Thursday, December 31, 2015

Details by Fernando Rubio

by Fernando Rubio
from the Winter, 1988 issue of Heavy Metal

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: The Lerios Mecca

Book Review: 'The Lerios Mecca' by Gene Lancour

5 / 5 Stars

'The Lerios Mecca' (180 pp) was published in hardback by Doubleday / Science Fiction Book Club in 1973; the cover artwork is by Gary Friedman.

'Lerios' is the first book in the so-called 'Dirshan the Godkiller' series; the other volumes are The War Machines of Kalinth (1977), Sword for the Empire (1978), and The Man-Easters of Cascalon (1979).

[As best as I can tell, none of the 'Dirshan' volumes ever were printed in paperback.]

'Gene Lancour' was the pseudonym used by the U.S. writer Gene Fisher (b. 1947), who published a number of sf and general fiction books in the 70s and 80s. More recently (i.e., 2015), he has published the first volume, The Perils of Puryas, in a new fantasy series titled 'Tales of the Waste'.

Lancour lists Robert E. Howard as one of his literary inspirations, and the Dirshan series is a Conan pastiche. But while Dirshan is as physically imposing as Conan, he is also something more than a simple Conan clone. For one thing, Dirshan is a bit brighter than Howard's character, and not so invulnerable; he rarely emerges from combat unscathed. As a consequence, Dirshan prefers to utilize strategy, rather than wild sword-swinging, when confronting his adversaries.

The Dirshan series takes place in a Howardian Bronze-Age world, where the Kingdom of Alithar struggles to maintain its status as a world power in the face of uprisings from both rebellious tribes, and foreign polities. 

As 'Lerios' opens, Dirshan regains consciousness after being knocked out during a brutal battle with the Tuqua, a tribe of desert raiders. Only one other man has survived, but he is dying, and he holds Dirshan to a deathbed vow: the Tuqua raiding party was led by a man belonging to the Order, the religious sect that dominates Alithar's government. Dirshan swears to find and kill the Order member, whose leadership of the Tuqua represents an act of treachery.

After forming in an alliance with an Order spymaster, Dirshan embarks on a lengthy quest to cross the vast El-Arwim desert, a wasteland populated by bandits and wracked by dust storms. 

If Dirshan is successful in making the crossing of the desert, things will hardly get easier, for ahead lurk pirates, and the nomads of the grasslands, who give no quarter. But Dirshan will not face these dangers alone; his allies Princess Karinth, and the sage Teos, will join him on his quest. 

And then there is the mysterious castle of Harras, secreted within a mountain redoubt. Harras, where the knowledge of the ancients is carefully guarded from misuse. There, Dirshan will be offered a gift that few other men are offered........but nothing comes without its price......

'The Lerios Mecca' is a well-written and engaging sword-and-sorcery novel, superior to those churned out by other Conan pastiche writers like Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. The fantasy elements, while present, are comparatively subdued, leaving the narrative focused on the interplay between Dirshan and his allies, and their skillful tactics when confronting numerically superior enemies

Friday, December 25, 2015

Star Trek / Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Star Trek / Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive
Scott and David Tipton (writers) and Rachael Stott (art)
IDW / Boom! Studios, August 2015

This graphic novel compiles the five-issue crossover series first published from December, 2014 to April, 2015.

So......what happens when the current comic book franchise holders for Star Trek (IDW) and Planet of the Apes (Boom! Studios) decide to collaborate on a crossover of two of the most storied licensed properties in sci-fi ?

The result is actually pretty good - !

I won't give away any spoilers, save to say that the Enterprise is sent on a covert mission to investigate a secret Klingon science project........a project that involves the use of a high-tech interdimensional portal to access a parallel universe.

In due course, the Enterprise passes through the portal, and makes an unwelcome discovery: the Earth located in the parallel universe has been infiltrated by the Klingons. And, to make matters even stranger, evolution on this parallel Earth has taken a strange and unexpected turn....

As the narrative unfolds, the Away Team meets all of the characters of the 'Apes' movie, and makes some fateful decisions about whether the Prime Directive holds true in a universe where not only does the Federation not exist, but neither do the Organians....and the Klingons have free rein for their plans for conquest and expansion.

'The Primate Directive' is well-written by Scott and David Tipton, who adhere closely to the spirit of the original franchises, and refrain from introducing improbable story elements that would undermine the integrity of the plot.

Rachael Stott's artwork is also of good quality, taking care to reproduce the visual styles of the two franchises in an understated, but plausible, manner.

Since both Star Trek and Planet of the Apes are Teen-rated properties, neither IDW nor Boom! are able to introduce the overt violence and 'adult' themes commonplace in contemporary comics into this crossover, but this is no handicap, as I found the story to be fast-moving and engaging.

The conclusion of 'The Primate Directive' is one that avoids contrivance and at the same time stays true to the events depicted in the television series and the movie.

The essays that Dana Gould wrote for each issue also are included in this volume. Gould, who was a kid when both the movie and TV shows aired in the late 60s, fuses the right amounts of nostalgia and revelations about both franchises (did you know there is a major link between Planet of the Apes and the recent film Argo ?!) in his essays, which are very entertaining.

Summing up, 'The Primate Directive' is a successful melding of the two franchises, one that approaches its source material with the the attitude of having fun, as opposed to reworking the material to fit a self-conscious, 'modern' sensibility. If you're a fan of either (or both) properties, then you'll want to seek this out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Escape from Nine by 1 by Russ Heath

Escape from Nine by 1
by Russ Heath
from Thrilling Adventure Stories No. 1, February 1975

When Martin Goodman and his son Charles 'Chip' Goodman launched Atlas / Seaboard Comics in 1974, they were intent on not just producing color comic books, but black and white comic magazines in the manner of the Marvel / Curtis lineup. (The story goes that the Goodmans founded Atlas with the goal of taking away some readership from Marvel, and thus exacting revenge on Cadence Industries, Sheldon Feinberg, and Albert Landau). 

Thrilling Adventure Stories was among the five black and white comic magazines that Atlas published in 1975. Unfortunately, it only lasted for two issues (the entire Atlas line folded before the end of that year). 

While some of the contents of the first issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories was of decidedly mediocre quality, 'Escape from Nine by 1', written and illustrated by comics veteran Russ Heath, was an excellent entry in the 'Escape from a Nazi prison camp' genre of adventure tales. I've posted it in its entirety below.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Cathedral by Mantlo and Gal

'The Cathedral' by Bill Mantlo (writer) and Jean-Pierre Gal (artist)

'The Cathedral' was first published in the Spanish comic magazine Cimoc, issue 66 (1985), with an English translation reprinted in 1997 in the '20 Years of Heavy Metal' special issue.

Gal's artwork is just as brilliant as that which he did for the 'Conquering Armies' and 'Vengeance of Arn' comics.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fallout 3000

Fallout 3000
by Mike Deodato Sr and Mike Deodato Jr
Caliber Comics, 1996

Since the late 1980s, Mike Deodato, Jr (b. 1963) has established himself as a well-known and successful comic book artist for major publishers, including DC and Marvel. But his first forays into writing and illustrating comic books came in his native Brazil, and his very first comic book was a black and white title called Year 3000, released in 1984.

In 1996 U.S. publisher Caliber Comics negotiated with Deodato, Jr to release seven of his Brazilian comic books in English, including Year 3000, which was retitled Fallout 3000.

Produced in conjunction with his father, Mike Deodato Sr,who wrote the comic, Fallout 3000 is an impressive artistic debut, all the more so considering that Deodato Jr was only 21 at the time. The story starts out on a post-apocalyptic note (with one of the more intense illustrations of a Rat Attack that I've ever seen !) before transitioning into a broader landscape of interstellar war.

Deodato Jr's artwork is reminiscent of that of Paul Neary in the Warren magazines of the 1970s in its innovative and striking use of full-page, collage-based compositions, chiaroscuro, and Zip-A-Tone. 

I've posted the entirety of Fallout 3000 below...........note that the original Caliber Comic book can be obtained, for a reasonable price, from online comic book vendors.