Recently in Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Category

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Back in September I reviewed the first volume of IDW's Batman:  The Silver Age Newspaper Comics, which covered the strip's first two years (1966-67).  Now IDW has put out Volume Two, which covers the Batman newspaper comic strip from January 1, 1968 to May 31, 1969. Click here to reserve our copy.

Picking up the "Shivering Blue Max" storyline from the last volume, writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Joe Giella tie up loose ends with a massive (for a newspaper strip) body count.  Giella is then replaced by former Superman artist Al Plastino, who takes over the penciling and inking of the strip, with some help from then current Superman artist Curt Swan (check out panel 2 of the July 30th 1968 strip; I'd swear that head shot was drawn by Swan).  And sure enough, who should guest star alongside Batman and Robin in Plastino's first storyline ("Diabolical Professor Zinkk", which ran March 18-August 6, 1968) but Superman himself, who gets the Caped Crusaders to help him find out who's been stealing his powers.

Another DC Comics superhero, Aquaman, makes appearances in two storylines, a brief one in the aforementioned "Zinkk" continuity, and "Breathing Underwater" (August 7-December 15, 1968), where Batman, without Robin (who seems to be getting phased out of the strip at this time), must aid a scientist's daughter against an underwater smuggling ring. That's followed by "I Want Bruce Wayne's Identity!" (December 15, 1968-May 30, 1969), a suspenseful entry where Batman, as Bruce Wayne, gets amnesia, and winds up being replaced by a sinister lookalike and his gang, with only a suspicious Batgirl to help him. 

Ellsworth's scripts, while sometimes emulating the style of the 60's Batman TV series (which went off the air in March, 1968), are pretty good.  The Superman/Professor Zinkk storyline is the best, with genuine tension and some welcome humor.  Ellsworth's not afraid to dispatch various characters if he has to; lots of villains end up usually dead by the climax of each story. Plastino's style hues closer to the work of then current Batman comic book artists Irv Novick and Bob Brown (both of whom were inked by Joe Giella), but is otherwise solid and compelling.

Volume Two ends with the start of a new storyline involving a mysterious woman with designs on Bruce Wayne.  How will that end up?  Guess we'll have to wait for Volume Three to find out! 

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Spectre, the next James Bond 007 film starring Daniel Craig, is due to open in theatres this November.  Yesterday, the producers released the first official trailer for the film:



Boy, I can't wait to see this!  They even have a new modified version of the old SPECTRE pinky ring that was seen in the Sean Connery Bond films in the sixties!  And just who is that  guy in the shadows at the end? 

Check out our online catalog for all the James Bond-related material we carry here.

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TALESPOSTER.pngIn connection with the current "Ka-Pow!  When Comics Imperiled America" show in the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Library's Friends Friday Films will present Tales From The Crypt on Friday March 27th beginning at 8:00 pm.  The 1972 British film adapts five short stories from the infamous EC Comics horror line that were published between 1950-55.  (Although, oddly enough, only two of the stories in the film are from  the actual Tales comic; the other three were adapted from EC's companion books The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror.)*

Five people  get separated from a tour group in a series of catacombs and find themselves trapped  in a strange stone crypt.  A mysterious hooded crypt keeper (Ralph Richardson) appears and proceeds to tell each one of them their possible future.  Or is it their future...?

"...And All Through The House"  (from Vault of Horror #35) stars Joan Collins as a woman who murders her rich husband on Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile, a homicidal killer dressed as Santa Claus is prowling the neighborhood.  "Reflection of Death" (Tales From The Crypt #23) depicts a businessman (Ian Hendry) abandoning his family to run off with his secretary, but unforeseen events intervene. "Poetic Justice" (Haunt of Fear #12) has a rich snob (Robin Phillips) harassing an elderly garbage collector (horror legend Peter Cushing!) to force him out of the neighborhood, with deadly results.

"Wish You Were Here" (Haunt of Fear  #22), an acknowledged retelling/revision of W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw", focuses on a newly bankrupt arms dealer (Richard Greene) whose life takes a turn for the worse after his wife (Barbara Murray) foolishly makes three wishes to regain their lost fortune. And "Blind Alleys" (Tales  From The Crypt #45), the best of the five stories, has mistreated blind rest home residents get revenge on the institution's uncaring director (Nigel Patrick).

Tales From The Crypt was produced by Milton Subotsky (who also adapted the original stories for the film) and Max J. Rosenberg, and directed by Freddie Francis.  All three had worked together before on such horror films as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and The Skull (both 1965), and  Torture Garden (1967).  With a solid cast, script, and direction, along with some welcome black humor, Tales From The Crypt is a lot of good scary fun.  (Yes, there is some gore; a character's final fate in Wish You Were Here" is especially graphic.)  Rated PG-13, Tales runs 92 minutes. Check it out.  If you dare!

*(Ballantine Books released paperback reprint anthologies of Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror in 1964-65. The stories in this film were taken from these two editions.)

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Fans of the classic EC Comics line may want to check out the Flinn Gallery's new exhibition "Ka-Pow! When Comics Imperiled America" that opens tonight at 6:00 pm and will continue until April 29th. It'll spotlight Robert Reiner's  original art collection of these highly sought comics. Greenwich Time ran a very good story on the show here.  And yours truly contributed an article on the library's collection of hardcover reprints of some of the EC books here

For more info on the exhibition, click here.

And on March 27th, Friends Friday Films at the library will be showing the 1972 EC Comics movie adaptation  Tales From The Crypt.  Details here. Below is the trailer for that film:

I'll be discussing that film in an upcoming post.   Look for it!

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This Thursday night we'll be showing as part of our celebration of Teen Tech Week the 2014 film X-Men: Days Of Future Past in the second floor meeting room.  It's a thrilling science fictional/action adventure/superhero movie and I discuss it more in this blog post.  Meanwhile, here's a trailer for the film:

Check it out if you stop by the library this Thursday night.  The movie is a LOT of fun!

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The 2013 Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Time of the Doctor" , is the last episode (so far) to star Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.  It's also quite thought provoking, despite it's ambitious storyline being crammed into a mere 60 minutes. 

 
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Read all about it here.

Repo Man will be shown at Greenwich Library on Thursday,  January 15 at 7:00 pm in the second floor meeting room.  Rated R. More details here.

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REPOMAN.pngGreenwich Library Cult Films returns Thursday, January 15th at 7:00 PM in the second floor meeting room.  (Yes, you can bring cushions.)  We'll be showing 1984's Repo Man.  Here's a quick description:

Aimless young punk Otto (Emilio Estervez) gets hired by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) to repossess cars that owners failed to make payments on. Then one day, Otto, other repo men, and government agents all race to find a certain Chevy Malibu which may or may not have dead aliens from outer space in the trunk...



This is a wild, almost surreal comedy-thriller  by writer-director Alex Cox that never lags in its pacing. The musical soundtrack evokes the 80s with songs by Iggy Pop, Black Flag, and Fear, among others.  All 92 minutes of it is in color and rated R for violence and language.

We'll also be having a guest speaker, my colleague Everett Perdue, who'll go in more detail about the movie and its significance (artistic and otherwise) then and now, and will answer any questions you might have.

For more info, head to our Cult Films page here.  Our next film following Repo Man will be the 1963 James Bond thriller, From Russia With Love on Thursday, February 19th at 6:30 PM in the meeting room.  See you there!

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(Above is one of the books I enjoyed reading this year.)

The Greenwich Time just published a list of books recommended by my colleagues and myself.  Click here to read it.

Since I had sent a lengthy list (no, I'm not bragging), some of my other picks were dropped for space considerations.  Anyway, here's what else I had recommended (some may be familiar to readers of this blog):

Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, is a fun collection of short stories from several genres by such authors as Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis.  Fans of Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series (adapted for HBO as Game of Thrones) will want to check out the author's contribution, "The Rogue Prince, or A King's Brother", which is a prequel to the aforementioned series.

Jeff VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance) which revolves around the mysterious "Area X" and the government's attempts to penetrate it, is one of the most exciting and frightening works of horror fiction you'll ever read.  You'll leave the light on when going to bed after finishing this collection.

Just in time to celebrate the character's 75th anniversary comes IDW's Batman: The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays 1966-1967, which collects the first two years of the caped crusader's newspaper comic strip, written by Whitney Ellsworth and illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.  Uneven in spots -the strip tried to combine the comic book version of Batman with the then-popular "camp" TV series- this is still a blast to read!

King of the Weeds by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins.  Private eye Mike Hammer tries to prove the guilt of a killer, whose release from prison on a technicality may destroy the career of Hammer's pal NYPD Captain Pat Chambers.  But first Mike has to fight off the mob, who think he's hiding millions of their own money.  Solid thriller with a powerful ending!

Other books I enjoyed included The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, featuring Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Lock In by John Scazi, and  The Most Dangerous Book:  The Battle For James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham.  But the most powerful one I read was probably Ron Suskind's Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, a moving and life affirming account of his ultimately successful efforts to communicate with his autistic son Owen. 

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Nothing says "Season's Greetings" more (at least to me) than a newly published, authoritative collection of horror/fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft's (1890-1937)  classic tales that he wrote in the 20s and 30s for various pulp magazines.  The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Leslie S. Klinger, was released a few months back just in time for Halloween, but horror fans will still want this for Christmas. (Click here to reserve our copy.)

The collection focuses more or less on the stories and one novel that were set in and around the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts and his Cthulhu Mythos. Klinger has included such thrillers as "Dagon", "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Colour Out of Space", "The Silver Key", "The Dunwich Horror", "Herbert West Reanimator", and the fatalistic, science fictional novel At The Mountains of Madness.  All of these stories have annotations in the margins spotlighting Klinger's well-researched historical back stories on the locations (real and made up) of the tales, letters, photos (including actual site in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, magazine covers and movie posters), and citations of deleted passages in the stories when first published. 

There's also an introduction by Alan Moore ( Watchmen), an essay by Klinger  about Lovecraft's life which doesn't sugarcoat over the author's racist misanthropy (to put it mildly), and a fantastic series of equally informative appendixes detailing the chronology of Lovecraft's works, screen and audio adaptations, etc.  For serious fans of the horror genre alone, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft is required reading!

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