Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Monday, December 22, 2014


Episode ten (originally airing on December 8th, 1979) of A Man Called Sloane, "Lady Bug," features more spy-fi gadgets than any other episode, including a gas-spewing silver dollar, a submersible automobile, a tape-recording wristwatch, a keyring that can give off electric shocks, and a cigarette case with a 2-way TV communicator. Oh, and The Director (Dan O'Herlihy) plays around with a rocket-launching umbrella in the lab, much to "Q"-girl Kelli's (Karen Purcill) dismay.

The villain of the piece is a KARTEL contractor named Chandler (the late Edie Adams), a glamorous, middle-aged woman who likes to surround herself with young male bodybuilders. She's working with a disgruntled entomologist (!) who has bred a hybrid species of "devil locusts" that can strip a field of crops in a matter of seconds, and whose bites are fatal to humans. With the help of a pretty young entomologist (Barbara Rucker), Torque and many of those aforementioned gadgets, Sloane manages to save America's breadbasket from KARTEL's sinister plan to corner the world's food supply.

"Lady Bug" is a hoot, with an entirely ludicrous – but amusing – plot and a great performance by Adams, who seems to be enjoying her opportunity to play against her usual image, with charm and a sly wit. Torque actually gets a little bit more to do in this episode, rescuing Sloane from a grasshopper (!) and demonstrating a few new accessories for his cybernetic hand. There's also a fun homage to Hitchcock's North By Northwest when a low-flying crop duster drops a load of poison gas on Sloane and his lady faire in a field. Unfortunately, there's also a judo match between Sloane and a henchman (played by Martin Kove), where it's clearly – even on my crappy copy of the show – a stunt double filling in for Conrad.

A fun episode. Two more to go!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Sweethearts Of Disaster"

The ninth episode of A Man Called Sloane (originally airing on December 1st, 1979) opens with Sloane and Torque in France, covertly observing a test of a laser cannon in an isolated valley that in no way resembles L.A.'s Bronson Canyon. (Sure!) They're not the only ones, as Sloane observes an attractive woman (Andrea Howard) also watching. As these bystanders stand by, a team of six women attack the scientists testing the laser, beat them up, and steal the weapon.

Sloane repels down a cliff to intercept their fleeing truck, only to have his ass handed to him by the "Sweethearts," and then be tossed unceremoniously off the moving vehicle.

It's not a total embarrassment for UNIT's "only Top Priority Agent," though – somehow, in the melee, he managed to steal the ruby needed to make the laser cannon function. Anyway, UNIT decides to try and lure the thieves into the open by having Torque pose as an African king who is auctioning off one of the only two other rubies capable powering the device. KARTEL baddie Bannister (Ted Hamilton) and his all-female terrorist squad - The Sweethearts – as well as the beautiful KGB agent that Sloane saw in France, all converge in Vancouver to fight over the gem. The usual hi jinks ensue.

As a poster on the IMDb points out, this is a smaller-scale, faster-paced remake of the Death Ray 2000 pilot film, which hadn't been seen on TV yet, with the gratuitous addition of the sexy "Sweethearts" – a virtual necessity on Fred Silverman's NBC at the time. The episode is briskly directed by veteran B-movie and TV auteur Jack Starret (Cleopatra Jones, Race With The Devil), who, in keeping with the tradition of nepotism on the Sloane set, cast his daughter as one of the Sweethearts! Not the series' best episode, but far from its worst.

• Andrea Howard, who portrays KBG operative Anna, also co-starred with Don Adams the following year in the first Get Smart feature, The Nude Bomb, where she inexplicably took the place of Barbara Feldon's 99. She was pretty and likable, but a poor substitute for Feldon.

• With so much of today's TV being shot in Canada, I find it interesting and amusing that in this 1979 production, Los Angeles is standing in for Vancouver, rather than the other way around!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Guns In the Gutters: TOUGH GUYS AND WILD WOMEN #1 (The Saint)

Written & Illustrated by Various
B&W, Comics Format

Eternity Comics, 1989

Beneath a nicely-designed cover, this comic reprints four adventures of Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar, a/k/a The Saint, originally published within the pages of the popular character's eponymous comic book series back in the late Forties.

The first story, "Suite Number 13," (The Saint #7, 1949) solely credited to Walter Johnson, finds the legendary gentleman adventurer and his muscular sidekick, Hoppy, at a French Riviera resort, where he tangles with a sultry baroness, duels with a snotty count, and recovers a stolen treasure – all in 8 pages. The story is typical pulp, and the artwork is rather pedestrian, with a constantly smiling, square-jawed Templar. In fact, he rather presciently resembles actor Roger Moore, who took on the Templar role some years later on British television.

The second story, "The Blackmail Beauty," (The Saint #7, 1949) appears to be the work of the same creators, and has Templar back in London, involved with sexy blackmailer. Story number three, "The Diamond of Death," (The Saint #5, 1949) is the work of a different, better artist, one who's clearly influenced by Milton Caniff. In fact, the Oriental femme fatale of the tale is a dead ringer for Terry And The Pirates' Dragon Lady.

The issue wraps up with "The Saint Breaks A Spell, "(The Saint #5, 1949), which features yet another artist and an energetic, two-fisted Templar with a perpetual toothy grin – even in the most inappropriate situations. The Saint is pitted against an evil cult out to scare an heiress to death.

The four stories in this comic are pretty standard, unremarkable Golden Age stuff, with decent art and serviceable writing. But they don't hold a candle to The Saint newspaper strip (which Eternity also reprinted some of in their Private Eyes title), which was witty as well as exciting.

I found this in a bargain bin for 50¢, and don't regret picking it up, but I wouldn't recommend making an effort to hunt down a copy, unless you're a die-hard Saint completist and can't afford the 40's originals.

There was at least one more issue of this title, but I don't have a copy.

Two Out of Six Bullets.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mad Max: Fury Road

I have to say, the trailer for next year's Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky and directed by series creator George Miller, is the best film preview of the year. Visually awe-isnpiring, marvelously edited, and featuring an incredible soundtrack, it really has me revved up to see the long-promised (I first saw a reference to it as being in development in a film magazine back in the late 90s!) post-Apocalyptic adventure.

So, next year, there's a new Star Wars movie, a new James Bond movie, a new Terminator movie, a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, a new Avengers movie (and Ant-Man!), and a new Mad Max film. Too bad they couldn't have gotten new Planet of the Apes and Godzilla flicks made in time. Still, looks like a helluva year, movie-wise.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Statham is a WILD CARD

I was just thinking that it was time for another Jason Statham actioner, and, sure enough, here are a couple of posters for his latest: Wild Card. Directed by Simon West (The Mechanic), this is a remake of the troubled 1986 Burt Reynolds vehicle, Heat, written by William Goldman. Should be interesting.

Monday, December 08, 2014


Episode eight of A Man Called Sloane (Originally airing on November 24th, 1979) features yet another "old enemy" of T.R. Sloane's – this guy's got a lot of old enemies! Didn't he ever, you know, kill, any bad guys?

In this case, it's a man named Tanaka (the always-welcome Mako), a martial arts master, who's escaped from a Jakarta prison and founded his own religious cult in the U.S. Aside from exploiting the youth of America with his so-called religion, he also takes on odd jobs for KARTEL, like kidnapping the daughter of a South American Premier (right out from under Sloane's nose!).

KARTEL demands that the Premier resign – publicly, on live TV – so one of their puppet politicians can assume leadership of the country. UNIT's only lead is a young woman named Carrie Baldwin (Nancy Conrad), a former member of Tanaka's cult. Eventually, Sloane and Tanaka face off in a decently staged – if too brief swordfight – and, with the help of a faked newscast, the girl is saved.

This episode is more down-to-earth than previous installments, with no big sci-fi MacGuffin or mad scientists. Sloane even has to do some legwork this time. Fortunately, Mako portrays Tanaka as a worthy adversary with some honor and respect for his opponent, and he even gets to knock Robert Conrad around a bit!

• More nepotism! Nancy Conrad is – no surprise – Robert Conrad's daughter. Like Conrad's wife, Lavelda (who guest starred in episode four), Nancy appears to have pretty much only acted in projects Mr. Conrad starred in, including Baa Baa Black Sheep and Murph the Surf!

• This is episode is written by TV veteran Dick Nelson, who scripted an earlier entry, "Tuned For Destruction," as well as several episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Guns In The Gutters: DODGE'S BULLETS

Written by Jay Faerber
Illustrated by James K. Francis

B&W, Graphic Novel
Image Comics, 2004

Veteran comics and TV writer Jay Faerber clearly loves the crime genre. Sure, much of his comics work is in the superhero field, but he's managed a few notable crime comics credits, too, with The Hat Squad, Near Death, and Point Of Impact...  and his 2004 private eye graphic novel, Dodge's Bullets from Image.

Webster Dodge is a young Seattle private eye, who lives on an old houseboat and plays guitar in a struggling bar band. He doesn't have an office, instead meeting his clients at a local coffee shop with convenient Internet access. One of those clients hires Dodge to find his long lost father, a picture of whom he's spotted in a newspaper photo of a Seattle marathon. Dodge takes on the seemingly-simple job, but soon finds himself – as is to be expected in a good private eye story – embroiled in a twisted case of false identities, stolen money and kidnapping.

Faerber's script is excellent, with a twisty yet logical mystery that keeps both his protagonist and his readers perpetually off-balance. The character of Webster Dodge is an inspired creation – an utterly believable contemporary shamus with a satisfying slew of insecurities and personal issues that keep him rooted in reality. He's not a perfect TV eye, nor a film noir cliche.

The black and white art by James Francis is suitably gritty, with an appealingly organic aesthetic and clear storytelling. Some of the backgrounds are a little too sketchy for my tastes, but at least they're there. Faces are distinctive and expressive, and the overall effect is very pleasing. it's nice stuff.

Dodge's Bullets is most notable for attempting – and rather successfully – to tell a modern private eye story, set in contemporary world of cellphones, PDA's, and laptop PCs, rather than being another pastiche of 40's genre tropes. There's no trenchcoats or scarfaced gangsters here, just a good mystery in a recognizably realistic 21st Century Seattle. Sure, the modern approach is common in prose fiction, but comics creators can often cling tenaciously to the comfort and safety of pastiche, and it's nice to see Faerber and Francis break free of the tired noir trappings.

(Says the genius behind Femme Noir! Ah, irony!)

When Jay saw that I had Dodge's listed as an upcoming review on the original Guns In the Gutters blog a few years back, he offered to share some background information on the creation and history of the project. Here's what he sent along:
I've been a private eye fan for as long as I can remember. It probably started with Magnum PI, which I used to watch religiously with my dad. From there, I discovered Spenser: For Hire (and that, in turn, led me to discover the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker). It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I discovered The Rockford Files, but those three PI characters served as the main three inspirations for Dodge's Bullets, which remains a project of which I'm immensely proud.

The original plan was to do a three (or was it four?) issue mini-series, but once work got under way, Image convinced me to just make it a full-fledged "graphic novella." The original artist was Mike Norton, who has since gone on to make a name for himself at DC Comics. Mike was the first artist to actually draw Webster Dodge, and he even drew a 5-page sequence. Eventually, he had to back out due to being overcommitted. But he recommended an artist named Tom Feister, who was doing a lot of work with Tony Harris. Tom drew some pages, and brought his own sensibilities to the book before he, too, had to back out due to being overworked. Like Mike, he's gone on to bigger and better things at DC.

I then came across James Francis, a (fairly) local artist who had graduated from the Kubert School but hadn't done much in the way of comics. The book was to be set in Seattle, which is where I live, and James lived on the Washington coast, so he was much more of a local than Mike or Tom ever was. He at least got the Pacific Northwest "vibe" we were going for. At any rate, James signed on to draw the book, and we started over. That is, we weren't going to use any of the stuff Mike or Tom drew.

James did an amazing job with the book. That double-page title spread is still one of my favorite pieces of art from any of my projects. I served as a bit of a "location scout" for the book, tolling around Seattle and taking photos of various landmarks and locations for James to incorporate into the book. Sure, he lived in Washington, but Washington's a big state, and he was a good 90 minutes away from downtown Seattle, where most of the action from the book took place. So I'd email him photos and he'd use them for reference.

In addition to the artwork, my favorite thing about Dodge is the relationship between Dodge his policeman father. I'm not sure the rest of the supporting cast is as strong as it could've been, and if I ever revisit the character, I may tweak things in that regard.

James and I came really close to doing a follow-up mini-series at Moonstone Books. Image didn't really have any interest in a Dodge sequel, but Moonstone was eager to do something. James's band (yes, James is a musician, and so is Mike Norton and Tom Feister -- I'm the only one who isn't musically inclined) ended up getting more and more gigs, and he seems to have faded away from the comic book scene, and the sequel never took root.
Thanks for sharing, Jay.

Dodge's Bullets is a solid contemporary PI tale that deftly sidesteps, or finds new angles for, most of the common cliches of the genre, and is well worth picking up if you can find a copy.

Five out of Six Bullets.
Dodge's Bullets may still be available through Amazon and other online dealers.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Collision Course"

The seventh episode of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate, November 17, 1979) begins with Sloane in London, where he is to meet another UNIT agent at a planetarium. When he arrives, he discovers his contact – an old friend – murdered, with strange markings on his neck. Noticing a beautiful woman apparently fleeing from the scene, he follows, and is attacked by a couple of thugs.

Investigating the agent's death, Sloane discovers that an old adversary, Jefferson Crane (Eric Braeden, The Rat Patrol), a man that Sloane believed he had killed some years before, is behind a plot of cosmic proportions. Using two stolen nuclear missiles, he plans to divert a comet (the fictional Caesar's Comet, which the script would have us believe was first spotted at the time of Julius Caesar's assassination, and which has returned every 100 years since) and crash it into the Earth.

Soap opera veteran and popular heavy Braeden makes a satisfactory villain, and Nancy DeCarl, as the dead agent's sister, is a lovely girl of the week, but the story is pretty unspectacular. For one thing, while the script goes to great lengths to emphasize how involved and difficult it was to calculate the comet's trajectory, it also posits that the U.S. military transports nukes around on the back of easily hijack-able trucks. (Actually, stealing nukes is made to look very easy throughout the series!)

Not one of the stronger episodes, unfortunately... though the scene where a bunch of polo players on horseback attack a van containing Sloane, Torque and the girl is both kinda cool and damned weird.

• This episode was written by Stephen Kandel, a frequent contributor to various spy-fi shows, including Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, It Takes A Thief and MacGyver.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Covers: WINTERWORLD

Winterworld was a 3-issue miniseries by Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino, originally published in 1987 by Eclipse Comics. A post-Apocalyptic tale of survival, set in an unspecified future where the world is covered in ice and snow, the series featured some pretty savage action and brutal storytelling by Dixon & Zaffino.

The original miniseries - along with a previously unpublished sequel, Wintersea, by the same creative team, was recently published in trade paperback form by IDW Publishing, and Dixon has followed  that collection with a new, ongoing Winterworld comic book series. I've only read the first issue, but it was terrific, and I wouldn't hesitate to highly recommend both the trade collection and the new series to fans of hard-hitting action and adventure tales.

Here are the original Eclipse miniseries covers by Zaffino.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"This Organization Does Not Tolerate Failure..."

I don't know if this image is official or fan-made, but it made this long-time Bond fan smile... and with the rumors that Christophe Waltz is playing SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavros Blofeld in the as-yet-untitled film, I'm hopeful that we can put that QUANTUM idiocy behind us and welcome the original evil empire back to the series.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "The Venus Microbe"

Episode six of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate: October 27, 1979) centers around a lethal alien microorganism brought back to Earth by a Venus probe. (Funny how in reality, our interplanetary probes aren't actually ever intended to return to Earth, though they regularly do in fiction!) This "microbe" is so dangerous that the government both fears that it might get loose and salivates at the thought of using it as a weapon. Thus, they have a team working on an "antidote."

Dr. Franklyn (Alex Henteloff) is part of that team of government scientists, but KARTEL has snagged him in a honeytrap using a professional seductress named Charlene (Zacki Murphy), and turned him. He steals both the microbe and antidote with her help, inadvertently trapping a couple of his colleagues in a sealed chamber and exposing them to the microbe.

Sloane and Torque happen to be visiting the lab at the time, and chase after him. Unfortunately, KARTEL has him covered, and our heroes are attacked by an "ambulance" with a rocket launching "siren." We discover here, for the first time, that Sloane's vintage Cord has some defensive capabilities, as he employs a good old fashioned oil slick to thwart his would-be assassins. ("I guess we gave them the slip!") Unfortunately, the ambulance attack has allowed Franklyn and Charlene to escape with their deadly prize.

Franklyn turns the microbe and the as-yet-untested antidote over to casino proprietor and KARTEL honcho Jonathan Cambro (veteran character actor Monte Markham). Obviously, KARTEL needs to know the antidote works, so the sinister Cambro forces Franklyn to test it on himself. It doesn't work. Apparently the good doctor misplaced a page while transcribing the formula, and that page is now in the hands of neophyte private eye Melissa Nelson (Morgan Fairchild). Eventually, Melissa and Sloane combine forces, and with only 48 hours to recover the antidote (remember those trapped scientists?), go after the sinister Cambro.

Not the strongest episode, but Fairchild and Conrad play off each other quite well, and Markham is, as always, excellent in his villainous role. The science is ludicrous, of course, and the plot is all-too predictable, but it moves along briskly.

• Scriptwriter Marc Brandel also contributed scripts to Danger Man and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Covers: DANGER TRAIL

In 1993 DC Comics published a 4-issue revival of their 1950 spy comic, Danger Trail. The '93 miniseries was written by Len Wein, and illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Frank McLaughlin. The story was a fairly shameless rip-off of various James Bond movies, and featured DC superspy King Faraday in an adventure pitting him against the supervillain Kobra.

It was enjoyable stuff, but highly derivative. Fortunately, DC had the good sense to hire comicdom's premiere spy artist, Paul Gulacy, to draw the dynamic, eye-catching covers. Check them out:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


After about ten years of work, and a year-and-a-half online serialization, the hardboiled crime webcomic by Yours Truly and Rick Burchett, concludes today. That's right - Gravedigger is done.

At least for now.

"Digger" McCrae will probably be back, though. He’s a tough sonuvabitch. I’m already talking to publishers about print editions and digital download versions of both “The Predators” and “The Scavengers,” and I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing said versions sometime soon.

Rick Burchett and I do hope to complete at least one more Gravedigger comic (tentatively titled “The Marauders”) sometime in the future. First, though, we have a different comics pitch (kinda like Gravedigger, but not) that we’re putting together, and Rick will be inking Joe Staton’s pencils on a new Femme Noir graphic novel that I hope will be finished next year.

Gravedigger has been - and still is - my love letter to old Gold Medal crime pulp paperbacks, 60s and 70s caper films, and all the great Hollywood tough guys. It's been a real pleasure collaborating on it with Rick off and on over the last decade, and I'm grateful that the strip - and its protagonist - seems to have garnered a loyal cadre of fans.

Interestingly, the strip received a very in-depth and thoughtful write-up by Timothy Cramer on his excellent blog just this past week. The Gravedigger comic has gotten a fair number of positive reviews over the years, but I was quite impressed by Cramer's analysis of the storytelling of the strip. It actually makes it look like Rick and I know what we're doing!

In any case, check out the final page of "The Predators" here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Demon's Triangle"

Episode five of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate, October 20th, 1979) is probably the best of the run so far... except for one annoying little thing, which I'll gripe about later.

The episode opens at an airport in some Central American country, where UNIT's gadget girl Kelly (series regular Karen Purcill) is waiting to board a plane to the United States after enjoying a long-overdue vacation. Unexpectedly, Sloane and Torque show up, pursued by armed troops, and, pressing her into service as an impromptu courier, give her a top secret microchip, which she hides in her ring while the boys lead their pursuers away.

Unfortunately, Kelly's plane disappears in The Demon's Triangle ("Like the Devil's Triangle, only not as well known," according to The Director). There's only one inhabited island in the area – Corsair Island – so Sloane and Torque are off to the Caribbean to search for Kelly and the microchip, which – not unexpectedly – could compromise national security if it should fall into the wrong hands.

Well, the island is lorded over by Morgan Lancaster (Clive Revill) who claims to be the direct descendant of Sir Henry Morgan. He has a device that allows him to remotely control aircraft, and he's behind the disappearance of Kelly's flight. Surprisingly, he has no knowledge of the microchip nor Kelly's UNIT ties – all he wanted was the pilot, one of the few men on Earth qualified to fly America's most top secret aircraft, the XT-100 (which stock footage reveals to be an apparent code name for the then-new B1 bomber). The experimental plane is scheduled to make a test-flight over the area, and Lancaster needs a qualified pilot to bring it down with his machine.

Needless to say, Sloane and Torque not only rescue Kelly from the modern-day pirate's clutches and retrieve the microchip MacGuffin, but foil his skyjacking plans as well.

"Demon's Triangle" has a clever, pulpy script and makes good use of the characters. It's nice to see Kelly out of the lab, and she uses her wits to keep the microchip out of Lancaster's hands. Revill makes a fine Bondian villain, and delivers his comic book dialogue with relish. Sloane, Kelly & Torque escape from a prison cell through an absurd but cleverly-executed plan, and the producers even manage a fair approximation of a Caribbean island setting. Hell, the villain's lair is even hidden within "Voodoo Mountain!" That's some fun spy-fi, right there!

My only complaint? Why call it "Demon's Triangle?" Did someone at NBC Standard & Practices think that the names "Devil's Triangle" or "Bermuda Triangle" were trademarked by a rival network? Cripes!

• This episode was written by Jimmy Sangster, who also wrote the great 60's spy-fi classic, Deadlier Than The Male, and the 1980 telefilm, Once Upon A Spy.

• Clive Revill also played the villain – a different but similar character – in the pilot film T.R. Sloane (a/k/a Death Ray 2000).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Guns In The Gutters: MAD DOGS (1992)

Written By Chuck Dixon
Illustrated By Victor Toppi
3-Issues, B&W Comics Format

Eclipse Comics, 1992

Chuck Dixon has written a lot of crime comics. Most of them, though, have headlined such spandex-clad characters as Batman, The Punisher and Catwoman.

Mad Dogs, however, is a straight-up, no bullshit crime story; dark, brutal, action-packed, and with nary a cape nor cowl in sight.

Guy Brennan, an ex-cop booted from the force for rule-breaking and excessive force, is charged by the Philadelphia D.A.'s office with forming a special, quasi-official anti-crime unit. He proceeds to recruit four more loose cannons like himself and one sexy "Dirty Harriet," before setting his sights on bringing down an Asian drug dealer named Billy Lin. Without badges or warrants, his team swings into action, and before long, bullets are flying, blood is spraying, and it looks like his new team's days are numbered.

This is some hardcore stuff. When we first meet Brennan, he's sucking on the barrel of a .45, about to eat a bullet. Pretty much every member of his team is responsible for at least one dead criminal before they even join his squad, and the depiction of gang violence in the series is disturbingly realistic. Dixon's dialogue is tough and convincing, and characters are skillfully and economically established in a minimum of pages, leaving plenty of space for the elaborate action sequences.

Toppi's art is the very definition of "gritty," with intricately detailed linework bringing considerable texture and atmosphere to the urban jungle setting of Dixon's tale. The crumbling slums and dilapidated crackhouses are so lovingly rendered that you can almost smell the rot and decay.

On the down side, Toppi's storytelling can get a little muddled at times, and in a few places, poor placement of word balloons by the letterer made following the dialogue a little confusing. Overall, though, the book is nearly as satisfying visually as it is narratively.

According to Dixon:  "The genesis of this series is interesting.

"I was creating new properties for a Swedish publisher and they specifically asked for a very violent police thriller. When I handed it in they were horrified. They paid me but never published it. I offered it to Eclipse and they picked it up."

Mad Dogs is a mean, violent crime story with interesting – if not necessarily likable – characters that deserved a sequel (or two). Too bad that never happened. But in many ways, this feels like a warm-up for the tales Dixon would go on to tell in mainstream books like The Punisher, and those are worth reading, too.

Four out of Six Bullets

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Cover: FLASH GORDON

This one is cool. It's the fourth volume of Tempo Books' late 70s paperback reprints of the Flash Gordon newspaper strips, and its cover features a rare, non-painted cover illustration by Boris Vallejo. I have several of Vallejo's art books, and I always thought that his freehand line drawings were more dynamic than most of his paintings, which often have a very "posed" quality. Since, according to those aforementioned books, he frequently painted using posed photos of models, that's probably not too surprising.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Masquerade of Terror"

The fourth episode of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate: October 13th, 1979) is a pretty good one. "Masquerade of Terror" begins when Jeremy Mason (veteran heavy Richard Lynch), a master of disguise and old enemy of T.R. Sloane's, escapes from prison. KARTEL hires him to impersonate a U.S. general in order to steal a top secret laser satellite system known as Seeker.

UNIT's only lead to Mason is a nightclub dancer he's obsessed with named Linda Daniels (LaVelda Fann). Sloane and Torque keep her under watch, waiting for Mason to make contact, but they don't have to wait long before Mason, in disguise, kidnaps her right from under their noses.

The episode has two intertwining plots: Mason wants revenge on Sloane for putting him away, and KARTEL wants to use Seeker to assassinate a visiting African dignitary. Actually, the realization of the Seeker satellite weapon is pretty cool. Unlike the laser satellites seen in Diamonds Are Forever or Real Genius, the Seeker homes in on its targets with small targeting discs. These discs have to be physically placed on or within the designated targets, but it makes it impossible for the orbiting weapon to miss.

Richard Lynch is awesomely evil as usual, and makes a very formidable foil for Sloane. His ability to whip up Mission: Impossible-styled disguises using only standard make-up is unbelievable, but it's a classic spy-fi trope. LaVelda (as she is billed in this episode) is a lovely woman and has genuine chemistry with Conrad. She dances great, too!

This one's a lot of fun, and probably the best in the series so far.

• Lavelda is Robert Conrad's wife, and according to her IMDb page, she has pretty much only acted in her husband's productions, including guest roles on The Duke, High Sierra Search & Rescue and the TV movie Sworn to Vengeance.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

What I'm Reading

Currently, I'm working my way through several trade paperback collections of comics in several different genres: pulp crime, space opera and superhero action. I love 'em all.

First off, I recently ordered the trade collection of the Dick Tracy movie tie-in comics from Walt Disney, originally published back in 1990. "The Complete Truehearts and Tommy Guns Trilogy" collects the two movie prequels written by John Moore and the film adaptation, scripted by Len Wein. All three are illustrated by the amazing Kyle Baker, whose stylized cartooning both perfectly evokes and puts a fresh spin on the world of Chester Gould's classic comic strip.

The art is beautiful and lively, marred only by Disney's insistence that Detective Tracy look like movie star Warren Beatty. The story goes that the mercurial actor only approved a handful of drawings of his face, which were then used repeatedly in the comics, pasted in whenever the character showed his mug.

Also at hand is the Deadshot: Beginnings trade paperback from DC Comics, which collects the 80s miniseries penned by John Ostrander & Kim Yale, illustrated by Luke McDonnell. This Suicide Squad spin-off is sort of superhero noir, focusing on the high-tech hitman's grim backstory. Bleak stuff, but exceptionally well-done.

The book also includes a couple of the character's earlier comic book appearances battling Batman, including the classic Detective Comics #474 by Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers.

Finally, there's Flash Gordon: The Complete Dailies November 1951- April 1953. Published back in '88. this volume showcases the first couple years' worth of Gordon strips by Dan Barry, written by Harvey Kurtzman. Barry wasn't enamored of the more fantasy, sword & planet approach of creator Alex Raymond, and with the syndicate's blessing, took the character in a more sci-fi, rocketships and rayguns direction. The artwork is astounding, and the stories are pure, space age pulp adventure... although the fantasy stuff does creep back in eventually.

These should keep me busy for at least a little while....

Friday, November 07, 2014

Guns In the Gutters: FALLS THE GOTHAM RAIN (1992)

Written by Devin O'Leary
Illustrated by Jason Waskey

2 Color, Graphic Novel

Comico, 1992

This slender, 48-page graphic novel from '92 is a bit of an oddity. It's a 40's-styled film noir pastiche with subtle sci-fi overtones that possesses some minor similarities to Alex Proyas' 1998 motion picture, Dark City.

Trench coat-clad P.I. Vin Dressler searches for a missing girl in an unnamed city/police state divided into a red sector and a blue sector, where it "rains every day." Like the aforementioned Dark City, the town has numerous billboards scattered around, advertising luxurious, tropical vacations, but no one seems to have ever left the city, nor does there appear to be any world beyond its borders.

The plot is thin and straightforward, the script by O'Leary rife with captions and dialogue loaded with the stereotyped similes and metaphors generally associated with private eye voice-overs. So loaded, in fact, that it's almost a parody of the Raymond Chandler style, though I somehow doubt that was the intent. The writer tries for a Kafka-esque tone of surreality, but is only partially successful. It's not terrible, just kind of half-baked.

The art by Waskey, apparently rendered in black & white pastels with occasional spots of red, is nicely done, atmospheric and moody, although there's a heavy reliance on photo reference. In fact, various noir icons make appearances in the book – copied directly from classic film stills – including Peter Lorre, Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock. Some panels (the heavily referenced ones) are nicer than others, but the overall effect is quite pleasing, and is the book's main selling point.

For fans of classic film noir, Falls The Gotham Rain is a decent homage, but offers very little in the way of anything new. Its sci-fi elements are so slight as to be easily missed, and have little effect on the story itself, effectively amounting to nothing. Still, the art is nice, it's a quick read, and its heart seems to be in the right place.

If you stumble across a copy in a back issue bin somewhere, its worth picking up.

Three out of Six Bullets.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Wednesday Covers: AIRBOY ARCHIVES

One of my favorite comics of the 1980s - in fact, one of my favorite adventure comics ever - is Eclipse comics' revival of Forties WWII hero, Airboy. Under the guiding hands of editor/artist Timothy Truman and writer Chuck Dixon (who wrote all 50 issues of the series), the book built brilliantly on the legacy of the Charles Biro character, updating the concept for the Regan era.

IDW is currently re-issuing the series in handsome archive editions, and Truman - always one of my favorite comic book artists - has created striking new covers for the collections.

Monday, November 03, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Tuned For Destruction"

In re-watching this series, I'm struck by just how bad Thomas Remington Sloane is at maintaining a cover. In each of the first three episodes, his undercover identities are completely blown within minutes of meeting his opponents — or sometimes even their underlings! Well, I guess it's difficult suppress your natural persona and pose as someone else when you're as cool as T.R. Sloane!

Anyway, in the third episode (original airdate: October 6, 1979), "Tuned For Destruction," UNIT agents Sloane and Torque are pitted against a rogue ex-general named "Wild Bill" McAvoy (the always reliable Geoffrey Lewis), and his personal aide-de-camp, Corporal Comfort (pretty soap opera vet Denise Duberry), who are using a newly-invented sonic, amped-up tuning fork "Metal Debilitator" (which can create instant metal fatigue in metal objects like safes, gates, etc.) to penetrate the defenses of a government facility in order to steal a nuclear bomb.

Of course, Sloane attempts to infiltrate McAvoy's private army by posing as a merc, only to be exposed immediately, and moments later, Torque – who had snuck into the villain's compound to back-up Sloane – is also captured... and his cybernetic hand disintegrated by the Metal Debilitator!

The boys ultimately escape and foil the plot, and there's a great helicopter-to-moving-halftrack transfer stunt by Conrad's stunt double to liven up the final act. There's also a pretty decent martial arts fight in the opening scene between Conrad (who appears to be doing most of the fighting himself) and an Asian mercenary.

Interestingly, McAvoy is revealed to be working for the organization KARTEL – a mysterious group of war profiteers and arms merchants first mentioned in the (at the time still unaired) TV movie pilot, T.R. Sloane (a/k/a Death Ray 2000).

• This is one of two Sloane episodes penned by Dick Nelson, whose other spy-fi writing credits include episodes of It Takes A Thief and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Candy, monsters, candy, ghosts, candy, bats (of all kinds) and no uncomfortable family dinners. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary - this year marks fourteen years of marriage to my own Batgirl, Brandi. I'm a very lucky guy. With her in my life, it's tricks and treats all year 'round!

Here's wishing you and yours a truly spooktacular celebration!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Cover: VAMPIRELLA #2

And... here's the second Adam Hughes cover for Harris Comics' 1992 revival of the Warren classic, Vampirella. Nobody drew sexier women in the 90s than Hughes.

You know, I think I bought a tee-shirt with this image on it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "The Seduction Squad"

In the second episode (airing September 29, 1979) of NBC's A Man Called Sloane (although, from the amount of footage in this episode that is incorporated into the series titles, it was probably shot first), "The Seduction Squad," Sloane and Torque are investigating acts of industrial sabotage that threaten the country's defense contractors. Eventually, it turns out that important industrial and military figures have been seduced and hypnotically brainwashed by the supermodel operatives of a slightly fey fashion and cosmetics king played by I Spy's Robert Culp. His goal? War in the Middle East... though I'm still not exactly sure what he expected to get out of it.

Not a lot to discuss here. Sloane and Torque go through the usual motions, and aside from an action-packed opening scene featuring Sybil Danning, explosions and a great zipwire stunt, it's not a particularly involving episode. The women of the titular Squad are all pretty hot, though, big hair and all, and Culp's clearly having a hell of a good time, camping it up as the heavy. He and Conrad - or, more precisely, their stunt doubles - do get a little hand-to-hand combat in near the climax, though.

Anthony Eisley, star of one of my favorite Eurospy flicks, Lightning Bolt, and Robert Conrad's co-star on Hawaiian Eye, shows up here as a Defense Department bigwig who is brainwashed into nearly starting WWIII.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guns In The Gutters: YOU HAVE KILLED ME (2009)

Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by Joelle Jones

B&W, Hardcover Graphic Novel

Oni Press, 2009

Modern authors who attempt period private eye stories often end up turning out pale pastiche or unintentional parody. Or their stories are so heavily infused with the author's historical research that they read dry and artificial. What is often forgotten is that the private eye mystery - regardless of period - revolves around character more than plot. This is different from most other sub-genres of mystery fiction, where plot is all; a puzzle to be solved. In a P.I. story, it's all about people; their secrets, their motives, their passions.

Jamie Rich and Joelle Jones' You Have Killed Me is a private eye tale that remembers that, and is filled with deftly-drawn (in all senses of the word), richly-developed characters.

Private investigator Antonio Mercer is hired to find an old flame, a high society gal from his past, who has gone missing on the eve of her wedding to a down-on-his-luck gambler. It's no surprise that Mercer's investigation leads through smoky jazz clubs and dark back alleys, to various and sundry unsavory individuals, nor that it ultimately becomes very personal for our protagonist.

Rich's script is sharp, with terse dialogue and narrative captions that don't fall into the trap of trying to emulate Chandler's distinctive - and easily parodied - flair for simile. Instead, the first-person captions are employed sparsely and used to provide a bit of insight into Mercer's private worldview. The story treads very familiar ground, but that's okay - while familiar, it is feels fresh and is skillfully constructed.

Jones' art is clean and well-composed. Backgrounds are occasionally sketchy, but the characters are all distinctive and expressive, and her storytelling is clear and cinematic. Overall, it's beautiful stuff.

Oni Press has done a really nice job on the production of the book, with striking, attractive graphic design and high-quality paper and binding. It's a truly gorgeous book.

You Have Killed Me is an excellent period P.I. tale, extremely well told. Highly recommended.

Six Out of Six Bullets.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Cover: VAMPIRELLA #1

Back in 1992, Harris Comics revived the classic "Good Ghoul" character Vampirella, with a new, full-color series that was a far cry in style and tone from the legendary B&W Warren magazine originals. And of course, since it was 1992, who better to render the covers than the hottest "hot chick" artist of the time, Adam Hughes?

I admit it. I bought it because of the cover, too.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A MAN CALLED SLOANE: "Night Of The Wizard"

In the debut episode of A Man Called Sloane (airing September 22, 1979), top level UNIT agent Thomas Remington Sloane (Robert Conrad) and his partner Torque (Ji-Tu Cumbuka), a giant of a man with a huge, mechanical hand, are investigating the thefts of "K3" plutonium pellets from the U.S. government.

As it turns out, the thefts have been arranged by Manfred Baranoff (the always great Roddy McDowall), a mad scientist building a private army of super-strong androids. Posing as a mercenary thief with irradiated K3 pellets to sell, Sloane attempts to infiltrate Baranoff's organization, only to have his cover immediately blown. Needless to say, agent Sloane is captured, and locked in a rather nice bedroom sealed with deadly electrical force fields. With the help of pretty Sara Nightingale (Diane Stilwell), an artist employed by Baranoff to sculpt his android's faces, Sloane escapes from his prison.

In a nice twist, Sloane discovers Baranoff's body lying on the floor of a now-empty laboratory – the scientist has been murdered by one of his own creations, a "perfect" android named Alexander (Chris Marlowe). Alexander takes command of the other 'droids, and plans an assault on a scientific laboratory, where he plans to secure enough radioactive material to power himself and his army forever.

It's a fun little bit of Seventies spy-fi fluff, with a nicely layered performance – as usual – from McDowall. There are a couple of decent fight scenes, with Conrad actually involved in the action. Unlike on The Wild Wild West, where the athletic star insisted on doing all his own stunts, on Sloane, the mercurial Conrad wasn't always as enthusiastic, and frequently let his doubles do the sweating.

The only spy gadget in this episode worth mentioning is a two-way radio hidden within a rather ostentatious money clip. And, as will frequently happen over the dozen episodes, Sloane's towering, cyborg sidekick Torque has little-to-nothing to do in this installment.

Probably because I grew up as a science fiction fan in the Seventies (i.e. "The Roger Moore 007 Years"), I find that I am very fond of the more sci-fi spy-fi; androids and death rays are so much more exotic (and fun) McGuffins than dreary old "secret documents" or mundane nuclear warheads. I love the more down-to-earth, realistic spy stories, too, but I'm not a snob.

The title of this Sloane episode is reminiscent of the episode titles on The Wild Wild West, which all began with the words "The Night of...," and specifically, the title of the first Dr. Loveless episode, "The Night The Little Wizard Shook the World." Coincidence?

Friday, October 17, 2014


A few years back, I started a separate blog for my interest in over-the-top spy films and television shows, the not-so-cleverly-titled Spy-Fi Channel. I posted a lot of stuff there in 2009, but over the next few years, as my interests turned more toward my 70s sci-fi nostalgia and the Space: 1970 blog, the spy site sort of slowly died. In fact, it was one of a couple of blogs that I gradually stopped updating - like my Guns In The Gutters site, devoted to my reviews of crime comics.

Anyway, I've been thinking I needed to a.) update this site more often and b.) clean up my online presence, so I'll be taking both of those zombie blogs offline. However, because I did put a lot of work into the material on those sites, I'll be taking some of that content and re-posting it here. This means that this site (which also has, much to my dismay, been too-infrequently updated of late) will be somewhat more lively in the coming months as I mix in a bunch of my spy-fi-related material (and crime comics reviews!) with any new personal and pop culture topics that may catch my fancy.

Which brings me to A Man Called Sloane.

A Man Called Sloane was a half-season adventure series that aired on NBC in 1979. It starred Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West, Baa Baa Black Sheep) as Thomas Remington Sloane III, the (only) Top Priority agent for a secret organization called UNIT. Though the format harkened back to the 60s and shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was still very much a product of its time, with ludicrous plots, lots of cheesecake, and Conrad's patented macho swagger. Needless to say, I loved it as a kid.  Back in '09, I got my hands on a set of bootleg DVDs and reviewed all twelve episodes of the show. That represented a lot of time and work, so rather than let those posts disappear into the digital aether, I'll be re-running those reviews here over the next few months.

Of course, I'll be editing them a bit and adding a few new thoughts and observations (as I've watched most of the episodes more than once now). I even plan on writing at least one new article for the series, as I never reviewed the original T.R.Sloane TV pilot film (a/k/a Death Ray 2000), which starred Robert Logan as superspy Sloane.

As I mentioned above, it won't only be reruns here; I'll be getting back to posting those "Wednesday Covers," and will almost certainly have a Halloween post or two. I'll also continue to keep you updated on my various comics projects and will continue posting about cheesy B action movies, comic strips, etc.

Look for the first Sloane review on Monday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It Came From Outer Space

Here's another sneak peek at the "secret" space opera graphic novel I'm working on with artist Peter Grau (which is still probably a year or two from completion).

This little fella (we haven't settled on the color yet, thus the multiple hues - though I'm leaning toward the green) is an interstellar critter known as a "globlin." They cling to spaceships and get stuck in the jets. This particular specimen's name is "Kooba.," because of his affinity for a certain 22nd Century soft drink brand.

More - much more - to come.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BangPop! This Weekend! See You There!

This weekend, I'll be at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine for BangPop Comic Con, hanging out with such talented comics pros as Fred Van Lente, Alex De Campi, Alex Irvine, Charles Paul Wilson III! The cool media guests include Mystery Science Theater 3000's Dr. Forester (Trace Beaulieu) and TV's Frank (Frank Conniff), Battlestar Galactica's Nicki Clyne, and Andrew MacLean and Joseph Schmalke of The Walking Dead. Come on down and say hello!

Friday, August 22, 2014


After about a year and a half of regular weekly Friday updates, the first (and hopefully, not last) Perils On Planet X graphic novel, "Hawke of Terra," is nearly completed (just two pages/weeks to go). This project has been in the works so long (almost 15 years!) that I can hardly believe it's almost finished.

I'm pretty proud of the story, which is my take on classic interplanetary swashbucklers like John Carter of Mars and Flash Gordon, and am especially pleased with the visual storytelling of my artistic collaborator and partner, the amazing Gene Gonzales. The importance of our colorist, Ian Sokoliwski's,  Technicolor hues cannot be underestimated, either. I've been very fortunate to have such talented collaborators.

If you haven't kept up with Perils On Planet X - or worse, haven't read it at all! - you can still read it from the beginning, for free on the site. That link will take you right to the first page. Our future plans are still up in the air, so this might be a good time to take a few minutes and catch up... and maybe post your thoughts on the book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Upcoming Appearance(s)

For the one or two of you who might find such information interesting, I will be attending the BangPop show in Bangor, Maine September 20 and 21st. 

BangPop is always a fun show, and this year looks like it'll be the biggest and best one yet, with more comics and media guests (including MST3K favorites Trace Beaulieu and Frank Coniff, and Battlestar Galactica cutie Nicki Clyne).

I may also be exhibiting at the Portland Comic Expo in Portland, Maine on October 26th... but that's not definite yet. Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I was watching Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) on DVD the other night, and thought this bit with Dr. Watson enjoying the American funny pages was genuinely amusing. For the record, I couldn't agree with the good doctor more!

It occurred to me that Universal might have been cleverly plugging their own Flash Gordon serials, but Sherlock Holmes in Washington came out three years after their last Gordon serial, Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, so it seems a bit late.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mickey Spillane IS Mike Hammer... in HD!

On October 14th, Scorpion Releasing presents the 1963 film, The Girl Hunters, starring author Mickey Spillane as his own hardboiled P.I. hero, Mike Hammer, on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray version will be a limited edition and will be sold only on the Kino-Lorber website. It will feature a brand new 16x9, 2:35 HD master, as well as an audio commentary with Max Allan Collins, and vintage on-camera interviews with Mickey Spillane and Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger). MSRP for the Blu-ray is a hefty 29.95, while the DVD edition will retail for 19.95.

I am deeply annoyed that this will be an expensive Limited Edition online exclusive, but I'll have to get it anyway. I'm a big fan of the movie, and it'll be nice to finally have a quality video edition

Interesting note: back around '95, when I was working at TeknoComix as editor of the comic book series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, I gave Mickey my personal VHS bootleg of this movie because he didn't have a copy and said he hadn't seen it in a decade or two!

Now, if only somebody could release the 1982 version of I, The Jury on Blu-ray...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Cover(s): Chaykin's BUCK ROGERS

So, Hermes Press has just collected their Buck Rogers miniseries by Howard Chaykin. I didn't read the individual comics, but I pre-ordered it in trade, and expect it to arrive in a week or so. I don't always like Chaykin's comics, but when I do, I tend to like them a lot. In the 80s, I adored American Flagg, and the writer/artist is responsible for creating one of my all-time favorite comics characters - Atlas Comics' The Scorpion. I also dug his 80s Shadow miniseries (and will probably pick up his recent return to the character eventually), among many other titles.

I've read online that this version of Buck Rogers hews more closely to the original Philip Francis Nowlan pulp novellas, Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords Of Han.... and I think that's a great approach. Hey, I love the 70s TV series as much as anyone (and more than most), but it's about time to get back to the character's roots.

Here are Chaykin's covers for the four issue miniseries.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Expendabelles: MERCENARIES Trailer

Here's the trailer for Mercenaries, The Asylum's distaff take on the uber-manly Expendables franchise. The trailer looks pretty good - promising, even - but as it's an Asylum picture, I'm not letting my expectations get too high. The studio hasn't had a great track record for quality in any genre, really, and has fared especially poorly with action fare (stunts are expensive).

Cool to see Brigette Nielsen as the Big Bad, though it is disappointing to see that Cynthia Rothrock appears to have a non-fighting role. I'm hoping that Zoe Bell and Kristina Loken can raise the bar here. It can't hurt that Zoe can do her own stunts.

We'll see....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

James Garner, R.I.P.

Damn. I was just about to shut down the computer and head to bed when I read that James Garner has passed away at age 86. It's a shock: hell, it was only a month ago that I was reading his autobiography. 

Garner has been one of my favorite actors for as long as I can remember. His iconic portrayals of Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford are indelibly imprinted in our pop culture memory, and even if those were his only accomplishments as an actor, he'd be a legend. But he was more than that. A fine, thoughtful actor, a veteran, a charming curmudgeon. 

I miss him already.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Femme Noir Vs Grendel

My Femme Noir collaborator, Joe Staton, will be appearing at the Baltimore Comic-Con, September 5 -7. At the show, they’ll be distributing a charity Yearbook with art by the guests. Those artists with creator-owned characters were asked to draw them interacting with Matt Wagner’s character Grendel. This is Joe’s contribution, with colors by Matt Webb, pitting The Blonde against the Hunter Rose incarnation of Grendel, among the rooftops of Port Nocturne.

I’d love to see this crossover become a reality… but only if Wagner writes it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Cover: The City Outside The World

The City Outside The World is one of Lin Carter's Mars Novels, a four book cycle of  homages (or pastiches, if you prefer) of Leigh Brackett's own stories set on the Red Planet. It's also the only one in the series I don't yet own. Still, I'm featuring it here because I find this cover painting (by an artist I haven't identified as yet) quite handsome and evocative of the Interplanetary Romance genre.