May 2010 Archives
Frank Frazetta began working in the comic industry at the age of 15 back in 1944. That began a huge career as a comic artist doing characters like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Lil' Abner and Little Annie Fanny. You'd think that would be enough but he went on to become one of, if not, the most recognizable fantasy artist in the last fifty years. As book cover artist he defined the style of Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Indeed, his influence on sword and sorcery and planetary romance is extraordinary, even seminal. He has become the leading fantasy poster artist and many of his paintings are instantly recognized as classics. Originals sell for hundred of thousands.
It's easy to understand Frazetta isn't to everyone's taste with his double Y males in loin cloths and nubile women of heaving bosom and curvy hip, but you have to admit his place in popular culture and admire his turn of the brush. Besides, Frazetta didn't want you to take his work all too seriously. Look at the Ralph Bakshi and Frazetta's film Fire and Ice, it's brimming with gusto cheese and no apologies. He may have fallen out of favour as the world's most popular poster artist but people were starting to get him again. That's why at the time of his death, May 10 age 82, his work is entering a revival. He's going to be around for a long time. Frazetta forever.
Daisy Duck has turned 70. She is the aunt of April, May and June Duck and lifelong friend of Minnie Mouse. She has had a longtime on again off again relationship with Donald Duck and despite their reputation for volatile behaviour Daisy has successfully tempered Donald over the years while maintaining an independent career and being a role model for working women who do not have to trade femanine fancies for success. She remains an inspiration for young women, especially showing you can be strong and forceful and still wear pink ribbons.
Also turning 70 is Lance Henricksen. There aren't many people you can refer to as a cult actor. Lance is certainly one of them. An experienced stage actor he first appeared in the classic Dog Day Afternoon and has shown his versatility ever since. He was James Cameron's first choice for the Terminator but the studio wanted Arnold. Can you imagine how different Hollywood would be if they had gone with Lance? Anyway, he still was in Cameron's Terminator but it wasn't till he played Bishop in Aliens that we really got a good look at him. Never out of work playing crazies or wise men and doing three seasons of Millennium as FBI agent Frank Black. ALways liked him as astronaut Wally Schirra in The Right Stuff. And Lance is a successful ceramic artist as well.
Here's a quiz question; who's the only other actor besides Lance Henricksen to have faced a Terminator, an Alien and a Predator?
At the age of 16 Lena Horne became a singer and dancer at the famous Cotton Club working with Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. By the early forties she was appearing in American musicals though her songs would be removed from films when shown in the south. Still, she became the first African-American leading lady in Hollywood. Despite this she quit her film career because of the inherent racism. By the '50s her civil rights activism and left-leaning politics got her blacklisted. She kept performing on stage and on television and in 1981 at the age of 64 her one-woman show relaunched her to new generations of followers and her fan base only grew till she retired from fulltime performing in the late '90s. She died 9th May at the age 92 still one of the most respected performers of all time.
Peter O'Donnell died on the 3rd of May aged 90. Who's Peter O'Donnell? He's the creator of that sexy feminist secret agent and adventurer who could beat up any man and take down any super villain, yes, Modesty Blaise. When not being a successful romance novelist under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent, O'Donnell was the long time writer of those endless Modesty Blaise newspaper comic serials beginning in 1963 and wrapping it up in 2001 with many papers promptly reprinting it from the beginning.
So far you can pick up 17 adventures as graphic novels with volume 18 due in August and more to follow. And due to the success of the comic strip O'Donnell also penned 11 Modesty Blaise novels & 2 short story collections. The first novel titled, naturally enough, Modesty Blaise was published in '65 and remains in print as a key cult crime/adventure novel.
There have been a number of film and TV adaptations but the one of interest is the messy but entertaining '66 film that captures the wonderful European style of the hedonistic bon vivant. It has Monica Vitti in hot '60s fashions, Dirk Bogarde in snazzy suits and Terence Stamp as Willy Garvin in trendy threads, you can't beat that for styling.
We've had some cool people through Planet. Like when the band Garbage used our toilets or when Rhianna and Bob Geldof coincidently turned up to our clothing launch. I'm not talking about when Dylan Moran asked if we knew anywhere near by that would let you drink and smoke (we had to say no, the licensed cafe isn't open yet) or when a guy I'm sure was the ghost of SunRa played awesome jazz on our piano and then left followed by his two bodyguards.
Better still havebeen the planned visits by cool people. When Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre officially opened the bookshop with a beer in one hand and a shot of vodka in the other or when Shaun Tan came in to sign his newly released Arrival to a two hour line of eager children and even more eager graphic designers and when Peter Greenaway came in to chat about how film is dead. But I think the winner for coolest visitor to Planet is Henry Rollins who stopped by and made himself available for signing.
American punk legend, cult writer, socio-political commentator, talk show host, raconteur and a star of the hard-hitting talking tour, Henry Rollins stood at the front of a long cue of people largely in black and he greeted each and every one of them.
I wouldn't call the event a signing, though that was its purpose. Henry quickly turned it into a handshake and a brief chat, a personable one-on-one. The signature he left behind had no longer been the purpose of those who lined up but now a reminder, a memento, of meeting and talking to him.
Here's my choices of best book covers for April.
Well, actually, I cheated with the top three. Yes, Windup Girl is a paperback release for April, but the cover art is idenitical to last years hardcover release but I somehow missed it. Incidently, Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is fast being considered one of the hottest novels around and already slated to take numerous awards. Looks nicely po-mo which is always a bonus for me. Same with Mind Over Ship, I skipped the hardcover and also this paperback edition is a couple of months old. And oops regarding Pinion. This is the third book in Jay Lake's Clockwork Earth series and somehow I missed ordering it till April instead of March.
You probably have already guessed I'm a sucker for futuristic cityscapes and a penchant for the fantastic, so many covers usually come from genre titles. There are five graphic novels here as well. There's usually one, maybe two, but I'm seeing a growing trend by comic publishers to have the art direction more explorative. For the last three months there has been a cover by the publication house Vertigo and for April there are two, Area 10 and Luna Park.
And I assure you that the three covers with skulls is coincidence and not an indication that I have a thing for brain cases.
Logorama won best animated short at the Academy Awards this year. Originally in French it has had the American voice treatment. It's sixteen minutes of pretty friggin' awesome. Nuthin' else to be said. Enjoy