfred Molina) to do her in. There’s magic galore and Ariel, usually played by a female but here is essayed by Ben Whishaw, is a genuine sprite.
Taymor adapted Shakespeare’s words but they remain familiar ones and she has assembled a fine cast led by Mirren, who is never short of fascinating to watch work. Molina, Hounsou, Chris Cooper and Alan Cumming lend strong support so the overall production should be far more satisfying than it proves to be. There’s a crackle of energy missing from the performances and the CGI effects, which she used so well in Universe, don’t measure up. For a story about magic the effects prove oddly dull and uninspiring.
The pacing moves along but languidly, as if shooting on a Hawaiian island enervated cast and crew.
The movie performed well at festivals before being met with a collective yawn by critics and audiences alike last December making for a poor year end showing for Taymor. The movie plays much the same way on DVD aided by the usually crisp video transfer from Disney and helped tremendously by some terrific audio work.
Students of Shakespeare will want to see this and own the Blu-ray edition which comes with some terrific special features. In addition to Taymor’s perfunctory commentary, there’s a separate track with Virginia Mason Vaughan (Professor of English at Clark University) and Jonathan Bate (Shakespeare Professor at England’s University of Warwick), using their depth of knowledge to informatively discuss the adaptation. It sounds like an English paper read aloud is quite interesting.
Additionally, there’s the one-hour-six-minute Raising the Tempest which covers the production from script to final editing. There’s always something to learn from these but are really for students of film. This one, though, has Brand offering up comedic patter throughout and makes this worthwhile.
You can watch Julie & Cast: Inside the L.A. Rehearsals, a 14 minute look at Brand, Molina and Hounsou getting a handle on their characters under Taymor’s watchful eye. This is a revealing look at the creative process. There’s an additional, more humorous five minute Russell Brand Rehearsal Riff as he improvises answers as Trinculo to Taymor the Interviewer’s questions. The disc is rounded out with Carney’s “Mistress Mine” music video and an assortment of trailers.