Saturday, April 30, 2011

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #2


Well I promised a review and it's finally here. There will be spoilers so consider yourself warned.

When we last left off, the war between Greater and Lesser Helium seem resolved when the Jeddak of Yorn had offered a way to bring peace-have Dejah Thoris marry his son Vallin. But it was a trick to capture the leaders of both sides in order to get to something buried beneath Helium-a giant war machine created by a Barsoomian inventor named Voormenihees. While the Jeddak and his men begin examining the machine, a group of Yorn warriors are ambushed by Green Men who have decided to invade Helium. Meanwhile Dejah escapes with the help of Vallin, who reveals it was he who cracked Voormenihees' code to find and activate the machine. Dejah quickly springs into action and rescues her father and grandfather but fails to find the Jeddak of Greater Helium who she feels can help. Oh and the Green Men want Dejah-well for reasons you can figure out. And the Jeddak of Yorn may have gotten more than he bargained for...

OK, after the first issue I was a little concerned where this series was heading in terms of story and the characters-especially Dejah Thoris. Well I guess we'll get the good stuff out first-the artwork by Carlos Rafael is really good. The characters are well drawn-especially Dejah, who manages to be attractive but real, even in her lack of clothing-and the action scenes are handled with a certain style that makes it clear what's going on.

Where I'm having problems is with the story. First I admit the "colossus" seems a little out there but in some ways it does fit the pulp stories of old, even it brings to mind Joog the Giant. So what's the major issue? Midway through after escaping Dejah slams a sword while leaping into the air through a guy's head before slashing another guy to pieces like she was trained by a ninja. Yep, it's the "Dejah Thoris-Warrior Princess" problem. Now there is some dialogue early in the story where she says "we women of Helium can defend ourselves just as ably as men!" But I don't even remember John Carter being able to slam a sword into a guy's head through the top of his skull while leaping over him. The thing is it brings up something of a divide I've seen among some fans of John Carter of Mars concerning the portrayal of Dejah, especially with the upcoming movie. Some have argued that the "warrior princess" thing is necessary to make the character more pro-active in the story, that modern audiences won't accept the damsel in distress version from Burroughs' time. But is turning her into a sword wielding warrior who can mow down heavily trained soldiers more believable? I guess I can understand the motivation to make it more appealing to modern readers used to Ellen Ripley or Xena but in some ways I'm having a hard time believing this is the solution for every character. Making her a smart, resourceful heroine is something I can get behind and at least until she went Xena, the character in these two issues had those traits. Let's hope the next few issues she still has them and puts the warrior attitude away.

So in closing the artwork maybe the main reason to get this series, both the covers and the interior. But I would like to see more smart Dejah and less sword through skulls Dejah in the future. (A quick note-I hit the comic payload, so I'll have reviews of issue 6 of Warlord of Mars and more of the Marvel series this week.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dejah Thoris #5 Preview (Plus ERB Speaks)


More hot Dejah action! In this case MTV's Geek News has posted the cover art for issue 5 of Dejah Thoris which will hit this July http://geek-news.mtv.com/2011/04/26/mtv-geek-exclusive-first-look-warlord-of-mars-dejah-thoris-5/ So which cover gets your vote for the hottest? I'll go with Jusko's above thank you.

The second news comes from the man himself! Or rather the guy playing him. The unofficial John Carter of Mars movie site has excerpts from comments made by actor Daryl Sabara at the recent premiere of the Disney flick Prom. On his role in the film: "I play Edgar Rice Burroughs, he's the author of all the John Carter stories. He's the author of Tarzan. But this one is just John Carter for now. He plays John Carter's nephew, because in the story Edgar Rice Burroughs incorporates himself and says that John Carter is his uncle and that the stories are actually John Carter's private journal. And so the story's kind of seen through Edgar's eyes." For more of the interview go to http://www.johncartermovie.com/cgi-bin/archive.pl?COMMAND=showarticle&num=36799

Monday, April 25, 2011

Retro View: Tarzan and the Amtorans



As some might remember I posted some pics from a few months back and promised a review. Well better late than never.

While visiting the N'Gono tribe with his friend Kimba Tarzan (Joe Lara) suddenly finds himself asked to leave after a strange occurrence leaves him with blood on his hands. The village witch doctor thinks it's bad magic but Tarzan claims to have seen a strange scene of women giving birth and thinks the blood is from a newborn baby. When the daughter of the village chief disappears around a well, Tarzan decides to investigate by going into the well. Where he comes out is a barren wasteland inhabited by purple humanoids and acid rain. He is saved from the latter by another human Carson Napier (Anthony Guidera) who informs Tarzan that he is on the planet Amtor, which has become dried out due to a lack of rain. This has also caused the people to become unable to reproduce, resulting in the kidnapping of the village women. Tarzan agrees to help Carson retrieve his formula-which he thinks will cause it to rain-and to rescue the women. Standing in their way is Mintep, the jong of Amtor whose daughter Duare (Michelle Botes) is in love with Carson, and who sees Napier as troublesome rebel. Will Tarzan rescue the women? Can Carson make it rain? Will that big spider eat our heroes? And did anyone involved ever read the books?

I admit to only having seen one or two episodes of Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, the short-lived syndicated TV series from the late 1990s, back when it was on. But the general consensus was that it was closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' original creation-an educated Lord Greystoke, the inclusion of characters from the Tarzan novels and some other Burroughs creations-most notably some Pellucidar inspired episodes. But with Tarzan and the Amtorans, it seems the writers decided to change Carson, Duare and company around quite a bit. Instead of the cloud covered, watery planet of Amtor Burroughs described, we get a dried out desert and the standard sci-fi plot of a lack of rain fall that has caused major problems. The characters are also different-Carson is an archaeologist whose exposure to Amtor's atmosphere is slowly killing him-Duare at one point even asks "Carson, are you dying?"-while Duare and the Amtorans are purple faced creatures who drive around on motorcycles and low-rent Mad Max dune buggies. And Mintep? He's a mutant which makes no sense, unless all that breeding with Earth women has caused a more humanoid appearance. (Any thoughts on that?)

As is the case with most of these TV shows from that period, Tarzan also shows it's low budget-from the costuming to the incredibly fake spider CGI to the laughable laser gun effects. The cast does try it's best-especially Guidera who has some of the humor of the Carson from the books, and Botes. As Tarzan Joe Lara does the action scenes well and that's about it. He isn't the most boring Tarzan ever-that honor goes to Casper van Dien in Tarzan and the Lost City-but in this episode he's close. And the comedy relief sidekick? Suddenly I missed Cheeta.

Given that the Carson Napier movie seems to be going nowhere, I guess this will rank as the character's only film appearance. As far as low-budget TV film making goes, it's passable entertainment and was a fun look back at a time when this type of program provided some alternative on rainy Saturdays. Rating: ** out of 4. (One quick thing-the episode I was provided still had the original commercials in it. Between the ads for exercise equipment (where you never looked as good as the buff guys and girls shown using it) and psychic friends was an ad promoting a contest looking for Jane, telling young women to send the picture to the casting agents for the series. Does anyone know if someone was hired for the part?)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Les Chroniques de Mars!


OK no Dejah Thoris for the moment. But I did order a copy so it will be here sometime this week. Moving on from that here's your Easter Sunday treat-a trailer for Les Chroniques de Mars, which if my high school French is accurate means The Chronicles of Mars. It's not much of a treat but still good for a laugh and I do think the poster looks better than the American cover art. Sit back and enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Buck Rogers On TCM


Ready to relive those Saturday morning memories? Turner Classic Movies will be showing the first two chapters of the 1939 Buck Rogers serial starring Buster Crabbe this Saturday April 23 at 11 a.m. EST and follow up with the rest over the next few weeks http://tvlistings.zap2it.com/tvlistings/ZCSGrid.do?sgt=list&fromTimeInMillis=1303617600000&stnNum=12852

(A quick footnote: I hope to have issue 2 of Dejah Thoris this weekend (again sorry for the late review) and I finally found issue 22 of the John Carter, Warlord of Mars series and have that coming so I'll be finishing up my review of the Marvel series before too long. I promise!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: City of the Beast AKA Warriors of Mars


It's been a while since I've reviewed a book on here so here's another look at Mars in all of it's sword swinging glory...

While vacationing on the coast of Nice, writer Edward P. Bradbury meets a strange American at a local cafe named Michael Kane. As the two talk Kane reveals a little about his past-in particular his work at the Chicago Special Research Institute on a matter transmitter device that could send objects from one place to another. After much testing Kane decides to test the device on a human subject and volunteers for the job. But instead of arriving at the test site he finds himself in a strange land. He soon discovers that he has been sent to Mars thousands of years before life even showed up on the Earth! While there he meets the beautiful princess Shizala who is currently leading her people in the country of Varnal after her father had disappeared while leading a fight against the Argzoon, vicious blue giants who take no prisoners. And it isn't too long before the Argzoon return, leading an assault on Varnal and placing Michael and Shizala in an adventure that both might not survive...

Published in 1965 under the original title Warriors of Mars (which I actually like better) this was Michael Moorcock's entry into sword and planet genre after having published the first books in the Elric of Melnibone cycle. And Moorcock wastes no time hooking the reader into the adventure, providing a brief background on our hero-a Vietnam vet with science and fencing skills-and dropping him into an unknown world filled with deadly beasts and beautiful women. Of course like most books in the genre there are the standard cliffhangers-being buried alive, a fight with the leader of the Argzoon and the final fight with the Beast itself. There is also a femme fatale, a traitorous prince, clothing optional Martians (always welcome!) and more sword fights that truly marks this as what they used to call a ripping yarn.

There are also some nice touches along the way that plays against the standard traditions. The first creature Michael meets when he lands on Vashu (as Mars is referred to) is ultimately docile and his first contact with a human is Shizala. The blue giants are also portrayed as creatures who are out for themselves and turn and run once the battle is lost-no code of honor like the Tharks. Also the book employs more scientific devices to give it a more "real" quality-from the matter transmitter to a device that allows Michael to learn to speak the Vashu language. And Moorcock carries his love of past authors-especially those who wrote about Mars before-well, from a dedication to both Edgar Rice Burroughs and HG Wells to the pseudonym he published the book under. The only fault is that it leaves you with a cliffhanger at the end so you'll need the second and third book in this series. But that isn't a bad thing.

In the end fans of sword and planet adventures will probably enjoy this. It doesn't have the richness of Elric or some of Moorcock's other works but that wasn't his aim I feel. It was just to deliver a fun adventure novel and he delivers big time. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thor Early Reviews

While we wait for word on that trailer, the first reviews for Thor are leaking out thanks to the movie getting released in some countries this and next week before the US release on May 6. And the consensus? According to an article on the Hollywood Reporter's HeatVision blog quite good with most of the praise going to star Chris Hemsworth's performance http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/thor-what-critics-say-179298 Meanwhile Rotten Tomatoes has a "fresh" rating of 86 percent the last time I checked even though it had only 7 reviews posted http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1197233-thor/. Two weeks more to go then!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taylor Kitsch Talks John Carter of Mars Trailer!




Another bit of early morning news. Collider has an interview up with actor Taylor Kitsch where he talks about his upcoming projects including John Carter of Mars http://collider.com/taylor-kitsch-interview-john-carter-of-mars-battleship-savages/86411/. Very little new info is revealed even though he does talk about working with the green screen process compared to his previous film The Bang Bang Club: "I was looking at a 100-foot green screen and there was an X on it at the 75-foot mark, and that was supposed to be a ship that I’m blowing up. In situations like that, escapism is a lot harder, as an actor, and tests you in different ways. Making a light switch real to me, as something that’s going to kill me, and being able to just be present and react to someone are very different."



UPDATE: Well it looks Kitsch had more to say when he sat down with MTV http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1662124/taylor-kitsch-john-carter-of-mars-trailer.jhtml In this case he has confirmed that he has seen the teaser trailer for the film and that "All I'll say is, good luck piecing it together. You're going to be like, 'How the f--- does this all fit together?' " No word when the trailer will premiere but with the summer movie season starting in two weeks with Thor we might get our first look soon.



RE-UPDATE: Well it looks like Kitsch jumped the gun. In a new interview with Cinemablend http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Taylor-Kitsch-Talks-Working-With-Andrew-Stanton-On-John-Carter-Of-Mars-24329.html he's admitted the trailer is still a long way off: "You won’t see it for a bit. There’s a couple things that need to be tweaked in the sense of just the facts and stuff." So I guess we're back to two days before the movie opens then.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom Announced


I can't think of an opening again so here it is: Comic Book Resources is reporting that Dynamite has announced Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom for release this July http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=31909. The new series will take place "100,000 years before the time of John Carter! Barsoom is a dying world: its once mighty oceans are receding and its atmosphere grows more tenuous by the day. The Orovars, who have dominated for a million years, are on the verge of extinction at the hands of the Green Hordes and the emerging Red Martians. Two Orovars - a Scientist and a General -- race against time to save their people before Mars plunges into barbarism."

This series will be written by Robert Napton who commented "I love Barsoom, it's Burroughs first, best creation in my opinion and to delve into its past and tell a story of Mars before John Carter would be good on its own. But I get the icing on the cake of doing it with cover artist Joe Jusko, the foremost Burroughs artist of our day, and an amazing interior artist with Roberto Castro. What could be better?"

(A quick note-I had hoped to have my review of issue 2 of Dejah Thoris but a mix-up at the comic book store probably means I won't have it until next week. Sorry folks.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sinbad on Mars Article


As some of you might have noticed the blog has gotten a new makeover with a brighter look and a more appropriate background. Let me know what you think of it. And now a look at what could have been. A blog called Fortress of Solitude West Coast has a vintage article I think was taken from an old issue of Starlog magazine announcing Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad on Mars http://deathandlifeinthevalley.blogspot.com/2010/01/notice-for-sinbad-on-mars-unrealised.html The article hints the film would have had the standard Sinbad characters-a beautiful princess and an evil sorcerer among them-and that Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer were planning to "pit their most famous character against the denizens of an Edgar Rice Burroughs-esque Mars." Sounds like it would have been a great film. And yes that's issue 2 of the Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic book with our hero striking a familiar pose.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Battle Beyond the Stars Gets New DVD


Here's some news for fans of B-classic sci-fi flicks: Amazon is taking pre-orders for a new Special Edition DVD of Battle Beyond the Stars, the 1980 epic produced by the legendary Roger Corman which will be released on July 12 http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Beyond-Stars-Cormans-Classics/dp/B004VT9JLM/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1302614293&sr=8-15. You can refresh your memory with the trailer below:


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Michael Giacchino Talks John Carter of Mars


Some music news for your Sunday. The site Collider has a brief interview up with composer Michael Giacchino where he talks about his upcoming slate, including JJ Abrams' Super 8, Mission: Impossible 4 and John Carter of Mars http://collider.com/michael-giacchino-super-8-john-carter-of-mars-mission-impossible-4/85184/. So far though he hasn't begun work yet on John Carter: "Haven’t started anything on that musically. They’re working their butts off just trying to get that together. They shot it and now they’re in post and dealing with animation and all kinds of stuff, so there’s a lot to do before I actually sit down. Probably before I touch that I’ll be with Brad [Bird] on Mission: Impossible first. So it’ll go Super 8, Mission: Impossible, and then John Carter."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sinbad: Rogue of Mars Poster Revealed


It looks like 2012 is the year everyone will be going to Mars: John Carter, Colin Farrell (in a remake of Total Recall) and now Sinbad. A film company called Morningside Entertainment has optioned Sinbad: Rogue of Mars from Bluewater Comics and now has released a teaser poster for the film and a press release you can read at http://sffbooksonmars.blogspot.com/2011/04/poster-unveiled-for-2012-fantasy-film.html The comic book series is one of several Bluewater published under the "Ray Harryhausen Presents" line and the film is intended to be a continuation of the Sinbad films Harryhausen himself made starting with 1958's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad through to 1977's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Harryhausen had planned to follow up Eye of the Tiger with Sinbad on Mars but the project fell through and he made the original Clash of the Titans instead so we'll see if this can recapture the original films' magic. For a preview of the comics you can check out http://www.bluewaterprod.com/comics/sinbad_rogue_mars.php

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Possible John Carter Domain Names?



Another early morning bit of news. The site Jim Hill Media is reporting a huge list of domain names that Disney has registered in the last month http://jimhillmedia.com/editor_in_chief1/b/jim_hill/archive/2011/04/04/do-recently-registered-domain-names-hint-at-a-possible-comeback-for-disney-s-dreamfinder.aspx and is listing two possible websites for John Carter of Mars: johncarterarrives.com and whoisjohncarter.com. I checked both and neither are online at this moment but it's about time for an official site (even though of the two I like the johncarterarrives best.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

John Carter-The Martian!


More from those funny pages. In this case The Martian, an adaptation of A Princess of Mars that was published in the British paper The Sun from October 1958 through May 1959. The series is online at http://www.johncolemanburroughs.com/sun/indexALL.html for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Flash Gordon's 75th Anniversary


Yep the sputtering rockets are getting older as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the "First Great Serial Spectacle!" as the original poster above claims. So here's an early shout out-the first chapter hit theaters April 6, 1936-to mark the occasion-my early review of the complete epic http://jcomreader.blogspot.com/2010/09/retro-view-flash-gordon.html and thanks to Youtube that chapter-The Planet of Peril! (A note-this video looks pulled from the re-release of the serial when it was retitled Space Soldiers):