Wednesday, October 22, 2014


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.


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


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


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


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?

Friday, October 10, 2014


Pictured here is Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Heroes Volume 3. It's a beautiful hardcover volume that reprints SUB-MARINER #33-42 from 1954-1955.  The artwork on the Sub-Mariner stories is by the legendary Bill Everett (creator of Prince Namor), while Dick Ayers provides the art on a handful of Human Torch stories. All this and a fact filled introduction by Roy Thomas.

These issues were published by Atlas Comics (formerly Timely, later Marvel) in the mid-1950s during the oh-so-brief revival of the company's big three super-hero characters: The Human Torch, Captain America and Sub-Mariner. None of the books starring these characters caught on with the reading public, although the Sub-Mariner series lasted longer than titles featuring the Torch and Cap.

This was the second book I bought from the dealer selling trade paperbacks at half price at the recent Wizard World Austin Comic Con. Originally published in 2008 with a cover price of $60.00, this baby was a steal at half that price. The dust jacket is slightly shop worn but otherwise in entirely acceptable condition for my eyes.

I didn't much care for Bill Everett's artwork when I was a kid. I didn't consider him a bad artist, just someone who didn't draw like Jack Kirby (my all-time favorite comic book artist). You couldn't find two more different and distinctive styles of comic book art than that of Kirby and Everett. Everett 's work had a unique, highly stylized look to it that I now regard as extremely well done and quite attractive to look at. As creator of Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Everett can rightly be called the definitive Subby artist, although I have a slight preference for the work of Gene Colan and John Buscema on the character. Hey, those were the guys drawing the strip when I first started reading it and their versions of the character have always stuck in my mind as pretty darn good.

Still, a big hardcover book full of Bill Everett Sub-Mariner stories (few of which were ever reprinted) is a down right treasure to be enjoyed for many hours to come.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Cover for Mighty Samson (Western, 1964 series) #18

Funny, I just posted an entry here not long ago about the Gold Key comic book series MIGHTY SAMSON and look what I found at Wizard World Austin Comic Con last week! This is issue #18 from May, 1969. Great stuff from a great dealer who gave me a heck of a deal on this comic along with the other two Gold Key comics I've already posted here (LAND OF THE GIANTS and M.A.R.S. PATROL: TOTAL WAR) and a couple more comics I've yet to blog about. Stay tuned!