Sunday, February 28, 2016

Process of Elimination

Process of Elimination
by Bruce Jones (story) and Russ Heath (art)
from Creepy, issue 83, October 1976

A hit man seemingly goes amok.....but there may be a method to his madness.....?!

This is a great story from Bruce Jones, and great artwork by veteran comics artist Russ Heath. The depiction of the woman taking a bullet (on the fourth page of the story), with its gouting blood, was unusually graphic for Creepy, which tended to be more restrained than, say, the Eerie Publications black-and-white horror comics.......

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: Dr Adder

Book Review: 'Dr. Adder' by K. W. Jeter

3 / 5 Stars

I would like to add my vote in favor of showing female amputees in your magazine. One-armed and, especially, one-legged females offer a unique excitement and a pictorial featuring attractive girl amputees would certainly be welcomed by a large number of readers.

Letter, Penthouse magazine, November 1972

Not too many sf novels have an opening epigraph that consists of a letter published in the November, 1972 issue of Penthouse……. it’s a clear sign that Dr Adder is no ordinary novel.

According to the Afterward by Philip K. Dick, the novel was completed in 1972, but K. W. Jeter couldn’t find a publisher, a reluctance probably caused by Dr Adder’s explicit sex and violence. The book finally saw print in hardback in 1984 (completing one of the longest gestations in modern sf publishing history) and received immediate critical acclaim. 

Jeter eventually published two quasi-sequels, The Glass Hammer (1985) and Death Arms (1987).

This mass-market paperback version (238 pp) of Dr Adder was released by Signet in February 1988, and features a striking cover illustration by Barclay Shaw.

Dr Adder is set in a near-future Los Angeles, in a USA fragmented by warfare and social unrest into corporate fiefdoms. Most of LA is a seedy wasteland known as Rattown, a red-light district where hookers, pimps, drug dealers, junkies, psychopaths, anarchists, and fanatics all converge in search of profit and mayhem.

Dr Adder is both the unofficial mayor of Rattown, and its star citizen. In his gated compound, Adder performs surgeries on hookers, surgeries designed to ‘customize’ the girls for particular classes of clientele – not just the johns who desire amputees, but the johns willing to pay top dollar to satiate their unusually perverted fetishes.

Into Rattown comes E. Allen Limmit, an alienated, self-centered young man who has been tasked with delivering a briefcase to Dr Adder. Although replused by the violent, aimless nature of life in the city, Limmit agrees to serve as Adder’s assistant, and gains access to the nuances of the street culture that provides Adder with his patients.

But as Limmit is to discover, Rattown is living on borrowed time. For in neighboring Orange County, the Greater Production Corporation holds sway, and its CEO, a televangelist named John Mox, bears considerable ill-will towards Adder. 

John Mox has plans to wipe out Adder and Rattown, using an army of gun-toting religious converts. With Rattown ill-prepared to fend off such an assault, it will fall on Adder's shoulders to organize resistance, and Adder has in his possession a unique weapon of great power. But unknown to Adder, John Mox has learned that in Rattown, everything is for sale, including loyalty....and a betrayal is set in motion........

Is Dr Adder a Masterpiece, as Philip K. Dick states in his Afterward ? 

It's not. 

It benefited from being ahead of its time in terms of its edgy, explicit 1972, most sf was devoted to the New Wave movement, and intent on imparting at least some degree of a humanistic message to even its worst dystopias. But Jeter's depiction of violence and depravity in Rattown refuses to offer any sort of sop to humanism; all of the characters in Dr Adder are amoral and devoid of any redeeming graces. In that sense, it was offbeat and imaginative for 1972.

But Dr Adder suffers to some extent from being a First Novel. 

The first half of the book is the best, featuring some striking passages that drive home Jeter's uniquely sleazy and depressing vision of a near-future LA.

Unfortunately, the second half of the book tends to meander; its satirical treatment of the relationship between LA and Orange County was lost on me, probably because I'm not at all familiar with either LA or Southern California. There also are too many expositions on the main characters' emotional and psychological travails; these quickly become tedious.

Summing up, Dr Adder rightfully can be considered a first-generation Cyberpunk novel, for its bleak, street-level settings; its use of cyberspace; and its transgressive attitudes towards the humanism that tended to dominate sf writing of the 70s and early 80s.

If you're a Cyberpunk fan, then the book belongs on your shelf. Those who are less devoted to the genre may consider Dr Adder to be optional rather than a must-have.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dan Dare 2000 AD

Dan Dare: 2000 AD
from Dan Dare 2000 AD, Rebellion (UK), November 2015

The inaugural issue of 2000 AD comics in February, 1977, not only signaled something new and exciting in the world of British comics, it also brought with it the revival of the beloved British sci-fi character Dan Dare.

Dare's adventures had ended in 1969 when the British boy's paper Eagle ceased publication. When IPC obtained the rights to the character, and Pat Mills was given the task of writing the plots for the weekly installments of 2000 AD, he decided that the 'rebooted' Dan Dare would have an edgier, punk-inspired personality, in keeping with the nihilistic state of mind of the UK in early '77.

The Dan Dare who appeared in Eagle was the personification of the Best of British: 

......bound by a sense of honour, never lied, and would rather die than break his word.

The Dan Dare who appeared in 2000 AD was far from the gentlemanly character of the Eagle days. He was an aggressive, trigger-happy, and not overly concerned with being honorable towards his opponents. The emphasis in the 2000 AD stories was on violent action with a high body count.....and deaths by disintegrator beam were rendered with much care and attention to detail.

Many fans were appalled by what Mills did with the character, but many 2000 AD readers loved the new version.

In an era in which aliens were depicted in US popular culture as mysterious, but beneficent creatures sent to save Mankind from his own perverse impulses towards self-destruction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), it was refreshing to see Dan Dare sneer as he blasted alien scum to atoms.....!

In any event, in November 2015, UK publisher Rebellion released a hardbound compilation of the 2000 AD Dan Dare comics originally published during 1977 - 1979. I've posted scans of the inaugural episode from this compilation below.....featuring great artwork from Massimo Belardinelli, and an energetic story from Mills.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: Daddy Cool

Book Review: 'Daddy Cool' by Donald Goines
Graphic Novel adaptation by Don Glut (script) and Alfredo Alcala (art)


celebrating Black History Month 2016

Here at the PorPor Books Blog, we like to celebrate Black History Month by reading a book - fiction or non-fiction - that illuminates the Black Experience.

For Black History Month 2016, we're looking at the graphic novel of Donald Goines's 1974 novel Daddy Cool.

I first learned of this unique little book when a post about it appeared at the Museum of Uncut Funk website.

(The Museum of Uncut Funk is definitely a site to visit and bookmark, especially if you are a fan of black popular culture of the 70s).

The Daddy Cool graphic novel was published in 1984 by Holloway House, a small press company devoted to publishing the works of Goines and other black authors.

The graphic novel is a black-and-white, mass-market-sized paperback. There obviously are problems with adapting the artwork to this format. Those pages with just one or two panels will have a low-res, Ben-Day-dot appearance, while others with several panels are much more legible. 

Overall, however, the high quality of Alfredo Alcala's artwork impresses.

'Daddy Cool' opens in Flint,'s the early 70s, and the water is safe to drink. But Flint is still a gritty, low-down industrial town, and Larry Jackson - aka Daddy Cool, ace hitman - is there to take care of some business. 

Daddy Cool prefers to work with knives, which he throws from close range. Daddy Cool is careful and methodical when he's on the job, knowing that the slightest mistake can earn him the electric chair. 

Off the job, however, Daddy Cool is prone to losing his temper. He don't take shit from anyone, least of all his beautiful, but headstrong daughter Janet; his wife Shirley; and her sons, Jimmy and Buddy. 

After a particularly heated confrontation with her father, Janet decides to run away from home and live with her boyfriend Ronald. But Ronald, as it turns out, is not the man she thought he was when she was dating him. For Ronald is a cruel and self-centered pimp.....and Janet is to be his ticket to easy street.

Daddy Cool decides that the best course for Janet is to receive Tough Love, in the form of a harsh education in the reality of the streets. But as the days go by, and Janet sinks ever deeper into degradation at the hands of her boyfriend, Daddy Cool will have to take action....violent action.....before Janet's humiliation is avenged.......

This graphic adaptation of Daddy Cool is by no means a comic book aimed at a juvenile readership; to the contrary, it depicts R-rated, Straight Up, Unapologetic Ghetto Action, which is precisely what Donald Goines hoped to achieve with his novels. If you are a fan of black writers like Goines, Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim, and Nathan C. Heard, then you'll want to pick up this graphic novel version of Daddy Cool.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Beyond Earth

Book Review: 'Beyond Earth' by Ralph Blum with Judy Blum

3 / 5 Stars

The 70s were a boom time for mass-market paperbacks devoted to the paranormal. 

Bantam Books' President Oscar Dystel was particularly fond of the genre, publishing a number of Erich von Danekin's titles, including Chariots of the Gods, which was a monster seller.  

The Bantam titles all shared a distinctive 'shadow' font, as seen below, that sometimes was copied by other publishers.

These books were cool !

I eagerly read them back in the early- to mid-70s, when I was in junior high and high school. They were a major aspect of 70s pop culture, and were part and parcel of a mini-industry of printed material, like Saga, and Official UFO, and Fate, and other magazines and digests that catered to the 'paranormal' readership and were always on display at the magazine racks in the supermarkets and five-and-dime stores.

The genre (arguably) reached its apogee with the release of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind late in 1977. 

'Beyond Earth' was one of the best of the 70s UFO books, and my favorite. How does it hold up when re-read more than 40 years later ?

For 'Beyond Earth', the Blums use the device of a framing narrative that opens and closes the book; this narrative deals with the so-called 'Pascagoula Incident', which took place on the night of October 11, 1973, in that city. 

Two shipyard workers, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, were fishing at a pier on the Pascagloula River when they claimed that a large, intense, glowing blue light traveled across the water, hovered over the riverbank near them, and discharged three silver-garbed humanoid creatures (Hickson considered them 'robots'). 

Hickson claimed that he was paralyzed by the aliens and 'floated' into the blue light - which turned out to be a spacecraft - and subjected to a painless, but thorough, physical examination of some sort. The aliens returned Hickson to the riverbank before entering the spacecraft and departing.

The book's chapters cover, in chronological order, 'ancient' UFO sightings (according to the Blums, Cro-Magnon cave art depicts flying saucers); the 'airships' witnessed in the skies of the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th early 20th centuries; UFO sightings during the First and Second World Wars; and, of course, the postwar period and Kenneth Arnold's famous sighting of nine 'flying saucers' in June, 1947.

Other chapters deal with the U.S. government's investigations of UFOs, including the legendary Project "Blue Book", and The Condon Report. Still other chapters examine sightings in foreign countries (my favorite remains Brazilian farmer Antonio Vilas Boas, who claimed that in October 1957, he was abducted onto a UFO, and 'forced' to impregnate a stunning Alien Chick.....!).

Throughout 'Beyond Earth', Ralph Blum insists that it is critical to not dismiss even the most outlandish UFO stories out of hand, because, well, the people telling the stories seem so sincere.

Blum concludes 'Beyond Earth' by opining that the UFO Phenomenon can be attributed to three causes: extraterrestrial life forms, with advanced technologies, who are visiting the Earth; mass hallucinations; or '...a still greater mystery' unlike anything yet encountered in the human realm.

[Ralph Blum has since become a major New Age devotee, and the author of a series of books on 'Rune Magic'.]

Summing up, Blum's desire to Believe means that he buys wholeheartedly into the UFO religion, and thus 'Beyond Earth' is another UFO book that Preaches to the Converted, but is too badly flawed to be of any use to Skeptics.

But if you are in the mood to recapture some authentic 70s Nostalgia, perhaps to the accompaniment of some Emerson, Lake, and Palmer LP records, some pot, and some incense, then 'Beyond Earth' certainly delivers. And that's why I give it a 3 of 5 Stars rating.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Best Bookstores

My Best Bookstores

In this post, I'll list the five bookstores that I recommend as the best places to purchase used sf, fantasy, and horror paperbacks published during the interval from 1970 - 1990, as well as - if available - sf-themed graphic novels and art books. 

These all are places I've visited in the past 6 years, and the emphasis is on stores primarily in the Eastern USA, if only because I live in Central Virginia........

Needless to say, every one of these places is going to have a surfeit of paperbacks by Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner, Andre Norton, etc. But they also have, for the careful searcher, some less prevalent titles.

With each store, I sum up the good and bad.

I also note whether or not if the store buys used books. Needless to say, you probably will not get the return you are expecting if you elect to sell your books for cash, and you usually are better off opting for 'Store Credit' for these exchanges.

McKays Books, Manassas, Virginia
8345 Sudley Rd., Manassas, VA 20109

McKay's Books is located in the Manaport Plaza Shopping Center, a nondescript shopping center in the 'Little San Salvador' section of Manassass.

[Take care where and how you park - 90% of the other drivers in this part of Manassas not only don't speak fluent English, but they also don't have Car Insurance......]

The good: a very large selection, among the largest of all the stores reviewed here, including a healthy selection of older paperbacks. There also are separate aisles for fantasy and horror, with large selections as well. Paperback books are usually in the $3 - $5 range. 

There is a large selection of graphic novels and art books, but these are priced rather high. 

McKays will buy books from you.

The bad: the books have a large, very very sticky price sticker on their front cover. If you succeed in peeling it off, the residue left on the cover of the book will adhere to anything it comes into contact with - if you lay another book atop it, there will be consequences......

Wonder Book and Video, Frederick, Maryland
1306 West Patrick St., Frederick, MD 21703

Wonder Book and Video is a three-store chain in Maryland; there are stores in Hagerstown, Frederick, and Gaithersburg. The latter is tucked away in the obscure back parking area of a shopping plaza, and is hard to find - I recommend that if you go, you print out a map beforehand, and be careful about over-relying on your GPS. 

I frequently go to the Wonder Books in Frederick, which is located right off of Route 40 in a nondescript shopping plaza. There is plenty of parking.

The Frederick store has a lengthy section of shelving devoted to sf paperbacks (fantasy titles are lumped in with the sf), and this is one of the best places to find gems from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Prices for these paperbacks are in the $3 - $5 range but expect some of the rarer titles to be $6 or higher.

The opposite side of the sf paperbacks aisle has a large selection of hardcover sf and fantasy books, as well as a decent selection of sf and fantasy art books.

Wonder Book and Video also has a large section devoted to horror paperbacks, again, with a lot of 70s and 80s titles represented. The stores also carry a lot of overstock graphic novels.

At the Frederick store, particularly rare or otherwise valuable paperbacks, priced in the $10 and up range, are kept apart from the others and stored in a locked glass-fronted bookcase within view of the front counter. You'll need to ask the staff to open the case for you.

Wonder Book and Video will buy used books.

Wonder Book and Video has an online store, and its shipping charges are reasonable, making it a viable alternate if you can't travel to the retail stores.

Utah Book and Magazine, Salt Lake City, Utah
327 S. Main St. Salt Lake City, UT 84111

This bookstore is so unique that I did an entire post devoted to it. Whether or not you will witness something amusing, Utah Book and Magazine has a great selection of older sf, fantasy, and horror paperbacks amid its cramped and crowded shelves. There is also a healthy supply of sf-related memorabilia, as Jordan H at Yelp! observed:

Being a science fiction nerd, I was particularly impressed with the store's selection of Star Trek novels. They have a MASSIVE bookshelf filled with more Star Trek works than I have ever seen in my life. I ended up picking up a set of blueprints of the interior of the Starship Enterprise for $15 as well as a Star Trek: Next Generation board game for $10. There's also a much smaller, but equally enjoyable, Star Wars section where I was able to find The Empire Strikes Back score on vinyl for $5 as well as the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye for $3. MAJOR SCORE!

The good: prices are very cheap...... $1 to $4 per book. 

There is an entire section of the store set aside to vintage nudie and softcore books, magazines, and memorabilia.

The bad: a lot of the books are only in 'acceptable' to 'good' condition. Expect 'very good' and 'like new' conditions to be rare.

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore
2864 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Uncle Hugo's shares a building with Uncle Edgar's, a mystery bookstore. Chicago Ave S. is a main drag in Minneapolis, so you may have to find parking a block or two away from the store.

Uncle Hugo's has a large selection of used sf paperbacks in its cramped interior; I found myself having to step with extreme, ankle-twisting care around the shelving, as books are stacked on the floor.....and on the top of the shelves, where you will need steady nerves to select and remove that one book you are interested in, from the two-foot-high stack.

Uncle Hugo's also has a large section for new sf books, including hardbacks and small press.

The bad: when I went on a warm afternoon in early October, the store was stifling - dress to sweat, if the weather calls for higher temps.

Half Price Books
10201 University Ave, Clive, IA 50325

When I lived in Iowa, I routinely drove from my home in Ames to this Half Price Books location in the Westridge Shopping Center in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines. I also went to the Half Price store in Marion / Cedar Rapids. 

According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, Half Price Books has 126 stores in 16 states. 

The sf paperback sections in the Half Price stores I went to in Clive and Cedar Rapids were small compared to those of the other stores I review here, and were primarily comprised of newer titles. Nonetheless, with a bit of searching, you may find some books from the 70s and 80s. Book prices were in the $2 - $4 range. 

Separate from the paperback shelving, there is considerable shelf space for sf hardbacks.

Separate from the sf aisles, each of these stores had a free-standing spinner rack filled with older, higher-priced paperbacks in plastic pouches. These are priced in the $5 and up range and contain a variety of older titles in different genres. You can find some real gems here, for example, like Bantam's Doc Savage novels from the 60s and 70s..

These outlets do have some space devoted to graphic novels and art books; prices for these are rather high. 

Half Price will buy your used books.

So there you have it. Good luck with your scores.......!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

9 A.M. by Dick Matena

9 A.M.
by Dick Matena
from Heavy Metal magazine, February 1980