Happy 50th Anniversary, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes!

“Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man’s downfall.

The day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind.

The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity!

And we shall build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!”

Sorry, humans. I guess that’s your ass.

In the “far off future” of 1991, people now live in what looks to be an oppresssive, militaristic society. Law enforcement (dressed in the finest stormtrooper fashions) is visible on every street corner, and endless directives and warnings are issued from faceless announcers as the civilian populace goes about its daily affairs.

What’s missing? Cats and dogs, all of which have died off as the result of a mysterious disease brought back from a space probe. This little bit of misfortune, of course, was foretold by chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira in the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, though it’s happened far more quickly than they indicated. So too has mankind’s desire to replace their little lost subservient quadrupeds, and they’ve turned to domesticating primates. By 1991, simians are a subclass; a slave race. However, is the collective intelligence of the apes on the rise?

Could be.

So, what happens? Add one intelligent, speaking chimpanzee to the mix–himself the offspring of Cornelius and Zira–to stir up some shit. Before you know it, the apes are pissed and they’re not gonna take it anymore, and so that’s humanity’s ass. Cue revolt.


Released on this date in 1972 after a Los Angeles premiere on June 14th and another in New York on June 29th, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes brings almost full circle the story begun in 1968’s Planet of the Apes. This third sequel to that classic film shows–at least to some degree–what’s promised in its title and tagline. As for Conquest being “the most awesome spectacle in the annals of science fiction,” I think we all can agree this was a bit of overreach from the marketing folks (and, we all know that honor goes to Barbarella, right?).

By the time production kicked into gear on this, the fourth of the Apes films, the cycle of diminishing returns was firmly in place. With each successive movie earning less at the box office, budgets for the next one were reduced accordingly. Therefore, director J. Lee Thompson faced the challenge of convincingly depicting what turns out to be the genesis of the ape uprising hinted at in the previous film, the longterm effects of which are–of course–apparent in the first movie. And, he had to do it on a budget which probably wouldn’t cover the catering bill on a Michael Bay shoot. This was prequel-izing before prequel-izing was rampant, yo!

The first half of the film isn’t the most exciting cinema you’ll ever see, but there’s a deliberate “tightening of the screws” going on as we see Caesar coming to terms with the role of apes in modern society, and deciding he ain’t playing that game. Once he learns of the death of his friend, Armando (Montalban) at the hands of government officials, watching him slowly yet firmly begin to push the apes around him toward dissent is, oddly enough, satisfying.

A larger budget might’ve allowed for more expansive scenes of turmoil once the apes lose their shit and start tearing up the joint. Still, considering what he was working with, director Thompson does a decent enough job injecting energy and tension into the scenes of ape rebellion which carry the film’s final act. Tight camera angles and deft editing manage–for the most part–to mask the production’s sparse budget, while strong performances from Ricardo Montalban, Don Murray, Severn Darden, Hari Rhodes, and Natalie Trundy (as the chimpanzee Lisa, her third different role in three consecutive Apes outings) help to elevate the material a notch or two above the previous two sequels.

But, again, it’s Roddy McDowall who carries the film on his stooping shoulders. Starting out as a supporting role in the original Planet of the Apes before moving to top billing in Escape (another actor, David Watson, portrayed Cornelius in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), he dons the ape makeup here for a third time, but for the first time as “Caesar,” the son of Cornelius. As usual, McDowall brings a warmth and–dare we say it–“humanity” to the role, which is sort of important now, as by this point in the series we’re all firmly rooting for the apes to kick humanity right in its collective taint. He would reprise the role of Caesar in the fifth and final of the original films, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, before going on to play yet another chimpanzee, Galen, in the 1974 live-action Planet of the Apes television series.

Moving past the original Planet of the Apes, which (so far as I’m concerned) stands apart from everything which came after it, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is actually my favorite of the Apes sequels. Like a lot of folks, I’ve always wanted to see what comes next. Obviously, we know what ultimately happens, but that still leaves plenty of room for a whole assload of stories set between the events of this film and the next one. Some of that territory has been explored, mostly in comics published by three different companies in sporadic fashion over the past 40-odd years.

And, lest we forget, it’s Conquest that provided much inspiration for the “reboot” Apes films: 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes from 2014, and 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes. Indeed, you can also see more than a bit of Battle DNA in the latter two films.

Not a bad bit of legacy-leaving, if you ask me.

Happy 50th, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Beneath the Planet of the Apes!

When the original Planet of the Apes film arrived in theaters in the spring of 1968, public reaction to the movie was so strong that executives at 20th Century Fox wasted little time putting wheels into motion to develop a sequel.

Did it matter that the film’s star really had no interest in reprising his role? Nah.

Did it matter that one of the actors who so convincingly portrayed an intelligent ape the audience loved wouldn’t be available due to other commitments? Nuh-uh.

What about the original movie’s director, who also was working on another project? No worries.

Did we mention the sequel was getting a budget less than half that allocated for the first film? What’s the big deal? Quit screwing around and let’s get on with it!


Continue reading “Happy 50th Anniversary, Beneath the Planet of the Apes!”

Happy 45th anniversary to Planet of the Apes…the TV series!

Yeah, I can see some of you younger folks out there, giving me that Kevin Hart blinking side-eye GIF. You’ll just have to bear with me as we dive headlong into a nice inviting pool of nostalgia.

I know. Again.


The success of 1968’s Planet of the Apes film spawned four (Count ’em! Four!) sequels over the ensuing five years. However, as budgets dwindled with each successive installment and returns on investment followed suit, the fifth film, 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes, was viewed by many as the franchise finally running out of steam. That said, each of the five films made money, so the idea of continuing to do something with the property was still very much a real thing.

Continue reading “Happy 45th anniversary to Planet of the Apes…the TV series!”

You say you want to buy my books to give as presents? All righty, then!

KlingonSantaHoliday shopping is in full swing, and plenty of writerly and other creative folks are advertising their respective wares. I’ve gotten a few emails or other messages from people here and there, asking for suggestions about which of my books might make for good gift-giving and whatnot.

Setting aside my kneejerk initial answer (“Um, all of them? Get one of each, and make a nice gift basket.”), I’ve pondered this a bit over the last couple of days, and settled on a handful of titles I think might have broad(er) appeal to the Trekkie on your shopping list. Also? You’ll be helping me to do things like pay my mortgage and put food in my kids’ faces. Everybody wins!

Here, have a look:

Continue reading “You say you want to buy my books to give as presents? All righty, then!”

Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos – Now available!

brighteyes_apecity_coverThough I knew this book was coming sometime in “2017’s first quarter,” it was only within the last week or so that we got confirmation that publication was imminent. Then, all of a sudden, editor Rich Handley dropped a knowledge bomb on all of us. BOOM! New book in da house!

Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos is the latest collection of pop culture essays from The Sequart Organization. Editor Rich along with co-editor Joe Berenato, who teamed up for this book’s companion volume, Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, have once again assembled a roster of novelists, film historians, comics writers, and other geeky gurus to take a deep dive into the entire Apes phenomenon. Everything from Pierre Boulle’s original novel through the 1968 movie right up to the most recent re-imagining of the Apes premise (which gets a film new installment later this year with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes) and everything in between is given a look-see.

From the back cover:

“A planet where apes evolved from men?”

With those horrified words, Charlton Heston’s Colonel George Taylor summed up exactly what viewers were thinking in 1968 the first time they saw Planet of the Apes in theaters. Loincloth-clad humans reduced to mute savages, living in cages or in the wild? Xenophobic orangutans, militaristic gorillas, and curious chimpanzees with a rigid class structure, Greco-Roman names, religious dogma, and the ability to speak and reason? What goes on here? It’s a madhouse!

Audiences were hooked — and they remain hooked almost five decades later. Planet of the Apes (based on Pierre Boulle’s French novel Monkey Planet) has spawned eight films, with a ninth currently in the works, as well as two television series and several novels. It’s one of the most respected franchises in pop-culture history, thanks to the talents of writers Rod Serling, Michael Wilson, Paul Dehn, John and Joyce Corrington, William Broyles Jr., Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback; directors Franklin J. Schaffner, Ted Post, Don Taylor, J. Lee Thompson, Tim Burton, Rupert Wyatt, and Matt Reeves; makeup artists John Chambers and Rick Baker; and a long list of beloved actors who have breathed life into some of the most memorable science-fiction characters ever to grace the large or small screen.

Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos, edited by the same team behind Sequart’s Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, examines every Apes film, TV show, and novel, from 1968 to the present. This anthology features insightful, analytical essays about the franchise’s long history, from popular film historians, novelists, bloggers, and subject-matter experts. If you’re eager to learn more about Apes lore, then you’ll need to get your stinkin’ paws on this book.

For those wondering, my essay offers up a retrospective and analysis of the 1974 live-action Planet of the Apes television series, a short-lived yet oddly beloved piece of the Apes franchise for which I confess unabashed affection. Those of you who keep up with my writerly antics know that my short story in Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone revisited the characters and situations from the series.

You can read Sequart’s official press release about the new book by clicking on this linky-type thing right here!

The book is currently available in trade paperback and eBook formats from the usual haunts such as Amazon.com, but you could also score points with your local independent bookseller by taking the book’s ISBN, 978-1940589152, and asking them to order you a copy. Tell them I sent you.

Many thanks to Rich and Joe for inviting me yet again to play in their little writer games.

Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone

Sixteen brand-new adventures
set in the world of the original Planet of the Apes!

POTA-ForbiddenZoneThe 1968 Planet of the Apes film has inspired generations of authors. Now a who’s who of modern writers produces sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series.

Dan Abnett • Kevin J. Anderson • Jim Beard • Nancy Collins • Greg Cox • Andrew E.C. Gaska • Robert Greenberger • Rich Handley • Greg Keyes • Sam Knight • Paul Kupperberg • Jonathan Maberry • Bob Mayer • John Jackson Miller • Ty Templeton • Will Murray • Dayton Ward

Each explores a different drama within the post-apocalyptic world, treating readers to unique visions and nonstop action.

Oh. Yeah.

Planet of the Apes, along with the original Star Trek and The Six Million Dollar Man, is at the top of my childhood TV and movie jam list. I was too young to catch the original films in theaters, but I did watch the initial CBS broadcast of the first couple of movies before they went ahead and greenlit a weekly television series based on the Apes concept. The show was cancelled after a half season, and if we’re being honest then it’s easy to see why that decision was made. On the other hand, that TV show, warts and all, has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Apes franchise. With the series gone from the airwaves, the fates of wayward astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke and their chimpanzee companion, Galen, were left untold.

So, when editors Jim Beard and Rich Handley came calling, asking me if I wanted to write a story for this new anthology and knowing of my love for all things Apes, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: a story featuring wayward Virdon, Burke, and Galen set after the events of the TV series, and perhaps a chance to explore one of the show’s precious few dangling plot threads. Thankfully, Jim and Rich indulged me, and the result is “Message In A Bottle,” just one of 16 brand-new tales set at various points along the entire 2,000-or so year Planet of the Apes storytelling tapestry. Here’s hoping you dig all of them.


Meanwhile, I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with the other writers who’ve contributed stories to this volume, including several scribes I’m proud to call friend. Y’all need to be getting your stinking paws on this new book, yo. If you can’t obtain a copy via your local independent bookseller, there’s always the online merchant option, so let me hit you with some link action:

Trade Paperback and Kindle e-Book from Amazon.com
Trade Paperback and Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback and Various e-Book formats from Books-A-Million

Given the amp’d up attention to all things Apes this year with the forthcoming film War for the Planet of the Apes, and next year marking the 50th anniversary of the original 1968 film, if sales of this first book are strong enough, we may well see a second set of Tales from the Forbidden Zone. Keep those digits crossed!

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

Apes trading card booky goodness…coming at us!

For the past few years, Abrams ComicArts has been producing a truly fun series of books. Working in partnership with Topps, these tomes have revisited popular sets of non-sports trading or “bubble gum” cards or stickers from the days of old.

Each book presents one or more sets of cards from a given property, providing crisp images of each card’s front and back, with all of the pictures accompanied by background info or other anecdotes about the card set or the property in question. There are volumes devoted to fondly remembered sets like the Garbage Pail Kids, Wacky Packages, Bazooka Gum, and my personal favorites: Mars Attacks, Star Wars, and Star Trek. The last one is even cooler because it was written by friends and ace wordsmiths Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann.


Each book is a true slice of nostalgic heaven, made even more interesting because in most cases, they’re developed with the help of someone who was actually involved in the creation of the particular card or sticker set, or at least is familiar with the film or TV property being highlighted that they can provide entertaining background text. The dust jackets are even made from a wax paper similar to the old pack wrappers, and reproduce the original art. They even bundle in extra, all-new “bonus cards” which fit seamlessly with your original set, should you be so lucky to still have them. All that’s missing is a stick of that hideous gum that came in every pack, but even that’s reproduced on the book’s cover.

topps-planetoftheapesWhich brings us to the latest entry in this series: Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series. This book has a subtitle previously known only to me, and which I’m now sharing with you: Yet Another Book I’m Supremely Jealous I Didn’t Write.


When I was a kid in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes was my jam, ranking right up there with the original Star Trek and The Six Million Dollar Man as the favorite science fiction shows of my childhood. I never saw the original movies in a theater at that point, but I did watch every episode of the short-lived live action television series and its animated successor as broadcast. At the time, Apes had a pretty decent merchandising machine going, with all sorts of toys, comics, games, and other stuff on store shelves. Topps, arguably the king of bubble gum cards back then, seemed to be releasing card sets for every film and TV property it could find, and that included Planet of the Apes not once but twice. The first set was based on the original 1968 film, and which was long gone from stores by the time I was old enough to start collecting. Not so for the second set, which showcased the aforementioned TV show, and I was all over those cards like a dog on an unattended sandwich.

Just my luck! Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series will be revisiting both sets, providing eager readers with a gloriously priced way to revisit these tasty slices of Apes goodness.

And hey! It releases on June 6th, just before my birthday. Go, me.

The only question left to answer is whether the bonus cards included in the book will fit with the TV set I still have.

Waiting until June is gonna suck.

Presents from the Book Fairy of the Planet of the Apes!

Found a box on the porch today, and what was inside? A new present from the Book Fairy, in the form of my author’s contributor copy of Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone!

tales-authorcopy(Click to Biggie Size)

Edited by Rich Handley and Jim Beard, Tales from the Forbidden Zone is set to hit store shelves on or about January 24th. Set in the “classic” continuity of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes films and its sequels as well as the 1970s live-action and animated television series, the anthology features 16 brand-spankin’ new stories onto which you damned dirty apes are invited to put your stinking paws. The list of contributors is pretty dang distinguished:

Dan Abnett
Kevin J. Anderson and Sam Knight
Jim Beard
Nancy Collins
Greg Cox
Andrew E.C. Gaska
Robert Greenberger
Rich Handley
Greg Keyes
Paul Kupperberg
Jonathan Maberry
Bob Mayer
John Jackson Miller
Will Murray
Ty Templeton

Oh. And me.

For those wondering, my story, “Message In A Bottle,” is set in the continuity of the live-action Planet of the Apes TV series, with time-displaced astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke along with their chimpanzee friend, Galen, ever on the run from gorilla Security Chief Urko and orangutan Counselor Zaius as they stumble across a tantalizing clue from ancient human civilization.

January 24th, yo. Ask your local indie bookseller to order you up a copy. If that’s not an option, here are some links to help you out:

Trade Paperback and Kindle e-Book from Amazon.com
Trade Paperback and Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback and Various e-Book formats from Books-A-Million

Avoid the madhouse, and order early. Know what I’m sayin’?



Cover for Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone!

The things you find on Twitter.

The good folks over at 13th Dimension have posted an exclusive first look at the cover and author/story title lineup for Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone. Coming in January 2017 from Titan Books, this is an anthology of all-new stories based on the five classic Planet of the Apes films and the two 1970s television series. Check out the cover, y’all:

POTA-ForbiddenZone(Click to Biggie Size)

Edited by Rich Handley and Jim Beard, the book will feature stories by this rather impressive list of word pushers:

Dan Abnett
Nancy Collins
Will Murray
Bob Mayer
John Jackson Miller
Greg Cox
Paul Kupperberg
Kevin J. Anderson and Sam Knight
Andrew E.C. Gaska
Jim Beard
Robert Greenberger
Greg Keyes
Ty Templeton
Dayton Ward
Rich Handley
Jonathan Maberry

I don’t want to steal anybody else’s thunder, but my story, “Message In A Bottle,” is set in the continuity of the 1974 live-action Planet of the Apes television series. Virdon, Burke, and Galen on the run from Urko and Zaius, yo!

Learn more about the book and the lineup from 13th Dimension’s article.

2017 is shaping up to be banner year for Apes fans, with new books, possibly some new comics, and (of course) a new big-budget blockbuster film, War for the Planet of the Apes. That’s a lot to get your stinking paws on, so you should probably get on with it. For starters, Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone is already available for pre-order from online booksellers like Amazon, but your local indie bookstore should also be able to help you out. What are you waiting for?

Planet of the Apes anthology: Now up for pre-order!

AngryApeI found out today that the Planet of the Apes anthology, to which I contributed a short story and which will be published by Titan Books, has an actual publication date and pre-order links are now available? How about them ape-ples?

Yep! In rather subdued fashion, Amazon is now listing Classic Planet of the Apes: An Anthology for pre-order. I’ve been assured that the title is merely a placeholder and will be updated in due course, and we can also expect to see an unveiling of the book’s cover art in the not too distant future.

Edited by Jim Beard and Rich Handley, the anthology is due out on January 24th, 2017, priming the pump (so to speak) for what will likely be an awesome Apes summer when War for the Planet of the Apes hits theater screens. The third installment in the rebooted Apes mythology promises to blow the doors off the joint, in much the same way that 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes elevated the bar from its already impressive predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes from 2011.

Meanwhile, our little anthology will feature tales from all along the “classic continuity,” which is to say the original five films from the 1960s and 70s, as well as the two 70s-era Planet of the Apes television series, but not the 2001 remake film. The anthology will contain stories from this rather impressive line-up of word pushers:

Dan Abnett
Kevin J. Anderson
Jim Beard
Nancy A. Collins
Greg Cox
Drew Gaska
Robert Greenberger
Rich Handley
Gregory Keyes
Sam Knight
Paul Kupperberg
Jonathan Maberry
Bob Mayer
John Jackson Miller
Will Murray
Ty Templeton

Oh, and me. I get to play around a bit in one of my guilty fanboy pleasures, the world established by the 1974 live-action television series, and continue the adventures of astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke and their chimpanzee ally, Galen, as they search for a way back to their own time while on the run from Security Chief Urko and his bands of gorilla soldiers.


Friend and fellow scribe Bob Greenberger is also contributing a tale tying into the TV series. Aside from a few short stories and comics published in a handful of hard-to-find publications scattered here and there, this is really the first time the TV show has been revisited in this manner since George Alec Effinger’s quartet of novelizations back in the 1970s, so I for one am pretty dang excited to be one of the people doing the revisiting.

I’m also intrigued to see what another of the writers does with a story set in the continuity of the 1975 animated series, Return to the Planet of the Apes because so far as I know and aside from a trio of novelizations, this will mark the first time that’s ever been done.


(Of course I have copies of all the books pictured. Remember who you’re talking to.)

Indeed, there has been a tragic dearth of original prose stories tying into the classic continuity, dating all the way back to the 1968 film, so this whole anthology is really kind of a big deal. Well, for us Apes fanboys, at any rate.

All right, Apes fans! Now’s your chance to get on board early. If you’re so inclined, visit your local independent book seller and have them pre-order you a copy of this Awesome Apes Anthology To Be Properly Named Later, or follow the link to pre-order the trade paperback or e-Book:

Classic Planet of the Apes: An Anthology
Edited by Jim Beard & Rich Handley, and featuring a cast of favorites

Yes, yes, yes…..go and get your stinkin’ paws on a copy, you damned dirty apes.