Sunday, November 23, 2014

Case Of The Martian Invaders!

I first read this wonderful pastiche two decades ago when I stumbled across the Avon paperback edition. A story blending two of my favorite yarns was irresistible. But alas the library copy I enjoyed went missing and I was unable to find another until several years ago when Titan started to reprint some of the more memorable Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

The saga began in 1969 in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction when Wade Wellman assisted by his famous father Manly W. Wellman wrote "The Adventure of the Martian Client".

Several years later in 1972 they revisited the concept in another issue of TMoFandSF with the story "Venus, Mars, and Baker Street".

The idea seemed too good to let go and so they worked up a few more installments and created the patchwork "novel" Sherlock Holmes - The War of the Worlds which came out from Avon in 1975. This is the edition I first read.

The story reveals its origins in its construction. We first meet Sherlock Holmes when in partnership with Professor Edward Challenger he locates and plumbs the depths of a mysterious crystal egg found in an out of the way curio shop. The pair realize they are seeing a distant location, another world in fact, the world of Mars.

Soon enough the world becomes award of the Martians when the cylinders begin to drop. We follow first Holmes and then later Challenger in separate adventures as try to survive the onslaught of the Martian machines. But all the while they plot what might work to defeat the invaders.

Watson joins the team as the inevitable end of the invasion becomes evident. There are lots of fun bits of business calling back to the classic H.G.Wells story which spawned the fun, but the Wellmans seem to want to present in Holmes and the braggart Challenger a more defiant humanity than does Wells, a humanity who doesn't shrink in times of war but rises to face the challenge.

If you're a fan of either Sherlock Holmes or War of the Worlds, or like me both, you must read this wonderful saga. It will offer up fascinating insights into both.

And I haven't even mentioned Sherlock's fascinating relationship with Mrs.Hudson.

Rip Off

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Gorey Martian War!

I've read so many pastiches and derived stories from the fount of the classic novel The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells that it suddenly occurred to me that it's been many years since I sat down and carefully read the original.

I have corrected that with a reading of the famous story, this one decorated with the peculiar but atmospheric drawings of the famous illustrator a Edward Gorey.

The story has a resonance which lingers with the reader. The narrator (Wells himself perhaps) is a typical Victorian Englishman with the quiet equanimity that we expect. Consequently the story is told with a calm reserve which oddly magnifies the slowly developing horror. Moments of normalcy, especially at the beginning, counterpoint the oddity of the activity of the newly arrived Martians at the notorious pit.

The manner in which Wells describes the crowds and their rising and falling fascination with the meteor smacks realistically of how we find ourselves consumed with the petty details of daily life and often overlook the significance of the amazing when it literally lands in our midst.

The story of mankind's fall beneath the tread of the Martians is relentless as we shift from our narrator to his identical brother for a glimpse of how London descends into chaos. In this part we get a glimpse of how little Wells thought of his fellow men and how they might react to such bizarre circumstances. It's not a pretty picture as rivers of panicked people clot the roads creating arguably as much tragedy as the invaders themselves.

The demise of the Martians is all too well known so its not for this surprise that anyone would read the story. I was taken by how many times Wells foreshadows the eventual fall of the aliens to Earth bacteria as the story rumbles to its conclusion. Many of the small details had eluded me as I've substituted in my memory adaptations of the original tale for the source itself.

Reading this story again was a hearty return to one of the grand spectacles in modern fiction. And  Gorey's pictures capture the weird tone of the events perfectly without intruding on the text itself. Very nice stuff indeed.

More to come.

Rip Off

Friday, November 21, 2014

The First Martian War!

It's difficult to overstate how important this particular volume of The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells is to me. How I came to have a copy, along with a similar volume of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, is unknown to me, though doubtless my Mom and Dad bought them. But suffice it to say they were game changers.

In a world where books were not necessarily cherished, but in which my own love of books was not squelched, I found these volumes to be immense treasures. I have bought sundry versions of The War of the Worlds over the decades, but none of them mean as much to me as does this very first one.

A later edition of the book feature the same images in different tones, more subdued.

More to come.

Rip Off

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hulk That Pose!

This is a charming paperback collection from the says when the Hulk was Marvel's number one draw because of the memorable TV show. I love this kid-friendly image of the monstrous hero.

I've never seen the second volume before though and was struck by the cover which clearly is intended to evoke the delightful cover by Jim Steranko for King-Size Special Hulk #1.

Rip Off

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Godzilla Gone Wildey!

Several weeks ago I ordered the dvd of the new Godzilla movie from Amazon. At the same time, I broke down and finally got the first two volumes of the Godzilla animated series from the late 70's.

The series is one I remember being above average (despite the annoying presence of Godzooky, the small Godzilla-like comedy relief all cartoon shows of the era seemed to be saddled with). The fact that Doug Wildey was the maestro behind the designs attracted me, as it would any true-blue Jonny Quest fan.

But I was only able to afford the first two volumes, both priced very reasonably. The third volume alas was totally out of reach, with Amazon listing a new one starting at over three hundred and fifty bucks, a boggling and enormous sum for five cartoons of any vintage.

Needless to say I took my lumps and got the first two, figuring I'd allow the Great Godzilla's will to handle the rest.

The Great Godzilla has spoken.

A few days ago, while doing some shopping at the local Dollar Store for my wife (she needed a few holiday containers for some special tea mixture she cobbles together) I saw a display of movies. I always try to give these a glance since you never know what you'll find. This time I found volume three of the Godzilla cartoon show for a whopping four bucks. Needless to say I snapped it up gleefully.

Now with the first full season in hand I can sit down and absorb a cartoon which promises some real pleasures from a time which is sadly farther away than I'd prefer.

But it's all Godzilla!

Rip Off

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Blackest Of Dossiers!

The Black Dossier came out and I snatched up a copy. I promptly put it away and never got around to reading it. Finally I have and I must say that while I find the 1958 setting of an alternate-universe Britain recovering from the "Big Brother" period and poised on the precipice of space travel enjoyable, and the update on the characters Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain interesting much of this wild yarn is just too bewildering.

Whereas the early volumes of adventures of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" were rich with allusions and literary references, this book is overcome with them, so much so that the story grinds to a halt for me as I just gave up trying to figure it all out.

Here is a look at the Jess Nevins site which attempts to annotate the myriad references in this volume. It's a gigantic job and as I read through it I realized I never had a chance as most of the material was so Brit specific that I never knew of it to begin with, let alone have a chance to recognize it.

On the upside I have read Bulldog Drummond stories recently and that made his appearance much more enjoyable, in fact he's the stand out addition to the saga in this  installment, despite his loathsome ethnic opinions.

I cannot exactly recommend The Black Dossier, but I won't say you shouldn't try it either. It's a strange brew indeed.

Rip Off

Night Of The Extraordinary Gentlemen!

This second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a much more compelling read than the first. Freed of the need to introduce our cast, this one can leap to the events which motivate their involvement, and as it turns out bring about their destruction.

I'm a big War of the Worlds fan and my re-reading of the TLoEG this time was prompted by the way they blend the classic Wells material in with that of Burroughs,  Lewis and others. The Martian threat is a compelling backdrop for all manner of heroics and we see them fully on display in this crackerjack adventure.

The League ends as quickly as it emerged, and that's fitting given the monstrous nature of its membership.

Rip Off