Sunday, August 30, 2015

Retro Comics: The Land That Time Forgot


Another "Retro" review, this time a look at Caprona in glorious...black and white?

Again a little history. Published in 1975 under the banner Marvel Movie Premiere, this first (and as far I can tell last) issue was released as a tie-in to the movie adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel that, despite its low budget, remains one of the-if not THE-most faithful adaptation of ERB's work to date.

And writer Marv Wolfman (who prior to this wrote the John Carter, Warlord of Mars strips for DC and later worked on Marvel's Carter series) sticks close to the script for the film, including the opening and finale that was unique to the film while at the same time capturing the essence of the original novel that the final film had. It notably streamlines the narrative, removes some of the dated elements (the Germans here are more two dimensional than the ones Burroughs presented) and keeps the tension and wonder. If anything the comic book improves since the creatures presented are not hindered by low-fi FX.

Those creatures are presented, along with everything else in the aforementioned B&W by artist Sonny Trinidad and the work is quite impressive. The lack of color doesn't deprive the story of action and his creatures are well-executed. I also have to give credit for the character designs, which if anything is closer to Burroughs than the final movie (Bowen Tyler appears as the young man Burroughs described, not Doug McClure).

In addition to the comic, the magazine also includes two other features. The first is a lengthy text piece by fantasy writer Lin Carter titled "Lost Races, Forgotten Cities" that looks at the "Lost World" genre of literature and film, from King Solomon's Mines to The Lost World to Burroughs' own entries and beyond. There is also a photo gallery from the film.

With the film currently available on Blu-Ray it might be time if you don't own this to track it down, especially considering the lack of Caspak comic books. One more comic book review will pop up so stay tuned faithful readers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Retro Comics: Tarzan of the Apes Super Special


I promised more "retro comics" reviews, so prepare for "The Life and Legend of Lord Greystoke!"

A little history first. Following the cancellation of Marvel's Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle series, the character disappeared from comic books until Marvel brought out an adaption that while the print date says 1983 was probably meant to tie in with the theatrical release of Greystoke the following year. This version first appeared as a two-part limited series and then was reprinted as one of Marvel's "Super Special" titles in a magazine format.

With that out of the way, if you've read Tarzan of the Apes then there is no need for a plot recap, as writers Sharman DiVono and Mark Evanier does a good job adapting the first part of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel. From the mutiny on the Fuwalda to the horrible demises of John and Alice Clayton to the love of Kala and Tarzan's growth into the leader of the Mangani, it's all there in one of the more faithful adaptations of the novel in any media. Some might grumble about needing to streamline but for others they will love that nothing has been left out or changed for unnecessary reasons.

Helping is the artwork by Dan Spiegle that captures the characters and the jungle setting vividly, helped by excellent coloring and shading work. From the opening with the Claytons to the Mangani they are handled wonderfully and brought to life with care. There are several artists associated with Tarzan in comics and while this might top their best work it comes close.

Tarzan fans probably already have this somewhere in their collections but if you don't try to track down a copy (I found mine for two bucks). While it might have been nice if Marvel had completed the story and adapted the entire novel it's still a good attempt at the classic. Next time another Marvel/ERB special gets reviewed.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Comic Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #10


After some adventures with John Carter and Dejah Thoris it's now Tars Tarkas and Woola's turn for their own adventure.

Worried about their friends' long absence, Tars and Woola head out to find them, heading into desolate wastes of Barsoom. It isn't too long before they find trouble, namely a pack of hungry banths and a "guardian of the Barsoomian desert" who decides it's time to pass judgment on our heroes. But as we've learned never underestimate a Thark or a Calot devoted to his friend.

With a fun setup of Sola telling the tale as a campfire story to a group of Thark children and some nice twists here and there this is a winning issue courtesy of Ron Marz and Ian Edginton. The biggest plus is how faithful the pair stick to the characters of Tars Tarkas and Woola, a brave noble Thark and a devoted beast, not the wimpy movie version Tars and cutesy puppy Woola. Granted some might have trouble with the "guardian" (it reminds me of those "demons" Tars ran into the later run of the Marvel series) but it's a fun story that's only downside is that it makes you want more. Maybe it's time for a Tars Tarkas solo series?

Helping is the artwork by Ariel Medel, who captures the Tharks and the landscapes vividly. In fact Medel's Tharks are among the best I've seen in the current run of comics, keeping a ferocious appearance without going all "Hulk" like. He also draws some means banths. The backgrounds do fade a little bit but there is a nice balance to the whole piece that makes it a page turner. Fans of John Ford might also get a good chuckle in spread.

Tars Tarkas and Woola fans should pick this up quickly as they will find much here to enjoy. Next time more retro comic reviews, some thoughts on current books I'm reading and more. Until then keep your head and one hand and you too can conquer!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'The Empire Strikes Back' "Awakens-Style"


While fans count down the days until "Force Friday" a cool fan video presents the middle act of the original trilogy in the style of the second teaser for The Force Awakens. Not only is it a cool video but it shows what JJ Abrams and company has to live up to. Take a peek and leave any thoughts below.

Monday, August 24, 2015

'Man From Marz' 103 Years of John Carter


With a new issue coming out this week, ComicMix's Ed Catto talked to Ron Marz about the ongoing series, the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation on modern properties and creating a formidable antagonist for John Carter. Head over to http://www.comicmix.com/2015/08/24/ed-catto-man-from-marz-still-kicking-at-103/ for more.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #28


We reach the end of Marvel's original run on Barsoom as John Carter and company face "The Weapon-Makers of Mars!"

On an atmosphere mapping mission with Kantos Kan and scientist Sasoom Thil, Carter and a squadron of Helium warriors head toward the ancient city of Aaanthor. Once there though they discover many strange sights, like giant bugs, frozen white apes and a disappearing horde of Green Men. Deciding to camp for the night, Kantos sneaks back in to investigate and when he disappears John leads a rescue mission and discovers the truth about the city, a truth that might hold the key to Barsoom's past and future.

Written by Marvel writer Peter Gillis, "The Weapon-Makers of Mars!" is an intriguing finale for the series that works in the best of Edgar Rice Burroughs-unexplored cities with hidden secrets, references to such races like the Therns and rousing action. Gillis also weaves a suspenseful tale filled with quite a few twists and turns. I won't spoil many here except to say for fans this is a rousing tale.

Handling art duties for the final time is Richard Villamonte with help from Larry Hama and both deliver an excellent, pleasing look for the characters and the backgrounds. In fact this might be the most colorful and vivid the series has looked since the early issues. Plus how can go you go wrong with a giant Green Man?

With this issue our look back at the 1970s John Carter, Warlord of Mars comes to a close...or does it? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

'The Force Awakens' Reveals From EW


Ahead of this week's D23 Expo, Entertainment Weekly has revealed their Fall Movie Cover with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and new images and reveals from the movie. For those who want more information check out http://www.ew.com/article/2015/08/12/this-weeks-cover-star-wars-force-awakens-exclusive-ew for some info on the new characters and what drew JJ Abrams to the new film as well as many more pics. Check out some below and leave any thoughts on how they look.




Sunday, August 9, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #27


We reach the final stretch as John Carter must endure the "Marathon of Death!"

Having failed in his pursuit of master assassin Tal Mordin, Carter is found by Tars Tarkas and continues the pursuit, Having damaged the assassin's ship with a radium shell, Carter and Tars end up in the city of Maharn, where Tars barely escaped following his duel a few issues earlier. Finding the assassin John escapes death...as does Mordin since it's just a stand-in who meets a grisly end. Speaking of grisly, on their way back to Helium they discover the remains of a flier's crew and worse, a cloak that bares the scent of Dejah Thoris. Evidence points to Warhoons, so Carter must again put everything at stake to save his true love...and the secret she is carrying.

Except for a touching ending this issue is sort of anti-climactic. I can understand the need to save villains and allow Mordin to escape but there is just something more satisfying about seeing the bad guy get his just desserts, especially in the world of Barsoom. That said the return to the haunted city was interesting-if still too much Conan the Barbarian-and the final battle with the Warhoons rousing.

Helping is again strong artwork, this time from the team of Vosburg and M. Hands. Both handle the characters well and the action set-pieces have flair and style to them. Granted Tars Tarkas seems to change shape throughout-from lithe to Hulk-ish-but still a good job all around.

One more issue to go in the main series. Return next time for "The Weapon Makers of Mars!"

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Alexander Skarsgard: 'Tarzan' Will Reverse Expectations


With his upcoming film The Diary of a Teenage Girl now hitting, Alexander Skarsgard has been hitting the promotional trail and as expected there has been talk of Tarzan. But the big surprise might be how we'll first meet the character, Talking to the Guardian Skarsgard revealed that “When you first meet Tarzan, he’s buttoned up in a three­-piece ­suit in Victorian England. So it’s reversed – instead of it being about taming the beast, it’s about the beast within. There’s the dichotomy of functioning in a civilised society where you politely wait at the post office for your turn, but also being an animal with everything that contains. I can relate to it. I think every human being can." I don't know about you guys but so far this sounds intriguing so we'll see next year how it turns out. For more from Skarsgard check out http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/aug/02/alexander-skarsgard-interview-diary-of-a-teenage-girl.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Comic Review: Darth Vader #8


Bounty hunters and "Plasma Devils?" OK...

Following last issue, Doctor Aphra and her robots have teamed up with a ragtag group of bounty hunters to rob an Imperial cruiser. When that is a success they disband (talk about a short trip), leaving Aphra with a new assignment from Darth Vader. Meanwhile the Dark Lord has to put up with Grand General Taggee and a new group of underlings that just get on his nerves. Man I miss the old Vader who had no problem putting that Force Choke on them.

Maybe it was just me or the fact that the current issue of Star Wars was a strong one but this story just left me flat. Maybe it was the fact that much of it was just talking with little resolved. Or that writer Kieron Gillen throws in too many new characters who don't pop or stand out. Or that Darth Vader is barely in this and spends most of the time being talked down to by these guys.

On the plus side Salvador Larroca's artwork was great and eye-catching. So at least there is that.

I hope the next issue picks up the tempo and gives us more Vader and action. Until next time fellow readers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Comic Review: Star Wars #7


That "strange old hermit" beyond the Dune Sea finally gets his own issue. So what did he do during all those years?

Well he spends this issue confronting a band of thugs working for Jabba the Hutt, who are collecting "water taxes" during a drought on Tattoonie. He also looks after young Luke Skywalker from afar, as his uncle does not want him trained in the Jedi way. But when Luke runs off to get the water back from Jabba's men, Old Ben might have to rely on his Jedi past to save the day.

First the good news-this is actually a compelling story, handled well by writer Jason Aaron. While it is pretty much a stand alone issue, Aaron does a credible job establishing Old Ben as a man having to suppress his past in order to keep Luke safe while at the same time seeing the cruelty and evil that has now begun to take over the universe. It's a look we never saw in any of the previous comics or novels to my knowledge and makes this reader wish this was more than just a one shot story.

Art duties here are courtesy of Simone Bianchi, who brings a nice balance to the look of the comics. The designs are nice, capturing the lived-in "used" look from the original movie while serving the story well. The color palette is also handled well, showing off a more subdued look that fits the story being told and the place and characters.

Fans of Star Wars and Old Ben Kenobi will find much here to enjoy and maybe it will lead to more stories with him center stage. Next time I'll look at the latest starring "a former pupil" of Obi-Wan's. Until then be safe guys.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kaldanes Exist!


And you thought the Back to Barsoomers cornered the market on Mars conspiracy theories! A new image from Curiosity drove social media nuts this past weekend with a shot of what they described as a "crab." We know better, it's a Kaldane searching for its Rykor. Depending on your beliefs check out either  http://time.com/3982146/mars-crab-monster/ or https://www.facebook.com/JourneytotheSurfaceoftheMARS for more news.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

'Guardians of the Galaxy' Shorts: Star-Lord Origins


With the upcoming animated series set to premiere this Sept. 5, Marvel and Disney has begun a series of shorts that dives into the histories of the Guardians. First up is two shorts showing Peter Quill's first encounters as he becomes Star-Lord. Have a look and leave any comments below.