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Cross-Hatchings for November ’09

by  in Comic News Comment
Cross-Hatchings for November ’09

Like several of you, I also decided I liked “Cross-Hatchings” best of all the suggestions for titling the occasional hodge-podge column. Many thanks to Sam L. for coining it.

Since embarking on the just-concluded month-long series of columns about comfort food, the hodge and the podge have been rather piling up, so let’s get to it, shall we?

For one thing, every week when I do a column, there is inevitably some sort of follow-up — something I forgot to mention, or some new development I was unaware of, something like that. Here are a few of those.

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I was completely unaware, for example, that when I suggested Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula novels were a sort of prose equivalent to Hammer horror movies, that there were in fact licensed prose Hammer novels out there.

These were done by John Burke, who was also the author of many of his own original horror books, notably the Dr. Caspian series.

Burke was a real go-to guy for the British paperback house Pan Publishing back then. He did several dozen movie novelizations for them, under both his own name and a variety of pseudonyms, of movies in all kinds of genres ranging from A Hard Day’s Night to Moon Zero Two. He also created and edited the anthology series Tales of Unease.

And now you know as much as I do…. somehow, despite a lifetime’s interest in this sort of thing, I haven’t got anything of Mr. Burke’s here. Looking around the net I can find a couple of the Hammer collections available from dealers for about ten or twelve dollars. Not prohibitive, certainly, but a bit much to risk on idle curiosity… and honestly, after doing a bit of research on his stuff I’m much more interested in his Dr. Caspian books, anyway. I did end up ordering one of those and I daresay we’ll be revisiting Dr. Caspian down the road, but in the meantime, I thought all this was worth a mention here.

John Burke also has a web page, which is where I cribbed most of this information after spending an entertaining half-hour or so nosing around there. Mr. Burke has had such a long and varied career I daresay something of his will pique your curiosity.

Incidentally, he’s still working; his latest horror book, The Merciless Dead, came out just a year ago.

*

Also, while we’re talking about Hammer, I forgot to mention that I have this nice little ten-episode documentary series about Hammer Films, The World of Hammer, that a friend presented me with a while back. Here’s the problem — it’s only on VHS. I have no way to play it. So I’m giving it away.

I can’t tell you much about it, because I’ve only seen one episode. Dracula and the Undead was included as a DVD extra on Dracula Prince of Darkness. It was a pleasant enough little retrospective. Clip show, basically. I think I’d have been annoyed if I paid for it, but as a DVD extra it was kind of cool.

There are ten episodes in the set: Dracula and the Undead, Frankenstein, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vamp, Sci-Fi, Wicked Women, Lands Before Time, Thriller, and Mummies, Werewolves, and the Living Dead. Each one’s a half-hour long; I assume they’re all similar clip shows to the one I saw, and each is narrated by Oliver Reed. The cassettes are all brand-new — several of these are still in their shrinkwrap.

I’d thought of taking it to the local Goodwill but I hate doing that. It was given to me because the previous owner knew I was a Hammer guy and saved it out for me when he was packing for a move. I’d feel guilty if it didn’t go to SOME Hammer Films fan somewhere. And then it occurred to me that someone out there reading this might still own a VCR and be interested.

So here’s what we’ll do. Send an e-mail to ghatcher79 (at) gmail.com. saying, “Give me the Hammer!” and it’s yours. Earliest timestamp takes it if there’s more than one of you. If you’re a U.S. resident I’ll even cover the shipping. Anywhere else, well, you could Paypal me a couple of rubles or pounds or lira or whatever to cover the postage and I’d still get it to you. Fair enough?

I just like to see these things go to good homes.

*

I was also not aware, when I wrote the second comfort food installment, that Global Frequency, my favorite action comic of all time as well as my favorite unsold TV pilot of all time, apparently is under consideration as a TV series again.

All we have is the bare fact, sadly, and the name of the screenwriter currently working on it — Scott Nimefro. ComicMix has the full writeup here. And John Rogers, who scripted the original TV pilot and is currently masterminding the excellent show Leverage, comments here.

I’d just like to add my pleas to the rest of the internet’s — just do it right, and if you could get Michelle Forbes again, too, that would be awesome.

*

I wrote this gigantic overview of DC’s Bat-relaunch a few months ago, and it seemed like an update was in order. Since they keep adding stuff to it.

Still liking Batman and Robin, Detective, and Batman: Streets of Gotham, those are the clear front-runners. Hanging in there with Batman though I’m not digging Tony Daniel’s take as much as Judd Winick’s (…yeah, I know. Shocked me too.) Dropped Red Robin and Gotham City Sirens. Not bothering with Batman: Confidential or these other ancillary mini-series that keep popping up, though I daresay Unseen will probably find its way into this house as a trade collection at some point. Praying to God that none of this Blackest Night crap slops over on to these or any other DC books I’m actually enjoying.

And I think I’ve added Batgirl.

I wasn’t going to pick it up, but I was downtown between buses, the comics shop was there, I wanted something to read, and they helpfully had issues one, two, and three right in a row. They had that “Batman: Reborn” banner same as the rest of the relaunch, and I thought well, I gave the rest of the line a fair shot, so I picked them up. Call it an OCD impulse.

That “Reborn” trade dress was a good call, because I wouldn’t have bothered otherwise and you know what? I just plain enjoyed the hell out of these books. If I can’t have Birds of Prey, well, this will do fine. I really like the idea of Stephanie Brown taking on the identity of Batgirl, it flowed organically out of the story itself — unlike the strained rationale that gave us Tim Drake as Red Robin or Catwoman deciding to hang with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn over in Sirens.

Moreover, it gives Barbara Gordon a regular monthly home again, and that pleases me… especially since that also flowed organically out of the story. It makes sense for the characters to be doing these things. (I wish I could say that about more superhero comics. It ought to be a plot requirement, not a rarity. But whatever.) In fact there’s a great vibe about the mentor/student thing the book is building here that felt delightfully familiar.

It took me a little while to figure it out, though I’m sure many of you got there way ahead of me. Sometimes I’m old and slow.

But when Barbara moved into the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, the light finally dawned. The book is essentially doing Batman Beyond, but with the girls instead of the boys. And it really works, it evokes both Batman Beyond and also the early Birds of Prey, both of which I liked a lot. Plus, despite the banner at the top of the first three covers, it’s completely self-contained. You don’t need to know anything else in any of the other Bat books to enjoy this one, and it’s really enjoyable.

I’ve never heard of Bryan Miller that writes it, or Lee Garbett who’s drawing it, but they’re both doing great work here and building a nice little straight-ahead superhero action book with a premise that should last. Now let’s hope that they keep doing it because it’s just a lot of fun. Fun is something I approve of in my Bat books and I’m glad to see so much of it lately.

And I love that this is a book I can hand to any of my cartooning students with a clear conscience and know they’ll enjoy it as much as I do, for reasons that have nothing to do with my own forty years of Bat-nerdity. This book is pure adventure and it is huge with my 7th grade girls.

It’s not wildly innovative or anything. It’s just good. And good is worth cheering on when we see it. Applause all around to everyone involved with this one, DC. (Once again I find myself asking, why isn’t this the baseline instead of the exception?)

*

I think I’m going to wrap it up there for this week… I have lots to do today, and I don’t want to be late getting home. Julie and I have an evening at the theater planned, and it looks to be all sorts of fun.

See you next week.

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