Categories
Andy Says Books & Graphic Novels Toys & Collectibles

Digesting Dark Shadows

Hermes Press's Colorful Cover to The Dark Shadows Story Digest Reprint

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome guest editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez to the SkeletonPete blog. On her first visit she offers a view of the recently published reprint of Gold Key’s Dark Shadows Story Digest. She’ll be back with us regularly to lend her expertise in all things vampiric, anglophilic and episodic.)

Interrupted Voyage
“The one you seek is here,” she said, “I do not know why he has returned through the shades of time to trouble me, but he is here and he must be destroyed!”

Hermes Press resurrects one of television’s all-time favorite anti-heroes, the repentant vampire, Barnabas Collins, with a reprint of the Dark Shadows story, “Interrupted Voyage” written by Donald J. Arneson. This digest was first printed back in 1970 as part of a series of stories released by Gold Key Comics.

What it is…
When I think of “Interrupted Voyage” I recall the 1980 sci-fi film “Somewhere in Time” starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve as tragic, star-crossed lovers from two different times — only with zombies, witches and vampires!

While attempting to escape the clutches of his spurned lover, the evil witch, Angélique Bouchard, Barnabas Collins pledges to save two young lovers from the curse of time that separates them, only to put his own life and immortal soul in peril by doing so. Can Barnabas save Annabella and her fiancée Michael from another witch, the raven-haired Calandra, while avoiding the curse Angélique has placed upon him?

Set in Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the hysteria of the infamous witch trials, “Interrupted Voyage” uses this backdrop to full effect, complete with suspicious, torch-bearing, angry villagers. This story often brings to mind some of the popular fanzines and fanfic stories I’ve seen in the last few decades, using both prose and illustrations by comic book artist Joe Certa to engage the reader.

Melodramatic at times and over the top, perhaps, even a bit camp… but that’s what Dark Shadows does best, mixing the supernatural – tales of ghosts and witches, with romance, and yes, even time travel, all with a heightened sense of drama. It pushes the boundaries of disbelief and makes you want to believe in that other world… the world beyond the veil. It’s a world where you can rewrite a wrong, find and reclaim a lost love and erase your deepest regrets. It’s a world where anything is possible and good can triumph over evil.

Andy says…
In spite of some niggling bits here and there — for example, the overuse of “dark shadows” to describe… well… just about everything that is vaguely mysterious or foreboding, as well as the plodding pace, I can forgive it. “Interrupted Voyage” is of its time and very much follows the formula of the original Dark Shadows serial. Perhaps it’s my nostalgic love for the 1960s gothic-horror TV series created by the late Dan Curtis, but I can see this story working quite well on screen.

Categories
Art Books & Graphic Novels SkeletonPete Says Toys & Collectibles

OH MY! Hermes Press Releases All New “Lions, Tigers and Bears” Graphic Novel

Mike Ploog's Cover For Lions, Tigers and Bears Volume 3

Hermes Press takes a dip into the world of original content with the publication of “Lions,Tigers And Bears – Volume 3”, a completely new story in the award winning series by author Mike Bullock. Hermes, primarily known for its selection of library edition reprints of comic strips (The Phantom, Buck Rogers, Steve Canyon, Dark Shadows) and popular culture books (007, Supermarionation), is actively preparing to expand into the original graphic novel and comics market and even did a series of talent search interviews with aspiring artists and inkers at the recent San Diego Comic Con.

What It Is….

LT&B follows the adventures of Joey Price & Courtney Donlolley through a dreamworld where their collection of stuffed animals come to life to guide and protect them against creepy things that lurk under the bed or live in the closet. In this newest story Joey learns a serious lesson about being careful what you wish for. Joey’s ire at Courtney’s cousin, the taunting Beth, finds him wishing the Beasties would get her. When they do, he finds himself responsible for her rescue. Over course of the story the children, aided by their nocturnal companions including Ares the white tiger and Minerva the leopardess, come head to head with the toothsome monster Grillus and a group of evil pirates led by Scurvy. They also encounter the ghost of Captain Greybeard and his skeleton crew. The volume is rounded out by two Bullock scripted stories illustrated by Dan Hipp and Adam Van Wyck, which give shorter peeks into Joey’s night world of beasties and guardians.

Heralded by a dramatic Mike Ploog cover, the four chapter book is not so scary that children around 6 years of age can’t join the fun. Consider it the equivalent of a good old Disney style bump in the night. It’s no spoiler to say the good guys win, at least for now. The writing is much more literate than the standard cartoon fare found on cable TV these days and a nice introduction to the concept of graphic novels for the early reader. Parents and grandparents who may have previously suffered through some cringe-worthy juvenalia will appreciate this read-along as Bullock manages to infuse a layer of adult themes into the story as well.

The interior panel art by Michael Metcalf is beautifully rendered and scrumptiously colored. A favorite panel of mine casts Grillus and his beasties in a tableaux that approximates Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s iconic “Washington Crossing the Delaware”. I love sly little touches like that.

SkeletonPete Says…

For those who want to catch up with the L,T & B mythos, Hermes Press also offers the previous stories in two equally nice volumes. Along the way Bullock’s stories deal with life lessons of self confidence, taking responsibility for your actions, and even the loss of loved ones. These books are keepers that I believe will find a place in the “life libraries” of the young people they should be gifted to.

Categories
SkeletonPete Says Toys & Collectibles

Tonner Dolls Unveils DC Super Heroines @ Toy Fair 2011

Wow, I’m still wading through the massive amount of amazing collectibles encountered at the 2011 Toy Fair. While snooping for fantasy character tie-ins I got pretty much stopped dead in my tracks by the Tonner Doll Company’s display of “DC Stars”. The new line includes comic book super heroines Catwoman, Dove, Raven, Black Canary and a stunning Teen Titans Starfire in sizes from 13 to 17 inches. In addition there is a jaw dropping 22 inch version of Wonder Woman to compliment 2010’s 13 inch model.

Tonner is renown for their beautifully rendered limited edition figures. Their licenses include the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises and my favorite Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” characters. The company also has their own “Sinister Circus” characters with a nice creep factor for the gothically inclined.

Kenny P. and I agreed that we’d love to see Ms. Emilie Autumn and her Bloody Crumpets get the collector doll treatment. Think of the cool accessories – tea cups, rats and candelabra, stilts and some pirate gear for Maggot.

Click any image to launch lightbox.

Categories
SkeletonPete Says Toys & Collectibles

Activision “Skylanders”: Collectible Toys with Gaming Powers

Another really awesome experience at Toy Fair 2011 was getting a sneak peak at Activision’s new “Skylanders, Spyro’s Adventure” video game. Their booth was totally dedicated to debuting the game and featured giant replicas of the game pieces, including the familiar Spyro the flying purple dragon. Developed by Toys for Bob, the game is an imaginative and immersive adventure with puzzle, treasure hunt and battle components. What sets it apart from other games are it’s collectible figures each representing a character from the virtual world. These beautifully rendered miniatures can be “put into play” by placing them on the circular “portal of power”. Each has a unique set of abilities which can unlock different worlds or accomplish different tasks. Most importantly every toy figure has embedded tech which “remembers” its achievements inside the game and those level-ups and experiences travel with the toy.

Players can place a maximum of two characters at a time on the portal and play cooperatively or in battle mode. Characters exit and enter the game simply by placing or removing them from the portal base giving the player an opportunity to call in creatures as needed for their special masteries. It this manner game play varies endlessly based on which characters are in play, what tasks attempted and the level of each game pieces’ achievements. For instance, a friend who owns a character you do not, may be invited over to help unlock a new level or complete a task.

There will be over 30 characters to collect and use in gameplay, including Terrafin, Chop Chop, Gill Grunt, Trigger Happy and Stealth Elf. The game is set for release in fall of this year and will ship with Spyro, 3 other characters and the portal base, which resembles a castle turret. The game is scored by movie composer Hans Zimmer but Activision opted for AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as the soundtrack to the promo video. While aimed at a younger audience is not hard to believe older siblings and even parents will be charmed by the chance to pop a figure on the portal and take a trip to Skyland.

See PiercingMetal’s Toy Fair 2011 Features here.

Click any photo to launch lightbox display.

Categories
SkeletonPete Says Toys & Collectibles

Late Late Show Faves – Folkmanis Puppets @ Toy Fair 2011

Continuing our hunt for fantastical creatures at the February 2011 Toy Fair in New York City, PiercingMetal.com’s Ken Pierce and I found ourselves surrounded by a menagerie of dragons, monsters, and even a pirate peering at us through the canopy of a magical forest. As it turned out they were all the exquisitely crafted puppets created by Folkmanis.

You may already know some of the company’s characters from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. “CraigyFerg” often opens his show with hilariously unorthodox monologues delivered by several of Folkmanis’ creatures. My particular favorite is the cuddly white bunny (“Sid”) who drives the CBS censors wild with his foul language. Back in December 2009 the puppets took over the show entirely in celebration of the 1000th episode. Here’s a look at some of them in their own habitat.

Click any image to launch Lightbox.