Saturday, December 10, 2016

What I'm Currently Reading



I don't have as much time to read as I would like these days, nor do I have a good place to do so anymore. That said, for the first time in a long time, I find myself with a whole big bunch of books going at once right now, in various stages and no particular order! And this isn't even counting the stack of dollar Archie comics I picked up this past week!


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Tom Howard and James Melton


For nearly 25 year I've had the autographs below as part of a selection of NBC autographs including Jack Benny dating from 1933. Recently I ran across the above photograph dating from a few years later, featuring the two folks whose signatures are below. Howard was a film comedian in short subject swho eventually became known for hosting IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT. The personable Melton was an opera star and at one time the tenor on Benny's show. He also had a brief leading man career in film musicals. 





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Booksteve Reviews: Heart Attack and Vine by Phoef Sutton

In the 1970s, there existed a thing called a “mystery movie.”  The mystery movie was neither a television series nor a movie but rather a TV contrivance that allowed for 90 minute (or occasionally two hour) episodes that tended to be of higher quality than most shows of the day. The most famous mystery movie characters were Lt. Columbo, Marshal McCloud, and Commissioner McMillan (and wife). The latter was a modernized and updated version of the classic THIN MAN couple. Like those films, the mystery movies tended to be better written, a tad more literate, generally wittier, and with genuinely interesting mysteries needing to be solved by their heroes. 

HEART ATTACK AND VINE is the closest thing I’ve come across to a mystery movie in decades.

Starring James Garner.

Caleb Rush (aka Crush) is the bouncer/bodyguard hero of Phoef Sutton’s new book but the character’s background and dialogue had me reading him in Jim Rockford’s voice much of the time without even realizing it at first.

One of my favorite things about Phoef’s style here is that he comes to it with an award winning background in Hollywood writing and production so the many pop culture references that dot the book (such as the plot’s maguffin being the prop letters of transit from CASABLANCA) fit naturally and don’t seem shoehorned in.

After years of a rather iffy history of con games and who knows what else on the wrong side of the law, Crush today is attempting to better himself and his life in an almost Zen-like fashion but as often happens in this type of situation, his former life keeps turning up.

The plot twists and winds and turns frequently and even though I’m a veteran at figuring out these types of things, it kept me off-balance right from the beginning. Without giving too much away, an old friend, ersatz sister, and former partner in crime has reinvented herself as a successful movie star. But it’s all part of a big con, a long con, and she wants Crush involved. Even though he tries to stay out of anything too shady, he reluctantly goes along and the game is on.

Rachel, the main female cast member, is a wonderfully delineated character. She is written as a superb contradiction in terms. You know from the beginning you can’t trust her and yet over and over you find yourself trusting her just like Crush even though you know you shouldn’t, and then feeling all the mixed emotions that brings. She will literally do anything to accomplish her goals and yet somehow still comes across as likable.

New Orleans and Hollywood serve as the story’s main settings, detailed more than enough to differentiate the two. We meet the cast and crew of Rachel’s new movie as we learn that her ultimate goal is to marry her director. Unbeknownst to her, however, someone else has a very different con job going on simultaneously, one which eventually gets Crush blamed for murder as the bodies start to pile up.

Again, in the best tradition of the mystery movies, there are unexpected twists on top of unexpected twists as HEART ATTACK AND VINE tensely races toward its conclusion. By the end, I wanted nothing more than to watch the next episode! Since HEART ATTACK AND VINE is actually the second book to feature Caleb Rush, in a way I CAN watch the next episode by backtracking and reading his first appearance in CRUSH.

If you’re a fan of stylish, clever modern mysteries—or 1970s mystery movies—I heartily recommend you do the same. Start in the beginning or start where I did, with HEART ATTACK AND VINE, the most enjoyable mystery novel I’ve read in years.


Booksteve Recommends!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Yoe Books For the Holidays


I've been proud to be associated with the books of Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni in various capacities for 8 years now and 2016--as lousy a year as it's been for so many other reasons--has been a banner year for Yoe Books! Above right you see WALT KELLY'S FAIRY TALES, the winner of this year's prestigious Eisner Award! Next to it is Craig's GREAT TREASURY OF CHRISTMAS COMIC BOOK STORIES from a few years back, which also features Walt Kelly! You can click directly on the titles of either book--as well as the books below--to order now. The ones below--along with the regular hardcover collections of Yoe's POPEYE, HAUNTED HORROR, and WEIRD LOVE comics--are a mixture of recent and upcoming titles, most of which I worked on behind the scenes doing proofreading, research, or some writing. Something for everyone. Please take a look and consider for your gift-giving needs. Thanks!


Super Weird Heroes Vol. 1 is available now!

Super Weird Heroes Vol. 2 is available for pre-order!





The Complete Voodoo Vol 1 and The Complete Voodoo Vol. 2 are both out now and two of my favorites of the horror titles!


A real departure below, this is Ward Sutton's socio-political Onion strip collected as Kelly: The Cartoonist America Turns To™




Jay Disbrow's Monster Invasion              Haunted Love





Behaving Madly                                        Snake Tales



Return of the Zombies                                Horror By Heck




Haunted Horror Pre-Code Coloring Book       Devil Tales

And coming in 2017 from Dark Horse, Reefer Madness Comics!




Friday, November 25, 2016

The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood Vol. 1

Here at last is the book Wood fans have been waiting for for decades...or at least the first part of it. The late Bhob Stewart called me up out of the blue one daya few years back and we had a long conversation about Wood, after which he asked me to contribute to this book--a partial reprint of his previous book, AGAINST THE GRAIN but with much new material and no longer censored as it was in its original publication. Originally I was asked to write about SHOCK SUSPENSESTORIES but that was changed. In another call, Bhob asked me to write about Wally Wood's contributions to the early color MAD and also to its color comics companion, PANIC. I had the Cochran volumes so I spent a couple weeks revisiting EC at its finest and then sat down to write about it all. I sent it on and Bhob said it was exactly what he wanted. I explained that that was just my first draft and that I would like to revise it a bit. He called again to say it was perfect and asked me to send him a bio on myself so I did. Then I never heard back. At all. Until the news of Bhob's death hit barely a month later. It seems he'd been quite ill for some time although I never could have guessed it from our lively phone conversations.

Long before I had any actual contact with him, I had encountered his work throughout nearly my whole life. I was a huge fan of his Topps products in early grade school, I was obsessed with his CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN mag in my teens, I discovered his cheesy movies as a young adult, and admired his place as a comics historian and, in fact, in comics history itself as I grew older and discovered EC. I never would have guessed I'd work with him on what would be his final project.

After Bhob's passing, word eventually came that Fantagraphics would finish the book. As the months dragged on into years, it became two volumes because there was so much good stuff they didn't want to leave any out. And now, finally, it's shipping. Although I have yet to see a copy, I have to presume that with all this attention, this will, in fact, turn out to be the book Bhob Stewart had been working on in a way since the 1950s! The ultimate tribute to Wallace Wood!  

At several points along the way, it was conformed to me that my chapter made it into this first volume. I hope it's good enough to sit beside the contributions of so  many others who admired, knew and/or worked with Wood. I hope it's as good as Bhob Stewart thought it was.

http://www.fantagraphics.com/lifeandlegendofwallacewood/

Monday, November 21, 2016

Then Again With Herbie J Pilato

Recently here, we reviewed the latest book from author Herbie J Pilato. Anyone who has ever heard him speak knows that Herbie is one of the world's greatest fans of classic TV and the people who made it. That would seem to make him the perfect person to host this new TV series coming in January to the DECADES channel. I'm going to go out and buy an antenna for our new Roku set so I can see if I can pull it in from the Cincinnati market.

Below you'll find the official press release info and a few more publicity shots kindly provided by Herbie.



DECADES TV NETWORK SPOTLIGHTS CLASSIC TV TALENT
WITH HERBIE J PILATO’S THEN AGAIN

11/21/16:   Los Angeles, CA - Decades Network, the TV network from Weigel Broadcasting Co. and CBS Television Stations, has ordered six monthly episodes of “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato,” a 30-minute talkfest dedicated to classic television and TV stars. Host and author Pilato, and his Television, Ink. shingle, along with Joel Eisenberg and Steve Hillard ("The Chronicles of Ara"), under their “Mirkwood Partners” banner, will be Executive Producing. Program will be directed by former actor Steve Akahoshi (“Tour of Duty”). Akahoshi’s “Unstructured Plans” will produce the segments, along with Lorie Girsh Eisenberg and Len McLeod.
Gilbert Adler (producer of features "Valkyrie" and "Superman Returns," and television's "Tales from the Crypt") is also an executive producer on the project.

"I know of no one in this industry more connected to, or passionate about, the world of classic television than Herbie J Pilato," says Adler. "We want this program to become a historically important document in the world of both art and culture."

Geek Nation’s Brian Keathley and Clare Kramer (“Glory” in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) round the creative team as Production Executives.
Pilato is a prolific author, who has written 11 pop-culture-themed books including "Glamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door," "Twitch Upon A Star," "The Bionic Book" and “Dashing, Daring and Debonair: TV’s Top Male Icons from the 50s, 60s and 70s.” Pilato, also the Founder of the 501(c)3 Classic TV Preservation Society, will host the monthly specials and interview pop-culture subjects from the world of classic TV in each episode. The format will closely mirror Pilato's successful weekly "Throwback Thursday" live events in the Los Angeles area.

Says executive producer Joel Eisenberg: "Steve and I are thrilled to be in business with Herbie J. The interests of Mirkwood Partners, as always, lie primarily with the artistic journey. While celebrating classic TV, we want to know what a television personality, who may no longer be working within a regular forum, does today as an artist. We want to understand the reality of the business, and we aim for this program to speak to everyone who aspires to make a living in the arts, as well as classic TV fans, everywhere."

Adds Herbie J: "Our team is comprised of amazing talents and visionaries. We all cherish the classic TV wheelhouse, and to partner with them on a project that will resonate with so many fans of classic TV and beyond, is nothing less than an honor. We are very pleased the show will be presented on the Decades Network and appreciate the opportunity to share the show with their audience.”

Project will begin airing on Decades Network multiple times weekly, beginning in January, 2017. The broadcast network presently maintains 55% clearance in the U.S., and currently has 50 affiliates, including many major market stations owned by the CBS Television Stations. Decades is a network with a unique “time capsule” programming focus on news, history, pop culture and entertainment. Then Again is a show that promises to take viewers back and reconnect them with actors and series from decades past.

Oh, and while you're waiting, you might consider ordering some of his books here!