Friday, October 28, 2011

The Batman Files

One of the things I like about being a reviewer is that I am constantly surprised and delighted by the incredibly talented people who produce toys, models, trading cards, comic books, books and other popular collectible items.

Just when I thought I had read and seen everything that could possibly be written about Batman along comes author Matthew K. Manning's and Andrews McMeel Publishing's new oversize hardbound book, The Batman Files.

This gorgeous book, with its padded cover and rear, encases an impressive volume of work dedicated to the Dark Knight.

An angular die-cut wraparound flap with an de-bossed silver bat symbol encases the solid black book. A fitted dust jacket with a silver ink printed image of Batman completes the impressive package.

Inside Batman fans are inundated with information about Batman as written by Bruce Wayne himself. Pages are filled with how Bruce decided to become the Batman, his design for his costume, Batcave, Batmobile and Batplane and the many accessories and vehicles he utilizes in his fight against crime.

Personal observations and data about his friends, foes and associates both as Batman and Bruce Wayne fill the pages. Schematics, blueprints, sketches, drawings, document recreations and archival photos, art and media interpretations of Batman complete the package.

Police scene records an photos, Arkham Asylum profiles, Gotham City buildings and city grid, Batcomputer printouts and much more are contained in its a pages. Batman fans will clamor for this ultimate collection about Gotham City's Cowled Crusader.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trees And Dragons

This is a first for me. I’ve reviewed Safari Ltd.’s products extensively in the past. Without a doubt the quality of their products are first-rate. The sculpting, attention to detail, paint application and wide range of product types are second to none.

One of my favorite set of figures Safari Ltd. produces are their dragons. I’ve reviewed each and every one in the past - all are superb.

Here’s what makes this review so unusual. Recently Safari Ltd. provided some dragon models I have already reviewed. However, I believe they deserve a second look. I won’t go into details other than to say each and every one makes a fine addition to any dragon lover’s collection.

The Ice Dragon is a chilling white and light blue lizard with huge silver frosted wings and iridescent silver horns and body spikes. The Midnight Moon Dragon is a purple metallic sheen monstrosity with gold accents and four red eyes and powerful short tail. The triple-head, yellow, orange and red Fire Dragon comes with a translucent flame shooting out of one its mouths and the serpentine Krystal Blue Dragon looks as if it jumped out of an ancient Chinese illustration. Tinged in gold and with blue fins along it entire upper body, it’s a real beauty.

Also, if you like dragons you’re sure to love Safari Ltd.’s dinosaurs and if you ever need some landscaping to go along with your thunder lizards then be sure to pick up Safari Ltd.’s Prehistoric Landscapes trees.

Three of the beautifully crafted and detailed foliage are a Cycad, Agathis Cinifer and Tree Fern. You’ll like them-they tend to “grow” on you.

How To Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, And Zombies

The recent upsurge of interest in all things macabre such as zombies, vampires and other things supernatural has sparked an entire industry dedicated to things that go bump in the night. Movies, TV shows, comics books, books and other mass media outlets have cashed in on the craze and there appears to be no end in sight for its popularity waning.

Artists are also jumping on the band wagon (or should I say dead wagon?) with art that ranges from amateurish to highly-polished. Have you ever got the urge to draw some ghoulies and such? Then you’re in luck.

Author J. David Spurlock and Watson-Guptill Publications have teamed up to bring readers the ultimate in ‘how-to’ books on delineating dead devilish doers of the night. How To Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, And Zombies is much more than an instruction book on drawing.

To start things off Rob Zombie (yes, that Rob Zombie) provides a foreword for the book and laments how he wished such a book existed when he was a kid. Then there's the meat of the book.

This is not your typical “how-to” book. Instructions and demonstrations are not provided by just a single artist but by some of the biggest names in the comic book and illustration fields. Do the names Neal Adams, Kerry Gammill, Basil Gogos, David Hartman, Alex Horley, John Romita Sr. Jim Steranko. Gene Colan, Wally Wood and several other well-known artists strike a chord? I’m impressed!

Each type of ghoulie, ghostie and monster comes with a brief history. Several artists will contribute to each particular creepy creature with sketches, black and white and color drawings and comments.

The author provides his own observations, information and artist biographies. Combine all of the aforementioned text and art together and you have not only a very informative book on illustration but a real feast for the eyes.

Personally I enjoy looking at each illustration and how each is created from sketch to completed project. As an artist and designer myself I appreciate the hard work and imagination that goes into each piece as well as the tremendous amount of work it took to put this great book together. Kudos!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Essential Daffy Duck

To quote Daffy Duck, “This is the greatest collection of cartoons starring the world’s most famous duck.”

Warner Bros. presents, for the first time anywhere, The Essential Daffy Duck collection featuring 21 classic cartoons (three of which are new to DVD). Follow Daffy as he faces off against Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and a host of characters who he somehow always manages to irritate.

Daffy stars as Duck Dodgers of the 24th and ½ Century, Robin Hood, Superduck and a host of other outrageous disguises that land him in more trouble than a Peking duck dinner in China Town.

He’s crazy, lazy, nuts, cuckoo, short-tempered, devious, egotistical but most of all he’s Daffy!

Two discs are included in the collection that contains all 21 cartoons along with a Career Profile of the funny fowl and two vintage TV programs. It’s crazy! It’s lunacy! It’s Daffy Duck! “Duck season! Rabbit season! Duck season! Rabbit season! I say it’s duck season! Blam! I hate that rabbit!”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Volume 61: Screen World; The Films Of 2009

The movie industry, its affiliates, actors, directors and professionals (along with a large part of the public and film critics) look forward each year to the release of the most current Screen World book.

Author Barry Monush and Applause Theatre & Cinema Books have just released Volume 61 of the series and it is jam-packed full of information and photos about of the movies released in 2009: both major and independent.

Each film is given a complete synopsis and listing of actors, supporting cast and key production personnel. Also included are biographical data, obituaries, top listings, best of, top grossing films and more are included in its pages. It’s a veritable cornucopia of film facts and photos.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! The Avengers Volume 3 & 4

It’s official, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! The Avengers animated series is ranked in the top 10 all-time favorite and best superhero animated TV series. And it’s easy to see why.

Volume 3 and 4 of Disney's DVDs deliver some of the best Avengers stories seen on the small and large screens and in print.

In Volume 3 The Avengers face off against Zemo and his Masters Of evil, encounter a giant robot from the Kree Galaxy, come face-to-face with the master of time: Kang and discover just how lethal the sting of the Black Widow can be. As an extra bonus a short clip: Avengers Unmasked: Masters Of Evil looks back on the history of the Masters and their connection to The Avengers.

In Volume 4 Loki shows his hand and sets in motion the fall of Asgard, Hydra raises its ugly head, or should I say heads?, and Ultron 5 gains sentience and decides to conquer mankind in order to save it.

In Volume 4’s Avengers unmasked segment, Hydra is examined and traced back to its early Marvel roots.

The Avengers animated series is by far the best animated series Marvel Comics has produced so far. The animation is clean and well-plotted, special effects are well-done without being overpowering, and the voice actors do a great job on their respective characters and the stories draw the viewer in with lots of little subplots and surprises. Often plotlines from upcoming episodes are snuck into the stories assuring that viewers will stick around to find out what happens in future episodes. It’s a great series and I enjoyed watching each episode.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cars 2

Disney/Pixar have really raised the bar with Cars 2. With every new Pixar Animation release the advances made in computer animation are phenomenal. Pixar has always turned out a great product with interesting characters, clever stories and lush backgrounds, but Cars 2 has outdone every Pizar animated film before it.

The Cars 2 plot involves Lightning McQueen taking part in the World Grand Prix. He takes his best frieind Mater with him and you can just image Mater in different countries!

Somehow Mater gets mistaken for a super spy and winds up entangled in a sinister plot to enact revenge on regular cars by lemon cars.

Along the way he meets a whole new cast of characters including a British spy car whose voice is provided by Michael Caine.

The animation on this film is amazing-especially the panoramic shots of cities from around the world. The visual effects are astounding and the story keeps you glued to your seat. Cars 2 are an action-packed and fun-filled film that the entire family can enjoy.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo also includes two short animated films, a Director's Commentary, a World Tour Map, featurettes and much, MUCH more.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When We Were Married - Volume 1 The Long Fall

Check out my friend's (Daniel Steele) new novel (When We Were Married - Volume 1 The Long Fall: for sale on Barnes and Noble) with cover art by guess who?

Four words ended their marriage. Four words ended his life. And changed hers forever. Four words made both of them face terrible truths about their marriage. After those four words, nothing would ever be the same. For them. For their children. Those words would touch the lives of cops and criminals, judges and prosecutors and defenders, the best of men and the worst of them. The ripples cast by those four words would stretch from the warm waters of the Caribbean to the arid deserts of Mexico, from the government halls of Paris to the moonlit dunes of Matanzas south of St. Augustine. And, when it was all over, it would finally come down to three lives. And there could be no happy ending. “When We Were Married" is the story of a marriage of a driven prosecutor and a beautiful professor that dies, and what happens afterward. It has psychiatrists and assassins and CIA Black Ops teams, the protective head of a deadly Columbian Crime Cartel, a cold blooded and savage murderer who is determined to save the wife and family of the prosecutor who sent him to prison, the Angel of Death, the Shark and the Iceman. It features loyal friends, friendly enemies and really, really bad people. The first volume of four, "The Long Fall" introduces Bill Maitland, a short, fat, balding Assistant in the Florida State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville, Florida in 2005. He is married to a tall, gorgeous,... .

Fantasy & Science Fiction #698, January/February

November and December's Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine packs it on for the holiday season with an oversize issue even Santa may have a hard time lugging around in his sack of goodies.

Novellas include Quartet And Triptych and The Ice Owl.

Tim Sullivan, Evangeline Walton, James L. Cambias and Albert E Cowdrey. Crowley contributes some novelets and a short story is The Klepsydra: A Chapter From A Faunary Of Recondite Beings. 

Departments to visit are book and film reviews, Coming Attractions, Competition, Indexes and Curiosities.

Sunday Brunch

Jeremy, of the Zits comic strip, has always been a 'colorful' character. With Andrews McMeel Publishing's Sunday Brunch: The Best Of Zits Sundays collection, that fact could never be more true.

Follow the full-color misadventures of Jeremy as he confuses, infuriates, befuddles and mystifies his family, friends and school faculty.

Included along with the full-page Sunday comic strip reprints come essays and anecdotes from other famous cartoonists.

Witness Jeremy as he encounters parents, girls, school, socializing and society in general in his own unique manner as written and drawn by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman.

The oversize paperback collection will make a great holiday gift, (What am I saying!? It would make a great gift anytime! Shoot, buy it for any reason!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hulk Hogan’s Main Event

“It’s Time For Greatness, Brother!” Majesco Entertainment presents Hulk Hogan’s Main Event for Xbox 360 Kinect.

If you love professional wrestling, if you crave some jaw-dropping, body-slamming, ring rattling, testosterone-laced, in-your-face action where big beefy men slam the tar out of each other, then this is the video game you’ve been waiting for!

The first performance based wrestling game ever created, Main Event allows players to train with Hulk Hogan and learn all of his tricks and moves. Learn how to play to a crowd, create your own wrestling persona and most important of all-win your matches!

I first saw hulk Hogan when he showed up in an early Rocky film. The man is a monster! From that moment on his star would rise in the wrestling world and soon Hulk’s face was everywhere: on TV, pitching products, on the Silver Screen and in print. Hulk Hogan madness gripped the nation as he shifted from good guy to bad guy and back again. Throughout it all Hulk Hogan has been at the forefront of professional wrestling and is untiring in his support of the sport.

Master the art of showmanship, customize your character, go head-to-head with opponents and experience the heart-pounding action of what it means to be a professional wrestler. Experience the ups and downs of the sport as you work your way from the bottom to the top to fame and fortune and feel the rush as the crowd cheers you on.

This is wrestling as it was meant to be-lots of 360 action, thunderous applauds and boos, blood, sweat and tears. Are you ready to rumble!? Then Hulk Hogan’s Main Event is for you.

Cold War #1

Leave it to artist/writer John Byrne to turn a genre on its ear. The master of taking an old idea, or character(s), and reengineering/re-imagining them has always been a John Byrne specialty and he proves he stills has the chops to pull it off as evident in his new title from IDW: Cold War.

Set in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, Cold War follows the adventures of British spy Michael Swann as he deals with defectors, beautiful women, sinister villains and secrets in “The Damocles Contract”.

Things start out with a bang in East Berlin, as a top Soviet official inspects the coffin containing the body of Swann. The only problem is Swann is not dead and when the official opens the coffin, Swann swiftly kills him. Taking the dead man’s cloths, Swann manages to escape to West Berlin after a series of maneuvers and dodges that would make James Bond green with envy.

After a short recuperative period Swann confronts his bungling superior who he believes blew his cover and promptly quits. Two years later Swann accepts an assignment to investigate a possible defector and what he gets is far more than he bargained for.

John Byrne is at the top of his form. It’s nice to see the old Byrne magic as strong as ever. Everything clicks: the art, the story and especially the characters. Bravo!

Included, as an extra bonus, is a sneak peek of IDW’s new series Memorial about a young woman who remembers nothing of her past that has some very unusual connections.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Three Stooges FAQ

“Nyuk, nyuk! Spread out! “If those phrases sound familiar to you then you’re a Stoogeifile: a lover of the Three Stooges.

As a child I would get up early weekdays and catch a few minutes of the Three Stooges before I rushed off to school. In the afternoon I would make it home from school just in time to catch the afternoon Stooges cartoon series that was inter-mingled with live sketches by the Stooges.

Saturday was a Stoogefest for at least an hour. Saturday Three Stooges time was my favorite because the oldest Three Stooges films were played that included Curly. Like so many other kids, Curly was my favorite-he still is.

What made the Three Stooges so funny? That’s a hard question to answer. The slapstick antics were one thing, the absurdity of the characters, the comedic timing and most importantly, Larry, Moe and Curly made a perfect team-a team of idiots-but a team nonetheless.

Author David J. Hogan and Applause Theatre & Cinema Books present Three Stooges FAQ: Everything Left to Know About The Eye-Poking, Face-Slapping, Head-Thumping Geniuses.

Contained in the book are detailed examinations of every 190 two-reel Three Stooges short that were filmed from 1934 until 1959. Included with the engrossing and fascinating text are over 70 photos (many never or seldom seen before) of the Stooges in the various stages of their career. A complete filmography makes Three Stooges FAQ book the ultimate guide to the Stooges. “Certainly!”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NBA 2K12

NBA 2K11 for Wii by 2K Sports was dubbed, "the best basketball video game ever produced."
NBA 2K12 for Wii, also by 2K Sports, is even better than the previous version.  All the bells and whistles that made 2K11 a killer game are still present but 2K12 has improved on them and added a few more cool, new extras.

Play with some of the most legendary NBA teams of all-time using actual team rosters.  In the newly redesigned Tutorial Mode learn all the subtle and tried and true techniques and tricks for playing the best game possible.

Current teams and ratings are integrated into the game and with the quick-to-read rating and information data you're always on the top of your game.

With the Wii intuitive control you become the players as you run down the court and use their signature moves and strategy.

Full 3D modeling and no lag time background traveling make the game feel real.  Sponsor logos plastered on signs and banners make the action seem as if you are at a real game.  Fans wear game shirts and accessories and with the up-close-and personal game play you can almost hear the grunts of exertion from your opponents and smell their sweat.

This is how basketball was meant to be played.  Don't be surprised when you feel totally exhausted after your virtual game play.  Tight graphics, spectacular colors, sounds and smooth play-by-play make NBA 2K12 the winner in video game basketball.  I especially liked the way the camera focuses in and out as it follows the players.  It makes the action seem real as the camera tries to keep pace with the players.

'48 Ford Coupe, '59 Chevy Impala, Lamborghini Diablo, '63 Corvette And Jungle Jim

Classic car fans are sure to love the five new classic car models Revell has just released. Like all Revell models all are a perfect match to their larger cousins.  The models are scaled at 1:25 but none skimp on details.  Easy to understand instructions and clear paint and decal application diagrams allow models, regardless of skill level, to turn out the very best models so that when friends and family see them will give out a collective, "Wow!"

The 3' n 1 '48 Ford Custom Coupe is a honey of a car that deserves its Special Edition Series status.  Extra parts and new tooling allow modelers to customize their car into two configurations.

Each version retains the trademark '48 Coupe body but with custom grills, bumpers, interior and exterior details and with a supped up, chromed engine this baby is an eye-catcher regardless of what version you customize.  Check out the full dash with chrome accents, straight-back twin front seats and cool body trim and whitewall tires.  Zoom!

The '59 Chevy Impala (a personal favorite) is a 2' n 1 California Wheels convertible that can be painted a deep bronze with custom trim or a deep blue with minimal trim.

Display your model with the white convertible top up or down, the hood open (showcasing the powerful V8) and with the slightly redesigned twin rear fins this car looks like its moving when its standing still.  Now that's a classic car! 

Choose your wheel, trim and tire types, ramp up the chrome accessories and sit back and enjoy the luxury of riding with the top down, radio blasting and the lush interior.

The Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster is the ultimate in fast-as-a-flash streetcars.  With its hefty price tag this car delivers on all fronts with its powerful rear engine, sleek aerodynamic design, low to the ground profile and characteristic swept back wedge design. The price is well worth it for this classic luxury car. 

Twin seats melt into the chassis as the driver and passenger seem to become one with the car as it speeds up and passes all competitors.

Take a moment to appreciate the step and layer design of the rear of chassis, front of the center passenger compartment, interior amenities and the dynamic profile of this car amongst cars.

Who doesn't love the '63 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe?  With its distinctive shark/ray body style, low profile, twin seat bubble passenger compartment and integrated bumpers, trim and flip up headlights the Sting Ray Coupe is a automotive dream come true.

Part of Revell's Snap Tite series the car is easy to assemble, requires no glue and no paint application.  Details extend to the body and interior and be prepared to be wowed by the undercarriage details.

Revell got it right, right down to the twin rear windshield glass and the trademark chrome logo disc on the rear.

Why do they call the Vega NHRA Funny Car the Jungle Jim?  Because this baby with make you swing from trees and vines out of sheer joy.  And what a joy it is!

Painted a deep blue, this customized hotrod is all business with its oversize rear tires, custom chrome wheels, chrome spoiler that almost invades the passenger compartment and its custom decals. Get a load of its center-mounted engine with side extension exhaust manifolds, flip up chassis and counter-weight rear end. 

This ain't no going for ride on Sunday car!  It's all business and its business is to crush whatever unfortunate car dares to go up against it!

Friday, October 14, 2011

In The Beginning, There Was Chaos

I've always enjoyed cartoonist Lynn Johnston's comic strip, For Better Or For Worse. I enjoy it even more now because, like her, I've seen my kids grow up, fall in love and move away from home.

I still remember the turbulent years of diaper changes and scraped knees, the happy times of family gatherings, soccer and basketball games, sleepovers, first loves, dating and watching my children grow up and mature into adults.

My wife and I have been married almost 33 years and like Lynn we have had our ups and downs, disagreements, shared sorrows and joys, struggles to make a living and all of the other idiosyncrasies associated with a man and woman growing old together.

Lynn's new book, In The Beginning, There Was Chaos, looks back on the Better Of For Worse family's early years when the kids were young, the Patterson's had not been married for many years and the resulting adjustments, readjustments and roller coaster ride of young married life and raising young kids.

The book takes the best from Lynn's previous Andrews McMeel Publishing collections containing the Patterson's adventures during the early 1980s and compiles into a large hardback book aptly called the For Better OF For Worse 2nd Treasury and what a treasury it is!

Daily and Sunday strips are intermingled with photos and observations from Lynn about her strip during the early '80s. It's funny, poignant and as relevant today as it was back then.

Exotique 7

What is it about beautiful women that have fascinated and inspired artists and sculptors over the centuries?

I’d like to give my humble opinion if I may. Grace-that word best describes the female figure. The beauty of a woman’s figure, its symmetry, supple lines and curves all combine to create a remarkable symbiosis of grace.

A woman’s face with its delicate skeletal structure, large moist eyes and lips framed by an over abundance of hair exudes innocence and yet personifies sexuality and mystery.

A beautiful woman’s body is sensual but it goes far beyond that. There is perfection of balance and form. Personally what fascinates me about a woman’s torso is how the abdomen and hips areas curve and play off one another. There are so different than a male’s lower torso. The slight bulge of the hip area does strange and wonderful things to the abdomen muscles. To me it is one of the most difficult areas of the female anatomy to draw because of the interplay of muscle, bone and sinew.

In Ballistic Publishing’s new book, Exotique 7, digital artists from around the world, most of whom use Photoshop, have assembled a gallery of beautiful women portraits that are visually stunning.

Exotic costumes, high-tech armor, outrageous hairstyles and makeup and interesting settings combine to make a eye-pleasing extravaganza of erotic and exotic portraits that any lover of the female figure is sure to enjoy.

A plethora of artistic styles and techniques are incorporated from soft airbrush to hard palette knife like paint application. Women are dressed in soft feminine attire to hard-edge mechanized armor. There are women shown in quiet still poses and high energy dynamic action scenes.

There are devils, divas, debutants, docile, dominant, delicate and the divine. Every conceivable type of setting, attire and design can be seen throughout this book. It’s an exhaustive examination of the female form in all of its beauty and feminine mystique.

From a technical point of view the artistry and sheer technical skill it took to create each and every figure is impressive and speaking as a fellow artist I marvel at the talent represented in the book.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Heinkel And Raiden

Travel back in time to the turbulent days of WWII amidst the war being waged in the sky by the Axis powers: Germany and Japan. Both nations had assembled impressive fleets of aircraft and proved to be capable enemies who deserved to be both respected and feared.

The Limited Edition 1: 72 Scale German Heinkel Helll/H ‘KG55” bomber was created as in 1935 as a twin-engine, civilian transport. Although slow by military standards the newly refitted ‘bomber’ had its engine upgraded, pilot visibility improved and its shape altered for a more aerodynamic configuration.

The intakes were shifted to the left of the engine, new pitch propellers were installed and improvements and additions were made to the gunner emplacements.

With its crew of five, the Heinkel proved to be a formidable adversary in the air as it made its bombing runs.

The Hasegawa Model Kits' Heinkel model is precise in its details right down to the plating along its fuselage and wings. Both interior and exterior details match its larger brother while handy paint and decal schematics make it easy to customize the aircraft to a model maker’s choice.

Parts detach easily from the 11 part trees with very little flashing and cleanup. Easy-to-follow instructions make assembly easy and precise.

The Japanese 1:32 Scale Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Jack) Type 21 Japanese Navy Interceptor is a single engine, sleek small bullet of an aircraft that packs a powerful punch despite its size.

Production began on the Raiden in 1943 and soon the sleek, fast-climbing and highly maneuverable aircraft took to the skies. With its boosted armament, twin 7.7mm machine guns and 20mm cannon the Raiden proved to be a force to be reckoned with in whatever configuration of modified version flew. Considered a preferred bomber destroyer and interceptor the Raiden was effective in its role but slow production and various technical problems limited its role in the war.

The model is a miniature marvel of model-making. No detail was left out including a fully-detailed instrument panel, wheel and armament, pilot, engine and propeller assembly and so many other small details the veteran model maker will have a great time assembling this impressive aircraft. Full paint and decal instructions are included as is a 20 page comic book (Manga) drawn by Seiho Takizawa with an English translation.

This is a ‘huge’ model and requires the highest level of model making ability. Nine large part trees are included along with a decal sheet. Parts are easy to detach and assemble and by following the step-by-step instructions model makers are assured of turning out and excellent model with landing gear up or down.

Spider-Man: Edge Of Time

Spider-Man is running out of time-literally, in Activision’s new Spider-Man: Edge OF Time video game for Wii and all other game platforms.

Something catastrophic is happening to the timeline and it’s up to Amazing Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara) to stop before both the future and the present are altered beyond all hope of recovery.

Using ASM’s brains and agility and SM 2099’s technological advancements they must stop the disaster from ever happening and prevent the death of Peter Parker.

As they struggle to return the timeline to its original configuration they battle Spidey foes from both the present and future. The only problem is that their actions, both in the present and future can alter the timeline even more and affect both Spider-Men’s surroundings.

The cause-and-effect game play presents new challenges to gamers as each action taken has an equal and sometimes unexpected reaction. By using the picture-to-picture capability game players of the present Spider-Man can see what effects their actions have on the future Spider-Man and vice versa. Very clever.

Activision and BEENOX game developers have done an excellent job of differentiating the present Spider-Man with the future Spider-Man. Each has their own characteristic moves, body language and abilities. What’s fun is having them act and react to each other. Dialogue perfectly matches the characters’ personalities and the interplay between the two is well done, especially the bits of humor injected into their conversations.

Graphics are state-of-the-art with impressive environments, spectacular visual effects, a pounding soundtrack and well-developed and smoothly modeled characters.

Lighting plays a pivotal role in the game and the full 360 degree wide and close up perspectives places the gamer in the heart of the action.

Friday, October 7, 2011

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die

Universe Publishing's 1001 Comics (And Comic Strips) You Must Read Before You Die is appropriately named.

It may surprise you but the United States is not the only country that produces comic books and comic strips.  True, both are uniquely original American creations, but both art forms have long since outgrown their borders and expanded to countries all over the world.

General Editor Paul Gravett oversees a colossal volume that looks at the essential comics book, comic strips, graphic novels and Manga that any died-in-the-wool comic book lover must read before they start pushing up daisies.

As a critical history of comic books, the book is packed with four-color eye candy and includes extremely comprehensive and thorough researched text that delves deeply into each respective title. 

Broken down by decades, the book begins in the pre-1930s and culminates in the present.  As a comic book, comic strip lover I have to say I am blown away by the sheer scope of this book.  It's an impressive piece of work that sheds new light on a popular art form.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Government Issue

Abrams’ Government Issue: Comics For The People, 1940s-2000s examines how comic books have been used over the decades since their introduction to promote government programs and projects.

Author Richard L. Graham has compiled a collection of comic book tiles reprinted in the book in full color that cover a wide variety of subjects. Look for comic books about the military, employment, economics, civil defense, safety, health, landscapes, lifetstyle and more by well-known artists whose names comic book and comic strip lovers are sure to recognize. Will Eisner, Al Capp, Joe Kubert and other well known and lesser known artists have contributed to government issues comic books over the years and here’s your chance to see little known about and seldom seen publications they produced.

Popular comic strip and comic book characters often starred in the stories. Characters like Superman, Little Abner, Supergirl, the Teen Titans, Pogo and dozens more lent their familiar faces to promote key government programs and social issues.

Previews, October

Christmas is just around the corner and what better place to find Christmas presents than in Diamond Previews October catalog packed with merchandise set to be released in December? Here’s just of a few of the new items you can expect to find.

Comic books include The Defenders, The Activity, Madman, Memorial, The Strain, Agent Of the Empire, Outcast, Alive In Wonderland, Voltron, Nowhere Man, Ice age and Lord Of the Jungle.

Magazines and books to pick up are DC Superhero Chess Figure Collector, Bugf#ck, Wayne Of Gotham and Art & Making Of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Trading card sets include Legends Of Marvel, Avengers: Kree-Skrull War and Project Superheroes.

Toys to play with are Batman: Arkham City, Ghostbusters, Halo, The Venture Bros., Green Lantern, Care Bears, Living Dead Dolls, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Marvel, DC, Wrestling, Uglydolls, Mega Bloks, Sleepy Hollow, Street Fighter, Disney, Gundam, Dragon Ball Z, and Star Trek.

Game on with A Game Of Thrones, Marvel Heroclix, Risk Legacy and D&D.

On Stranger Tides

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that Johnny Depp would return to the role he is most famous for: Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates Of The Caribbean. On Stranger Tides is the fourth film in the series.

When the initial run of the three original Prates movies ended hints were given as to the possible fourth film. Many believed that the trilogy ended the Pirates saga but as the saying goes, “You can’t keep a bad pirate down.”

In On Stranger Tides Jack Sparrow has set sail to discover the mysterious Fountain Of Youth. Along the way he runs into his former shipmate Barbossa, his former lover-played by Penelope Cruz and several other familiar characters.

He also encounters the notorious Black Beard (complete with mysterious black magic powers), zombies, killer mermaids and several other fairy tale figures who are not anything like you expect.

On Stranger Tides is a fun-packed adventure with Johnny Depp at his best as the conniving, manipulating and yet totally lovable Captain jack Sparrow.

The Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with Blu-ray and DVD discs that also include a pirate treasure of extras: bloopers, featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes and more. “Shiver me timbers! It’s time to set sail for adventure!”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Green Lantern

To state that the popularity of Hal Jordan (Earth’s Green Lantern) and the Green Lantern Corps have had a meteoric rise in popularity in the DC Universe would be a big understatement.

The Green Lanterns have risen to be some of the most predominate characters in the DC Universe, especially after the introduction of the Sinestro Corps, the various Lanterns of different colors representing various states of emotion and the epic Blackest Night storyline.

So popular had the Green Lantern series became that DC Comics, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Studios, produced and created the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds as Earth’s Green Lantern: Hal Jordan.

Although the movies takes a few liberties when it comes to the creation of Hal Jordan and his nemesis Hector Hammond and Parallax, the movie stays true to the science fiction aspects of the series.

In the story Hal Jordan is a test pilot haunted by the death of his father who was also a test pilot. Crashing his jet after successfully shooting down two drone jets in a simulated dogfight, Jordan is whisked away by a green energy ball that takes him to a crashed spaceship where the alien Abin Sur is dying.

The alien is a Green Lantern assigned to protect the region of space Earth is part of. Attacked by Parallax, a whirling mass of energy feeding off fear, the fatally wounded Abin Sur bequeaths his Green Lantern power ring to Hal.

After several mishaps, bungles and a serious reflection on his own failed life, Hal tackles Parallax one-on-one in a desperate attempt to save Earth.

Green Lantern is a special effect extravaganza with lots of aliens, strange worlds and regions of space and two of the most frightening villains to ever grace the Silver Screen. Reynolds turns in a top-notch performance as the haunted test pilot Hal Jordan and the supporting cast meld perfectly into their roles.

The Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo Extended Cut package offers lot s of fun extras including a look at how Ryan Reynolds was transformed into the Green Lantern. Other extras include extended and theatrical versions of the film, deleted scenes and much more.

Slavery, Cops, Johnny And He-Man

Mill Creek Entertainment has just released five new titles in its DVD series that keep costs down while providing a great value in entertainment.

Up From Slavery reveals the path of slavery in America in a haunting 7-part documentary. At one time America, created and based n personal freedom of its individuals, had over 10 million Africans as slaves. Considered the height of hypocrisy, the slave trade in America took away the rights of blacks who were forcefully brought to America to work in the cotton fields and perform menial, and often degrading, work.

Containing reenactments and detailed historical studies, the documentary is a powerful reminder of a dark period in American history-one that should never be repeated.

Volume 2 of the animated series Cops contains episodes 33 through 65 of the series about ‘Fighting Crime In A Future Time.” Included with the final episodes of the Hasbro Toy based series are a slide show of the concept drawings for the show and a trailer for Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors.

Two Johnny Test DVD collections are the complete Season 3 & 4 of the 11-year old boy who manages to be the test subject of, or victim of, his two genius sister’s outrageous science experiments. Three bonus episodes from the animated series Nanoboy, Gadget Boy and Jacye And the Wheeled Warriors are included along with a Johnny Test digital comic book and a sneak peek at the Nintendo DS Johnny Test video game.

Johnny Test Saves The world contains 10 specially selected episodes that, you guessed it, has Johnny save the world! A Nanoboy episode, digital comic book and video game sneak peek are also included.

The Complete second Season of the new He-man And The Masters Of The Universe animated series is packed with exciting stories and also contains 10 complete episode scripts, 50 detailed character profiles, creatures and artifacts, three documentaries and a six episode commentary.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Johnny Comet, White Indian And Neal Adams

Shortly before Frank Frazetta's untimely death Vanguard Productions secured the rights to reproduce Frank's earlier comic strip and comic book work into a series of books.  Frank's long friendship with, and admiration for, Vanguard's publisher J. David Spurlock helped cement the deal.

Spurlock is a longtime fan of Frank's work and like so many others in fandom appreciates his enormous contribution to comic strips, comic books, book cover illustrations and art in general.
Many fans were inspired by Frank's work and went on to become illustrators and painters.  Such notables as Jim Steranko, Neal Adams and dozens of other working professionals owe a great debt of gratitude to Frank Frazetta's unique vision.

I first encountered Frank Frazetta's work when I picked up a copy of Ace Book's Conan series of trade paperbacks.  I had never seen such lush and dynamic cover art in my entire life.  The figures practically leaped off the cover. Everything about the covers excited me: the colors, the composition and the figures fascinated me and made me hungry for more of Frazetta's work.
From that point on I sought out his work and like so many others bought all of his Art Of Frank Frazetta oversize paperbacks.  It wasn't until later that I discovered that Frank had started out drawing funny animal comics, adventure comic book stories and several comic strips.

Vanguard Productions just recently released the fist two in a series of books that collect the early work of Frazetta.  First up is the adventure comic strip Johnny Comet that showcases some of Frank's best early work. Even in his early twenties Frazetta's trademark style of drawing was asserting itself.  Daily and Sunday strips featured lots of action, memorable characters, beautiful women, vile villains, stoic heroes and plenty of cliffhangers. 

The art is lovingly reproduced with special attention to the color Sunday strips.  Although Frazetta was on the strip only a year it would be this early work that would garner the attention of many top professionals in the industry.

The second volume in the Frank Frazetta series is the complete set of White Indian stories Frank drew as a backup strip in the Durango Kid comic book along with other war and historically based tales. 

What makes White Indian so memorable was Frank's ability to draw in a less cluttered and detailed style seen in his comic strips.  Comic books at that time were cranked out on very tight deadlines.  It is to Frank's credit that he was able to streamline his art without loosing any of its dynamic impact.

Frank's White Indian work, along with his other back up stories, allowed him to really showcase his talent at drawing a wide variety of subjects.  Was there anything he could not draw?
Both Frank Frazetta collections are printed on high-gloss, heavy paper stock that showcases his art at its best.  The ink quality and color reproduction are first rate. 

With their high gloss covers and short fold in front and back third panels (that can serve as ready-made book markers) the square bound books allow readers to look over each page without the worry of pages detaching.  Heavy page gluing (tipping) sees to that. 

Another of my all-time favorite artists is Neal Adams.  The Art Of Neal Adams, written and compiled by Adams himself, contains examples of Adams' early comic strip (Ben Casey) and comic book work, such as his breakout work for Warren, DC and Marvel Comics and his work for independent comic book titles, movie posters,(Billy Jack) book covers (Tarzan), Magazine covers (Marvel) commercial and advertising illustration (theme parks) and much more.

I once had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Adams and like his art he is bigger than life.  His energy level is astounding and his opinions never hidden.  It's no wonder he became a major player in obtaining creator rights for comic book artists and creators.

As a child of the 1960s I loved his work for both DC and Marvel Comics.  His groundbreaking visuals for Batman, Brave and Bold, Green Lantern, Spectre, Deadman, the X-Men, the Avengers, Thor and various other comic books inspired me as young man to pursue art and design.

The Art Of Neal Adams is a worthy work that expertly details the long and prolific career of Neal Adams.  More than just a cartoonist and comic book artist Neal Adams is a commercial artist, designer, illustrator and force to be reckoned with.  Kudos to Vanguard Productions for releasing such an impressive collection.