Between March 30th and April 7th, 2015 the world saw three major character actors of pop-culture and also cult fame leave their mortal coil. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s these men left an impression of my mind.
Robert Z’dar, he of the huge chin because of his birth defect aka cherubism was part of some of my favorite films, and played a cop, gangster, and more over the years. Z’dar actually had a pivotal role in my second favorite film TANGO & CASH in which his appearance was very important to the character and made him even more menacing. Tom Towles, a man who also played killers, cops and more, got his name out to the world in HENRY: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but made the most impact on me in the sci-fi horror THE BORROWER. Towles also became known better in later years as the cop in Rob Zombie’s horror films. Finally, James Best who became best known as Roscoe P. Coltrane, one of two antagonists on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. Throughout the 50’s and 60s, Best was a regular guest star on many a western and crime drama ranging from The Lone Ranger to Perry Mason.
After Towles passing I envisioned he and Z’Dar meeting up in whatever afterlife may or may not exist for a comedy horror about two bungling cops who shoot first and never ask questions. I couldn’t get myself to draw it though. Then Best died and I felt he’d easily work in the fictional film/show and I knew I had to do something as a tribute. PCS does LOTS of art (most of it wrestling inspired) but rarely posts it here. I feel in honor of these three men I must share this tribute which is incomplete, but says everything I want it to say.
Psychiatry has long be a part of some of my favorite TV shows and sometimes they’ve coincided with murder mysteries. From Private Pr active to more recently Perception, the secrets hidden in the brain that have been studied by the practices of psychology, psychiatry and neurology have fascinated me. Not from a clinical standpoint but strictly from the entertainment standpoint. One of the greatest things I’ve always really enjoyed is how these people in the field of psych either studying normal behavior or in more extreme cases (and on TV that’s always the case) solving a crime are as messed up both psychologically and emotionally as the people they are helping or trying to capture.
With all this in mind knowing what I love, delving into LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sandra Block seemed a no brainer. On the cliched “check system”, it hits pretty much everything I just stated. A psychiatrist (albeit still a resident) who is emotionally messed up as well as a slew of chemical dependencies and a dark past having her on a slew on prescriptions and seeing a psychologist herself suddenly finds herself embroiled in a mysterious crime where the killer is known, but not the motive.
Written in a first person narrative, Sandra Block gives us a very like-able and appealing protagonist in Dr. Zoe Goldman with an intriguing cast of fellow doctors, family, patients, and suitors. Each chapter as structured actually feels like an episode in a mini-series one could see running on USA Network, Lifetime, ION, Oxygen or what have you. Amazingly it also surprised me with each twist and turn. Just as I thought I had it all worked out, I didn’t completely fill the puzzle together. I actually even thought maybe I was losing my mind, but I think that was partially the point and it was a worthwhile feeling to reach the conclusion.
While reading it and then reflecting I am actually brought back to the final line of the story. It isn’t actually a spoiler, it more speaks to the entire tale and every character in it and what it is trying to convey through many actions and occurrences. “We are all a little crazy”. It’s so true… but if we weren’t, I don’t think we could enjoy the stories to begin with.
LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sandra Block is from Grand Central Publishing and available now for $15.
In 1998 I was in third year of college and working hard. I’m not even sure how I found time for video games, but I did and on top of that heap was Grim Fandango. Up to that point I was a Lucasarts adventure game for lifer starting back with Loom. When Grim Fandango came out I can’t really remember the marketing at all, but I knew the Day of the Dead plot and that it was from the mind of the same person who made Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle and that was enough for me to grab it up for whatever probably outdated PC I had at the time.
Truthfully though I don’t think I ever beat it. I do remember being amazed by the music though. Peter McConnell at that point had cemented his abilities with various LucasArts games but he seemed to become super inspired through Fandango’s mexican jazz and noir influences. That music would stay with me for years past ever actually touching the game. What also got me was that voice acting. At that point the lead, Tony Plana was a pretty established character actor with multiple film and TV appearances and an impeccable voice for comedic timing while still coming across as serious. Equally Alan Blumenfield who at the time was also one of those character actors who fell under the “hey, it’s that guy” was just perfect as the super energetic bounce off Plana’s cool and collected. The rest of the cast was full of known acors as well, but what stood out for me then and NOW was Pamela Segall. That was the coup of the voice casting, she was a former child actor and known cartoon voice actress at the time so hearing that she would be part of Grim was exciting. Honestly though I don’t know if I ever got far enough in the game to actually hear her in 1998. Those tank controls were… well, like controlling a tank. A headache and a half. I don’t care what Tim Schafer thinks… they aren’t fun. They’re a new device never used in an adventure game adding to the difficulty, but they also took away from the fun and ability to enjoy his clever script, engaging puzzles and curious plot.
Thankfully, in 2015 that all got fixed with Grim Fandango Remastered. Over the years I’ve tried using the fan made systems to play Fandango on new windows and even tried the fan made P&c scheme, but it just never felt… right. Multiple crashes and other doohickey annoyances made it nigh impossible to finish… even more than the the old tank controls.
While Remastered allowed me to finally play Fandango from start to finish without having to rely on tank controls even then it wasn’t completely easy. The game is difficult and has certain puzzles that were more annoyances then puzzle solving (ex: the section getting past skeleton tigers, and in the same general area, following an arrow). So it wasn’t the game I loved. In retrospect now as I sit here thinking of the experience, the game is actually not fun… but the acting, the script, the characters really just propel you to go forward. Some of the logic puzzles are equally obtuse as any adventure game, but the way they play out are either funny or justified in a way that made me continue and nod in a “allright, that works”.
What really makes Remastered special isn’t being able to play in a new game style way though. It’s the extras and bonuses. The commentary tracks are amazing and cover so much ground. There are interviews with not just Tim or Peter, but also the designers, the programmers, the casting & voice director and everyone in between. The making of the game is truly explored in fun and interesting ways along with a large gallery of design art including unused cut scenes and a full storyboard. On top of that the amazing soundtrack has truly be remastered and in cases re-recorded using a symphony guided by McConnell. It’s a wonder to hear and behold and makes playing so worth it.
The only thing not included (as far I could tell) was the original puzzle document. Fortunately that wondrous piece is still on the internet. Don’t read it till you’ve beaten the game though.
GRIM FANDANGO Remastered is currently available on PC/Mac and Linux DRM-Free and Steam as well on PS4 and PS Vita for $14.99.
Many big sites have looked at the 2015 Amazon Pilot season, but they will either focus on one set of genres, or review ONE particular program OR if they did an article on all the offering they were written from different voices instead of a singular eye so that you get a real judge of the series because you can tell what the writer liked or didn’t like instead of individuals snippets from varying viewpoints. Which can be good in some cases, but in something where Amazon is asking or at sort of asking what people think, I’d like to hear the opinion of each person on EACH show.
So here is that exactly. I sat through every offering (including the stuff for the toddler set, but I have nothing to say on those) from the Amazon pilots of 2015 (even the ones for the kiddies, not that I lasted long) and came up with a concise overview of each program, even delving a little further if the show I felt had merit for that
Mad Dogs: Definitely a keeper . Although it seems that it’s actually a remake of a UK series, I have to assume Shawn Ryan has some intriguing twists for it to make its own thing. Also Steve Zahn, Michael Imperiloli and Romany Malco bounding off each other with Ben Chapin in the more straightman role could be awesome stuff. The last 15 minutes set up what could be a really amped up show and very different that the original UK version from what I can recall.
COCKED: Another Brilliant production. It’s got that HBO/Showtime Dramedy feel to it and Jason Lee delivers but Sam Trammel really shines here. This is definitely without even seeing the other pilots a top contender. Co-created by Sam Shaw (creator of Manhattan) and Samuel Baum (creator of Lie To Me), with direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I hope these Amazon pilots have a first look pass thing cause if this one doesn’t get picked up for a run I think HBO, Showtime or Netflix would want it.
NIKO and the Sword of Light: OMG! This is amazing. Based off an app available for iPad, Android Tablets, etc (I always wanted it but I only have an iPhone). It was adapted by the original team and some major animation players as well as Titmouse, Stellar, Legendary well known voice cast too with Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad’s Klaus), Steve Blum, Kevin Michael Richardson, Corey Burton and Tom Kenny.
Table 58: This one is definitely for the younger set, but it’s premise seems like it’d fit great on Nick or DisneyXD, but on Amazon maybe they can go special places with it. The adult actors really help as there’s a Groundling, a former cast member of MadTV and two character actors who you’ve seen in something in J.P. Manoux and Sean O’Ryan. It’s over the top humor and the six outcasts kids are great. It was also directed by Gil Under, best known for 10 Things I hate About You and written by May Chan, a staff writer on Phineas & Ferb.
The NEW YORKER Presents: Worth seeing for intriguing segments. Most especially Jonathan Demme bring this article to life and the sketch with Alan Cumming written by Simon Rich (Humorist, former SNL writer, Screenwriter) . It basically really is like the magazine come to life. So if a series, probably hit or miss. I always thought like this is cool though. VICE has a series like it. McSweeney’s curated WHOLPIN was much like it. Worth a view.
Salem Rogers, Model of the Yeat 1998: This show is no good, but at the 25 minute mark you get a bare assed Leslie Bibb in color and in motion and for that? YAY. Rachel Dratch is fun too, but not enough to make this a keeper.
Just Add Magic: I’m not familiar with the book this was based on but after looking the book up they basically only used the premise to come up with what sounds like an “Eastwick” for the tween set. The highlight for the adult viewer is Amy Hill ( a face and voice almost anyone would recognize if not her name) as what appears would be the series “villain”. If it’s between this and Table 58, Table 58 is the front runner though.
The Man in the High Castle: I’m on the fence on my feelings about this. It’s quite a Loose adaptation of the novel indeed, basically using the characters, concept and some of the plotlines but then throwing away pretty much everything else to create its own series which would now be unpredictable as it adds elements never in the original book. Development hell on this too since Scott has been trying to get it made through first BBC, then SyFy before this. Against COCKED and MAD DOGS I’d choose either of them over this, but as long as Amazon (and people) doesn’t approve that horrendous Point of Honor, that was utter drek.
Niko vs. Mugwump
From a galaxy far, far away, Lucasfilm announces discovery of the IMPERIAL HANDBOOK,
filled with secret intelligence for the Commanders of the Imperial Military
New York, NY: October 6, 2014: This fall, just in time for the holiday season, Lucasfilm™ announces the release of STAR WARS: IMPERIAL HANDBOOK, the latest artifact to come from INSIDE the STAR WARS® universe. From the book producers who unearthedTHE JEDI PATH and BOOK OF SITH comes the newest discovery from a galaxy, far, far away . . . . a guide for Commanders of the Imperial Military.
The Empire has taken hold of the galaxy. Soon, with the completion of the Death Star, its control will be absolute. In preparation for this Imperial expansion, high-ranking officials from each branch of the Imperial Military have set down tactical guidelines and procedures as well as collected mission reports and classified documents for all newly ascending commanders.
In the wake of the Battle of Endor, members of the Rebel Alliance intercepted this top-secret instructional manual and have circulated it among their own commanders, who have added notes and commentary in the margins.
Housed in a protective case, this rare glimpse into the military governance and philosophy of the Empire offers a unique perspective no matter which side of the rebellion you’re on.
The STAR WARS: IMPERIAL HANDBOOK Deluxe Edition produced by becker&mayer! in collaboration with Lucasfilm, New York Timesbestselling author Daniel Wallace, and celebrated STAR WARS illustrators takes fans inside the world of the Imperial Military. To heighten the drama of the text’s backstory, THE STAR WARS: IMPERIAL HANDBOOK Deluxe Edition is housed within a sleek mechanical case. With the touch of a button, top of the case slides open accompanied by lights and authentic STAR WARS sounds, revealing the book within.
Fans can order the Deluxe Edition on beckermayer.com now. This edition is also available at most other major retailers just in time for the holiday season. STAR WARS fans will enjoy the creativity, innovation, and superb quality of this handbook as they gain new insights into the practices and philosophies of the Imperial Military.
STAR WARS: IMPERIAL HANDBOOK by various high-ranking Imperial Officials (& New York Times bestselling author Daniel Wallace), becker&mayer! 160 pages, ISBN-10: 1603803408, ISBN-13: 978-1603803403, $99.99, Fully illustrated-color illustrations, National on-sale date: October 14, 2014; Available at www.beckermayer.com and at most major retailers
Imperial writers: Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, High General Cassio Tagge, Admiral Wullf Yularen, Admiral Conan Antonio Motti, and TX-5532
Rebel Alliance annotators: Jan Dodonna, General Madine, General Rieekan, Wedge Antilles, Leia Organa, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Mon Mothma.
Daniel Wallace is a comic book expert, sci-fi sage, and lifelong geek. Author or co-author of more than two dozen books including The Jedi Path, Man of Steel: Inside the Legendary World of Superman, DC Comics Year by Year, Iron Man Manual, and the New York Times bestselling Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters, his specialty is exploring the underpinnings of popular fictional universes. An avid genre fan, he has also worked as a professional contributor in the realms of Indiana Jones, Smallville, and Supernatural.
For more than 25 years, becker&mayer! LLC has created hundreds of innovative books that inform and entertain readers of all ages. THE JEDI PATH is one of several dynamic STAR WARS tie-ins created this year by the Bellevue, Washington–based book packagers becker&mayer! Visit www.beckermayer.com for more information.
Lucasfilm, the Lucasfilm logo, Star Wars and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.
I had the excellent opportunity to interview Mike Tyson, as well as producer/writer Hugh Davidson and writer/actress Rachel Ramras of [adult swim]’s MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES which premieres OCTOBER 27th, 2014 at 10:30 PM EST (or your equivalent to that).
Do not miss this one. It is hilarious. I have seen the first two episodes and they are great.
This Thursday the Jacob Javits gets crazy again. It’s really hard to ever truly prepare for New York Comic Con and in 2014 it gets even crazier. More people, bigger guests, some seriously big panels and with construction on the main parts of Javits mostly finished, more floor to navigate and lose your mind at.
I am not really here to help you not lose your mind. Actually with some of the links I shall be providing you it’ll only make you lose your mind more in trying to determine where to go and what to be at while also being at this other awesome thing you want to go to or be at.
There are some truly important things that everyone seems to forget.
HYGIENE! Hygiene should be a common sense rule. You are going to be in a room with over 20,000 people. Probably more. They are excited, they are nervous, just like you. We will all be tired, sweaty, smelly, but general upkeep will allow us all to have a good time.
COMFORTABLE SHOES. The Jacob Javits center is unpaved bumpy concrete and manholes. They did a ton of construction but I don’t think ANY of that construction was paving the floor. You will be on your feet a lot. The convention center runs around 34th-37th street. It’s a big place and you’ll be running from booth to booth, panel to panel up and down stairs over and over again. Protect those feet.
And to borrow from the new harassment policy.
BE NICE, BE COOL, RESPECT EACH OTHER.
Do yourself a favor though, new or old to comic con, read the newly built policy and really keep it in mind. We are all people and should respect that and some of us don’t identify that way and also deserve respect.
Now here comes a bunch of links of schedules and cool things happening at Comic Con that Pop-Culture Spectrum feels a little extra attention. I’ll be mentioning some not miss panels too, but firs this stuff.
Here’s what video game company BANDAI NAMCO is bringing to the show floor
First Second Books Panel and Signing Schedule
Andrews-McMell GO Comics Division schedule
Penguin Books schedule:
One of PCS’s FAVORITE publishers in the world, QUIRK Books schedule.
Insight Editions Schedule
Here’s what awesome artist Christopher Jones has going on at the show.
Mimoco has some really limited power tube/battery extenders available:
But those are just scratching the surface.
Cartoon Network with Adventure Time, Steven Universe and more, Adult Swim with Rick & Morty, Robot Chicken, and the highly anticipated untitled Jack McBrayer/Triump the Comic Insult Dog show and Mike Tyson Mysteries, the new Star Wars cartoon Rebels, the entire cast of The Walking Dead, the first look at Netflix presents Marvel’s Daredevil, video game booths from Ubisoft, Activision, Bandai Namco and more, an occolus rift style ride based on How to Train Your Dragon 2, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the upcoming film Birdman, and just much more.
Then of course there’s still actually comics. Marvel and DC both going hard in presentations with panels, signings, and a presence around the entire show just through its properties in movies, television, video games and toys. One of the best mainstream companies Valiant has already announced their future lineup but will be going into detail and pushing hard. Then of course there’s Artist’s Alley with all the great indy artists, self publishers and more.
On top of that you still have The Block with all the vinyl toy artists, street artists and graffiti artists. Then the fringe. You never know what you’ll find at NYCC. It’s a great place for a product to debut designed for the new fan.
Last year, Einhorn’s Epic Cookies made their debut at the show. While they have a truly saavy connection to comics through their branding as well as having original comics developed by Kyle Starks and Jacob Chabot it’s their awesome cookies that make them awesome and I am glad they are back as should you be!
NYCC starts tomorrow. You can think you’re ready, you’re never ready, but you’ll have fun thinking so!
Pick up Cristin’s fabulous book now!
(review and more forthcoming)