Tagged: Max Allan Collins

Ed Catto: Inside the Gold Mind

I’m a sucker for crime fiction, whether it’s served up by Raymond Chandler or by Harlan Coben. As a kid, my passion for adventure stories started it all. But like a Chevy Impala on a rain-soaked highway, my interest slid all over the road. I’d devour mysteries, detective novels, pulps and crime thrillers.

In the world of comics, lately we’ve been treated to outstanding fantastic crime thrillers. Ed Brubaker leads the way, of course, with his various crime noir and spy series. Greg Rucka’s stuff is always fun and I hope Oni publishes more Stumptown soon. And other publishers, like Dynamite, IDW, and Boom! Studios have been providing strong contributions as well.

In the traditional book world, Hard Case Crime has been on the forefront of hardboiled crime fiction. Charles Ardai is the man behind it all, and he combines his love for this genre with a great eye for pulpy artwork to create some of the best crime thriller books and paperbacks out there. Some of the books are new, others are lost classics.

It’s been refreshing to enjoy favorite classic detective authors, like Brett Holiday and Mickey Spillane as Hard Case Crime re-publishes their works. Newer favorites, like Max Allan Collins and Lawrence Block are there too. I like to try new authors too. I enjoyed John Lange’s newly re-printed Zero Cool… but then I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a pseudonym for Michael Crichton.

Recently, Hard Case Crime has teamed with their distributor Titan Comics to create a line of comics. Like Hard Case paperbacks, these comics’ covers, titles, and premises all grab readers by the throat and pull ‘em in.

Fay Dalton’s stunning Normandy Gold #1 cover piqued my interest when I first saw it in Diamond Previews. It’s a hauntingly beautiful illustration evocative of every paperback and movie poster you saw in the 70s. Titan offers a number of others #1 variants by other artists, including a quiet, but menacing, portrait of the heroine by interior artist Steve Scott.

Normandy Gold is a fish-out-of-water story. A small town sheriff hunts for her sister’s killer in the big city. The big city, in this case, is Washington, DC. And it’s set in the swinging seventies.

The retro-cool seventies vibe is important to this series. I almost wish there was a suggested soundtrack. All the tropes are here: the big cars, the dorky men’s sports coats, phones with cords, bushy mustaches and women’s fashion. But they are presented with a stark authenticity and effectively immerse the reader into the story.

That’s in a big part due to series artist Steve Scott. He’s a gifted artist with a great line, top notch rendering skills, and a natural pacing. You may have seen his mainstream work, including a few Batman stories a few years ago. Here, Scott effortlessly presents all those big gas-guzzling cars, opulent office buildings and Sonny-and-Cher vintage fashions with a natural ease that keeps you in the story and keeps you hungry for more.

The other creators are a big deal too. The creative team of Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin write the series. I’m not familiar with their work but after this, I want to read more from them.

This past week there was some outrage – Outrage!, I tell you – over the fact that the talented James Robinson, obviously a man, was taking over DC’s Wonder Woman comic series. As the Wonder Woman movie was such a hit and was driven by a female director and a female lead, some outraged fans assumed a female writer should helm the comic.

Look, we need diversity in all areas. Culturally, we’re all at a point where we all understand that everyone benefits from hearing lots of different voices. But that shouldn’t mean that only women write female characters or only Chinese-American writers write Chinese-American characters. In fact, just last night I had a passionate “front porch’ discussion with my wife and long-time comics expert John Cresco. And no, no wine or beer was involved. Maybe next time.

But it is fantastic when new venues open up to new voices. So here we have a female detective written by female writers. I tend to think, however, that Abbot and Gaylin got this writing gig because they are damn fine writers, not because of their sex. Normandy Gold #1 is crisp storytelling with just enough hints into a complicated character’s background. The reader is intrigued, but not rushed.

I hope fans concerned about finding opportunities for female writers give this series a try, and/or pick up back issues of Chelsea Cain’s recent Mockingbird.

Be warned, as, with so many hardboiled detective stories, there are a few salacious scenes. But they are important to the story and almost expected in this genre.

Normandy Gold is at least the second comic heroine with that catchy first name. In Milton Caniff’s long-running newspaper strip, Terry and the Pirates, Normandy Drake was the niece of a wealthy man who had captured the heart of one of the lead characters. I hope this Normandy likewise captures fans’ hearts.

The female detective in comics is a small subgenre. Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty’s Ms. Tree was such a treasure. Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano’s Jonni Thunder, A.K.A.Thunderbolt was also a favorite (more on her later). The torch has been passed recently to well-rounded characters like Dex Parios and Jessica Jones. Normandy’s a welcome addition to the club. I’m eager for the next issue.

Ed Catto: A Tangled Web

In December I (foolishly) jumped into the latest Nate Heller detective story, Better Dead, by Max Allan Collins. This book has nothing to do with the Holiday Season. This book has nothing to do with making oneself better or preparing for the New Year’s challenges. In fact, this book is so enthralling it distracted me from my Yuletide tasks and annual planning. Better Dead is just a fun book. As with other adventures in this series, the author places his hero in a real-life historical hotspot, bringing to light a fascinating true-life story with new insights.

Kind of like the musical Hamilton without the rap musical and colonial wigs.

ComicMix’s “Grand Poobah”, Mike Gold, once famously quipped “if you only read one Max Allan Collins book this month, make it this one.” He was teasing about the author’s prolific writing. The talented ‘true crime’ and detective scribe produces so many books. But that truism certainly applies to this book.

With the New Year starting, I’m in a reflective mood. You probably are too. But I have not been struck by that big “ah-hah” insight. I wish I could offer one up to you all but….I got nuthin’.   “Don’t give up” and “Try to be kind to people” is about all I’ve figured out in the past year. But the big idea that I’m struck by is how connected it all is.

This book has so many connections to so many other things happening. Here’s a few…

Roy Cohn, the lawyer who helped Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare efforts is a character in the book. As you probably know, he was one of Donald Trump’s mentors. And you may remember that the previously mentioned Mike Gold wrote about Cohn’s irrational self-loathing and hatred of gay men.

Bettie Page, the famous burlesque and pin-up icon, makes an appearance in this book. And there are a couple of connections with her too. Back in October, my wife Kathe and I, along with two visiting friends, were listening to live music. While the band played, the bar (Moondog’s in Auburn, NY) was showing silly and inconsequential things on their TV screen, presumably so that patrons would instead pay attention to the band.

One of the looped videos was a grainy old Bettie Page burlesque dance number. I recognized her and enthusiastically pointed her out to my wife and friends.

They looked at the old footage and then looked at me. They wondered how anyone would I even know a thing like that. Their harsh verdict was rendered: Ed was full of more useless Geek trivia.

But that all changed when another guy in the bar (wearing a Bad News Bears jersey, no less), started excitedly pointing out “that’s Bettie Page”! I wasn’t the only one! I took great solace in my brief vindication.

Just last week I clicked on a link to Stuart Ng books. This online retailer is selling old paperbacks that just happen to be from the collection of Dave Stevens. Stevens was the phenomenal comic artist who introduced a generation of comic fans, like me, to Bettie Page and Doc Savage in the early 80s.

On NPR the other day, I heard the fascinating story of Ethel Rosenberg’s sons, Michael and Robert. Ethel and her husband Julius were convicted and executed as spies during the Red Scare. Evidence today leads many reasonable people to conclude that she was innocent of passing along atomic secrets to the Soviets. Michael Rosenberg is campaigning for President Obama to exonerate his mother. After reading about the Rosenbergs in Better Dead and hearing the NPR report, it seems reasonable to me.

I borrowed this book from my local library, and that sparked a Christmas Eve conversation with my cousin, Krista. She’s become a voracious reader and talked about she just loved Hoopla, the digital platform for libraries. She’s rattled off a list of comics she’s enjoying that included Paper Girls, Lumberjanes and Giant. I’ve been enjoying the service too – and find it to be a fantastic way to augment my local comic shop purchases.

From Roy Cohn, to Bettie Page, to Doc Savage to NPR to Hoopla to Paper Girls. It’s a tangled web and bound to get more tangled-ier in 2017. Have a great year.

P.S.: Someday maybe I’ll tell the story about how I read a Jack London book during finals. What was I thinking? I worry there may be a pattern here….

John Ostrander: Making a Better Superman

superman-and-supergirl

As of last Monday night, Warner Bros grew a Superman problem. That’s the night that Supergirl started its second season on its new home, the CW… where one could argue that it always belonged anyway. The show guest starred Supergirl’s cousin, Superman, embodied on TV by Tyler Hoechlin.

tyler-hoechlin-supermanIf you don’t already know, DC – unlike Marvel – does not link its movie universe and its TV universe. Since DC Comics is currently in the Multiple Universe concept once more, it might help to think of their TV and movie universes as alternate dimensions. So we can have two Flashes, two Wonder Women – and two versions of Superman.

The DC movie version of Superman, as shown in Man of Steel and Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice Whaddee Do Dah, is played by Henry Cavill and is a darker, more brooding, somewhat more Batman-ish Superman. His costume is also darker, almost a blue-black. He is, we are told, a more “realistic” Superman. And that’s where I think the trouble is going to lie.

Supergirl’s Superman is a more traditional Man of Steel. He’s a brighter, more confident, more hopeful vision. And, not to slam Henry Cavill, Tyler Hoechlin is a better actor. As a kid he held his own with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig in Road to Perdition where Hoechlin played a starring role as Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Sidenote: not everyone realizes that Road to Perdition is also a “comic book movie” based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. Work that little factoid into your conversations. Amaze your friends. Go out and get a copy. Great read. End of plug.)

The Superman appearing on Supergirl is more my idea of who Superman is – confident, capable, friendly, powerful and, according to one character on the show, smells good. When he walks into the DEO, the government facility where Lara’s adopted sister Alex works, people just stop and stare. Superman works the crowd, smiling, shaking hands, setting people at ease not like a politician or even a celebrity but like a nice guy from Kansas which, for all his powers, he is.

Hoechlin also does a great Clark Kent, reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s great turn, having a deft sense of humor to the portrayal and making the bumbling aspect work. When his cousin secretly congratulates Clark on a well executed file fumble in the elevator, he tells her it wasn’t an act. That’s endearing.

Also, in the TV aspect of the DCU, there isn’t the underlying mistrust that the DC movie universe has for this strange person from another world. Batman wants to kill Superman because the Kryptonian could be a threat; one of the arguments leading to the creation of the Suicide Squad was who could stop Superman if he decided to burst through the roof of the White House and grab the President? On Supergirl, people trust the Man of Steel. Seeing him, or his cousin, inspires hope. While the darker portrayal may be more “realistic,” it’s not what the character is about.

I’m not looking for a return to the Superman of the Fifties as seen in either the comics or the TV show. To be honest, that one bored me even as a kid. The movies, however, makes him more angsty, more dour, and less Super. Hoechlin is only scheduled to appear as a guest star on the TV show for right now but he wears the tights and the cape – and Clark Kent’s glasses – quite well.

I know that in BvS: DoJ (spoiler alert, I guess) Superman dies at the end of the film but we all know he’s coming back for the Justice League movie. I, for one, wouldn’t mind if the movie Superman uses the grave as a chrysalis and pops out as Tyler Hoechlin. Or maybe they can have Tyler spin off into a series as Superman. I’d watch it. And I bet lots of others would as well.

And that’s going to be WB’s problem – the better Superman isn’t on the big screen; it’s on the small one.

2014 Scribe Award Nominees Named

SCRIBEv3medWINNER2The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (www.iamtw.org) is pleased to announce the nominees for the 2014 Scribe Awards, recognizing excellence in the field of media tie-in writing: books based on movies, TV shows and games. The winners will be announced and awards presented in July at a ceremony and panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Best Adaptation (Novelization)
Man of Steel by Greg Cox
Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine
47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge

Best General Novel (Original)
Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by Donald Bain
The Executioner: Sleeping Dragons by Michael A. Black
Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad
Leverage: The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox
Leverage: The Zoo Job by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Best Speculative Novel (Original)
Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust
Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson
Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Supernatural: The Roads Not Taken by Tim Waggoner
Star Trek: From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward

Best Short Story
“The Dark Hollows of Memory” (Warhammer 40,000) by David Annandale
“Locks and Keys” (Shadowrun) by Jennifer Brozek
“So Long, Chief” (Mike Hammer) by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
“Savior” (After Earth) by Michael Jan Friedman
“Redemption” (After Earth) by Robert Greenberger
“Mirror Image” (Star Trek) by Christine M. Thompson

Best Young Adult
Kevin by Paul Kupperberg
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 by Stacia Deutsch
The Croods by Tracey West

Best Audio Book
Dark Shadows: The Phantom Bride by Mark Thomas Passmore
Dark Shadows: The Flip Side by Cody Quijano-Schell
Blake’s 7: The Armageddon Storm by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

The IAMTW was created seven years ago by Max Allan Collins and Lee Goldberg and has over 200 members, all professional, published authors who write books based on movies, TV shows, and games. To find out more about the Scribe Awards, and lists of previous winners & nominees, visit

http://iamtw.org/the-scribe-awards/previous-scribe-award-winners/

2013 Scribe Award Winners Announced at San Diego Comic Con

All Pulp congratulates the nominees and winners of the 2013 Scribe Awards.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the Scribe Awards for 2013 were handed out at Comic Con San Diego.  IAMTW congratulates the following winners:

In the Original Novel category: Robert Jeschonek for Rising Sun, Falling Shadows, a Tannhäuser book.

In the Adapted Novel category: Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson, based on the album by Rush.

In the Audio category: The Eternal Actress by Nev Fountain, a Dark Shadows story.

Acknowledging excellence in this very specific skill, IAMTW’s Scribe Awards deal exclusively with licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books.  They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and cross all genres.  Tie-in
works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes.  Gunsmoke, Murder She Wrote, CSI, Star Trek, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Resident Evil, James Bond, Iron Man, these represent just a few.

Congratulations to the winners!

The nominees were:

ORIGINAL NOVEL

Darksiders: The Abomination Vault by Ari Marmell
Pathfinder: City of the Fallen Sky by Tim Pratt
Mike Hammer: Lady, Go Die! By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Star Trek: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack
Star Trek: The Rings of Time by Greg Cox
Tannhäuser: Rising Sun, Falling Shadows by Robert Jeschonek
Dungeons and Dragons Online: Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell

ADAPTED NOVEL

Poptropica: Astroknights Island by Tracey West
Clockwork Angels by Kevin Anderson
Batman: The Dark Knight Legend by Stacia Deutsch
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises by Greg Cox

AUDIO
Dark Shadows: Dress Me in Dark Dreams by Marty Ross
Dark Shadows: The Eternal Actress by Nev Fountain
Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: Project Nirvana by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Congratulations also to author Ann Crispin who was named Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

IAMTW Announces 2013 Nominees

Scribe Award NomineeThe International Association of Media Tie-In Writers has announced their Scribe Award nominees for 2013.

Acknowledging excellence in this very specific skill, IAMTW’s Scribe Awards deal exclusively with licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes.  Gunsmoke, Murder She Wrote, CSI, Star Trek, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Resident Evil, James Bond, Iron Man, these represent just a few.

The Scribe Awards are being presented in July at ComicCon International.

ORIGINAL NOVEL

  • Darksiders: The Abomination Vault by Ari Marmell
  • Pathfinder: City of the Fallen Sky by Tim Pratt
  • Mike Hammer: Lady, Go Die! by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
  • Star Trek: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack
  • Star Trek: Rings of Time by Greg Cox
  • Tannhäuser: Rising Sun, Falling Shadows by Robert Jeschonek
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online: Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell

ADAPTED NOVEL

  • Poptropica: Astroknights Island by Tracey West
  • Clockwork Angels by Kevin Anderson
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Legend by Stacia Deutsch
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Rises by Greg Cox

AUDIO 

  • Dark Shadows: Dress Me in Dark Dreams by Marty Ross 
  • Dark Shadows: The Eternal Actress by Nev Fountain
  • Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: Project Nirvana  by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Mike Gold: Worst … Villain… Ever!


Gold Art 130313Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins • Interior illustrations by Terry Beatty • Hard Case Crime • Paperback: $9.95 • Digital: $6.39 • Audio: $9.18

So… Who is the worst, most evil comic book villain ever? Well, if you’re a hard-core comics fan and/or comics professional, the worst comic book villain ever might very well be Dr. Fredric Wertham. He’s the guy who spearheaded the comic books breed juvenile delinquency movement of the late 1940s and early 1950s that led to Senate hearings, state-by-state censorship (Can’t have the word “crime” in the title of your comic book? Really?), massively plummeting sales, and the dissolution of more than half of the comics publishing companies and the jobs that went along with them.

An entire generation of fans grew up loathing the man. His so-called study, which was lacking in any real scientific evidence, was called Seduction of the Innocent. Suffice it to say that a lot of us have had a “thing” about the guy… perhaps none more than massively talented and successful novelist/comics writer/filmmaker/musician Max Allan Collins.

Collins was in a rock band called Seduction of the Innocent that played, among other venues, the San Diego Comic Con pre-show party – his bandmates included Bill Mumy, Miguel Ferrer and Steve Leialoha. It was… loud.

Now he’s repurposed the Evil Doctor’s seminal title in a mystery novel, the third (and hopefully not last) of his Jack Starr private eye stories that revolve around the comic strip and comic book business. Collins writes novels almost as often as I consume barbecue beef sandwiches – for one thing, he’s been co-writing, finishing off, and/or editing the plethora of unpublished material written by his friend, the late crimemaster Mickey Spillane. I wish I could come anywhere near keeping up with his output, but I’ve cut back on the barbecue beef.

But if you’re a comics or a popular culture fan and you only read one Max Allan Collins book this week, make it Seduction of the Innocent. I’d like to say it is one of the best books ever written, but that’s a stupid concept. However, I can say it is one of the most fun books I’ve ever read.

Collins incorporates his massive knowledge of – and enthusiasm for – 1950s popular culture. In addition to pastiches of Wertham and the folks at EC Comics and Lev Gleason Publications, he nods (often with the energy of a bobble-head on meth) towards Dragnet, Mickey Spillane, Al Capp, Dick Tracy, paperback culture, and mid-century culture. Mostly, though, he infuses his mystery novel with a smokepot of comics effluvia – aided by his long-time researcher George Hagenauer. However, if you’re not up on this sort of thing and/or couldn’t care less, it doesn’t get in the way of this clever yarn.

Indeed, I must compliment the author on a great diversionary move. For those of us who are up on comics history, he directs us towards one likely suspect – and then makes a crosstown turn worthy of a Manhattan cabdriver. I won’t spoil this for you, but if you’re curious read Joe Simon’s My Life in Comics.

I must point out that Collins’ long-time comics collaborator Terry Beatty (artist on the current Phantom Sunday pages) supplied the illustrations for each chapter. They are brilliant. Beatty even found an old Leroy Letterer to exacerbate the effect of reading an old (and relevant) EC Comics story.

If you’re looking for a good time and yet want to keep your clothes on, you’ll do well with Seduction of the Innocent. Max Allan Collins’ version, not Fredric Wertham’s.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

FORTIER TAKES ON MIKE HAMMER IN ‘COMPLEX 90’!

ALL PULP REVIEWS by Ron Fortier
COMPLEX 90
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
244 pages
Available May 2013

Beginning a new year with a new Mike Hammer novel is a cause for jubilant celebration.  In his short preface to the book, begun by the late Mickey Spillane, Collins informs us that the setting is 1964 and “Complex 90” is in part a sequel to the 1961 Mike Hammer novel, “The Girl Hunters.”  For those of you unfamiliar with that private eye classic, a brief summary is in order. 
“The Girl Hunters” opens with our down-and-out hero discovering that his secretary, and one true love, Velda, has returned from the dead.  Having lived in an alcoholic haze since her disappearance seven years earlier, he learns that Velda had been on a spy mission for the government, captured by the Russians and thrown into one of their of their prisons where she had endured physical tortures until managing to escape.  Now back on U.S. soil her ordeal is far from over as the Soviets send a specialized assassin team to terminate her permanently.  Instead they run into Hammer and it he who does the exterminating.  You can easily enjoy “Complex 90” without having read “The Girl Hunters,” but why on earth would you settle for one great Mike Hammer book when you can enjoy two?
Okay, back to this “sequel” of sorts.  The cold war is still in full tilt, even though Hammer and Velda have slowly gotten their lives back on a normal track.  Then an old colleague recruits Hammer to assist him as a bodyguard for a controversial senator throwing a lavish cocktail parting in his New York penthouse.  Hammer sees it as an opportunity to make a few fast bucks.  In the middle of the soiree, an assassin attempts to shoot the senator but instead guns down Hammer’s pal. Hammer takes a slug to the leg before sending the killer through a window eighty stories up via a hot lead tivkry from his .45 automatic.  So much for an easy few dollars.
Suffering only a flesh wound, Hammer is soon back on his feet.  Immediately he is offered a new assignment; that of bodyguard to the senator during his fact-finding junket to Moscow. The senator wants Hammer to replace his dead friend who was scheduled to accompany him.
No sooner are the two in Russia then Hammer is arrested and imprisoned by the KGB for being a spy.  Fortunately for the savvy P.I., they detain him in a city facility and he waste no time escaping, leaving half a dozen bodies behind.  By the time he makes it back to the States, he’s left a trail of forty-five dead Russians creating an international incident.  Now the Russians are clamoring for his hide and the State Department isn’t any too pleased with the notorious New York private-eye.  What bothers Hammer is why he was kidnapped in the first place and why the Commies are so hell bent on bringing him back to the U.S.S.R.
Finding the answers to those two questions is the major plot around which this fast paced thriller revolves and like all Mike Hammer tales, there’s plenty of two-fisted action along the journey.  Collins prose never lets up for a second propelling this reader to a slam-bang climax that had us needing a drink when it was over.  Cold war intrigue, sexy femme fatales and in the middle of it all, one tough son-of-bitch throwback whose conservative patriotism will not be shaken by gun-toting foreign agents or two-faced  Washington politicians. 
In a time of when America is being torn apart by a culture war, Spillane’s Mike Hammer is a cleansing storm that makes no excuses for loving ones country and doing whatever it takes to keep her strong.  Makes us wish we had a lot more like him.

Mike Gold: Bite My Twinkie

Some 30 years ago DC and Marvel produced a series of ads featuring their characters (except Superman) in one-page adventures hawking Hostess products. That campaign ran forever, so when we relaunched E-Man at First Comics I thought it would be fun to get people to do Hostess ad parodies featuring their creator-owned characters. John Byrne did Rog-2000, Max Collins and Terry Beatty did Mike Mist, Lee Marrs did Pudge Girl Blimp, Reed Waller did Omaha The Cat Dancer, and so on.

A few years later I was at DC Comics where I edited (interm-ly; Marv Wolfman was moving to the west coast and had some health issues) Teen Titans Spotlight. Mike Baron wrote a story featuring The Hawk (of the original Hawk and Dove) wherein the lead character uttered the epitaph “Bite My Twinkie!” Whereas it was completely in character, one of DC’s top-most executives took great offense at this. In an act of astonishing courage, our young photocopy-kid – who later became a full editor – demanded said executive to point to his Twinkie. That, I felt, was more salacious than Baron’s original line.

Twinkies became a metaphor long ago. Those childhood memories are exceptionally powerful: we all grew up on Twinkies and Ding Dongs and Zingers and those of us who were baby boomers routinely rediscovered that ancient passion around 2 AM after giving the nation of Columbia a boost in their GNP. In fact, Chicago’s hippie district bordered a Dolly Madison thrift shop (before the company was bought out by Hostess) and, to the best of my knowledge, it was the only said thrift shop to have overnight hours. It was a great place to meet up with friends.

So it is no surprise that last week’s sudden closure of Hostess has traumatized so many people. No matter how unhealthy the product was, those childhood attachments more than compensated. Millions of us who hadn’t eaten much of that stuff in the past four decades felt a genuine loss. My daughter is upset about the prospect of having Wonder Bread-less peanut butter sandwiches and she’s right: it will not be the same.

Sure, there’s a handful of Food Nazis who have been quoted as saying “well, now people can eat vegetables and other healthy stuff.” These people are dangerous lunatics. People who think somebody who can no longer procure a Ho-Ho will now reach for broccoli should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery.

We’d like to think that in comics we’ve progressed past the nostalgia connection, and to a certain extent we most certainly have. But the power of those childhood memories is so great that it would be ridiculous to assume they are no longer relevant. I got over the loss of Ipana toothpaste, but our culture is worse off for the absence of Shinola. It is no surprise to me, at least, that we started making “serious” comics movies when those who grew up with comics as a vital part of their childhood lives started working behind the camera.

So when I went to the local Stop and Stop Saturday afternoon and noted how the joint was totally cleared out of Hostess/Drakes/Dolly Madison products, I chuckled. Loudly.

And then I went over to the comics rack to see what was still on sale.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

 

John Ostrander: The Bond Evolution

James Bond, as a movie franchise, has been around for fifty years and the franchise celebrates in magnificent fashion with the latest installment, Skyfall. For me, it’s definitely the best thus far of the Daniel Craig Bond movies and it may be my choice for the best of all the Bond movies. I know that “best” is, as often as not, a personal, subjective opinion rather than an objective choice. People can cite certain criteria as the basis of their opinions but who determines the criteria? For example, there are those who regard and will always regard Sean Connery as the best Bond and anything else is heresy.

Let’s look at Skyfall in context of the past fifty years of Bond films. On my list of the best Bond films are From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, Casino Royale. As much as I really enjoyed the latter, Skyfall is superior.

To start off, we have an A list director in Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (for whom Craig played in Road to Perdition, made from Max Allan Collins’s graphic novel). Together with cinematographer Roger Deakin, there are some stunning visuals in the film. This is the best-looking Bond movie ever.

The action set pieces, including the opening, are breathtaking, as are the opening credits by Daniel Kleinman, who also did several other Bond films including Casino Royale. The visuals in the opening credits actually play into the story and what has just happened onscreen with a hallucinatory effect.

A Bond film also heavily depends on its villain and with Javier Bardem’s Silva we have one of the greats. You can detect a touch of Heath Ledger’s Joker in him but not blazingly so. He smiles, he laughs, he’s brilliant, he’s predatory and he lusts for Bond’s body. Bardem knows how to both underplay the character and take him over the top. Considering that the character doesn’t even appear for the first hour or so into the film, the impact is indelible.

A Bond story doesn’t always have to make sense; it often provides the framework for the derring-do and the action but this one actually digs a bit into both the character of Bond and of his boss, M, played by the stunning Judi Dench. She is so tough and no nonsense that she could have been a white, British Amanda Waller. The most important relationship in the film is between M and Bond and ultimately it’s very touching, very human. The story doesn’t just keep everything very status quo; the situation and the characters are challenged and there is change.

The movie lets Bond fail early on, lets him get seedy, lets him fall off the mark in his skills so that he has to work to reclaim them. It addresses the question of whether or not Bond and M are dinosaurs, are they truly needed in this age of computer wizardry. (Yes, they are.) It also addresses the fact that Craig, and Bond, are getting older. In the Roger Moore era, it was glossed over as they gave Moore turtlenecks to hide his wattle. Here, Bond looks older, more worn, and it is suggested to him that he has lost a step or two and maybe its time for him to retire.

The movie pays service to the Bond films of the past without being strictly tied to its continuity. It doesn’t reboot the franchise so much as evolves it. During much of the Moore era, the franchise just got silly and even later incarnations didn’t change things much. Then the Bourne movies came out and the status quo changed. Bond had to change as well and that started with Casino Royale but has found its culmination here. At the same time, the Bond franchise doesn’t shy away from its past; there is a suggestion that between the last film, Quantum of Solace, and now many of the previous Bond adventures may have taken place, specifically Goldfinger. It redefines Bond and his world so that they work for today.

Skyfall digs deeper, attempts more, looks better, and challenges both the characters and us, more so than any other Bond film. Yes, I’m including From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. That’s why I’m saying it is the best Bond film ever. And don’t we want it that way? The best is not the past; it’s now and, hopefully, in the future. When people ask me what is the best story I’ve written, I always say, “The next one.” I hope to go to my grave thinking that. Gives us something to work for and to look forward to. Me? I can’t wait. Bring on the next Bond!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell