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Cross-Hatchings for April 2015

by  in Comic News Comment
Cross-Hatchings for April 2015

The usual bits and pieces. Mostly just cool links and things.

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On the Radio: Our computer was down yesterday, which is why this is late; but on the other hand, that actually works out well because now I can tell you that the latest episode of Radio Vs. The Martians! is up.

I was a panelist on this one and as always it was enormous fun. This time it’s all about James Bond, in both his cinematic and literary incarnations. Go check it out and when you’re back I have a couple of footnotes for you.

…back? Great. Since someone will ask, here’s the album cover of the knockoff soundtrack record I was alluding to.

Forty-five years later, I still say the girl hanging off Bond’s left shoulder is nude, or at least topless. You’re still wrong Sean!

…ahem. Moving on. There were a couple of things I wanted to mention and forgot to do so when we were taping, so I’m going to put those here. First and foremost is to recommend The Book Bond website, probably the best online resource for 007 lore of all kinds. Of course, it’s slanted towards the books more than the movies, which to me is a feature and not a bug, but there’s plenty of movie stuff too.

And there are now omnibus editions of Raymond Benson’s James Bond novels. He did six, and all of them are pretty good– not as good as the ones by Kingsley Amis and Charlie Higson, but they are a couple of orders of magnitude better than John Gardner’s.

The nice thing about the omnibus editions is that they include the short stories Benson wrote as well, which are INCREDIBLY rare. (One was originally published as an extra in TV Guide; another done for Playboy features Bond hanging out with Hef at the Playboy mansion. Because of course he would.)

And finally, something comics-related– Titan Books sends me their James Bond 007 comic-strip omnibus editions every so often and I really did mean to recommend them, and just keep forgetting. This is as good a place as any to remedy that.

They’re massive collections of the James Bond newspaper strip by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak that started by doing faithful adaptations of the Fleming novels and then Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis; afterwards, they moved on to doing original stories. I prefer the omnibus editions because they’re a much better bang for the buck, and also they’re much more sturdily bound. The thinner editions with the white covers have a nasty habit of cracking with use and pages falling out.

It’s worth noting that Jim Lawrence really got around as a writer. He also worked on Buck Rogers and a bunch of other newspaper strips, and his licensed prose novels ranged from contributing to the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift series to creating one of the most bizarre pulp-paperback entries ever, the R-rated men’s adventure series The Man From Planet X.

He almost never published anything under his own name; most of it was work-made-for-hire ghosted stuff, working under a house name like “Franklin Dixon.” But to me he will always be “Jack Lancer,” the guy that gifted the world with Christoipher Cool, TEEN Agent.

There were six of those in all and I am helplessly in love with all of them. The second three are hard to find and dealers charge high, but the first three are relatively cheap and easy to turn up from online retailers. In particular, the second one in the series, Mission: Moonfire, really holds up.

I THINK that’s the last of the nerdy footnotes. Every time I do an episode of Radio Vs. the Martians, on my way home I think of a dozen things I was going to say and forgot.

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Speaking of Weird Paperbacks… Someone sent me an article about “weird men’s adventure paperback series of the 1970s.” I’m not going to link to it because the more I reread it, the more I disagree with it. The idea behind the article is a good one– “How the hell did this deranged idea get greenlit as a book series?” but the examples cited are, well, ridiculously mundane. Mack Bolan, for one, is not an oddity– he’s commonplace. He practically beame a template.

Hell, by this point you can make the case that Mack Bolan’s “former special-ops military badass turned vigilante because THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL!” thing is its own genre. You can trace properties as diverse as Marvel’s Punisher and Liam Neeson’s Taken films directly to Don Pendleton’s Executioner.

I won’t bother to rebut the whole stupid article point-by-point but you can tell it’s written by someone who’s clearly just slumming it when not only does he try to claim that the Executioner is something wildly strange, but doubles down by citing Nick Carter as something that came from the Mack Bolan craze. Uh, no. Nick Carter started in the pulps; in fact he was one of the earliest private-eye series ever created, back in 1886. Then in the wake of the James Bond craze, he was rebooted under the title of Nick Cater – Killmaster… in 1964, fully five years before Mack Bolan’s debut.

I try not to be a snob– I know that not everyone is as obsessed with this sort of minutiae as I am, and anyone writing about junk culture like this pretty much has to be doing it out of love– but if you are going to sit down and write an article, at least TRY, for God’s sake. When your premise can be demolished with ten seconds’ worth of Wikipedia’ing, you’re not even rising to the level of an amateur fan with a blog.

Look, take it from someone who was there. I spent a huge part of my youth haunting drugstore spinner racks, both paperbacks and comics, and almost all of my disposable income from mowing lawns and such went for stuff like this. There was a LOT of really weird shit out there. Plenty of fodder for a “What the–?” article, believe me.

For example, Attar the gun-toting merman.

I always wondered about those, though I never quite was moved to purchase one. Turns out they were ghosted by a young Joe Haldeman, who went on to publish the Hugo and Nebula award-winning The Forever War.

Or how about the Overload series by Bob Ham, which is basically about a pair of ex-military badasses working as truckers who fight Satanists and mob killers they happen across while they’re working long-haul freight.

Because when you’re a trucker, you see some serious shit, man.

I could go on at length– and have, actually. The Force. Swag. The Aqua-Nauts. Black Samurai. And so on.

And of course, there’s the paperback anthology series of weird adventure heroes called… what was it? Oh yeah, Byron Preiss’ Weird Heroes.

How do you write an article about ‘weird adventure-hero paperback series’ and manage to omit the one that’s essentially NAMED that?

Oh well. Not to go on and on. But there’s no shortage of seriously ODD adventure paperback stuff out there for anyone who wanted to write a fun article about it. Here’s a much better and more knowledgable article about such paperbacks that I stumbled across while I was looking for cover art. You can tell Mike Lamb has at least actually done his reading.

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Since I Brought Up Byron Preiss… It’s worth noting that in addition to masterminding the pulp adventure paperback series Weird Heroes— probably the earliest effort at creating what today we call “new pulp”– Byron Preiss also struggled heroically to midwife what we casually refer to today as the graphic novel, with his series of Fiction Illustrated digests. Probably the best of these was Jim Steranko’s Chandler.

I’m bringing this up primarily to let you know that friend of the blog Edo Bosnar’s written a very nice reminiscence about that particular book for Bronze Age Babies, here. Check it out.

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And that’s all I’ve got, this time out. Visit the links and if you like the stuff, take a minute and leave them a comment saying so. We love that.

See you next week.

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