Friday, October 24, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 9

Cover for Turok, Son of Stone (Western, 1962 series) #38

At the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con, I stopped into a very small, cramped booth where a guy was selling vintage comics. He didn't have a very large inventory but I figured it was worth a try.

"Got any Dell or Gold Key comics?" I asked.

"I've got an issue of TUROK. Want to see it?"

That exchange is verbatim and it's fascinating (and slightly troubling). One, the guy knew his stock. He knew he had exactly one issue of TUROK SON OF STONE in one of his long boxes and he knew exactly where it was. And it was the ONLY Dell or Gold Key comic he had for sale. The only one!

He apologized for not having more of the comics I was looking for. "I've got more of those at my shop but space is limited, booths are expensive and I've got to bring what I know, or think I know, will sell," he explained.

I bought the comic, of course. If he'd had more Dell and Gold Key titles, I would have bought more. But this beauty, TUROK SON OF STONE #38 from March, 1964 is now mine. I was nine-years-old when this issue hit the stands. I don't recall buying it then but I did buy TUROK on a semi-regular basis. It's one of my all-time favorite comic book series. My inner nine-year-old kid still loves the concept of American Indians and dinosaurs thrown together in a lost world. Great stuff!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MAJOR WEST, MEET MAJOR WEST


The year was 1965. The network was CBS. The month was September. On Wednesday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, LOST IN SPACE premiered. Among the cast was Mark Goddard who played Major Don West. Then, two nights later, on Friday, September 17th and also at 6:30 p.m. Central, THE WILD, WILD WEST debuted with Robert Conrad in the title role as Major James West.

It's fun to imagine that perhaps the worlds of THE WILD, WILD WEST and LOST IN SPACE were somehow linked with Major Don West being a descendant of Major James West.

Oh, and let's not forget HONEY WEST starring Ann Francis which also debuted on Friday, September 17th on ABC-TV at 8:00 p.m. Central. Maybe she was also a member of the television West family.

Thanks for playing TV Trivia Time. We have some lovely parting gifts for you and our fabulous home version for you and your family to enjoy.

See you next time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HEY KIDS! IT'S TV TRIVIA TIME!


Hands up if you remember when television sets looked like this! Our first color television was a Zenith model very similar to this one. We bought it in 1967 from Bond's Television on West Lynn in Austin, Texas. What fond memories this picture brings. But enough reminiscing. Let's get to the trivia.

On one network during the same year, the same month, hell, the same week (!), two brand new television series made their debuts. The shows were totally unrelated in every way but one. They both had a character with this name.

Think you know the answer? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN


Time is broken in Mark Hodder's new novel, THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN (2014). It's the fifth book in his Burton & Swinburne sf/steam punk/time travel series. The series is comprised of the following books: THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING-HEELED JACK (2010), THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN (2011), EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON (2012) and THE SECRET OF ABDU EL YEZDI (2013). Of those, I've read SPRING-HEELED JACK and ABDU EL YEZDI, as well as his stand alone science fiction novel  A RED SUN ALSO RISES (2012).

The series relates the adventures of Sir Richard Francis Burton and his friend Algernon Swinburne, real people who lived in England during the Victorian age. The stories also include appearances by other real people from history, a tradition which continues in DISCONTINUED with guest stars H.G. Wells and the late sf author Mick Farren.

The Burton and Swinburne novels also rely heavily on time travel and alternate histories and Hodder once again returns to those tropes here. At the beginning of the book, Burton experiences hallucinatory visions of other time lines and other realities which all share one common event: an experiment in 1860 using technology scavenged from a time travel suit from the future. In one of these alternate time lines, Burton travels to the far distant future of 2032 where his consciousness inhabits the body of one Edward Oxford, a traveler from the future whose journey to the Victorian Age in  SPRING HEELED JACK, caused time to split into an infinity of parallel time lines.

Burton and Swinburne, along with a team of chrononauts, outfit a dirigible with a time machine and set off into the future to set things right. They make stops along the way in 1914, 1968 and 2020 before reaching their final destination, the world of 2032, a nightmare dystopia of haves and have-nots ruled by the iron fist of a mechanical despot. Burton discovers that Oxford's consciousness has taken up residence within the body of the mechanical man and the two engage in a fight to the death.

During the battle, Burton is shown his real history, the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton as it really occurred in history. It's nowhere near as exciting and dramatic as the adventures that he has experienced in these novels. Spoiler Alert: Burton dies (at least his body does) but his consciousness is transferred to the mechanical man and the novel ends with the new Burton and a cloned Swinburne looking out over the landscape of 2032.

Where does this series go from here? Will Burton and Swinburne remain in the future and explore this brave new world or will they return to their original place in time? Your guess is as good as mine but you can bet I'll read the next episode in this series.

DISCONTINUED MAN is a page turner full of cinematic sweep and an epic vision of possible futures. The ideas are well developed, the action fast and furious when it comes and there's just enough humor to lighten some of the darker moments. There are too many secondary characters clogging the plot however. While they do serve to advance the narrative, none of them are given enough space and time to be as fully developed as Burton and Swinburne are. And, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I have to admit that it does all seem a bit too familiar. Hodder seems obsessed with telling as many different time travel variations involving Burton, Swinburne, et al. as he possibly can. They're novel and exciting but it may be time to move this series into an entirely new direction. Will that happen?

Only time will tell.

Monday, October 20, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 8

Cover for Space Family Robinson (Western, 1962 series) #37

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #37 from October, 1973. This science fiction series began in December, 1962 and lasted 49 issues before ending in October 1976. The "Lost in Space" tag line was added to the title when the Irwin Allen television series of the same name debuted on CBS TV in 1965. The comic book and the TV show had one main similarity: a family named Robinson that was lost in space. But the "lost" Space Station One in the comics was radically different than the Jupiter 2 on television and in the comics, there were only four Robinsons (dad, mom, son & daughter) and none of the supporting cast found on television. Gotta admit I much preferred the comic book version with brilliant, bold painted covers like this one and the always superlative interior artwork by the great Dan Spiegle over the campy, juvenile and just plain stupid television show.

This is one of several nice Gold Key comics that I bought for five bucks apiece from one dealer at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con. Great comics, great prices. Can't beat that.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

WIZARD WORLD AUSTIN COMIC CON TREASURES 7 OR THE ADVENTURE OF THE HIDDEN COMIC BOOK

Cover for Four Color (Dell, 1942 series) #1245

Pictured above is DELL FOUR COLOR COMICS #1245 featuring THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. This issue was published in late 1961 and it's the second appearance of the durable sleuth in the long running Four Color series. I scored this beauty at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con but finding it took some time and effort. Allow me elucidate Watson.

I stopped at one of the few comic book dealer booths I could find at the convention. There was a nice, friendly guy behind the table and behind him was a wall display of comics. Along the bottom row were some Dell and Gold Key comics that caught my eye. I couldn't get to them though because the entrance to the interior of the booth was blocked by a table full of long boxes. I asked the guy if I could please see the books that had caught my eye and he politely complied.

The books I examined were an issue of Gold Key's HANNA-BARBERA SUPER TV HEROES, a Gold Key issue of SUPERCAR and a Dell issue of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. HB SUPER TV HEROES had a price tag of $75.00, too rich for my blood. SUPERCAR had a price tag of $75.00 also. Again, a nice looking book and one I'd certainly like to have but not at that price. THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW issue was in incredibly rough shape yet the dealer wanted the same $75.00 for it that he was asking for the other two books. Three books, three different conditions, same price each. Not for me.

Still, I didn't want to give up. I figured if this guy had these comics on display, he might have some other lower priced goodies in stock so I asked him if he had any other Dell and Gold Key comics. He did but he first had to disappear under his table, move several other boxes of comics and resurface with a short box in his hands. He proceeded to pull out and hand to me no more than about a dozen Dell and Gold Key comics. He said they were all he'd brought to the show, that he had many more back at his shop and that his shop has a website where those books are posted for sale. All well and good but I wanted to buy something in the here and now. After all, that's what I'd come to Comic Con to do: buy comic books.

I finally settled on the comic book pictured above. I paid $25.00 for it. It's in very nice shape, I'd never seen it before and as Frank and Mike on AMERICAN PICKERS always say, "the time to buy something you've never seen is when you see it." Truer words have rarely been spoken.

But I would have bought it much sooner if it had been on display instead of hidden in a box under a table where only the dealer could get at it. Lesson learned, Watson? When you don't see what you're looking for at first glance, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes you''ll find a real gem.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"TRACK 'EM FIND 'EM KILL 'EM"


I scored a used Blu Ray copy of THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) for four bucks at a thrift store the other day. I figured I'd take a chance on this one at that price.

For the record, this is the only EXPENDABLES film I've seen. I have not seen EXPENDABLES 1 and EXPENDABLES 3 and I doubt I will. I think one iteration of this franchise is enough for me. However, I still think it would be cool if, following the Kelly Greene/Frank Campbell rule of third sequels that EXPENDABLES 3 be entitled EXPENDABLES WALK AMONG US. Just saying.

You're probably aware of the basic premise of this series. Over-the-hill action stars from the '80s are back in business as a team of professional mercenaries. There are some new faces mixed in with the old and that's where I have a bit of a problem. These guys I know: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These guys I don't: Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan (the first female member of the team).

The film starts with a bang with an extended action sequence that's like the opening of a James Bond film on steroids. The action just goes on and on. The Expendables attack the fortress of an Asian warlord in an attempt to free a hostage and in the process, pretty much kill everything that moves. The whole thing plays out like an issue of SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS turned up to 11. Their mission completed, Jet Li disappears from the team (and the rest of the film).

There follows some relatively quiet, character development scenes which are soon interrupted by Bruce Willis as a shady government operative who sends Stallone (with a droopy face that rivals Robert Mitchum's mug) and his boys (along with Yu Nan) on a dangerous mission.

An Expendable gets killed early during the mission which makes it personal for these meat heads. Several action set pieces ensue with a terrific tongue-in-cheek, self-referential appearance by Chuck Norris in one sequence. Things come to a bullet strewn climax with a shoot out in a Russian airport (where did that come from?) and a final fight to the death between puffy lipped Stallone and dead eyed Van Damme.

THE EXPENDABLES is a fun, fast paced, action packed movie that never takes itself seriously and neither should you. There's enough sly wink-wink nod-nods to the past screen personas of the major actors to make a fan of '80s action films smile and chuckle. Thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended in gun battles, there's some nifty martial arts fight scenes and things blow up real good. What more could you want?