Category Archives: Horror

Book Review: ‘Day for Night’ by Stacey E. Bryan

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Damien Hirst, the bad boy of art famous for displaying sharks in art galleries, once asked his 6-year-old son which he would prefer in his bed, a girl or a zombie. The boy instantly replied, “Zombie!” That is a crude and random example, I know. But perhaps it makes a bigger point about our collective fascination with the macabre, the unknown…and sometimes that is made most clear from a child’s point of view. That brings me to “Day For Night,” a new novel by Stacey E. Bryan. It has zombies of a sort. And it even has a shark! Like my example, there’s a fine-tuned crude and random vibe to this book.

This is very much a Los Angeles tale. Bryan indicates any pause as a “beat,” reminding us we’re in Tinseltown, full of daily theatrics and scripts coming out of everyone’s ears. We also get a lot of local flavor with characters living out in Brentwood, Culver City, and Marina Del Rey. There’s much talk about the well-hidden Toluca Lake. Everything seems to converge for a time at Sepulveda Boulevard. Plus numerous movie references not the least of which is Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night.” An old tattered poster for the film decorates the apartment laundry room our main character, Rae, finds herself in at the start of the book.

At first, we don’t know if Rae is caught in the throes of an anxiety attack but she readily declares she is experiencing the end of the world. Is she perhaps an aspiring actress? Yes, she is. But what she describes next leaves much room for further speculation. Rae witnesses her neighbor Annie levitate up above the tile floor. Annie blacks out just as Rae throws her yellow bra at the glowing force surrounding her friend. By the time that Annie wakes up, it’s too late to rationally explain to her that something most supernatural (thwarted alien abduction?) has just occurred. Annie completely missed it. Rae experienced the whole thing!

And so our story unfolds alternating between typical Angeleno angst and unexplained phenomena. It’s a wonderful balancing act that Bryan maintains. Basically, half the novel favors events more grounded in reality and then, as the weird stuff pushes its way to the foreground, you get a more mature version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rae is in her thirties and, like her counterparts has had time to become more hardened and jaded than Buffy. Rae is a tough cookie recovering from quite a lot of rough scrapes, especially the day a tiger shark got too close and chomped off some of Rae’s fingers.

Bryan is totally in command of her story and has fun teasing out moments for her main character, Rae. Funny internal monologues give way to sudden outbursts followed by the latest development in Rae’s bumpy journey. Along the way, she encounters romance ranging from comical to intense. Throughout, Rae discovers a tapestry of connections that sustain her and help her grow ranging from the mundane to the sublime.

“Day for Night,” a novel by Stacey E. Bryan

Bryan has mastered that same melding of the everyday with the supernatural that has appealed to legions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. The pithy exchanges between Bryan’s characters crackle with hard-won insight. It is insight mixed with harsh reality…and the movies. This is L.A., after all. It’s a mix of gumption that just might be enough to take on vampires and space aliens.

“Day for Night” is published by Vagabondage Press. You can find it on Amazon right here. And you can find Stacey at her website right here.

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Filed under Aliens, Book Reviews, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Horror, Los Angeles, Satire, Supernatural, Vampires

Interview and Review: Donny Cates and REDNECK

Donny Cates

Donny Cates (GOD COUNTRY) is a writer to watch. His new comic book series, REDNECK, comes out this Wednesday, April 19th, and it is a highly imaginative mashup of vampires and good ole boy Texan tall tale storytelling. There’s a lot going on here that raises this comic to the level of exceptional work. And that certainly includes the masterful inks by Lisandro Estherren and colors by Dee Cunniffe. You can find it at Skybound, an imprint of Image Comics.

Cates comes across as a natural born storyteller. He’s got a passion for bringing the reader into his world. In this case, it’s a motley crew of vampires holed up in a little patch of Texas hill country. These are good folk. Don’t mean no harm. Just want to live out their endless lives in peace, you see what I’m saying here, pardner?

It ain’t easy bein’ a vampire.

First off, you need to know that this is a real tasty twist on vampires. Cates suggests that this is a reverse image of The Walking Dead where it’s humans surrounded by monsters. In the case of Redneck, it’s monsters surrounded by humans–which can be a lot more dangerous as humans can get organized about their violence. The Bowman vampire clan would much rather be left alone to run the local barbecue joint while surviving all these years on just plain old cow’s blood.

Inks by Lisandro Estherren; Colors by Dee Cunniffe

Our main character is Bartlett. He’s a lanky old fella who is constantly being spooked by Perry, his young niece who reads his thoughts. We begin with Uncle Bartlett reminiscing over his time in the Civil War. Perry insists on knowing which side he was on. Bartlett gives a gruff but worldly response: Live long enough, and you learn not to take sides. But that level of tolerance is lost on the boys in the family who are restless and want to stir up a little trouble. Mind you, “the boys” are in their sixties. But it’s all relative when you’re talking vampire years.

What Cates envisions for this comic book series is an exploration of Southern culture through an entertaining story. You get to know these vampires on a deep generational level. There’s the boys, and Uncle Bartlett and his niece, Perry. Then there’s the patriarch, J.V., leading the pack. And there’s also Granpa who is God only knows how old. Best to keep him locked up in the attic. He makes a brief and cryptic appearance in this first issue.

I asked Cates about a moment in the story when J.V. complains about these “pincheways” the young people use. What the heck is that? Cates did not miss a beat and provides a window into the authentic flavor to this story. Pincheways are a name an old Texan friend of Cates’s uses for cell phones. Seeing a new generation and their rapid-fire texting sort of disgusts him. That’s one of the many quirky cultural gaps you’ll find in this first issue. The combination of quirky script and art definitely makes this a welcome twist to the vampire genre.

REDNECK #1 is available as of April 19, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Horror, Image Comics, Interviews, Skybound Entertainment, Texas, Vampires

Movie Review: ‘Get Out’

When I first saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I was hooked on the idea of a racially explicit horror movie. I had already written a script in my head of what I had expected to see. I took for granted that this would be a wry and revealing look at how African Americans can still be seen as the Other. And that is definitely there. We also have the opposite where it is those who are subjugating who are seen in the same way, as some menacing Other. And I expected some dark comedy mixed in. With all that in mind, I wondered, not if, but how far this movie would cross the line.

What “Get Out” does best is keeping to a true horror movie pace, gradually building up. Instead of a frog that is in a pot of water gradually set to boil, we’re all expecting a black man to be boiled alive, so to speak. No, there are no black men being boiled–just a metaphor. In fact, there are far more gruesome things up ahead. The remarkable thing is that there is a certain level of restraint that allows writer/director Jordan Peele to navigate deeper into our collective racial history than some of us out there are ready to go.

The opening scene alone is loaded with plenty of food for thought. An African American young man is walking through an upscale, and presumably white, neighborhood. He is talking on the phone and joking with his friend that he’s lost in what he calls with a whiny accent, “the suburbs.” As he proceeds down streets with tony- sounding names like “Peacock Street,” a white sports car pulls up blaring an old 1930’s song, “Run, Rabbit, Run,” a sly reference to the classic WASP novel, “Rabbit, Run,” by John Updike. The young man attempts to avoid the car by walking in the other direction. Ultimately, he can’t help walking towards the car whereupon he’s knocked out and thrown in the car’s trunk.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya)

We next see an interracial couple preparing for a trip. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), are about to meet Rose’s parents. Chris is hesitant and Rose asks him what’s the matter. Chris asks Rose if she mentioned to her parents that he’s black. Rose laughs it off and reassures him that’s it’s not an issue at all. It’s a tender moment. It shows that Chris is vulnerable while Rose is far more in control of the situation. The acting is quite believable. Rose seems clearly in love with Chris. But the focus leans towards Chris as we see events through his eyes. He’s convinced he’s entering the lion’s den and we easily sympathize.

The focus never leaves Chris and, once they arrive at the family estate nestled in the woods, the attention heaped upon Chris grows. It begins with the first meet-the-parents round. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener make for deliciously out-of-touch parents attempting to be hip. If only that was all that lay in store for our hero. Red flags go up one by one. There’s a quick aside by the dad, “Oh, that room leads to the basement. We closed it up due to a buildup of black mold.” Yikes, in the context of a horror movie, that says it all.

Things are gonna keep steadily getting freaky from here on out. And so they do, some artful and some more in line with standard-issue tropes. One horror chestnut, the comedy relief sidekick buddy, is given new life and put to fine use here. Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, one of TSA’s finest, adds another dimension to the narrative. While he may rob the movie of some of its more provocative and scary potential, that seems to be the right approach for a project that is unleashing so many racial issues. Overall, we end up with a number of compelling scenes and images without resorting to a heavy hand.

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Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Satire

ECCC 2017 Review: TOUCHING EVIL VOL. 1: THE CURSE ESCAPES

Close-up on panel from TOUCHING EVIL

Dan Dougherty is an award-winning author and illustrator. He is known for his humor comic strip, BEARDO, as well as various genre comic books. TOUCHING EVIL is an ongoing supernatural thriller series. It has an otherworldly quality about it that will compel you to keep reading. Dougherty has recently collected the first seven issues into one volume. Here is a taste of what you can expect in the following review. I also got a chance to chat with Dan for a bit at Emerald City Comicon and we did a quick video interview that you can check out at the end.

Panel excerpt from TOUCHING EVIL

Getting back to TOUCHING EVIL, there is much to say. First off, Dougherty has an uncanny way, both with his writing and his drawing, of calibrating a moment. Let me set this up. Our main character, Ada, is a beautiful and vibrant woman in the prime of life. She has a promising career as an attorney. She has a teenage son. And then, one day, she is assigned a task that results in a tragic outcome of supernatural proportions. When this happens, it seems oddly inevitable.

Essentially, Ada has the power of life or death over anyone with dark intentions. She touches them. They die. Meanwhile, her son has taken to wearing these black leather gloves with skeleton fingers. All this leads up to a pivotal moment: in order to secure she doesn’t accidently kill her own troubled son, Ada manages to slip on her son’s gloves before she hugs him. This is one of those masterful Dougherty moments: a sorrowful mother, her skeletal hands resting on the back of her son.

Page excerpt from TOUCHING EVIL

This is some wild story, if I haven’t made that clear yet. It gets under your skin, burrows its way in. Think The Twilight Zone meets Breaking Bad. It’s a certain vibe that hooks you in. Dougherty revels in well-placed details that later on elaborately blow up. A key aspect to the curse that Ada inherits is that anyone who she ends up executing by touch is a new soul who inhabits her mind. The death count mounts, as you may expect, and it gets crowded in Ada’s head. There’s a play within a play going on. Or you can think of it as a horror version of “Being John Malkovich.” Parts horror, cerebral, and offbeat humor, this is a highly engaging graphic novel.

Page excerpt from TOUCHING EVIL

And I get back to how Dougherty draws. His style is clean and crisp. Dougherty can make you believe you’re in a scary penitentiary and you’re walking down to its scariest section, The Ghost Room. He will make you believe in ghosts, demons, and being trapped in hell. And, without a doubt, you’ll get wrapped up in Ada’s plight.

Page excerpt from TOUCHING EVIL

Dan Dougherty is one of those talents in comics who is doing everything right. Well, that’s certainly an understatement. Whatever Dougherty does, it is going to continue to work out well. Maybe he’ll just follow a Jeff Smith model and keep building up what’s he doing on his own. He is an exciting talent and I highly recommend that you seek out this very intriguing work.

TOUCHING EVIL by Dan Dougherty

TOUCHING EVIL VOL. 1: THE CURSE ESCAPES is a full color 240-page graphic novel written and illustrated by Dan Dougherty.
Colors: Kanila Tripp and Wesley Wong
Cover art: Tom Kelly, with interior covers by Stephen Bryant
Additional inks: Monica Ras

This limited edition 240-page hardcover collects issues 1-7, as well as a never-before-seen bonus story, pinup gallery with art from Ryan Browne, Andrew Dimitt, Tom Kelly, and Doug Klauba! Read “season one” of Touching Evil in its most beautiful presentation!

Visit Dan Dougherty right here.

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Filed under Beardo Comics, Comics, Dan Dougherty, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, Supernatural, Supernatural Horror

ECCC 2017: Skybound Entertainment Overview with Editorial Director Sean Mackiewicz

Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment at Emerald City Comicon 2017

Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment at Emerald City Comicon 2017

Sean Mackiewicz is the Editorial Director of Skybound Entertaiment who oversees all comics titles, which include the upcoming EXTREMITY and REDNECK and Robert Kirkman titles THE WALKING DEAD, OUTCAST, and INVINCIBLE. I got a chance to chat with him for bit. He is the perfect person to provide a quick tour of Skybound Entertainment.

So, what is Skybound Entertainment? Well, most of you out there are familiar with THE WALKING DEAD, right? Robert Kirkman had a dream of bringing back, in a whole new way, the old black & white horror movies, especially zombie movies, he loved watching on Saturday morning television as a kid. His unique slant on zombies was thinking of a way to keep the story going, turning it into a ongoing saga. One thing led to another and THE WALKING DEAD, pardon the pun, came to life!

THE WALKING DEAD comic book series was created by writers Robert Kirkman and Harry Schofield and artist Tony Moore. In 2003, Image Comics began publishing it. By 2008, Kirkman was a partner with Image Comics. By 2010, Kirkman was heading up his own Image Comics imprint, Skybound Entertainment.

ECCC variant for EXTREMITY #1

ECCC variant for EXTREMITY #1

Skybound Entertainment is a place to showcase a wide spectrum of titles by Robert Kirkman as well as like-minded creators. It’s a unique place for creator-owned work to be shown to the world and to grow to its fullest potential. At Skybound, you have an assortment of comic book titles with character-driven, horror, and dark fantasy themes. Among the roster of Skybound titles: EXTREMITY (first issue out March 1at), by writer and artist Daniel Warren Johnson; and REDNECK, a horror comic written by Donny Cates and drawn by Lisandro Estherren, that will hit stores on April 19th.

To round out the picture a little more on Skybound Entertainment, I asked Mackiewicz if he could describe a typical day in his role as Editorial Director. He said that no day was typical but each day could see him overseeing comic book titles, developing new titles, and developing merchandise that uniquely fit a creator’s vision.

Regarding EXTREMITY, Mackiewicz expressed his deep admiration for the talent of creator Daniel Warren Johnson. “It’s not that often you find someone so good at both writing and drawing. Daniel is a unique talent,” said Mackiewicz. Daniel Warren Johnson proved to be one of those singular talents that started creating buzz with his online work as well as his drawing portraits of people as zombies.

Now that you have a better picture of what’s going on at Skybound, consider Robert Kirkman’s OUTCAST. This is one of the titles that seems to be on a similar path as THE WALKING DEAD with a successful comic resulting in a successful television show. This Southern Gothic may hook you if it hasn’t already. A loyal fan base awaits Season Two this April on Cinemax in the U.S. and on Fox in the U.K.

For more details, visit Skybound Entertainment right here. And, if you are going to Emerald City Comicon, there are a number of Image Comics panels to attend including a rare gathering of all the original Image Comics founders on Friday. This is at 1pm at Main Stage – WSCC 4A. Regarding Skybound in particular, on Saturday, starting at 12:30pm, there will be two panels taking place on Twitch’s ECCC Live stage. If you can’t attend ECCC, you will be able to view them on Twitch. For more details, visit Emerald City Comicon right here.

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Filed under Comics, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon, Horror, Image Comics, Robert Kirkman, Seattle, Skybound Entertainment, The Walking Dead

Review: THE BELFRY, published by Image Comics

THE BELFRY by Gabriel Hardman

THE BELFRY by Gabriel Hardman

Gabriel Hardman is an artist with a very fluid and powerful drawing style. And that carries over to his writing as well. His latest one-shot comic for Image Comics is a perfect case in point, entitled, THE BELFRY, a trippy surreal vampire jaunt. You could say this is how truly engaged cartoonists dream, or have nightmares: a sequence of seemingly random events that creep up on you to unveil some unnerving results. For Hardman, it all began with a sketch of a vampire woman with silky wings sprawled inside a dank cavern. That haunting drawing led to this strange and lyrical story.

Hardman runs with dream logic and gives us quite a number of compelling visuals: an airliner crash-landing in a remote jungle, devilish winged figures, a spike jammed into an eyeball socket! Yes, it can get gruesome but this is stylish horror. For those of you into quirky comics, you are likely already fans of Gabriel Hardman (KINSKI, Star Wars Legacy) as well as his work teamed up with Corinna Sara Bechko (INVISIBLE REPUBLIC, HEATHENTOWN). This is an artist loaded with wit, vision, and endless energy. Hardman loves to draw as his expressive ink does attest!

The initial sketch that set things in motion.

The initial sketch that set things in motion.

“Fwip! Fwip! Fwip!” go the incredibly long batwings. There’s a deliciously uncompromising vibe to this comic. Right after the airliner crashing, because of those demonic wings getting in the way, co-pilot Bill is awakened by flight attendant Janet. All the passengers have been accounted for. But what about Captain Anders? Well, er, he’s alive except…there’s a stake through his eye. Then there’s a beautifully surreal transition…Bill is running through the wild jungle and falls, as into a rabbit hole, except it’s a huge cave full of humanoid bats. Bill lands with a tremendous thud. He’s been stripped bare. All the other passengers are naked as well. And from there the screws are turned tighter and a splendid nightmare spreads out in full bloom.

THE BELFRY will prove to be a great new addition to your comics reading so make a note of it as this one is a month away. And, if you haven’t been following Hardman, seek him out. A good place to start is the ongoing series, INVISIBLE REPUBLIC, to which I provide a review right here.

THE BELFRY one-shot issue is available as of February 22, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Corinna Sara Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Horror, Image Comics, Vampires

Movie Preview: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS in Wide Release

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-mr-carey

“The Girl with All the Gifts,” a novel by M.R. Carey, caused quite a sensation when it was first published in 2014. I have read it and quickly found it to be inventive, something of a game changer to the zombie genre. Well, the movie adaptation became a smash hit in the UK when it was released in 2016. And now it invades its way to a wide release: on DirecTV January 26th and in select theaters and On Demand February 24th.

Kudos to Mike Carey for writing the screenplay to his novel!

Melanie (Sennia Nanua)

Melanie (Sennia Nanua)

The synopsis:

The near future: humanity has been all but destroyed by a fungal disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh eating “hungries”. Only a small group of children seem immune to its effects. At an army base in rural England, this group of unique children are being studied and subjected to cruel experiments. But one little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), stands out from the rest.

When the base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and two other soldiers. Against the backdrop of a blighted Britain, Melanie must discover what she is and ultimately decide both her own future and that of the human race.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is directed by Colm McCarthy and written by Mike Carey. The distributor is Saban Films, Lionsgate. Visit the movie’s Facebook page right here.

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Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, movies, Zombies

VICE Releases the New VICE Guide to Comics, Horror Edition

Dick Briefer's FRANKENSTEIN

Dick Briefer’s FRANKENSTEIN

Just in time for Halloween, VICE’s art editor, Nick Gazin, shares his list of the top five scariest horror comics. With horror comics being dismissed by many as just a junk genre, there was a golden opportunity to fill that void and create great art using strange artistic styles. Nick provides a quick history lesson, and an unexpected treat among his choices. He also wears some big toothy fangs all for your enjoyment.

VICE Guide to Comics: The Top Five Scariest Horror Comics is right HERE.

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Filed under Comics, Frankenstein, Horror, VICE

Interview: Kerry O’Quinn and the World of Fandom

Kerry O'Quinn and Friends. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Kerry O’Quinn and Friends. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Kerry O’Quinn is the co-creator and publisher of STARLOG, FANGORIA, CINEMAGIC, FUTURE LIFE, COMICS SCENE and more than a dozen other monthly newsstand magazines. Mr. O’Quinn is featured in an upcoming documentary on fandom, FROM THE BRIDGE, written and directed by Spencer F. Lee and hosted by George Takei. It was my pleasure to get a chance to interview Kerry. Here is someone who tapped into the world of fandom as if he were born to do so. O’Quinn and his partner Norman Jacobs got their start by creating and publishing a soap opera magazine in 1972. By 1976, they were ready to pursue publications aligned with their passions for genre cinema, television, and related pop culture.

Kerry O'Quinn, co-creator and publisher of STARLOG  and  FANGORIA

Kerry O’Quinn, co-creator and publisher of STARLOG and FANGORIA

Starlog and Fangoria are the flagship publications from that golden era. Starlog was launched in 1976. Fangoria was launched in 1979 and continues in its great tradition of covering the horror scene. These are the prime publications, along with Cinemagic, that would go on to influence thousands of creative people including many of the most celebrated talents working today like J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino. Before the internet, you got your in depth information on the entertainment industry from magazines. One cannot stress enough how significant Starlog and Fangoria were in their heyday.

Fangoria, Issue One, August 1979

Fangoria, Issue One, August 1979

Kerry O’Quinn would go on to celebrate the worlds of science fiction, horror, comic books, and fandom in various ways. Some of the most notable are his conventions that paid tribute to the 10th anniversary of Star Wars, the 20th anniversary of Star Trek, and the 20th anniversary of Starlog. It was during the 10th anniversary celebration of Star Wars that Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas would share a stage for the first and only time together. How was such a marvelous feat accomplished? Well, Kerry O’Quinn was friends with both of these legends. It was Kerry O’Quinn who landed an exclusive in depth interview with George Lucas that was so comprehensive that it spanned three issues of Starlog.

Gene Roddenberry meets George Lucas, 1987, the 10th anniversary of Star Wars

Gene Roddenberry meets George Lucas, 1987, the 10th anniversary of Star Wars

Over the years, Kerry O’Quinn has proven himself to be a man of many talents consistently exploring and creating new work. He has become an accomplished screenwriter with a number of projects including “Dragworms,” his unique take on zombies which is actually more character-driven than just blood and guts. What strikes me about Kerry O’Quinn is his energy and determination to pursue his dreams. I can relate to him on many levels. We’re both from Texas. We both love New York. We both juggle a number of passions: writing, drawing, acting, filmmaking. I think some people are just wired to need to do many things and will find ways to realize each goal over the course of a lifetime. That’s what is special about Kerry O’Quinn. That said, he’d be the first to say it is well within reach for everyone to follow their dreams. For more details on his remarkable life and his observations, check out his website here.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Kerry, I want to chat with you about fandom, and the upcoming documentary that you are featured in, “From the Bridge,” and cover as much as we can about your remarkable career. I want to begin by giving a shout out to your friend, Kurt Edward Larson. He conducted such a beautiful and heartfelt interview with you.

KERRY O’QUINN: Kurt and I have known each other for a long time and have a lot of fun things in common. Kurt is such a Star Wars fan–and, when he got married several years ago, I wondered about what to get him–a toaster? a blender? No, what he would want was a day at Skywalker Ranch. I arranged that. He and his wife had lunch there and got a tour of the ranch. So, he was in heaven!

I was talking to a buddy of mine about doing this interview and we got to speculating over the long lines for Star Wars on the very first day of release. We were just kids when it came out. I started to think about how Jaws had attracted long lines too a couple of years prior. From your special vantage point, Starlog was already on the scene having come out in 1976, would you share with us your take on the explosion of excitement over Star Wars in 1977?

It was phenomenal timing. My partner, Norm Jacobs, and I had launched Starlog magazine in 1976, the Bicentennial year. At that time, there was no science fiction that was alive and happening. It was all stuff from the past that was being consumed. You know, stuff from the 1950s, the movies made by George Pal. Those movies were popular with nerds like me. But they weren’t going to win any Academy Awards or get any mainstream cheers of any kind. It was considered trash, like daytime soap operas. Horror movies, stuff like that, was not taken seriously.

Starlog, Issue Seven, August 1977

Starlog, Issue Seven, August 1977

When we started the magazine, there wasn’t anything like it like there is today. And we had great difficulty starting the magazine for that reason. But, lo and behold, the very next year Star Wars came out. All of a sudden, it made the cover of Time magazine, with exactly the same X-wing cover that we had for Starlog. So, suddenly science fiction was at least getting noticed by a mainstream audience all over the world. It has gone on to become an important part of the culture in the same way that Star Trek has. And in the same way that horror and superheroes have. It’s very trendy today to be a nerd. It wasn’t 40 years ago.

I remember when I first met George Lucas. He was telling me about having lunch one day at Hamburger Hamlet on Hollywood Boulevard. And it was right across the street from Mann’s Chinese Theatre. He said that he looked across and he saw lines of people. He asked what was going on. And a friend told him that it was his movie that was playing. It didn’t occur to George that huge lines were gathering along the sidewalk for his movie. He was delightfully surprised by the enormous fan reaction to his movie as all the rest of us were.

It was when Star Wars lit up the sky like it did that Starlog went from a quarterly to a monthly magazine. Indeed, we were already there. Starlog was the voice of science fiction. And George launched the science fiction that is very much alive and booming today.

That scene with the long lines, that’s in your interview with George Lucas.

For our Star Wars fifth anniversary issue, I had called to arrange an interview with George Lucas. He had turned down all the big magazines. I was told that he wasn’t doing any interviews but I begged and pleaded. George agreed. I flew out from New York to visit him. This was before he had build Skywalker Ranch. I did an lengthy interview with him in which he told me all kinds of wonderful tales. We were very comfortable talking with each other. We had many of the same values and things that excited us. We talked about everything from space to technology to classic cars. We talked for hours at that first interview. In fact, it turned out to be too much for one issue so I turned into three consecutive parts spanning three issues of Starlog. I believe it is the longest interview anyone has ever done with George Lucas.

Starlog, Issue One, August 1976

Starlog, Issue One, August 1976

Share with us your insights on how Star Trek became a phenomena, after having struggled in the ratings when it was originally broadcast.

It did indeed struggle. In fact, after the first two years, NBC had cancelled the series. And an amazing lady by the name of Bjo Trimble and her husband, John, did something that, at the time, was phenomenal. This was back in the mid-’60s. They organized a letter writing campaign to NBC by fans that generated more than a million letters. A TV network had never received that kind of reaction to the cancellation of a show–and they were stunned by it. Don’t forget that this is before the internet. Fans contacted each other back then with mimeographed newsletters mailed to each other. And then, ten years after the first broadcast of Star Trek, there was Starlog maganzine and fans could communicate with each other through our letters forum–as well as at conventions.

Bjo had gotten a television network to renew a cancelled series. That had never happened before. What Bjo did was allow for a third season of Star Trek. However, NBC scheduled it on Friday nights, which is a dead zone for shows. So, NBC cancelled it for the second time. Everybody seemed to think science fiction was dead. But it was very much alive within this hidden fan culture. And the documentary that my friend, Spencer, is putting together covers how this fan base has grown in the last 40 years. It went from this invisible, almost ashamed, audience to what it has become today when you have 150,000 people show up at Comic-Con in San Diego each year in July. And the biggest movies today are superhero, science fiction, and horror, everything that our magazines were all about.

Star Trek is right at the root of that response, at the heart of it. Gene Roddenberry created a concept of the future that was positive and inspiring: rationality, science, and the better values of human nature would prevail. Star Trek not only inspired the original audience that tuned in for its three-year run. In syndication, Star Trek reached around the world with its universal concept that the human race can be better. Gene deserves everybody’s praise as Star Trek is one of the most inspiring things to be created in any genre. Sometimes science fiction warns us of things that we need to be careful about. And sometimes science fiction shows us that things are within our control, we can make it better, and gives us hope for the future.

I’m thinking of how Star Trek was ahead of its time and so it made sense that it would struggle in the ratings. The same is true for The Twilight Zone. Both of these shows have a lot in common. The primary thing is that they both have subtext. There was social commentary in the guise of fantasy and science fiction, very much ahead of its time–now, we take that for granted, don’t we?

We do but we still need it since we don’t have a lot of it. Even with the science fiction that we have today, with all the dazzling special effects that we didn’t have back in the ’60s. Visually, science fiction today is dazzling, uncontrollable, and amazing. Back then, the effects were kind of clunky, rubber monsters and the like, but nobody cared because–and this is certainly true about The Twilight Zone–the story talked about the issues, important values, and principles.

Science fiction does not show us the day-to-day reality but something that may exist in the future, something that could and that ought to exist. That is the noblest undertaking of art and science fiction is the best at doing that. Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry are hugely important and we featured them in the early issues of Starlog. At that time, there wasn’t any science fiction, like we know today, so for the first few years most of the content in Starlog was looking at things from the past in terms of movies and television.

Cinemagic, Issue 20, June 1983

Cinemagic, Issue 20, June 1983

You were commenting on the past but then, at some point, you were not only commenting but you were part of the industry. There’s the whole how-to aspect from Cinemagic. There was quite the evolution as you became part of the scene.

Exactly. When we began Starlog, we included everything even those things that were very loosely considered science fiction. And that included horror, and articles on special effects, and Hollywood technology workshops, all the way to NASA and the space program. As we evolved, we discovered that we had many different audiences reading our magazine. Some of these people wanted to be filmmakers. They wanted to make these movies that they loved. Therefore, we branched off and created the magazine, Cinemagic which taught young filmmakers the techniques of production and special effects. We had a short film contest each year. We gave out prizes and trophies at a big theater in New York with celebrities to present awards. Some of these award winners are working in Hollywood today.

A lot of folks, like J.J. Abrams and Robert Rodriguez were inspired by Cinemagic. Steven Spielberg, at one time, said that Cinemagic was his favorite magazine, the only magazine promoting the future of the film industry to young people who were unsure if they could recreate the amazing things that they adored on the screen.

Director/Writer Wes Craven, from "Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors" (1986)

Director/Writer Wes Craven, from “Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors” (1986)

I was curious about the overlap between Fangoria and Famous Monsters of Filmland. There does not seem to have been a rivalry between you and Forry Ackerman. Famous Monsters began in 1958. Fangoria began in 1979. You have Forrest J Ackerman, the founder and editor of Famous Monsters, in your film, “Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors,” which I must say is an outstanding documentary on fandom in its own right.

Thank you.

What can you tell us about Forrest J Ackerman? What did you learn from him?

He was obviously the precursor to all of our magazines. He did something very daring in his day: to do a magazine about monsters! What kind of freaks are interested in something like that? Well, it turned out that there was quite a few. Again, these people were all in the closet, so to speak. They bought the magazine but they didn’t have any social status whatsoever. They were outcasts. They were unusual. That was me. That was a lot of people. Our magazine brought people out of the closet. I met Forry many years ago, at a convention, and immediately we had a lot in common. We became friends and we remained friends, it makes me sad to talk about it…I was with him just a few days before he died. He was still in good spirits and still telling me jokes.

From "Fangoria's Weekend  of Horrors" (1986) segment with Forrest J. Ackerman

From “Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors” (1986) segment with Forrest J Ackerman

Forry was such an important person in my world and he became a very dear friend. I actually went over to his old home out here in L.A. years ago, which was called the Ackermansion. And it was a museum of props and artwork and all kinds of things that he collected from these strange movies that no one gave enough credit to but that he knew that it was an important part of the culture that should be saved and preserved. And there still is no permanent museum for that sort of thing. And I’m hoping that, in the near future, there will finally be a museum that recognizes and preserves science fiction, horror, superheroes, fantasy, all of the films that are now way out of the closet–and a part of mainstream culture, not just in the U.S. but world-wide.

Kerry, there are so many things we can talk about. Ayn Rand. Cannabis. More about Star Wars. There’s your book on how to chase stars, chase your dreams.

Yes, “Reach For The Stars.” It’s a book that has a lot of practical advice on how to make your distant dreams come true.

I also have to touch on your project with HBO which may still find its way back to them. It’s a Twilight Zone type of show called, “Future Tales.” Boy, that would be some show!

I agree, it would be. And it’s still a good idea. I haven’t been able to sell it to the Syfy channel even though that ought to be just the sort of show they would be interested in. I enlisted 45 of the world’s greatest science fiction writers (including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Harlan Ellison), we signed agreements, that they would create a story or that we could use an existing story as the basis for one of our episodes. It was an anthology series all about the world of tomorrow. When HBO had me develop it, we were calling it “Future Tales.” Now, I’m calling it, “Exploring Tomorrow.”

I love that.

Me too. Who isn’t interested in tomorrow?

Exactly! You know, Kerry, I’m over the moon. We share so many connections. I’m a cartoonist.

Oh, really?

Yes, and I love New York.

Oh, yeah.

And I can see your early interest in cartooning probably having to do with being able to control the whole production and allowing your vision to run free.

That also carried over into animation. In New York, years ago, I was so impressed with Disney and his multiplane animation that created three-dimensional pictures. I got a bunch of plumbing pipes and I built my own multiplane animation stand in my apartment in New York. At the time, my dream was to create a little film that was so damn good that I’d send it out to Disney and he’d have me come out to work for him. That was my dream: to work for Walt Disney! Now, it never did happen and I clearly changed my mind since then but I did produce a few short films on that animation stand. I still love animation, and illustration–that was my original career. I’ve done so many things since then that I have a resume that looks like I’m schizophrenic.

Well, I wish you and Spencer the very best with “From the Bridge.” I’m excited about it and I’m sure it will find a wide audience.

It’s going to be very popular with the fan community–because it’s all about them. And the power that they have grown to hold in the last few decades.

I interviewed George Clayton Johnson a number of times–a science fiction writer and big supporter of fans–and he always brought up people power. In the end, it is the fans who matter the most.

Absolutely. I’m going to do a panel at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo (newly renamed Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con) here in L.A. next month with Bjo and John Trimble and my friend, Tom DeSanto, who produced X-Men and Transformers, and we’re going to talk about fandom. That’s what it’s all about.

Well, very beautiful. Thank you so much, Kerry.

You’re very welcome, Henry. I always enjoy talking about what I enjoy most of all.

Here is the podcast interview to listen to. Just click below and enjoy:

Check in with Kerry O’Quinn at his website here. If you are in Los Angeles on October 28-30, come see Kerry and enjoy some pop culture fun at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con. You can find details on that right here.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Comics, Fandom, Forrest J Ackerman, Geeks, Horror, Kerry O'Quinn, movies, pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, Starlog

Interview: Spencer F. Lee and FROM THE BRIDGE

Spencer F. Lee, Stan Lee, and Kerry O'Quinn

Spencer F. Lee, Stan Lee, and Kerry O’Quinn

“I started writing when I was eleven. I didn’t start writing at age eleven because I thought I was going to become a movie director. I did it because I enjoyed it. I fed off the movies I was watching and the comic books I was reading.”

–Spencer F. Lee, writer/director of FROM THE BRIDGE

FROM THE BRIDGE is a documentary that looks at the career of Kerry O’Quinn, one of the leading figures in fandom, and explores in depth the rich and exciting world of science fiction, comic books, and horror–and the fans who love it. At this point, those fans include a vast number. But it wasn’t always that evident. With this new documentary, due out in 2017, writer/director Spencer F. Lee shares with you his childhood passion that has blossomed into a deep understanding of some of today’s leading forms of entertainment.

FROM THE BRIDGE, directed and written by Spencer F. Lee, executive producers George Noe and Spencer F. Lee, produced by Philip Nelson, and hosted on-screen by George Takei, is a feature film documentary that tells the story of how fans worldwide have “come out of geekdom’s closet” in the last 40 years, largely nurtured and encouraged by Kerry O’Quinn. Having the opportunity to interview both Spencer F. Lee as well as Kerry O’Quinn, I’ve come away with a great appreciation for what this film will mean to an audience. The film features interviews with Stan Lee, Bryan Singer, Gene Simmons, Joe Dante, Nichelle Nichols, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Fuller, Rod Roddenberry, Howard Roffman and many more.

The full podcast interview with Spencer F. Lee is right below. Just click the link:

Up next is my interview with Kerry O’Quinn, co-founder of such landmark magazines as Starlog and Fangoria.

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Filed under Comics, Documentaries, Fandom, Fangoria, Geek Culture, Geeks, Horror, Kerry O'Quinn, pop culture, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Spencer F. Lee, Star Trek, Star Wars, Starlog