Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fantasy & Science Fiction #745, September/October 2019



NOVELETS
The White Cat's Divorce
American Gold Mine
Kabul   
Erase, Erase, Erase   

SHORT STORIES
Little Inn on the Jianghu
Under the Hill
Madness Afoot
The Light on Eldoreth
Booksavr
The Wrong Badger   
Ghost Ships   
Homecoming

POEMS
Last Human in the Olympics
Halstead IV   

DEPARTMENTS
Three Score and Ten
Books to Look For   
Books
Films: Love Death + Some Regression
Science: Net Up or Net Down?   
Plumage from Pegasus
Coming Attractions   
Curiosities   

CARTOONS
Mark Heath, Danny Shanahan

COVER
David Hardy

Shaft

Samuel L. Jackson is back as John Shaft and this time he brought his dad and son with him.

Shaft agrees to help his son find out about the mysterious and suspicious death of his friend.

The only problem is Shaft’s dad is every bit as cantankerous as he is and just as tough (He was the ‘original. Shaft.

Shaft Jr. on the other hand is the exact opposite of his street-smart dad.  He’s educated, analytical. a by-the-book FBI employee, sophisticated, uses clean language and has never been in Harlem’s less savory side.

The combination of the three Shafts make for hilarious moments along with some real touching family spots and a lot of blood, guts, mayhem and action. 

Three times the Shaft equals three times to sass, bravado, leather dusters and big guns.

“Who's the black private dick
That's a sex machine to all the chicks? (Shaft)
You're damn right
Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother, man? (Shaft)
Can ya dig it?
Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about? (Shaft)
Right on
You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother (Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Shaft (Then we can dig it)
He's a complicated man but no one understands him but his woman (John Shaft)”


All three of them!

Warner Bros. presents then new Shaft Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Code Combination Pack that also features several featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.

Smart Farmer and Brain Train

Our grandson loves playing with train and animal toys.  It just so happens that SmartGames has just released two new games that he is sure to want.

Smart Farmer and Brain Train are both made for one player.  Smart Farmer for five years olds and up and Brain Train for three years old and up.

Thanks SmartGames you just scored some major points for grandpa!


What game doubles as toy?  Brain Train of course!

With Brain Train kids not only have fun but they develop their cognitive skills such as planning, visual perception, problem solving, flexible thinking and spatial insight. 

They play and learn at the same time!


Kids remove the three train cars and various geometric shapes from the game box.

Following the easy to understand instruction parents run through the game with their child.  Trust me, kids catch on real fast!

The game challenges (there are 48 challenges) children to match up the shapes as shown and place them in the right sequence.  Some pieces are attached to each other, some are not.

As children progress each level offers fewer hints to complete the train.  Make sure the engine and cars are connected and away you go!

Match the shapes and colors and before you know it the little train is chugging along.

The heavy plastic train engine, cars and shapes are rugged and child safe.  Small hands easily manipulate the train and pieces.

While children are not playing Brain Train they have a nifty new toy to play with!

Look for SmartGames at specialty toy stores, Amazon and the Smart Game website (https://www.smartgamesusa.com/).

What kid doesn’t like farm animals?  They are adorable, fun to look at and kids love to pet them and touch them.

Of course grownups know that there is more to farm animals than fun.  The animals tend to wander about, go places they shouldn’t go and can cause a mess if not supervised.

Sometimes supervision and taking care of things are not easy concepts for young kids to grasp.

With Smart Farmer kids not only get to play a game with cute little, rugged plastic farm animals and fences they also learn to keep the animals apart and develop all sorts of cognitive skills.

With 60 challenges one player can spend hours figuring out how best to move the animals to keep them apart.

Kids select a challenge from the enclosed pamphlet.  The selected field is divided into separate meadows using the fences.  


Horses, cows, pigs and sheep must be corralled into their own meadows and each meadow and later challenges must have a water trough for each meadow.

Sounds easy?  Don’t count on it.  You know how feisty farm animals can be!

All SmartGames come in heavy paper stock and colorful game boxes with easy to open lids.  Parts are securely packed and kids have no problem at all putting the game pieces and instructions in the boxes-there’s lots of room.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mary Poppins, The Lion King and Yesterday’s Tomorrow


OK, give me a minute.  I’m just about ready to geek out!  Breath deep.  One. Two.  Focus. Focusssss.

Whew, that was close.  I almost had a serious Disney freak out. 

I love Walt Disney Studios.  I was a kid when the original Mousketeers (The Mickey Mouse Club) show was on TV in the 1950s and Disney premiered its Disneyland TV series.

You might know it as The Wonderful World Of Color, hosted by the man himself: Walt Disney.

I remember watching Art Linkletter host the opening of Disneyland.  Yeah, I’m that old.

I’ve seen all of Disney’s animated movies from Snow While on and most of the live-action movies.

Now that Disney has expanded to include Marvel Comics, Pixar and other properties I find myself absolutely deluged by awesome cinema magic.

So, you can see why I got so excited when Disney Editions so generously provided three of its books to review.

Way back in 1964 I heard from friends and family about a new Disney movie that everyone was raving about.

It was based on the classic series of kids’ books starring Mary Poppins-the original super nanny.

While I had never heard of Mary Poppins books before I did see a few movie trailers touting the movie.  It looked fantastic and it was a musical!

How could I loose?

That Saturday I went to my town’s single screen movie theater and watched the movie through twice!

I could not get the film out of my head, especially the songs.

Recently Walt Disney Studios released a follow up movie to the original Mary Poppins film.

Mary Poppins Returns occurs approximately 25 years after the original film. It is every bit as enchanting and fun as the first film.

Everything looks the same-even the rooftops and streets.  Amazing!

Writer Jeff Kurtti has put together an incredible new book about both Mary Poppins films called Practically Poppins In Every Way.



(Did you know there was a TV version of Mary Poppins and a sensational Broadway show?)

The gorgeous, oversize hardbound book features an extensive gallery of photos from both films. 

There are oodles of behind-the-scenes goodies including set designs, costumes, character profiles, commentaries, production art, practical and digital effects, song and dance setups and more-oh, so much more!

There’s plenty of film history, anecdotes, storyboards, concept art and every conceivable type of information, secrets and film magic included.

It’s a jolly holiday and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

In The Art And Making Of The Lion King author Michael Goldman takes on the new computer animated film: The Lion King.

My daughter and her friends went to see the film and came away blown away!

She loved the classic animated original and feel in love with new version.

“It was perfect!” were her exact words.

I love the book’s cover with its spot varnish and matt background.  It really makes the type pop!

Inside readers are invited to experience the genesis of the film, marvel at the production art, be amazed at the whole scope of the movie and be astonished by the realism recreated for the film.

As a professional designer I was very impressed by the skill of the computer animation artists-everything in the film looks incredibly real.

Every aspect of the film is explored from character designs, environments, story layouts, plotting, the soundtrack, voice actors and actresses, interviews with production staff, pre and post production, marketing and more.

It is a beautiful, oversize hardbound book designed to look like it is printed on parchment paper.  Soft, muted colors, carefully designed pages, impressive layouts and simple type that does not detract from the images make this book a true masterpiece of print and design.

When I used to watch the Disney TV show my favorite features dealt with the magic behind the Disneyland theme park, spotlights on innovative technology, flights of fancy about space travel, mass transit, futuristic living and the possibilities of the future.

Don Hahn’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow presents a look at Disney’s Magical Mid Century.

What a wonderful stroll down Memory Lane!

I absolutely love looking at the designs of Disneyland, its rides and attraction, glimpses of imagined future technologies, the optimistic visions of tomorrow and Walt’s illustrated plans for expanding Disneyland and the projected Disneyworld.

Vintage photos, concept art, glimpses of the magic of imagineering and audioanimatronics and the incredible imaginations of the Disney artists are mesmerizing!

This book brings so many fond memories of a simpler time when the future held so much promise.  It was contagious!

Tomorrow never looked so good!

Billions and Madam Secretary


Money and power.  Both can be beneficial if used properly.  But, there are those that will do anything, destroy anyone and lie, cheat and steal to obtain them.

The only problem is once you go down that path, expect repercussions.

That’s exactly what happens during Season Four of Showtime’s Billions TV series.

Expect betrayal, enemies who unit to destroy mutual rivals, dirty politics, greed, sex, revenge, ruined lives and betrayal-and that’s just the beginning.

CBS/Paramount presents the entire Season Four of 12 episodes in a brand new DVD collection.

Bobby, Chuck and Wendy combine their formidable skills to destroy, bankrupt and decimate their foes and heaven help those who get in their way!

Also included with DVD collection are several special features: Pick A Side, Inside Fight Night, Script To Screen and Billions References.

It’s so good to be bad!

In the Madam Secretary Season 5 DVD Collection Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord has her hands full as she copes with domestic and foreign incidences and catastrophes.

Supported by her husband, associates and friends McCord proves she has what to takes to think outside the box, come up with unique solutions and the smarts to consult others who have been in her shoes.

Look for special appearances by real life former Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, Hilary Clinton and Colin Powell in this powerful final season of the series.

To quote Cable Guy, Get ‘er done!’ and that’s just what she does.

Here We Go Again!


They say that three’s a charm.

I’m not sure that’s true but this is the third article I’ve written focusing on minor ‘key’ comic books I believe collectors should own.

As with my other two previous articles the comic books used as examples are taken directly from my collection.

This time around I want to deal with three alternate press comic books from the past.

Instead of DC and Marvel titles the following three books come from Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics-both of which no longer exist as publishers.

Destroyer Duck #1, written and drawn by legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby, was a special issue with its profits going to support the creator of Howard The Duck as he battled Marvel Comics for the Howard creator rights.

While Destroyer Duck eventually floundered as a comic book character it was the issue’s small back-up story that introduced a new character by noted MAD artist Sergio Aragones.

The character, Groo The Wanderer, was a parody of the then popular barbarian characters.  The only difference was, Groo was played for laughs.

Groo was a bumbling idiot who somehow always managed to make a bad situation worse and even more remarkable wound up making things right in the end-most of the time.

In Starslayer #2 another back-up story introduced a character who would spawn his own series and even star in a movie.

The story focused on a young pilot who stumbled upon an experimental jet backpack and became the Rocketeer, created by the late writer/artist Dave Stevens.

Back before Image Comics became its own publisher and distributor, the Image creators made a deal with the fledgling Malibu Comic Book publisher to distribute its books.

Malibu was a new company and spent a considerable amount of effort promoting itself. 

One such promotion piece was its in-house publication: Malibu Sun.

In issue #13 of Malibu Sun a single page illustration announced the upcoming release of Todd McFarlane’s soon to be famous character: Spawn.

Malibu Sun #13 is the first ‘official’ appearance of Spawn.

I encourage all collectors to take time and do some serious research when it concerns old comic books.  Many minor ‘key’ and potentially ‘hot’ comics books may suddenly become the next big thing.

Friday, September 13, 2019

And Now...For Something New


I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have accumulated a sizable collection of Silver, Bronze, Copper and Modern Age comic books.

God has truly blessed and I give Him all the credit.  Trust me when I say that there was no way that I could have stockpiled such a collection on my own--I’m not that smart or wealthy.

Remarkably in all the years I’ve been collecting I’ve never paid more than $5 for any old comic book, and that was only once.

The balance of my collection I either bought the issues at cover price when they were published, had issues given to me, traded for them, found them or paid practically nothing for them at yard and garage sales.

No brag-just fact.

Scoffers may say that God had nothing to do with it.  I beg to differ.  I’ve seen and experienced things that by human standards would be considered impossible.

I see no reason why as a child of God that He wouldn’t grant me the enjoyment of collecting comic books-as long as He comes first.

My entire life is a testimony of the grace and goodness of God.  If it were not for Him I would not be here to enjoy His generosity and kindness.

Yes, there have been some rough times, but He’s always been there for me, even when it felt like He wasn’t.

To the point. 

As a comic book collector going on sixty years I consider myself fairly well versed on the hobby.

I’ve witnessed its highs and lows, its fads, the speculator fever pitch and the escalating prices for old comic books.

Everyone, it seems, who collects comic books is looking for ‘hot’ and ‘key’ issues.

That’s all well and good, but most are missing lesser ‘key’ issues.

It is my desire to start writing articles on a semi-regular basis that spotlight what I consider some ‘key’ issues that every collector should have in their collection.

I plan on picking out books from my own collection and briefly spotlighting what makes those particular issues important.

Most of the books are currently relatively inexpensive as compared to the ‘big’ ‘key’ issues, but they are important nonetheless.

Not quite a year after DC Comics instituted its Crisis On Infinite Earths maxi-series, the DC Universe was settling into its new streamlined continuity.

While Crisis set a base point by which DC characters restarted from, many of the finer details still need to be ironed out as far as character dynamics were concerned.

In Action Annual #1 writer John Byrne and artist Arthur Adams (some of his first DC work) collaborated on an unusual supernatural tale involving Batman and Superman.

Many consider this the first post-Crisis ‘World’s Finest’ teaming of the Dark Knight and The Man Of Steel.

In the annual the key differences between the characters are point one.

Superman was a glorified Boy Scout and Batman was the bad boy.

The two did not necessarily get along together or agree on crime-fighting techniques.

But, as the story progresses both Batman and Superman agreed to disagree and ultimately learned to respect each other.

Batman also saved Superman’s life.

The story centered on the activities in a small town where both Batman and Superman wind up investigating some mutual murders.  Batman arrived by intent, Superman (as Clark Kent) arrived because Jimmy Olsen’s car broke down.

Eventually the two heroes come across a young woman named Skeeter who was not what she appears to be.

It seems the murders involved her and her kin.  Fortunately Batman and Superman put a stop to her activities before she put the ‘bite’ on them.

I consider this a key issue because: it’s the first (or one of the first) post-Crisis team-ups of the two heroes, it features excellent art by Arthur Adams and sets up the dynamics between Supes and Bats for stories to follow.

My other ‘hot’ pick is 1978’s The Incredible Hulk Annual #7.

In this issue the Hulk teamed up with Iceman and Angel, took on the Master Mold and even bumped into Doc Samson.

The reasons I consider this a pivotal issue is that it showcases some of artist John Byrne's early X-Men and Hulk art and brings back the threat of the Sentinels.

Keep an eye out for some other ‘special’ appearances.

Both annuals feature early artwork by two of comicdom's premier artists, great stories and some important moments that would reverberate in the DC and Marvel Universes for years to come.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Yesterday

The Beatles: without question the most popular Rock and Roll group of all time.

During their reign the 1960s the group wrote and performed countless hits, influenced a whole generation and set the world of music on its collective ear.

Their long an illustrious music making genus (as a group or individuals) still influences musicians today.

The surviving members of the group (Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney still perform) and Paul still churns out hit records even into his 70s!

But, what if the group was completely forgotten?  What if they never performed or went on to worldwide fame?

In Yesterday, struggling songwriter Jack Malik discovers after a mysterious blackout that he is the only one who remembers The Beatles and their songs.

No one in the entire world knows of or remembers The Beatles.

Taking advantage of the situation Jack proceeds to bolster his career by performing The Beatles hits, labeling them as his own.

Soon his star is rising and he is getting all he ever wanted: fame and fortune.

But, deep inside his deception is eating away at him.  He knows, as much as the world cheers his success, it is unearned.

Will he choose to continue his charade or will he come clean?

Through it all he risks losing the one person who believed in him before the blackout: Ellie.

Will he make the right decision before it is too late to return to his old life?

Yesterday features spectacular renditions of The Beatles numerous hits along with amazing performances.

The newly released Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Code Combo Pack from Universal Studios Home Entertainment also includes an alternate ending, deleted scenes and several featureetes including a visit to Abbey Road Studios!

Yesterday offers a fresh take on the fantastic music of The Beatles intertwined with a unique tale of fame, faith and ultimate redemption.

Rising Rampage Special Edition

Are you ready to ramp up your rage?  Are you seething with anger and anxious to knock a few heads?

Deep inside every Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game player is a beast about to break free and cause chaos and destruction.

Are you ready to let that beast go and win, win, win!?

If so, then Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game Rising Rampage Special Edition is just the catalyst you need to release the beast!

Just look at what you get:

3 Rising Rampage Booster Packs
1 of 2 Super Rare variant Cards:  "Salamangreat Coyote" or "Marincess Battle Ocean"
1 of 2 Super Rare Variant Cards:  "Marincess Wonder Heart" or "Marincess Sea Angel"

It’s fury in a box and all you have to do is open it!  Let the carnage begin!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Hidden Gems


Comic Book collecting has become a big industry.  Comic book publishers cater to collectors using comic books with  variant covers, special events, crossovers, annuals, mini and maxi-series and so forth.

Often these books have the phrase; “Collector’s Edition” emblazoned on their covers.

Here’s a tip: if it says it’s a collector’s item-it ain’t!

More than likely its print run is more than a regular issue making it anything but rare.

The truth is comic book companies, like any businesses, are in business to make money-by whatever means necessary.

Don’t buy into the hype.

A true collector item as far as comic books go is determined by rarity, a genuine first appearance, how old a comic book is, condition and long-term viability-no flash in the pan.

Often collectors overlook what I refer to as “Hidden Gems’. These are comic books that go under the radar of most collectors, feature first appearances or pivotal occurrences, had relatively small print runs and were printed several decades ago making them more likely to have fewer issues.

For example:



Marvel Team-Up #55 featured the return of Adam Warlock to the Marvel Universe after being dispersed into space.  He also teamed up with Spider-Man.  Did I mention the Stranger and the Gardener also appeared in this issue?

With the huge interest in the Marvel Space/Cosmic Epic generated by the recent Avengers and Guardian Of The Universe movies people are clamoring for early issues featuring cosmic characters-Adam Warlock for instance.

Look for his other early appearances to spike in value and collectibility.



Speaking of Spider-Man, he also teamed up with Captain Britain (his first American comic book appearance) in Marvel Team-Up #65.

In that same issue the hit man Arcade was also introduced.



The next issue (#66) featured the first full appeared of Arcade. He would go on to be one of the X-Men’s most deadly foes.

Key issues such as those mentioned are sprinkled throughout older comic books.  Major key issues are fine but these unappreciated gems could very well become ‘must-have’ issues in the future.

Look at the first appearances of Cable, Deadpool and X-23, for example.  All were relatively cheap when they first came out.  Now each demands hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to purchase.

Be proactive.  Buy smart, do your homework and you may reap the reward.

Dry...So Very Dry!

It happens.

There are times, as a pop culture collectibles reviewer, when review merchandise does not show up for extended periods-in this case over two weeks.

It can be frustrating, but it’s all a part of the process.

Holidays are the worse-especially long holiday periods like Christmas.

Natural disasters, like the near miss from a hurricane here in North Florida also messes with delivery schedules.

Whatever the reason for time lapses when no review stuff show up it can be tough.

Especially when I love writing reviews and I feel I owe it to my readers.

Visitors to my blog can only take so many retro-reviews and commentaries.  Who can blame them?

All I can do is trust God to provide, be patient and hope that a steady supply of review goodies eventually shows up.

It’s the waiting that’s the pits!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dream A Little Dream....

Everyone has a dream.  I have two.

The first one is to find a stash of Gold, Silver and Bronze Age comic books and to write several review articles about them delving into their history, artists, writers and etc.

My second dream is to start receiving a lot more review items allowing me to write a large amount of reviews resulting in more readers.

They may not sound like to big dreams to some people, but I hope them come true.

Nothing

Hurricane bad-no mail, no Fed-ex and no UPS equals no reviews.  Need stuff-need to write reviews!