Thursday, April 30, 2015


AVENGERS #25 (February 1966) was the first issue I ever bought.

AVENGERS #3 (January 1964) is the oldest issue I currently own.

AVENGERS #61 (February 1969) is my all-time favorite single issue. Story by Roy Thomas (my favorite AVENGERS writer) and art by John Buscema (my favorite AVENGERS artist). A one-time only line-up of Hawkeye, The Vision, The Black Panther, The Black Knight and the short lived super hero version of Dr. Strange.

The multi-issue epic, The Kree-Skrull War (with art by Neal Adams and others) is my all-time favorite Avengers storyline.

THE AVENGERS BATTLE THE EARTH WRECKER, a Bantam paperback by Otto Binder, is my favorite AVENGERS collectible. And yeah, I've got this one also:

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE GREAT GOLD STEAL a Bantam paperback by Ted White.



At some point in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, I want to see the Avengers split into two teams. One team would be comprised of Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and Black Widow. The other team would be the foursome pictured above: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. I want to hear Tony Stark refer to them as "a kooky quartet." That would make me a very happy Avengers fan.
Cap's "kooky quartet" is, of course, the affectionate nickname of the new Avengers line-up which made it's debut in the legendary AVENGERS #16.

More AVENGERS related stuff to come! Avengers Assemble!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


In a recent email exchange with my buddy Gary Banks, he mentioned how his older brother took him to see VIVA LAS VEGAS (1963) when he was a young lad and what a life changing experience it was.

Funny, I had almost the exact same experience. My older brother took me to see VIVA at either the Paramount or State Theater in downtown Austin. Sorry, I can't remember exactly which theater but I will never forget how the sight of Ann-Margret doing what only Ann-Margret could do on the big screen carbonated my nascent eight-year-old hormones like nothing else ever had. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on and why I was responding so strongly to the sight of this red-hot redhead dancing her way across the screen and into my heart but I knew that I really liked what I saw and I definitely wanted to see more. Much more.

I'd like to hear from male readers of a certain age about any similar experiences they may have had concerning this or any other early Ann-Margret films. I bet there's a lot of similar stories. Please share those stories with me. I'd love to hear them.

On a similar note, recalling my VIVA LAS VEGAS experience brought to mind other seminal movie going milestones that I was able to enjoy thanks to other family members. As I said, my brother took me to see VIVA LAS VEGAS and many, many other films including ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and DIRTY HARRY. Remind me to tell the stories about ONCE and OHMSS some day.

My maternal grandmother took me, at the tender age of five, to see John Wayne's THE ALAMO (1960) at the Paramount Theater in Austin. It's my earliest coherent movie memory.

My mother took me to see the 1968 re-release of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) at Austin's Americana Theater.  GWTW remained her all-time favorite movie to her dying day.

My uncle took me and my cousins to see the world premiere of BATMAN (1966) at the Paramount Theater as part of Aqua Fest. Several cast members were in attendance. Remind me to tell you about the 2010 showing of that film at the Paramount.

And my father, God bless him, took me to see GOLDFINGER (1964), also at Austin's Paramount Theater. He had read all of the Bond novels by Ian Fleming and he couldn't wait to see 007 on the big screen. He took me and neighborhood buddy John Rideout to see the film that changed my life forever and always. To this day, GOLDFINGER remains my all-time favorite Bond film and is one of my personal top ten favorite films ever. GOLDFINGER was my dad's first Bond film. It was also his last film of any kind as he died within a month of seeing it and I'm sure that has a great deal to do with why I so dearly love this film.

So thanks to my family members who took the time to take me to the movies when I was a kid. The memories made in those theaters have lasted a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I don't have a lot of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA material in my vast collection of stuff here in the ol' man cave but what I do have is pretty good. Let's see, there's the original 1961 film on DVD (need to upgrade that one to Bluray), the complete season one of the television series on DVD, the paperback novelization (by noted science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon no less) of the 1961 film and three issues of the Gold Key comic book series. When I was a kid, I had more of the Gold Key comics along with plastic model kits of the Seaview and the Flying Sub, both of which met a fiery demise thanks to some well placed Black Cat firecrackers.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA premiered on ABC-TV on September 9th, 1964. The black-and-white first season (which aired on Monday nights), combined science fiction with spy/espionage elements, all of which made for some pretty entertaining episodes.

With the second season, the show was produced in color and moved to Sunday nights, which is where I watched it on a more or less regular basis until the show ended in September 1968. Four years was a pretty good run for a 1960s science fiction television series (STAR TREK only lasted three) but most fans of the show will admit that things started getting a little dicey towards the end of the series.

I've been watching the color episodes of VOYAGE that are broadcast on MeTV as part of their Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night lineup. I remember some of the episodes, while others are brand new to me. But new or old, they're all a ton of fun to watch. 

Several things stand out concerning the production of VOYAGE. The first is how economical (make that cheap), producer Irwin Allen was. He used footage from the 1961 feature film over and over again as well as new footage shot for the television series. Stock shots of the Seaview and Flying Sub abound. When the Seaview heads to the bottom (as it does in almost every episode), it strikes the same rocky outcrop every time.

The underwater photography (shot in a shallow tank on the 20th Century Fox lot) is nicely done, showcasing the excellent models of the Seaview and Flying Sub (and other undersea vessels and monsters). The live action footage of scuba divers (also shot in a tank) also appears to be heavily recycled. And how about that shot from the original film of the Seaview breaking the surface near the polar ice cap, it's nose pointed almost straight up, before crashing down into the water? A submarine that large would have to be traveling at an incredible rate of speed, with immense power generated by it's engines, to achieve such a surfacing. And when it flops down into the water, look out. Most of the crew would be severely injured (if not killed) from such an impact. Still, it's dramatic as hell.

There are a handful of standing sets for the Seaview that appear in every episode: the control room, officer's quarters, engine room, sick bay and various corridors to name a few. Many episodes are completely self-contained with all of the action taking place on existing sets. And there are very few guest stars on VOYAGE with the entire regular cast featured in almost every episode.

Another thing that is recycled is the musical score. I hear a lot of the same cues in every episode and I've even heard music from JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (both of which were 20th Century Fox films scored by Bernard Herrmann.). I guess Fox owned the rights to the music and didn't figure anyone would recognize it.

The monsters on VOYAGE range from the good to the bad to the ridiculous. I know it's hard to come up with a suitable menace every week but a giant, roaring underwater plant creature is pretty damn silly. Hell, I thought it was stupid when I was a kid and I had a pretty healthy willing suspension of disbelief back then.

Stars Richard Basehart as Admiral Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Crane do their best with the material given them each week. They're aided by a capable supporting cast including Robert Dowdell as Chip Morton, Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey, Del Monroe as Kowalsky, Paul Trinka as Patterson and Richard Bull as the doctor.

Another thing about VOYAGE that I love is how, whenever the ship is attacked and the cast flung about the set (which happens in every episode), as soon as the violence is over, the first thing Captain Crane does is grab the shipboard radio handset and bark "damage control, report!". I always wondered just who the poor slobs were that were assigned to damage control. Whoever they were, they were pretty damn fast operators as they have a report ready as soon as the damage occurs, which is usually only a matter of seconds.

I loved VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA when I was a kid. Heck, I even loved the MAD magazine take-off: VOYAGE TO SEE WHAT'S ON THE BOTTOM. It's not the most sophisticated science fiction ever seen on television but it was a consistently entertaining series.

And you know what?

I still love it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


True confession. I've never read a single Clive Cussler book. This guy's been cranking out action/adventure thrillers starring Dirk Pitt since THE MEDITERRANEAN CAPER (1973). There have been 23 Dirk Pitt novels to date, with the latest, HAVANA STORM, published just last year. That's a substantial amount of books devoted to a character once described as "an underwater James Bond". Pitt, in the books, is an agent for NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Cussler's first big blockbuster bestseller, RAISE THE TITANIC ,was filmed in 1980 with Richard (LOGAN'S RUN) Jordan as Pitt. The film was a box office dud and no more Pitt films were made until SAHARA (2005).

As I said, I've never read a Cussler book but I can safely say that the book SAHARA is better than the movie version. It has to be because this film just isn't very good.

The biggest problem with the film is the casting of Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt. I know McConaughey won a Best Actor Oscar last year for THE DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB but SAHARA doesn't call for him to stretch his acting muscles in the least. He comes across as the standard McConaughey surfer dude, along with a semi-idiot side-kick Al (Steve Zahn). These guys are supposed to be accomplished marine salvage experts, crack divers, explorers, scientists and historians. But I don't believe it for a minute.

I suspect McConaughey latched on to this property as a potential franchise starter, a series of Dirk Pitt adventure films to be based on the pre-existing Cussler novels. It worked for Matt Damon with the Bourne films based on the Robert Ludlum novels (BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004), BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007) and BOURNE LEGACY (2012)). McConaughey wold later try his hand with another potential franchise starter with THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011), based on the popular series of books by Michael Connelly. And let's not forget Tom Cruise's utterly misbegotten turn as Lee Child's JACK REACHER (2012) (a film I absolutely refuse to see).

But McConaughey, as good looking, athletic and charming as he is, just isn't believable as Pitt. The screenplay doesn't help either. It was written by four people (which is never a good sign): James V. Hart, Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and John C. Richards. Geez, the book was already written. It couldn't have been that hard to adapt to the screen.

Director Breck Eisner does a serviceable enough job with some well staged action sequences but the slightly comic tone of much of the proceedings robs the film of any real sense of jeopardy for the characters. The score, by Clint Mansell, alternates between classic rock tunes and an annoying use of Bond like "wah-wah-wahs" in the action sequences.

The story is the kind of far fetched nonsense that probably reads better in a book than as a movie. A Civil War era ironclad ship is supposed to have sailed from the east coast of the U.S. to the west coast of Africa in 1865. Pitt is sure this vessel actually made the voyage and he's determined to find the ship (and it's alleged cache of gold Confederate coins) no matter what. At the same time, fetching World Health Organization doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), is investigating the outbreak of a mysterious disease in Mali. Before you know it, Pitt, Al and Eva's paths cross and the two separate plot lines become entwined.

Shot on location, SAHARA was an expensive movie to make, which made it's ultimate box-office failure a hard pill to swallow, a failure which put the kibosh on any more McConaughey/Pitt films. Adding to the failure is the decision by the producers to attempt to launch a franchise about an "underwater James Bond" with a story that contains absolutely no underwater scenes. 

The only reason to watch SAHARA can be summed up in two words: Penelope Cruz. Not that she's a great actress, but she's certainly easy on the eyes. If you absolutely must watch a movie entitled SAHARA, check out the 1943 film starring Humphrey Bogart as a tank commander in North Africa during World War II. Shot in Southern California and in black and white, with a budget less than McConaughey's salary, it's an infinitely better film.


Friday, April 24, 2015


Remember me telling you about meeting Gil Kane at a comic book convention in Houston in the summer of 1980? Well, thanks to my buddy Bob Parker (who snapped these pics and sent me copies this morning), here's photographic proof of that historic meeting. That's me on the left, an unknown woman in the middle and the legendary Gil Kane on the right. He's just signed my copy of ALTER EGO that features his artwork on the cover and an in depth interview. Thanks for the photo and the memories Bob!


Monday, April 20, 2015


Anyone out there ever hear of this one?

Me neither but I found it at the thrift store for ninety-nine cents so I thought I'd take a chance on it. The premise seemed interesting.

COLOR ME KUBRICK is a 2005 British comedy film loosely based on the true story of one Alan Conway, a minor con man who for years went around London and England impersonating legendary film director Stanley Kubrick. At the time (the early 1990s), Kubrick was a notorious recluse and Conway had the good fortune to hit mostly on people who had heard the name Kubrick but didn't really know what he actually looked like. He would use this bizarre charade for money, drugs, booze and gay sex. Oh sure, a few people tumbled to what was going on but no one would come forward and admit that they had been duped because they feared looking like fools.

John Malkovich does a terrific job playing this oddball character and I suspect that Malkovich's performance is even more over the top than anything Conway ever actually said or did. But it's an amusing portrait of a man so hungry for fame and celebrity and the burning desire to be someone else that he manages to pull off the stunt for several years. Of course, his victims are also portrayed as gullible blokes who are so entranced by the reflected glamour and allure of being associated with THE Stanley Kubrick that they willingly go along with his outlandish schemes.

The film offers several visual and musical homages to Kubrick's films and that's not surprising given that screenwriter Anthony Frewin and director Brian W. Cook both had long associations with the real Stanley Kubrick. Cook served as assistant director on BARRY LYNDON (1975), THE SHINING (1980) and EYES WIDE SHUT (1999). As Cook remarks on the special "making-of" featurette on the DVD, Kubrick would appreciate this film and find it hard to believe that it was shot in only eight weeks (Kubrick was notorious for his lengthy film shoots).

COLOR ME KUBRICK features "blink and you'll miss it" appearances by Honor (GOLDFINGER) Blackman and notorious British film director Ken (ALTERED STATES) Russell. The film is episodic in nature, meandering from one con job to the next with no real through line before winding up with a climax that echoes that of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

 But the real reason to watch COLOR ME KUBRICK is to see Malkovich's utterly outre performance. He's one strange dude in one strange film.

And let's not forget, Ann-Margret.

No, she's not in this film but I just thought I'd mention her.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of the fact that I'm a huge Doc Savage fan. This pulp hero ranks in my top five favorite fictional characters (along with James Bond, Superman, Sherlock Holmes and Conan the Barbarian).

There's been talk lately about Shane Black making a Doc Savage film with Chris (THOR) Hemsworth as Clark Savage Jr. That's not a bad choice at all but after watching a recent episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, I've come to the conclusion that this man:

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, would make a very good Doc Savage. A spray on full body tan, a bronze wig and a ripped shirt is all this guy needs to look like Doc. The Rock is the only contemporary actor that has the sheer physical presence required to do Doc justice. I'm sure I'm not the first Doc Savage fan to suggest this. What do you think?

Oh, and by the way, here's Ann-Margret (who would have made a terrific Pat Savage if a Doc Savage film had been made in the 1960s).


Friday, April 10, 2015


Recently I reviewed AGE OF VOODOO by James Lovegrove here on my blog. In that review, I mentioned how the military monster fighter group Team Thirteen in the book reminded me of the old Rex Havoc comic book series which ran in Warren Publishing's 1984/1994 magazines back in the late '70s/early '80s.  The series was short lived but very fondly remembered.

Imagine my surprise when comic book writer Jim Stenstrum, the "father" of Rex Havoc, posted a comment on my blog later to inform me that he had just published a new Rex Havoc novel. I was thrilled to hear from Jim and made a point to order a copy.

Before I could do so, Jim contacted me again saying he had some extra copies of his book and he would be glad to send me one if I would just send him my address. I did so immediately and it wasn't long before a signed copy of the book arrived in my mail box.

I finished reading the book this morning and I loved it! If you're looking for serious literature in these pages, keep looking. But if you're in the mood for a funny, fast paced, action packed adventure in which Rex Havoc and his new teammates kick some serious monster butt, this one's for you.

It's a bit darker than previous Rex adventures and Rex has undergone some interesting changes regarding his powers and abilities. The ending leaves things wide open for a sequel which I will certainly read and enjoy. Among the humorous highlights here: an Eegah! name drop, Clint Eastwood on a list of top ten threats to humanity and the real story behind the Rex Havoc adventure entitled The Day The Earth Sat Down.

I must take this opportunity to publicly thank Jim Stenstrum for his amazing kindness and generosity in sending me this book. Hearing from him and receiving this gift really made my day. Which brings me to a couple of final things.

If you're an author of the kind of material that I write about here on my blog, please feel free to contact me about sending review copies my way. I'm happy to read and review your books if you'd like me to. All I ask is that you first take some time to actually read my blog to see the kind of material I write about and only contact me if your work falls within these categories. What do I like? Well, for starters, I enjoy pulp fiction, hard boiled crime stories, thrillers/mysteries, action/adventure, horror, science fiction and American history. 

Finally, I'm reasonably sure that Jim Stenstrum found my blog by doing a Google search for the words "Rex Havoc". I'm not naive enough to believe that he was or is a regular reader of this blog. But this encounter just goes to show that I never know who might find their way to this blog through whatever means, find something they like and contact me directly.

Because of this, I'm going to name drop a certain someone in every blog post I write from here on out because, hey, you never know.

Here goes:



Monday, April 6, 2015


One of the pleasures of watching a heist flick like THE BANK JOB (2008), is anticipating just exactly what's going to go wrong with the caper. And you know something will. It's one of the tropes of this sub-genre of crime film. No matter how well planned and executed the heist is, something will inevitably go wrong and generate even more suspense for the duration of the film.

In THE BANK JOB (which is set in 1971), British intelligence outfit MI-5 is very interested in a particularly incriminating set of photographs stored in a safety deposit box in a London bank vault. They can't legally touch it but they can recruit a team of amateur bank robbers to tunnel into the vault from the basement of an adjacent purse shop to get the photos and whatever other valuables (money, jewels, stocks, bonds, etc.) they want.

It's not a bad plan and the team, led by Jason Statham with the lovely Saffron Burrows the contact point with the government spooks, gets exactly what they came for. And much more.

Turns out there was more than one set of incriminating photos stored in a safety deposit box and the thieves now have them in their possession along with a ledger (belonging to a pornography kingpin) whose entries list payoffs to various crooked London cops.

The robbers soon find themselves in a squeeze play. The spies want the photos. The mobster wants his ledger. Statham and gang just want to survive and get away to enjoy their loot. It's up to Statham to negotiate some tricky business to insure his safety but not before a few of the gang are caught and killed by various players.

Loosely based on a true story (a London bank was robbed in much the same way in 1971), THE BANK JOB is competently directed by Roger Donaldson with a good script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. There's not a lot of action here until the very end when Statham takes out some mobsters. The suspense slowly builds and the story takes some interesting twists and turns.

THE BANK JOB isn't the greatest heist film ever made but it's solid, well done and worth seeing.


Saturday, April 4, 2015


I watched THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER while eating lunch today. It's the classic first season STAR TREK episode written by one of my all time favorite writers, Harlan Ellison and it ranks as one of the best TREK episodes ever. I've seen it several times.

But this afternoon, I noticed something I hadn't seen before. In the story, Kirk and Spock are supposed to be in New York City circa 1930 but it's clear by the evidence in the photo above that they're not in New York. It appears they've landed in another famous American city. 

Who knew that Floyd Lawson had been in business since 1930?



I recently read ALTER EGO #63 (December 2006), a special issue dedicated to the life and work of legendary comic book artist Alex Toth. Inker Terry Austin contributed a piece about how he met Toth at a comic book convention in Houston during the summer of 1980. I was at that convention. It was held at the old Shamrock Hilton Hotel.

I must confess, I don't recall Toth being in attendance. I do remember that the longest lines were for Chris Claremont, Terry Austin and George Perez. Claremont and Austin (artist John Byrne was announced but was a no show) were riding high with Marvel's UNCANNY X-MEN while Perez (and writer Marv Wolfman) had just hit pay dirt with the release of DC's NEW TEEN TITANS.

I hovered around the tables where these gentlemen were seated, catching glimpses of them signing and sketching but I didn't feel like standing in line for who knows how long just to get something signed. I admired their collective work but I was in search of something else. Something more vintage. I just didn't know exactly what that would be.

Later, at a dealer's table, I found a copy of ALTER EGO #10, the original fanzine published by Roy Thomas and featuring a Gil Kane cover and interview. I immediately bought it and knew what I had to do.

Gil Kane was also a guest at the con and I immediately headed towards his table with my purchase in hand. I expected to find a long line but there was no one at his table. He was sitting there chatting with a young woman. I asked him if he would please sign my ALTER EGO and he gladly agreed to do so. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him how much I admired his work. While we spoke, my buddy Bob Parker, snapped pictures of us. I used to have those photos but lord knows whatever happened to them.

I couldn't believe that I had just met a comic book legend. It was one of the highlights of a memorable weekend that was stuffed with great pop culture experiences because that Saturday night, Bob and I along with our buddy Jim Robertson went to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the old Alabama Theater near the Rice University campus. We sat in the balcony and felt it literally shake beneath our feet when the Imperial AT-ATs first rumbled onto the screen. That theater later became a Book Stop store. I don't know what's in the space now.

Oh, and on the Friday night before the con, Bob and I went to see THE ISLAND,  a perfectly dreadful film adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel starring Michael Caine.

Well, two out of three's not bad.

Friday, April 3, 2015


DR. ZHIVAGO did not win the Best Picture of the Year Academy Award in 1965. That honor went to THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Yet author Andrew Grant Jackson says ZHIVAGO was the Best Picture winner in his new book, 1965: THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY YEAR IN MUSIC. The statement comes in a chapter about the British Invasion where Jackson argues that not only did the Brits dominate the U.S. airwaves, they also ruled at American cinemas. That's not an inaccurate assessment but it's sloppy and lazy to make an erroneous statement like this just to bolster your argument especially in this day and age when anyone can Google the correct Oscar winner for that year.

You don't have to have been alive in 1965 to write a book about it and judging from Jackson's author photo on the dust jacket, he certainly wasn't around back then. I was. Granted, I was only nine-years-old at the time but I wasn't in a coma. I well remember a lot of the material Jackson covers in this book. I was a regular listener to top 40 radio (KNOW-AM, The Mighty 1490!) and I bought singles and albums. I also took both piano and guitar lessons and my songbooks in both classes included many of the songs discussed here.

Jackson covers a lot of ground here, focusing especially on the headliners (The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones) along with many lesser acts and some "one-hit wonders". There's good background on The Wrecking Crew, the group of Los Angeles studio musicians (including future stars Glen Campbell and Leon Russell) who played on countless tracks.

But Jackson has let others do all of the heavy lifting here. It doesn't appear that he conducted any interviews with anyone still around from 1965 for information. Last time I checked, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (among others) were all still among the living but Jackson doesn't appear to have spoken to any of them. Instead, he pulls material from dozens of pre-existing sources including books, magazine and newspaper articles, documentary films, etc. 

He does an admirable enough job of taking a lot of material and weaving into a readable narrative of a key year in the history of rock and roll. But I would argue that as important as 1965 was, so was 1964. And 1966. And 1967. Hell, every year provides several pivotal, seminal moments in whatever sub culture you want to study: popular music, television, film, comics, literature, art, theater, dance, sports, and others.

Jackson also makes several cause and effect suppositions here about what certain song lyrics really mean. Many, he argues, are responses to other songs by other artists, with many acts commenting (overtly or covertly) about the competition. This could be true. It could also be false but Jackson makes many of these statements as a matter of fact with no sustaining evidence to back up his claims.

1965 isn't a bad book. I did enjoy reading it and it brought back many fond memories of the music I listened to then and still do to this day. But when I come across a factual error like the ZHIVAGO boner in a history book, I have to stop and wonder, if this guy could get this fact wrong, what the hell else is inaccurate in this book?

If you're of a certain age, read 1965 and take a trip back to an exciting time in American history. But be prepared to take some things with a grain of salt.