From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 11

Here’s the latest issue of the quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’ for your (hopeful) enjoyment and entertainment. (For the first 10 installments, follow the ‘Mr. Zeus Posts’ link at the top of the page.)

“Close Call!”

I have mentioned in the past that I work out in my basement, both for exercise and as a stress-reliever. I have also mentioned that I sometimes will change things up by flying — very fast — to the middle of nowhere and letting loose — punching, pounding, digging, stomping on very large rocks, the ground, etc. I’ve even been known to carve large objects into a hillside or rock quarry. On one occasion, though, I got sidetracked and never made it out to the “badlands” for my “work out”. And I’m very glad I didn’t, ‘cuz I met my “neighbor” (though he lives a couple hundred miles away) for the first time, and he has been a good friend ever since.

I’ll call him “Joe” in order to maintain his privacy. Joe is a rancher with many acres of property out in Texas. (Montana, too, but he rents that out.) On the evening we met, he and his ranch hands were rounding up some cattle, and I hovered above (and out of sight) to watch. A thunderstorm was rolling in, and they were trying to get the animals — at least 1000 of them — back to the barns before it hit. I kept an eye on the stormclouds and realized that they were moving pretty fast. I also noticed that the cattle were being led across an old, dry creek bed at the foot of some hills with some leftover snow at their tops. I’m no outdoorsman, but something I’d read or seen made me think that the cattle were in danger of being caught in a flashflood, if they didn’t get well away from that creek bed.

I landed around the bend so as not to spook the animals or the men, then I walked up to the nearest hand and asked him who was in charge. Joe rode over and I quickly explained who I was and what I saw. I suggested that I probably had enough time to fly all the cattle — two at a time — at superspeed back to the barns. But, after two trips, I could see that the poor critters were really freaked out, and Joe agreed that we shouldn’t traumatize them if we could help it. The storm was thundering and almost on us, and I suddenly got an idea… Long story short, I managed to dig a big trench half-way around the two nearest hills, buying Joe and his men enough time to get the rest of the herd across the creek bed and around to the other side of another (large) hill before my makeshift moat overflowed and the water rushed down the creek bed. It was raining pretty hard by then, but the barns were only a half mile away, and the lightning & thunder gave everyone — including the cattle — extra incentive to move faster.

Afterward, Joe invited me inside to dry off by his fireplace. We shared a couple of beers and really hit it off. In fact, I drop by his place whenever I can, now. Weather permitting, we typically sit on his porch and admire the view, while talking about whatever’s on our minds. Sometimes it’s business (his or mine), sometimes it’s personal. We talk about sports, politics, religion & philosophy, law enforcement, current events,… whatever. Joe is about 20 years older, so he treats me sort of like a son, which is fine by me. (His son died of cancer as a child, but he has a daughter in grad school.) I love listening to his stories about ranching and serving in the Army and just life in general. He’s a common-sense kind of guy, and very sharp — streetwise, which is an odd term to apply to him, since he doesn’t care for the city. I’ve spent many evenings with Joe, just “jawin'” and listening to his wise words. (Btw, his wife Judy is an awesome cook and a smart, terrific lady, too.) When Joe’s 80-year-old father, Big Jim, joins us, that’s the best! Jim is a real trip, very funny, and also one of the wisest men I know.

“A Man of Many Words”

Someone asked me the other day about my reading tastes and habits. A bit of an odd question for someone like me, since most people assume I don’t have much brains — or intellectual curiosity — to go with the brawn. I’m no genius, but as most of my fans know, I do read on various topics. It’s a practice I started as a kid, slacked off on for a few years, then resumed when I became a superhero. In the past, I have recommended that superheroes get a foundation in various subjects to help with solving crimes, perfecting one’s abilities, dealing with tech, etc., and that involves reading.

I still do some reading along those lines, though I’m not at the moment. I’m pretty busy (see below), but I always try to set aside time to read during lunch (assuming I’m not eating with someone else) and for an hour or so before bed. I also long ago developed the habit of keeping a book with me — either hard copy or audiobook — when running errands or going to an appointment of some sort, when I might have a few minutes of waiting around. Why waste time twiddling my thumbs or flipping through magazines when I could be reading a good book, maybe even learning something? In addition, I usually listen to an audiobook or an educational lecture/podcast while working out in my gym.

What do I read? Well, on the non-fiction front I typically have at least a couple books in progress, sometimes three or four. Topics include American and world history (including biographies), politics & culture, theology, philosophy, popular science, and recently some on writing fiction. Right now, I’m reading a biography titled Churchill: A Study in Greatness by Geoffrey Best. It’s a tad dry in places, but any history buff will enjoy it. Churchill was a fascinating guy! I’m about half-way through a collection of essays by renowned economist Thomas Sowell, too. (Can’t remember the title at the moment.) It’s not as boring as it sounds. Sowell was a columnist for decades, and he wrote about all sorts of political and cultural issues. Very smart man! (His books on economics are actually pretty good, too, and geared more for the average reader.) I’m also just starting a book by Christian speaker/apologist Greg Koukl called The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Rather bold and intriguing title, eh? Koukl has a very engaging style and conversational tone, as he explains the basics of the Christian worldview as a picture of reality. So far, I’m impressed.

As for fiction, I read a mix of crime, spy thriller, mystery, action/adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Over the past couple years, I’ve been re-reading some classics from Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and other science fiction legends, as well as getting into some newer stuff — at least, new to me. So, for example, I recently read Asimov’s The Naked Sun (second time) and Haldeman’s The Forever War (first time), and I started series by David Weber, Robert Sawyer, and Kevin J. Anderson. I am now reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time. (Yes, I occasionally read young-adult fiction.) I’m a bit late to the party with the whole Harry Potter craze, since I’m finally finishing the series 10 years after the last book came out. Gotta say, though, I find them highly entertaining! Meantime, I am listening to an audiobook edition of Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich. It’s my second book by Reich, and he’s a nice addition to my “collection” of favorite authors. However, my other new discovery, which I enjoy even more, is Gregg Hurwitz. The first book of his I read — well, listened to — was Orphan X, which was excellent. It spurred me on to try one of his older works: The Crime Writer. Very different plot and protagonist, but also very good. If you like the above genres, then you’ll probably like Hurwitz’s stuff, too.

“Q & A”

You might remember an earlier issue of the newsletter where I answered a few questions that people at cons and book signings had been asking me. Of course, people (like, you guys) ask me questions by mail, too. So, I figured I’d round out this issue by responding briefly to a few of those here for everyone’s benefit….

Q: What do you do in your “down time” to relax? (Peter S. from Chattanooga, TN)

A: To be honest, I don’t have much down time, lately. I’ve told you about some of the activities I’m involved with (e.g., part-time crimefighting, working on ILEAD’s Hero Training Program, writing, public appearances, etc.), and they keep me pretty darn busy. But, as I explained above, I do quite a bit of reading — both fiction and non-fiction. My gym workouts are “down time”, I suppose, but hardly relaxing. Occasionally, I find time to chill out with a movie or TV series. (Confession: I own every single Star Trek series and movie on DVD. Also, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.) In fact, I have been known to host movie parties with friends at my place.

Q: Do you do any work for the environment? (Warren Z. from Portland, OR):

A: I assume you are talking about ecological stuff, protecting wildlife and things like that? Well, I have been involved in a number of clean-up operations following natural disasters — from hurricanes to oil spills. I am concerned about some ecological/environmental issues, but I’m not an activist, by any means. Also, my position is more conservationist than environmentalist. (See this brief explanation of the difference.)

Q: What injuries have you sustained while “adventuring”? (Kelly P. from Fort Hood, TX):

A: Several, but most mend within seconds, minutes, or hours (depending on severity), thanks to my enhanced healing ability. Also, my near-indestructibility makes is pretty darn difficult to damage me. So, for example, high-caliber bullets or explosives at close range might slightly bruise or scorch my skin, but not enough to slow me down, and that stuff heals really quickly. The more serious injuries were a few broken bones (e.g., 3 toes, left ulna, both femurs, 3 fingers, right thumb, 4 ribs) and some internal bleeding/damage from doing battle with the strongest and most powerful foes (e.g., CrimSun, Visigoth, Summerset, the Gargantosaur).

Stay strong!

Another issue hot off the presses!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

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Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

Second, Third, or Fourth Chance, part 2: 3 More Reboots & Remakes In Development

Continuing from last week…

John Krasinski in *13 Hours* (Christian Black/Paramount Pictures via AP)

John Krasinski in *13 Hours* (Christian Black/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Jack Ryan: Paramount Pictures has been trying for some time to hit its stride with the Tom Clancy novel adaptations, but the results have been uneven. It doesn’t help that the primary character, Jack Ryan, has already been played by four different actors. Alec Baldwin played Ryan in the terrific The Hunt for Red October (1990), then Harrison Ford took over for the enjoyable Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). An attempted reboot starred Ben Affleck in the 2002 prequel, The Sum of All Fears. Most recently, Chris Pine took on the role for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). I haven’t seen that last one, but I understand it was somewhat disappointing, too.

Now, Paramount (with Skydance) is trying something different, partnering with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes to make a small-screen “Jack Ryan” for Amazon. Showrunners will be Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland. Though the series hasn’t officially been greenlit, the somewhat surprising news is that they already have their new star signed on — John Krasinski. Not quite as classically handsome as his “Ryan” predecessors, and most known for his comedic role in “The Office”, Krasinski has gained some serious attention (and packed on the muscle) for his performance in 13 Hours. He also has a sci-fi thriller, God Particle, coming out.

This latest take on Jack Ryan will follow him mid-career as a CIA analyst/operative, using the novels as a guide but apparently not following them very closely. As per People.com, the 10-episode series will begin with him “on a dangerous field assignment after discovering a terrorist plot that could spark global destruction.” Sounds practically ripped out of the headlines… that is, if the headline writers were privy to what professional spies were up to.

the-chronicles-of-narnia-box-set-collection-csNarnia: For you fantasy fans, it looks like the powers-that-be are going to take another stab at continuing to adapt the Chronicles of Narnia books. If you haven’t been keeping score, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) was a quite enchanting (though not perfect) adaptation of the beloved classic by C.S. Lewis. It was followed by Prince Caspian (2008) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), which were also enjoyable. I can’t remember all the reasons that Fox and Walden stopped putting them out, but I know a lot of fans were quite bummed out.

I think I only read half of the Chronicles, tbh, so I’m not as invested in them as some hard-core fans. Nevertheless, I think the entire series deserves to be done, and adapted as faithfully to the source material as is reasonably possible. So, I was pleased to read that a reboot is underway, with The Silver Chair being next in line. However, there are a few changes, with The C.S. Lewis Company and The Mark Gordon Company replacing Fox 2000 Pictures and Walden Media as the production companies. Also, TriStar Pictures and Entertainment One will be handling worldwide distribution. David Magee (The Life of Pi, Finding Neverland) will be screenwriter. (In fact, he completed his first draft last year.) Also, according to Gordon, the reboot will essentially be a “brand-new franchise… [with] different directors, and an entire new team.” There’s going to have to be some re-casting, too, of course.

If that’s what it takes to breathe new life into a great fantasy franchise, then I’m totally fine with it. Beyond my usual concerns about casting, my other primary concerns are for quality of special F/X and that the stories maintain the clearly Christian themes and messages from the novels. These were Lewis’ reasons for writing them, after all. The fact that The C.S. Lewis Company (who took over the rights from The Walden Group back in 2013) is more directly involved this time gives me hope that they will ensure the integrity of the adaptation.

[Note to self: Put the Chronicles on your reading list, for Pete’s sake!]

original-bsg-apollo-adama-starbuckBattlestar Galactica: Yep, that’s right. Another version of BSG is in the works. I was one of those who watched and enjoyed the original BSG as a kid back in 1978/9. (Recently watched the original movie — first time in decades — for a nostalgic thrill.) I even watched the short-lived spin-off/sequel, “Galactica 1980”. I also enjoyed the SyFy reboot/re-imagining that began with the 2003 TV mini-series and continued with a well-executed and highly-acclaimed series from 2005-2009. (Yes, I watched the “Caprica” prequel, too.) While I thought that both BSG series ended weakly, and I wasn’t thrilled that the latter series changed Starbuck and Boomer into women (though I enjoyed their characters), I still thought they were both great. So, you know I’m a fan.

Since even before the SyFy series launched, Universal has been trying to get a new BSG project going, with various people (e.g., Bryan Singer, Jack Paglen) attached at one time or another. In February of this year, the studios announced that they have Bluegrass Films (Scott Stuber and Dylan Clark) teaming with producer Michael De Luca (Moneyball, Dracula Untold) to breathe new life into the franchise with a big-budget, big-screen movie. The most recent news came in June, proclaiming that Lisa Joy (Westworld) is set to write the film and Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games) was in discussions to take the director’s chair. If Lawrence comes on, I suspect they’ll be able to move forward with casting and pre-production.

As per Collider,

“This new version of the property at one point was said to not be related to the critically acclaimed series that aired on the Syfy network between 2003 and 2009. However, a report from The Wrap says the filmmakers are, in fact, taking into account the popular series.”

To be honest, I’m a bit conflicted on this one. On the one hand, it’s a terrific concept, and I’m intrigued with what this new take on it might look & feel like. On the other hand, I think it’s way too soon for another reboot. (The last one ended just 7 1/2 years ago!) If they’re planning an actual reboot from the beginning of the story, they need to wait another 10-15 years before trying another go at it. (Babylon 5, other other hand, is coming up on 20 years since the finale and a reboot may be worth considering. Hint, hint.) However, if it is somehow connected to, or even integrated with, the SyFy series, it might be justifiable.

BONUS!

the-crow-with-pistolThe Crow: The original, black-and-white comic series by James O’Barr was quite popular once upon a time. I never got into it myself, but I remember that it had sort of a cult following (no pun intended). I also never watched the acclaimed The Crow (1994) film adaptation, starring the late Brandon Lee, or its lackluster sequels (The Crow: City of Angels (1996), The Crow: Salvation (2000), The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)), or the “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven” (1998-99) TV series. So, I really don’t have much interest in this particular project. (I may check out the original flick, though.)

The project in question is the long-awaited, big-screen reboot, which is now set to begin filming in January 2017. Relativity acquired the rights to the property five years ago but have had financial issues (which they have apparently resolved) and worked their way through a number of actors and directors. Popular genre actor Jason Momoa is now attached to play the original murder-victim-turned-avenging-Crow, Eric Draven, which gives it a bit of star power. Corin Hardy is currently set to direct.

O’Barr, who is heavily involved in the production, had this to say last year:

“The new movie is not a remake of the Brandon Lee film. It’s going right back to the book; it’s like a literal page-for-page adaptation of the book. The trains, the horses, the talking bird, all the visual metaphors. The death figures throughout the thing…. [I]t’s going to be closer to Taxi Driver than to John Woo. The violence is supposed to be ugly, you know? I’m very happy with everything.”

This should make Crow fans very happy, too.

Sounds like some fun stuff coming down the pipeline! What are you most looking forward to? Or, most dreading?

Artist Appreciation Day: Alex Ross

For sometime, now, I’ve been wanting to post something in tribute to my favorite comic & graphic novel artists. There are quite a few — both “regular” artists and “painters”, some of whom specialize in covers and some who do mostly interiors and others who do a lot of both. Since I don’t really follow the current batch of “new artists” (i.e., since I stopped collecting 7 or 8 years ago), my faves have been around awhile. But, I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of all their work and didn’t want to take a ton of time researching individual careers. Plus, I wasn’t sure how much you, my readers, would tolerate of my reminiscing, etc.

Aaaanyway, I finally decided that, once in a while, I would just pick one of my favorite artists to honor with a post dedicated to them — minimal text + an assortment of sample images displaying their talent. Who better to start off with than “the Man” himself, Alex Ross? He captures both the physicality and the psyche/emotions of his subjects *so* well that really does bring them to life! Simply awesome!! The tough part is choosing which ones to feature here…

With Ross, I suppose it is only natural to begin with the limited series that gave him his big break — “Marvels” (1994). I grabbed this image because it shows all four covers (plus Ross in the upper right corner), but he also did the interiors.

Marvels covers - Alex Ross

And he only got better from there, as evidenced by his next big project (inc. interiors), which garnered him even more avid fans and critical accolades alike: DC’s “Kingdom Come” (1996). Hard to believe that was 20 years ago! Unfortunately, we can’t see all four wraparound covers, but this poster is still pretty cool…

poster-kingdomcome

For a little compare and contrast fun, here’s a diptych showing classic line-ups of DC’s Justice League and Marvel’s Avengers…

JLA Avengers diptych - Alex Ross

Here’s a nice triptych of DC’s “Trinity”…

DC Trinity triptych - Alex Ross

Before I leave DC, here’s a popular piece of everyone’s favorite Joker and Harley Quinn doing the “Tango of Evil”…

Joker & Harley, Tango of Evil - Alex Ross

I had to get Spidey, the Fantastic Four, and a couple “editions” of the X-Men in here, too…

Special TV Guide cover

Special TV Guide cover

 

Fantasticfouralexross-500x500

Original X-Men

Original X-Men

 

Classic, Uncanny X-Men

Classic, Uncanny X-Men

And, we’ll wrap up with a few sci-fi faves…

Star Trek TOS - Alex Ross

star-wars-1-alex-ross

(Original Battlestar Galactica, riffing on classic Star Wars poster)

(Original Battlestar Galactica, riffing on familiar sci-fi/fantasy poster pose)

I’d love to display more (e.g., Daredevil, Hulk, Iron Man, Astro City, Squadron Supreme, etc.), but I gotta stop somewhere. Hope you enjoyed the unauthorized Alex Ross gallery. If you have the dough, go buy some of his prints at alexrossart.com.

Have a Great Day (or Night, as the case may be)!