Monday, February 28, 2011

'Free Fall' by Moebius
from Heavy Metal magazine February 1978

While Moebius sometimes displayed a rather uninspired approach to his serial 'Airtight Garage', his other strips that appeared in Heavy Metal during the late 70s could be impressive, as is the case here with 'Free Fall.'

Friday, February 25, 2011

Arthur Suydam's 'Mudwogs'
from 'Echo of Futurepast' issue 2

Issue two (1984) of ‘Echo of Futurepast’ features another installment of Arthur Suydam’s Mudwogs, titled 'Croona, Moona, Joona'.

The loathsome giant continues to wreak havoc on the town and its people, now in an effort to impress ‘Blue Lady’, girlfriend of our diminutive hero. 

How can a tiny Mudwog defeat such a monster ? The result is some of weirdest, most inventive humor I’ve ever seen associated with the ‘funny animal’ comics genre…..

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Killraven Amazing Adventures No. 35

Killraven: 'Amazing Adventures' No. 35
(March 1976)

'Amazing Adventures featuring War of the Worlds' from March 1976 was actually on the stands in January / February 1976. This issue relates the tale of 'The 24-Hour Man', written by Don McGregor, with layouts by Craig Russell, and art by Keith Giffin and Jack Abel.

'24-Hour Man' starts with Killraven and his team approaching the outskirts of Atlanta, where they come upon a distraught woman and a monster named 'G'Rath'. This plot only gets stranger as the story goes on, and I can't make up my mind if it has an innate cornball brilliance, or is just a half-hearted effort by McGregor to get something out the door  Such was the nature of many Marvel comics from the mid-70s. 


This issue contains one of the more bizarre marketing ploys yet delivered by Stan Lee: a record album titled 'Reflections of a Rock Super Hero' (!?). 

This ad lists some truly cheesy song titles, all dealing with various aspects of Spider-Man's life and loves.


I have never listened to any of these songs, but a remastered version of the album is available as a CD and is reviewed at There are sample clips from each track available there was well, for those adventurous souls who are truly earnest about exploring the most wretched of 70s excesses...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: 'Under A Calculating Star' by John Morressy

2 / 5 Stars

Kian Jorry is an adventurer and part-time con man who travels the galaxy in search of the next hustle, or the next rumor of riches and treasure. Jorry is handsome, charming, smart, and always one step ahead of the Federation authorities.

Axxal is a member of the Galaxy’s laborer class, a race of humanoids called the Quespodons. Like most Quespodons, Axxal is slow and plodding, a follower rather than a leader, content to let others think of the big picture.

Jorry has chosen Axxal and a handpicked team of the most ruthless and cunning desperados in the Federation to join him in  finding the treasure rumored to lie on the deserted planet Boroq-Thaddoi. Within a Citadel of otherworldly construction, so the legends say, is a storage room filled with riches from all over the Galaxy, riches enough to make each man wealthy beyond measure. But many have tried to find the treasure of Boroq-Thaddoi, and few have returned, and those that did return were empty-handed and their addled brains filled with stories of deadly traps, bloodthirsty monsters, and perils unknown…

‘Under A Calculating Star’ was first published in 1975; this Popular Library paperback was issued in 1978. The cover artist is Paul Alexander.

The first 70 pages of the book are well-written and engrossing, as Jorry and his team of adventurers make their way to Boroq-Thaddoi and endure all manner of dangers in their quest to recover the riches in the Citadel. 

Unfortunately, after those opening 70 pages the plot loses steam, preoccupying itself with a series of encounters between a scheming Jorry and a dim-witted planetary despot. Another plot thread deals with Axxal and his growing awareness that maybe the Quespodons aren't the dumb laborers that everyone thinks they are. The author intended this segment of the novel as a thoughtful exposition on Axxal's voyage of self-discovery and seeing into the true nature of things....I think.

But for a Space Opera, such a loss of momentum is fatal, and in the case of ‘Calculating’ it negates the initial adventures on Boroq-Thaddoi and renders the novel as a whole a boring read. I had to force myself to finish the book. This one is best passed by.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

'K.O.' by Voss
from the February 1981 issue of Heavy Metal

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: Darkover Landfall

Book Review: 'Darkover Landfall' by Marion Zimmer Bradley

 3 / 5 Stars

While I was growing up in the 70s I never paid much attention to the ‘Darkover’ SF novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley. 

When I did try and read one of her books, it was 1982’s Arthurian treatment ‘The Mists of Avalon’, which was so remarkably boring that I decided to never again try a Bradley novel. 

The passage of time mellows sworn vows, however, so I decided that since I’m looking over a lot of the DAW books from the 70s, I might as well give a ‘Darkover’ entry a try.

Starting with ‘The Planet Savers’ in 1958, to her death in 1999, Bradley produced  nearly 40 Darkover novels, some in collaboration with other writers, and some released posthumously. ‘Darkover Landfall’ (DAW Books No. 36,  December 1972, cover art by Jack Gaughan, 160 pp.) is technically the first volume in the series, as it describes the advent of humans to the planet Darkover.

The story opens with a spaceship – originally destined for the colony world of Coronis -  crash-landed on Darkover; many of the crew have perished in the impact, and the dazed survivors are struggling to erect tents and procure food and water while their vehicle is evaluated for repairs. 

Fortunately the atmosphere and chemistry of Darover is compatible with human biology, but the ship’s captain has no idea as to where in the galaxy their emergency landing site is located. Rafael MacAran, the ship’s geologist, is recruited to journey to a nearby mountain to erect instruments capable of analyzing the night-time constellations and other planetary data.

The weather on Darkover is tumultuous, changing from sunshine, to rain, to sleet, and snow, all in the course of a day. Luckily the ship’s crew includes a group of colonists of Scottish descent, whose ancestors lived in the Hebrides and the Orkney Islands. Accustomed to perpetual rain, sleet, snow, overcast skies, and other manifestations of wretched weather, these stalwarts cope by drinking whiskey, dancing, and singing Ballads from the Olde Country. 

However, just as the crash survivors are starting to assess the likelihood of lifting off into space again, the 'Ghost Wind' takes them unawares. Will madness seize the colonists and destroy their chances of ever leaving Darkover ? Are there indigenous life-forms on the planet, and are they hostile ? Will discord among the survivors lead to internecine warfare and doom any chance at escape ?

‘Darkover Landfall’ is a well-written book, but I found it to be lacking in terms of action. Much of the narrative revolves  around the emotional lives of the main characters, and the efforts of the crew to cope with the terrible weather. Evil aliens, rampaging monsters, murderous parasites, and intergalactic warlords are not in evidence. Readers looking for a slow-paced, introspective novel may want to try ‘Landfall’, but those seeking livelier fare will want to pass.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

'The Bus' by Paul Kirchner

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Celebrating Black History Month
'Little X' by Sonsyrea Tate

Here at the PorPor Books Blog, we celebrate Black History Month by reading a book about the Black Experience. For Black History Month 2011, we feature an autobiography by Sonsyrea Tate titled 'Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam' (1997, Harper San Francisco).

Born in 1966,Tate grew up in Washington DC in a second-generation NOI family; her paternal grandparents had joined the sect in the 1950s. Although Tate's father had left the church when he became older and was an on-and-off believer, Tate, her mother, and her siblings were all devout followers, and Sonsyrea attended the NOI Temple and grammar school in the Shaw neighborhood of DC.

'Little X' relates Tate's upbringing and schooling as a member of the NOI, as well as her family life during the 'Black is Beautiful' era of US history in the 1970s. While I was aware to some degree of the rather odd doctrines of the NOI (for example, white people are descended from a race of androids created eons ago by a mad black scientist named Yucub), Tate describes a curriculum that is a bizarre mixture of Black Pride rhetoric, Science Fiction tropes, and historical facts chopped up and commingled in a strange melange of alternate World History, Elijah Mohammed - style.

Tate and her classmates were raised in a self-contained bubble, in which all knowledge and associations were dictated by the NOI. Her awareness of events outside the small world of her family and the Temple was miniscule.

As she grew older, Tate began to realize that not all was well within the NOI and its community of believers. The unrelenting indoctrination about 'white devils' (caucasians) and 'lost' blacks (i.e., those that did not belong to the Nation) gradually seemed more and more false with each passing year. As well, the author became increasingly aware of the subservient role women played in the sect's affairs.

Sonyrea Tate's life as a follower of the NOI began to unravel in 1979, when at age thirteen,  she started junior high at Eastern High School. Tate no longer had to wear a hijab, and became more aware of world at large, even trying marijuana. She and her brother began to rebel against their mother and the Nation, even as their neighborhood started to deteriorate from an influx of drugs, crime, and violent gangs. 

As 1982, and graduation from high school, approached, Sonsyrea Tate was disillusioned and even suicidally depressed at the thought of continuing to live as a woman in the NOI, destined to be married, and converted to a housewife, at a young age. As if in recognition of her daughter's disaffection, Tate's mother moved away from the orthodoxy of the NOI and embraced a more liberal version of its doctrines. Sonsyrea Tate was able to defer marriage and enroll in college, eventually becoming a journalist and writer for the Washington Post and other prominent newspapers.

'Little X' is an interesting memoir, something of a black American counterpart to Julia Scheere's best-seller 'Jesus Land'. Readers interested in the NOI, as well as what it was like to grow up in DC during the 70s, will want to look for it on the shelves.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'Questar' magazine February 1981

The contents of this issue were actually compiled in late 1980. They include a portfolio of artwork by Boris Vallejo, a tribute to Hugo Gernsback, the cheesy b & w comic 'Just Imagine Jeannie' (created by Forest Ackerman), and an interview with hard SF writer George Zebrowski ('The Omega Point', 'Macrolife') which I will be posting here later this month.

There are a number of advertisements for geek culture artifacts, providing a trip down memory lane to the days when feathered-back hair parted in the middle was the height of fashion:

There's a full-page ad for the David Cronenberg film 'Scanners', released to theatres in mid-January 1981:

And closing out the magazine's last few pages is an overview of the Year in Fantastic Cinema 80-81 (mostly 1980), which is an interesting look at the state of the genre as the new decade got underway. Some of the films and TV shows in the pictorial were pretty bad, and some (John Russo's film 'Midnight' and 'The Hand' starring Michael Caine) are quite obscure.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: 'The Search for Joseph Tully' by William H. Hallahan

2 / 5 Stars

After reading the favorable reviews bestowed on this novel at, and at the ‘Too Much Horror Fiction’ blog, I went and ordered it. 

‘Search’ was first published in 1974; this Avon paperback (283 pp.) was released in 1977.

The novel certainly starts on a gripping prologue, as the reader witnesses a graphic act of torture taking place in 15th century Italy. 

The narrative then shifts to New York City, ca. 1974, where the residents of a stately old apartment house despondently contemplate moving out. An entire block of tenements is being razed as part of an urban redevelopment scheme, and the wrecking ball swings every day on the condemned structures next to the building housing our cast of characters.

The main character is Peter Richardson, an editor, recently divorced and troubled by bad dreams and a premonition that someone means him deadly harm. One of the book’s two major plot threads deals with Richardson’s increasing unease, and the efforts of his neighbors to bring all manner of 70s pop culture resources to bear on the issue, such as Tarot readings and intense discussions of Occult Phenomena.

The other major plot thread is concerned with the efforts of a young English lawyer, Matthew Willow, who makes New York City his temporary home. Willow embarks on a series of researches into the genealogical history of Joseph Tully and his four sons, who emigrated to the American Colonies in the decades prior to the Revolution. The segments of the book dealing with Willow’s adventures constitute something of a primer on how to conduct genealogical investigations.

The ‘hook’ of ‘Search’, the fixture that induces the reader to keep turning the pages, is the how and why these two seemingly disparate threads will ultimately join, and how they will relate to the incident described in the book’s prologue.

Author Hallahan keeps his chapters brief and his prose understated and terse. The book’s Winter-time setting lends an unrelenting note of existential bleakness to the actions of the characters. Indeed, only Peter Straub’s ‘Ghost Story’, another mid-70s horror novel, does as well in using the cold and darkness of January and February to lend added layers of despair and hopelessness to the narrative.

However, by the time I reached the halfway point of ‘Search’ I found that the red herrings popping up every few pages weren’t enough to keep the story from losing momentum. I became increasingly impatient as the storyline puttered along, with only modest signs of moving to a denouement worthy of the Portents of Doom swirling ever more closely around the befuddled Richardson. And the denouement, which occupies just a few of the book’s very last pages, was a letdown; I felt it could have been disclosed 50 pages sooner without losing much of its impact.

I can’t share the enthusiasm for ‘Search’, but readers who are tolerant of a more deliberate type of narrative, one with elements of a mystery rather than those of a frank horror tale, may want to give this book a try.

Friday, February 4, 2011

'Heavy Metal' magazine February 1981

The February 1981 issue of 'Heavy Metal' isn't particularly memorable. The one good feature is the next chapter in Druillet's 'Salammbo', which I've posted below. 

Other comics in this issue are installments of 'Bloodstar' by Corben; 'What is Reality, Papa ?', an 'Alchemist Supreme' spinoff by Godard and Ribera; 'Ambassador of the Shadows' by Christin and Mezieres; and two singletons: a mediocre Moebius entry called 'The Horny God', and 'K.O'' by Voss. 

The William S. Burroughs story trumpeted on the front cover, 'Civilian Defense', is a unremarkable two-page entry. But at least it doesn't feature pederastic themes, something  Burroughs was fond of, and an aspect of his character that the worshipful literary elite preferred not to advertise.....