Zlonk! Zok! Zowie!

Zlonk Zok Zowie-CoverThe Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One
edited by Jim Beard with Rich Handley

Another Bright, Sunny Day in Gotham City…Or is it?

The Riddler, the Penguin, the Joker, and Catwoman are all making their first fiendish forays to prey upon Gotham’s innocent citizens, but Batman and Robin, the famous Caped Crusaders, stand ready to Z-ZWAP! their diabolic schemes–all the time knowing full well that even more arch-criminals such as the Bookworm, King Tut, and False Face will follow!

Maybe you already know these stories and have thrilled to them since their debut during the inaugural 1966 season of the beloved Batman television series–but when eighteen energetic essayists all descend upon these episodes to evaluate them for enlightenment, suffice to say, citizen, you’ve never seen them like this before!

Join Jim Beard, creator and editor of Gotham City 14 Miles, as he bounds back to the Batcave with a few fearless friends to dig deep into Batman Season One’s seventeen episodes and the 1966 Batman feature film. With particular points-of-view and a worldly wealth of Bat-knowledge, these writers tackle themes, tones, and tropes beyond any previous Batman episode guides–Holy Hooks! They’ll ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! your senses!

Featuring Special Guest Essayists: Jim Beard, Ed Catto, Joe Crowe, Keith DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, Chuck Dixon, John S. Drew, Pat Evans, Chris Franklin, Bob Greenberger, Dan Greenfield, Rich Handley, Paul Kupperberg, Will Murray, Alan J. Porter, Mark B. Racop, Peter Sanderson, Steven Thompson, and Dayton Ward. Cover by Sean E. Ali.

Trade Paperback from Amazon.com
Kindle eBook from Amazon.com

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Find something “serious” to write about for a show that was never really intended to be taken all that seriously? Sure, Jim. No pressure.

The truth is that despite its over-the-top and in-your-face campy nature, the 1960s Batman series did have a few layers to it. Many of its episodes managed to slip a little bit of subtle messaging past viewers caught up in the on-screen craziness, usually in the form of some sly writing by the likes of Lorenzo Semple Jr., Ralph Ross, Charles Hoffman, and so many other writers who contributed scripts over the course of the show’s three seasons. Anything earth-shattering? Perhaps. Perhaps not. That sort of thing ultimately is for viewers and fans to decide, but maybe we can help a little.

Enter the Subterranean Grotto (not the Sub-Subterranean Grotto…that’s only for emergencies). Published by Crazy 8 Press, Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! is presented as an exploration of just what might be baked into the episodes of the show’s first season along with the 1966 Batman feature film based on the series. Kevin and teamed up to provide a look at the two-part story that features the return of the Clown Prince of Crime himself, “The Joker Goes to School” and “He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul.” It’s all about how Batman’s arch nemesis involves himself in juvenile deliquency. Hey, slow day in Gotham, I guess.

Volumes examining the second and third seasons are already in the planning stages. If you’re a fan of Adam West’s Batman (and really…who isn’t), you should give this new tome a look. To the bookstore*, citizens!

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* Yes, I know that as I write this, visiting a bookstore “just because” is not really an option due to the current state of affairs, but you still have online resources to help you during these trying times until some semblance of sanity is restored!

Happy First Contact Day, Trekkies!

April 5th, 2063: We’re only 43 years from this most excellent of events, yo.

While we wait, we continue to look to the future with hope and excitement. After all, we know that this monumental meeting between humanity and intelligent beings from a world beyond our own will usher in a new era of peace, optimism, prosperity and collaborative spirit as the people of Earth take their first tentative steps into a larger universe.

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So, grab yourself the first Vulcan (or other non-terrestrial biological entity) you meet, wriggle to the left, wriggle to the right, and do the Ooby Dooby with all of your might. Let’s get this party started, all while living long and prospering in forthright, logical fashion, of course.

Happy 35th Birthday, Ma-Ma-Max Headroom!

Say, would someone mind checking the ratings? I seem to have an audience of two.”

I don’t know that anyone consciously sets out with a plan to develop a character intended to introduce music videos who ends up getting a dystopian origin story before going on to become a talk show host, Coca-Cola pitch man, and star of a short-lived television series on a whole other continent from the one where he was born and then laying a legitimate claim to being an icon of 1980s pop culture and even somewhat better than average prognosticator.

I think we all have to agree there’s really no formula for that kind of thing. Shit just has to happen in a certain unpredictable order resulting in a perfect storm, and boom. There you are.

Max Headroom? Looking at you.

For those of you who’ve somehow managed to get to the year 2020 without coming across this guy, I applaud you on your ability to remain focused on things that actually matter. At the same time, I can’t help giving you a little side-eye, because come on! It’s Max Headroom, for crying out loud.

Okay, fine. You’re just in time, because as it happens, Max turns 35 today.

Continue reading “Happy 35th Birthday, Ma-Ma-Max Headroom!”

Today is National Film Score Day!

As oddball days of observance go, this one isn’t too shabby at all. Besides, these days anything that can serve to brighten someone’s day is to be applauded, so let’s have at it, shall we?

What are we talking about? According to the National Day Calendar website, National Film Score Day “recognizes the musical masterpieces called “Film Scores” and, more specifically, the very talented composers who create them.”

Out. Standing.

I’ve been known to write about this subject from time to time, and those of you who spend any time here likely know that I’m a huge fan of film and TV music and love listening to it apart from the production for which it was created. It’s also my habit to listen to such music when I’m writing, as it always helps to set the “right mood” for the project-in-progress.

StarWars-OriginalLPA well-crafted film score is a thing of beauty. The first album I ever bought with my own money was the vinyl 2-record LP score for the original Star Wars in 1977. In the decades following that admittedly weird experience in a Montgomery Ward store while on a shopping spree with my grandmother, my music library has grown in fits and starts until the last decade or so, when it kicked into high gear with no regard for the safety of others or the universe as a whole. I don’t care what other people think…play that funky movie music, white boy!

Though it started with music from newer film television and productions as they were released, It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really dug in, finding “expanded” or “complete” editions of scores from days gone by which were only made available in truncated form due to the limitations of the medium (LP records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and even CDs once they took over). Thanks to companies like La-La Land Records and Intrada I’ve been able to enjoy updated, expanded, and remastered versions of scores of older films, and in some cases it’s like hearing the music for the first time EVEN THOUGH I know every note by heart.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverWhat are some of my favorites? Well, some obvious suspects are the various Star Trek films, in particular Jerry Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and First Contact, James Horner’s The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and Michael Giacchino’s music for all three of the reboot films. Everything John Williams has ever done for the Star Wars saga goes on the list, too, but I also must give props to Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and John Powell for Solo. 

Superman-Score

Jerry Goldsmith is well represented in my library, including personal favorites Planet of the Apes (1968), Rambo: First Blood, Part II (yes, really), Alien, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Outland, and 1999’s The Mummy. James Horner also had a lot going on beyond his Star Trek work, and I especially dig Aliens, Apollo 13, Sneakers, Glory, The RocketeerCommando, and Titanic (that’s right; I said it). And you can’t have a film score collection without stuff by John Williams, including stuff by John Williams that’s not Star Wars, which is good because I absolutely love the music he created for Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and…of course…Superman.

MissionImpossible-RogueNation-ScoreMy taste in film music runs the gamut from Pirates of the Caribbean to The American President, Die Hard, or The Incredibles, or from The Shawshank Redemption to Gladiator, The Martian, or Black Hawk Down. More recent scores include those from several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, particularly those for the Captain America and Avengers films. The music from the Mission: Impossible movies are also a lot of fun, and I’ve especially enjoyed the scores from the two most recent installments, Rogue Nation and Fallout. Bill Conti’s The Right Stuff is wondrous. Old-school offerings like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven or The Day the Earth Stood Still are in there, too. The truth is that I’m all over the map with this kind of thing. I hear it while watching the film and know I just have to have it without everybody yakking over it or everything blowing up around it.

TV’s the same way. Yes, Star Trek gets a lot of play around here (occupational hazard, you know), but what about Lost In Space or Mission: Impossible or Alien Nation? Battlestar Galactica? Hell, even seaQuest is in there. I’ve also enjoyed the music for Star Trek: Discovery and just this morning purchased the score for the first season of Star Trek: Picard.

I could do this all day, people.

So, Happy “National Film Score Day.” I think it’s time to stick a little of that action in my ears while I continue to write.

March writing wrap-up.

Despite the insanity into which March rapidly descended, we here at Ward Manor have done our level best to maintain a sense of normalcy to the maximum possible extent. There have been the challenges we’re all facing as we adapt to an existence that necessitates our staying inside or close to the house.

I received email after email notifying me that movies and other events for which I had tickets or just plans to attend were cancelled and refunded. Our desire to hang out with our friends is set aside out of concern for those very same friends. I still catch myself thinking I’ll take a quick jaunt to some store, only to remind myself the store is closed or – if it’s a business deemed essential – whether my need to visit is essential. The kids are home and “attending” school via virtual means, while my wife and I continue to work from home as we were doing long before the current situation made it a necessity. With all of that said, we’re in a pretty good place as these things go, so none of what I just wrote is a complaint.

And with all of that, life and work continues.

The end of March brought with it the end of my first year as a consultant to CBS Global Franchise Management. What a ride that’s been, and 2020 is already shaping up to be interesting even with the current reality we’re all facing. Despite the slowdowns on various fronts, creators are still creating from their home offices and studios and that translates into material I get to review. There’s still a lot of Star Trek storytelling being conjured out there on various fronts. It’s a fun time to be a fan of this stuff, let me tell you. Keep watching the skies, and all that.

Elsewhere within my little realm, writing or things that somewhat resemble writing continue to gestate in fits and starts. March was a bit of a transition month as things wind down, wind up, or move into position in preparation for my giving them a lot more attention in the months to come. Here’s the rundown:

Continue reading “March writing wrap-up.”

No April Fools gag this year.

After the century that was March, here we are at April.

April 1st, to be exact.

MrT-AprilFoolsI wish I could proclaim “April Fools!” and the first quarter of 2020 has been nothing more than some sick joke perpetrated by that one asshole in your office, but alas…it just ain’t so. It’s all real, and we’re still stuck with it.

I hope as you read this you and your friends and loved ones are taking care of yourselves and weathering the situation as best as you’re able. If you or someone you know is what we now call “essential personnel” during these trying times, I wish them well and that they remain healthy and safe.

We here at Ward Manor are fine. The kids are doing virtual learning for school, and my daily work routine hasn’t changed much at all. The big difference is, of course, on what you can and can’t do outside the home, and the varying degrees of challenges one encounters when shopping for household needs. We’re doing our best to remain in place as much as possible, venturing into the world for groceries and takeout from various local eateries we’re doing our best to support. The weather’s warm enough I can at least work in the yard, take walks, and so on.

As for “April Fools Day,” my big reason for abstaining this time around is that I simply wasn’t able to come up with something that fit the criteria I try to follow when conjuring such things. I don’t tend to go for pranks that are mean or hurtful, or target people or try to humiliate them in some way. I just like goofy things that elicit a chuckle or the occasional belly laugh if I can manage it. The gag products the team at ThinkGeek used to concoct are prime examples of the sort of April 1st shenanigans I prefer.

For example, there was that one time a bunch of us Star Trek novel writers each sent our editor a pitch for an erotic Star Trek story. Everything from Harlequin romance-level stuff to Hustler reader letters.

One year, I decided to write my first-ever review for a Star Trek fan film.

And, of course, who could forget the time Kevin I decided we were going to write a Star Trek rock-n-roll musical.

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One year, Kevin and I broke up. Yes, I wrote this piece and convinced StarTrek.com to run it. Don’t worry, though; we got back together.

Pike-GuideToLifeMy favorite gags usually involve coming up with nutso book ideas. If we’re being honest, there’s a lot of inherent humor to be found within Star Trek. Long time fans know it has its own set of tropes, good and bad, which can be mined for laughs. The key for me is remembering to laugh with these things, not at them.

I went a bit overboard one year, when I pitched “The Quotable Captain Pike.” When I came up with the idea (which I revised with a snappy new cover last year…eyes left) our view of the good captain was dominated by how he was portrayed in the original series episode “The Menagerie.” Since then we’ve had Anson Mount’s top-shelf portrayal of Pike before the character’s tragic fate befalls him.

Return To HoratiusOther cover ideas were far more simple and cheesy. Last year, along with the Pike cover I also threw out one for Return to Horatius, my proposed sequel to the very first Star Trek novel ever written and which was published way back in 1968. That was just something I did on the spur of the moment and it shows, but it was enough to get a few giggles from my friends on Facebook, which is all I really wanted.

My favorite of these, though, was the one I could not have done with out the artistic awesomeness of my friend Aaron Harvey, who created what ended up being one of my absolute favorite covers for anything I’ve ever done, real or imagined, when I decided what the world needed was a novel-length story to bring to life one of the craziest Star Trek toys of the 1970s, Mego’s Mission to Gamma VI playset.

GammaVI

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star-trek-kirk-fu-manual-coverOf course, then there are the occasions when what probably should be nothing more than a quickly forgotten April Fools joke gets a little traction and before you know it there’s an actual book.

Sorry, y’all. I couldn’t help it. I’ll try to do better in the future. Nah, not really. On the other hand, it only came out a month ago, so maybe we just count Kirk Fu as my contribution to this year’s April Foolery, and call it a day.

Yeah. That sounds good.

Tour the National World War I Museum and Memorial…from your couch!

Hello, fellow self-isolationists!

As many of you know, I serve as just one among a small army of volunteers at the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City. In this capacity, I help guests as they navigate the museum’s galleries, answer questions about the Great War and the artifacts we have on display, tell people where the restrooms are, offer suggestions on great places to eat in town if they’re visiting us from elsewhere, and generally just do what we can to enhance their experience while they’re spending time with us. There’s a fine line between “being helpful” and “being a nuisance,” and we endeavor to stay on the right side of that divider. This means allowing guests to enjoy the museum on their own terms (unless they’re taking a guided tour) and not inserting ourselves into their visit except when invited to do with questions and the like.

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Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 protocols currently in place and particularly here in the Kansas City area, the musem is closed to the public and we volunteers are not currently needed. The staff continues to work at home or perhaps on site depending on their individual responsibilities, and I for one find myself missing my usual volunteer shifts on various Sunday mornings each month March 29th is the second shift I’ve missed, and I expect I’ll miss anything originally scheduled for April, as well.

That said, you can still visit the museum. Virtually.

Even before the current situation fell upon us, the museum was already working to enhance and expand its digital offerings through its website. During 2019, more than 20 million people visited the site, checking out the various resources and programs it offers. Indeed, there is a page dedicated to online exhibitions. Among my favorites:

WWIMuseum-002An introduction to the museum and memorial, which — as the name implies — is a good place to start.

A walk-through of the main galleries, highlighting several prominent exhibits and artifacts and guided by the museum’s Curator of Education.

An immersive tour of the galleries, this time guided by one of our volunteers, whom we all affectionately – and respectfully – refer to as “the Colonel.”

A narrated tour focusing on the archtecture of Liberty Tower and the adjacent buildings, the courtyard and surrounding grounds, which were the original monument opened in 1926. The buildings flanking the Tower, Exhibit Hall and Memory Hall, housed museum artifacts on display to the public before the much larger gallery space opened in 2006.

WWIMuseum-003An exhibition recounting the Christmas Truce of 1914, including essays and letters detailing firsthand accounts by soldiers serving on the front lines.

A presentation examining November 11, 1918, the day the guns finally fell silent.

These and many other online exhibitions await you here. If you’re an educator or student doing research or other work about the war for a school project, a host of resources are available to assist you. The museum even has its own YouTube channel where you’ll find archival film footage, recordings of symposiums and other presentations offered in our auditorium, and other short films.

So, unless or until you can visit us during some future trip to the museum, hopefully you can find something to interest you through the website. Take a virtual tour, whydontcha, and once all of this is behind us and life returns to something at least passing for normal? Come see us for realz!

New interview with the Trek This Out podcast!

What’s that? Another interview? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

TrekThisOut-logoThis time, I sit down for a virtual confab/interview with Andrea Davies and John Aitken, hosts of the Trek This Out podcast. As you can probably guess from the show’s title, we talk a little Star Trek during this conversation. Specifically, we talk about my recently released Kirk Fu Manual because that’s all the rage this month. It’s like everybody is Kirk Fu fighting as their minds become fast as lightning even though the future is a little bit frightening and it’s the book of their lives that they’re…..

:: ahem ::

Sorry. Distracted for a sec, there. Where were we? Oh, right. Podcast. Confab interview thing. Got it.

Anywho, in addition to Kirk Fu, we bounce around a bit, talking about other Trek projects I’ve worked on over the :: mumble mumble :: years I’ve been doing this whole writing thing, my “duties” as a consultant for CBS Global Franchise Management. Describing what I do in that role is a lot like Chandler trying to tell the other Friends what he does for a living. We also talk about Tom Brady leaving the Patriots to join the Bucs, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, and a speed round of questions about favorite this and favorite that. Then we pick a redshirt death for another host who wasn’t there. Good times.

Check it all out here: Trek This Out Podcast – “The Dayton Ward Tapes”

Thanks very much to Andrea and John for having me on, and for the fun discussion. Maybe we can do it again sometime!

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IncrediBuilds: Klingon Bird-of-Prey

IncrediBuilds-BoPStar Trek

Get ready to boldly go where no one has gone before with this exciting Klingon wood model set. The 32-page softcover book is packed with information on the Bird-of-Prey warship, from its basic capabilities to its pivotal role in the Star Trek universe. Complete with stunning imagery and behind-the-scenes content, this book and model set is a must-have for any Trek fan. The wood model is easy to assemble and forms a dynamic, displayable 3D version of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey that fans will love.

Includes:
– Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
– Step-by-step instructions
– Coloring and crafting ideas
– A Klingon Bird-of-Prey book

Skill Level: Intermediate

Order it directly from Insight Editions’ IncrediBuilds website!


Like the previous Star Trek and Toy Story IncrediBuilds projects I’ve worked on for Insight Editions, this is a departure from the sort of things I usually write, but still a lot of fun. The book I write to go with each model is aimed at the younger audience (10+ in this instance). Most of the material is offered from “inside the box” as though providing something of an historical record about the ship, while the last few pages talk about how the BoP was created for its use in the Star Trek films as well as how the design as evolved over the course of the subsequent television series up to and including Star Trek: Discovery.

As for the model? For my money, this may be my favorite one so far. They really did a nice job translating the ship’s design into the IncrediBuilds mold, and the instructions include options for painting and customizing yours once you build it. No tape or glue required!

There’s been some talk about doing additional Star Trek IncrediBuilds projects. Assuming I’m involved with any of those, I’ll be sure to share all the juicy details as I’m able.

Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

WilliamShatner-UnexplainedToday we celebrate the 89th birthday of the Man himself: Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911 Guy, Denny Crane, Priceline Negotiator, and CAPTAIN JAMES TIBERIUS BY GOD KIRK.

:: ahem. ::

We’re talking about a guy who’s been in front of a camera for the better part of seven decades. Seriously, go look at his IMDB entry. I get tired just reading it, and it’s even money you can find him somewhere on your TV right now. He’s currently serving as the host for The UnXplained on the History Channel, and that’s just the latest of his many projects. He shows no signs of slowing down. If the stars align in just the right way, I may even be able to hand him a copy of Kirk Fu later this year, and hopefully he won’t go full Jimmy Wall Banger on me.

The one and only William Shatner: 89 years old, and still running circles around people half his age. I’ll have what he’s having.

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Happy Birthday, sir. May you enjoy many more.