Saturday, May 28, 2016
Deal alert: The massive Star Wars Artifact Edition is now at the close-out price of $99 over at Bud's Art Books. This deluxe edition compiles original artwork from the early Marvel comics. I have a great memory of finding issue #1 when I was a kid. One day I decided to ride my bike further away from home than ever before. There were roads out beyond the perimeter of my mental maps, and I felt them calling to me. It was like my own hero's journey, pushing out beyond my comfort zone to test my mettle and stretch. I set out on my blue Schwinn 3-speed bike. The outer limits thus far had been the country store, where my aunt and I often stopped for Tiger Milk bars on the way back from Westport. But still I pushed on- beyond the Three Bears restaurant and out along a country highway. After what seemed like hours, I came to a roadside shop that sold snacks and magazines. I was always pawing through the spinner racks at grocery stores and pharmacies to find new comics, and I explored their stock as I caught my breath from the ride. Star Wars was a new discovery for me, but I was already stricken with space-mania enough to lock eyes on to the familiar logo on the cover. Marvel actually published #1 in April of 1977- a month before the film made its debut. I didn't see the movie until late summer, so my new treasure was most likely a reprint. I remember my child brain being blown away by the idea that my new favorite movie could also appear as a comic book. I hadn't yet cottoned on to the notion of marketing and tie-in merchandise. I snatched the comic up and tried to ride it home as carefully as I could. I sold off my comic collection years later to fund one of my trips to Japan, but I did pick up some of the Marvel run again in the feverish anticipation of last year's movie and Marvel's re-launch. With these new Artifact editions being produced by IDW, old and new fans can get a behind-the-scenes look at the inked pages printed at their original sizes. About the book: "By Roy Thomas. Art by Howard Chaykin & Carmine Infantino. The first Star Wars Artifact Edition! Featuring scans of original artwork, mainly from the initial 10 issues of Marvel Comics' groundbreaking Star Wars comics, circa 1977, and from other early issues. There is a wealth of extras, including a cover gallery showcasing some of the very earliest work." Originally priced at $125 and up, grab these while you can.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Yesterday marked the anniversary of Star Wars, which made its debut on May 25th, 1977. The third film in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, also screened on May 25th, six years later in 1983. It's amazing to think there was a time without The Force, Luke, Darth Vader, C3PO, R2-D2, Han, and Leia. I remember first hearing about Star Wars (it wasn't popularly referred to as "A New Hope" yet) from my cousins during a family trip to California during the summer of 1977. They were all fired up about light sabers and The Force. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew I had to find out- and fast! I wish I could remember my first viewing, but it's all a blur. What I do recall is a period of seeing the film over and over and being mesmerized by this awesome universe created by George Lucas. I was a kid who waited in long lines, collected the bubblegum cards, and spent many hours listening to the movie pressed into vinyl on The Story of Star Wars LP record. And seeing each film became a great tradition to share with my mom, who I tended to see mostly on special occasions. If the movie lines seemed long, it was nothing compared to the long periods we waited for the second and third films to come out. I recently taught a Star Wars history course for High School students. I showed them the original theatrical versions- as they appeared in my childhood and before digital alterations to the characters and stories- and I tried my best to take them back to a time when the saga was slowly unfolding and we had no context to the larger Star Wars universe or to spoilers about Darth Vader, etc. I wanted them to experience the story through the eyes of a kid in the late 70s and 80s and urged them to "unlearn what they had learned" from years of prequels and pop culture analysis. They seemed to really dig it, and we all awaited the release of the new film, the sequel to Return of the Jedi, with great anticipation- much like I had felt as a kid! We also watched the documentary about the history of Star Wars toys, Plastic Galaxy, and this really blew their minds. Somehow re-approaching the original movie through the eyes of the original toy designers gave them another way in, like my own personal accounts, of how the films looked to fresh viewers back in the day. Those designers literally photographed the movie screen during their preview and went back to make toys not knowing who the popular characters would be, which vehicles would become classics, or even what some of the aliens looked like from the waist down. I looked around the Internet this morning for some examples of various theater openings and those long lines of new Star Wars fans. Here are a few to celebrate the anniversary. Enjoy and MTFBWY!
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Auction alert: Fans might be interested in this cool 1982 poster of the cover graphics from Atari Age #1. A former student and dear friend is curating the estate of Atari Age founding editor "Captain Steve" Morgenstern and this piece comes from his archives. Info over at eBay here. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 21, 2016
If you enjoy shows about masked heroes battling villains dressed in rubber monster suits, check out this big weekend streaming event at Shout Factory. They are running a free marathon of Super Sentai Dairanger, the series that inspired the Power Rangers, hosted by Tokusatsu expert August Ragone. Watch on-line here. Looking for the DVDs? Shout Factory is having a flash sale through Sunday. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
MTV launched with its music-only programming on August 1st, 1981. Initially available only in New Jersey, it soon established a new forum for music promotion and the video arts that swept the globe. The first video transmitted by MTV was Video Killed the Radio Star by Buggles. The song reflected on past and future technology and proved prescient as the music video quickly became the major marketing tool in the industry. The format also became a new experimental ground for artists, linking visuals to sound and forming a new way people experienced music. "I want my MTV" became the rallying cry for zones outside the station's territory. Looking back, I remember being introduced to new albums, styles, and fashion through videos by artists such as David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Eurythmics, Culture Club, Prince, and Michael Jackson. The lure of the screen even got the better of my common sense once during a natural disaster. We had a tornado alert during college- not something you want to experience living in a one-story brick house with no basement in Indiana. I remember my friend and I gathered some supplies in the bathroom, but eventually MTV won out for our attention. We waited out the storm glued to Peter Gabriel's amazing stop-motion video for Sledgehammer made by Aardman Studios (Wallace and Gromit). Of course there had been promotional films made before MTV (The Beatles were great pioneers in this field in the 1960s), and music movies and variety/performance programs certainly helped to sell records for decades. But the world of VJs and 24-hour music videos all started with this little number on MTV in 1981. Enjoy!
Sunday, May 15, 2016
In an effort to support the future of the band, as well as answer a desire to stretch by guitarist Ace Frehley, each member of KISS famously recorded their own solo album in 1978. The records allowed the guys to explore and shine in new ways and the results were mostly fun! Fans tend to put Ace's effort at the top (his New York Groove continues to be a mainstay on KISS mixes). I'm also fond of the experimental vibe that Gene Simmons took for his album. All of the solo records (and group KISS records) were remastered on vinyl in 2014. Here are two promo TV spots from 1978 spotlighting Paul, Gene, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the records were manufactured. Great release party footage at a record store! Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Weird Al will bring his brand of parody performance back on tour this summer with dates across the US and Canada. Looks like a long haul for the celebrated songster/punster, who will be traveling to almost nightly gigs between June 3rd and Sept 24th. Weird Al's last commercial release was Mandatory Fun in 2014. More details at his official website here.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Japanese composer Isao Tomita, known internationally as Tomita, passed away on May 5th. Tomita's career took off in 1966 when he began to score some of the early classic animated films. He continued to work on soundtracks over the decades, but his most famous work was as one of the great pioneers of analog synthesizer music. Perhaps his most famous records here in the west were a number of electronic adaptations of classical works and space music in the 1970s and 1980s. Below: a selection of album art and music clip Tomita's Planets. Enjoy!
Cool illustrations on the radar today by Toshio Okazaki! These depictions of various monsters and characters from Ultraman originally appeared in the 1971 book, The Return of Ultraman. You can check out more images over at Pink Tentacle. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 7, 2016
IDW launched its new ROM Space Knight comic today as part of Free Comic Book Day! Rom began his days as a toy in the 1970s and inspired a series published by Marvel Comics between 1979-1986. Bringing this classic character back to the comic pages has been a labor of love for IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall. Go find issue #0 at your local comic shop! Read more about the project at IDW here. Enjoy!