Hey! 2021 is a big movie “birthday year!”

As something of a movie nerd, I’m usually aware when favorite films celebrate “milestone” birthdays (or anniversaries, if you will). This past weekend, I yammered a bit about Top Gun on the occasion of its 35th birthday, as it was released on May 16th, 1986. Back in April, I found time to wax nostalgic about the classic science fiction film The Thing From Another World, turning 70 this year after being released on April 7th, 1951. I think anyone who’s spent any amount of time here knows I’m pretty reliable so far as remembering things like the various Star Trek films, but there are plenty of other favorites, like the original Alien or Superman movies to name just a couple of prominent examples.

(I also remember to take note of favorite television series, too. This is especially true of older series from days gone yet I still remember with fondness. Alien Nation, M*A*S*H, Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999, and so many others.)

2021 seems to be a banner year for celebrating movie milestone birthdays. I’m not just talking about old black n’ white flicks, though a few of those are marking anniversaries of distinction this year, as well. I don’t even mean to stop with movies I saw first run in a theater as a kid or even a young(er) adult, in many cases before the age of home video and all that jazz. We’re deep into that era, progressing from video tapes, LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs to streaming video, all of which have for more than thirty years allowed us to revisit fondly-remembered films any time we feel like it. However, none of that equals the thrill of my young eyes being glued to one of those giant movie screens all those years ago as the lights dimmed and the music started to ramp up. Even today, with so many options at my fingertips, there are still films – old and new – I want to see on that giant movie screen, just as their creators intended.

So, what have we got? Well, here’s a sampling of what’s still to come in 2021:

On Friday, May 21st, Escape from the Planet of the Apes – the third in the “classic series” of Apes films, turns 50. YOU READ THAT RIGHT.

Celebrating its 40th birthday on Saturday, May 22nd, is Outland, Sean Connery’s low-key, even underrated “High Noon in Space” riff, which opened in 1981. Still one of my favorite 1980s science fiction films.

Also on May 22nd but celebrating its 25th birthday after being released in 1996 is the first Mission: Impossible movie. As I write this, Tom Cruise and company are working to finish that series’ seventh film, with an eighth already waiting in the pre-production wings.

Thelma & Louise. Don’t call them names on the CB radio.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Thelma & Louise embarking on their infamous road trip, which began on May 24th, 1991. On that same date, Ron Howard brought to us is wonderful drama about firefighters, Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell and William Baldwin, and Robert De Niro.

Sweet hat, amirite?

Those are just the things I’ve got for the remainder of May. June and July will bring a whole truckload more, as we remember our first encounters with Ferris Bueller, Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, and Indiana Jones on the occasion of their respective “milestone” anniversaries. We’ll also say “Welcome Back!” to Ellen Ripley, James Bond, and (he says, grudgingly) Robin Hood for similar reasons. And that’s just for starters.

Don’t worry, TV friends. I haven’t forgotten you! On television, May 23rd will mark the 20th anniversary of the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, which saw Voyager and its crew make their triumphant return to Earth on this date in 2001.

2021 is also “important” for remembering our first meetings with Jack Bauer, Captain Jonathan Archer, and – if you want to reach even farther back – Colt Seavers, the unknown stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.

Jack, Jonathan, and Colt….all celebrating milestone “birthdays” in 2021.

I don’t know that I’ll get to individual entries for most or even several of these. I guess it’ll all come down to time available, but I’ll try my best because these sorts of look-backs are fun, and 2021 is a banner year for me and my fellow movie nerds. When it’s not making me feel old, of course. While I ponder that notion, feel free to throw your personal favorites into the comments section.

You! Down in front! The movie’s starting!

Talking Trek collectibles on The Divine Treasury podcast!

Yes, you know what this means: I babbled. Out loud, and someone recorded it so that others might listen to it.

And so it was that Mike Bovia and Jamie Rogers, hosts of The Divine Treasury podcast, became the latest victims of my unchained blatherings about various things Star Trek. This time, rather than discussing my latest book or whatever else I might be working on, we turned the clock back to childhood and how watching the original series and collecting various things based on the show – toys, models, books, etc. – pretty much laid the groundwork for how I ended up as a writer of Star Trek stories and my current involvement with so many cool Star Trek things.

Mego action figures? Check. AMT Enterprise model? Yup. Those early Star Trek novels and comics? Of course. Do I still collect anything? Yes, but I’m pretty targeted with what opt to buy, these days. Am I still chasing some long-sought collectible from my youth? Maaaaaaaaybe.

All of that and more awaits you if you click on the pic or the link below:

The Divine Treasury Podcast, Episode 13: “The Dayton Ward Collection”

Many thanks to Mike and Jamie for having me on their show. I have a sneaky suspicion I might be back there sooner than later…….

Tuesday Trekkin’: the original AMT Star Trek models.

Me as a kid in the 1970s:

  1. Acquire brand new U.S.S. Enterprise model
  2. Build brand new U.S.S. Enterprise model, to include shoddy paint and poorly placed decals
  3. Take model outside and run around, holding it up to simulate its flight through space
  4. Drop the model onto the sidewalk or parking lot
  5. Cry over all the broken pieces
  6. Try (and fail) to repair the model
  7. GOTO 1

Yup. That was a thing that happened. A few times.

Continue reading “Tuesday Trekkin’: the original AMT Star Trek models.”

Happy Birthday, Lee Majors!

The Six Million Dollar Man himself celebrates his 82nd birthday today!

Yes, I know he’s had a long, full career, both before and especially well after his bionic adventures, but he’ll always be Colonel Steve Austin to me. Okay, with a side of Colt Seavers. And maybe a dash of Christopher Chance. And Pop Scarlet.

A check of his IMDB page shows he’s still finding ways to keep plenty busy. I’m actually kind of tired just reading it all. I saw him pop up for a guest turn on the rebooted Magnum P.I. a year or so ago and he looked great! Here’s hoping I can find my way to having half his energy when I’m his age.

Also? I fervently maintain that Lee Majors has the manliest running stride in the history of running men. Fight me.

20140423-180805.jpg

Geek Fact: When I was a kid, I so wanted a jacket like the one in this pic.

Geek Fact 2: I kinda still do.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Majors!

Tuesday Trekkin’: the Star Trek Giant Poster Books.

Okay, so at least this time it’s been less than a month since the previous installment of this “irregularly recurring” blog feature. Not too bad, when considering all the other things on my various plates. I originally thought “monthly” might be a good schedule for this sort of thing, but if I’m feeling froggy and I’m unexpectedly inundated with free time*, who knows?

(* = Yeah, that’s not really a thing, is it?)

For those joining the program already in progress, “Tuesday Trekkin'” is pretty much just an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, “milestones” or convention memories or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. For this latest entry, I’m digging into my archives and pulling out some truly 1970s pop culture goodness: the Star Trek “Giant Poster Books.”

Continue reading “Tuesday Trekkin’: the Star Trek Giant Poster Books.”

Happy 70th Anniversary to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD!

It creeps… It crawls… It strikes without warning!

A group of scientists and military officers at a remote Arctic outpost near the North Pole discover a mysterious craft buried in ice. They also find a body, similarly entombed, and excavate it from its frozen grave.

And — as things tend to do in stories of this sort — everything goes straight to Hell, for what they have discovered is not a human or indeed like anything on Earth. Instead, what they’ve found is….

Following premieres in Cincinnati and Dayton as well as Washington, D.C., The Thing from Another World stomped its way onto theater screens across the United States on April 7th, 1951, seventy years ago today. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Lederer, loosely adapting John W. Campbell, Jr.’s seminal 1938 novella Who Goes There? (originally published as a 12-capter serial in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction under Campbell’s pen name, Don A. Stuart).

Continue reading “Happy 70th Anniversary to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD!”

Happy First Contact Day, Trekkies!

April 5th, 2063: We’re only 42 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.

first-contact

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.

Tied Up With Tie-ins: Mission: Impossible!

You can tell I have no pressing writing deadlines when I have time for more fanciful pursuits such as this. In between a bunch of reading for the consulting gig, I decided to add another entry to this irregularly recurring blog feature, even though the previous installment was just a couple of weeks ago. I know…daring, amirite?

For those new to this bit of distraction, “Tied Up With Tie-ins” is where I take a look back at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. This usually means something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place decades ago. Examples include novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic WomanPlanet of the Apes, and Space: 1999 among others. I’m not snobby about newer stuff, though, as I’ve previously written about novels based on one of my favorite TV series of the 21st century, 24.

For this latest installment, your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to take a trip with me down Memory Lane as we revisit the handful of novels tying into Mission: Impossible…both the classic TV series as well as the feature films….

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-ins: Mission: Impossible!”

Tuesday Trekkin’: the Star Trek “Fotonovels.”

To the surprise of perhaps no one, my most recent attempt at an “irregularly recurring” blog feature has unfolded pretty much in keeping with my master plan. It’s been four months since the last installment of “Tuesday Trekkin’,” which at the time I was thinking could be a monthly thing. Sounds like government, amirite?

So, what’s the point of “Tuesday Trekkin’?” It’s basically an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, merchandise, fond memories of various “milestones” or convention memories or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. For this latest entry, I’m reaching up to the top shelf of older books and focusing on twelve little jewels; ambassadors for Star Trek from a truly bygone era.

Covers for Star Trek Fotonovels 1-4.

Published in 1977 and 1978, each of these “Fotonovels” takes an episode of the original Star Trek series and retells it in a neat little hybrid of paperback book, comic book, and film strips (anybody remember film strips from school?). Each installment boasted “300 Full Color Action Scenes” from the selected episode, with dialogue and exposition presented in “comic book style,” with word and thought balloons and so on.

A 2-page spread from Star Trek Fotonovel #1, “City On the Edge of Forever”

The selection of episodes to adapt into Fotonovel form – as well as the order in which each book was released – appears to have been largely random. The 12 installments include six episodes from Star Trek‘s first season, four from its second year, and two from the final season. While most of these rank among my favorite episodes from across the series, prominent installments such as “Arena,” “The Doomsday Machine,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Tholian Web” among others are conspicous in their absence. I mean…an “Arena” Fotonovel? Shut up and take my money.

Perhaps the selected episodes represented favorites of writer Thomas Warkentin, who was tasked with crafting scripts adapting the episodes for the books’ format. Fans of Star Trek comics may recognize Warkentin as one of the writers who later worked on the Star Trek comic strip which appeared in newspapers via the Los Angeles Times Syndicate between 1979 and 1983. For his work on the Fotonovels, he chose the images from each episode and also added captions, thought balloons, and other bits which weren’t present in the episodes themselves or even their original scripts.

The first one of these I remember buying was #4, “A Taste of Armageddon,” sometime in 1978 or 79, when I happened across it in a local department store’s book section. I don’t remember, but I’m sure at least one or two of the Bantam Star Trek novels were also occupying space somewhere on those shelves, along with other popular science fiction and fantasy novels of the day. So, for $1.95 I was able to revisit this particular episode over and over, and of course the hunt began to find the other books in the series…a quest which would not be completed for several years, as I recall. Over the years, the Fotonovel copies I had as a kid deteriorated to the point that a few of them were coming apart, but being an adult generally means having more disposable income, so as circumstances presented themselves I eventually replaced all twelve books with pristine copies lovingly sealed in mylar bags.

“Photo novels,” from what I’ve learned over the years, were fairly popular in other countries as far back as the 1950s (including editions of American TV shows and films), but it seems as though no one attempted the concept in the U.S. until the 1970s. So far as Star Trek is concerned, the Fotonovel was indeed a neat concept, particularly for me as a kid, in the days before home video let alone on-demand streaming.

Other shows and films got the Fotonovel treatment during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Among the “cooler” ones I own are Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the first telemovie for The Incredible Hulk, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as large trade paperback versions for the original Alien film and the movie Outland. However, as VCRs became more common in the 1980s and the costs of printing entire books of slick, glossy, full-color pictures became increasingly ginormous, the concept faded into near-obsolescence.

With the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Pocket Books revisited the concept with a “Photostory” book, adapting the film in much the same manner as the original Fotonovels. A similar tome was released in conjunction with the second movie, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but this time black and white photos on regular paper replaced the glorious full-color glossy pages of Fotonovels past, and the comic-style dialogue and thought balloons were swapped out for captions beneath each photo. As one might imagine, this edition wasn’t quite as well received as its predecessors, but it remains a collector’s item to this day. Both “Photostory” editions were written by Richard J. Anobile, who also was behind several of the other film and TV Fotonovel/”Video Novels” of the time.

I know of a few attempts to resurrect the format in recent years (the Charlie’s Angels film, The Blair Witch Project, and the first Fantastic Four movie), but they didn’t catch on. Why bother with something like this, when the movie’s available for home viewing a few months after it leaves theaters. That’s even more true now, as we’ve moved into the realm of simultaneous releases of films to theaters as well as on-demand streaming.

That said, Star Trek wasn’t quite done with the idea.

In late 2013, IDW Publishing – who currently holds the license to create Star Trek comics – tried an experiment. Legendary comics writer and artist John Byrne, a self-professed fan of the original series, employed photo manipulation and other techniques as he selected images from various episodes of the show to create “Strange New Worlds,” an all-new Star Trek story using these edited and enhanced photos instead of comics. Images from the show, so familiar to so many fans, were inserted into all-new backgrounds and environments generated by Mr. Byrne’s imagination and computer. The story, a sequel to the serie’s second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (and which was – coincedentally – adapted as one of the original Fotonovels), was popular enough and sold enough copies that it spawned its own series of follow-ups.

Published under the umbrella title Star Trek: New Visions, 22 all-new stories were presented by Mr. Byrne in this format between May 2014 and June 2018, along with a special issue adapting the original pilot, “The Cage” released in 2016 as part of celebrating Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. While several of the issues were sequels to episodes from the series, there also were wholly original tales, each one lovingly constructed using what had to be an intense process of image selection and manipulation to achieve the desired effect. As this usually meant selecting a character with a pose appropriate for the new scene and inserting them into a new panel of Byrne’s creation, part of the fun for readers was trying to guess from which episode a particular character or pose was drawn.

(Okay, maybe it was only fun for me.)

EDIT: Friend and comics guru Rich Handley reminded me that in addition to the 24 “Photonovel” comics, Mr. Byrne also created three special shorter stories. One of these, “Eye of the Beholder,” was included as bonus content to the second Star Trek: New Visions trade paperback collection. The second story, “More of the Serpent Than the Dove,” supported a special online sale of Star Trek digital comics a few years ago. It was later included in the fifth New Visions trade paperback collection. The final short, “Dream A Little Dream,” was included as a bonus in the eighth collection.

There’s no denying the “Fotonovel” is well and truly a relic of Yesteryear, likely appealing only to the older or hardcore collector, but those 12 little gems carry with them many fond memories from my childhood.

That said, if anyone wants to make that “Arena” one…..I’m still here and I’ve still got cash, all right?

Happy 90th Birthday to the one and only William Shatner!

Today we’re celebrating the 90th 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 over a span of eight decades. Seriously, go look at his IMDB entry. I get tired just reading it, and that’s not even counting writing, producing, and directing credits. 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. That’s just one of the various things he’s got going on, and 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: 90 years old, and still running circles around people half his age. I’ll have what he’s having.

insp_captkirk

Happy Birthday, sir. May you enjoy many more.