All posts by ERTorre

E. R. Torre is a writer/artist whose first major work, the mystery graphic novel The Dark Fringe, was optioned for motion picture production by Platinum Studios (Men In Black, Cowboys vs. Aliens). At DC Comics, his work appeared in role-playing game books and the 9-11 Tribute book. This later piece was eventually displayed, along with others from the 9-11 tribute books, at The Library of Congress. More recently he released Shadows at Dawn (a collection of short stories), Haze (a murder mystery novel with supernatural elements), and Cold Hemispheres (a mystery novel set in the world of The Dark Fringe). He is currently hard at work on his latest science fiction/suspense series, Corrosive Knights, which features the novels Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.

And Then There Were None (1939) A (Mysteriously) Belated Review

As I’ve said before, it seems I’m on a And Then There Were None trip of late, what with seeing the 2015 mini-series based on the novel (my review is here), then seeing the comedic take on the book via the 1985 film Clue (you can read my review of it here), and finally seeing the 1968 western film 5 Card Stud, which was clearly influenced by the book (you can read my review of that here).

So I figured why not conclude this trip by re-reading and reviewing Agatha Christie’s original 1939 novel?

I mentioned it before and I’ll repeat myself: In Agatha Christie’s very long -and incredibly successful- career as a mystery writer, there are two novels that many consider her best: The Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express and the novel we’re focused on, And Then There Were None.

Re-reading the novel (I’ve read it at least twice before), I again marvel at the concise nature of it.

Author Elmore Leonard famously wrote a fascinating list of 10 things an author should/shouldn’t do (you can read the full list here) that concluded with this piece of advice:

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip

Looking at this piece of advice, it sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it may be one of the hardest things an author can do.

Why?

It involves looking at your baby, your lovely work, and realizing you need to cut it down, that the brilliant description you made of a home and its sparkling marble floor simply doesn’t need to be in your novel and does nothing more than slow a reader down. There could be any number of wonderful (to you) bits and pieces of prose and passages you’ve spent way too much time writing about which you have to come back to and realize they need to be cut and never to see the light of day.

There are plenty of authors I’ve read who simply couldn’t do this.

They may have pages upon pages of at times flowery -even beautiful!- descriptive passages that simply do not move the novel forward.

I’m certain I’ve done this as well in some of my books, but in the process of doing revisions I genuinely try to cut things to the bone and leave behind -as Mr. Leonard put it- the parts readers will read versus those they will want to skip and which -despite my best efforts- drag the book down.

And Then There Were None is a beautiful example of a stripped down novel that moves along quickly and never lags. It is a relatively brief work yet within its pages one gets a wonderful taste of 10 disparate characters who are invited -under false pretenses- to a distant island where they stand accused of various murders and are then themselves killed one after the other.

The great suspense is not only in the fact that these people realize they’re being hunted, but in the further realization that one of their own is the killer.

So the characters suspect each other of being a mad killer while, paradoxically, they’re forced to keep each other as close to them as possible… for each time someone is alone, the odds are good they will be dead.

It’s a brilliant scenario that has clearly influenced a lot of other works, including various adaptations for the screen. I also understand it was the most difficult novel for Mrs. Christie to write and I can certainly see why: Having that many characters running around and figuring out ways to off them which are logical to the novel’s end is not an easy thing to do, especially when the book is written in such a beautifully stripped down way.

Having said that, let’s be honest with each other: The novel’s plot is preposterous.

While Mrs. Christie does her best to give explanations to all the various details presented, including the murderer’s motivation and the way in which s/he picked out the various “victims”, the reality is that for something like this to have happened, and further actually worked as presented in the novel, would take far too many things going “right.” If it wasn’t for Mrs. Christie’s lively -and highly entertaining- writing, a reader might be tempted to call bullshit on quite a few of the things which occur in the book.

Still, the so-called “suspension of disbelief” is a prime factor in enjoying any work of fiction and pointing a finger at this particular one, whether merited or not, is somewhat unfair on my part.

So I’ll end this review agreeing with the many who feel this may well be Agatha Christie’s best novel (or, at the very least, one of the two best novels she wrote).

And Then There Were None, despite its at time preposterous nature, is nonetheless a terrific work, a masterpiece (or master class) in concise writing, suspense, and well earned surprises.

Highly, highly recommended.

5 Card Stud (1968) A (Ante Up!) Review

Sheesh… am I in some kind of And Then There Were None loop here?

A few days back I saw the mini-series based on the famous Agatha Christie novel (you can read that review here), then yesterday I wrote a review of the 1985 movie Clue, which I realized was a comedic take on that same novel (you can read that review here), and last night I saw the 1968 film 5 Card Stud which, while not an obvious adaptation on Agatha Christie’s novel, sure seemed to have been shaped by it… to a degree.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The movie’s plot goes like this: One night in a small town in the wild west, a group of gamblers, including Dean Martin’s Van Morgan and Roddy McDowall’s Nick Evers, are playing a game of (I’ll give you three guesses) 5 card stud.

Van Morgan takes a breather and while he’s gone, the others continue their game. During that time, Nick Evers realizes the out-of-towner who is playing with the regulars is cheating. In a rage, he and the others grab the man and head out to lynch him.

Van Morgan returns to find the group of plays has just left and is aghast that they’re going to lynch the man.

He rides after them and arrives just as they’re preparing the rope to hang the unfortunate man. He tries to talk the lynch mob down but Nick Evers, revealed to be a nihilistic hot-head, knocks Van Morgan out and the unfortunate out-of-towner is lynched.

The lynch mob retreats back to the town, bringing along with them the unconscious Van Morgan. They unceremoniously dump him near the bar he lives in and where the out-of-towner played his very last game.

He’s taken to his room to recover and, the next day, the lynching is discovered by the law.

The 5 card stud players, including Van Morgan, keep quiet about whodunnit and Van Morgan, after confronting and knocking out Nick Evers, decides he no longer wants to live in this town and departs.

Once gone, a preacher (Robert Mitchum, in what amounts to a extended cameo, even though he’s listed as the movie’s co-star) arrives in town and sets up his parish.

Soon after, one of the poker players is found dead.

Then another…

Van Morgan reads about the killings and returns to town and the mystery of who is killing the card players …er… plays out.

(Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have your And Then There Were None similarities!)

So 5 Card Stud is essentially a wild west murder mystery. The screenplay, by Marguerite Roberts was adapted from a novel by Ray Gaulden is full of interesting bits of dialogue. Ms. Roberts, it should be noted, was a long standing Hollywood screenwriter. Her first work was Sailor’s Luck from all the way back in 1933 and she immediately followed up the screenplay for this film with that of the original John Wayne version of True Grit.

In fact, as I was watching the film I found myself more often intrigued with the at times quite meaty dialogue versus the at times very pulpy murder mystery.

Roddy McDowall’s Nick Evers, in particular, is a well developed character. As I mentioned above, he’s a nihilist, someone whose philosophy seems to be to burn it all down. And Roddy McDowall, who himself had a very long career as an actor, seems on the surface an odd choice for this role yet he nails it, becoming a truly hissable villain in the process.

But…

The limitations of the story and its pulpy nature do limit just how good this film is. There is a romance -two actually- linked to Dean Martin’s Van Morgan that don’t really add all that much to the story proper and seem like deviations meant to fill up time. Not, by the way, that the romantic love interests, played by Marguerite Roberts and the lovely (and tragic, in real life) Inger Stevens are anything less than very professional and charismatic in their roles.

I suppose the problem lies in the fact that it became only too obvious too soon who the murderer was and, as a viewer, I was left with a plot that seemed only too obvious play out despite some great characterizations and dialogue.

Still, 5 Card Stud is not a terrible film but instead a movie that is limited by its plot and tries hard to break through and become something more.

There’s nothing wrong with the attempt, even if the ultimate result is something only a little more than above average.

If I were giving stars, I’d give 5 Card Stud 2 and 1/2 stars out of 4.

Take of that what you will!

Clue (1985) a (Criminally) Belated Review

The obligatory saw this a very long time ago, haven’t seen it since, decided to give it a try again spiel pertains to my having seen this film yesterday.

Most people have some idea about this film, but if you don’t, here’s the trailer:

The movie, of course, was based on the popular board game…

ESCAPE THE ROOM — JEMA

Clue, the movie, involves a host of characters who are called together and given -again like the board game- “code” names. Then, we have a murder and quite suddenly we’re in a comedic whodunnit.

It seems so strange/coincidental that I just saw the TV mini-series And Then There Were None (you can read my review of it here) which itself was based on the famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name and the very next movie I happen to see is a comedic take on that very same novel!

It’s effectively almost the identical setup: These shady guests are called to a mansion (versus an island), they’re “locked in” and can’t get out, and then someone is killed. Then another, and there is urgency (obviously!) in finding the killer before another person is next.

But, as I said, Clue is a comedy and it features a powerhouse cast of very fine comedic actors who were in their prime in that era.

Tim Curry easily has the showiest role as Wadsworth, the butler. His deliveries are often frantic and quite humorous. It’s fair to say he looked like he was having a blast here.

We also have present as the principle suspects Elileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard), and Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlett). Lee Ving is Mr. Body (you can just guess his limited role!) while Collen Camp is the vivacious Yvette (the very fetching maid) and Kellye Nakahara is the cook.

So, we have a total of 10 original individuals in the mansion at the start of the story, exactly the amount present in And Then There Were None, and not moments after they’re all introduced to each other it is revealed why they are there… and that, my friends, leads to murder.

For some reason, Clue has been re-discovered by many lately and I’m seeing posts about it on Reddit. There, people talk glowingly about what a classic the film is and how hilarious it is and…

…well…

I didn’t share that sentiment.

Mind you, up until yesterday I had only seen the film likely when it first reached home video (I don’t recall seeing it in a theater). My recollection of it was that it wasn’t a terrible work but neither was it necessarily a great one.

In fact, the clearest memory I had of the film’s original release back in the stone age was that they made three different endings to the film and, depending on which theater you went to, you’d see one of those three endings. The studios perhaps hoped people would very much like the film and head out to different theaters in the hopes of seeing the other endings, a rather unique way to promote a film, if I do say so myself!

Once the film’s theatrical run was done and the movie was eventually released to home video, the three endings were stitched together so home viewers could see them all. Personally, I felt the “final” ending was the best of the lot while the other two were merely OK.

Thing is: Neither of the three versions make a whit of sense, though I would quickly grant you the movie is a comedy so maybe I should lighten up about the nonsensical nature, no?

I guess.

Still, having seen all those glowing comments about this now 35 year old (gulp) film had me curious and that’s why when the wife put it on (yep, it wasn’t me), I decided to go for the ride and see if my mind could be changed.

Sometimes that happens: You see a film and don’t like it all that much originally but when you return to it years later, you’re pleasantly surprised to find it was better than you remembered.

…alas…

Seeing Clue again, I wound up having the same -perhaps even identical- opinion about the film I had when I first saw it : Clue is a sporadically funny decent enough comedy that, frankly, isn’t all that spectacular when all is said and done.

Sure, Tim Curry is at times quite hilarious. Sure, I always like to see Madeline Kahn in comedic roles. Sure Collen Camp was the prettiest damn woman I’ve ever seen in a skimpy French Maid outfit and sure it was fun to see Martin Mull and Michael McKean and Christopher Lloyd and Eileen Brennan and Lesley Ann Warren ham it up…

…but the reality is that for the most part these wonderful actors were called upon to do little more than mug while gunshots were fired, chandeliers fell, and heavy bodies were moved from room to room. It wasn’t terribly “high” comedy, and it wasn’t all that clever.

I know, I know.

That’s obviously just my opinion and to those on Reddit and other places that love the film: I’m glad you do!

I truly wish I could share the sentiment, but I simply don’t.

Clue is a decent little time killer and, to me, not all that much more.

Too bad.

Coronavirus – Earlier Than Thought?

A while back and on March 26th I mused (you can read it here), that I, and many of the people around me, might have already been exposed to the Coronavirus already. From around early/mid January and through February, our business and many of the people working within it -including my father- caught a nasty bug that lasted weeks to get rid of. In my case, I didn’t suffer high fevers and cough but was really fatigued and completely wiped out at by the end of each work week, something I can honestly say had never happened to me to such a weird extent before.

Now, understand: I knew this post might come across as far fetched or perhaps even wishful thinking on my part. After all, if I and the people around me were exposed to Coronavirus, then we’d be immune to the virus and therefore, we shouldn’t have much to worry about it.

However…

That does NOT mean I’m taking things easy. Even if there is a possibility I was exposed to the Covid-19 virus and have “defeated” it, I have to assume I didn’t and keep myself self-isolated as best as possible.

After all, and as I said before, the first official appearances of the Coronavirus were far after January, so I have to be wrong, right?

Well…

I stumbled upon this fascinating article by Chris Persaud on The Palm Beach Post which states…

Coronavirus Florida: Patients in Florida had symptoms as early as January

The upshot of the article?

The novel coronavirus could have infected as many as 171 people in Florida as long as two months before officials announced it had come to the state.

The author of the article has examined new tests done on individuals within the state and determined the very first “positive” of the Coronavirus was found on a 4 year old Duval County girl who had the positive test all the way back on January 1.

The first “official” appearance of Covid-19 in Florida is currently listed as April 3rd.

Here’s the thing: It takes between 4 and 14 days for the virus to incubate in a person and they then get “sick”. So if this little girl had the virus on January 1, it is possible she was infected earlier than that, into perhaps mid-December.

Which means that my musings about the weird illness we experienced in early/mid January and through early February are suddenly not so crazy sounding.

Again, and as I stated in the original post: We have a tourist related business and we see a lot of people from all over the world. Suddenly, the notion we might have been exposed to the Coronavirus isn’t quite so far fetched.

Still, there isn’t a sense of triumph within me. There isn’t a sense that I’m “out of the woods”.

I haven’t been tested for anti-bodies and, given that I’m healthy at the moment I don’t want to waste any first responders’ time checking to see if I had the disease before.

They have more than enough to worry about with the actual sick!

Still, its an intriguing thought, if nothing else.

And Then There Were None (2015) A (Mildly) Belated Review

The late writer Agatha Christie is rightfully considered one of the premiere dames of the murder mystery. In her very long writing career, she created two classic detective characters, the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot and the fussy Miss Marple as well as a slew of fascinating novels, short stories, and plays.

But if you were to stand back and rank entire œuvrer, there are two novels in particular which it seems almost everyone knows: The Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express and the standalone 1939 novel And Then There Were None.

There are many, myself included, who would point to And Then There Were None as Agatha Christie’s best overall novel. The plot is simple yet incredibly intriguing: A group of 8 individuals are invited to Indian Island under different -and they soon realize false- pretenses. There they find two servants, a butler and cook, bringing the total number of people on this distant, wind-swept island to 10.

And that night, they are each accused of different murders.

And that night, the first of them dies.

Followed by another.

Then another.

The original novel when released had the absolutely terrible name Ten Little Niggers, after the minstrel song. This was very soon changed, both in the title and in the book proper, to Ten Little Indians (not all that much better an alternative!) and settling on And Then There Were None, but the novel retained the Indian motif, with the island the group was on was called Indian Island.

There have been many adaptations of this book, the first being made in 1945…

That movie, IMHO, was delightful but they did change the novel’s rather grim tone and ending to make a much more pleasant “Hollywood” ending.

There have been other adaptations of the novel over the years and in 2015 the BBC made a mini-series adaptation, which is the focus of this review. Here’s the mini-series’ trailer:

I picked this up a while back and, like so many things, had it filed away and ready to be seen when I had the time. Over the course of two nights, the family and I watched it, and it was a most curious experience.

First off, the mini-series wisely decided to get rid of the “Indian” motif. Indian Island becomes Soldier Island, and the “Ten Little Indians” poem/song which is the basis for the mystery is changed to “Ten Little Soldiers”, to further remove the original source material from its unfortunate racial overtones.

Watching the series, I was struck by how… dull… the opening was. In fact, it was so laid back that I wondered if it would be any good at all.

However, once the characters were on (ahem) Soldier Island and the murders started, things hummed along. I was totally entranced with the rest of the first part of the series (originally the series was released in 3 one hour parts, but the version I was two parts, each 1 and 1/2 hour long).

After finishing that first part, I was more than eager to watch the second/concluding chapter. I thought it was so damn good, perhaps the very best adaptation of the book I’d seen.

Alas…

Yeah, the second part, IMHO, was something of a let down.

To be fair, it wasn’t a total disaster, but clearly the screenwriter decided to ventured into new and different areas. There was sex. There was a weird drug sequence. Neither was found in the original novel and, frankly, it didn’t fit in with the movie proper IMHO.

Worse, the ending, which I always felt was the strongest element of the novel (I’ll get to that soon, I’m re-reading the book right now and will offer a review of it presently), was botched in the mini-series.

So my ultimate review of this mini-series goes like this: Starts slow, turns really great, but then ends in a murky, not quite satisfying fashion, IMHO.

It is not the worst adaptation I’ve seen of a novel (in general), but considering how good the story was presented for a while, it hurts to see the screenplay side-roads taken which hurt the overall product.

Still, I’d offer a mild recommendation. The acting is good, the cinematography/scenario is excellent -I absolutely loved Soldier Island’s presentation- and the production in general is first rate.

If only they had stuck with the novel a little more closely and hadn’t gone off on more modernistic -and sadly silly- tangents.

Ah well, it is what it is.

Oh Elon…

If you’ve followed me here for a while… yadda yadda…

Welp, you know I drive a Tesla Model 3. I’ve been driving since 1982/3 or thereabouts, my first car being a 1981 Ford Mustang. In the (too) many years since I first started driving, I’ve driven all kinds of vehicles, good, mediocre, and terrible.

But nothing –nothing– to my mind is like my Model 3. I’m absolutely floored by the car and the tech behind it. I love the car. Moreso: I’m positive I will never again buy another internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle ever again.

I love just about everything about the car and wish the other car companies would follow Tesla’s lead and jump on board the EV revolution… these cars are truly the next level.

But…

Man, does Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, make me sometimes scratch my head. He’s clearly a very sharp/smart individual. Getting a company like Tesla, much less Space X, off the proverbial ground and making them create such astounding things (cars and spacecraft) is nothing at all to sneeze at. It takes large investments and considerable brain-power (not just Musk’s, but employing smart people to make these things a reality).

The fact that he has potentially upended one industry -the automotive industry- and may well lead them kicking and screaming into the EV market is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Yet we get moments like this one, presented on gizmodo.com and written by Matt Novak, wherein we find that…

Elon Musk Tweets “Free America Now” as his Coronavirus predictions prove very wrong

Elon -I can call you Elon, can’t I?- Why dude?

Why would you go around saying things like this? I’m tired of being locked in. I wish we could go back to the way things were. Yes, I know Coronavirus isn’t, say, Ebola and that the percentage of people who contract it and subsequently die is a low percentage, around 3-4% and often those who succumb are elderly or infim…

…however…

In just a few months, we’ve had worldwide deaths linked to Covid-19 at 225,000. In the U.S., that number is as of April 29th an astonishing 61,421.

That’s a lot of fatalities in what amounts to, what, 2-3 months at most?

There are some indications that the self-isolation has helped the numbers come down, but there are many, including Musk, who clearly are itching to have industries/stores/etc. open back up to full.

I can’t help but wonder if maybe they feel the fatalities aren’t that big. But consider this: In one year between 3000 to 49,000 people may die from the flu. Pretty startling numbers but, again, this is for a year.

Covid-19 is simply a far more deadly virus and the idea of opening everything up, frankly, scares me.

We’re risking a lot more lives and the possibility of once again seeing a jump in infections and hospitalizations.

Do we really need that? Isn’t it safer to hang back, economically painful as it may be, to try to tramp this down as much as possible and/or hopefully buy time to develop effective treatments?

I know, I’m just another voice out there and a small one at that.

Someone noted that the self-isolation was like jumping out of a plane and pulling open a parachute.

We’ve slowed down the descent yet there are people who feel now they can release the parachute even though we’re not even halfway to the ground.

Might they be right?

Corrosive Knights, a 4/29/20 Update

It’s been roughly two weeks (actually, just a little shy of that) since my last update (you can read it here) and I figured it was time to give a new update.

So I printed out the latest Corrosive Knights novel, #8, and decided this time around I’d do something different with the revision of draft #3 of the book: Instead of reading through the printed copy of it, writing up a bunch of corrections, then going to the computer and putting them into a new copy, I’d strike while the proverbial iron is hot and just read and revise the book on the computer simultaneously.

I didn’t know how it would work out.

On the one hand, printing the book out and revising the printed work allows me to more easily flip back and forth through the pages, sometimes even quite literally cutting up pieces of a page here and there and taping it to another section. This sounds dreadfully low tech and it is, but lining up all the “cut” pieces does allow you to look them over better than the way it is presented on the computer screen, at least for me!

On the other hand, because much of what I wrote I felt was pretty good as it was, I found there were sections I was able to whiz through, making my corrections as I found the “errors” and not wasting as much time as I might have.

But, in the end, have I saved time? I haven’t finished the third draft yet. In fact, I’m roughly 1/2 of the way through the thing but do feel the second half is a lot stronger/better developed than the first half, which did require some big changes. Bigger changes = more rewriting/new writing = more time.

If I had printed the whole thing out and revised it first, would I today be done with the read through and placement of corrections on paper? Would I now be entering the revisions on the computer stage?

Or is it possible I’d still be reading the printed out stuff and working on fixes?

Hard to say, really.

But it does bring me to the inevitable reality check one seems to always face: As optimistic as you may be about your work (and in that last post I wrote I was damned optimistic about how things were going), one shouldn’t get too excited -as I admit I did- about where things are because when you get to the next revision and it turns out what you have isn’t quite as great as you thought it was, it can really take the proverbial wind out of your sails.

Mind you, I wasn’t entirely wrong in my last post. I do still feel this book is further along than the others I’ve written. For a third draft, it is remarkably “complete”, story wise. This in turn means I’ll be getting that much quicker to the stage of dealing with grammatical/writing issues, rather than dealing with the more time consuming creative writing stuff.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that the work I’ve done in the last two weeks didn’t do just that: Deflate my sails just a little.

As I said, I’m halfway through the book right now and I’ve done a lot of fixing up, especially in the very early going of the book. I still feel there is some work to be done there but I don’t want to get totally bogged down with fixing every little detail at this point.

Part of the revision process involves assimilating the entire novel into your mind, realizing how one detail leads to the next and the next and the next. Sometimes something that happens on page 6 of the book becomes important on page 106.

So I plow along, fixing the big stuff while slowly memorizing almost every element of the story. I suppose its not unlike an actor memorizing a play, only in this case I memorize not just one role, but all of them.

When one has a clearer global view of the book, from page 1 to the very end, one then knows the actions on that theoretical page 6 should go this way or that. You maximize the elements, whether it be dialogue or action, so that when you get to the theoretical payoff or reference to that action/dialogue on page 106, you hope everything is there for the readers to make that connection.

Hopefully by the very end, when your reader gets to that last page and it all comes to an end, every plot point or bit of dialogue made sense and led you to that very ending and you close the book (or turn off your Kindle app) with a satisfied smile on your face.

In the very end, I am to make you as a reader satisfied.

I’ll get back to you when I’m done with Draft #3!

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2, a (Very Mildly) belated Review

Unknown to me and back on January 14th of 2020 DC Comics released Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2.

Those who have read my entries here for a while may know this so forgive my repetition.

All the way back in 1974 and when I was no older than eight, I went into a drug store and found this comic on the newstand:

Swamp Thing Vol 1 10 | DC Database | Fandom

I read comic books before finding this issue, but Swamp Thing #10 was a watershed comic book for me. Why? Because it was the first time I realized comic books could be art.

Written by Len Wein and featuring the incredible art of Bernie Wrightson, what I didn’t know way back then was that this would be the last issue of Swamp Thing these two would make. Mr. Wein would write the following three issues, up to #13, then bow out of the series as well. Nestor Redondo, another incredible but not as well lauded artist, had the enviable task of following up on Mr. Wrightson. He did a great job, but when you follow a legendary run, odds aren’t great you’ll distinguish yourself quite as well.

Regardless, those 13 issues of the original series plus the very first Swamp Thing short story presented in House of Secrets #92…

House of Secrets Vol 1 92 | DC Database | Fandom

…were reprinted in Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 1. It’s a terrific reprint volume and I highly recommend it except for one issue that’s been bugging me for years. When the beloved (by me) issues #2 (the first appearance of Arcane and his Un-Men) and #10 of the series was reprinted many years ago, they re-colored Arcane’s un-men into all these (beware a very technical professional term) idiotic colors. You had red un-men, you had orange-un-men, you had purple un-men.

The original issue #10 had all the un-men flesh colored which, to my eyes, made the horror of what they are all the greater. These were human beings converted to weird freaky monsters…

Swamp Thing Volume 01 Issue 10 by Bernie Wrightson | Bernie ...
The original coloring for the grand reveal of Arcane and his Un-Men

When they re-colored the book, we had this…

Reprint coloring. Note how Arcane’s Un-Men have all kinds of different colors, but other than Arcane, none of the colors are “flesh”.

To me, this re-coloring was, IMHO, a very bad idea.

Its far more horrifying -and creepy- that they all be flesh colored rather than looking like they came in from Mars.

Regardless, back in 1974 I was so blown away by issue #10 of Swamp Thing I wound up spending the next ten years (at least!) going to various comic shops looking for comics that came before -and after!- featuring the character of Swamp Thing.

In time I collected the entire original run of Swamp Thing, issues 1-24, along with some of the character’s subsequent appearances in Challengers of the Unknown (following the cancellation of the original Swamp Thing series, there were a few plot threads that needed to be closed and the Challengers issues did this), Brave and the Bold, and DC Comics Presents.

I managed to grab most of the stuff, missing out only on a few of the later Challengers issues, but now, with Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 I have the whole thing beautifully wrapped up in one volume.

For that alone, I highly recommend the book -and the first volume, of course- to anyone that’s a fan of the original run of Swamp Thing.

However, this volume includes one more thing that moves it -for me- from a must have to an absolutely must have: The inclusion of all materials from the unpublished 25th issue of the original series…!

That’s right, kids: DC has gone out of their way to reprint what they have of what would have been the 25th issue of the original Swamp Thing, an issue I always suspected was out there somewhere, filed away and never used… until it found its way into this volume.

So let me take you back to issue #24 of the original Swamp Thing, an issue written by David Anthony Kraft who was coming in after Gerry Conway’s short run…

Swamp Thing Vol 1 24 | DC Database | Fandom

I’m going to come out and say it: By the time Swamp Thing reached its final issues, it was clear the folks working on the book were trying to find new types of stories to write. With this issue, Swamp Thing was becoming more of a “superhero” type character, complete with a sorta/kinda Hulk type attacker.

At the end of issue #24, we had this intriguing posting:

So, issue #25 of Swamp Thing, following the superheroish motif they were doing, was to feature our favorite muck monster dealing with Hawkman. It would have been the second time Swamp Thing would feature a DC hero (issue #7 of the series had Batman)…

Swamp Thing (1972-1976) #7 - DC Entertainment

Though issue #25 of Swamp Thing and the confrontation between him and Hawkman never came out, I always suspected the issue had been written, at the very least, and perhaps even drawn before ultimately being filed away.

Why? Because back then the book was bi-monthly, meaning it would come out every second month, and the amount of time they had to get an issue ready before printing it didn’t allow them to sit around wasting time. They had to have that issue somewhat close to being “done” before the book was cancelled…

…and for quite literally decades I wondered what the issue must have looked like.

Welp, Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 finally gives closure to my curiosity.

Not only do they include all the art they could find of the issue (which amounts to the whole thing minus one page), but they also include the scripts. The first script was a rough outline of what happens on each page and was meant to allow the artist to create the book uninhibited by the placement of captions and dialogue. The second script was the one that was likely written after the artwork was sent in and features the dialogue and captions for the letterer to put into the issue.

Then we get the artwork… Oh man…

There it was, after so much time: The cover to what would have been the 25th issue of Swamp Thing. Finally decades of curiosity and wonder (on my part) were fulfilled and I finally got to see the Swamp Thing/Hawkman meeting.

The first 8 pages of the issue, however, were never “completed” beyond rough pencils and look like this:

The next 8 pages of the issue, minus page 15 (which appears to be lost, perhaps forever) were completed with inks and lettering before word came down that the book was cancelled. They look like this:

So there it was, finally… Issue 25 of Swamp Thing.

If you’re at all like me, buying Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol 2 was already a no-brainer.

But now, with the addition of this “lost” issue, its a must have for fans of the series.

Needless to say, I highly, highly recommend it.

Coronavirus Diaries 15: Staying Insane Edition

Ho boy…

After plenty of …uh… push back to this incredibly insane suggestion that people should somehow “inject” themselves with some kind of cleaner -Which, let’s be perfectly clear: WILL INJURE AND/OR KILL YOU!- “President” Trump now claims he was being “sarcastic”.

Here we have an article by Daniel Dale presented on CNN.com which pretty much debunks that claim:

Fact check: Trump lies that he was being “sarcastic” when he talked about injecting disinfectant

Of course, Fox “News” is trying to spin this but… its horrifying.

This is our “President”, and clearly he has no fucking idea what he’s talking about.

Worse, we haven’t, as President Obama stated, no clear path to dealing with the Covid-19 virus from the federal government… even to this point!

It’s the local Governors and Mayors that are dealing with this versus the Federal Government which, I have to say: I don’t know what they’re doing.

We hear about shortages of supplies, of supplies being snatched away from states/cities. We have a “President” who doesn’t seem to know or understand medicine, much less the numbers of dead and infected.

Nor does he seem to care.

Has he even once noted or said anything about the horror medical hospitals are facing? Has he expressed any sympathy at all?

What we get are increasingly ridiculous ramblings. What we got yesterday was a sure way to put yourself at risk of actually killing yourself.

How does one defend any of this?

If you’re a masochist, here’s some more, also from MSNBC’s Morning Joe show:

This is our leader, folks.

Coronavirus Diaries 14: Staying Sane Edition

I mentioned before that if there was one positive about this whole Covid-19/self-isolation situation its that I’ve been afforded much more time to devote to my writing.

This morning it occurred to me that I look forward to getting on the computer and typing away. The process allows me to take my own personal flights of fancy, moving away from the realities facing everyone.

While this is my own personal escape, I sincerely hope everyone else out there has found their own little hideaway to escape to, whether it be in catching up on reading, movies, TV shows, knitting, drawing, playing video games or board games, listening to music, playing your music, etc. etc.

Each day I do wonder when we’ll get out of this self-isolation and each day it seems to me that day lies further and further in the future.

Sadly, until there comes an effective treatment -a vaccine likely will not be ready until at least next year- we’re in this for a longer haul than anyone would like.

Oh, and to those who are spending this time reading my stuff, a sincere thank you.

It’s most appreciated and I hope to have a new book for you soon!