Sunday, May 30, 2021

Rare Mitzi Green!--Mitz and Fritz of Germany


Actually, pretty much any Mitzi Green is rare since America's biggest child star of the early Depression years remains sadly forgotten. She made 14 movies for Paramount and RKO between 1929 and 1933. By that time, early puberty had hit and her child star days were over. She went on to a long, successful career on Broadway, radio, television, and in nightclubs, returning only twice to the big screen after her heyday.


Here we find Mitzi and her frequent adversarial co-star Jackie Searl in a completely forgotten a book! MITZ AND FRITZ OF GERMANY was part of a series of geographical books about and for children, written by Madeline Brandeis in the 1930s. To go along with her stories, the author hired young actors to pose for scores of photos in her various books and for this one, from 1933, she hired Mitzi Green and Jackie Searl to portray her characters. 

The book is available online via Project Gutenberg, along with several other books in the series. I was able to order an original 1933 copy for $6.00 off Amazon (as opposed to the $937 copy they show) but as of this writing it has yet to arrive. 

Below are some examples scenes from this rare "movie on paper." 


Friday, May 21, 2021

Christopher Lee Blogathon--Jinnah (1998)

Christopher Lee in 2002: “It is a very good picture and it is actually my best performance. No question. No question.”

  Sir Christopher Lee was an actor known for nearly six decades of commanding performances in many iconic pop culture roles—Count Dracula, Fu Manchu, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, Sherlock Holmes, Saruman, Count Dooku, Death, and even the Devil himself. At the end of the day, though, in interviews and personal appearances, Mr. Lee always said that his favorite role ever was as the real-life historical leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 


“I know it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said at a convention appearance in Belgium in 2002, “by a long, long way.” 

   The 1998 historical biography JINNAH also happens to be Lee’s most controversial film.

“It was very well received in Pakistan,” Lee emphasized. “The cinema was full every night, every day for three months.” While this was true, initially there were also threats of violence against all involved and threats that cinemas showing it would be burned to the ground. The newspaper, The Daily Khabrain, denounced the film, sight unseen, as “deeply objectionable” and ran a long campaign aimed at stopping it from ever opening. Hardliners denounced the film as a “Hindu and Zionist plot.”


As the picture was being made, the Pakistani government dropped all financial support from the film, with private sources providing the money to finish it. Rumor had it that veteran Bollywood star Shashi Kapoor, who appears in the film, put up much of the needed financing himself. 


Another rumor was than an uncredited Salman Rushdie had a hand in the movie’s script!


Although not as familiar to the western world as Mohandas Ghandi, the two men were contemporaries, both lawyers, and both playing similar roles in the complex politics that led to what is known as Partition, in which India and Pakistan separated in 1946 both from each other and from British rule.


A considerable amount of the pre-release controversy can be directly blamed on the casting of then-77-year-old Christopher Lee to play the title role of the nation’s beloved leader. Other than the fact that the imposing actor was six inches taller than the man he portrayed, Lee’s performance gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that his face has been made to strongly resemble the real man. 


The actor described Jinnah as, “a man of great vision, incorruptible, great integrity, brilliant man.” In present-day Pakistan, Jinnah maintains a near-mythic status, similar in some ways to how we in the US view George Washington.


With all births, there is blood involved, and the birth of Pakistan was no exception. A lot of blood was spilled in Christopher Lee movies over the years but in this movie it’s more impactful because it represents real blood from real people. Violence between the Muslims and the Hindus was rampant and the British, trying desperately and shortsightedly to hang on to their colonial conquests, were certainly of little help. Into the melee stepped Jinnah. As with many great leaders, he had no intention of doing anything other than leading a peaceful life but history had other ideas. 



JINNAH, the movie, although historically accurate, actually has a fantasy element to it. We start with the death of Jinnah, who ascends to a type of Purgatory where a mystical office worker/angel (Kapoor) has misplaced Jinnah’s files and cannot figure out how to work the computers that had been brought there from the future. Luckily, we don’t spend much time there. Instead, Jinnah accompanies Kapoor on a trip through his own life story, reliving events and actually encountering his younger self on a couple of occasions. Compressing the post-war politics of the region isn’t easy but with the emphasis on the Muslim need for a free and independent state, we ultimately meet such other historical figures as Ghandi, Nehru, and Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and witness some of the political scheming designed to keep Pakistan from happening.


But eventually, as it did in real life, it does happen, and Jinnah gets one last moment to be shown that despite the violence, despite the blood, and despite the anguish, his work and his sacrifices still matter.


Lee is an actor known for his sometimes less than subtle performances but here he is as subtle as one could be, portraying deep emotions without even a raised voice—anger, fear, anguish, determination. For all that he is playing outside his race—another source of controversy, then and now—he brings to the role an elegance, reverence, and deep connection that I suspect even surprised him. 

All of the other actors are good as well, particularly another veteran star, James Fox, as the haughty Mountbatten, clinging tightly to antiquated concepts of colonialism even as his world begins to collapse around him.


Critics actually quite liked the film when it was finally able to be viewed. Although some felt the story’s presentation was not as epic as the story deserved, Lee was universally praised. Pakistani audiences bowed before Christopher Lee’s portrayal and the film became a major triumph in his long and exciting career.


JINNAH was, however, never released in this country and remains almost completely unknown to even the biggest fans of the great Christopher Lee. 


Thursday, May 20, 2021

R.I.P.-- David Anthony Kraft


David Anthony Kraft was one of my favorite comics writers in the 1970s, and then publisher of the great COMICS INTERVIEW magazine in the 1980s and 1990s (of which I won their issue 100 trivia contest and was later interviewed in the mag). This morning came the very sad news that he has died of Covid-related pneumonia.

In 2019, I spoke with him for two hours on the phone for a project that remains unrealized. I never transcribed the entire interview and I've now misplaced the audio but, in tribute, here's a never before published excerpt from our conversation that I DID transcribe in which David and I discuss his color magazine history of the Beatles done for Marvel done with George Perez in the late 1970s.  


ST-The one thing I was intrigued by is that you go into so much depth and detail on everything in Marvel’s Beatles book and yet it’s unauthorized. Was it literally that the Beatles were just public figures and you were able to use them that way?


DAK-Yeah. In fact, Stan added that as a cover line at the last minute, probably on the advice of Marvel’s attorneys, so as not to create the illusion that it was officially sanctioned. I had an early run-in with how the press works and it sort of trained me up for things. Imagine how the Beatles must have felt with all the press THEY got. I got interviewed on the radio, and in the Village Voice, and so on. I think it was the Voice…It may have been one of the other ones. Anyway, they asked me if the Beatles knew about it. I said that I believed Ringo did because he mentioned it or, or alluded to it, on one of his Tonight Show appearances or something like that and that I knew that…Okay, now see, this is the part where I’d have to look at my actual quote which is not what they printed. It was like, that I believe John does because of something or other and he was there in New York and I think maybe we approached him. Whatever. But I said the other two don’t. The point of all this is when they printed this quote from me, they switched it! They quoted me as saying that PAUL knew about it and like, George, or something! What bothered me about that was A) I didn’t say that and B) here’s me…I’m doing this because of my love for the Beatles but if they see that, they’re gonna go, “That lying ass!” (Laughs) You know, the reaction that would make it look like I was saying things that weren’t true. That’s the thing about the press. Even when somebody is quoting you, that doesn’t mean they’re really quoting you.


ST-What was the genesis of your Beatlesbook? How did it come about?


DAK-Well, that thing that Steve Gerber did, that Kiss book, was really the first. I thinkSavage Sword of Conanin a lavish edition came after, but basically Marvel before that didn’t have a prestige format. They didn’t have what at that time were high end titles. The Kiss thing sold really, really well, and he had a great deal on it at a time when they didn’t pay royalties or anything. Then he moved to Las Vegas and I inherited the mantle. But I inherited the mantle because he pointed out I was the guy. So it was basically his doing that I ended up on the rock stuff. 


ST-The Beatlesbook is a product of Mad Genius Associates. So what was Mad Genius Associates?


DAK-Well, there’s some confusion out there about that. Mad Genius was a studio partnership of Jim Salicrup and me. Steve was no part of that but Steve rented space from us and he was our friend so he was there a lot. We had an office on 7thAvenue and he needed a place to stuff buttons and hang out and watch Mary Hartman and whatnot. We had great times but I’ve seen it later where people say Steve had this thing but—not that it matters—technically speaking, it was Salicrup and me. 


ST-As far as the Beatles, what were your sources for the book? Obviously, being a big fan, you knew a ton of this stuff but there is SO much trivial Beatle stuff in that magazine!


DAK-This gives me a great opportunity to say that the only thing the Marvel attorneys asked me to change…It was accurate insofar as I could source it directly but they were still uncomfortable with it. What it was…After I had gotten the green light for that after having pitched the Beatles to Jim Galton…Weird adventures in life: The Beatles? The biggest group ever known?




DAK-Having to PITCH them! (Laughter) I mean, what the HELL, right? But Galton was not plugged into that. He was, like, “That’s a group like the Monkees, right?” “ Yeaaaah…You need to really kind of understand. The Monkees are a group kind of like the Beatles!” (laughter) But after we got the go-ahead, I went out and bought up every possible, available book about the Beatles that existed at the time. So my New York apartment…and anybody familiar with space in Manhattan knows that…I had a super small apartment and it was all of one cubic inch, as these things are. But it was probably knee-deep, if not waist-deep, in Beatles books. So, a lot of that stuff came from here, there, and everywhere but the one thing that Marvel attorneys asked to be removed was from their former manager, before Brian Epstein. He wrote a book—I can’t remember the title offhand—but every time that he cited the Beatles in dialogue, in I suspect the way they really talked and I see no harm in it. They would use phrases that might be considered to be a bit off-color, like, “Bugger me.” (Laughs) And in the scenes that were referenced in HIS book, which we retold, I put, “Bugger me,” because, you know, that was the source! But that was the one thing! They didn’t want the Beatles saying, “Bugger me.”


ST-(Laughs) Their language was not exactly squeaky clean.


DAK-Oh, no! 


ST-Did you do the book full script or did you guys just work out the details and George did whatever?


DAK-That was done more or less in the form of a full script because of all the reference and then with all the reference attached and so on. There’d be a lot of Post-it Notes and paperclips and things, pictures from that time period or how they looked in certain scenes. Lots of that material that I was wading around in the apartment with, then transferred on to George. And I suspect he found reference also himself. 


ST-Some of the pictures don’t really look that much like the Beatles. I’ve always been surprised by that because it’s not like there wasn’t enough photo reference available for every segment in there. I mean, it’s good art. It’s just that at times it doesn’t look that much like them. 


DAK-I don’t know. I guess chalk that up to artistic license? I thought that what George brought to the layouts was great. Sort of that sense of the times, you know? With Beatlemania and them all jumping and so on. A lot of that was my suggesting it in the script but George also brought a lot to that to keep it from looking boring!


ST-It’s definitely not boring but I guess it WOULD run the risk of that since it’s really, by necessity, just illustrated scenes going forward chronologically in their lives and that’s not always the most exciting thing visually. 


DAK-That’s kind of a relief to hear even now because when the script came back with the art…When you do something like that—or at least when I did THAT—there was a tendency to maybe cite too MUCH dialogue or to make it a little TOO factual and not moving fast enough. So I did a lot of rewriting on the script after it came back, to condense it and tighten it and everything.


ST-One thing I noticed is that Yoko isn’t really there until she’s just…THERE. She’s never actually introduced or mentioned or anything. She’s seen when John gets arrested but she’s blocked by somebody. You can see he’s holding someone’s hand but you can’t see who it is. She’s mentioned again in the context of the Two Virgins cover and then it mentions her name when it shows their marriage. But that’s it! Was that on purpose or just a consequence of editing the script?


DAK-It wasn’t a conscious decision, like a “No Yoko” policy. As a medium, comics are so limited in time and space. You have to break ‘em down to what’s important. This is true Beatles or any OTHER comic book story. Most people don’t have occasion to do this but if you work in something where that IS what you have to confront, but if you watch a TV show or a movie about the Beatles, or ANY show, they have a limited time format. Script-wise, you’re talking about maybe 100, 120 pages but they have the advantages of motion and sound and you don’t have to worry about likenesses because you can see the actual actors. So, when you’re doing comics, think of it like this. You probably have five frames per page in maybe a 20-page story to tell something that needs to be larger than life. In the end, it’s almost like code or something. It comes down to the simplest things necessary to evoke the largest response. I think Yoko’s abbreviated presence was just a function of the fact that we had, like, 40 pages and so much Beatles stuff to tell! To put Yoko’s story in there, something else would have to get sacrificed. So that’s what got sacrificed. Paul once said something really accurate and kind of kind. She had turned up in the studio and that had never happened before. He said that for John to really care that much to allow that, you had to respect that. Whatever WE think of Yoko, she must have been important in HIS life.


ST-You’ve said in various interviews that at one time you were prepared to take it from Marvel to somewhere else. Did you have any rights to it? DO you have any rights to it?


DAK-Absolutely. Because of the Kisssuccess and because of the deal that Steve Gerber had negotiated and sort of passed the mantle along to me on, I had a profit...whatever you wanna call it. They’re careful about their terminology but basically, the long and short of it, I had a royalty. It was probably the best deal going then. I came in one day and Sol Brodsky called me in. Sol was like the unofficial sort of hatchet man in Marvel—I really liked Sol, by the way. But he said, “The deal is off and there won’t be royalties.” Blah, blah, blah. And I sat there because I didn’t see that coming. A deal’s a deal. You get MY best and I get your best. You don’t get to change things. And then I’m subject to this? I said…No. I’m nonplussed and pissed. So, I said to Sol, “What do YOU think?” And he said, “Totally off the record, and, of course, I’ll deny this…” Because he’d be a fool not to, (laughs) the “official” axe man. I really DID like Sol! Sol was a great human being. He did his duty there but he didn’t pretend that he didn’t see my side. Anyway, buttressed by that, I went to Stan and I said, “This shall not stand!” It was emotional for me because I was a Marvel loyalist! I did above and beyond for Marvel because I believed in it! So this felt like a betrayal! Stan was, like, “I can’t do anything about it. It comes from Galton.” He said, “Think of all the stuff I’VE done. Don’t you think I’D like royalties and ownership? But it’s hopeless.” But I said, “No it isn’t. There’s one serious mistake that’s been made here. I am freelance! George is freelance. The Beatles are a public property not owned by Marvel. Everybody in publishing knows how successful the Kissbook was. Why don’t I just go ahead and find another publisher? Which I’ll bet I can do in the next ten minutes!” And I went back to my office and I started calling Circus magazine and Rolling Stone. It would be like writing a book about David Bowie. You could do that for anybody. That was a real misstep on their part. I was, like, well…to hell with you, then! It was probably not even ten minutes and Stan came back, having talked to Galton, and he said—and I’m paraphrasing, of course, basically, “Let’s you and him fight!” (Laughs) He had gotten me a meeting with Galton on a Friday afternoon when Galton was going out to golf or some highly important thing. I was a hiccup. I was really unprepared because this had all been sprung on me but I went up and I kept Galton sitting there for the better part of two hours. Here’s what served me well. I had published softcover and hardcover limited editions before I ever went to Marvel. I had a publishing background. I wasn’t just like out of the comics pool and unaware of things. He was presenting things like, “When Playboy publishes something, it’s owned by Playboy.” Blah, blah, blah. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Booksteve Reviews: The Shadow by James Patterson and Brian Sitts


Recently, I was privileged to receive an ARC of the long-awaited new James Patterson book rebooting THE SHADOW to review in my column on Forces of Geek. Now that that review has posted, I'm sharing it here as well: 

James Patterson has been the world’s bestselling novelist for quite a few years now. He’s written thrillers, adventures, romances, fantasies, children’s books, etc. I think he even has a cookbook! He’s mentored and collaborated with quite a few other writers, too, as well as contributing much time and money to charities and literacy efforts. He’s a successful man and he’s a good man.


Unfortunately, I’ve never cared much for his actual writing.


Patterson’s newest novel, written in collaboration with Brian Sitts, is The Shadow. Yes, THE Shadow. Well…supposedly. 


You know, I’d love to be able to give The Shadow an unqualified rave review and maybe get a quote from me in some of its marketing or a blurb on the back of its inevitable sequel. The problem is that I can’t. It’s a bit of a mess, actually. Quite an entertaining mess in its own way but a mess nonetheless.


The book is a real page turner. From start to finish I read it all in just a little over 24 hours even though it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. 


I’m pretty familiar with The Shadow. It was the first old time radio show I remember ever hearing, from an LP brought in by a substitute teacher when I was in the 7thgrade. I spent the next decade ordering hundreds of OTR cassettes including quite a few Shadow episodes. At that same time, I learned about the pulp version—pretty much a different character—from the first volume of Steranko’s History of Comics. A few years later, Steranko covers topped the paperback reprints I was reading of those pulp stories. And in comics so many companies did their own versions, some of which were pretty adult. My friend Anthony Tollin—the world’s biggest living Shadow expert—edited Walter Gibson's The Shadow Scrapbook and later reprinted nearly all of the original “Maxwell Grant” stories in beautiful modern editions. Author Martin Grams, Jr. wrote a detailed history of the character’s radio incarnation and I assisted him behind the scenes on that volume. And let’s not forget the visually exciting Alec Baldwin movie of The Shadow! I even bought one of the action figures that came out with that. 


So yeah, I’m pretty familiar with the Shadow…and this really isn’t him. Or maybe I should say there doesn’t seem to be any NEED for this to be him.


Patterson and Sitts have written an exciting dystopian science-fiction novel with elements reminiscent of both the Marvel and DC comics universes, and a little touch of Alan Moore’s Marvelman. With its teenage female protagonist, it would be easy to mistake it for a young adult book if not for a couple of scenes very much inappropriate for young adults.


We know that the young woman, Maddy by name, is the POV character because she is the first-person narrator of at least half of the book’s 104 chapters. In a rather odd move for an author, all the chapters NOT narrated by Maddy are written in third person. 


Normally I try to make my reviews fairly spoiler-free but it’s not really possible to really get into some of the problems I have with this book without giving away a few plot points so be advised. From here on out, there be SPOILERS. 


The book opens with what in my opinion is its best written segment, set in 1937 and featuring a very recognizable Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane. The only surprise is that the generally aloof Lamont is about to ask Margo to marry him. An even bigger surprise is her implied secret pregnancy. This segment takes up Chapters 1-3 and ends with the pair being poisoned, and yet Lamont somehow having the superhuman will to drive them both across town to a secret warehouse/laboratory he owned. 


Cut to 150 years later and another Chapter 1. 


Maddy is described as 18 but as written comes across as maybe 16. She’s yet another of those plucky, rebellious teenage heroines like Goldie Vance, Nubia, Primer, or even Supergirl, who have turned up so often in graphic novels I’ve reviewed recently on this site. 


Maddy lives in a world where the privileged elites have it all and the rest of the world is left to live in decaying slums, scrounging for food and being “kept in their place” by violent armored police. One day she gets a letter from one of the few attorneys left in business, saying she has received a mysterious inheritance. Presuming it to be money she can give to her grandma, she hurries to his office. Instead, under the influence of Maddy’s immediately revealed mind control powers, he sends her to a seemingly abandoned warehouse near the docks to pick up the inheritance, which turns out to be a man—Lamont Cranston, his body preserved since the night he was poisoned, artificially kept alive. 


This is where my problems start. 


Why does Maddy inherit Lamont? Why did these attorneys wait generations before contacting this particular person? Clearly, the mind control powers signal some sort of relationship, but why not her mother, or HER mother or father? Why Maddy? We never find out.


It takes all of maybe 15 minutes for Maddy—not a scientist, remember—and the old caretaker she finds there—a chemist—to completely revive Lamont, who is fine. But wait. What about the poison? Shouldn’t he still be dying of the poison? Did it go inert at some point? How would he have known that would happen?


The pair of them leave the warehouse fairly quickly, just abandoning the long-faithful caretaker, only to have him later team up with the long-faithful attorney to give up Lamont to the bad guys, in spite of all those generations of faithful family service. 


Lamont is soon wondering where Margo is, convinced that she, too, would have survived as that had been his plan all along. It never occurs to either of them, however, that maybe she would have been at that same warehouse/lab, where Lamont had taken her back in 1937? Sure enough, a few chapters later, they return and revive her just as easily, even though her paperwork indicated she was actually dead. The lovebirds tell each other how much each one missed the other, but that’s just silly because, to them, it had only been minutes at best since they’d seen each other!


Before all that, though, Lamont insists on being taken to his Manhattan mansion, presumably thinking it would have just sat there abandoned for the past 150 years waiting for his return. He surmises that Margo would likely be there waiting for him. I realize he just woke up from 150 years sleep but this is supposedly a man with a very keen mind. I don’t know. Maddy steals a car, even though only the Elites drive, and somehow gets them to the mansion which by total coincidence is now the fortress residence of the World President, a smiling dictator who, in another amazing coincidence, just happens to be The Shadow’s ancient enemy, Shiwan Khan…and also the one who poisoned Margo and Lamont back in 1937. 


And what do you know, he’s STILL working on perfecting that very same poison, with the goal of eliminating as many of the poorest men, women, and children as possible. His eager lieutenant in this, one Sonor Breece, is a sadistic monster in human form akin to Jack Kirby’s Desaad, who performed a very similar role under Darkseid.


Another unbelievable coincidence is that Maddy is quite familiar with The Shadow and Lamont Cranston from years of collecting bootleg pulp magazines and old-time radio shows. Whoa! What are the odds? Lamont remembers them, too. He says they grossly exaggerated his real-life crimefighting adventures and he never liked them, particularly the iconic depiction of him in the slouch hat with the red scarf. He tells Maddy he never even owned a hat, which is, of course, ridiculous, as males of all ages in the 1930s wore hats. It was a huge business. Look at any old movie and if there are a dozen men, you’re likely to see a dozen hats. (There is a funny scene later on, though, where Lamont dresses up in that classic Shadow look to crash a masquerade.)


Maddy is at first convinced this crazy person has just assumed the name of her hero but she does watch him use some of his powers and has to wonder. In order to save time in convincing her, the authors have him use a Vulcan Mind Meld-type move which instills his entire backstory directly into Maddy’s consciousness so she’s now a believer.


Once Margo is revived, it’s revealed that she, too, has powers, but not as many as Lamont as he points out randomly that he seems for no given reason to have developed some new ones while in stasis all those decades. For instance, not only can he now turn invisible like Marvel’s Sue Richards, but he can now manipulate flame like Sue’s brother, Johnny, the Human Torch. Oh, and did I mention he’s become a Skrull-like shapeshifter, as well? A couple of times, he becomes an orange cat. During the big climactic fight scene, he becomes other things as well, and, oh, by then both Lamont and Maddy can shoot lightning from their hands.


Shiwan Khan can shoot lightning from somewhere, too. We aren’t told where. A satellite, perhaps? In one scene, he uses lightning from the sky to pulverize the building Lamont, Margo, and Maddy have just left, seemingly killing Maddy’s grandmother, who had raised her and whom we had already established meant the absolute world to her. 


Surprisingly, that’s barely mentioned again. Yes, they quickly flee for safety but you’d think she’d show a little—no, a LOT—more reaction than she does, even under the circumstances. Instead, we have Margo almost immediately helping a young pregnant woman in labor deliver her baby, a scene that seems to exist only to cause Margo to eventually remember how she herself was pregnant when all of this started and wonder whatever happened with her baby.


Margo’s haughty character reads to me like the late actress Jayne Meadows. She’s aloof, demanding, and aristocratic enough to refuse to drink champagne out of anything not at least made of glass and yet also resourceful enough to get any job done when called on. By the time we find out that Maddy is her great-great-great-great granddaughter, a fact that was telegraphed all along, it’s anticlimactic. 


More climactic is the exciting, action-filled finale. Maddy describes it as like something right out of a Shadownovel but it actually seems more like something out of an Avengersmovie, with Lamont (and Maddy) and Shiwan Khan, now dethroned and thwarted, in a knock-down, drag-out, shape-shifting, energy-tossing, fight in what was once Times Square. 


A throwaway line in that scene has Khan referring to Maddy as his own flesh and blood. This remark is never explained (other than Lamont telling her that Khan is lying) and no doubt is something to be dealt with later on in the planned book series. 


I know, I know. With all that said, you’d think I didn’t like The Shadow…but I can’t deny I actually did. Maddy is a wonderful creation, somebody who is just trying to get along in a world where she doesn’t really fit. Then she begins to discover she can do things she never thought possible before. That could describe almost any teenage girl in 2021, or just about any year before that, too. 


And make no mistake. When the cover of this book says, “Crime has a new enemy,” it’s talking about Maddy, NOT the Shadow. Lamont is a major character but he’s not the center. The same with Margo. 


So why are they there? If Patterson and Sitts wanted to write a sci-fi novel about a young girl developing various superpowers and using them to better her world, how did they go from that to the Shadow? Neither the pulp Shadow nor the radio Shadow would be among the first hundred or so characters to pop into my mind to go along with that initial premise. 


And if you absolutely felt the need to use the Shadow, why go out of your way to change him so much that he really ISN’T recognizable as the Shadow any longer? Only a few of the names are the same by the end of the book. Change those and you have all new characters. 


That opening section? Man, now THAT really WAS the Shadow! Really made me look forward to a nice, atmospheric noir adventure by Patterson set in the 1930s. But, of course, that was never the idea.


I really liked Maddy’s story, too, right up to its happy ending setting up future adventures in 2087 even as it totally ignored the global implications of our heroes toppling the world government.


It’s things like that—the mistakes, the unbelievable coincidences, the plot holes, and all the parts the writers just seem not to have thought through thoroughly—that keep me from being able to actually recommend The Shadow. I liked it, but I liked it in spite of itself. I liked it more, I think, for what it could have been, and almost was, more than for what it actually is. 


I’m sorry to say that I still don’t care much for James Patterson’s writing. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Christopher Lee Blogathon--Coming Soon

It's been a long time since I've participated in a blogathon. Previously, I've written about Yaphet Kotto, James Hong, and Peter Cushing. I missed my favorite, Linda Blair, by THAT much!

Coming up in a little more than a week now, though, I'll be participating in a blogathon for Christopher Lee, another old favorite. And I'll be writing about a particularly unusual film in a career of unusual films. Check back and see which one!


Monday, May 10, 2021

That's the Spirit!

We got the last stimulus at the same time we got our tax refund AND my first social security check since I retired in February. We still had a lot left after we caught up on bills so I decided to start RE-collecting DC's SPIRIT ARCHIVES. I had gotten the first six or seven back as they began coming out about 20 years ago but then the $49.95 price just got too much as the economy slowly tanked. Around 2014, I was forced to sell them as we really needed the money. We sold a lot of stuff I haven't really missed but I DID miss the SPIRIT books so... The online bookseller, Hamilton Books had a bunch at only $9.95 to $11.95. I won a few auctions on eBay where I was the only--and low!--bidder, one guy actually donated me two free volumes of which he had extras, and now here we are with 19 out of the 27 total (counting one matching Dark Horse volume). The remaining ones are generally easy to find, albeit slightly more in cost...with a couple volumes actually being MUCH more in cost. The plan is to pick up one a month going forward, and I can rationalize the expensive ones by noting how much money I've saved on these already off that original $49.95 price!



Monday, May 03, 2021

The Art of Daniel Carter Beard


This is me (right) with the statue of Daniel Carter Beard and friend in Covington, KY. The statue, commemorating Beard's role in the creation of the Boy Scouts (an organization that I flunked out of but that's another story) was installed in the late 1980s I believe. It is right around the corner from where I lived between 1966 and 1991. When Rene and I were first courting, she paid to buy one of the sponsored bricks surrounding the area and have both our names put on it. It's still there! We go down and dust leaves off it occasionally. 

Something I just tonight discovered about Beard, though, was that he was an illustrator, and an amazing one at that! Below are a selection of the many beautiful illustrations he provided for an edition of Mark Twain's A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT.