Archive for the ‘EM Exclusives’ Category

Voodoo Child: Weston & Nicolas Cage Create A Dark Night Avenger To Chill The Soul!

July 12, 2007

Voodoo child #1 - coverVirgin Comics seems bent on trying new things; creating a new kind of comics. Not the format, necessarily, but the attitude and the approach. Voodoo Child, a new character created by Weston Cage and his father, Nicolas Cage, is one of these new comics characters – and he may well be the ultimate scare-the-crap-outta-the-bad-guys nighttime avenger – a character that literally haunts the shadows…

 

Our story begins in the days just before the Civil War, when the country was about to split along ideological lines over the slave trade. As a group of Southern abolitionists meets, a mob arrives. Mason Moore sends two blacks, Celeste and Gabriel through a secret tunnel to safety. Unfortunately, a stray shot fells Gabriel – but a being named Billy blameless appears to announce that the ground will not take Gabriel, and that he must be hidden from Baron Samedi. Already, some voodoo deity is taking a hand in the life and death of Gabriel…

Cut to present day, post-Katrina New Orleans. As relief is withheld by over-weaning politicians and badly planned protocols, a meeting is taking place between several men whose conversation suggests they are in a very competitive – and illegal – enterprise.

They are interrupted by a dark figure, a small figure with a mane of hair that would rival Bob Marley. Shots are fired – shots that go right through the small figure – who turns to the doomed man behind him and demands answers to three questions, which he gets, though things don’t go quite as he wanted. And so begins Gabriel’s quest to deal with the evil that struck him down and continues to hobble the post-disaster city of New Orleans.

There are things that he needs to know – like the Bussard who led the mob in the past is not the same Bussard whose corruption helps keep relief from getting to the victims of Katrina. There’s a missing girl – a girl whose last act before vanishing was to attend a prayer meeting five blocks from home. There are also the police who investigate the death of the man Gabriel questioned.

Voodoo Child #1 - Variant Art

How did Gabriel know about the meeting he interrupted? That’s explained, and gives us the impression that there is more going on here than merely a little crimebusting – and the appearance of a terrifying new figure in the last panel alludes to the more spiritual side of Gabriel’s story [spirituality being one of the tenets of the Virgin Comics line].

Although Nicolas Cage and his son, Weston, are credited with creating Voodoo Child, the script and art on the book are by Mike Carey and Dean Reuben Hyrapiet. While this makes one wonder how much of the story was actually created by the Cages, what really matters is whether the book is any good – and it is… very good, indeed.

Mike Carey’s script presents a unique and challenging beginning to a saga that is that rarest of rare things in comics – a fresh twist. That manner in which voodoo plays a part in the story – rather, is central to the existence of the main character – is, so far as I can recall [and I’ve been reading comics since the fifties], unique. I’m going out on a limb and assuming that he’s done his homework [he did travel from England to New Orleans to get reference material and soak up the atmosphere, after all] and that the voodoo elements of the story are reasonably accurate. One thing’s for sure, he seems to have the Louisiana Creole dialect down…

Dean Reuben Hyrapiet’s art is sleek without being overly detailed – which is important when your lead character is a ghost who literally haunts the shadows. At times, his work strikes me as reminiscent of Mike Ploog’s work on Werewolf by Night because of its fluidity. He has a real handle on how to put together effective layouts, and his use of blacks and blues really add a creepiness to the books atmosphere.

If you’re a comics fan who’s looking for something a little [or a lot!] off the beaten path, Voodoo Child is an auspicious debut and might just be what you’re looking for. And I say that as one who is no longer easily impressed by a comic.

Final Grade: A-

EM Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe

Originally Posted 07/12/07

Prince 3121 Roosevelt Hotel Live Report! Michelle Alexandria Swoons!

July 1, 2007

Prince 3121 Hollywood Roosevelt Concert ReportIt’s been an amazing week here at the EclipseMagazine.com sweetshop; it started off with me hanging with the folks from the Sci-Fi Channel and the crews from Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, Eureka, and SG1 Atlantis, when I got back I checked out a late screening of The Transformers, then Friday I sat down with the great Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Millions, and more), and finished the evening by partying with Prince until the Wii, Wii hours of the morning. Your girl is tired, but I’m going to bring you this report.

When I first heard that Prince was going to be doing a short stint at LA’s famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, I was excited, I mean, I’ve been a fan for over 20 years and have seen him perform about 15 times, but not in the last decade. The man has been making it real hard to remain a fan, with the chaotic way he’s been handling his business in the last 10 years it’s been almost impossible to get tickets to the few shows that he’s done and he makes you jump through so many hoops to attend.

This time was no exception, finding information on how to purchase tickets became a hunt in and of itself, then once we found the right place the price tag of the tickets almost gave me a heart attack. Rumor has it Prince wanted the ticket price to be $77, but the hotel charged $3,121.23 (3121, get it?) for a VIP seat that included dinner but no drinks or parking. They had a limited number of standing room only passes for $312.21. Not only was the price tag out of line, but then to get your tickets you had to send a request with your credit card information to a blind email address.

As a lark, I figured why not, so I emailed the Roosevelt and was shocked, when I got the word that yes, I got into the Thursday night show. While I was in Canada, I was regretting my decision I just wasn’t feeling up to standing around all night. This is where I mention the show wasn’t scheduled to start until midnight, but we were supposed to be at the hotel by 9pm.

The hotel called at around 5pm Thursday to say that the show was cancelled and asked if I wanted a refund or to attend Friday night and I was like, yeah!

So here it is Friday night, I’m at The Roosevelt and the lobby area is completely decked out with the Prince vibe. 3121 and Symbol Banners all over the lobby, purple lights dancing off the ceilings, nice chairs and couches to sit on until the show started. After about an hour I was bored, so I started to put my mingle shoes on and met some interesting industry people. I got the sense that the entire crowd was nothing but Hollywood Insiders.

There were a lot of celebrities in the crowd, most of whom I didn’t recognize, but I did catch Chris Rock hanging out, Alanis Morissette and I think I spotted Paris Hilton (although I’m not sure on this one).

 

Prince 3121 Roosevelt Hotel Concert Report

 

 

By about 11:00 the crowd of about 200 peeps started to get restless and tired when they finally let us in at midnight. Once inside all was right with the world again. The band came out at around 12:20 AM, walking through the crowd playing "When The Saints Go Marching In." This kicked off a 12 minute jam when finally at 12:30 AM the short wonder came out of nowhere from the back of the crowd and sauntered down the Aisle wearing a bad ass white outfit.

Everyone went nuts and at that moment when you are literally just a few feet away from this Icon you realize that all that money and the hassles you went through was worth it, to be in this intimate a setting.

He walked on stage to wild applause and then sat in the audience for a few minutes to watch his ban finish up their Saints jam. He got back on stage started the almost 2 hour set off with the slow jam Satisfaction. It seemed an odd choice to start off with a power ballad, but Prince did it as only he can. By giving us a full 20 minutes of this song, there were points in it where I was going, "Ok, I get the point, move on, but other points where you can’t help but swoon." And I don’t swoon! He takes his time with the song and builds it by showing his playful side when he starts riffing on his "Cockeyed woman who can see left and right at once, but always have an eye on him," and had the crowd in hysterics when he talked his "Three handed woman who had a left hand, right hand, and under hand," simply brilliant stuff.

After that he launched a funky jam of 3121 which got the audience back up on their feet (not that we were able to sit down), which was followed up by Cream, You Got The Look, Hollyrock, Musicology, a cover of Janet Jackson’s "What Have You Done for Me Lately," the beats just kept coming. He joked that he had "Many Hits," and could keep this up all night, I absolutely went crazy when he ended this set with "Party Man."

 

Prince 3121 Hollywood Roosevelt Concert Report - Shelby J

 

 

The band then took a short break while he and his new protégé Shelby J belted out an extended Slow Jam and then did an amazing cover of Chaka Kahn’s classic ballad Sweet Thing. Crowd again went crazy. After this interlude he focused on new material from 3121 with a blistering guitar solo on Lolita, another song from 3121, and then Black Sweat and concluded with his brand new single Guitar.

He blew the roof off with If I was Your Girlfriend and brought everyone to rapture by closing with Purple Rain. We were standing there for about 15 minutes screaming encore, but there was none coming. But that didn’t mean the evening was going to be over.

We all went into the lobby at about 2:10 and waited another hour for the After Show to start. It was funny because Chris Rock again was there just hanging out, didn’t have any body guards or even friends with him, just hanging very approachable. So after about 20 minutes of staring at him, I just said what the f, and went up to him and introduced myself. I mean I have talked to him a couple of times in the past, not that he would remember me. But he was really cool and I chatted with him for a few minutes before I quickly ran out of things to say.

At 3:00 AM Prince quietly walked into the room, unnoticed by most, wearing a Pink outfit and went over to the mixing board, again, he was right next to me, but I was too star struck to say anything. Shelby J. and Sheila E also came and sat on the couch right behind the mixing board to watch him set his mix. I sat down next to Shelby, at first I didn’t recognize her and had a short conversation she was really cool and down to earth. Told her I loved her performance.

Prince then took the little stage, didn’t say a word and let his guitar do the talking for him doing a 30
minute jam, which concluded with a smoking hot cover of Dr. Feel Good. He then left the stage without saying a word while his band continued to play. We were all waiting for him to come back. The band played bad, boring, Jazz for another 45 minutes and the audience was getting bored stiff waiting for him to come back. When the leader said good night and happy "iPhone Day," a lot of us in the audience looked at each other and were like what the hell?

I’ve always dreamed of attending one of Prince’s infamous After Hour shows and was mighty disappointed in this one, lame doesn’t even describe it. But it was just really cool to have him stand right beside me, and being able to talk to Chris Rock, Shelby J and Sheila E, the bad "half assed" after show concert aside, it was a memorable experience.

If you ever get a chance to catch Prince in this type of setting and you call yourself a Fam, you should definitely suck it up and pay the ticket price because it was worth it. My love of Prince has been restored with tonight’s show. While the 3121 show gets a B, and the After Hours show gets a D, the overall 3121 experience gets a B+ (if it was an earlier show and I had a seat, would have gotten an easy A).

You can check out a live sample of Satisfied at the Official Prince website – http://www.3121.com.

Track Listing (Not Complete, I may have missed 1 or 2)

1) When The Saints Go Marching In

2) Satisfied

3) 3121

4) Cream

5) You Got The Look

6) Holly Rock

7) Musicology

8) Janet Jackson Cover – What Have You Done For Me Lately

9) Party Man

10) Unnamed Slow Jam

11) Chaka Khan Cover – Sweet Thing (Performed by Shelby J)

12) Take Me With You

13) Guitar

14) Lolita

15) Black Sweat

16) Kiss

17) If I Was Your Girlfriend

18) Purple Rain

Show started at 12:20 AM, ended at about 2 AM, the After Party started at 3 AM and ended at 4 AM.

EM Review
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 06/30/07

 

A Theatrical Experience: Casa Mañana Presents ‘A Few Good Men’

June 12, 2007

Casa MananaAs part of their ‘Broadway at the Silver Dome Summer 2007’ series, The Casa Mañana Theatre in Fort Worth Texas presented a five-day (June 5-10) run of the Aaron Sorkin’s military/legal drama, A Few Good Men. The headliners for this production were two Texas natives, actor Lou Diamond Phillips, successful star of stage and screen in the role of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessup and actor Jensen Ackles a talented and versatile rising star of screen and television as Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel A. Kaffee.
Many people who have heard of or seen A Few Good Men have done so through the big screen adaptation starring Jack Nickleson as the hardnosed, no nonsense Jessup who is charge of the US Military installation at Guantanamo Bay Cuba and Tom Cruise as the cocky, wisecracking attorney Kaffee who is assigned by JAG to represent two young marines under arrest for the possible murder of another fellow marine at the base under Jessup’s command.
As a stage production, A Few Good Men was limited to whatever visuals could be conveyed by props and clever use of staging so the audience had to rely more heavily on the director of the production and the actors playing the roles on stage to bring the story being told to life. As a member of that audience present for several performances, I can honestly say that I found it a privilege to have seen this production on the stage at Casa Mañana Theatre. The audience chamber in Casa Mañana Theatre is an intimately sized, horseshoe shaped design that brings the production and audience together. Having gotten seats in various locations ranging from second row, from midway back off to the side and to back row center stage view this reviewer can attest to the fact that there are no bad seats in the house. Thanks to the sound designer Ryan Mansfield and lighting designer Jay Isham the actors on stage were clearly audible and visible to the audience.
The Casa Mañana Theatre made this production of A Few Good Men a truly exceptional experience for the audience by utilizing powerhouse production talent to bring the play to life on the stage. Director Elliot Wasserman who, in a ten-day rehearsal window transformed his talented cast in to the strong legal, military and very human characters of this compelling story. Wasserman also set a strong pace for the production and kept the action moving along through well executed set and costume changes that were so seamlessly done, you often forgot that you were watching something limited by being a live performance in which the actors must run off stage to do costume changes. There was never a shirt untucked, a buckle unbuckled or button undone when it wasn’t suppose to be. This also speaks very highly of the backstage wardrobe department working under the competent supervision of Tammy Spencer. Another factor that keep the audience believing in the story was the attention to detail that went into the designing of the costumes, Casa Mañana Costume Designer Marty Van Kleek’s amazingly detailed military costumes for this play really seemed to set the actors into their roles and help them present true presence and bearing.
Being limited to a theatre stage, director Elliot Wasserman also had to chose the parts of the overall story which could be best conveyed in the setting and visuals. While I missed seeing the ‘crystal clear’ scene in the movie between Jessup and Kaffee translated into the play, the story flowed well and lost none of the impact of the material it is based on. Wasserman also employed the use of having his actors doing many scenes right at the edge of the stage which created a very strong sense of intimate storytelling that made the audience feel like they were part of the story being told, not just an observer.
It was clearly evident to this reviewer that Casa Mañana Theatre is dedicated to bringing their audiences the very best experience in live theatre entertainment by bringing in the finest acting talent possible for their productions, not just in their well-known leads but from local actor’s as well. Nothing made this dedication to the audience more clear than the choices made for the two head lining lead actors for this production of A Few Good Men.
Going into this production, both lead actors were well aware that two very big names in the movie industry had played their respective roles in the big screen adaptation of A Few Good Men and that this could prove to be a challenge to them in presentation to the audience. In this reviewer’s opinion, Lou Diamond Phillips and Jensen Ackles more than rose to that challenge, they met it and surpassed it with a mastery of their craft as actors that was one of the biggest reasons for making this production such a privilege to have seen on stage at Casa Mañana. They rose to the challenge of having to do these roles without the luxury of retakes and under the demands of the audience being right there to witness the albeit rare occurrence of misspoken lines and minor mistakes as well as the more consistently done and overall perfect moments. They put themselves out there on the stage where once the action began, there was no time or way to go back and redo or undo. A Few Good Men is a challenging piece of work filled with both military and professional legal jargon. It is a testament to all the actors in this play that some much of it came out time after time in flawless execution and even when there were minor missteps with dialog, it was handled with such smooth professionalism that, in this reviewer’s opinion, it added a very human quality to the characters instead of detracting from them.
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Lou Diamond Phillips has been a powerful and compelling actor of screen and stage for a number of years, consistently turning in performances that hold an audience’s attention. As Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessup in Casa Mañana ‘s production of A Few Good Men, Lou Diamond Phillips was a joy watch. From the first moment he appeared on stage, cigar in hand, Phillips owned the character and you didn’t think about Jack Nickleson. In person, Lou Diamond Phillips is a lithe built man with an easy smile and a warmth that makes you feel at ease with him, yet on stage as Jessup, he exuded a sense of power and an edge so dangerous it radiated out into the audience and brought a strong sense of realism to the character.
The character of Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessup is one that in lesser hands could easily become a one-dimensional caricature of a megalomaniac. In the skilled hands of the talent of Lou Diamond Phillips, the character had subtext and layers. You understood his passions, his belief that what he was doing was the right thing and felt the courage of his convictions. You may not have liked Jessup very much, but you understood him and that all came down to having an amazing talent like Lou Diamond Phillips on stage in the role.
Lou Diamond Phillips can be seen next on stage this fall in the role of King Arthur in the national tour of Lerner & Loewe’s production of Camelot. Also catch on in the season opening episode of USA hit series Psych
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Jensen Ackles, a rising, talented screen and television actor and currently one of the two leads in the hit CW Network series Supernatural was in the daunting position of taking on the role of Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel A. Kaffee, a character that is strongly associated with Tom Cruise’s portrayal of him in the movie adaptation of A Few Good Men. If the audience reactions after viewing Jensen Ackles in Casa Mañana’s production of A Few Good Men that this reviewer heard are any indication, then it is safe to say that many people left this play very highly impressed with Jensen Ackles in the role.
Having the audiences be so highly impressed with his work in A Few Good Men was something that in this reviewer’s opinion, Jensen Ackles rightly earned at every performance he gave. His mastery of comedic timing, body language and awareness of stage presence without being over the top at any point was nearly flawless. Jensen Ackles version of Daniel Kaffee was uniquely his own, a character with three-dimensional depth and texture. Ackles ability to give the audience that uniqueness at every turn on stage is a testament to the talent and dedication of this actor to his craft.
It could have been so easy for Jensen Ackles to ride on Tom Cruise’s coattails and mimicked Cruise’s work from the movie, but instead Jensen Ackles grabbed the role of Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel A. Kaffee by his brass bars and gave the audiences at the Casa Mañana production of A Few Good Men some of the finest work on stage any audience could be privileged to see. In Ackles hands Kaffee had true resonance to him that radiated off the stage and into the audience creating a connection to the character that lasted long after the production was over and the actors had gone.
Jensen Ackles returns to Vancouver B.C. along with the other series lead Jared Padalecki, in July to begin filming the 3rd season of the hit CW Network series Supernatural in which Ackles plays the cocky and sarcastic ‘bad boy’ Dean Winchester, one of two brothers hunting nasty things of supernatural nature that are terrorizing innocent people.
The talent level in Casa Mañana’s production of A Few Good Men didn’t stop with the head lining stars, but continued in the casting from local talent for all the other roles in the production. Lydia MacKay as Lieutenant Commander Joanne ‘Jo’ Galloway was a pleasure to watch. This reviewer found her portrayal of the character to be far more compelling than her movie counterpart Demi Moore’s was. MacKay gave to the role the feel of someone who was equally as strong in her convictions as Jessup ever was, but with far more understanding of the principles of right and wrong. Thankfully this production of A Few Good Men didn’t try to shoehorn in some romantic interest between Kaffee and Galloway, but instead focused on the realism of men and woman working together as a team and the struggles that can happen for a woman doing so in a ‘man’s world’. Lydia MacKay was excellent in all of these aspects of her character.
Ben Rauch as Lieutenant Junior Grade Sam Weinberg was, in this reviewer’s opinion one of other joys of watching the Casa Mañana Theatre production of A Few Good Men. His work in the role, which so easily could have fallen into one-dimensional comic relief, was layered and held depth that the audience found a connection to. Rauch brought a sense of realism to Weinberg’s perspective of understanding exactly what the frustrations were about often being regarded as the ‘weak link’ in a world where physical perfection and strength were highly valued. Ben Rauch brought real humanity to a character struggling to rise above being caught in the shadow of the ‘All American boy’ Kaffee and real humanity to the bonds of friendship that Weinberg and Kaffee had formed despite that struggle. For more about Ben Rauch go to his website at http://www.benrauchsite.com
While all the actors were outstanding in the Casa Mañana’s production of A Few Good Men and all of them deserve kudos for the fine work they did throughout the five day run of the play, it isn’t possible to include them all individually. Notable mentions do have to go to Jerome Bethea and Justin Arnold as Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson and Private First Class Louden Downey, the two marines accused of killing fellow Marine Private First Class William Santiago who was played by David Ristuccia. Bethea and Arnold were excellent and most notable was their attention to military bearing. They brought strength and honor to the role and the uniforms they were wearing. Jeff Schmidt as Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick was simply outstanding as well. Schmidt has the kind of power and stage presence that makes this reviewer firmly believe that give this actor another few years and he will be more than able to take on the challenge of playing the lead role of Jessup in a future stage production of A Few Good Men.
My review of the experience of attending the Casa Mañana Theatre production of A Few Good Men would not be complete without a mention of the theatre staff and my experiences with them. It is this reviewer’s opinion that how much or how little someone enjoys an event like a stage production doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of the actors on stage, but how well the staff of any given theatre treats its patrons who attend the productions. The entire staff at Casa Mañana was an absolute pleasure to deal with. The people manning the sales and pick up of tickets were always willing to help you find the best seat available and to give prompt and courteous service at every turn.
Once inside the Casa Mañana Theatre, everyone from House and Concessions Manager Karen Lockwood to every one of the ushers and concession workers, no matter how daunting the task was, were kind, courteous and considerate. They had two very popular actors in the cast of their production whom had attracted a large audience of devoted fans and the whole situation was handled in way that treated everyone stars and audiences alike with dignity and respect. Something like this, while it might seem trivial, is in reality a very important part of making an audience, many of who were first time attendees at an event held at Casa Mañana, feel welcome and comfortable. It is the kind of high-level professionalism from staff that makes an audience member more inclined to come back for other productions as well.
This reviewer would certainly recommend The Casa Mañana Theatre experience to anyone traveling to Dallas/Fort Worth Texas on vacation and looking for something of interest to do while they are there. The productions are high quality with top-notch casts and the staff of the Casa Mañana was excellent. For more information about Casa Mañana go to http://www.casamanana.org or call them at 1-817-332-2272 for more information.
Article Copyright 2007 to M R REED. Photos Copyright2007 to Casa Manana Theatre.

Graphic Anthologies: Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser and Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, Vol. 2

April 10, 2007

Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser - Cover ArtWith comics and graphic novels becoming more and more acceptable to the mainstream, more and more comics publishers are marketing their graphic novels and comics collections in mainstream bookstores. They are even making classic adaptations [like the DC mini-series based on Fritz Leiber's excellent Fahhrd & The Grey Mouser stories] available in spiffy new editions. Add to these classy reprints fabulous new collections based on the works of great writers like Harlan Ellison, and it's clear that the form is finally being recognized for the unique literary/artistic artform it is…

Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser - Cover Art

Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser

Fans of sword and sorcery fiction have long been aware that there was something different about Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser stories. In his introduction to Dark Horse Publishing's collection of the Marvel Comics mini-series, Howard Chaykin suggests that that difference is they are crime stories in a sword & sorcery setting. Since both The Mouser and his barbarian friend are thieves – and most of their adventures revolve around some scheme or other to acquire wealth without actually working for it, he's probably right.

Another facet of Leiber's tales is that they are uncommonly well written. Leiber had a real gift for character and atmosphere, and didn't lack for imaginative plots, either. The Dark Horse collection features issues one through four of the Marvel mini-series, adapted by Chaykin [scripts], Hellboy creator Mike Mignola [art], and inks by Al Williamson [Secret Agent X, Flash Gordon].

There are seven Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser tales included in the mini-series, beginning with Ill Met In Lankhmar, in which our heroes met each other in the midst of two separate attempts to robe the same persons of the same booty. There's also some eerie fun as the two meet the wizards who will become their employers/maters: Fafhrd's Ningauble of the Seven Eyes, and Mouser's Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. The story takes a savage twist as the fun ends with the deaths of our heroes' loves – and their vow to leave Lankhmar and never return.

In The Circle Curse, our protagonists travel the entire world trying to find surcease from the pain of their lost loves, but find them persuaded to return to Lankhmar by the two wizards. The Howling Tower introduces the pair to a particularly sly murderer and a ghostly battle ensues. The Price of Pain Ease has the pair stealing an entire house – and braving Death to steal a mask for the two wizards.

Bazaar of the Bizarre brings our heroes into contact with salesmen from another universe – salesmen whose goal is take over all the universes through bankruptcy. Lean Times In Lankhmar finds Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser's partnership dissolved; Fafhrd finding religion on the Street of Gods, and Mouser badly out of shape. Finally, in when The Sea King's Away, Fafhrd seeks to infiltrate the home of the Sea King and have his way with undersea ruler's concubines…

Between Chaykin's excellent, detailed scripts [check out a sly running gag that suggests our heroes always encounter the same two guards whenever they enter or exit Lankhmar] and Mignola's almost impressionistic pencils, the world of Newhon really comes alive. There's a touch of the exotic in all the women, and our heroes do heroic things while not seeming to be heroic in the slightest. Mignola's layouts are always interesting – a mix of smaller panels for character and exposition balanced with larger panels for action and setting atmosphere.

The legendary Al Williamson's inks heighten the edge of Mignola's pencils, and seem to make Fafhrd even larger, while making Mouser seem more slippery and sneaky [not a bad trick…]. No matter how good a series is, if it's not drawn especially for black and white [which involves much different techniques], if the colors don't work, it can reduce that series to junk. Sherlyn Van Valkenburg's colors are always appropriate to mood and tone – and she even manages to add a bit of humor to that already on the page [check out the bazaar in Bazaar of the Bizarre – the way she colors the bargain hunters and the interior of the bazaar really heightens both the humor and the horror to be found there].

Even Michael Heisler's lettering is sweet, adding the kind of atmosphere you find in the score of a movie soundtrack, and its sound editing. Top of the package with an afterword from Mignola and the first two chapters of Dark Horse's upcoming deluxe release of Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser adventure, Swords of Deviltry, and the result is a package that should appeal to sword & sorcery buffs who like a little crime fiction mixed in with their fantasy and lovers of great advenutres alike…

Grade: B

Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Vol. 2 - Cover Art

Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Volume Two

Harlan Ellison is the most awarded writer in history. He's won Hugo and Nebula Awards, Edgar Awards and Screenwriters' Guild Awards [among others] – so it would seem that a comics/graphic novel adaptation of his work would be a natural. Indeed, Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor originated over a decade ago, as a regular monthly comic before shifting to a quarterly schedule. At the time, there a number of short story adaptations planned, but life happened and many of them didn't see print until much later – in this case, fifteen odd and exquisite little fables are collected in Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Volume Two – finishing of the project that began in 1995.

You can tell that this is a first class project the instant you lay eyes on the exquisite photo-real cover portrait of Ellison by Brian Bolland. Bolland doesn't come cheap, and it's easy to see why. This is a cover that leaps of the shelf. With a number of comics' elite providing art [Eric Shanower provides the interstitials, for example], and scripts [from the likes of Mark Waid, Jan Strnad, John Ostrander and the like], the result is an anthology of clever, twisty tales that wouldn't be out of place on the classic Twilight Zone or Outer Limits [both of which aired eps written by Ellison, or based on his work].

Arguing scientists, an elderly couple with unique hobbies, a teenager who gets a wish from an incompetent djinn – these are just a few of the intriguing and occasionally even sympathetic characters who populate these tales. Throughout, Ellison's senses of humor and justice make themselves known in fresh, intriguing, and occasionally horrifying ways.

Check out what happens when the arguing scientists of The Silver Corridor can't be persuaded as to which of their theories is correct. Or perhaps the giggleworthy end-of-the-world tale, The Voice in the Garden [which plays on a classic trope] will be more to your liking. Then there's the way that Ellison provides an unexpected new take on the concept of a Rock God. These three tales feature some of the best recent art by greats like Gene Ha [Corridor], Bret Blevins [Garden] and the legendary Neal Adams [Rock God].

As I pondered Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Volume Two, it dawned on me that the majority of these stories struck me as a collection of O'Henry tales from a malleable, otherworldly parallel dimension. Many of these tales end with twist endings, none of which lacks for justice – and all of which entertain mightily.

One of the most interesting aspects of the collection is the way that the artists match the material. From Gene Ha's realistic work on The Silver Corridor, to the underground style of Jay Lynch on Djinn, No Chaser, the artists capture the humor and terror of their assigned tales in a manner that suggests they had as much drawing them as we have reading them.

Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Volume Two is not just going to delight Ellison fans; it should please comics fans, fantasy fans, horror fans, science fiction fans and Lewis Carroll fans [among others]. Dark Horse has put together a package that works on every level – even to the point of including two of Ellison's shorter text stories [Goodbye To All That, written in a the middle of an art gallery over two days, and The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke – both based on paintings, by Kent Bash and Therese Nielsen, reproductions of which are included].

Grade: A+

Dark Horse Presents: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 8!

April 1, 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 #1 Cover ArtAfter season seven, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were bereft. With the situation being what it was at the end of the series, there were just so many possibilities for the future: with so many new slayers out there, they'd have to be found and trained; or, if there were any who went to the dark side, they'd have to be found and eliminated; there was a sudden need for many more new Watchers to train Slayers, and so on… Now, almost four years later, creator Joss Whedon has begun the new era in the lives of the Scooby Gang with the Dark Horse comic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In The Long Way Home, we find Buffy and a team of new Slayers on a training mission. We learn the truth behind her alleged romance with The Immortal, and discover that things aren't entirely swell between her and her sister, Dawn. Another problem is that the U.S. Military, not being ones to learn the right lessons from the failed Initiative, have decided to explore magic for use as a military weapon – and have declared Buffy, the Scoobies and the new Slayers to be terrorists. In short, life proceeds in the usual mayhem-filled manner for Buffy and her charges.

The first two issues of the new Buffy comic are a little less explosive than I was expecting. Despite his success with a certain group of Merry Marvel Mutants, Whedon's writing seems a bit tentative in the first issue – as though he was still thinking in television terms as he was writing them, and had to make adjustments on the fly. The result is pacing that feels a bit off – movement being sacrificed for character stuff [not really a bad thing…]. By the end of the second chapter of The Long Way Home, the book feels more organic and the story is flowing with the old Whedon magic.

Because comics don't require special effects, Whedon is able to get some very cool situations established. Check out the new Slayer Central control room. In character terms, when I say that Whedon has taken Dawn a giant step forward, in terms of a rift between her and Buffy, I'm not just speaking metaphorically. Then there's the case of a certain rat who is helping the military…

From the exquisite painted covers by Jo Chen, to the interior art by George Jeanty [pencils] and Andy Owens [inks], Dark Horse's Buffy is a thoroughbred. Jeanty's layouts and pencils are smooth without being lifeless and Owens' inks do a terrific job of heightening the book's reality. Dave Stewart does a lovely job with the coloring. He captures the visual tone of the TV series with his palette.

Over the course of the first two issues, Whedon sets the scene and gradually brings the gang back into focus for the longtime fan. The final images of each issue are unexpected, peculiarly delightful [as with most of Whedon's best work] and also evocative introductions to two key characters. I'm not sure you could call them cliffhangers, but there's enough of that kind of drama to pull the reader to the next issue.

All in all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer captures the feel of the series as well as the odd mix of drama, comedy, character and action. It's a book that feels comfortable to fans of the TV series, but is open enough for readers who've never experienced Whedon's characters before. That balance is liable to keep Buffy the Vampire Slayer near the top of the sales charts during its run – especially since Whedon has drafted writers from the show as well as from the ranks of comics' best writers to help him tell his new epic tale.

Grade: A-

Finalists Announced For The First American Anime´ Awards!

February 13, 2007

Elfen Lied Eye LogoThe first American Anime

EM at the BAFTAs

February 11, 2007

Daniel Craig at the BAFTAsThe Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden was the venue for the Orange British Academy Film Awards on 11 February, attracting stars from around the world.  As they strolled along the traditional red carpet on a bright and sunny winter’s afternoon, stars such as Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and Jake Gyllenhaal were met with enthusiastic cheers and applause from the huge crowd of film fans, some of whom had been waiting since early morning to see their favourite actors.     The BAFTAs usually witness some fashion horrors, but elegance was the predominant theme this year, with eye-catching off-the-shoulder gowns chosen by Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslett among others, in spite of the chilly weather.     [center][img]http://mysite.orange.co.uk/cagordon/images/1-picture4.jpg?[/img][/center]  But the winner in the unofficial fashion stakes was undoubtedly Dame Helen Mirren with her stunning champagne and cream silk gown, which made her the most elegant star on the red carpet.   [center][img]http://mysite.orange.co.uk/cagordon/images/1-picture3.jpg?[/img][/center]Later, she took the honours inside the Opera House too, when she added the best actress BAFTA to the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards she had already received for her performance in ‘The Queen’ – giving her yet another nod towards a possible Oscar win later in the year. I read a lot about [the Queen] as a young girl and really, in a way, although I’m playing her at the age of 70… I play the young girl in her,’ she told the BBC before the event. Forest Whitaker took the Best Actor award for ‘Last King of Scotland’, with former star of US reality TV show ‘American Idol’, Jennifer Hudson, being recognised as Best Supporting Actress for her role in ‘Dreamgirls’. The complete list of nominees and winners can be found at:  http://www.bafta.org/  

 

Words and photographs © Carole Gordon 2007  

 

Keeping the Date Alive with the Men of Mortuaries Calendar

December 20, 2006

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Last Minute Shopping: Pibgorn; Noein; Shojo Beat’s Manga Artist Academy

December 19, 2006

PibgornStuck on a last minute gift for your lover of graphic novels, manga and anime

DIRECTLY UNDER THE MISTLETOE:

December 3, 2006

An interview with Director George Mendeluk

 Director George Mendeluk enjoys making movies about Christmas. His very first movie as a professional director was a Christmas movie and his resume includes last year