Sunday, June 30, 2019

Book Review: The Douglas Convolution

Book Review: 'The Douglas Convolution' by Edward Llewellyn

3 / 5 Stars

'The Douglas Convolution' (190 pp) is DAW Book No. 359, published in October 1979. The cover art is by Don Maitz.

Edward Llewellyn (1917 - 1984) was a UK author who published a number of sf novels in the late 70s and early 80s, all by DAW Books. 'The Douglas Convolution' is the first volume in the so-called Douglas Convolution trilogy; the other volumes, which are more prequels than sequels, are 'The Bright Companion' (1980) and 'Prelude to Chaos' (1983).

The lead character is an ex-Marine and mathematician in his mid-30s named Ian Douglas. As the novel opens, Douglas is embarking on an unusual experiment informed by his lifelong interest in mathematics: he can predict the location of a wormhole that allows for one-way travel forward to the future. 

To test his theory, in September 1980 Douglas travels to a remote beach on Hudson's Bay, where he has calculated the wormhole will appear. No sooner has Douglas stepped into the mist where sea meets shore, than he finds himself instantaneously transported to the year 2170.

North America in 2170 is not doing well. As the result of a past pharmacological disaster, most of the continent is thinly populated, with vast tracts of land reverting to wilderness. The population is kept tractable by the widespread use of a tranquilizer called Paxin. Technology is only moderately more advanced than that of the late 20th century, with mechanical conveyances limited to small fleets of helicopters and ground effect vehicles.

The Governors who rule the 10 Sectors of North America are inept, and too preoccupied with political intrigues, to pay necessary attention to strengthening the borders of their territories, some of which are under constant attack from bands of brutal raiders known as 'druj'.

Assuming the identity of a deceased military policeman allows Ian Douglas to live in this new society with his secret of time travel intact. Using his military and mathematical skills, Douglas soon brings order to the lawless frontier of what used to be called Virginia. This makes him an indispensable man to the oligarchs of the North American Sectors. But, as Douglas is to discover, the oligarchs are more than willing to deceive him in order to advance their own aims...........

'The Douglas Convolution' is one of those action - adventure sci-fi novels that starts off well; the author uses a clear, declarative prose style, keeps his chapters short, and the narrative moving along at a good clip. Unfortunately things slow down considerably in the middle chapters, as the plot centers on political conflicts that, despite extensive pages of stilted dialogue, come across as muddled and overly contrived. 

There are also segments in these middle chapters that didn't bother me all that much, but, in this modern day and age, likely will be criticized as being exploitative and Un-Woke(n).

The unconvincing nature of its sci-fi elements and backstory led me to give 'The Douglas Convolutions' a three star rating. I can't call it a must-have example of 80s sci-fi, but if you're looking for a short, compact adventure novel, it will fit the bill.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Planetoid by Corben

by Richard Corben
from Heavy Metal magazine, January 1992

At the beginning of the 90s, computer generated graphics were starting to come into their own, and it's no surprise that Corben, who was a pioneer in the field of coloring comics and other graphics, would embrace this technology.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Shock Cinema

Shock Cinema magazine

The most recent issue (No. 56, Summer 2019) of Shock Cinema magazine just arrived. I got to thinking that a post about this magazine is long overdue, especially since I've been reading and subscribing to Shock Cinema for more than 15 years now.

[Subscription information is available here.]

Published by New Jersey resident Steven Puchalski (who grew up in Syracuse, New York), the magazine debuted in 1990, and continues to thrive. Shock Cinema is a quality magazine, printed on thick paper stock with black-and-white, high-res reproductions of movie posters, stills, DVD covers, and advertisements (Puchalski has assembled an immense personal library of film and TV advertisements). The magazine has plenty of advertisements for vendors of contemporary cult films.

Each issue features an Editorial by Puchalski; these editorials almost always are diatribes about contemporary politics, city living, the defects in modern U.S. society, reminiscences of Puchalski's younger days, etc. 

In many ways, these vitriol-steeped vignettes of misanthropy (which sometimes are laugh-out-loud funny) are the one of the best things about the magazine. Witness these remarks about the Post Office at Peter Stuyvesant Station in New York City, which (until 2014) Puchalski was obliged to patronize:

Mind you, no one will ever mourn the loss of the old Peter Stuyvesant Station, since it was arguably the worst fucking post office in all of New York City. Long lines, lost mail, and incompetent staff are typical for many post offices, but it was the insane package pick-up line that transformed this branch into its own unique circle of hell. With a minimum of two dozen people queued up at all times of the day and one weary postal employee manning that window, the average waiting time for a package was usually over an hour. 

[Needless to say, the advent of the Trump presidency in 2016 sent Puchalski into a new dimension of outrage.]

Issue 56 features this rant: 

I'd prefer to gripe about the more baffling and downright lazy aspects of modern society.....Uber, Lyft, Handy, Postmates - basically paying for 'gig economy' services that any halfway capable individual used to do for themselves - and don't get me started about 'Meal Kit Delivery Services' like Home Chef and Blue Apron, for dumb-asses unable to cope with the torment of grocery shopping....And sorry....if you're 25 and still live with your parents, promptly move the fuck out.

The contents of each issue of Shock Cinema feature interviews - mainly with supporting cast members, but occasionally with a leading man / woman - with actors and directors who were active in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (more rarely, in the 90s). 

Needless to say, Shock Cinema also features reviews, with a two-column per-page page layout within which  smaller graphics are fitted. The font is small and cramped - this is a magazine that you have to sit down and read, rather than idly flip through. Puchalski provides the majority of the reviews, with some assistance from a panel of contributors that includes his wife, Anna Puchalski, and the well-known British author Kim Newman (Anno Dracula, The Man from the Diogenes Club), among others. 

Puchalski's reviews can feature the same sarcasm as his editorials, and many are laugh-out-loud funny. I find them a welcome change from reading the pompous, self-indulgent reviews of contemporary movies by The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday and Hank Stuever.

As the front cover states, the magazine covers 'cult movies, arthouse oddities, drive-in swill, and underground obscurities', so these reviews cover not only U.S., but foreign films, made during the interval from 1950 - 1995. While coverage of feature films predominates, TV movies get attention, too. 

Most of the contemporary film reviews deal with ultra-low-budget, direct-to-DVD features. 

Shock Cinema also reviews books dedicated to the topic of 'grindhouse swill'.

Summing up, if you're a Baby Boomer, then you could do yourself a service by subscribing to Shock Cinema. A year's worth of 4 issues is only $20, and you're sure to see something that will take you back to those glory days when Scott Baio would star in an ABC Afterschool Special titled Stoned...........!

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Banana Splits Movie coming August 2019

The Banana Splits Movie
August 27, 2019 
This is.........strange.........

Apparently, Warner Bros. commissioned an R-rated feature film starring the Banana Splits. It's being released on DVD on August 27, with an advertised price of $24.98. 

I can't help thinking that the The Banana Splits Movie will be a disaster like The Happytime Murders from 2018, which also employed the trope of taking beloved children's TV characters and recasting them (in Postmodern fashion) as deranged killers. 

But I could be wrong.

[ My workplace subjects me to random drug testing, so it is highly unlikely I will be watching The Banana Splits Movie in the frame of mind best recommended for Baby Boomers in their 50s. ]

I'm still making up my mind whether to rent the DVD, or buy it.................maybe it's best to wait and see what the reviews have to say later this Summer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: Silverglass

Book Review: 'Silverglass' by J. F. Rivkin
4 / 5 Stars

'Silverglass' (186 pp) was published by Ace Books in September 1986, with cover art by Luis Royo. It's the first volume in the so-called 'Silverglass' tetrology, with the subsequent volumes Web of Wind (1987), Witch of Rhostshyl (1989) and Mistress of Ambiguities (1991). J. F. Rivkin is the pseudonym of the author Jeri Freedman, who has written other fantasy novels under the pen name of 'Ellen Foxxe'.

The cover design for 'Silverglass' is unfortunate, for it gives the impression that the book is an entry in  the 'chick-in-a-chain-mail-bikini' genre, when in reality, the novel is a well-written, frequently humorous treatment of the sword-and-sorcery theme.

Lead character Corson - the D-cupped woman on the book's cover - is a female version of Conan the Barbarian: not too bright, ever ready for a fight, and not very enamored of wizards and witches. But like Conan, Corson is often short of funds, so when Nyctasia, princess of the city of Rhostshyl, has to flee the city for her life, Corson agrees to serve as her bodyguard.

Hardly have Nyctasia and Corson escaped one danger, than others spring up to threaten them. Our duo are forced to make a desperate journey to the far-off land of Hlasven, but getting there will be no easy task..........

'Silverglass' is a quick, fast-paced read, something I never tire of commending in this modern era of 900+ - page fantasy novels. Although the novel is less than 200 pages long, author Rivkin is able to manage a believable cast of characters and settings that have a bit more imagination to them than those that are usually encountered in the sword-and-sorcery literature. The book does have its weakness, in the form of an underwhelming denouement that seems to have been designed more to set up the sequels, than to bring the main storyline to a worthy conclusion.

The verdict ? 'Silverglass' has its merits, and if you are looking for a sword-and-sorcery novel that doesn't require a dramatis personae listing, a glossary, or a map (or series of maps) in order to comprehend what is going on, then this novel is worth picking up.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Linda Carter's Rock and Roll Fantasy

Linda Carter's Rock and Roll Fantasy
from Linda Carter: 'Encore !'
CBS, September 16, 1980
They don't make 'em like this anymore.......

Linda Carter's 'Encore' variety show special aired on CBS TV on September 16, 1980. 

The featured guest stars were Merle Haggard, Tom Jones, John Phillips (of the Mommas and Pappas), and pianist Donald Young.

For one of the show's segments, titled 'Linda Carter's Rock and Roll Fantasy', Linda did a song-and-dance medley of various hit rock songs, one entry of which was the Kiss disco song I Was Made for Loving You.

The video clip of the medley is available here. I Was Made for Loving You starts at the 2:33 mark.

Later on in the clip, Linda dons a blonde wig, uses a banana for a microphone (?!) and performs a Broadway tune.........accompanied by dancers in gorilla costumes ?!

Like I said, they don't make 'em like that anymore............ 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle

Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle
DC Comics, 1998

"Mister Miracle' was the longest-lasting of Kirby's Fourth World titles. This trade paperback compiles the first ten issues of Mister Miracle (April 1971 - October 1972). 

The companion volume Jack Kirby's Fourth World: Featuring Mister Miracle compiles issues 11 - 18 (December 1972 - March 1974). Both compilations are in graytone; if you want them in color, you're probably going to want to purchase the 1481 page Jack Kirby: The Fourth World Omnibus (2017).

The first issue of 'Mister Miracle' establishes the premise of lead character Scott Free: a master escape artist who is able to wriggle out from the most lethal of pitfalls and traps. Assisted by his dwarf sidekick Oberon, and the technical wizardry of the 'Motherbox', Free finds himself battling emissaries from his homeworld of Apokalips, as well as a variety of domestic villains.

'Mister Miracle' introduces Big Barda, one of Kierby's more memorable female characters, as well as the sadistic Granny Goodness, the overseer of the nightmarish elementary school on Apokalips (Kirby allegedly to modeled Granny Goodness on the well-known comedienne Phyllis Diller).

Issue 6, included in this compilation, is memorable for introducing the character of 'Funky Flashman', and his servile assistant 'Houseroy'. Kirby clearly intended these characters to be the most thinly disguised caricatures of Marvel's own Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. The satire works, perhaps because it has a little slice of nastiness to it (at one point, Funky Flashman makes good his escape from Darkseid's Female Fury Battalion by tossing Houseroy to them as a sacrifice).

The art, even when rendered in graytone rather than color, is the best thing about 'Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle'. Kirby was in top form at this time in his career and the artwork reflects this.

The writing is where these comics from the early 70s show their age (I should note that it's rumored that Mark Evanier ghost-wrote more than a few of these Mister Miracle comics). 

Kirby devotes the entirety of each issue to setting up scenarios where Mr. Miracle finds himself coerced by the villain(s) into entering an elaborately constructed deathtrap; he seemingly dies, only to return alive and well in the final pages, with a contrived, unconvincing explanation for how he escaped. 

This gimmick quickly gets tiresome and the series only regains momentum in the final stories, which are flashback entries set in Apokalips.

Summing up, whether it's this older compilation or Jack Kirby: The Fourth World Omnibus, I can't really see either volume appealing to anyone outside of dedicated Kirby fans, or fans of the comics of the early 70s. The good news is that Kirby's writing would become more engaging with Kammandi and The Demon, and those titles are more accessible than his Fourth World materials

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Tower King episodes 4 - 6

The Tower King
episodes 4 - 6
Alan Hebden (writer)
Jose Ortiz (artist)
Eagle (UK) 1982

episodes 1 - 3 are here.

More postapocalyptic mayhem, starring the Tube Rats: the mutated survivors who had adapted to a life of darkness in the deep tunnels of London's underground tube system !

A mix of the cannibals from the 1972 film Raw Meat, and the wayward Morlocks in K. W. Jeter's Morlock Night (1979). Fun stuff !

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Book Review: Full Service

celebrating Pride Month 2019

Book Review: 'Full Service' by Scotty Bowers

5 / 5 Stars

The Queens were the most demanding. A straight guy would merely ask for a blonde or a brunette or a girl with a cute figure or big tits or one who was good at some specific sexual technique like giving a fantastic blow job, but gay guys were a lot choosier. They not only wanted someone tall or blonde or very good-looking, he also had to be suntanned or hairy or smooth or muscular.....The list could go on and on. And you know what ? I was able to provide them with precisely what they needed.....My little black book had only names and numbers.......Everything that people liked....was committed to my memory. 

Here at the PorPor Books Blog, we like to celebrate Pride Month by highlighting a fiction or nonfiction book that illuminates the LGBTQ Experience. 

For June 2019, our selection is 'Full Service', a memoir by Scotty Bowers.

This trade paperback edition (288 pp) of the book was published by Grove Press in 2012. It features two inserts of black-and-white photographs.

'Full Service' made Scotty Bowers into an overnight sensation, and in 2018 a documentary of his life and times, titled Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, was released to considerable acclaim.

(Today, at age 96, Bowers remains in reasonably good health).

The book's early chapters describe Bowers's childhood, growing up in considerable poverty in the Midwest. His memories of his interactions with adults during the Depression years are not for the squeamish, although Bowers describes them with a mixture of aplomb and affection. 

After serving in the Pacific Theater in World War Two, in 1946 Bowers took a job at the Richfield gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. Many celebrities stopped at the station for gas and repair work and Bowers (who describes himself as bisexual, but with a preference for women) soon learned that more than a few of these celebrities were looking for various pleasures, in addition to gas and oil. 

Before long, Bowers was supplying his male and female friends to all manner of Hollywood actors, producers, directors, tycoons, and magnates for twenty bucks a trick; in the late 1940s, that was very was good money indeed.

In roughly chronological order, Bowers relates his adventures in 'turning tricks' for one celebrity after another, all the way up to the late 1960s. There's plenty of eyebrow-raising, lough out loud anecdotes and gossip, so much so that, rather than give away any spoilers, I'll just say that 'Full Service' is an engaging read. Each page brings some new revelation, so don't be surprised if you find yourself finishing the book in just two or three sittings.

Along with its impact as an expose, the book offers a portrait of the Golden Age of Southern California and Los Angeles, when smog, gangbangers, the homeless, rats, typhus outbreaks, exorbitant taxes,, catastrophic wildfires, and clogged freeways were as yet unknown. By so doing it evokes a melancholy tone: those days are gone forever. 

Summing up, you can't go wrong with 'Full service', both as a Pride Month read, and as a fascinating memoir.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Sanjulian: Master of Fantasy Art

Sanjulian: Master of Fantasy Art
Steve Morger / Big Wow! Art
March 2019

Sanjulian: Master of Fantasy Art was Kickstarted by Steve Morger back in 2018, and the limited number of copies produced when it was published back in March evaporated seemingly overnight.

I was fortunate to pick up a copy from Stuart Ng Books in California. The book is now only available from those early purchasers who are willing to part with their copies (which seems unlikely). 

This book fills a unfortunate gap: for an artist who is one of the best-known figures in fantasy illustration, there is a real dearth of art books devoted to Sanjulian.

In 2001 publisher SQP released a 72-page trade paperback, titled Sanjulian: Master Visionary, that primarily covered the artist's black-and-white artwork.

According to the Tebeosfera website, Big Wow! previously published a book of Sanjulian art in 2008, but I could find very little information about it.

In 2014 Underwood Books published a collection of Sanjulian's 'barbarian' artwork, but at 48 pages, Sword's Edge: Paintings Inspired by the Works of Robert E. Howard could do little more than give but the briefest glimpse of the artist's catalog.

So, this 2019 edition from Big Wow! stands as the definitive collection of Sanjulian art. At 9 x 12" and 312 pages, the trade paperback edition is a well-made book, with thick paper stock and good-quality reproductions of the artwork.

Sanjulian, the pseudonym of the Spanish artist Manuel Pérez Clemente (b. 1941), is of course very well known to anyone who read fantasy, sci-fi, and horror paperbacks and magazines over the span of decades from the 60s to the present day (Sanjulian continues to do some commercial art work, but primarily produces commissioned pieces for collectors).

This book is an overview of his commercial and studio art over this five-decade span of time. It's organized by subject matter, with chapters devoted to depictions of characters from film and televsion, classic Monsters, Pop Culture icons, barbarians, chain-mail-bikini chicks, Vampirella, and femme fatales.

Many of the pieces showcased in Sanjulian: Master of Fantasy Art are commissioned works done in the past 10 years for collectors of fantasy and sci-fi art. While these pieces are impressive in the sense of fulfilling the dreams of affluent Fanboys, I was hoping for a greater inclusion of Sanjulian's works for the magazine and paperback markets of the 70s and 80s. It may be that Morger had difficulties in securing the rights to reproduce these works (it appears that Sanjulian did not retain the original art he did for many of these commercial assignments).

One thing that emerges from the book is Sanjulian's versatility. His paintings for the covers of Western novels show his skill in rendering that genre:

The (unfortunately) few studio art pieces showcased in the book demonstrate his skill at traditional portraiture:

Summing up, in the absence of any further printings, I suspect that any copies of Sanjulian: Master of Fantasy Art that ever come up for sale are going to have very dear asking prices. If you are a fan of Sanjulian's art, your best hopes probably revolve around the possibility that a major publisher like Titan Comics, or Dark Horse Books, or Schiffer will elect to release an edition of this book for wider distribution.