Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?

MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?

Every time the rebooting of an iconic entertainment franchise is announced, rabid fans of the original series turn their heads away from repeatedly viewing authorized release or bootleg DVDs of the original series to scream knee-jerk bloody murder. 

“It can’t possibly as good as the original. Look what they did to I Spy, The Wild Wild West, and The Avengers – the real Avengers, Steed and Emma, not those costumed jerks. These people are destroying my childhood.”

How dare any actor step into the roles of their coveted heroes as portrayed by the original actors? How dare any studio who owns the rights mess up their childhood memories by remaking their favorite shows for a new generation?

For my money, these curmudgeons are indulging in what I call myopic nostalgia – an inability to see the flaws in the original shows and an unwillingness to change anything at all in a reboot of the idea.

Unfortunately, these curmudgeons are also mostly right. I Spy, The Avengers (British spy version) and The Wild Wild West reboots were truly awful, and so were Starsky & Hutch, Mod Squad, 21 Jump Street, The Honeymooners, Dark Shadows, and Bewitched. Even the goofy original Dukes of Hazzard television series looks like classic literature when compared to the offensive, boneheaded, remake, which had no understanding of the sweet, light, comedic touch that endeared the original to so many. And the less said the better about that offense against humanity referred to as The Green Hornet, for which I will never forgive Seth Rogan…never. Talk about your myopic nostalgia…

While some of these examples, like the 21 Jump Street remakes, sold enough tickets at the box office to bring about further films in the franchise, most lost millions and millions of dollars while committing the double whammy of angering their built in fan base while boring any potential new fans in the audience. Despite this, remakes and reboots remain big business as Hollywood searches for the new golden franchise…

Favorite television series are not the only fodder Hollywood victimizes for the ham-fisted remake/reboot treatment. They also cannibalize their own revered and not so revered movie franchises:

“Let’s remake Ghostbusters, but with an all-female cast.” 

“We just can’t get Spider-man quite right, so let’s make him Hispanic.”

“People will be lining up around the block for Police Academy: Next Generation.”

Yikes…

However, for every baker’s dozen of failed reboots, something decent sneaks through. If we ignore the first misfire in the series of remakes [SPOILER ALERT: Making Jim Phelps a traitor was going way too far], Mission Impossible 2, 3, and 4 were pretty good romps, and I have high hopes for Mission Impossible 5 later this year. 

Though it had little in common with the original series, and certainly has its share of haters, I still enjoyed the recent remake of The Equalizer (with Denzel Washington taking over the iconic role from the very English Edward Woodward). I found it relatively entertaining – completely different, with little in common with the original series, but relatively entertaining.

The various Star Trek reboots have their share of fans and critics. I enjoyed the first of director J. J. Abram’s outings and was disappointed by the second, but they both made huge money despite what I think.

And money is apparently the point. 

Recently, the first trailer was released for the latest reboot to tread on hallowed ground. After many failed attempts, the venerable ‘60s spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is finally getting the big screen treatment. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are taking over the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, with Guy Ritchie scripting and directing.

The U.N.C.L.E. fan base is still surprisingly vibrant as the original show struck a chord with many impressionable youth. I’ve written in this column before about how U.N.C.L.E. shaped my own choice of career, and how much of my youth was spent chasing THRUSH agents around the neighborhood while brandishing the TV tie-in toy guns produced for the series.

As can be imagined, the doomsayers in the fan base had already predicted the awfulness of the U.N.C.L.E. movie before the first scene had ever been shot. Complaints about the casting, ranging from Armie Hammer being so much taller than David McCallum, to Henry Cavill’s wooden performance in the ghastly Man of Steel reboot of the Superman franchise, were rife. Before a note was put down on the score, complaints about the soundtrack and speculation about the use of the original theme were heard from far and wide.

The fact the reboot will be an origin story of how Solo and Kuryakin first met and how U.N.C.L.E. was formed – making the reboot a period piece set in the ‘60s – has met with a certain amount of derision by some fans who want a movie that picks up in full swing where the series left off. And there is consternation neither Robert Vaughn nor David McCallum were offered cameo appearances.  And where, oh, where is that familiar U.N.C.L.E. logo.

Sigh…

I own the full series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on DVD in the cool briefcase carrier, the LP and CD releases of the original soundtrack, know exactly where my U.N.C.L.E. ID card and yellow triangular badge are safely kept, and I recently spent three days at the Golden Anniversary Affair, a convention celebrating 50 years of U.N.C.L.E. 

I’m a fan. A big fan. A huge fan. And I for one am excited for the new film. 

Will it be everything I want it to be? 

If it is a good solid spy film that is better than any of the episodes from season three of the original U.N.C.L.E. show (when the series lost its way in goofiness, before trying to patch things up in the 4th and final season); if it’s better than any episode of your choice from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (not hard); and if it makes U.N.C.L.E. accessible to new fans, then it will hit the standard to which I am measuring the success of the film.

The recently released trailer looks good – not perfect, but certainly encouraging. Both actors appear to be enjoying themselves in their respective roles and there is a certain cadence and light touch of class, which was a big part of the original series’ success. I have enjoyed most of Guy Ritchie’s movies, especially his Sherlock Holmes outings. I’m hoping he can again capture lightening in a bottle with The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Another excellent sign is Warner Bros. moving the movie release date from February – the traditional wasteland where many bad movies have been sent to die – to August, a prime release month between wrapping up the big summer blockbusters and the release of the Oscar bait films at the end of the year.

I don’t think The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie is necessarily going to win the reboot lottery, but I’m betting it will get most of the numbers right. However, it better include the original Jerry Goldsmith theme!  You hear me, Guy Ritchie?  You better use the original theme! Don’t change one single note! The theme is sacrosanct! You hear me? You hear me? Don’t ruin my childhood!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

FANTASY CORNER: RANGER'S APPRENTICE: THE EARLY YEARS

FANTASY CORNER: RANGER'S APPRENTICE: THE EARLY YEARS

Bestselling fantasy-adventure writer John Flanagan‘s latest series, set for publication October 6th, sports a most cool action-filled cover. Flanagan’s new book is titled The Tournament At Gorlan, and it’s the first in his new series, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years — a prequel to his excellent Ranger's Apprentice series,

While the original series features an orphan named Will and his apprenticeship as a Ranger (a protector in Flanagan's wonderfully evoked fantasy world), the prequels deal with an early iteration of the Ranger group and a threat to its integrity.

I've got the new book on pre-order and have just picked up the fifth book in his companion series, The Brotherband Chronicles...

PULP NOW: THE ARGOSY LIBRARY


PULP NOW: THE ARGOSY LIBRARY

Altus Press has announced the premiere of its new line of books: The Argosy Library series, featuring popular authors such as Lester Dent, Otis Adelbert Kline, W.C. Tuttle, and George F. Worts. 

Founded at the end of the Nineteenth Century by publishing tycoon Frank A. Munsey, Argosy Magazine quickly became one of the most popular – and prestigious – fiction magazines of its day and spawned a publishing revolution. Known as one of the most literate pulp magazines, Argosy published thousands of short stories and novels, many of which features some of the most influential series characters in popular fiction. With the inauguration of The Argosy Library, Altus Press plans to bring back into print the best of the Frank A. Munsey Company, sourced from its suite of sibling titles such as Argosy, All-Story, and Flynn’s Detective Fiction Weekly, among others.

The Argosy Library expects to showcase the varied mix of genres that made Argosy one of the most popular pulps of all time. Series 1 does just that by showcasing adventure, mystery, western, science fiction, fantasy, and crime stories by some of Munsey’s most popular authors such as Lester Dent, W. Wirt, Otis Adelbert Kline, W.C. Tuttle, George F. Worts, and Theodore Roscoe, among others.

The Argosy Library will be released in series of ten books at a time – in matching trade dress – and will be available in softcover, hardcover, and ebook editions. In addition to being available separately, each series of releases can be purchased as a single, heavily-discounted set.  Series 1 of The Argosy Library is expected to be released in May. 

GENIUS JONES
LESTER DENT
INTRODUCTION BY WILL MURRAY

The gold-dusted saga of a red-bearded young giant, raised in the Arctic on seal-meat and encyclopedias, who descends on civilization with a loud and solid crash. In his search for wisdom and adventure, the man Jones doesn’t have Aladdin’s lamp – but he doesn’t really need it…Never before reprinted, it’s the longest novel Lester Dent ever published, and one of the most famous. This edition restores text cut from its original publication. 

WHEN TIGERS ARE HUNTING: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF CORDIE, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, VOLUME 1
W. WIRT

The sagas of Jimmie Cordie and his crew were among Argosy’s most popular series when it was brought to that magazine during its early ’30s renaissance. Quite clearly an inspiration for the creation of Doc Savage, this edition collects his first nine adventures. 

THE SWORDSMAN OF MARS
OTIS ADELBERT KLINE

Harry Thorne, explorer and swordsman, had scarcely more than heard of the Red Planet, Mars – when an amazing thing happened…. Author Otis Adelbert Kline is well-known as one of the best fantasy/adventure contemporaries of Edgar Rice Burroughs. This edition is sourced from the original magazine text and includes all of the original illustrations. 

THE SHERLOCK OF SAGELAND: THE COMPLETE TALES OF SHERIFF HENRY, VOLUME 1
W.C. TUTTLE
INTRODUCTION BY SAI SHANKAR

Once voted Adventure Magazine’s most popular author, W.C. Tuttle introduced the world to one of his longest-running, and most popular series characters, Henry Harrison Conroy, in the pages of Argosy. Collected here are the first four stories. 

GONE NORTH
CHARLES ALDEN SELTZER

When Jim Fallon started for the Hudson Bay country, he wasn’t sure whether he was on a man-hunt or a wild goose chase – but he found his quest was fraught with real enough peril. Among the best novels ever written by one of Argosy’s most popular authors.

THE MASKED MASTER MIND
GEORGE F. WORTS

One of Argosy’s most popular authors pens this never-before reprinted novel of a trail of crime that ran from sleepy Maple Hollow to Steel City. 

BALATA
FRED MACISAAC

Trees of living gold in the Amazon jungles, guarded by alligators, poisoned darts and rival hunters – such was the lodestone that drew an American expedition, and the unwilling Pete Holcomb…

BRETWALDA
PHILIP KETCHUM

‘Twas the mightiest weapon the eyes of man had ever beheld – its mystic name meant Ruler of Briton. And from over the Northern Sea came a Viking’s thrall – the only man in the world who could wield that fearsome steel – to save good King Alfred and the homeland he scarce remembered. Collecting – for the first time – all 12 stories of the Bretwalda saga. 

DRAFT OF ETERNITY
VICTOR ROUSSEAU

A groundbreaking science fiction, post-apocalyptic & time travel classic from the early days of The All-Story by an underrated writer.

FOUR CORNERS, VOLUME 1
THEODORE ROSCOE

Mystery runs rampant in the quiet, upstate New York town of Four Corners… Easily one of Roscoe’s best-written series, Volume 1 collects the first half of this lost masterpiece of the pulps. 

FOR MORE CLICK HERE

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER

It's always exciting when a member of your writing group releases a major publication. It's even more exciting when you mentor said writing group. 

Laura Palmer first read a chapter from her work in progress to the group in 2013. The feedback was immediately positive. Later chapters received both positive and critical input. Laura kept writing, kept using the positive input to bolster her on her journey while processing the critical input to make her story stronger.

I remember one particular monthly meeting in 2014. Laura reported she was stuck in the middle of the story.  She knew what she had written since the last meeting wasn't working, but she couldn't figure out why. The immediate response from the other members of the group was a rousing, "Don't worry, we'll tell you!"

Laura bravely allowed the problem chapter to be read aloud by another member of the group, and she was right - it didn't work. The chapter clashed with what had gone before in tone and intent and was missing the light touch of magic with which the rest of her story had been painted. However, the beauty of a positive writers group is also a sort of magic, and in the following animated discussion, Laura was inspired to capture for herself what was not working and why...and more importantly, how to fix it.

Laura's willingness to risk her own feelings about her creative work and be open to positive critique provided the true magic of the meeting. 

Since then, Laura has been going to graduate school, pursuing a Masters in Public Administration, all the while continuing to write in whatever time she could steal away from her other obligations.

Laura worked not only with our writing group, but also with other professionals in the editing and design process. She took the path to publication seriously, determined to produce the best possible story presented in the best possible way. 

Today, I received an email from Laura with the wonderful news her novel, The True Bride and the Shoemaker, had just been released into the wilds of publication. The book sports a beautiful cover, which not only catches the eye, but also captures the magic of the story inside.

I've used the word magic a lot in this post, because the publication of a first novel is a magical experience. I'm delighted for Laura and I couldn't be more proud of her.

THE TRUE BRIDE AND THE SHOEMAKER
 
There is magic in the streets of Pippington, but most people are too busy to notice.

Shoemaker Peter Talbot needs a little magic. Cheap, factory made, shoes are putting him out of business, his nagging sisters will never let him rest, and his efforts to find true love are constantly thwarted by worldly fickleness. However, the gift of a wild primrose and a shipment of rare griffin skin are about to change everything…When beautiful handmade shoes begin appearing in his shop every morning, Peter is determined to find the source. What he finds instead will be far more exciting and wondrous than he could ever imagine.

The True Bride and the Shoemaker is the first of The Pippington Tales, introducing a city full of magic and everyday fairy tales for those willing to see them.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

COMICS NOW: WORDSMITH ~ AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGINATION

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COMICS NOW: WORDSMITH ~ AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGINATION
 
In the mid-80s, writer and comic maven Dave Darrigo created a most unusual and endearing comic hero – Clay Washburn, Wordsmith. What sets Wordsmith apart is Clay is as far from a comic heroes as most readers themselves. Set in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Clay is a writer, the creator of adventures for a full range of heroic characters, which he sells to the popular pulp magazines of his day. Clay is an everyman, not a star name on covers, struggling to make a living at something he loves, eventually earning a penny per word (many were paid less) in a highly competitive marketplace. As a result, Clay had to be prolific and adapt to writing in many different genres.

Each issue of Wordsmith was further unique in sharing not only Clay’s personal struggles, but also the adventures of the characters about whom he was writing – heroes like Brass-Knuckles Bendix, Captain Strong, Domino Detective, Hunter Hawke, as well as various hard-boiled G-Men and many others.

Written with an amazing, underlying, understanding of a writer’s struggles, Wordsmith stands unique in the comic pantheon. The twelve issues of Wordsmith were clearly a labor of love and quickly became a cult favorite. The original issues are still eagerly sought by not only comic fans, but also fans of the original pulp magazines, those involved in the new pulp movement, and anyone fascinated by a writer’s creative process. Fortunately, Dover Press will be publishing a new collection of the Wordsmith stories later this year.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to track down Wordsmith creator Dave Darrigo and chat with him about the world of Wordsmith as well as his own journey through the world of comics.

DARRIGO
GROWING UP IN THE ‘60S, WHAT WERE YOUR POP CULTURAL INFLUENCES?

What can I say? Color TV! If you are old enough, you know the names of all the shows. They still make movie adaptations of them – mostly bad ones. Did we really need the Green Hornet movie? Glad they left Jonny Quest alone.

After that it was comics. I was into the second phase of Marvelmania. Before that, I was with DC, but mostly with their war comics, and also paperback pulp reprints (I was big on Doc Savage). Even old radio fascinated me. I would have liked to get old comics but, like today, they were out of my price range. Fortunately, we now have many nice reprint collections.

Notice the word old, which I’ve used as a descriptor. Old wasn’t a dirty word back then. But you were in a cult – the cult of nostalgia.

WHAT DROVE YOU TO BEGIN CREATING AND PUBLISHING COMICS AT A YOUNG AGE?

It all started as an exercise in imagination and a way to bond with a friend. Then I realized the Mimeograph machine in my father’s office (he was an independent businessman) would allow us to make copies of our pages. So, why not try to make a faux comic book? It must have driven his secretary crazy, but she just had to endure it all. Boss’ son at play. It’s the next step that is hard to explain.

HAVING DONE MY OWN SHARE OF MIMEOGRAPHING INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PUBLISHING EFFORTS IN YOUR FATHER’S BUSINESS OFFICE?

We decided to use my dad’s financial resources to print on photo-offset presses. This was in 1969. I was fifteen years old. Print shops were not on every corner back then. Nor were there any comic shops in existence. We were really out on a limb. We tried to sell them through mail order, but really could not get over the hump.

Yet did I learn from this? Nope. Twenty years later, after Wordsmith, I went back into comics publishing, creating a company called Special Studio. However, we still couldn’t get over the hump.

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HOW DID YOU COME TO FIND AND APPRECIATE THE PULP MAGAZINES FROM THE ‘30S AND ‘40S? WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE PULPS THAT HELD A FASCINATION FOR YOU? ALSO, YOU WERE PART OF EARLY COMIC FANDOM EFFORTS IN CANADA. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? HOW DID FANS CONNECT IN THOSE PRE-INTERNET DAYS?

Toronto is the media capital of Canada. In the late sixties there was a nostalgia oriented book shop called Memory Lane. It was owned and operated by a WWII vet, Captain George Henderson. His shop specialized in comics and pulps and therefore garnered a lot of publicity, locally, regionally and nationally, via print, radio, and TV.

Several of his customer/friends – including a journalist/editor with the national newspaper – joined him to create an informal nostalgia club, which also covered the current film/TV scene. They took it upon themselves to share their knowledge by doing two publications.

One was a bi-weekly called the Penny Dreadful It was a small pamphlet-sized thing, but loaded with info/comments. The other was a monthly magazine called, Captain George’s Whizbang. And there were Whizbang Specials that would showcase old artists, or do unofficial reprints of old comics.
Anyway, this was early fanzine activity that was immensely entertaining and eye-opening for a kid. Captain George even reluctantly carried copies of our comic in his store – although, he probably threw out more than he ever sold. I think he carried them just because I was a customer with a rich father. George had also published one of the first prozine comics in the country since the early fifties. His was pro as opposed to our amateur effort.

One of the members in their club, Don Hutchison, wrote great stuff on pulps, and I followed him avidly. He went on to write many articles for pulpzines as well as authoring several pulp history books. Eventually, I met Don and we travelled to several pulp conventions in Ohio. When Wordsmith came out, I invited him to do text pieces on the pulps. He updated some of his previous material and did new original work.

I realize now, I never actually held or owned a real pulp magazine until I was close to thirty years old. Then I collected them for only a decade or so. I haven’t bought an old pulp in a long time, even with eBay around. I went through a period of buying pulp replica reprints. Loved them, but had to give those up, too. However, I still pick up reprints in book form.

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AS AN INDEPENDENT COMIC CREATOR AND PUBLISHER, HOW DID YOU COMPETE WITH THE INDUSTRY GIANTS?

I didn’t see Special Studio as competing against the big full color boys. I was in the small press black and white universe – happy to get sales anywhere close to the Teenage Turtles. My problem was, I did crime comics just a bit ahead of the curve. Yes, there were characters like Punisher and Vigilante and some in black and white – and Frank Miller was starting his Sin City series – but it was a genre working to make a come-back.

If you want to look for some of my titles check for The Snake, Black Scorpion, Tony Bravado: Trouble-shooter, and Piranha Is Loose! There’s also a one shot called Modern Pulp and another one shot called Heroes from Wordsmith.

I worked at and managed a comic shop at the time Wordsmith came out, so I have great memories of actually selling my comic in my own store. I didn’t own the store. It was owned by John Biernat. Maybe you remember Dragon Lady Press. John published those titles. The store closed down a few years ago after 30 plus years.

HOW DID THE UNIQUE CONCEPT FOR WORDSMITH COME INTO EXISTENCE?

I just got caught up in wondering what it would have been like to be a pulp writer in a time period of history that was of great interest to me. But I wanted to fashion the story in such a way that the writer was not a hero per se – I didn’t want him to be a secret private eye or vigilante. The idea was to look at his life and times as a regular Joe. The action would be in his internal conflicts to finish a story quickly and to overcome plot knots – all the while looking out the window and seeing soup kitchen line-ups and worrying about the rise of fascism and a new war in Europe.

Keep in mind the concept was developed as a novel first. At this time in comics history (thanks to Will Eisner), the medium was evolving into graphic novels, so I thought about twisting the concept into comics form. We had to stop after 12 issues, but it would have been great if it had gone another 8 issues ending in 1945, after the atomic bombs were dropped. when Clay realizes pulp fiction is at a dead end.

Then there would have been a 4 issue mini-series sequel bringing Clay into the next four decades as he wrote paperback fiction and saw the pulps return to market in reprints. The last issue would have had him being honored at a Pulp Con.

So, in its true entirety, it would have been a twenty-four issue graphic novel. However, it had to end half way through when Clay went off to war as a clerk in Washington.

HOW DID YOU SEE WORDSMITH AS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER COMIC CONCEPTS?

There were two problems with bringing this concept to reality. Finding a publisher who got it and finding an artist who could pull it off to everyone’s satisfaction. With good fortune I found both. Wish I could say that same good fortune has stayed with me since.

Everyone was well aware this was very different from the norm, but – again, thanks to creators like Will Eisner and others in the States – there seemed to be a growing audience for more adult approaches to the medium. I had been exposed to European comics, and knew their scene had always encompassed adult material. Not because of sex or violence, but just stories set within real historical settings.

WHAT WERE YOUR ORIGINAL GOALS FOR WORDSMITH

The goal was to show comics fans how their medium was linked to the pulps in form and content. Not because modern comics were adapting pulp characters, but because pulp writers and artists moved to comics when the medium became popular and the writers struggled to adapt. In Wordsmith, I show Clay's long-time editor doing this, as well. 

The second goal was to just bring history to life from 1935 to 1945. I wish I had thought of a story which had Clay attending the 1939 World's Fair, or one centered on the Hindenburg disaster.

HOW DID WORDSMITH EVOLVE FROM ISSUE TO ISSUE?

Simply that time had to pass in Clay’s life. There had to be change. Clay had to move past his fight to reach financial stability, to get married and start a family. I wanted Clay to try new writing challenges, and to react to the big issues shaping the world, as any thinking human would do. All of this had to be done while keeping regular readers happy and trying to get new readers on board.

HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO NOT ONLY WRITE CLAY’S ONGOING STORY, BUT TO FIND A WAY TO ALSO INCLUDE THE STORIES OF HIS CHARACTERS?

I would draw your attention to the sixth issue, where Clay took a hiatus to write his Great American Novel. I wanted to show him writing that story and we did so, but there had to be one of his pulp stories shown in the same issue. That was tricky. Although he plotted the pulp story, he had a pulp writer friend of his write it. So, we showed Clay imagining what his friend was writing. And worrying about it. 

Once we sold a publisher and some core readers on the concept, it wasn't too hard to fit in his fictional stories. But issues like issue #5 – where his fictional story was the result of a prank – the aforementioned issue #6, and issue #8 (where almost the entire issue was devoted to one of his written stories) were a challenge. My personal favorite story was issue #4, where Clay tries to save an abused boy from his villainous father. It was where Clay had to come face-to-face with a true Evil.

WHAT WAS THE READERS/FANS RESPONSE TO WORDSMITH?

Although we didn't have a letters page in every issue, when we did have them you can see how my goals were met – usually with a positive reaction. These published letters were chosen from many more. Some were just of a keep up the good work type. Still, I always sent back a response using a Wordsmith form letter, but always adding a personal notation and signature. 

That people took the time to actually write and mail something to us was a great honor and I'll always have fond memories of it. 

One real-life wordsmith, Harlan Ellison, was kind enough to write us. Of course, I printed his letter. He was a long-time comics/pulp fan so he could have been a harsh critic, but he had great praise and set his quibbles aside. He knew our hearts were in the right place and was confident we would improve in time. 

After the seventh issue – our Christmas story – our sales peaked and began dropping, so we began to plan for the end. Frankly the last three issues were done more for love than profits. My thanks will always go to Deni Loubert, the publisher, and R.G. Taylor, the artist, for keeping the faith and plodding on. 

By the way, I think those last three issues were great and really showcased the concept. #12 was our comic’s issue where Clay meets a Jack Kirby-type character and where his fictional story is not a pulp one, but a Captain America type comic book story.

WILL THE NEW WORDSMITH COLLECTIONS BEING PUBLISHED BY DOVER PRESS LATER THIS YEAR CONTAIN ANY NEW MATERIAL OR PREVIOUSLY UNCOLLECTED MATERIAL?

No. Only once over the thirty years have we thought of doing a short story for some anthology, but that never got far. 

I wish Dover well, but even a new story would not make a sales difference. We're just honored to be in their classic line of reprinted material.

DOES WRITER DAVE DARRIGO STILL CONNECT TO WORDSMITH HERO CLAY WASHBURN?

Not really. Because I was writing about someone who, despite being a hack in many ways, at least found a way to make a living at it and just enjoyed exercising his imagination every day. I never did. I still have a cabinet of ideas filed away. Mostly for fiction, crime in particular, however, there's no market for small fiction except online.

I have some ideas for the youth market. For boys. Trying to get to them before they get into games. Working with my artist friends to develop them.

A while ago, I tried a huge challenge – to partner with a friend and write a screenplay. It took a few years to finish a first draft, but we did it and remained friends somehow. Since then, we are actively (and frustratingly) trying to sell it. It's a commercial action thriller and, despite a ton of rejections, we think it is good and fresh. Still relevant for a changing audience.

Trying to adapt to the digital age. Seeing books as we've known them disappear. Seeing people stop reading for the sheer joy of it – no matter how they pretend otherwise. It all started back where we came in on this interview – with color TV's.  Even in the radio age people read. Early TV made an impact, yes. But color TV's and the shows created for it really created the coffin. The nails for the coffin have been put in gradually ever since. Now it's all about the end of TV itself as we know it. 

Still, I basically can relate to Clay Washburn in the same way I did before the comic. By just reading old pulp fiction and imagining what the writer was doing the day he wrote the words.

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I’d really like to thank Dave Darrigo for taking the time to answer all my many questions. In some ways, I feel I’ve found a new friend with whom I can connect on many levels – a true value in today’s transient, disposable, economy.

NOIR NOW: WHEN IT FELT GOOD TO BE BAD

FM 1

NOIR NOW: WHEN IT FELT GOOD TO BE BAD
 
Film noir, a particular genre of movie storytelling, wasn’t given its label until the 1970s. Before then these types of films were merely referred to as melodramas. Enough time and distance finally passed so these movies could be looked upon as primarily very much a particular style, of presentation, low lighting, shadows, and desperate, shifty players, who were always of questionable character. The unique lighting was derived from the German Expressionists whose primary timeframe was pre-World War II, 1930s.
 
The need to label this particular style, most dominant from 1940 to 1958, was born out of the second Golden Age of film making. In the first Golden Age, the 1930s, filmmakers were still experimenting with the new art form and it was too soon to label films with anything too exotic. All they had then were westerns, war pictures, prison pictures, and so forth. They used simple, clear labels.
 
Jerry Lewis, after making so many movies it gave him a heart attack, wrote a tome, The Total Film-maker, which became the dog eared Bible of George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and the rest of the bearded, film school wunderkinds of the 1970s Golden age. Lewis, as their mentor, made them extremely aware they were creating art and with every frame there was potential for great technique and meaning.
 
As a result, film criticism itself blasted off like it was the space program and many new film terms were adopted. No splice of film went unexamined after the 1970s when these very self-aware directors started putting out their fare. Film school enrollment exploded with both the filmmakers and their film critic classmates expounding on their products.
 
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What was written about film noir in the 1970s was definitive and important. Twenty plus odd years of aesthetic distance helped film historians identify, clarify, and most importantly, label film noir with a name.
 
More labels came after. Everything after 1958 is considered neo noir, especially if filmed in color. Film soleil is film noir with sunshine. The consensus that film noir is mostly about the technical style continues to dominate analysis of the genre and much has been written about the darkness of the characters as well. Yet there is more. So much more this period of this particular film genre says about history and says about, not just our society, but how we as individuals feel on the inside and how we may choose to live our very lives.
 
What we may have missed out on in the excitement of being in the middle of viewing new creations being released into theaters firsthand, like in the 40s and 50s. Or even what we may have missed by not being in the throes of labeling an art that had been around for a while, like in the 70s, we can make up for by having the longitudinal insight to be able to see what was really going on in America in a collective sub consciousness way. Also to see how those things were expressed through this fascinating movie genre.
 
The year the American public was the most insatiable in its appetite to consume film noir movies was 1946. One might ask why 1946? The answer could be World War II ended in 1945 and there was right after a deliberate plan to put America back into place. Primarily that core of American Society, which is very backbone the American Family.
 
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Rosie the Riveter had to give her job to a man. Get out of the factory. Put on an apron and go back into the kitchen. If she didn’t, the man would not be the head of the family. The hierarchy of the family would be askew. Society as a whole then would be messed up. The sky would eventually fall. Many, many movies were made in the second half of the 1940s that sent the not so subtle message that women needed to buckle under and let the father dictate the future of the family…or there might be no family. If there was no family then there would be no society, and then no America and so then why was the war fought?
 
Much has been written about Meet me in St. Louis, in particular as a proclaimer of this very agenda. If the American family was not restored to the pinnacle of its idealized form, how could we justify all that was sacrificed in fighting for our freedom and the freedom of our nation’s friends?
 
However, the passion for film noir represents that deep down much of America wasn’t buying it. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor, which finally brought the United States into the war. We were going to be warriors, and supporters of warriors. We had to find our dark sides where we were selfish, driven, ambitious, strategic and most importantly…killers. We, as a nation, had to find our inner film noir character in order to go to war. We had to go dark, black even, become comfortable in the shadows, tighten our lips or ships would sink. We had to learn to sacrifice and be stingy. And we did it.
 
Then we won the war and the message was then about getting back to normal. But what was normal? The Great Depression that preceded the war –where the heads of households had trouble leading because they couldn’t be breadwinners? Plus, we had been to war or seen the pictures and films of war like never before. The devastation, the killing, the hunger – starvation even – and torture.
 
No. Americans couldn’t flip flop that easily. Their hearts well knew the darkness and the splintering of the family over great distances. They knew they were supposed to want things bright and shiny, yet they flocked in droves to the movie theaters to see the dark seamy sides of life they had been living themselves for years during the war. They had been living film noir. The films could not be produced fast enough to keep up with demand.
 
The production of film noir movies and its popularity continued through the 1950s. Forces in the culture increasingly put continued pressure on the creation of an idealized rigid family structure – a structure so stultifying, the only release from it could be gained by watching very selfish people walking around in the shadows on the big screen, while the consumer themselves sat in a darkened movie theater.
 
The American family had to have a father who had the last word on everything, a subdued housewife/mother, obedient children, all living in cookie cutter neighborhoods in the suburbs because America went to war to protect that perceived way of life – even though it didn’t exactly exist beforehand. Having actually been film noir characters during the war, having had to be so dark, needed justification.
 
And besides it felt cool to be legitimately bad.
 
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Returning from WWII to the conformity of the supposed American dream, letting go of a noir character’s inner darkness couldn’t have been easy. Then there were those who must have known noir was their nature to begin with – the war experience only exacerbating it, and the pressure to be part of a 1950s happy family must have been daunting.

A lot may have suspected they couldn’t do it. They suspected they lacked the tools to hold that kind of a family together. Some people were noir characters in reality. Other ones were noir characters in their souls,and didn’t have the guts to live it out. Instead, ill equipped as they were, they strove for the 1950s ideal, which was (is) all about conformity.

Besides the consumption of film noir to feel genuine to oneself, or to vicariously see what it was like to be so darkly driven, or to aide in the transition of having been a killer back to being a husband and father, there were other signs of leakage that it wasn’t easy to change into the pereived1950s family ideal.

Lucy wanted to work and was always trying to break into Ricky’s show, but that was a joke, right? It was laughable…women working outside of the home. Men found themselves having to hit the bar/lounge on the way home from the career battlefield and have a martini, before heading home to the domestic battlefield? Why were things more chaotic than on TV? Yes, there was leakage.

And unbelievable oppression of who an individual really was.

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In the 1950 film noirs, all the women who had been strong powerful individuals before the war, or during the war, like Joan Crawford, Betty Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck, were now suddenly playing victims – females terrified by a mere phone call. The message being: stay in line, stay in the kitchen – so to speak – or you might be brought in for questioning. At worst, you could be investigated and interrogated on television for un-American activities, or at best, judged by your neighbor.

The fictional noir characters on screen weren’t participating in this societal model in any way, shape or form. Whether they were the criminals, or the private dicks chasing them, or the showgirls, or the molls, or the mysterious widows, they were all refusing to play house. The morals police insisted all of the films prove that crime, and/or a lack of morals, were going to be punished in some way or another by the end of the film.

Many people obsessed on these characters because they remembered when they were in a war and they had to kill or be killed. That was a terrible pressure. Now, having to participate in a perfect family was also a lot of pressure.

Besides being entertained, watching a film noir was an exercise in exploring if one had chosen the wrong life to live, and if the idealized 1950s family lifestyle was as joyful as they were being led to believe.

Truthfully, there have been many parents who should not have been pressured into the 1950s happy families. Many people who should have only chased criminals and chorines might have been happy with only that. Some should have only hung at the racetrack and had dinner with friends. Or others should have spent time mostly talking on the telephone, dancing, and doing their nails.

There is no doubt a slew of people could tell you their parents would have been so much better off not trying to live the American Dream in a sheltered house surrounded by a white picket fence. They’ll tell you how much happier everyone would have been if their parents had just lived their whole lives like noir characters, rather than drag whiffs of it to the dinner table.

The pressure was so great to live in a perfect 1950s television family that by 1958 Americans finally believed they had the dream overall in the nation and film noir became far less popular as a form of relief from conformity.

That was until 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, which showed there was a very healthy dose of the darkness still out there after all. The shock of Kennedy’s death blew the fantasy of how family life will protect you, and the nation, all to hell.

Soon after the late 40s and 50s, offspring of those who witnessed WWII, formed their own rebellion against the American Dream and, as hippies, tried and succeeded to an extent, to overthrow the establishment in which they were reared. They knew first hand it was hypocritical and oppressive.
They had been raised with morals and righteously believed a new lifestyle was the better, more moral way to live, not really seeing their own self-righteousness was a very similar offshoot from the same constricted pressure they learned at home growing up. But they did very much care about community. If they didn’t become Yuppies, they grew to be the guardians of the planet and animals. Being a conforming happy family still seem to fit in well with this alternative lifestyle.

It can also be argued that artists, designers, and most very creative people can also be very alternative in their lack of need for the 1950s family structure. Their creative drive is paramount to everything else. They get fulfillment through the results of their creative output and products.

The satisfaction creative artists and tree huggers derive from their passions denote an inner emotional world that, although still being alternative from the happy family tradition, are still pro social.

Noir characters, on the other hand, don’t live for others. They live self-righteously and selfishly. And the genre will never completely die because there are those who are not built for family life, creativity, or granola eating. These noir individuals will seek, consciously or not, justification for living life as who they are, in the shadows or not.

The inclination here might be to label them sociopathic, but that temptation is counter intelligent to the fact the gumshoes and cops, and their informants, are also very much noir characters. They are driven by their own inner worlds that may be about protecting the American family, and society etc., which doesn’t necessarily mean they want personally to live that conforming lifestyle.

Film noir characters are primarily emotion driven. Auteur Stanley Kubrick said only two emotions drive them: desire and threat. I would add adrenaline. Noir characters get bored easily. Adrenaline is a physical addiction and not necessarily a desire. They would never be happy living in the suburbs or hanging at the Mall of America.

Conformity and the traditional family structure might be sought out for those who need daily routine, for those who fear the tumultuousness of being around those who are selfishly driven. But as long as those in the burbs question their static lifestyles, and they wonder internally if the sacrifices they make for that peace are worth it, or worse, suspect they have given up their coolness for stability, there will always be noirs to serve the explorations of their own natures.

Thx to the late Suzanne Manders for her input into this article.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE

AUTHOR: ANDREW SALMON
COVER: MIKE FYLES
BOOK DESIGN: DAVID FOSTER

FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE

Deptford, England, 1888 … Richard Stokes – one half of a tag-team carnival boxing duo – has vanished, leaving his loving wife, pugilist Eby Stokes, homeless and penniless with only questions and no answers. A mutual friend asks Holmes to look into the disappearance.

Watson believes the matter to be a common case of abandonment, and Holmes’ interest merely an excuse to try his hand in the boxing booths of a visiting circus. However, when they are almost killed, Holmes and Watson’s only remaining clue to Stokes disappearance harkens back to a boxing club disbanded in shame more than sixty years earlier. 

Why did Stokes abandon his wife? What possible significance could the long extinct Pugilistic Club have in the matter? Who is behind the fire that almost took the lives of Holmes and Watson?

Joining forces with Eby Stokes, Holmes and Watson are determined to find the answers. The kaleidoscope lights of the carnival hide many secrets, including a threat to the foundation of the British Empire.

The game's afoot and, this time, it's a matter of life and death in and out of the ring…



 

Monday, March 2, 2015

BSB REVIEW FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES II

BSB REVIEW FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES II

THE REVERED BAKER STREET BABES BLOG HAS ALSO GIVEN FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE A RAVE REVIEW ...


While Work Capitol was full of links to the Canon, Blood to the Bone refers more frequently to historical events of the 1880s, ending with a fictionalized explanation for one of the most famous photographs in history (which I will not name, as it would spoil the effect). I enjoyed the historical links and references very much, and loved the solution of the story, which reads almost like an action film – the images conjured up by Salmon’s words are that vivid.

But what sticks most about this story is the lady fighter who is written as a much more complex character than Doyle usually wrote his female characters. She is strong and vulnerable, loving and vengeful, independent and a team player, and she gets an ending very deserving of her character...

FOR THE FULL REVIEW CLICK HERE