Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Fistful of Comic Books Cancelled (or Announced) Too Soon



Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

Recent years have been a boon to comic book readers.  Classic series that were out of their price range, in back issues, are now available in affordable collections or digitally, while ones that incurred publication delays—or were thought to have been abandoned—due to publishers going bankrupt (in the case of Moore & Gebbie’s Lost Girls) or the rights of publication expiring (which seems to have been a contributor to Mumy & Dutkiewicz’s Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul being unfinished for many years) have risen again, like the Phoenix ß check out that sweet cliché.  This has afforded me, and others, the opportunities to read the conclusions to stories we may have thought forever lost to us.  This, as much as anything, is why many fans see this as a golden age for comic books.  

Despite that, there are still a number of series that were cancelled well before they should have been—in my opinion—and there is little that would lead me to believe they will ever see the light of day, at this point, for a variety of reasons.  Here are five comic series that ended far too soon, if they even ever got onto the comic racks. 

5. Everest: Facing the Goddess, written by Greg Rucka, art by Scott Morse (Oni Press)


Greg Rucka has written some of my all-time favorite comics and novels.  Scott Morse is an artist and writer who is on my personal Mt. Rushmore of comic creators.  To have these two working on an adventure series set on Mt. Everest—that just sounds awesome.  Set to be published in late 2004 by Oni Press, all we ever got was the FCBD preview that year.  It was as good as you would hope.  Too bad we never saw anything else.  *sigh*

4. Semper Fi, written by Michael Palladino, art by John Severin, Sam Glanzman, et al. (Marvel Comics)


Following the surprise popularity of their hit series, The ‘Nam, Marvel launched a second military comic book.  Semper Fi followed various generations of a single family, all of which had members who served in the United States Marine Corps.  The stories were engaging and fit nicely next to Marvel’s ‘Nam, but the real draw of this book was the art by John Severin.  This was my introduction to Severin, who was a seasoned veteran when he got this assignment, and he killed it—sometimes penciling and inking, sometimes providing inks over Andy Kubert’s work.  Severin was a revelation to my young eyes.  His figure work and the detail within the backgrounds was astounding and beautiful, some of the best work coming out of Marvel at that time.  It’s curious this series didn’t last past issue #9, but sales were so poor there was nothing to be done about it.  But at least I still have those issues to re-read, whenever I want.

3. BWS Storyteller, by Barry Windsor-Smith, with help from Alex Bialy-additional inks and Joon Kostar-lettering (Dark Horse Comics; Fantagraphics Books)


One of the most beautiful, and most fun and engaging comics I ever read.  Barry Windsor-Smith created a one-man anthology, with three stories all created by Windsor-Smith—The Young Gods, a Fourth World homage, The Freebooters, a Conan homage, and The Paradoxman, his science fiction epic.  The art was lush, gorgeous, and the stories captivated my imagination like very few comics have.  You could tell BWS was having fun, and it translated directly onto the page.  Sadly, the oversized dimensions of the book, which added much to its, and a lack of marketing and advertising on the part of Dark Horse (according to Windsor-Smith) led to its quick demise.  BWS did return to the stories for two Fantagraphics collections that included extra essays and comic pages (Paradoxman never did get this treatment, for reasons unknown) from Windsor-Smith, but, though these were beautiful and illuminating, they were merely a tease of what was to come.  An unfinished masterpiece. 

2. Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, comic adaptations of Harlan Ellison’s short stories by a collection of writers and artists (Dark Horse Comics & Edgeworks Abbey)


Harlan Ellison is my favorite author.  Period.  And when he was afforded the chance to marry two of his loves—comic books and short stories—it was amazing.  With the likes of Paul Chadwick, Jan Strnad, David Lapham, Steve Rude, Peter David, Diana Schutz, Teddy Krisiansen, and myriad others working from Ellison’s own words, this was my favorite comic, at the time.  And every issue included a new short story by Ellison, based on the cover image for that issue.  It was great!  But, notorious for being demanding, something happened between Dark Horse and Ellison that led to the early cancellation of the series, after attempting two different formats.  A second collection, years later, published many of the then-completed stories that had not made it into print, but the promise of however many more could have been published is still a great loss for Ellison fans, and comic fans, in general. 

1. Big Numbers, written by Alan Moore, art by Bill Sienkiewicz (Mad Love Publishing)


Set to be Moore’s magnum opus, after he was coming off the star-making publications of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Killing Joke, collaborating with one of the most experimental and dynamic artists in comics, Bill Sienkiewicz, this was going to be amazing.  A comic that revolved around real life, around the building of a large shopping mall by an American corporation, in a small English town, it was to be a twelve-issue examination of number theory, the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher, and the consequences such socioeconomic upheaval has on real people.  Only two issues were ever published, with a third available online, if you know where to look.  After Ellison, Moore is my favorite author, and the fact that this will remain unfinished is just sad. 


Honorable Mentions: 

--- Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul, written by Bill Mumy, art by Michael Dutkiewicz. (Innovation Publishing)
A serious take on the classic sci-fi series.  This book delved deeply into the characters and created an engaging and thoughtful look at these characters and the turmoil they endured in space.  It was completed a number of years back, by a small publisher, but was so under-ordered, I missed out on getting a copy, and now they go for hundreds of dollars online—too rich for my blood.

--- Borrowed Time, written by Neal Shaffer, art by Joe Infurnari (Oni Press)
A wonderfully eerie alternate-dimension tale revolving around the Bermuda Triangle.  The art is lovely and the story had me hooked from the outset.  Sadly, only two volumes were ever published. 

--- Vox, written by Angela Harris, art by Aaron McClellan (Apple Comics)
A science fiction tale, slated to run seven issues, the first six were only ever published, leaving me waiting for over a quarter century for that final, climactic issue.  I guess I won’t be finding out how it ends, now.


Friday, January 29, 2016

ON WRITING: What is a novel?



I’ve been writing seriously for a few years now—was writing in a semi-serious fashion (or, at least, in a manner I felt to be serious)—for a number of years prior to that.  My focus, for most of that time, has been on short stories, prose and comic, in order to learn how to write.  Looking back over these past handful of years, I can definitely see an improvement in, coupled with a new way of looking at, my writing.  I’ve met with some success with these short stories.  Now, I want to level up.  That, to me, means writing a novel.

While I’ve been focused on short stories, I have also been working toward writing novels.  They’re a totally different beast and require a new approach and a new set of tools.  Over the years, I’ve started five novels.  Three of these died around the 100-page mark of the manuscript, for multiple reasons.  At the end of March, 2014, I finally finished an initial draft of a YA novel, roughly 82,000 words.  In retrospect, I realize the premise relies a bit too heavily on the visual aspect of the characters and would work better in a format more attuned to that, i.e. television or film, so it remains unrevised on the hard drive, but a testament to the fact that I can do this.  This allowed me to start a second novel, an expansion of a short story I wrote a few years back, “The Call of the Sea.”  I really enjoyed expanding that, adding new characters and plot twists, and fleshing out the idea I had, initially.  Almost a year after completing “Masques,” (the YA novel mentioned earlier), I finished the first draft of Call of the Sea.  The manuscript came in at around 115,000 words, and I look forward to revising it and sending it off to publishers sometime in the near future. 

But first, I find myself debating about what a novel should be and whether I can find my voice before I hack Call of the Sea into kindling, to put it back together in an engaging narrative.

Each narrative form has certain strengths and weaknesses.  Short stories can delineate a specific idea with a hard punch to the gut that is a singular collaboration between reader and author, while films can expand on those ideas utilizing all of our senses to elicit an emotional response in the audience, and novels are able to delve deeply into ideas and characters, revealing truths and horrors, among other things, that we may never have considered before, or never considered in just that way.  (these are obviously reductive and simplistic characterizations meant only to demonstrate that there are differences between narrative media/formats) 


Novels, by dint of their length and the readership’s ability to translate the words on the page into images in their minds, are able to dig more deeply into characters than other narrative forms (though television is now moving toward that, with much of its more acclaimed fare, in recent years).  The strength of novels, for most people, is this excavation of the interiority of character.  It is what makes a novel a novel, in the minds of many readers and authors.  I have seen myriad arguments against novels that do not explore this aspect deeply enough, questioning why something so plot heavy is not, instead, created as a film or television show (two media looked down upon by snobbish readers).  And this is an area where I feel I struggle, with my writing. 

This raises a question:  is this the only way to write a novel?  The idea that one must adhere to this unwritten rule feels wrong to me.  Could that be a result of my feeling inadequate in properly fleshing out my characters, in this way?  That is certainly legitimate argument.  But it doesn’t end the discussion. 

I started seriously thinking about this interiority of character—a phrase I’d read, and heard mentioned, many times before—this past winter, as I read Rick Moody’s wonderful novel, The Ice Storm.  He manages to reveal this interiority of character through his evocative prose, and it was really a joy to read and experience.  It also, for the first time, really got me thinking about how I should approach the revising of Call of the Sea, as well as the writing of the next novel. 

Then I read William Gibson’s The Peripheral.  This is the first Gibson novel I’ve read, and it was great.  Something I noticed, though, was how short and quick his chapters were—only a few pages each, some of which were less than a page—and how dominated by dialogue they are.  It was an entirely different approach to the novel that not only did not flatten his characters, but also did not lessen my enjoyment of the narrative.  (yes, I know I have read many of these two—and it’s not a binary matter, except for my own argument—but I’ve never really thought deeply about it before) 


Reading these two novel so closely together, raises the question of what—to my mind—a novel is, or even has to be.  Must I dig deeply into the interiority of my characters through colorful, and insightful, metaphors and anecdotes?  Or, can I seek out my writing voice, in novels, without burdening myself with these unwritten rules? 

It’s funny.  I wrote this as an exercise, a way to get my thoughts (unformed, at best) out, in order to reach a definite conclusion about how to attack the next novel, and the revision of Call of the Sea.  When I started, I had an idea where I would land—leaning toward the William Gibson model briefly stated above.  Now, roughly an hour later, I find myself tipping back, ever so slightly, toward the former.  Both approaches, along with myriad others I haven’t fully considered here, are valid.  Obviously. 

The problem for me, as I see it, is that if I go with the easier path, I am allowing myself to become stagnant, even as I want to be moving forward.  I understand I have so much more to learn about writing—lots of known unknowns, or known unknowns, or is that unknown unknowns?—and I know that if I do not keep working to elevate my game, it will all be an exercise in futility.  So, where do I go from here? 

I’ve got a science fiction idea I want to pursue.  I think that’s the next big project.  Write the first draft of that novel, paying attention to how I’m writing, as I go along.  Focus on the interiority of my characters, to the best of my ability (knowing that a first draft is a s&*t draft and can be fixed in subsequent revisions), and complete that.  Then, with the experience—and, hopefully, the insights gleaned from that—go back to novel #2, Call of the Sea, and apply what I learn to the revision of that novel.  From there, who knows? 

Thanks for letting me ramble. 

-chris

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WHAT IT IS: (writing) Year In Review


  
With apologies to Dave the Thune (as well as Mike Baron & Steve Rude)

I planned on writing a three-part series of posts for this retrospective, actually got 2,000 words into it, at which point I realized it felt bloated and pretentious.  So, I did what I do with my stories, I took a hard look at what was written and decided to cut the chaff and get right to the damn point.  Here we go

I:  the raw numbers
Three years ago I began keeping track of my daily writing (1000 words a day was the goal).  It helped to have a quick, visual reminder of whether I was slacking or keeping pace.  I totaled 235,910 words that year (including first drafts, first revisions, and written critiques of other writers’ work).  Last year:  316,675 total words.  I planned to build on this, and the first four months of the year were great, as I averaged 30,000 words a month with only five days of no writing progress. 

Then, I hit the wall. 


But I continued writing, reaching 238,370 total words for the year.  Not what I aspired to, but still on pace with my first year of tracking.  Most of my “lost” writing days are clusters of one or two days, with a handful of three-day stretches, and only one four-day fallow period.  More importantly, or equally as important, I did send off more submissions this year—61 versus 53 in 2014.  Last year I had 53.  This year I sent off 61 submissions, and despite hitting that wall in May, still sent off submissions every month of the year.  With a handful of new stories to throw into the “submission rotation” in 2016, I should be able to build on this going forward. 

II:  the stories
This year I had one story published, “Ouroboros,” a science fiction tale part Neil Gaiman’s “Babycakes” and part Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  Available in the anthology, Broken Worlds, from A Murder of Storytellers, you can purchase it here or get the chapbook, which also includes a short comic story written by me, at the Warrior27 store


I was also recognized for one of my stories this year.  My short crime story, “Silence,” which was published in last year’s issue of Needle Magazine was recognized as one of the 50 best North American crime stories for 2014 in The Best American Mystery Stories 2015.  That was huge for me, and has given me more confidence in my writing.  Maybe I am doing something right. 

III:  what I’ve learned
It’s been amazing to realize how much I did not know when I began writing seriously five years ago.  But elaborating on the lessons is a bit of a challenge, since each is so distinct to the story at hand, at that time.  But I am conscious of thinking about story differently than I used to.  My initial stories were like maps, moving from point A to point B to point C until I reached the end.  Now, I find myself not only thinking more about how to incorporate theme and metaphor into my narratives, but I am also unafraid of moving scenes around to evoke some feeling or reaction in the reader.  These are things I never considered just a few years back, or even last year.  Certainly, some of these insights have come from reading interviews with writers I appreciate, but, for the most part, they have come from sitting down and doing the writing.  It may be cliché to invoke the traditional author’s advice of “the only way to become a writer is to write,” but it is one hundred percent true.


IV:  looking ahead
The latter part of this year has been used to revise a lot of first drafts I’ve had sitting on my hard drive.  Come January, I plan on giving them all a strong polish and throwing them into the submission rotation, in order to try and capitalize on my “Best Mystery Stories” honorable mention.  I’ve also found myself working on my third novel (the first doesn’t work and needs to be adapted to a more visual medium, while the second will be revised later in 2016 for submission to publishers soon after), an idea that sprang from my subconscious and demanded to be written.  I’m not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying the process thus far. 

I will also continue to track my writing in 2016, but I’m eschewing the word-total for merely noting whether I wrote or not.  I know I can hit my daily goal, but I’m dubious if that is the best way for me to proceed, at this point.  This is born of two things.  First, I found that many of my scenes would come in at 1,000 words, or multiples thereof, when I used that as a daily word goal.  Second, Joe Hill shared that he does not work toward a daily word goal, but instead works to complete a scene each day—if that scene is forty words long, then he is done after those forty words are typed, but if it is 5,000 words long, he is not done until those 5K are down.  Considering I still work full-time and have a family I enjoy spending time with, this seems the best way to go for me.  We’ll see how it works out. 


2015 has been a good year.  Writing continues apace, to the point where it is not just a habit but something I truly look forward to.  If I keep at this, maybe I’ll make something of it.  If not, I’ve also reached the point where I am fine with that too.  I have to write, there’s no way around that.  So, I’ll keep at it and see where it takes me. 

Here’s to 2016!


-chris

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A FISTFUL OF FAVORITE CHRISTMAS STORIES



Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I love the decorations, the packages, the treats, the general good cheer, but most of all I love the fantasy that surrounds the whole endeavor.  I love the idea of Santa Claus, of one person traversing the Earth in order to bring joy to little girls and boys.  It’s magical, and that hits me right where it counts.  And a big part of the joy comes from all the stories that have been crafted around this time of year—whether those are television specials, films, books, or theatrical dramas.  Here are five of my favorites:

5. The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien



Tolkien was the first author I actively collected, and I collected everything.  I have three different editions of these letters to his children, written by Tolkien with accompanying drawings, which recount adventures in the North Pole with Santa, his elves, and the North Polar Bear, among other characters.  They’re lively and fanciful and a whole lot of fun to read.  They made such an impression on me that I’ve taken it upon myself to do something similar, writing letters to my own boys, from Santa, for quite a long time now.  It’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time.

4. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Michael Ploog


This is one of my favorite comics, all time.  A tale recounting the early life of Santa, how he came to be the “man in the red suit,” and the adventures and challenges he faced in becoming the immortal and benevolent saint that he is.  Based on L. Frank Baum’s novel—yes, the man behind The Wizard of Oz—with breathtaking art from Mike Ploog, who had been working in film for a number of years before returning to comics with this and a few other projects, at the time, it is a masterful lesson in adaptation and the craft of comics.  For the art alone, this book is worth it, but the narrative holds its own, as well, and provides an exciting tale for sharing during this holiday season.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (the original, black-and-white version, please)


My favorite Christmas movie, by far.  The story of the real Santa Claus, living among us without our knowledge, who returns the holiday to its joyous and charitable roots through taking a position as the Santa Claus at Macy’s Department Store.  Put on trial, through the machinations of a relentlessly horrific “psychologist” at Macy's, a lawyer Kris Kringle has befriended must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this man is, indeed, the one, true Santa Claus. And he does that, while Kringle’s generous nature also helps to instill in the young woman who hired him, as well as her daughter, a faith in humanity and life they had both set aside.  It's smart and funny and fantastic.  I Love it!

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


There’s a reason (or many reasons) why this is considered a classic.  Dickens crafts a wonderfully imaginative and magical narrative that deftly gets across the aspirational core of the holiday season without shoving it down readers’ throats.  If you’ve only ever seen the television or film adaptations, do yourself a favor and read the original.  The writing is beautiful, and any questions of internal logic you might have from those adaptations, as I did, will be answered through this definitive text. 

1. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street


Nothing even comes close to this Christmas special, for me.  I love every single thing about this special—Oscar teasing Big Bird with questions of how Santa gets presents to everyone, the kids surprising Bob with their use of sign language when singing the holiday song he taught them, the tomfoolery (yeah, I used “tomfoolery”) at the ice skate rink to open the show, and the final revelation of the magic of Santa, as Big Bird awakes, icicle dangling from his beak, to find himself alone on the roof of the apartment building—and I never miss a chance to watch it every year.  On Christmas Eve, natch.


Happy Holidays! 


-chris

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A FISTFUL OF STAR WARS MOMENTS




Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

I was five when Star Wars was released.  Saw it in the theater, and I was hooked.  I had the toys, the books, the comics, posters, the soundtracks, the collector glasses, the pajamas, the bedsheets, coloring books, the official fan club magazines (plus membership card), the movies (and behind-the-scenes specials) on Laser Disc then on VHS then on special edition, letterboxed VHS, and finally DVD.  Star Wars is the alpha and omega of my collecting.  As I stated in this Thanksgiving reminiscence:  It was always about Star Wars.  So, spurred by the arrival of “The Force Awakens” and the IMTODcast’s impending episode featuring their own Fistful of Star Wars moments, here are my top 5 moments from this seminal film series. 


5. 
“It’s a trap!” 

 

It took ILM, Lucafilm’s special effects division, three movies to ramp up to a fully-pitched space battle, and it was so worth it.  Hundreds of ships, all different shapes and sizes, racing in myriad directions, firing, swerving, arcing out of (or into) harm’s way.  The complexity of this shot is astounding, and it not only works but manages to suck you in, emotionally, as the Rebels discover it’s a trap and have to decide whether to break it off, or just go for it, because when will they get another chance like this?

4.
“I, am your father.” 



  
Sure, we had Obi-Wan battle Vader, with their lightsabers, on the Death Star in the first movie, but this one took it up a notch.  Luke, inexperienced and brash, takes on the Dark Lord of the Sith in the bowels of Cloud City.  The setting, the disadvantage we realize Luke has (overcome by his youthful energy and naivete), and the stakes involved all coalesce to craft a poignant lightsaber battle that is engaging and electrifying.  Then, after relieving young Skywalker of one of his hands, Vader drops the bomb:  “I am your father.”  Star Wars went next-level with that declaration. 

3.
“ . . . “


This scene perfectly encapsulates Luke’s despondency at being stranded on Tattooine.  From the beautiful scene of the two suns setting to the musical cue from John Williams, it is a scene I look forward to and one that never fails to give me chills. 

2.
“Never tell me the odds.” 


Star Wars has a collection of great space ships, but the Millennium Falcon is, by far, the best.  And the asteroid belt perfectly exhibits why.  From Han Solo’s brash decision to dive into the asteroids to the way the Falcon deftly twists and turns around all the flying rocks in an almost balletic manner, this is the scene that cemented the Falcon and its two-man (two-being?) crew as the coolest ship in that galaxy far, far away.

1.
“There’ll be no escape for the princess this time.”



This is it.  The opening shot of Star Wars.  The blockade runner coming across the movie screen in close-up, a space ship that feels big, and then . . .
That Star Destroyer in hot pursuit.  It went on forever, then we came to the docking area and you thought it was the rear of the ship…and it wasn’t, and it kept going on, pushing the Tantive IV ahead of it until that first ship was just a speck on the edge of the screen…and the damn Star Destroyer continued to roll across your vision, until finally, it’s propulsion system revealed itself.  That was the point where I was all-in.  It was spectacle like I hadn’t seen up to that point in my life (I was only five).  It’s the scene that made the biggest impression on me the first dozen or so times (dozens?) I watched Star Wars.  And it’s stayed with me ever since. 

-chris


Friday, December 11, 2015

ANTICIPATING NEW STAR WARS: Starlog Anniversary Issue



Born in 1972, I was five when Star Wars [no, not “A New Hope”] hit theaters, where I saw it like most everyone else on the planet, at that time.  Stating I was blown away is a bit of an understatement.  From the “Holiday Special” to the action figures to the trading cards and the storybook adaptations, I was all in.  That trilogy – the only Star Wars trilogy, to my mind – was the be-all and end-all for many, many years.   


It’s now December, 2015, and we are barely weeks away from the new Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens.”  All signs point to this will be good, and with all the excitement surrounding this new chapter, my mind has trailed back to some of my fondest Star Wars memories.  Here’s one . . .


In 1987, Star Wars was celebrating its 10th anniversary and Starlog magazine its 11th.  Which meant it was a perfect time for an over-sized issue of that seminal science fiction magazine—a 100-page Science Fiction Spectacular!


This magazine was one of the things that kept my fanaticism of Star Wars going strong during the quote-unquote Dark Years (from roughly 1985, the last year new action figures were produced, to the middle of 1991, when Star Wars returned in the form of the first of many new novels, followed closely in December of that year with new comics from Dark Horse).  The issue was full of reminiscences on the Star Wars universe, with thoughts on the films from myriad contributors, short comics from a number of creators, and pieces on all things Star Wars.  Some of the highlights:

·         A look at the original treatments for Star Wars and how things evolved by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier.

·         Roy Thomas’s reminiscences of taking on the scripting of the Star Wars comic, before the film was released, and then expanding on what George Lucas had created.

·         A wide-ranging examination of Marvel’s Star Wars comic series, touching on the entirety of the 114 issues published (107 regular issues, 3 annuals, and the 4-issue Jedi adaptation)



·         But the best, the absolute best piece in the whole thing, was a short article toward the back, wherein Michael Wolff makes note of the many unanswered questions from the films and extrapolates some possible theories that he, and all fans, hoped would be answered in future installments [we all know how that worked out, right?], including:
o   Luke’s comment that there was “something familiar” about Dagobah.  Did he spend a few of his early years on the swamp planet?
o   Leia claiming to remember her mother.  Did she keep Leia with her for a time, before giving her up the Bail Organa?
o   What were the Clone Wars?
o   What was C-3PO hiding in Star Wars claiming ignorance of Princess Leia when we first see her holographic message projected by R2-D2, despite stating in the opening scene, “there’ll be no escape for the Princess this time,” when the Tantive IV is under attack?




There’s a ton of great stuff in this issue for all Star Wars fans, and the memory of discovering it on the magazine racks at Mr. Paperback, buying it, and racing home to read it is one of many that I cherish from my childhood. 


And if you want to check this issue out, it’s completely free here.  

-chris


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ANTICIPATING NEW STAR WARS: The Sears Wish Book!




Born in 1972, I was five when Star Wars [no, not “A New Hope”] hit theaters, where I saw it like most everyone else on the planet, at that time.  Stating I was blown away is a bit of an understatement.  From the “Holiday Special” to the action figures to the trading cards and the storybook adaptations, I was all in.  That trilogy – the only Star Wars trilogy, to my mind – was the be-all and end-all for many, many years.   

It’s now December, 2015, and we are barely weeks away from the new Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens.”  All signs point to this will be good, and with all the excitement surrounding this new chapter, my mind has trailed back to some of my fondest Star Wars memories.  Here’s one . . .


As a kid, when September rolled around, anticipation for the Sears Wish Book (as well as those from JCPenney & other large department stores) was a big thing.  These giant catalogs were full of products to order, and there was a great section of toys toward the end of the book.  For those prime years of my childhood, the main draw in that toy section were the Star Wars toys.  So many cool ships and figures and accessories that I coveted, as a kid, circling all these things I wanted with red pen. 

Ah, memories. 














Friday, December 4, 2015

ANTICIPATING NEW STAR WARS: A Fistful of action figures

(or, um…tiny dolls, with cool articulation)



Born in 1972, I was five when Star Wars [no, not “A New Hope”] hit theaters, where I saw it like most everyone else on the planet, at that time.  Stating I was blown away is a bit of an understatement.  From the “Holiday Special” to the action figures to the trading cards and the storybook adaptations, I was all in.  That trilogy – the only Star Wars trilogy, to my mind – was the be-all and end-all for many, many years.   

It’s now December, 2015, and we are barely weeks away from the new Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens.”  All signs point to this will be good, and with all the excitement surrounding this new chapter, my mind has trailed back to some of my fondest Star Wars memories.  Here’s one . . .



The most direct way for me, as a kid, to feed my Star Wars fandom (fanaticism?) was through the action figures.  These 3 ¾” figures were probably my first collection (comics, trading cards, patches, books—these all came later).  I loved playing out scenes from the movies, or brand new ones, with my favorite characters.  Or, my friends and I would play hide-and-seek with them—one of us taking a few dozen figures to hide around the house for the others to find.  (Usually we found them all, but one of Donnie Eagan’s did end up melted to a lightbulb when we forgot where that last figure was and the lamp was turned on, leading to a terrible burning smell that alerted us to its whereabouts.) 

And . . . there were the card backs that showcased all of the available figures, taunting me with images of the ones I had yet to procure.  That, above all else, helped push me to be a crazy collector of these little plastic dolls—uh, action figures.  So, without further ado, my Fistful of Favorite (classic) Star Wars action figures, in no particular order, other than #1:


5.  Darth Vader:  


Come on.  This guy was the baddest of the bad.  He took out Obi-Wan, choked Imperial officers from across the room, wielded a red lightsaber, and wore all black.  That first scene, as Vader marches through the smoke onto the Tantive IV surrounded by his Stormtroopers, their white uniforms (and the white walls of the ship) contrasting strongly with his black armor and cape, is epic.  Vader’s look—including the mask, the breathing, and the high boots—was, and still is, incredibly cool.  How could you not love Darth Vader?  Having his figure was a must. 

4.  R2-D2:

This little astromech droid can be annoying for some, but I love R2 (and 3PO), especially in the beginning of Star Wars.  R2 demonstrated a resourcefulness that is admirable, especially in a droid, and there’s something incredibly special in their escape from the blockade runner and the travails that follow on the desert planet of Tattooine.  For this, as well as his cool design and obvious smart-ass remarks to 3PO, R2 was always a favorite of mine. 

3.  Hoth Han Solo:

This was the coolest Han Solo figure, to my mind.  The color of his jacket (a favorite of mine, midnight blue), the design and detail of his boots, and the hood (which covered his hair, a problematic design element for these sculpted figures) all add up to a cool looking figure.  Probably didn’t help that the head on the original Han Solo was never properly proportioned with the lean body they gave that figure.  Whenever I had to pick a Han Solo figure, this would often be the one in my hand. 

2.  Walrus Man (or, Ponda Baba): 


The cantina scene from Star Wars is one of the best scenes in a film, ever—or, at least the best in any fantastic film.  The myriad creatures, the dark ambience of the place, the sense of danger epitomized by Han Solo’s altercation with Greedo, all enrich this scene and make it memorable.  Every creature from the Mos Eisley cantina was a favorite of mine, but I landed on Walrus Man because he is so crazy looking, as a figure—the color choices, the walrus like visage and flippers for hands, the simplistic design for his suit all add up to a figure that is distinct and engaging. 

1.  Chewbacca

Chewbacca is easily my favorite action figure.  I believe it was the summer after I turned 6, 1978, and I came down with the measles.  It was sunny out (deep, blue sky; puffy, white clouds; I remember that distinctly), and the doctor said I needed to stay inside, away from people, for at least three days.  Ugh.
My Dad went out and bought me the Chewbacca figure.  This was the first Star Wars action figure I owned.  I grabbed a chair (it was my Death Star), and for the next three days I played with that Chewbacca figure.  It was awesome.  Through the ensuing years, I lost this figure twice, both times dropping him somewhere in my family’s backyard (an all-brown, 4-inch figure, lost among the brown earth and green grass isn’t easy to find).  The second time I replaced him with a new iteration, only to rediscover the original in the backyard again.  To this day, I still have this Chewie, and the memories forged with this old Wookiee are some of my most-cherished from when I was a kid. 

-chris