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Cross-Hatchings for November 2015

by  in Comic News Comment
Cross-Hatchings for November 2015

We’re still shaking off the class trip to the Olympia Zine Festival (and the hellacious case of con crud that came with it, despite refusing to shake hands with anyone AND practically bathing in Purell) as well as dealing with a bunch of other deadlines around here, so this week it’s just some bits and pieces of things. Vintage Bats, some other cool books, and a little shameless self-promotion.

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I’m On the Radio — Again! I’ve done several episodes of Radio Vs. The Martians, and my specialty, as far as hosts Mike and Casey are concerned, seems to have shaken out to “nerd stuff from the seventies.” Which is how I ended up on the first episode of their new project, Podcasta La Vista Baby! which will be a quarterly series celebrating the cinematic oeuvre of… Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“But wait a minute,” I hear you saying. “Arnold was an EIGHTIES phenomenon. And Hatcher said on the Conan episode of Radio Vs. the Martians that the Schwartzenegger movies were the low point of the entire Conan franchise for him. So what the hell?”

All true. BUT– though I am not really a fan of Arnold at all, the movie under discussion in this episode was The Running Man. Which is a movie I like a lot and it’s based on a book I like even more.

Moreover, the Stephen King novel, originally one of his stealth releases under the “Richard Bachman” pen name, was written in the seventies. And it is a quintessentially seventies piece of SF. So that’s completely in my wheelhouse, and also I’m pretty sure I was the only panelist old enough to remember seeing Richard Dawson doing his sleazy housewife-groping schtick on game shows for real, before he sent it up a decade later in this movie. So there’s the seventies angle, and the contrast between the bleak seventies nihilist tone of the book and the fist-pumping FUCK YEAH macho of the movie was one of the jumping-off points for the conversation.

Anyway, the episode is here and you should check it out. It was tremendous fun to do as always and even if you aren’t a fan of Schwartzenegger– hell, I’m not– I think you’d still enjoy it.

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Vintage Bats! Not too long ago in this space, I was talking about Batman novels. The first of these, as far as I am aware, was Batman Vs. the Three Villains of Doom, by William Woolfolk– writing as “Winston Lyon.” And then he followed that up with the novelization of the 1966 movie, Batman Vs. the Fearsome Foursome.

Now, I’d figured that was it. But it turns out Signet did an entire series of paperbacks in connection with the 1966 TV show.

Four in all, and then the movie novelization came a little later. Which kind of counts as the fifth but not really, it wasn’t included in the numbering.

Here’s the weird part. If you saw these out in the wild, in some used bookstore, you would be completely confused. Because first of all, they only numbered #3, Batman Vs. The Joker, and #4, Batman Vs. the Penguin. Even weirder, except for the two novels by Woolfolk, these aren’t prose– they’re COMICS. Reprint books, with the stories cut up and reformatted to fit the paperback format.

I had the chance to pick these up for way cheap a few weeks ago and I gambled the five dollars mostly out of curiosity. Here’s what I got.

BATMAN (un-numbered, but it’s #1) has these stories:
“The Legend of the Batman – Who He Is and How He Came to Be” from Batman #1.
“The Web of Doom!” from Batman #90.
“Fan-Mail of Danger” from Batman #92.
“The Crazy Crime Clown” from Batman #74.
“The Crime Predictor” from Batman #77.
“The Man Who Could Change Fingerprints” from Batman #82.
“The Testing of Batman” from Batman #83.

The first Woolfolk novel, Three Villains of Doom, is #2. #3, Batman Vs. the Joker, reprints these stories:
“The Challenge of the Joker” from Batman #136.
“The Joker’s Winning Team!” from Batman #86.
“The Joker’s Millions!” from Detective #180.
“The Joker’s Journal” from Detective #193.
“Batman – Clown of Crime!” from Batman #85.

And #4, Batman Vs. the Penguin, gives us:
“The Parasols of Plunder” from Batman #70.
“The Golden Eggs!” from Batman #99.
“The Penguin’s Fabulous Fowls!” from Batman #76.
“The Return of the Penguin” from Batman #155.
And a Catwoman story, “The Sleeping Beauties of Gotham City!” from Batman #84.

What’s interesting is that these are some seriously off-beat choices. One would think that there would be some famous first appearances in there somewhere, or an origin story, but except for the Batman origin itself from #1, these are more like sampler stories. Also, they’re all from the fifties except, again, the origin story, and also “Return of the Penguin” from 1963.

So it’s kind of an odd collection, made odder by the cut-n-paste reformatting. On the other hand, the odd choices meant that almost all of these were new to me and it was kind of a fun flashback to when I was a kid and I’d get a bunch of random stuff like this in a DC Giant for a quarter. Worth it for what I spent, but don’t blow real money.

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People Send Me Cool Books! As I’ve said before, there aren’t many perks to this gig, but one of the best of them is getting to be on the review list for Hard Case Crime. I approve of pretty much everything they do, whether it’s reprinting genre classics or giving us new books in the classic pulp paperback tradition. A few weeks ago they sent me a couple of terrific examples of each.

The reprint was Quarry, by Max Allan Collins.

This is the first of a series that originally appeared in the 1970s (this one was originally titled The Broker, against Collins’ wishes, and he has returned the book to its original name for the Hard Case edition) and that Mr. Collins has been sporadically returning to ever since. I had not read any of the Quarrys until Hard Case started sending them to me, despite being a huge fan of Collins’ work in general and his Ms. Tree and Mike Danger comics in particular, because a series about a professional hit man just didn’t seem like my kind of thing. But I enjoyed The Wrong Quarry well enough when I read it last year, and I enjoyed this one even more. Really, more than any other series Collins has done (including the collaborative new Mike Hammer books he is finishing from Spillane’s notes) this is him channeling the spirit of Mickey Spillane. Quarry is even harder-edged than Hammer, and the books are tightly plotted mysteries in the finest tough-guy tradition. After this one I went and got The First Quarry all on my own, loved that one too, and I suspect I’m going to end up getting the rest of them. Easy to do since Hard Case is reissuing all of them with magnificent new covers from Robert McGinnis to coincide with the new Cinemax TV series.

That’s the reprint. The new one is Joyland, which I actually reviewed when it came out. In that review, I lamented the fact that I would never be able to afford the ‘limited illustrated edition’ hardcover. Well, they’ve taken pity on us all, because there’s a nice new wide-release edition of that version and it’s as gorgeous as I’d thought it would be.

The new edition features cover artwork by Glen Orbik, a map of Joyland illustrated by Susan Hunt Yule and more than twenty interior illustrations by Robert McGinnis, Mark Summers and Pat Kinsella. Even though it’s not signed or limited or in a slipcase, it’s got all the other limited-edition good stuff and it’s a nice reasonably-priced hardcover. That’s perfectly okay with me. I’m a simple man, my needs are few.

And the book is still one of the better King novels, as well. Recommended unreservedly.

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People Send Me Cool Comics! I get a lot of indie publishers sending me PDFs and the backlog can get a little intimidating sometimes. Nevertheless, I am ashamed at how long it has taken me to get around to telling you about Tabatha from T-Pub Comics.

It’s a cool crime story about a mailman named Luke, who delivers mail by day and then returns to homes on his route by night to burgle them. The trouble starts when he and his posse pick the home of a psycho serial killer to steal from. The psycho is a Hollywood propmaker who’s fallen in love with a mannequin, Tabatha.

As it turns out he can use Luke and his friends for a completely demented scheme he’s got in the works… well, I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say things escalate quickly.

This was a rare instance for me: a story that stayed ahead of me all the way through and kept the surprises coming. Neil Gibson’s script is tight, smart, and funny and scary by turns; it almost defies genre, since sometimes the tone is like classic Hitchcock and other times like Bruce Campbell in an Evil Dead movie. Likewise the art from Caspar Wijngaard walks the fine line between cartoony and serious, and serves the story well. Recommended.

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Shameless Self-Promotion! One of the public domain pulp characters that has had several different revivals over the last couple of years is The Black Bat. A couple of his adventures have been reprinted in High Adventure more than once and now Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books is putting out cool new editions.

There have been some good comics as well.

But even more exciting as far as I’m concerned is that Airship 27 has just published a new prose anthology of Black Bat stories… and I’m in it.

This was actually the first story I did for them and as such it was kind of my audition, so it’s bigger and louder than the other ones I’ve done for them; I was really trying to blow the doors off the joint and give them something spectacular. My colleagues all did good stuff too, and Marco Santiago’s illustrations are amazing. Amazon listing is here— since I’m the first one in the lineup, if you click on the little “Look Inside!” button you can see a sample of what I did. The best bang for your buck, though, is to order the PDF directly from Airship 27’s site for a mere three dollars. I hope you’ll check us out.

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And there you have it. I’m going to go take some cold medicine and huddle under a quilt with my wife, where we’re alternating between reruns of The Night Stalker and Space:1999.

I guess I really am the seventies nerd-stuff guy.

See you next week.

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