Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The World According To Thor

What do you get when you combine lightning, thunder, Norse gods, a hammer, nether creatures and tons of special features?
That's easy!  The new book: The World According To Thor from Insight Editions and artist Freddie E. Williams III and writer Marc Sumerak, of course!
From its dazzling cover of the Mighty Thor swinging his enchanted hammer to the enclosed poster, this book has it all!
Learn all about Thor's origin, his family tree, Asgard, his father Odin and adopted brother Loki, his extended family, his friends and foes, his battles and victories, and so much more in this jam-packed book of all things Thor.
Included are a fold out Mjolnir hammer, character stickers, a fold-out of Asgard, a love letter, Loki's mischief notes, a pop-out Thor frog and a Daily Bugle front page along with page after page of artwork, informative text and so much more!  "Have at thee!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rossi, Bertail and De Felici

In late June, 2015 Comix Buro added three new artists to its Sketchbook series.
If you've had the opportunity to see Comix Buro's Sketchbooks you know that to be selected to contribute to the series is a huge honor.
The Sketchbook series features some of the finest illustration examples seen in Europe (and in my opinion the U.S.A.).
The Christian Rossi Sketchbook highlights the artist's brush, ink and coloring skills.  Take a moment to appreciate the incredible face, figure and scenic illustrations.  From animals to vast vistas Christian Rossi is a true master of pen, ink, paint and design.
Just as impressive is the work of Dominique Bertail. 
Slightly slicker in execution than Rossi's work, Bertail  is an amazing designer and illustrator as evident by his sweeping vistas and landscape studies. For sheer detail you can't go wrong with Bertail's Western scenes and portraits.
Lorenzo De Felici has a bold cartoon style as seen in his funny creatures and humans or more realistic renderings. I am especially impressed with his superhero and fantasy illustrations that are steeped in shadow and brilliantly highlighted in light.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cruise Ship and Dolls

I've never been on a cruise ship or for that matter taken a cruise.  My wife and I want to.  It's one of the items on our 'bucket list.'
Frankly I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to find my way around a cruise ship, where to dine, what activities there are, what's on each deck, who the cruise's crew and officers are, what their duties are or even how I would go about setting up a cruise or which is the best value or trip.
Craig A. Munsart and Schiffer Publishing have just put out a new book that takes the mystery out of cruise ships aptly titled: A Cruise Ship History & Operations.
I'm a visual person and the color photos, charts, illustrations and graphs are just the things I need to make understanding a cruise ship and cruising simplified enough so I can grasp them.
The book delves into the origin of cruise ships, the structure of the ships, how they receive their power and navigation instructions, dining, passenger accommodations, entertainment, safety features and practices, the future of cruise ships and much more.
If after reading and looking at this book you're not proficient at navigating and utilizing any cruise ship then you'd best stay away from the ocean.
For decades (centuries) dolls were primarily the play things of little girls.  With few variations most dolls stayed the same over the years.  Most dolls were of babies and young children and occasionally grownup.
That's not the case anymore.  With the explosion of collector focused dolls, adults (both male and female) collect all types of dolls, both realistic and bizarre.
Dolls and 'action figures' can be seen  and purchased in large chain stores, small specialty shops and online.  Doll clubs and shows pop up all over the world.
Doll collecting has grown to encompass collectors from all nations.
New manufacturing techniques, materials and concepts have exploded on the scene allowing artists and sculptors to create dolls of every shape, size, type and subject.  The only restraint is the doll makers' imaginations.
In The Art of the Contemporary Doll, author Sandra Korinchak and Schiffer Publishing examine the burgeoning doll making industry.
Packed with color photos of every kind of every doll imaginable the book introduces readers to key doll designers and their dolls.
From ultra-realistic to miniature flights of fancy and fantasy the book covers the entire gamut of doll creation and design.
Regardless of your age or gender there are dolls for every occasion and interest. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Memories

In case you haven't noticed I like to write about Pop Culture items-specifically reviews of such items.  I've always been fascinated about the collectibles and stuff each new decade brings.

I was born in 1953 so my most fondest memories come from the 1960s and early 1970s.

As a child I was introduced to comic books at an early age and I must admit I'm a sucker for comics from the 1960s and 1970s.  The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Green Lantern, Magnus Robot Fighter, The THUNDER Agents-the entire range of superhero (primarily) comics from that era.

Although I had older half brothers I was pretty much raised as an only child.  By the time I was five all of my brothers were married, moved away from home and started their own families.

I stayed to myself a lot and comic books, old TV shows, movies and other Pop Culture phenomenon and paraphernalia became my best friends.

I already mentioned comic books-they were my first love.  But TV came in second.

I loved shows like The Man From UNCLE, The Wild, Wild West, Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The time Tunnel, Land OF the Giants and Lost In Space, My favorite TV Westerns were The Rifleman, Cheyenne, Bat Masterson, Maverick, Gunsmoke, etc.  Perry Mason, Cannon, Mannix, The Rat Patrol, Combat, Batman and The Green Hornet were also favorites. 

Any movie featuring aliens and monsters suited me just fine.  Mysterious Island, The Time Machine, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, First Men In The Moon, War Of The Worlds, 2001, The Andromeda Strain, West World, Planet Of The Apes, James Bond, The Haunting, Jaws, Close Encounters Of the Third Kind-the list goes on and on.

I collected all things Star Trek.  I even had the original Leaf Star Trek trading cards.  I had The Man From Uncle attach case, James Bond's Aston Martin, The Lost In Space model kits, ship and military model kits, toy soldiers and so much more.

Like most kids of that era I had a pocket knife, a BB Gun, a slingshot and Click Clacks, Silly Putty, a Frisbee, a Slinky, a Hula Hoop, cap guns, a transistor radio, a record player and stereo, lots of 45s, a banana seat bike and a school jacket.

As a kid a frequented the local Mom and Pop store where I bought wax lips and mustaches, Dots on paper strips, Grape Nehi, Pepsi, Fizzies and a wide assortment of penny candy.

My friends and I would get together and play with our G. I Joes, listen to The Beatles- gradually moving on to Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Carol King and other singer/songwriters.

I wore love beads, headbands, flared bell-bottoms, laced boots and my hair long. 

I knew every alley and nook and cranny in my small hometown.  My first car was a '63 Ford Fairlane that I bought used for $100. 

So many memories and good times.  There was no internet, no cable TV, no multiplex movie theaters, no video games, no CDs or DVDs, no cell phones and no fear of going out at night and being hurt or killed.

We were mischievous, not criminal.  God, country and Mom's apple pie still prevailed. Adults were still respected.  Authority figures were obeyed and family was everything.

It was a different time and I believe a better time. 


I'd like to thank the folks at Man Crates for inspiring me to write about things and places I loved from the past.  Check out their website for really cool merchandise they put together that make great gifts.



Mix & Match and Mutations

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles....Heroes On The Half Shell!"
Over 20 years ago my son was absolutely enamored and fascinated with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys.  He had ALL of the figures (good guys and bad) the Turtle Van, the fortress, vehicles, playsets---you name it, he had it.
What's remarkable to me is that the TMNT have successfully transformed and updated themselves over the years so kids still love them.  Playmate Toys has been with them all the way and made TMNT one of the most successful toy lines ever.
From comics books, books, toys, movies and everything else in between TMNT is a marketing and merchandise phenomenon.
Playmates Toys has just released two new variations of the TMNT with its toy lines.  How do they do it!?
First up is Mutations.  The Leonardo figure, just like the other Turtles, stands approximately  six inches tall.  At first glance the figure looks like any other Leonardo figure: blue knee pads, blue elbow pads, blue scarf/mask over his eyes, brown wrist and waist bands and a large turtle shell on his back.
The figure is completely articulated for action poses, paint application and coloring are crisp and clean and the modeling spot-on, matching the Nickelodeon version of the figure.
Here's where the difference comes in-the figure transforms!  Leonardo transforms into a lovable Pet Turtle.  You read right!.  A few flips, turns, twists, tucks and folds and Leonardo is transformed into an actual four feet on the ground turtle!  Amazing!
A few quick moves and presto!  He's a ninja again!
Included with the figure are his twin sai.  Packaging consists of a clear plastic front on a hanger card with a three-stage transformation photo sequence on the front.
The Mix & Match figures (mine are Shredder and Raphael) come with removable arms, legs and heads along with an additional limb taken from another figure.  Weapons and accessories for the figures are included and like the Mutations figures the sculpting, molding and color application are crisp, clean and fit together nicely with no flashing or binding of parts.

The Mix & Match figures allow kids to take parts from different figures and make their own Mutations.  Talk about a mix up!  Kids will love 'em!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Wow!  I didn't see that coming!

When I first heard that Warner Bros. was producing a new original animated Justice League movie more on the dark side I wasn't sure what to expect.

Like most comic book fans I've seen the trailers on You Tube and other related sites about the original animated movie.  Superman actually the offspring of General Zod!?  Batman a vampire!?  Wonder Woman the daughter of the High Father and the wife of Orion!?

Say it ain't so!  Surely messing with the dynamics of the Justice League would be treading on sacred ground?  It would never work.

Boy, was I wrong!

Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a triumph of alternate reality.  The story is as original as it gets and the animation and character designs-the whole production is topnotch.

Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are Earth's protectors.  Some people believe they are a huge threat.  When scientists associated with a covert government program are mysteriously killed all clues and evidence point to the Justice League.

When the facts slowly come together the Justice League fights for their own survival and that of the people of Earth.  Good guys are bad guys,  Bad guys are good guys and when it is finally revealed who the mastermind behind the whole conspiracy is-well, let me put it this way-I never saw it coming.


For a different kind of Justice League you have to check out this new Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo from Warner Bros.  Extras include featurettes, two bonus cartoons and some vintage spots that are sure to please.

The Dining And Social Club For Time Travelers Book One: Divine Intervention

I predict that author Elyse Kishimoto's and artist Doug Feaver's new book: The Dining And Social Club For Time Travelers Book One: Divine Intervention is set to become the next big book series for pre-teens and teens.
Published by Green Jelly Bean Press out of Toronto, Canada, the first book makes for a brilliant introduction to the new series.
The book centers on young orphan Louisa Sparks whose parents are killed in a tragic accident, so she moves in with her lovable grandfather.
As much as she loves her grandfather and where she lives she must make the difficult decision to move to Paris, France in order to complete her education.
Her grandfather makes arrangements for her to stay with her quirky, eccentric and demanding cousin who lives in a mansion served by his unusual staff.
On her way there Louisa happens to put her hand in the old jacket her grandfather gave her to wear that he owned as a young boy.
She finds what looks like a pocket watch which is festooned with many dials, symbols and numbers. As she's holding it she suddenly finds herself traveling through time and space to a most unusual place.
After a mere three minutes she pops back into existence on the train she's traveling on.  None of the other passengers noticed her disappearance, except a ragamuffin stowaway.
Later she finds herself part of even stranger adventures and invited to join The Dining And Social Club For Time Travelers.
What a delightful story!  I can just see the series translated to the Silver Screen.  And why not?  The book contains odd and memorable characters (especially the villain of the piece), strange locations, unusual paraphernalia and gadgets and bizarre and mind boggling sensory and stimulating visual vistas.

I guarantee that young people (and adults) will love reading this first book in what promises to be a fun-filled roller coaster of a ride to places no one has ventured before. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ms. Mystic #1

Back in the early 1980s comic book distribution was going through a tremendous change.

Newsstand distribution of comic books was dwindling and the newly created direct market was replacing it.

The direct market allowed publisher to sell their books directly to the comic book, game and specialty shops on a no return basis.

As direct market sales increased several small publishers entered the market selling exclusively to the direct market.

One such company was Pacific Comics.  One its first direct market comic books was Neal Adams' Ms. Mystic.

Ms. Mystic was a sort of a female Captain Planet.  Pacific Comics printed only a few issues.  A few years later Neal Adams own company: Continuity Press, would continue her adventures, along with a few other Continuity properties.

Ms. Mystic was a 300 hundred old witch that had been banished to another dimension and through the conflict of environmentalists against an industrial mega-company was released from her dimensional prison and took up the mantle of Earth's protector.

Heavily infused with Neal Adam's political and environmental views Ms. Mystic was still a lot of fun to read and off course a real kick to look at considering it was drawn by Neal himself.

While few people today remember the title it was nonetheless one of the pioneers of today's direct market/sales, creator-owned properties.

Later on Pacific Comics would introduce two more memorable characters as back up stories in two of its titles.  They were Groo The Wanderer by Sergio Aragones and The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Big Bird, Checks and Princess

Cinedigm has just release three new DVDs that cover three diverse subjects.

Imagine spending the majority of your life wearing a creature costume and contorting in a slightly uncomfortable position as you entertain kids.

That's exactly what Carroll Spinney has done and it's all for the love of kids and people.
In I Am Big bird; The Carroll Spinney Story viewers are witness to over 50 years of dedication of the man who is Big Bird.

Culling from archival films and TV shows this very special DVD follows the long and illustrious career of Spinney from his early days of being bullied child to his current impressive age of 81.

It's a remarkable documentary that follows Spinney from his early days with Jim Henson to his present day stint on Sesame Street where he performs not only Big Bird but Oscar The Grouch as well: two much beloved characters.

For 46 years he's donned the Big Bird costume and delighted several generations of kids.

The American Dream has morphed into the quest for fame and fortune especially among young black celebrities.

Discover how so many of the up and coming famous black rappers, actors and celebrities have obtained notoriety and wealth only to lose it to over indulgence in When The Checks Stop Coming In.

What is it like to have everything one moment and the next only poverty and obscurity?

It makes for a chilling DVD that should serve as a warning to anyone who pursues fame and fortune and disregards the consequences and pitfalls.

Imagination is a wonderful and amazing thing.  Young children possess vivid imaginations.  Young girls often have the most fantasy filled ambitions and dreams.

In The Very Fairy Princess...And More Imaginative Tales, authors Julie Andrews' and Emma Walton Hamilton's four tales of wonder are beautifully translated into animation.

Tales include The Very Fairy Princess where Geraldine knows she is a princess, Extra Yarn where a maniacal yarn transforms a community, The Amazing Bone that talks to a pig and My Garden filled with chocolate flowers and other amazing plants and vegetables.


Each short animated film encourages children to be kind, clever, fair and above all: to let their imaginations soar.  

Dreadstar #1

The universe-spanning, end of the universe epic is a mainstay of today's comic books.

Even now Marvel and DC Comics (and few other smaller publishers) are in the midst of universe-altering mega-events that promise to 'change everything' and 'shake things up'.

In truth it's just a clever ploy to reinvent companies and draw in new readers while trying not to alienate current readers and collectors.  After all, if things change too much current comic book readers and collectors might bail because nothing of the old universes still exist.  The result, fewer readers, a dwindling collectors' market and no sense of history or continuity.

As I mentioned in a past review Marvel Comics' Galactus Trilogy set the standard by which a comic book 'epic' was created.

Both Marvel, DC and countless other publishers have used that concept to good use...but.. there is one individual who has honed it to perfection.

Jim Starlin began his professional comic book artist and writer career at Marvel Comics in the 1970s.  During the Bronze Age Jim successfully established himself as the 'epic' creator.

His runs on Warlock and Captain Marvel are still lauded today and for good reason.

Both series introduced readers to powerful cosmic forces, evil empires and casts of characters that are as popular today as they were when they were first created.  Gamorra and Drak The Destroyer (amongst others) ring any bells?

No one could compete with Stalin's mastery of the mega-epic.  In fact, each summer nearly all comic book companies create an epic mega-series that ties in its various comic book titles.  

Case in point: Marvel's current Secret War epic and DC's Convergence and Divergence.

Creating epics for comic book companies are one thing.  After all, creating characters while on a title makes that character(s) property of the comic book publisher.

During the early 1980s artists/writers took notice of the direct sales market and the growing phenomenon: creator rights.

While Jim Starlin could be counted on to create stellar comic book tales for whatever company he worked for at the time the itch was still there to own his own creations.

When Marvel Comics introduced its Epic Comics line Jim was first in line to come up with his own property: Dreadstar.

He created a true epic, spectacular n its scope and if you were savvy enough to notice Jim slipped in a few references to his previous galactic-spanning prose seen in Warlock and Captain Marvel.  Dreadstar was fist introduced in a graphic novel and then its own series.

The story was a simple one.  Dreadstar, the sole survivor of a destroyed solar system, wanted only to live in peace.  Unfortunately powerful evil forces force him to take a stand and so, he, and a band of misfits, take on the dark forces that rule the universe.

Jim's story-telling and artistic creation shined-his work had never been better.

Unshackled by the Comics Code or editorial dictates of a mother company Jim let his imagination, art and prose explode. 

Dreadstar, like Jim's earlier work on Warlock and Captain Marvel, set the bar high for creative excellence.
Recently it was announced Dreadstar is making its return.  Over the years Jim has continued to work for various companies (his Dreadstar found a home at the now defunct First Comics with an impressive run).

His talent for turning convention on its ear is legendary.  Currently he is best known to comic book readers as the father of Thanos and the various 'Infinity' storylines.

Regardless the title he works on Jim Starlin continues to pump out universe-altering epics. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Previews, August

COMIC BOOKS & GRAPHIC NOVELS
Uber Volume 5 TP l AVATAR PRESS INC
Cognetic #1 l BOOM! STUDIOS
Rowans Ruin #1 l BOOM! STUDIOS
The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat #1 l D. E./DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
A Train Called Love #1 l D. E./DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
Battling Boy: Fall of the House of West GN l :01 FIRST SECOND
The Art of Elfquest HC l FLESK PUBLICATIONS
Alex Raymond: An Artistic Journey HC l HERMES PRESS
Appleseed Alpha Volume 1 GN l KODANSHA COMICS
Blood Feud #1 l ONI PRESS INC.
Assassin’s Creed #1 l TITAN COMICS
Book of Death: The Fall of X-O Manowar #1 l VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT LLC
Ninja Slayer: Machine of Vengeance GN l VERTICAL COMICS
One Punch Man Volume 1 GN l VIZ MEDIA LLC
One Punch Man Volume 2 GN l VIZ MEDIA LLC
Pokemon Pocket Comics: Legendary Pokemon GN l VIZ MEDIA LLC



BOOKS
My Little Pony: The Art of Equestria HC l ART BOOKS
Black Widow: Forever Red HC l COMICS
Marvel’s The Avengers Encyclopedia Hc l COMICS
Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schultz & The Art of Peanuts HC l COMICS
The Disney Book HC l DISNEY/ PIXAR
The Art of Alfredo Alcala: Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master l HOW-TO
Back to the Future: Ultimate Visual History HC l MOVIE/TV
Batman: A Celebration of the Classic Television Series HC l MOVIE/TV
The Shadow Double Novel Volume SC l PULP HEROES
The Walking Dead Pop-Up Book HC l THE WALKING DEAD

MAGAZINES
The Walking Dead Collection #5: Water Walker l EAGLEMOSS
The Walking Dead Collection #6 l EAGLEMOSS
The Hobbit Motion Picture Collection #3: Bilbo Baggins l EAGLEMOSS
The Hobbit Motion Picture Collection #4: Azog the Defiler l EAGLEMOSS
Marvel Fact Files Cosmic Special #1: Rocket Racoon l EAGLEMOSS
Marvel Fact Files Special #11: Hawkeye l EAGLEMOSS
Heroes Reborn: The Official Magazine #1 l MOVIE/TV
The Walking Dead Magazine #14 l MOVIE/TV
Star Trek Magazine #55 l STAR TREK
Star Wars Insider #161 l STAR WARS

TRADING CARDS
Topps 2015 Finest Football Trading Cards l TOPPS COMPANY
Topps 2015 Chrome Football Trading Cards l TOPPS COMPANY

APPAREL
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Raphael Red Heather T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC: Gotham City PD Cadet Zip Hoodie l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
DC Heroes: Captain Cold White T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
Harley Quinn: Harley Simple Skull Black T-Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
Army of Darkness: S-Mart Work Shirt l PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE WEAR
Superman: Truth Symbol T-Shirt l GRAPHITTI DESIGNS
Harley Quinn: Roller T-Shirt l GRAPHITTI DESIGNS

TOYS & STATUES
The Walking Dead Series 8 Action Figures l IMAGE COMICS
The Walking Dead: Michonne 10-inch Deluxe Action Figure l IMAGE COMICS
iZombie: Liv Moore Action Figure l DIAMOND SELECT TOYS & COLLECTIBLES
Star Wars Black 6-inch Deluxe Action Figures l STAR WARS
Ant-Man 6-Inch Infinite Legends Action Figures l ANT-MAN
Ant-Man 3-3/4-Inch Infinite Series: Giant Ant Action Figure l ANT-MAN
Avengers 6-Inch Infinite Legends Action Figures l AVENGERS
Legends of Cthulhu: Cthulhu 12-Inch Retailer Edition Figue\re l CTHULHU
Legends of Cthulhu: Necronomicon Collector Set l CTHULHU
Reaction: Big Trouble In Little China: Ghost Lo Pan Figure l FUNKO
Godzilla 12-Inch Long 1954 Action Figure l GODZILLA
Spider-Man 6-Inch Infinite Legends Action Figures l MARVEL HEROES
Mega Man 3-Inch Mini Series Figures l MEGA MAN
Mega Man: Mega Man Blueprint Royal Heather T-Shirt l MEGA MAN
Mega Man: Dr. Light’s Research Lab Black T-Shirt l MEGA MAN
Power Rangers Legacy Morpher l POWER RANGERS
Grand Jester: Bugs Bunny Opera Mini-Bust l LOONEY TUNES

IMPORT TOYS
DC Heroes: Red Hood ArtFX Statue l KOTOBUKIYA
Dragonball Z DXF Chozousyu Vol3: God Son Goku Figure l DRAGONBALL Z
Godzilla: Godzilla 1964 Emergence S.H. Monster Arts l TREASURES OF AKIHABARA
DC Heroes: Flashpoint Batman RAH Figure l DC HEROES
DC Heroes: Red Son Superman RAH Figure l DC HEROES
Metal Gear Solid V Phantom Pain Play Arts Kai: Venom Snake Sneaking Suit l METAL GEAR SOLID

COLLECTIBLES & NOVELTIES
Ghostbusters: Stay Puft Apron & Chef Hat l GHOSTBUSTERS
Guardians of the Galaxy: Smiling Groot Molded Mug l MARVEL HEROES
Marvel Heroes: Shield Venom Containment Unit Lava Lite l MARVEL HEROES

GAMES
Ghostbusters: The Board Game l CRYPTOZOIC ENTERTAINMENT
X-Files: The Board Game: Trust No One Expansion l IDW GAMES

Magic the Gathering TCG: Battle for Zendikar l WIZARDS OF THE COAST

Monday, July 13, 2015

X-Men # 101

Every comic book collector and reader worth his or her salt knows that Marvel Comics' X-Men is the biggest selling title in comic book publishing.

But that was not always the case.

When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee introduced Marvel Comics' X-Men in their own title in the 1960s sales were good-but not great.

After about 60 issues the sales were plummeting and in a last ditch effort to save the title Marvel Comics put superstars penciller Neal Adams and writer Roy Thomas on the title.

Granted their run was phenomenal but it did not translate to higher sales numbers so the title was cancelled.  At least as far as new stories were concerned.  It struggled on for about 20 more issues consisting of reprints and finally bit the dust.

In the mid-1970s the All-New, All Different X-Men were introduced in the revived title and while sales weren't stellar they were good enough to eventually push the title from a bi-monthly to a monthly print schedule-in no small part due to the scripts and art of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum.

After completing an assignment in space the X-Men are aboard a damaged and plummeting space shuttle.  It crashes into a body of water and everyone survives-except Jean Grey.  Or so it was supposed.

Issue #101 introduced a character whose influence can still be felt today throughout the Marvel Comics Universe.

Having assumed Jean died in the crash the X-Men are startled and astonished when the water about them begins bubbling and suddenly a green and yellow clad Jean Grey emerges in a lightshow of energy proclaiming she is the Phoenix.

It was thought that Jean's mutant abilities came to full fruition when the crash triggered some sort of hidden power surge.

In later issues it was revealed that Jean possessed the cosmic power of the Phoenix.  Unfortunately the power soon corrupted her and she became the Dark Phoenix, devourer of worlds.

The first appearance of the Phoenix would set in motion a decades long string of stories that forever changed the Marvel Universe.  The Phoenix (Jean) would go on to become the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club and eventually die sacrificing herself rather than turning into the ravenous and insatiable Dark Phoenix.

Later still it would be revealed that the Phoenix wasn't Jean Grey but a being of immense power who took on her appearance.  Jean was still alive in a protective cocoon at the bottom of body of water the space shuttle crashed into and would be revived.

Jean's fate and that of the Phoenix would be intermingled over the following years and the power of the Phoenix would rival that of Galactus himself.


We've not seen the last of the Phoenix or its dark manifestation and I dare say not the last of Jean Grey.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Camelot 3000 #1

The late 1970s and early 1980s brought huge changes to the comic book industry.

Before then comic book publishers sold their comics through magazine and book distributors.  

That meant that comic books (like magazines) were sold on newsstands across the country.  

Every drugstore, five and dime and mom and pop shop carried comic books if they carried magazines.


Like magazines, retailers could return unsold comic books to the distributor who in turn would send them back to the publishers for a refund.

As the price of magazines rose comic books rose too, but a slower rate.  Magazine distributors took notice that their profit on comic books was much lower than on comic books so distributors started to cut back on comic books. 

Comic books often were not placed on shelves or only a few scattered titles.  Comic book publishers found their profits dropping as distribution dried up.

Along came the direct sales market that allowed comic book publishers to sell directly to comic book shops with no return policy.  Numbers began to climb and publishers recognized that developing product that sold only through direct market sales could turn a profit.

Marvel and DC Comics began producing direct sales titles.  About that same time small publishers began to pop up that sold exclusively to comic book shops via direct sales.

Since comic books sold mostly to serious collectors (many who were getting older) both Marvel, DC and other publishers began producing titles with more 'mature' themes and stories.

In 1982 writer Mike Barr presented a new story idea to DC Comics.  It updated the Arthurian legend and was aimed at an older audience.

At first DC balked and turned down the idea but soon relented.

Accompanying Mike Barr was British artist Brian Bolland who provided the pencils. Few knew of Bolland's work, except those who read Britain's Judge Dredd.

Since DC Comics was importing many of its writers and artists from the British Isles Brian was a perfect choice.

This was time when the internet and e-mail did not exist.  Inter-continental mail and package delivery was in its infancy. While coordinating the writing and art proved somewhat difficult-resulting in missed deadlines-the series did see completion nearly a year behind schedule.

Camelot 3000 is important for a few reasons.  First, it was printed on more expensive Baxter paper and on Letterpress.  It was one of DC Comics' first direct market series and its very fist maxi-series limited to 12 issues.

The series was a huge success.  Fans loved the story and especially Bolland's ever improving artwork.


DC had a hit on its hands and soon other direct sale series would follow.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fantastic Four #51

How do you follow up a classic story that changed the face of comic books forever?

Back in the mid 1960s Marvel Comics' writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created a trio of comic book issues that revolutionized and altered the world of comic book publishing forever. 

Its effects can still be seen and felt in comic books today.

I'm referring to the ground-breaking 'Galactus Trilogy' that introduced the world to the World Devourer, the Silver Surfer and the Cosmic Storyline.

Never before had a comic book series tackled such a large all encompassing scope of a story.  It had everything from a godlike antagonist, universe-spanning adventures, strange and exotic worlds and locations and a thrilling story.  How do you top that?

Somehow Kirby and Lee did.

Just after the three issue run (#s 48, 49 and 50) Kirby and Lee opted for a simpler more personal story.  They succeeded in what many consider the 'best' Fantastic Four story ever written and drawn. 

Issue #51 involved a scientist who was insanely jealous of Reed Richard's success.  He succeeded in stealing the Thing's appearance and powers and planned to kill Reed Richards.

But after witnessing the friendship and family bond of the Fantastic Four the scientist sacrificed his life to save Reed from the Negative Zone.

It is one of the most touching and poignant FF stories ever told and rightly deserves its place in comic book history.

What the Galactus Trilogy did for universe-spanning stories issue #51 proved that comic books were more than just big fights and grandiose stories, they could also be heartfelt and touching.  

The cover features the Thing with head down and arms spread with the story's title printed in green in a black box.  It reads 'This Man...This Monster.'  A true classic.  

Waterloo and World Of Tanks

Measuring in at 1/72 Scale Italeri's British Artillery and British and Prussian General Staff Waterloo figure collection model kits are as historically genuine as they come.

The British Artillery Set consist of 16 soldiers and four cannon.  All parts are securely fastened to two part trees and easily detach with minimal or zero flashing. 

Each piece is finely sculpted and accurate in detail.  Quite a feat considering how small the figures and cannon are.  Assembly is easy and with the paint guides on the back of the model box paint application is a snap.

The British and Prussian General Staff is similar to the British Artillery Set but it consists of two part trees with 16 horses and 18 figures.  All are historically correct in their details and are easy to assemble and paint.

From the online video game phenomenon: World Of Tanks Roil Out comes Italeri's M24 Chaffee Tank model.

Parts come on four part trees (not including treads and chassis).  Parts fit snuggly together, are easy to assemble and with a little paint and the included decals you'll have a miniature motorized weapon before you know it!

Beautifully sculpted with special attention given to details the M24 Chaffee Tank model also comes with Historical References and In-Game Tips, three Invite Codes and a Bonus Code.
Fuel up, load up and hit the road!

Vintage Sci-Fi and Archie Bunker's Place

Ah, there's nothing like watching a few 'B'  vintage Sci-Fi movies to end the day!

Ever since Star Wars hit the big screen expectations for Sci-Fi movies have been high.  It wasn't always that way.

Before Star Wars movie goers paid their 50 cents to watch a Sci-Fi matinee or drive-in theater Sci-Fi movie expectations were not high.

It was expected that the movies would have cheesy special effects, even cheesier monsters or aliens (or both) and terrible acting.   There were a few exceptions of course, but generally Sci-Fi movies scrapped the bottom of the cinematic barrel.

Still there was something charming about them.  There must have been-lots of people went to see them.

Mill Creek Entertainment brings back the 'good ol' days' with its Vintage Sci-Fi 6 Movie Collection.  They're cheesy, corny, tacky and campy...and I love them!

Get ready to battle in space, encounter dragons, go to the Moon, watch the World explode, battle a blob and face the end of the World.  Sound cheesy enough for you?  Break out the popcorn!

Back in the late 1960s CBS introduced a new type of TV show that would revolutionize TV viewing.  It starred a blue collar, bigoted, loudmouth, blowhard who you couldn't help but love.  The show was called All In The Family.

The show ran for several years and the program's main star Carroll O'Connor (who played Archie) often stated that he was ready to move on and try other acting opportunities.

Ironically O'Connor wound up being the only original star to stay with show.  The rest of the  original cast would all leave the renamed show: Archie Bunker's Place. It would continue to play for several more years.

During that time Archie's wife would die, he would kindle a romance with a black woman and help raise his grand daughter.  Eventually Archie would change his stripes and transform into a compassionate, open-minded and caring person.  Quite a change!

Mill Creek Entertainment presents Season One in its entirety consisting of 24 episodes.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Shoki, C Mustang and LaGG-3

The 1/48 Scale  "Shidenkai No Maki" Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki (TOJO) Limited Edition aircraft promises "fun with firepower."

And you thought seasoned Air Force veterans make the best combat pilots!  Guess again!
In the Japanese Manga/Anime Shidenkai No Maki, teenage girls prove that they have what it takes to fight to the death in aerial combat.

Customize the Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki model with your choice of two student decal sets: Fuko Yajima "Fujin" or Raina Kitajima "Raijn".

Designed, constructed and flown late in WWII the Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki (TOJO) were armed to the hilt and could 'touch' the untouchable Allied B-29. 

The small Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki model features a tri-propeller, single pilot cockpit, wing-mounted machine guns along with full landing gear. 

It may be small but it packs quite a punch!  Once painted, decaled and assembled the Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki will make a fine addition to any aircraft model maker. 

As with all Hasegawa Hobby Kits the Nakajima Ki44-II Shoki model has tight fitting parts with little or no flashing, exceptional detailing, easy to apply decals and full instructions that make it easy to put the aircraft together.

Also measuring in at 1/48 Scale the Lavochkin LaGG-3 "Finnish Air Force" Limited Edition aircraft model is also from the WWII era.

In a clever use of wordplay the term "Fight to the Finnish" was more true than the Soviets and Finnish people realized.

Construction was of wood-laminate, that added durability, the Lavochkin LaGG-3 was fast, strong and deadly sporting its twin 12.7 mm Berezin UBS machine guns.

During the war the Finnish military captured three Lavochkin LaGG-3  from the Russians that they used primarily as bomber interceptors.  In all 6,500 Lavochkin LaGG-3 were produced.
One look at this formidable aircraft and you can spot why it was so lethal.

It slightly heavier fuselage, powerful tri-propeller engine, sleek contours and solid construction gave the Lavochkin LaGG-3 its heft. 

The models can be fitted with landing gear up or down and modified to represent one of two versions using the decals included.

Get two aircraft model kits for the price of one with the 1/72 Scale P-51B/C Mustang Air Racer (2 kits) Limited Edition model kit.

Flown by the legendary "Speed Queen" (Jacqueline Cochran) to win five Harmon Trophies for outstanding piloting skills the P-51 Mustangs model kit includes new resin dorsal fins and fuselage bulge parts.

Like their equine namesake the P-51 Mustangs are powerful, pack plenty of "horse power" and come out on top in any fight.

Blue or green, you choose.  But why choose when you have both and the option of two markings?


Anyway you choose, you can't loose.  Tri-propellers, heavy armor and armament and plenty of get up and go make the P51B/C WWII era aircraft are horses of a different color.  Saddle up!   

Terminator Genisys: Resetting The Future

Yesterday Bill (a friend of mine) and I went a watched the new Terminator Genisys movie.
Both of us were excited by the trailers we've seen of the movie and what possible new twist(s) the new movie would show.  Our hopes were high.  We were not disappointed.
Both of us loved the movie.  While paying homage to the original first two Terminator movies the new movie successfully introduced new time-travel twists the successfully rebooted the series.
As excited I was about the movie, I was even more excited by the special visual effects.  I've always been a sucker for Hollywood magic and there was plenty of visual tricks used in the film.
I love it when I come away from a movie and find myself asking, "How did they do that?"
Insight Editions was kind enough to send me a copy of its new Terminator Genisiys: Resetting The Future book that goes into exhaustive detail about the film.
From pre-production to post-production the book covers it all.
Inside are sections on cast selection, costuming, weapons and accessories, vehicles, the Terminator designs and their equipment, set design and implementation, visual and practical effects, stunt work and more.
If you are a film fanatic like I am you will eat up this book.  Packed with full-color photos from the behind the scenes and during filming, cast and crew interviews and comments, production staff inner workings and showcasing the entire process of making a big budget film are also included.

It is a gorgeous hardbound book with a spot varnish image of a Terminator head on its cover it includes a foreword by Arnold Schwarzenegger and is written by David S. Cohen.