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The Series Series: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Barrow-smallThe book mugged me. It was supposed to stay safely several weeks down in my queue while I kept commitments to other law-abiding books that had been waiting patiently for review. Then up walks The Barrow, brazen as you please, distracts me by flashing its jacket copy, and steals two weeks of all my attention right out of my calendar. But what else can you expect from a book full of gangsters, extortionists, rabble-rousers, mercenaries, slumming disgraced nobility, and assorted other low-life types?

I haven’t quite figured out how Mark Smylie pulled it off. The book has some obvious excellences, and some obvious failings, and some oddities that might be mistaken for one only to turn out to be the other. I’ll need to read more of Smylie’s work to figure out what tipped the balance in the book’s favor.

I found most of the characters somewhere between off-putting and odious, and nearly every time the body count went up by one, I was relieved at not having to put up with that character for one page longer. It’s as if Smylie had set himself the task of outdoing George R.R. Martin for grittiness of characterization, and overshot by twenty miles.

There are readers who love that sort of thing; I’m not usually one of them. As the endgame of the novel came in sight, there were only three characters I cared about at all — the enigmatic hero Stjepan Black-Heart, the cross-dressing street fighter Erim, and the disgraced noblewoman Annwyn. I kept coming back to my two snarky rhetorical questions: How are these two women going to survive ten more minutes surrounded by all those sociopaths? And when is Stjepan going to have a male friend who does not suck?

Only it turns out those are the questions that matter most, and several of the glitches I had mistaken for goofs on the author’s part ended up being the keys to the story’s other puzzles.

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Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Twelve

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Barry Gordonkurtzman_flash_gordon_cvr11“Starling” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 11 to September 3, 1955. “Starling” starts off with Flash visiting Dr. Zarkov one evening to find his old friend depressed, as the U.S. Government has turned down his request for an additional million dollars funding to finish construction of the Super-S Rocket. It is a nice hint of direction for the strip to come, which will take the series closer to its roots. Flash and Zarkov are startled by the discovery of a prowler outside, but the man gets away.

Over the next few days, similar disturbing incidents occur. Flash and Dale are nearly run down by a speeding car while out walking one afternoon on the grounds of Zarkov’s estate. Later, a crate is dropped off the roof of a downtown building when Flash is walking beneath and just misses him. Shortly thereafter, Zarkov receives a telephone call from B. B. Remsen, the billionaire industrialist requesting an interview with Flash.

Upon visiting Remsen’s estate, Flash is outraged to discover Remsen hired his goon, Byron, to test Flash’s reflexes by nearly running him down with a speeding car and dropping a crate off a building. Byron was the prowler at Zarkov’s estate who learned of the need for financing for the Super-S Rocket. Remsen agrees to finance the rocket if Flash will take on a unique assignment. Remsen’s very wild granddaughter, Starling, wants to travel in space and Remsen wants Flash to pilot the rocket that will take her to the stars.

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Hurry Up With That Doctor Strange Movie, Marvel

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mesmeretics Doctor Strange poster-smallMarvel Studios has certainly been dragging its feet with the long-delayed Doctor Strange feature film. It still doesn’t have a release date. (Or a star. Or a director.)

That hasn’t stopped enthusiastic fans from trying to nudge the project along with fake trailers and posters, like the fan-made effort from Mesmeretics at left. C’mom, Marvel. If fans can make something that looks that sharp, so can you.

I consider Doctor Strange to be the last major untapped Marvel property and I’m a little cranky that C-listers like Ant Man and Rocket Raccoon are making it to the silver screen before he is. It wouldn’t surprise me if Baron Mordo was behind it all, somehow.

Doctor Strange was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (the same team that created Spider-man) in 1963. He has flirted with live action versions before… there was a 1978 TV movie starring Peter Hooten, which I watched after school and thought perhaps was the coolest thing in the history of ever. In 2005 Paramount acquired the rights to Doctor Strange from Miramax and in 2008 reports surfaced that Guillermo del Toro was attached to direct and that he’d approached Neil Gaiman to do the script. Never happened.

More recently, in June 2010, Marvel Studios hired Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, the team behind the underrated Sahara and the 2011 reboot of Conan the Barbarian, to produce a script, and in January of last year Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that Doctor Strange would be part of “Phase Three” of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe. In November, he confirmed that a Doctor Strange feature is in development, but so far no additional details have emerged. And so we wait.

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Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood, Part 3

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

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The Japanese have accomplished miraculous economic growth and have an abundance of material things, but as a result there is pollution and high prices, and we’re far from leading happy lives. We are all just helpless cogs in the machine of the industrial world, especially when it comes to the material aspects of our lives. Will we find a way out of this predicament? History will allow us to determine this.
—Leiji Matsumoto

[Read Part 1 of Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood here, and Part II here.]

Thirty-some years later, still relevant words. I would love to hear Matsumoto’s thoughts on our current mechanization: our attachment to technology, our GMO foods, the surveillance culture that is growing daily. In the seventies, he was writing about fantastical apocalypses. Smack dab in the middle of our man-made apocalypse, the world needs space pirates more than ever.

For this series, I’ve been doing a bit of a Matsumoto re-watch. Nothing serious, just an episode here and there. I’ve been watching Galaxy Express 999. Make no mistake, this is Matsumoto’s Sistine Chapel. All of his themes are wrapped up in this fairy tale, but one is central: human potential over the dehumanization of industry, as represented by the Machine Empire. It is also the story he most wanted to tell, dreaming up fairy stories while the market demanded war tales.

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Rising Star Indie Publisher Mirror Comics on their Weird Western Mission Arizona

Saturday, March 8th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

a MISSION_GN_00_cover_02bMission Arizona, the graphic novel from indie publisher Mirror Comics, recently came out on ComiXology. I already had a paper copy and loved this take on the weird western (like the dark weird westerns Buried Eyes by Lavie Tidhar or A Feast for Dust by Gemma Files), but I knew less about making comics or the changes in the comic book industry with e-comics sites like ComiXology, so I decided to chat with Mirror. Dominic Bercier is the president and publisher (and artist of Mission Arizona), while Kristopher Waddell is the editor-in-chief and co-publisher (and the writer of Mission Arizona). Both live in Ottawa, Canada.

Mission Arizona is a dark weird western about an old west town that has an unpleasant crossing with the supernatural world. Its outlaw hero is destined, by fate and birth, to face this supernatural evil.

Derek: Where does Mission Arizona come from? It’s got a bit of a spaghetti western feel, overlaid with the destiny of facing off against a terrible evil, but begins with a travelling showman sequence. How did these different flavors make it into the mix?

Kris: My interest in writing in this genre came from my childhood experiences watching old Roy Rogers and Gene Autry westerns with my Dad. Horror has always interested me because I’m fascinated by the abject, and our culture’s obsession with fearing the other. It probably doesn’t help that I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws and Alien at a very young age.

In Mission, I really wanted to explore loss and redemption. Padre Martin Risk loses his wife and child, Samuel Risk loses his home and his family, while the town of Mission loses its soul. I wanted to write about the struggle and the consequences of dealing with loss, and the protagonist’s fight for redemption.

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Another Crowdfunding Fail: John Campbell Self-Destructs on Kickstarter

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Pictures for Sad ChildrenWe’ve reported here on a handful of Kickstarter failures, including Erik Chevalier, whose Doom That Came To Atlantic City campaign raised an astounding $122,874 on a $35,000 goal, and who managed to spend virtually all the money without producing a single copy of the game. But I don’t think I’ve ever read an example as egregious as John Campbell’s Sad Pictures for Children.

Campbell is the author of the web comic Pictures for Sad Children. He self-published his first book, collecting the first 200 comics, in 2011 and launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 to fund a second volume. He set a goal of $8,000 and raised over $51,000.

Unlike Chevalier, Campbell managed to print the books and began distributing them to backers, but he quickly became disillusioned with the level of effort and cost involved. As complaints from his backers mounted, an apparently furious Campbell posted a video showing him burning 127 copies of the book, one for every e-mail he received requesting an update.

In a rambling and nonsensical Update 32, Campbell vents his wrath at his backers, saying no more books will be mailed, that he’ll burn one copy of the book for every attempt to contact him, and asking for more money — this time with no promises attached.

I shipped about 75% of kickstarter rewards to backers. I will not be shipping any more. I will not be issuing any refunds. For every message I receive about this book through e-mail, social media or any other means, I will burn another book… If you would like a refund, please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man…

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The Clothes Make the Mage: Alan Moore’s Fashion Beast

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fashion BeastIt seems like one of those creative pairings that could only happen in comics. Odd, then, that it was originally planned to be a film.

In the mid-1980s, fashion and music impresario Malcolm McLaren called acclaimed comics writer Alan Moore. It seemed McLaren had some ideas for a film he wanted to make. The two men met and Moore was fascinated by one of McLaren’s notions: a movie that would be a modern retelling of the fairy-tale of “Beauty and the Beast,” to be set in the fashion industry — or a strange fantastical version thereof. You can see the connection: a fable about the conflict between exterior appearances and internal natures, set in a milieu that was all about appearances. Moore wrote a script titled Fashion Beast, apparently as heavily detailed as any of his comics work; in an interview with The Comics Journal a few years later, he mentioned that McLaren had observed that he’d left very little for a director to do with the film. In any event, the production never happened and the project was abandoned.

Until 2012, when Avatar press resurrected the script. With Moore’s blessing, Antony Johnston signed on to adapt the film script to comics. With art by Facundo Percio (and colours by Hernan Cabrera and lettering by Jaymes Reed), the movie script became a ten-issue limited series, now collected in a trade paperback. It’s an odd project, but the final result’s quite strong. It may not be of the same calibre as Watchmen, but it’s a very good story that seems to me to compare well with much of Moore’s other work of the period — in the range of his Swamp Thing run, say, perhaps even of V For Vendetta.

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Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood, Part 2

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

Queen Millennia DVD-small

Floating down from the sky, lovely angel queen it’s you,
Shaken from the long sleep, lovely angel queen it’s you,
Touching others like a child, loving others for a while
Come and take my hand, my heart,
In time we will be together

[Read Part 1 of Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood here.]

SPOILERS!

Recently, I watched the 1982 film adaptation of Queen Millennia. It was alright, not on the level of Galaxy Express 999 or Arcadia of my Youth. For those of you who don’t know, it is about a race of aliens on the planet La Metal, who, every thousand years, send a queen to secretly rule the Earth. In the far future year of 1999, the aliens are finally going to take our planet, but the current queen, Yayoi, has gone native. Conflict ensues. The movie’s plot is rushed and there are way too many scenes of apocalyptic destruction, to the point it gets boring. On the other hand, it has great sci fi visuals, and the scene where the boy Hajime climbs a skyscraper to rescue Yayoi during an asteroid bombardment is one of the most harrowing things I’ve seen in an anime. The film also has a wonderful soundtrack by Kitaro. There aren’t many things I miss about the 1980s. I distinctly remember being a little kid and wondering why everything was so awful. But I miss the days when bands used to do soundtracks. Tangerine Dream would routinely knock out sixty-minute synth-rock jam sessions that were better than the movies they scored (I’m looking at you, Legend). Toto brought their own brand of spice to Dune. And who can forget Flash Gordon and Highlander, fueled by the power of QUEEN.

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Blogging Arak 14: Arak Has a Fling with Fate (Literally)

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Arak_Vol_1_14Satyricus is offstage sleeping for most of this issue, so we don’t get any comic-relief banter between that randy old goat and Arak. That’s as it should be, though, because this episode delivers a private and transformative event in Arak’s life. This is the issue where Arak comes into his own as a character. (Also, he scores — with one of the Fates, no less! ––which would have been awkward with a satyr on hand.)

Up until now, Arak has been a confused man lacking in self-identity. His tribe was wiped out when he was a boy. He was raised into adulthood by Vikings. Now he wanders in a land where everyone calls him a heathen “red devil.” As he interacts with more “civilized” people, he often displays a stronger innate core of morality and honor than those around him — ironically, and despite his Viking past. He is intelligent, resourceful, but quick to anger when he has been wronged or when he sees someone else wronged (the latter point making him more of a traditional hero than many of his anti-hero barbarian counterparts in fiction).

He is a man who is searching, on an existential quest about the very nature of the universe and his place in it. You see, he assumes his people’s god He-No died with his people, but he was always told he was the son of He-No — the son of Thunder. He has learned in his journeys that there are other thunder gods: Thor, Zeus, Jupiter, and the Christian deity who is said to be the god and maker of everything. Are all these thunder gods but names for one god, he wonders — and, if so, is he somehow a son to all of them? This haunting question has been further compounded by earlier events: his defeat of the sea serpent (back in issue 1) by stabbing it with a heavy metal cross that was subsequently struck by lightning. (Was it the god of the cross or his own father of the thunder who intervened?) Finding his own face carved next to that of Hercules, a Greek hero of old, atop Mount Olympus, only to witness the stone faces cleaved in two by a bolt of lightning. And now, he has discovered a tapestry portraying his life up until now, hung deep in the caves that honeycomb Mount Athos.

Answers to some of these questions will be given in the pages of this issue…

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Goth Chick News: Comics Collector as Movie Hero; Or A Valentine From My Favorite Indy Film Crew

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

As you well know, we here at Goth Chick News are mad supporters of the independent film industry.  This is mainly because we’re obsessed with anyone who has the courage and determination to pursue their passion and are willing to let us watch.

That and I’m a sucker for brooding artistic boys…

And no one epitomizes these traits better than my friends at Pirate Pictures, who gave us a peek into the world of real movie magic by allowing us to ride along with their production of Shadowland.  Now, Shadowland star Jason Contini and director Wyatt Weed have teamed up on a new project that isn’t exactly a typical GCN subject matter, but does involve a topic that is near and dear to most Black Gate fans… comics.

Four Color Eulogy is a drama/comedy revolving around the world of comic books and self-publishing. But rather that tell you any more, take a gander at this clip that not only explains the movie, but some of the process of getting a concept from script to big screen.

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