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Friday, 10 August 2007

Voltron Returns?

Shape-shifting robots continue to entice Hollywood with Variety reporting that the Fox-based production entity New Regency has teamed with the Mark Gordon Company (who make Grey's Anatomy and produced The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen film) to produce a movie adaptation of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the 1980s anime TV series, possibly as a franchise. Justin Marks is writing the script.

There have been two Voltron series to date: the 1980s Voltron series was based on two vaguely-related Japanese anime series GoLion and Dairugger XV (both originally produced by Toei Animation and Bandai). The second series, made in 1998 used Computer Generated imagery instead of the traditional animation of original animation techniques. Set five years after the original, it's not highly valued by many fans, although it does boast the voice of Tim Rocky Horror Curry as Prince Lotr.

Gordon is also working on movie versions of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and DC Comics Green Arrow.

• Check out the official Voltron web site promoting the DVD releases at: www.voltron.com

Thursday, 9 August 2007

The Thirteenth Floor to be republished

The Thirteenth Floor book coverHibernia Books, the one man publishing venture from David McDonald is publishing another collection from the archives of the 1980s Eagle comic. Following release of the Deathlords of Nox volume (reprinting a classic Doomlord story) the next book will be a collection of The Thriteenth Floor strips.

"After a longer than expected wait for licence and the birth of my third, beautiful baby, I'm finally in a position to announce that the Thirteenth Floor collection should be leaving the printers at the end of this month," David told downthetubes.

For this collection, David has been aided and abetted by Ed Berridge and Richard Pearce.

"It's 54 pages, collecting the first eleven issues of the story from Scream," David reveals. "It also contains an introduction by [series co-writer] John Wagner, a lengthy article on Scream by Ed Berridge and a Stripography of The Thirteenth Floor by Richard Pearce and myself."

The Thirteenth Floor started in the short-lived horror comic Scream before transferring over to the Eagle when Scream merged with it. Max the computer was the longest lived of all the Scream stories (it ran from September 1984 to February 1987) with his adventures being drawn by new Eagle (and, indeed, original Eagle) artist José Ortiz.

Ortiz draw a number of strips in the new Eagle over the years (Tower King, House of Daemon, Survival, Kid Cops and more besides) but The Thirteenth Floor, written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, is likely to be best remembered. The creative team is a great combination that promises to make this a volume to look forward to.

The book costs just £4.50 and has a print run of just 700 copies -- so get it while you can!

From The Land Beyond Beyond

What is the first thing you look for when you open that bumper Christmas edition of the Radio Times in December?

As a long time fan of Ray Harryhausen's brand of stop motion-films, I always look to see how many of his films are on. I may have them all on DVD now, but old habits die hard.

One of the stars of those films was Kerwin Matthews. He was Harryhausen's original Sinbad in The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad in 1958, and returned as Lemuel Gulliver in The 3 Worlds of Guliver in 1960. He was the first to fight with a Harryhausen skeleton, never mind the two headed Roc, the Cyclops or the Dragon he had to convince us were really there in front of his sword. In 1975 a young Kevin O'Neill turned that Sinbad movie into a comic strip in the third issue of Legend Horror Classics monthly poster magazine to tie in with the film's cinematic re-release in the UK.

Matthews was also Jack in 1962's Jack The Giant Killer, an attempt by producer Edward Small to replicate the success of the Charles H Schneer / Ray Harryhausen productions by using the star, villain and director of The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad and a young stop-motion animator called Jim Danforth. The movie has its own charm but somehow it just doesn't make the Harryhausen grade.

Kerwin Matthews died in San Francisco on July 5th. He was 81.

State Course And Speed

It was with sadness that I hear that Peter Tuddenham has died at the age of 88.

He will always be remembered in the British telefantasy community for the voices that he gave to the various computers in Blake's 7: the imperturbable Zen, main computer on the Liberator in the first three series; the snivelling Slave, main computer on the Scorpio in the fourth series; and the irascible Orac, taking over Orac's voice duties from Derek Farr for the second, third and fourth series.

He also provided voices in the Doctor Who stories The Ark In Space, The Mask Of Mandragora and Time And The Rani, while he appeared in front of the cameras in such well remembered British series as Tales Of The Unexpected, Only Fools And Horses, Lovejoy and One Foot In The Grave.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Paper Tiger #4 On Sale Now

For those who don't already know, indie comic Paper Tiger Comix #4, featuring a huge number of British creators is out now, and it's a wee bit more professional than previous issues.

The format is a high quality 100 page perfect bound book with 21 track music CD compilation, pin badge and 5 colour art cards, which come sealed in a bag.

Contributors (from UK and around the world) include: Lorna Miller, Fiona Smyth, Richard Cowdry, Terry Wiley, Jon Chandler, Paul O'c Connell, Steve Tillotson, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Deborah Valentine, Daniel Locke, Julie Klausner, Emanuelle Kabu, Harry Flay, Hurk, Matilda Tristram, Bird, Bunny Mazhari, Sean Duffield, Eriuca Ilcane and many, many more.

The content ranges from Alternative and Underground Comix to Surreal Art and Illustrations. "From witty and humourous to serious and expressive, this volume has a great cross section of strips," says editor Sean Duffield, who also reveals editing had been a lot tighter with this issue and will be with future volumes.

Feedback to the new issue has been very favourable indeed, and here at downthetubes, John Freeman recommends you support the book. It retails at £6.99 in the shops, but you can be bought for just £5.49 at www.papertigercomix.com

More Moon Queen for ROK Comics

ROK Comics creator Chris Reynolds is working on a new Moon Queen strip that will appear on the comics-to-mobile project. Titled "Moon Queen in Las Vegas: The Moon Queen's Greatest Tragedy", we'll let you know when it launches.

Chris is the author of the seminal graphic novel Mauretania first published by Penguin Books, and his Adventures From Mauretania (available from lulu.com) was voted as one of the best comics of 2006 in the Comics Journal.

Chris also tells us that on 16 November he and Paul Harvey are planning an exhibition, "The Newcastle Stuckists Celebrate the Mauretania" as it will be the Centenary of the maiden voyage of the ship the comic was named after.

"We plan to have paintings and comic artwork by me and Paul," says Chris. More details as we get them.

Stuckism is a radical and controversial art group that was co-founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish (who left in 2001) along with eleven other artists. The name was derived by Thomson from an insult to Childish from his ex-girlfriend, Brit artist Tracey Emin, who had told him that his art was 'Stuck'.

Stuckists are pro-contemporary figurative painting with ideas and anti-conceptual art, mainly because of its lack of concepts. Stuckists have regularly demonstrated dressed as clowns against the Turner Prize. Several Stuckist Manifestos have been issued. One of them Remodernism inaugurates a renewal of spiritual values for art, culture and society to replace the emptiness of current Postmodernism.

The web site www.stuckism.com, started by Ella Guru, has disseminated these ideas, and in five years Stuckism has grown to an international art movement with over 100 groups round the world. These groups are independent and self-directed.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

New USTV Shows

The US fall line up includes the following new series:

• Bionic Woman
Action drama, NBC
Former EastEnder Michelle Ryan takes the role of the bionic Jaime Sommers. (ITV2 is screening this show in the UK)
Official Site: www.nbc.com/Bionic_Woman

• Pushing Daisies
Romantic comedy, ABC
Premieres 3 October 2007
Pushing Daisies
is a love story about a pie-baking young man with a very special gift… the ability to return dead people briefly back to life with just a simple touch -- enabling him to help a P.I. crack murder cases by asking victims to name their killers. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, writer-producer Bryan Fuller, and the producers of Big Fish blend romance, crime procedural and high-concept fantasy to create a fairytale in the spirit of Amelie, Stranger than Fiction, and Chocolat. Features a stellar cast.
Official web site:
http://abc.go.com/fallpreview/pushingdaisies/

• Cavemen
Sitcom, ABC
Premieres: 2 October
Over the last hundred thousand years, mankind has evolved from primitive creatures to sophisticated beings, except for a small minority who unfortunately didn't evolve physically at all. Now three sophisticated cavemen (who already have a fan base from their popular GEICO commercials) are living in modern-day Atlanta, where they are at odds with contemporary society as they struggle to overcome their physical appearance and the accompanying stereotypes.
Official web site: http://abc.go.com/fallpreview/cavemen/index

• Reaper
Comedy, CW
Premieres 25 September
Ray Wise plays an engaging Satan who enlists a young mortal as bounty hunter for escapees from Hades. This one looks great fun -- check out the preview.
Official web site: www.thewb.com/shows/reaper

Moonlight
Drama, CBS
Premieres 28 September
Mick St. John is a private investigator who has truly seen it all after being bitten by his vampire bride on their wedding night 60 years ago. He now lives between two realities, fighting his adversaries among the undead while being in love with a mortal woman. St. John must cautiously balance these two lives before they clash, proving that life's gravest dangers are found in the moonlight.
Official web site: www.cbs.com/primetime/moonlight

New Amsterdam
Drama, Fox
Premieres - Unknown - mid season launch
A soldier in the 1600s, granted immortality by a native tribe, is now a 21st century New York detective. (Great Shades of Adam Eterno!)
Official web site: www.fox.com/newamsterdam/

The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Midseason action drama, Fox
Premieres January 2008
Follows Sarah Connor where "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" left off.
Info (includes links to clips): www.fox.com/programming/new/sarahconnorchronicles.htm

Chuck
Action comedy, NBC
Premieres 24 September
Computer geek becomes secret agent when a glitch downloads national secrets into his brain.
Official web site: www.nbc.com/Chuck

Journeyman
Mystery drama, NBC
Premieres 28 September
Kevin McKidd, who was brilliant in Rome, plays Dan Wasser, a San Francisco newspaper reporter inexplicably begins traveling through time. The set up of this new drama looks like the set up for the comedy Goodnight Sweetheart, but with different time periods involved.
Official web site: www.nbc.com/Journeyman

Here are most of the new season start dates for US SF/Fantasy shows, sourced via the brilliant web site SFTV.org...

August
Jekyll (BBC America): Aug 4 (US Debut)
NEW Masters of Science Fiction (ABC) : Aug 4 (Series Debut)
NEW Flash Gordon (SciFi): Aug 10 (Series Debut)

September
Doctor Who (BBC America): Sep 8 (Series Two BBC America Debut, already on SciFI)
Torchwood (BBC America): Sep 8 (US Debut)
NEW Chuck (NBC): Sep 24 (Series Debut)
Heroes (NBC): Sep 24 (Season Two)
NEW Journeyman (NBC): Sep 24 (Series Debut)
NEW Reaper (The CW): Sep 25 (Series Debut)
NEW Bionic Woman (NBC): Sep 26 (Series Debut)
Ghost Hunters (SciFi): Sep 26 (Season 3 Resumes)
NEW Haunted (SciFI): Sep 26 (SciFi Debut)
Smallville (The CW): Sep 27 (Season Seven)
Ghost Whisperer (CBS): Sep 28 (Season Three)
NEW New Amsterdam (FOX): Sep 28 (Series Debut) NEW Moonlight (CBS): Sep 28 (Series Debut)
Numb3rs (CBS): Sep 28 (Season Three)
Stargate Atlantis (SciFi): Sep 28 (Season Four)
Dexter (Showtime): Sep 30 (Season Two)

October
NEW Pushing Daisies (ABC): Oct 3 (Series Debut)
Supernatural (The CW): Oct 4 (Season Three)
Blood Ties (Lifetime): Oct 13 (Season One Resumes)

December
NEW Tin Man (SciFi): Dec (Miniseries Debut)

January 2008
NEW Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX) January 2008 (Midseason - Series Debut)

A syndicated article picked up by the Charlotte Observer offers a good overview of now US TV shows and the pitfalls of chasing hit shows in the hopes of another one.

Will Eisner film at Film Festival

Will Eisner film posterThe indie film Will Einser: Portrait of a Sequential Artist will screen at the Rhode Island International Film Festival this Wednesday at 2:30pm at the Columbus Theater in Providence.

I'm looking forward to seeing this when it reaches the UK - one for the Birmingham International Comic Show perhaps? I was privileged to meet Eisner at Raptus back in 2003 and have always admired his work, although more the non-Spirit material such as A Contract with God. (I almost fell off my chair when he phoned me in the run up to the Festival - one of the rare times I've felt star struck). An unassuming but outstanding talent in the world of comics, he was open to new ideas for developing new audiences. We even talked briefly about mobile comics, and he was very interested in the whole concept.

This film has been a while in the making. There's a trailer and more info about the film up on the Montilla website: www.montillapictures.com

Monday, 6 August 2007

In Review: The Great Game

I've just finished reading the hardback of the excellent Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Written by Ian Edginton and drawn by D'Israeli this is their second sequel to HG Wells' The War Of The Worlds.

For those unfamiliar with the first Scarlet Traces, the basic premise is that the Martians only invaded Britain and therefore only the British Empire has access to the back engineered Martian technology, including the dreaded heat ray, and has become the only superpower on Earth. However, the geo-social divisions of late Victorian Britain have become more extreme with London as a gleaming capital on the surface and much of the rest of the country still in poverty.

The Great Game takes us to about 1940, with the British Empire having taken the war to the Martians on Mars, and it is not going as well as the news reports would have the populace believe.

I like these kind of retro-future stories. Ministry of Space or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen also spring to mind, and Edginton and D'Israeli have turned this one into a paradise of in-jokes and outside references with visual references to The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass and the Pit, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Phoenix 5, Dad's Army and even Are You Being Served!

From a more comics perspective, the crew of the British fighter, call sign Eagle Leader, attacking the tripods on Mars are Colonel D McGregor and Flt Sgt A Fitzwilliam (do I really need to add Dare and Digby to the ends of those names for you?) while, also for the Dan Dare fans, an ancient chart of the solar system shows Mercury as being inhabited by Atlantines and Venus by Treens and Therons (separated by a flame barrier). It should raise a smile with Doctor Who fans as it also shows the Earth inhabited by Silurians and Sea Devils.

The space transport ship used by the British military is inspired by the Zero X from TV21 (and the Thunderbirds Are Go! film) both in its design and the way the wings and nose cone separate from the main body.

But my favourite has to be the kettle used by one of the characters. You may have thought that Daleks look like pepper pots before but just wait until you see one of their "heads" being used to boil water - which is poured out of the eyestalk!

The book, a reprint of the four issue comic book of the same title, is published by Dark Horse in the USA and it is unlikely that there will be a UK book publication because of the different copyright laws between UK and USA regarding the source novel. However, if you get a chance, take a look at it and wonder at the imagination (and nerve) of its creators.

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