A New Era for Valiant Entertainment

Valiant Comics were cool.

Solar, Man of the Atom. X-O Manowar. Bloodshot. Harbinger. Rai. Shadowman. Eternal Warrior. Archer & Armstrong. Etc. Lots of great art and great stories, all in a cohesive universe! They even had a different look and “feel” that set them apart from other comic universes.

“The mainstream titles were becoming overwhelmingly art-driven. We wanted to offer the public something that had been lost, namely well-written, character-driven stories.” — Bob Layton, writer/artist and former Senior V.P. of the original Valiant

Solar #3 (1991)

I remember when Jim Shooter and Steve Massarsky launched the new company in the early 1990s, following a failed attempt to buy Marvel Entertainment. (Well, technically, Voyager Communications was founded in 1989, but the first books under the Valiant Comics imprint came out in 1991.) They began by licensing a couple older characters — Solar, Man of the Atom, and Magnus, Robot Fighter — that were originally published by Gold Key Comics in the 1960s. I never really got into Magnus much, but I loved the god-like Doctor Solar. And the artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton? Awesome!

The company attracted some talented creators, both new and veteran, and the stable of characters and titles grew. Diamond Comics Distributors named it Publisher of the Year in 1993 and, at some point, Valiant became the third largest comic book company in the world. Shooter was forced out in 1992 and Acclaim Entertainment bought the company in 1994. Of course, Acclaim cancelled a few titles in 1996. Acclaim went bankrupt in 2004, and that’s about when I lost track.

I heard about the new Valiant Entertainment which started up in 2005, but I didn’t realize that it was formed by two mega-fans who bought the old company’s assets. (However, the licensed characters Solar, Magnus, and Turok were not part of the deal.) Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari weren’t even out of college when they put together the winning bid. (Actually, they came in 2nd, but the winner pulled out shortly afterward.) They built up a senior advisory board consisting of several former Marvel people and chaired by former Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo. They enticed Marvel’s Warren Simons to join as Executive Editor and eventually put together a stable of enthusiastic and award-winning creative talent, publishing their first comics — reboots of four of the original characters — in “The Summer of Valiant” in 2012.

“It was abundantly clear to me that these guys had a tremendous love for both the medium and Valiant’s characters. They wanted to build the company with a commitment to compelling stories above all else. As an editor who strives to put out great comics on a monthly basis, this was music to my ears.” — Warren Simons

Of course, remember that I said that Valiant Comics were cool? That’s because I haven’t read any from the last few years, so I can’t judge them from personal experience to say if they still are cool. (I am aware that Quantum & Woody, unfortunately, has become politically-charged, insulting to certain groups, with disappointing art and humor. I don’t know about the other titles.) However, they must be doing something right. The new Valiant proceeded to win Publisher of the Year, set sales records, and was the most nominated publisher in comics at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Harvey Awards.

When Valiant re-launched in 2012, it was also announced that big-screen films were in development for the Bloodshot and Harbinger properties, with names like director Brett Ratner and producer Neal Moritz attached. Other film projects were announced in the ensuing months. Then, in March 2015, Valiant Entertainment got “an undisclosed nine-figure investment from Chinese entertainment company DMG, the co-producers and co-financiers of Iron Man 3.” The money was earmarked for TV and film development, “which one assumes includes the currently-in-development Shadowman, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong.”

“[T]aking a stake in the last independent massive comic universe is a strategic investment for DMG that will produce movies and TV that are both appealing and relevant to a global audience.” — Dan Mintz, CEO of DMG

Bloodshot #2 (2012)

As per comicbook.com’s Russ Burlingame,

“The deal likely means that DMG will co-finance all of the projects and assist with international distribution and exhibition[, including in the huge Chinese market]. DMG and Valiant will also be pursuing Chinese licensing for Valiant properties beyond film in publishing, animation and theme parks, as well as toys and apparel.”

That was three years ago. Now, we come to the latest bit of major news on the Valiant front….

In January of this year, DMG Entertainment went from owning 57% of Valiant Entertainment to owning it all, thereby providing Mintz’s “filmmaker-run studio with a treasure trove of world-class intellectual properties and establish[ing] DMG as one of the most valuable and innovative media companies in Hollywood…. The Valiant acquisition is the latest in a string of high-profile strategic moves from Mintz and DMG, the global entertainment powerhouse valued at more than $6 billion. In addition, the company has continued to expand its purview with new initiatives in intellectual property, virtual reality, e-sports and live attractions based on top-tier global franchises, including Hasbro’s “Transformers.””

“Our priority is to build upon Valiant’s vast universe of characters from a filmmaker’s perspective. I’m excited to immerse Valiant’s fans well beyond the stories we tell cinematically — from publishing to gaming to theme parks and beyond.” — Dan Mintz

According to the Wikipedia summary of the deal, Valiant CEO/CCO Dinesh Shamdasani, COO/CFO Gavin Cuneo, and Chairman Peter Cuneo will transition out of the company, though the first two will continue to serve as consultants. No word, yet, on new management, but presumably Mintz will serve in at least a couple of the top spots. Valiant’s publishing team, however, will remain in place, including Publisher Fred Pierce and Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons.

I have no idea what kind of a reputation Mintz/DMG have as filmmakers or businesspersons. (Iron Man 3 and Looper were good and fairly successful, but not great.) I have to say, though, that this sounds like a fantastic development for the Valiant properties to get the stable financial and creative backing they need to proceed with the TV and film productions — probably more. Mintz sure sounds enthusiastic, and I hope he is as driven to make quality, story-driven productions with these characters as everyone from Shooter & Layton to  Shamdasani et al. have been. I hope-n-pray that the film/TV adaptations stay faithful to the comic sources, so that longtime fans can enjoy the original characters they… we… grew to love. And, of course, it would be nice if the comics themselves continue to be well-written and entertaining (and hopefully not objectionable) for all.


Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 2 of 3

This week, we continue the list I began last month, celebrating anniversaries of some of the more significant genre works. Care to share in some nostalgia?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968): 50 years

This sci-fi/”philosophical fiction” novel was by the legendary Philip K. Dick. I never actually read it, but years ago I did watch the 1982 movie adaptation, Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. (I have not seen the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049.) The character of Rick Deckard is probably Ford’s third-most famous role, after Han Solo and Indiana Jones. I enjoyed the dirty, dystopic look of the movie, the dangerous, fugitive androids, and the action scenes. (Couldn’t tell you how faithful the movie depictions were to those in the book.) For some reason, though, the ethical and philosophical questions just never appealed to me, so I’m not a big fan of Blade Runner. However, I realize that a lot of people are, and the film has become somewhat of a cult classic within sci-fi fandom. The novel was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1968 and thirty years later won a Locus Poll Award, placing 51st among “All-Time Best SF Novel(s) before 1990”. Interestingly, the novel has also been adapted for radio, audiobook, theater, and comics; there are three book sequels, as well, written by K.W. Jeter.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1948, 1953, 1968): 70, 65, & 50 years

This one is a bit unusual, in that there are actually three connected anniversaries. Seventy years ago (1948), 30-year-old Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story titled “The Sentinel” for a BBC competition. He lost, but the story “introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work.” (It was eventually published in 1951 with the title “Sentinel of Eternity”.) Five years later, Clarke had a short story titled “Encounter in the Dawn” (aka “Expedition to Earth”) published in the magazine Amazing Stories. These two stories are considered the primary bases for much of 2001: A Space Odyssey, though elements were also borrowed from several of Clarke’s other writings.

2001 was a concurrently-developed, joint project with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on the screenplay, and (at the same time) they originally worked on the novel together, too. But, for a number of reasons, Kubrick ended up focusing on the film, while Clarke focused on the book (and retained sole author credit). Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece was released in May 1968 to mixed reviews, but it developed “a cult following and slowly became the highest-grossing North American film” of the year. Since then, it has become widely recognized as one of the top films of all time. As per Wikipedia, the film “deals with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and the existence of extraterrestrial life. It is noted for its scientifically accurate depiction of spaceflight, pioneering special effects, and ambiguous imagery.” And who can forget that theme music, eh?!

Clarke’s novel was published in June/July that same year. There are many differences with the film, since Kubrick deviated in places from the early drafts that the novel is based on. Some were due to creative/stylistic differences, while others were more practical (i.e., because of the difference in media). Naturally, the novel has more emphasis on narrative and is able to flesh out some things that are left somewhat vague or mysterious in the film, which “is a mainly visual experience where much remains ‘symbolic’.” Three sequel novels were written, but only the first of them, 2010: Odyssey Two, has so far been made into a film (1984).

Planet of the Apes (1963, 1968): 55 & 50 years

Only a pair of anniversaries this time. Pierre Boulle’s original La Planète des singes novel was published in 1963, with an English language version close on its heels. Within a few years, the book was adapted for the silver screen, and the first Planet of the Apes movie debuted in April 1968. It spawned four sequels, then a short-lived TV series, followed by a short-lived animated series based on the original movie. I don’t think I ever watched the animated show, but I loved the movies and the live-action series as a kid/teen. Wonderful performances by movie & TV stars like Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell (who returned for the live-action show), Kim Hunter, James Franciscus, Maurice Evans, and James Whitmore, all lent an air of respectability to what could have been considered goofy kids’ stuff. Plus, the writing was pretty good, and the action and adult themes (e.g., slavery, bigotry, nuclear war) made the content pretty grown up.

I finally read Boulle’s novel about 10 or 12 years ago and enjoyed it. You might, too. But, don’t expect it to be the same as the films. Many of the same elements are there, and anyone familiar with the films and/or TV series will quickly identify versions of the characters and events they know. But, there are also many serious differences. It makes me wish that a new and more faithful adaptation of the novel might be made. Maybe one day. Meanwhile, not only can we still enjoy the old films and TV series, but we have the terrific new series of PotA films — three, as of this writing. (We won’t talk about the 2001 movie by Burton and Wahlberg, though it had some positive points.) I think it might also be time for me to read Boulle’s novel again….

Avengers (1963): 55 years

Confession time: Originally, I was going to celebrate Spider-Man’s debut here. But, then I remembered that The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963) wasn’t the first time Spider-Man appeared. That was in Amazing Fantasy #15 the previous year.

But, the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, did debut with the first issue of their own title in 1963 (cover date Sept.). They might not be quite as iconic as ol’ Webhead, but given the team’s popularity these days, they certainly merit the attention. I was a “Marvel Zombie” from my pre-teen days, and the Avengers was one of the earliest books I collected and one of my favorites. I mean, how could you not love a team that included Iron Man, Captain America (as of issue #4), and Thor, among others? Even the Hulk was a founding member, though he quit at the end of issue #2 and would go on to fight against them on occasion. The team’s ever-changing lineup meant readers got to see many superheroes (including the occasional rehabilitated villain), new and old, work and fight together. They also had some of the most fearsome arch-foes, like the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, and the Kree. I haven’t kept up with the Avengers in recent years, but I do have a lot of great memories of roughly 3 decades’ worth of stories. Plus, of course, we get to see them live-in-action in the theaters these days. Avengers Assemble!

Iron Man (1963): 55 years

While Iron Man #1 didn’t premiere until 1968 (directly following the Iron Man and Sub-Mariner one-shot), the character of Anthony Stark and his armored alter ego actually made their debuts in Tales of Suspense #39 (1963). I’ve written about the character briefly before. Tony was equal parts brilliant and screw-up, playboy and warrior, arrogant jerk and kindhearted philanthropist. He had the rugged good looks and engineering genius, with all the money and toys a guy could ever want, yet he was insecure and battled his own “demons”. In other words, he was very “real” — a flawed hero, but not an anti-hero — and that’s part of what made him so interesting. I don’t think Robert Downey Jr. quite captures the character I remember from the comics, but I do enjoy finally getting to see him on the big-screen. If only they would see fit to add Mrs. Arbogast to the cast…. (In fact, I have a story idea that could do that, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.)

X-Men (1963): 55 years

As with the last two entries, I was a huge fan of the Uncanny X-Men waaay before the first movie (2000). I wasn’t around for their 1963 debut, but I did start collecting them back in the ’70s. Again, they were one of my favorites, possibly even edging out both Avengers and Fantastic Four for favorite team title. I started reading it shortly after the best X-Men lineup debuted — Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Banshee, Phoenix, and, of course, Professor X. Those were some classic stories with classic art, by creators like Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Terry Austin. Ah, those were the days…. There was just something about Marvel’s (not so) Merry Mutants, the “outcasts” of the Marvel universe, that appealed to me. They had some of the coolest powers and costumes, and the stories were well-written, with characters that became increasingly complex — sometimes for the better, sometimes not — over the years. Good times!

Alright, folks! I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope you enjoyed Part 2. I’ll talk about some really old stuff in Part 3 next month….

Minecraft Religion

“Minecraft is so open any player can design a world, [a]nd whenever things are open, religious people tend to use it to express themselves.” — Vincent Gonzalez, creator of religiousgames.org

Many moons ago, I went through a phase where I played a lot of Tetris — to the point where I dreamed about it — and Duke Nukem. I also played some Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, and maybe a little Frogger and a couple others, way back when. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I never really got into gaming — not even when the more sophisticated stuff came out. My brother was into it for several years, so I would occasionally watch him play and talk about avatars and MMORPGs, while he would occasionally let me jabber on about comics. (I did get him to read a few, I think.)

As a member of the “Geeks Under Grace Community” Facebook group, I also see posts from others talking about various games and platforms, new and old, asking for recommendations, etc. I wouldn’t exactly say I have my finger on the pulse of the industry, since I don’t really know what’s going on and couldn’t tell you the difference between a PlayStation and an Xbox. But, it is a reminder of how big that industry has become and the many, many different types of computer games there are out there. Plus, the GUG Community predominantly consists of Christians (as hinted at by the “Under Grace” phrase), so it’s interesting to “hear” how my fellow-geeks integrate their Christian faith with their various geeky fandoms.

I suppose that was why I was intrigued by an article I came across from the Religion News Service by Kimberly Winston, who normally writes about atheism and freethought. It was about Minecraft — yes, I knew what it was… sorta — and, in particular, how many players express their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, through the “skins” and things they build in the game. (Forgive me if this is old news to you.)

As many of my readers probably know, Minecraft allows players to use virtual bricks to build “buildings, plants, people, anything, in mostly primary colors.” Some versions allow people to go on adventures, too. Many players who hold to various religions also use the game to discuss and otherwise express their beliefs, including creating religious figures (e.g., priests, monks, imams, rabbis, angels, Jesus) and both real and imagined places of worship and contemplation (e.g., churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, cathedrals), some of them quite complex. They also build whole cities and “Bible lands”. It turns out that Christianity is by far the most represented.

But, why do they do it?

“No one’s pastor is telling them the best way to minister to people is to pretend to be Jesus in a Minecraft world. So the question of why people want to dress up as Jesus and go around in Minecraft is hard to say.” — Vincent Gonzalez

There are a few theories. Gregory Grieve, a religious studies professor at UNC-Greensboro, has studied the phenomenon for decades.

“For most people, their virtual lives are an extension of their real lives. Among Christians it was a place for proselytizing and a place for meeting people they would not otherwise meet. People who are religious just see these games as an extension of their religious practice.”


Professor Rachel Wagner from Ithaca College has her own hypothesis.

“Even if they are ‘open’ in the sense of allowing players to construct entire worlds for themselves, as Minecraft does, games always offer spaces in which things make sense, where players have purpose and control. For players who may feel that the real world is spinning out of control, games can offer a comforting sense of predictability. They can replace God for some in their ability to promise an ordered world.”

Some have created faith-based Minecraft “servers”, where likeminded people can build and adventure together with a more specific set of rules (e.g., “no profanity”). For example, ChurchMag created a Christian-oriented Minecraft server for its community. According to editor Eric Dye,

“We can build things in it, like themed cities, and there is actually a church. It is not like we have church services or anything but it seemed something fun to have. It seemed fitting. That is why you see religion manifested in Minecraft — it is just an extension of people’s interests in what they create.”

As Spock would say, “Fascinating…”

So, my questions to you readers are, “Have any of you experienced, or even participated in, this sort of religious expression in Minecraft or other ‘open’ games? If so, did it seem odd to you or “natural”? Did it cause any sort of awkwardness among players?” Anything else you want to share, feel free. Thanks.


Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 1 of 3

My, how time flies!

It really is amazing to think back at all of the many books, comics, TV shows, and films from the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres that I have enjoyed over the decades. And those are just the ones I liked! There are plenty more that I never knew of, didn’t have a chance to sample, or just never interested me, but others have enjoyed them. It is even more amazing to consider how far back these genres reach, especially when you include genres like Gothic horror, Victorian sleuths, “travellers’ tales”, and other early adventure novels. Even further, if you go back to the fantastic myths and legends of old, from the pagan pantheons and tales of “brave Ulysses” to those of King Arthur and Robin Hood.

Not long ago, I became aware of a few of the more “modern” stories & characters that were having notable anniversaries this year. (Well, really just some multiple of 5, to be honest.) I tracked down a few more and decided to present brief comments on each, spread out over three, non-consecutive posts. Beginning with the most recent and working our way backwards, we have…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993): 25 years

Debuting Jan. 3, 1993, DS9 was the third live-action TV series — fourth series overall, including the animated one — of the über-successful Star Trek franchise. It was unusual for a number of reasons. For one, it took place primarily on a space station rather than a ship, which was a somewhat daring move for CBS/Paramount. Previous series (and movies) had always been centered on a ship named “Enterprise”. Could this new setting really work? Would fans accept it? Much of the general tone and many storylines were a bit “darker” than fans were used to with previous series. Flawed characters, along with recurring themes of war and moral ambiguity, were of particular concern. Some people are still turned off by that, while many others have come to embrace the differences. It was the first Star Trek series to air without the involvement of ST’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, and some claim it goes against his vision. Indeed, Roddenberry is on record as having expressed some reservations early on, but he eventually signed off on it before his death in 1991. The show also had a Black man as the senior officer, which was still a bit of a risk back then and all the more a triumph in the show’s success.

Me? I loved the show. I mean, it was more Star Trek, and it even started before The Next Generation was over! Like with any new show, it took a bit of getting used to, but the writers and cast all found their groove. (Not that every episode was a gem, of course.) I got used to the idea of most action taking place on a space station (and one with a nasty history at that), as opposed to a space-warping starship of exploration. It made for different types of stories, while maintaining the overall feel and shared history of Roddenberry’s universe with The Federation, Starfleet, and other familiar organizations and races. The characters grew on me and many other viewers, and they became just as beloved as those from earlier Star Trek series.

DS9 may not have been quite as popular as its predecessor series, but it was nominated for many awards and even won a few. It’s a little hard to believe it has been 25 years since it premiered, though!

Babylon 5 (1993): 25 years

The regular series actually premiered Jan. 26, 1994, but the property debuted with the TV movie Babylon 5: The Gathering on Feb. 22, 1993. Audiences were introduced to several of writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski’s beloved characters — i.e., Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair, Michael Garibaldi, Lyta Alexander, and ambassadors Delenn, Mollari, G’Kar, and the mysterious Kosh. Others — i.e., Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova, Vir, Talia Winters — first appeared in the series premiere, while still others — e.g., Dr. Stephen Franklin, Lennier, Na’Toth, Capt. John Sheridan, Zack Allan, Marcus Cole, Bester — would not show up until later episodes, even later seasons.

Although DS9 debuted first, Straczynski (aka JMS or “Joe” to the fans) had shopped his concept around in the ’80s, and there was some controversy over whether or not the Star Trek folks had ripped off the idea. Personally, I didn’t think the similarity went very far past centering on a strategically-located space station frequented by various star-faring races. That basic idea had been done many times before in sci-fi in various media. Plus, it just seemed like an unnecessary cause of strife between fans who thought they had to favor one over the other. I liked both.

Besides, there were other differences that set B5 apart, like the fact that it was the first series planned from the start to have an overarching, 5-year arc, with long-term narrative threads. The dramatic setting was an elaborately constructed, fictional future, implemented with great care for detail, diversity, and history. The grown-up, character-driven storylines were often deep and thought-provoking, while the aliens and their ships were some of the best-designed in the industry. The show garnered multiple awards over the years, mostly for the writing and the groundbreaking CGI effects. It is no wonder that many Babylon 5 fans rival those of Star Trek, Star Wars, or Doctor Who, in their “intensity” and loyalty.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983): 35 years

This second sequel to the original Star Wars (aka A New Hope), was actually declared to be Episode VI, since it completed the middle trilogy of an originally-envisioned trio of trilogies. (Though, I have also heard that creator George Lucas said, no, it was just the first two trilogies, and he didn’t expand his story ideas until later. Or, something like that.) Continuing the blockbuster Star Wars series, RotJ (aka simply “Jedi”) added to its menagerie of alien creatures, planets, technology, and lore. It showed us Han Solo’s fate (from the Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger), the blossoming romance of Solo and Princess Leia, the latest efforts of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, and the continued Jedi training and maturing of the now cybernetically-enhanced Luke Skywalker, culminating in his confrontation with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

While generally not rated as highly as the first two films of the franchise (especially among those who find Ewoks annoying), RotJ was nevertheless a fairly satisfying conclusion to that first three-part story arc. I, for one, look back on it fondly as an enjoyable part of my teen years.

Battlestar Galactica (original series) (1978): 40 years

Creator/producer Glen A. Larson finally got financial backing for his Mormon-influenced sci-fi concept — originally called “Adam’s Rib” — thanks to the success of the original Star Wars. Yes, this was the ’70s, so some of the writing was a bit hokey, and the tech looks almost as laughable to our 21st-century eyes as that of the original Star Trek and others from the ’60s and prior. But, it was a big-budget science-fiction show that took place far from Earth, had spaceships, robots, a few alien creatures, cool F/X, and it was just a lot of fun for young genre fans like me. The series only lasted one full season, debuting Sep. 17, 1978, and ending on Apr. 29, 1979. If you’re “old” like me, you might remember that they then showed a condensed version of the 3-hour pilot as a movie at theaters starting May 18, 1979. (Technically, this was also how it premiered — in Canadian theaters — before the TV series began.)

I recently finished re-watching the whole original “Battlestar Galactica” series for the first time in, well, nearly 40 years! For its era, it actually holds up pretty well. (It even won “Best New TV Drama Series” at the 1979 People’s Choice Awards.) The writing and acting weren’t too bad, really, especially when compared to its ill-conceived spin-off, “Galactica 1980”. I’m working my way through that later one now, and while I enjoy seeing a few familiar faces and the flying motorcycles are cool, let’s just say I’m glad there were only 10 episodes. (I sure did love it as a kid, though!)

OK, that’s it for Part 1. I’ll continue some time next month with a few more anniversaries of note. ‘Til then…


Top 20 TV Theme Songs from ’70s Action Shows, part 2 of 2

As promised, this week we continue our nostalgic countdown — or is it a countup? — of 1970s-premiering cops/detectives TV shows that had particularly cool, memorable theme songs. You ready to lay down some happenin’ tunes? Groovy!

Let’s get to it…


11) The Rockford Files (1974-1980)


12) Police Woman (1974-1978)


13) S.W.A.T. (1975-1976)


14) Baretta (1975-1978)


15) Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979)


16) Quincy, M.E. (spun off from “The NBC Mystery Movie”) (1976-1983)


17) Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981)


18) CHiPs (1977-1983)


19) Vega$ (1978-1981)


20) Return of the Saint (1978-1979)


So, whaddayathink? Feel like chillaxin’ with some ’70s cop-show goodness? Or, maybe in the mood to boogie at the local disco? (Good luck with that.) Anyways…

I gotta split, dudes ‘n dudettes. Peace out!


Top 20 TV Theme Songs from ’70s Action Shows, part 1 of 2

Great shows with great songs!

Last year, you may remember that I did a pair of posts listing my “Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series” (parts 1 and 2). Most of them had a sci-fi or superhero/spy bent to them, but there were a few from shows about cops and private detectives, too. And that’s what I want to focus on in this post and the next. Specifically, I noticed that a lot of great TV series that centered on police and/or P.I.’s came out in the 1970s, and a lot of them had great theme songs, too. (Well, assuming you dig the ’70s groove!)

Of course, the downside to limiting myself to those that debuted in the ’70s means that several other worthies that actually debuted in the ’60s — e.g., Ironside (1967-1975), Mannix (1967-1975), The Mod Squad (1968-1973), It Takes a Thief (1968-1970) — aren’t included. (Maybe another time.) Still, there’s plenty of great stuff here to remind you of or introduce you to, and I hope you enjoy checking out these themes (and maybe the shows themselves) as much as I did. Pretty cool seeing famous, now-older (or dead) stars from their younger days, too!

Let’s begin…

1) Dan August (1970-1971)


2) The Persuaders! (1971-1972)


3) The NBC Mystery Movie (i.e., rotating stars Columbo, McCloud, McMillan & Wife, etc.) (1971-1977)


4) The Rookies (1972-1976)


5) The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977)


6) Banacek (1972-1974)


7) Barnaby Jones (1973-1980)


8) Kojak (1973-1978)


9) The Magician (1973-1974)


10) Shaft (1973-1974)
— extended intro, w/ music beginning about 30 seconds in and singing by Isaac Hayes (and the ladies) about 3 minutes in


Far out! I’ll see you cats next week!


Artist Appreciation Day: Greg Horn

About 18 months ago, I did my first “Artist Appreciation Day” post on Alex Ross. I’m long overdue to post another, so I’m gonna squeeze one in before 2017 closes out, OK?

I can’t quite remember the first piece of Greg Horn’s that I saw, but it was very early on when he hit the “big time” doing covers for Marvel Comics. I think it was probably one of his Elektra covers (see below). His clean lines, rich colors, often intense expressions (on his characters, not him), and, of course, gorgeous women have all made him a fan-favorite cover artist for many years. He does work outside of comics, too, so you might recognize his trademark style in advertising, magazines, novels, board and video games, etc.

Here are a few (mostly comics-oriented) pieces that showcase Horn’s talent. (I kept it PG-rated.) Since he is probably most known for his Marvel work, I’ll start there…



Three Avengers

The Power (and Snarl) of Galactus

Skrull reveals from Secret Invasion



Ms. Marvel


Here’s a fun “Movie Opener” he did for Wizard Magazine a few years ago…


Now for some DC love…

DC’s triumvirate

Bat w/ cape and ‘scrapers

Joker & Harley, everyone’s fave homicidal clowns


And a few miscellaneous…

Legolas for PSM

Ghost Wars for HIP

Lebron James for ESPN Gamezone


If you want to see more of Horn’s digital paintings, start with his website. (Fair warning, though: The design is terrible, and a few of the links don’t work.) Of course, you can also throw his name into your search engine and see what comes up.

In case I don’t put up a separate post, let me wish you a “Happy New Year!”, and I’ll see you all on the other side….


No New Post This Week, Sorry

If you are reading this (pre-scheduled) message, then I didn’t get a post written this week, due to dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. I’ll return to my regular weekly schedule as soon as possible. Meanwhile, why not find an older post or two to hold you over? 🙂 Take care!


DUST, Code 8, and Miami Vice

Are any of you familiar with DUST? I discovered it the other day, when I came across this short video, based on a Dark Horse comic.

“Number 13”

According to its YouTube channel (which I have now subscribed to),

“DUST is the first multi-platform destination for binge watchable sci-fi. We feature science fiction short films and other content from emerging filmmakers with stunning visual effects, captivating plots and complex character explorations. Robots, aliens, space exploration, technology, and human experience are all a part of DUST.”

Sounds pretty cool! In fact, I’ve watched four more and they were all quite interesting and well done. Some very creative and talented filmmakers out there! I just hope I have time to watch more in the future. There’s a website, and you can subscribe to the newsletter and watch the videos from there, if you don’t want to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

I came across another short film, this one by cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell, who I am sure you are familiar with from “Arrow”, “Flash”, and other genre productions. This is a project they put together with a couple friends and got crowdfunded. The setting is “a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.”

Follow this link to the short…

Via an Indiegogo campaign, they were able to fund a full-length movie which began production on June 1st, 2017. The movie’s plot involves “Conner Reed (Robbie Amell) [as] a powerful young man who is struggling to pay for his ailing mother’s medical treatment. To earn money, he joins a lucrative criminal world [through] Garrett (Stephen Amell), who works for a drug lord (Greg Bryk).”

They promise “robots, superpowers, and a ton of badass action.” You can find out more about it at code8.com. Current estimated release date won’t be until 2018, possibly that December.

In other news,… it looks like “Miami Vice” may get another reboot, this time on TV. Vin Diesel’s One Race Television production company (working under a deal with Universal TV) has teamed with Chris Morgan Productions to develop the new series for NBC. (Morgan wrote six of the “Fast & Furious” films.) As per Variety,

“Peter Macmanus will write the script, based on the original series. While executive producers haven’t been set, it’s more than likely Macmanus, Morgan, and Diesel will all serve as EPs, along with more staffers from One Race TV and Chris Morgan Prods….”

There have been many reboots in recent years, some good (e.g., “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver” series) and some disappointing (e.g., Miami Vice and The Dukes of Hazard films). And more are on the way (e.g., “S.W.A.T.”). I have mixed feelings about the studios mining so much old material, especially when they rarely retain the quality or charm of the originals. And then they cancel good, new stuff (e.g., “Almost Human”, “A.P.B.”)!

The original “Crockett & Tubbs”

As for this particular effort, I’m not sure we know enough to hazard a guess at what it might be like. On the one hand, having action veterans Diesel and Morgan at the helm is a good sign. On the other hand, the original “Miami Vice” was an iconic, groundbreaking show, with an amazing cast and tone that will be quite difficult to match. I mean, realistically, how can you ever find another Crockett & Tubbs with the chemistry and easy coolness of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, or equal the quiet steeliness of ‘Lt. Castillo’ as portrayed by Edward James Olmos? Plus, much of the original’s identity is wrapped up in the music, fashion, and zeitgeist of the ’80s, such that I wonder if they’ll need to set the new series in the ’80s, too, just to give it a fighting chance.

At this point, I guess I’ll just say that I am curious and hopeful that they can at least put forth a decent product, even if they can’t quite capture the feel of the original.

P.S.  Here’s a fun article — especially for those of us old enough to remember watching the show — re some “Miami Vice” guest stars: “20 Huge Stars You Didn’t Know Were On Miami Vice”.

P.P.S.  There is a connection between the latter two items, btw. Sung Kang, who you will remember from a few of Diesel’s F&F movies, appears in Code 8.


My Top 8 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies

Arnold Schwarzenegger — aka “Ahnuld” — just turned 70 years old! Can you believe it?!

Ahnuld posing for *Sabotage*

For a man who is thick on accent and light on acting talent (though both have improved over time), Ahnuld has amassed an impressive number of movies over the past 40 years or so. He is one of the biggest action-movie icons of all time, not to mention a favorite of comedians and impressionists, and his success shows what big muscles, snappy one-liners, a handful of memorable roles, and a lot of hard work and ambition can earn you in Hollywood. Plus, he has that Ahnuld charisma. Despite his faults, he seems like a decent chap, too.

I wouldn’t say I’m his hugest fan, but I *do* like him and have seen (and mostly enjoyed) many of his films. So, I thought it might be fun to come up with a list of my favorites and share them with you. Sort of like what I did with Kurt Russell, but with a little less emphasis on the roles specifically and more on each movie as a whole. I limited myself to those that he (co-)stars in (as opposed to small supporting roles or bit parts).

You will notice that there aren’t any comedies on my list. This simply isn’t Ahnuld’s strong suit. I mean, he has some of the best one-liners in his action movies, but his “comedic stylings” just aren’t enough to carry a movie. If pressed to pick one comedy, I’d go with Twins, in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito. Certainly it was better than Junior (also paired with DeVito), Kindergarten Cop, or Jingle All the Way. (I never saw The Villain (1979), aka Cactus Jack, but I understand it wasn’t so great, either.) I hope the upcoming sequel, Triplets, which adds Eddie Murphy to the mix, will be reasonably entertaining and not rely on too much crude humor or stupidity.

You’ll also notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have either of the Conan movies (or Red Sonja) on my list, either. His first starring role was as Hercules in New York (1970), but the Conan role 12 years later was his first success as an action movie star. For some people, especially those who followed him as a bodybuilder, too, the Conan flicks are “classics”. Personally, I never got too much into the ’80s swords-n-sorcery subgenre (with a few exceptions), even those with a comic book tie-in. Another sequel, The Legend of Conan, has been announced, which will bring Ahnuld back into the title role. Do we really want to see a septuagenarian Conan fighting monsters and barbarian hordes? Hmmm, as long as he’s in decent shape, maybe…

OK, my Top 8 in chronological order…

The Terminator (1984): Any Ahnuld fan has to put this film in any Top X list. I mean, this is the one role that launched him to superstar status. Of course, visionary writer/director James Cameron and the rest of the cast — including Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Winfield, et al. — were also instrumental in creating this amazing sci-fi/action film. But, it was Ahnuld’s portrayal of the time-traveling, cyborg juggernaut that helped to define this movie. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role that would have had nearly the impact. (I have, however, tried re-casting it with a more current crop of stars, much as I recently did for Predator.) There were so many great, memorable scenes! Ahnuld’s Austrian accent wasn’t much of an issue, either, since the Terminator didn’t say much. And, of course, “Ah’ll be back.” has become such an iconic quote that everyone one knows it’s Ahnuld, even if they aren’t sure which movie it’s from.

Commando (1985): I wrote many months ago that I’d like to see a sequel to this film. Ahnuld played Col. John Matrix, a “retired elite Black Ops Commando [who] launches a one man war against a group of South American criminals who have kidnapped his daughter.” Co-starring Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Alyssa Milano, et al., this was the kind of story that makes you root for the hero to “get the girl” and show the baddies that he’s one guy they definitely should *not* have messed with. He brutally punches, snaps, stabs, slices, shoots, and blows up the bad guys in order to find and rescue his young daughter. Violent? That’s an understatement. Plenty of clever (or silly) one-liners, too. (Fun Fact: One of the writers was Jeph Loeb, who went on to write tons of comics and write/produce things like “Smallville”, “Lost”, “Heroes”, and many Marvel productions.)

Predator (1987): In a lot of ways, I suppose Major “Dutch” Schaefer could have been called Col. John Matrix. They are both muscle-bound, highly-skilled commando leaders trying to survive extremely difficult situations against deadly foes. (Kinda like a certain “John J. Rambo”.) This was another iconic film in the sci-fi/action subgenre, and one in which Ahnuld got to fire big guns, smoke big stogies, and show off his big muscles. Some pretty good quotes, too. (For example, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”, “Get to the chopper!”, and “You are one ugly m____rf____r.”) Great cast, cool concept, and Ahnuld gets to match wits, weapons, and muscles with a monstrous alien trophy hunter. What’s not to like?

The Running Man (1987): This one might surprise you, since it isn’t one of Ahnuld’s better known films. But, it sticks in my mind for at least two reasons. First, it’s one of those stories where the protagonist has to fight his way through a number of individual opponents to survive, but this time it’s a deadly game show. Second, the main villain of the piece is played by the original host of the “Family Feud” (1976-1985), Richard Dawson. (I don’t know who thought of that bit of casting, but Dawson actually did a decent job of it.) Maria Conchita Alonso and Yaphet Kotto are in it, too. The costumed and specially-armed foes Ahnuld’s character has to fight are Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka), Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Dynamo (Erland van Lidth), Fireball (Jim Brown), and Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Fun, fun, fun!

Total Recall (1990): I never read the original short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, but I very much enjoyed the first big-screen adaptation, Total Recall. (The 2012 remake? Not so much, though it was OK.) Ahnuld’s ‘Douglas Quaid’ is just some working-class guy who suddenly gets his world turned upside-down, not knowing what’s real and what’s implanted memory. The answers seem to lie on Mars, so off he goes! The near-future looks a lot like today — a mix of shiny and grimy, pretty and nasty — but with some mutated humans and some cool tech thrown in. (You need to overlook a scientific impossibility or two, though.) Nice combination of sci-fi, action, and mystery/thriller, with a terrific supporting cast (i.e., Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside). You can just watch it for the action or ponder the deeper, moral & existential questions raised. A real rollercoaster ride and definitely worth the time, imo.

Ahnuld and Jamie Lee in *True Lies*

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Ahnuld returns as another T-800, but this time one who is programmed to keep the target of another Terminator alive. Very similar yet different from the first one, the film was one of those rare sequels that is arguably as good as its predecessor. (Some might even say better. Not me. But some.) Of course, Robert Patrick’s portrayal as the nigh-unstoppable, liquid-metal T-1000 was a breakout role for him. But, it was still Ahnuld’s (and Linda Hamilton’s) movie. Lots of great action and suspense, along with some humor. Overall, a great movie, sequel or not.

P.S. Can you believe that Edward Furlong, who played young John Connor, just turned 40?!

True Lies (1994): I’m not exactly a fan of Tom Arnold, but he did a fair job here. I like Jamie Lee Curtis OK, and she made a surprisingly good wife for Ahnuld’s secret agent, ‘Harry Tasker’. Throw in Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku, and even Charlton Heston, and you have a pretty solid supporting cast. Harry has to track down stolen nuclear weapons that are in the hands of fanatic terrorists, while also trying to keep his wife out of danger and still maintain his civilian identity. Loads of action and hilarity ensue, of course, and Ahnuld does well as a globe-hopping secret agent. It feels like a cross between James Bond and a classic Disney caper. Fun for all! (Well, maybe not youngsters.)

Eraser (1996): “A Witness Protection specialist becomes suspicious of his co-workers when dealing with a case involving high-tech weapons.” That specialist is Ahnuld… or, rather, U.S. Marshal John ‘The Eraser’ Kruger, who starts out thinking his only worry is his latest assignment — i.e., the relocation of ‘Lee Cullen’, played by Vanessa Williams. Poor Kruger ends up going on the run with Lee, as they try to avoid being captured or killed by some misguided and/or corrupt Marshals and other law enforcement. In addition to Ahnuld and Williams, you have James Caan, James Coburn, James Cromwell, Robert Pastorelli, Danny Nucci, Mark Rolston, John Slattery, et al. It’s another terrific group supporting Ahnuld and making for a gripping, pulse-pounding action/drama/mystery movie. (Oh, and that alligator scene…!) Two thumbs up!

Of Ahnuld’s more recent films, as of this writing I have not yet seen Escape Plan (2013) (with Stallone), Sabotage (2014), Maggie (2015), or Aftermath (2017). I need to add them to my movie queue, I suppose. Who knows? Maybe after watching them, I’ll be able to round out my Top 10….

What are your favorite Ahnuld movies and why?