Monday, October 3, 2022

2019 Dawn of the Dead Fandemic David Early as Sidney Berman jam by Adrian Nelson

Twenty-two years ago, I had the opportunity to attend San Diego Comic Con, which spoiled me for not only conventions, but for life as a comic shop retailer. I had such a blast on my meager personal funds and through the generosity of others that I realized that I didn't want to commit to continued impoverishment. It took a couple years to come out of a depressive state, make that realization, and fully act upon it. I still struggled in the aughts, and certainly had my lows, but I never truly regretted that decision. It was the right call.

In 2010, while visiting a comic shop during a work break on a job where I was making something like twice what I had at the comic shop, I saw a flier for a local convention called Comicpalooza. I wasn't exactly flush, and we only managed to make it to one day of the show, but I picked up several of my first ever art commissions that day. I was so excited by the prospect, and thoroughly hooked. The following year, I giddily pounced on the second full scale Comicpalooza (the very first show in 2009 was a piddly thing outside a mall movie theater, so I don't count it.) I had carefully vetted all the artists announced for the show, and shopped for new art accordingly. Adrian Nelson was not among those who had been advertised, merely sitting at the table of one who was, but I liked his samples and took a shot. The result was my first Bloodwynd piece.

Click To Enlarge

The following year worked out much the same, with my stumbling upon Nelson as he sat with the Austin collective CCP Comics at the ill-fated Space City Con. This show yielded Malefic, and I felt bad by messing him over by showing up a day early to pick up his intended color sample of Ma'alefa'ak. Sorry, Adrian.

I think Nelson dropped out of shows for a couple years to work on some commercial art projects and try to develop his own comic for publication. When he turned up at Amazing Houston Comic Con in 2015, I made sure to include him in a friends of Martian Manhunter jam featuring Glenn Gammeron. That turned out swell, and when I needed someone to pull together the J'Onzz Family Portrait Artist Jam, he came through for me again on the Martian deity H'ronmeer. The next year, I was singularly focused on gathering pieces for the Aliens 30th Anniversary reunion at Comicpalooza. I had intentionally avoided artists from whom I'd previously acquired commissions for this project, but with the deadline looming, a reached out to Nelson on Twitter as someone I knew I could rely on to deliver a home run Private Ricco Frost. We met up at a McDonald's parking lot, and chatted for a bit. He wasn't doing shows that year either, as I recall working on something of a vanity project for a well-heeled foreign patron. Not sure if anything substantial ever came of that, but I sincerely wished him the best.

Work In Progress Sketch

In 2017, I reached out to him again for a project via Twitter, this time a banner for the Rolled Spine Podcasts blog. I don't recall if Mac had designed our logo yet after a couple of misses soliciting letterers, including one I still bear ill will toward when I see him credited. I had a complicated idea for the banner, and I think it may have overwhelmed Nelson, but he also had a lot going on in life. I don't know which con we met at in 2018, but I finally decided to get a piece of the super-obscure Martian Manhunter villain The Osprey. Like the Ricco Ross piece, this was a take-home, something I generally avoid. I knew Nelson would make it worthwhile though, and I really liked his initial sketch.

Click To Enlarge

Nelson disagreed though, and halted work partway through. He said "Sorry, man. I've been making sure I give each commission a bit more because I feel like I'm turning a corner in my style and the pressure of wanting to "wow" people is really in my head." He started again, and sent me the work in progress. "I want to change what I originally put down. I sat with it and then it stopped working for me. Also, I finished the second issue and that was another reason. I'll scan it once I have it at a stage I think you can really see what I'm doing."

I didn't hear from Nelson again that year, but I saw him for the last time in 2019 at Fandemic. That year, I had begun work on a series of piece related to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, with the intent to have the pieces signed by the actors that portrayed the characters. There were also a variety of technical people available, so I thought I might do a jam piece of actors that were no longer with us and include them there. David Early had portrayed the talk show host Sidney Berman in 1977, and appeared in many other genre favorites before his death in 2013. Nelson offered him a memorial rendition. Later that year, Nelson reached out to me on Twitter with another work in progress...

Click To Enlarge

"I decided to do a new one again since I didn't like what came before. I've gotten a bit more comfortable with my traditional stuff now. it's almost done, I just wanted to update you and find out when you want to meet up to get it." Unfortunately, my car was totaled in a flood, so I wasn't meeting anyone for the immediate future. Once I had that sorted, he was without a car while his wife was helping her mom recover from surgery. Early the following year, we went on vacation to the U.K., and then I was busy attending my final convention of 2020 in February. That was the same month as Nelson's final tweet, related to a Paypal plea. "I've recently fell ill and could use help paying for some of the now weekly trips for treatment. Any amount will help. Thank you!" I think we all remember how things went that March, and I was pretty disconnected from everyone but my most immediate circle for quite some time. I never considered Nelson's absence, even though we occasionally liked and retweeted one another. I was doing research for a podcast today when I stumbled upon a tweet from Antarctic Press in 2021. "We published 1 issue of B.A.D.A.S.S. by writer/artist Adrian Nelson who died after the first issue went to print. He was an amazingly talented creator and a good friend to all who knew him. R.I.P." That was actually a reprint of his original small press edition, which I bought a copy of at Bedrock City. I don't remember if I ever told him that. Adrian Nelson was obviously one of my favorite and most frequently engaged local artists, and I always hoped that I'd get to be that wealthy patron having him draw a comic for me someday.

Click To Enlarge

Sunday, April 24, 2022

2019 Dawn of the Dead Joe Shelleby as Martinez commission by tOoNzDAy

The 2016 Aliens 30th anniversary reunion commissions were a good experience for me, and a welcome change of pace from the various super-hero comics projects I'd done prior. My next big swing was supposed to be an Image Comics 25th anniversary jam, done entirely at my first (and to date only) trip to Heroes Con in 2017. While planning for that trip, I stumbled upon Living Dead Weekend, devoted to George A. Romero's Dead pictures. As it happens, Dawn of the Dead is my official answer for favorite movie of all time. It's more competitive than I make it seem, with Aliens having held that position for many years, and Pulp Fiction disqualified on account of the poster being on the wall of every film bro since it came out. That said, I'm pretty sure by this point that I've seen Dawn more than any other picture, and retain my passion for it, which is a rare thing. I desperately wanted to attend the convention, but I think it was (and remains) within a week of HeroesCon, and I can't afford two out-of-state shows in that span of time. Committed to meeting friends in Charlotte, I deferred until 2018.

The show celebrated the 40th anniversary of Dawn of the Dead in 2018, which I continue to call bull on, since that was only in Italy (and presumably the inferior Argento cut). The rest of the world, and perhaps most importantly Pittsburgh, didn't see Romero's vision until 1979, and the filming began in 1977, so there's no strong justification for declaring 2018 as "the" date. Anyway, I waited too long to buy the tickets I wanted, so I decided to wait for the real anniversary in 2019. To that end, I started preparing for the sequel to the Aliens commissions with the sequel to Night of the Living Dead. Well, I guess variety is the spice of life, because that year they decided to focus on another Romero project, Creepshow, which I never cared about. We ended up taking a road trip from Canada to Boston, where we'd reunite with the same friends we'd gone to North Carolina for. Continuing to drift away from Dawn in 2020, the focus of that con was meant to be Return of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead, so I made plans to go to Dragon Con instead for another friendly get-together.

I'm sure you're well aware of how many plans got nixed or deferred in 2020, and when the intended guest list finally held a show, it was the following year. We still weren't traveling then, so I have yet to actually attend a Living Dead Weekend after six years of awareness and expressed desire to do so. The Image jam ended up taking another couple years for the finished linework to be in hand, and then I proceeded to begin having it colored piecemeal. My hope is to finish it this year, the thirtieth anniversary of Image Comics, though comic conventions are still sputtering in the wake of COVID. My work on the Dawn commissions is very ongoing, as I'm headed to a con this very weekend. We'll use these art posts to cover the details, and since I have a few pieces by Jarrod L. Perez, I figured to just let one of them illustrate this introduction. I will say that there are faint background materials lost in the scan, which I tried to capture in a direct scan instead of a resized color Xerox, which also more accurately reflects the piece's colors.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

1983 Original Dokuzetsu Momohei Tsuyoi Ka Yowai Ka!? manga art by Kimura Tomoe

On our trip to Japan, I tried to track down ephemera relevant to my childhood experiences with their cultural exports with little success. Aside from a few recent manga collections, the only Golgo 13 item I came back with was a tiny figurine similar to a large Heroclix, but with a suction cup in its back. The only English on the item is "ucc Good Coffee Smile" so I'm guessing-- mug decoration? Aside from that, I finally found a small Gatchaman color print at a legit old school comic shop. There were newsstands with manga all over, and we hit several Mandarake, including the multistory one in Tokyo with an elevator. Still, those were mostly filled with 21st century artifacts, and don't get me started on the malls filled with One Piece/Dragonball/Attack on Titan items. No, we only ever found one really dense & dusty popcult tchotchke dumping ground (it was a claustrophobia-inducing number not quite wide enough for any one fat American walk through) and a single true, terribly humid Android's Dungeon deal. That's where my partner finally found a set of water-damaged Candy Candy volumes, and pretty much the only place with original manga art.

So much of the Japanese otaku scene feels prefabricated-- the type of stuff offered every month in the Previews catalog, just flea markets full of stuff you'll see at every domestic con. I've never been big on anime, so my tastes are either for nostalgia for Super Nintendo video games and afternoon cartoons, or just stuff that strikes me as cool. Japan runs on yen, so I had a finite amount of physical currency to last our entire trip. I didn't want to go begging to my girlfriend for toy money, so I was very frugal with my purchases. I mostly bought stuff that I only saw in a particular region to take back as souvenirs for the folks back home. That's why I passed on a ¥3500 Dawn of the Dead movie program, which caused me a bit of non-buyers remorse. Anyway, this one shop had a lot of wicked stuff, including the original art of complete stories in slipcases, like one of those Artifact Editions of the actual artifacts rather than reproductions. Those cost tens of thousands of yen, and in retrospect it would have been totally worth it, but I was still being very conservative. I was also afraid that they might be proofs or something, so I only bought one to take back to the hotel. It was clearly on inspection the original boards, and so we went back for one more, but I should have splurged. It's not like I'm going back to Japan... probably ever, in all honesty. It was a very expensive and fairly arduous trip, and my partner didn't have the best time.
The two pieces I bought were ¥8000 each, so roughly $150. Both were by the same artist, who was unsurprisingly unfamiliar to me. Knowing that I'd never get anywhere with the kanji on the bag, I asked the shopkeeper to tell me what he could about the pieces. He spoke almost no English, which is still a million times better than my Japanese, so I just jotted down a few cryptic notes on his Dumbo Post-Its. "Published in Young Jump. 1984. Poisonous Tongue. Momohira. Strong or weak. Tomoi. Kimura." While searching for some specific missing items and reorganizing in general to take advantage of all the power outages here in Texas, I came across the Post-It again and figured I better take advantage of the reunion before I misplace it again. With a bit of online research, the artist appears to be 木村知夫, or Kimura Tomoe (when the names aren't flipped due conflicting Eastern/Western conventions.) The strip seems to be Dokuzetsu Momohei Tsuyoi Ka Yowai Ka!? (毒舌桃平 強いか弱いか!? 全7巻セット), a shōnen manga (targeting teenage boys.) It's about a young couple willing to die in poverty rather than be separated, and ran from 1983-84, producing a seven volume collection. The writer, Kazuo Koike (小池 一夫), studied under Golgo 13's Takao Saito and is best known for Crying Freeman, both in my limited manga wheelhouse.

Tones are my kink, but the other thing that drew me to these specific pieces was the sensuality. Cheesecake and beefcake are common enough, but the delicate intimacy and tasteful nudity here are uncommon in my experience with comics. You have beautiful male and female forms in vulnerable and romantic situations where the sexuality of the characters isn't compromised. But again, the zip tone usage is extensive and exquisite. These are scans of reduced photocopies, so a lot is lost in translation. On the first piece, the top two inches are solid black, Then the wavy tones are adhered, running to either edge of the page so that but for the scotch tape texture on your fingers, it's tough to spot it. The tone is cut around the central figures, who then have horizontal tones hand cut round their forms and the white areas of the eyes and mouths.

My understanding is that the second piece was made either for a wall poster or some form of promotional work. This one also has two tones, dot pattern for the water and horizontal lines for figure shading. The cross-stitched sky appears to have been exhaustively created by hand, based on the asymmetry and the physical texture on the page. The Japanese boards are much thinner then western counterparts, so enormous delicacy must have been required. The artist also relies heavily on liquid paper for the sea foam and highlights on the figures. Don't miss the ornate back tattoo on the female, which though covered by the horizontal zip, appears to have been custom drawn dot by dot. There's a large "81" written on the back, and some yellowing/browning from actual tape. This was used to apply a tracing paper overlay with kanji suggesting a first chapter with a circled Arabic "1". I've opted not to throw up that scan.

I adorev these pieces, and my only regret is that I didn't grab a third available from the series, this one involving some form of demonic entity and a lot of lumber. Thematically though, this works better as a duology. I want to hang them, but I'm afraid of causing damage, in spite of Japan being about as muggy as Houston and without common use of air conditioning. If they lasted over thirty years under those conditions, many hanging from a thread from a ceiling, how much more harm could I do?

Friday, May 15, 2020

James Bond 007 Ultimate Theme Song Countdown 2020

Inspired by Soundtrack Selections 007 and countless broken image codes on this blog, I'm revisiting and expanding my 50th Anniversary ranking to include twice as many tunes. In the 8 years since my first pass, I started B.O.N.D.I.N.G. Agents: The Father & Son Spy-Fi Podcast, so I've marinated in this material a lot more, plus I just plain missed a bunch of notable stuff. I make an attempt to be objective, with songs I personally like sometimes rating very low ("Make It Last All Night" slaps and tickles,) but are not necessarily good James Bond songs (international smash "If You Asked Me To" should not be in a movie where a drug dealer feeds a dude's leg to a shark.) As with the 2012 ranking, I'm excluding instrumentals, but here's an honorary link to "Casino Royale" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. On the other hand, I refuse to acknowledge Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? by Nina ever happened.

*) "Run James Run" as performed by Brian Wilson
Despite the pedigree, I don't like this one in any capacity, and it somehow morphed into "Pet Sounds"? Still better than the terrible Beach Boys medley "California Gold" by Gidea Park from Daylights that I disqualified.

*) 1987's "The Living Daylights" demo for The Living Daylights as performed by Pet Shop Boys
A lousy synth submission for Her Majesty's Secret Service that was better served as the basis for 1990's "This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave".

54) 1989's "Dirty Love" for Licence to Kill as performed by Tim Feehan
Timothy Dalton is the favorite Bond of a small but vocal minority who feel he got a raw deal. Certainly contributing to that was the fact that there were more rotten songs packed into his two films than across most of the rest of the franchise.

53) 1999's "Only Myself to Blame" for The World Is Not Enough as performed by Scott Walker
Scrapped end credits song that landed on the soundtrack. I try to be thoughtful, but this just plain sucks, and is totally derivative lounge crap.

52) 1987's "If There Was a Man" for The Living Daylights as performed by The Pretenders
Great band. Painful song.

51) 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" for Tomorrow Never Dies as performed by Saint Etienne
There were something like a dozen different versions of this theme song as part of a shitty "spec" process that wasted a bunch of artists' time, effort, and aspirations. Nothing about this particular Cardigans-a-like navel-gazing disco(?) attempt seemed destined for 007, though.

50) 1989's "If You Asked Me To" for Licence to Kill as performed by Patti Labelle
Another one of those "what is this fluffy adult contemporary hit doing in a movie about a ruthless government assassin" selections. Plus, and I hate to say it, Celine Dion's version was sharper and more emotive.

49) 1997's "Tomorrow Never Lies" for Tomorrow Never Dies as performed by Pulp
Note the "L" in place of a "D." A pretty good number that landed on one of the band's albums. Seems more like a sneering nod toward Bondian inclinations rather than a true theme, though.

48) 1981's "Make It Last All Night" for For Your Eyes Only as performed by Rage
Sexually explicit groove that ran in one scene. I could chill with it, but this is really just something for the background, as it was.

47) 1967's "You Only Live Twice" as performed by Julie Rogers
The original orientalist version, before the producers reached for a bigger name with a lesser vocal range but a more contemporary (and honestly far more appealing) style. The musical equivalent of Rosie O'Donnell's "ching-chong" moment with would-be Ethel Merman warbling histrionics

46) 2004's "If You're Gonna..." for GoldenEye: Rogue Agent as performed by Natasha Bedingfield
I confess that I wasn't expecting a lot from these video game tracks, and figured the "Unwritten" lady was going to skew more Sheena Easton. With the help of Paul Oakenfold, you can at least have a car chase to this one. I'm deeply uncomfortable with ranking this so high with dreadful lines like "Can't sit around couch potato land" and "'cause I'm looking for a guard dog, not buying a chihuahua."

45) 2008's "When Nobody Loves You" for Quantum of Solace as performed by Kerli
Seriously considered invalidating this one since it's technically a duplicate due to the video game being an adaptation of a movie and because it incorporates the Bond instrumental theme. Since most of these game tracks are sitting at the back though, I guess consider this a subcategory ranking?

44) 2015's "Spectre" for Spectre as performed by Radiohead
Unused (unsolicited?) theme produced after the Bond inspired "Man of War" was refused outright(ly) as undesirable. I love many Radiohead songs, but this was the pantsless George Costanza belly-flopping on the floor of wannabe theme salesmen. Somehow wimpier than Sam Smith, and certainly more lethargic.

43) 1995's "The Experience of Love" for Licence to Kill as performed by Éric Serra
I guess we know what a post-Tantric, "Fields of Gold" Sting song would have sounded like. Or "my name is Gabriel; Peter Gabriel." Mocking aside, this track is sort of the demarcation point for "songs that are acceptable to be featured prominently in a Bond movie without inducing head-scratching or embarrassment."

42) 2002's "Nearly Civilized" for Nightfire as performed by Esthero
A perfectly adequate early '90s club song released a decade late that has nothing to do with Bond, but got used in a well-received first-person shooter.

41) 1983's "Never Say Never Again" for Never Say Never Again as performed by Lani Hall
The worst of the Bond films' somnambulantly mellow title tracks. But she's really into it in the video, right? It's like if Kathie Lee Gifford were a Bond Girl.

40) 1962's "Kingston Calypso" for Dr. No as performed by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires
Odd little calypso from before they figured out the formula, but with an appropriate foreign exoticism and tinge of menace. I'm excluding and/or bundling "Jump Up!" "Jamaican Rock" and "Under the Mango Tree" as more of the same. In fact, fuck it, I'm tossing Ivory's "Wedding Party" into the shark tank with them.

39) 1967's "You Only Live Twice" as performed by Lorraine Chandler
Might have been a fine period platter, but not a lot here for a spy feature.

38) 2006's "You Know My Name" for Casino Royale as performed by Chris Cornell
I remember sitting in the theater with a fellow Bond fan buddy during the credit sequence. We turned to each other and wondered how such a bland tune could have been selected. I cannot recall this song from memory, because it's such a nothing trifle without any hooks that it refuses to stick in my brain. The video is about as bad, interspersing film clips with Cornell playing in front of some lights. How much lazier could it have been?

37) 2010's "GoldenEye" for GoldenEye 007 as performed by Nicole Scherzinger
I just want to dig the blind mouse's knife into Cornell's effort one more time with vastly superior songwriting, before stabbing my own eardrums with the cat-screech non-high note here. Scherzinger should have offered her own interpretation instead of drunken karaoke night Tina, but this is still an actual Bond song instead of a random artist's b-side.

36) 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" for Tomorrow Never Dies as performed by Swan Lee
A decent attempt, but not enough edge, and Pernille Rosendahl sounds less like singing in a second language and more like an off-key girl group. I immediately hated this one, only to be won over with repeated plays, while fully recognizing it's probably just my weakness for Swedish songstresses showing.

35) 1983's "All Time High" for Octopussy as performed by Rita Coolidge
This is one of those instances where you have a good enough song for its day, but it doesn't actually have much of anything to do with James Bond. Based on craft, it's certainly better than some higher ranking tunes, but as part of a 007 countdown, it can't help but be hurt by its lack of fidelity to the franchise. The shoddy video illustrates the divergence well.

34) 1973's "The Man with the Golden Gun" for The Man with the Golden Gun as performed by Alice Cooper
This is a perfect example of a band unable to get out of its own way, or at least an ill-advised choice for a Bond theme in the first place. Too much William Castle horror score. Rough-hewn and American, plus that pitch change is laughable.

33) 1965's "Thunderball" for Thunderball as performed by Johnny Cash
Ummm... but this isn't a western? Another demarcation point, where the song deserves to be a credits theme, but only one of the "bad ones" toward the end of an actor's tenure.

32) 1981's "For Your Eyes Only" for For Your Eyes Only as performed by Blondie
Great band that sounds tired and are on the verge of breaking up.

31) 1967's "The Look of Love" for Casino Royale as performed by Dusty Springfield
I saw Royale once on TV circa 1990 and was mildly amused. I had to double check to make sure this stone classic standard actually originated from that spoof. That said, it's a swanky heavy petting number, not a headliner for any international men of action.

30) 1987's "Where Has Everybody Gone?" for The Living Daylights as performed by The Pretenders
God bless her, a near-unrecognizable Chrissie Hynde tries, but she simply is not Shirley Bassey. Sounds like the credit number for a higher end, tongue-in-cheek knock-off, like Austin Powers or Matt Helm.

29) 1965's "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" for Thunderball as performed by Dionne Warwick
There are two different singers on the same discarded theme song with an awkward name. It's nice that a classy singer like Warwick got a shot at one of these, but hers is the flatter version.

28) 1989's "Licence to Kill" as performed by Gladys Knight
As if he didn't have enough strikes against him, Timothy Dalton was saddled with two of the least memorable songs in the franchise. This is common period overproduced R&B pap with a film title plugged into the chorus. The video is also a rubbish collection of clips and poor superimposition. A major waste of Gladys Knight's talent.

27) 2004's "Everything or Nothing" for Everything or Nothing as performed by Mýa
Performed by the one you don't remember from the 2001 "Lady Marmalade" cover, this one marks a sort of minimum standard for a decent theme song. The game title matches, there are correct thematic elements for a spy-fi villainess, and no part of my body is pained by its presence. Better than "nothing."

26) 2002's "Die Another Day" as performed by Madonna
On the one hand, this has a strong video that tells its own story, and Mirwais Ahmadzaï insures that it sounds unlike any other Bond tune. On the other hand, the lyrics are nonsense and gratingly repetitive, the music itself trivial dance tripe, and the perseverant idiot vocals are buried under e-IBS distortion. It's the Bond tune voted most likely to induce a headache in listeners.

25) 2002's "The Juvenile" for Goldeneye as performed by Ace of Base
Brosnan's first Bond movie had to shake lingering Moore-style cheesy inclinations of the producers, like returning to Sweden for a soft ballad. "The Goldeneye" could have inhabited an a-Ha space, but Jenny Berggren just doesn't have the pipes for this type of gig. The rejected theme turned up on an album seven years removed under a new (frankly more rhythmic) name.

24) 2008's "Another Way to Die" for Quantum of Solace as performed by Jack White & Alicia Keys
Jack White is the problem here. The crunchy guitar and drums are good, but the lyrics are shit, and the composition is irritatingly discordant. Alicia Keys' vocals and piano are perfect for Bond, and then White shows up to whine all over both. The video is decent, but the kitchen sink approach overall is a hot mess. There's a lot of good bits, so it's frustrating when they're overwhelmed by crap.

23) 1965's "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" for Thunderball as performed by Shirley Bassey
Not the best tune for the grand dame of MI6, but it's still Bassey and John Barry.

22) 1981's "For Your Eyes Only" as performed by Sheena Easton
Casio powered cornball, not helped by Easton's appearance in the actual credit sequence, but it also featured some of the least brief nudity of the lot. I'll always give a few extra for a simple ode to that good dick over a more on-topic but aggressively bad attempt like Madonna or Jack White's.

21) 1979's "Moonraker" as performed by Shirley Bassey
Third time appeared to be the curse for Shirley Bassey, as this was the least and last of her accepted themes. It successfully evokes an (astro)nautical feeling, and there's a floor with Bassey that's higher than most ceilings. The vocals, strings, and piano are sound, but the guitar is Velveeta, and the overall tune is a boring easy listening number. I actually had to be reminded that this one existed.

20) 2020's "No Time to Die" for No Time to Die as performed by Billie Eilish
There's definitely a fatality to the betrayal at the heart of the song, but the tune is very small and intimate in a way that feels deflating against a 007-sized canvas. I'm also very tired of "old sad bastard music" accompanying most of the Daniel Craig films.

19) 1987's "The Living Daylights" as performed by a-ha
Fucking enunciate. The vocals on this song sound like a Muppet without a tongue, or a barred out Bob Dylan taking hits of helium for the chorus. "Nuh-na-- noo-nuh-nuh-nannoo." Is this thing even in English? The music is little better, as it sounds like period pop from the back end of the top 100 (it never actually charted at all in the U.S.) Let's not even bother discussing what passes for lyrics. The video is a catalog of every cheesy editing effect available at the time. But sonically, you picture skiing down a mountain with uzis cutting down treelimbs until a cliff forms a convenient escape ramp as something explodes.

18) 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" as performed by Sheryl Crow
Crow's thin voice can't carry the weight of a Bond theme, and the lyrics are announced as rock dumb and cliché from the first line. However, Mitchell Froom's production is appropriately retro, the video is solid, the chorus is okay, and there's a nice breakdown. To quote Jack Black, very safe, very pussy. It's also impossible to forget that this same year, Shirley Bassey joined the Propellerheads for the vastly superior "History Repeating".

17) 1983's "Never Say Never Again" for Never Say Never Again as performed by Phyllis Hyman
A very pleasant period love song, and certainly better than the one actually used. Also, Phyllis Hyman is a good Bond Girl name. Joking aside, Hyman's story is tragic, and she once expressed that this was her favorite vocal, which plainly shows. Soars and yearns and massages the male ego; an entirely apropos ballad for Bond.

16) 1963's "From Russia with Love" as performed by Monty Norman
This is a simple, solid song that recalls espionage through its guitars and reference to the Motherland, but is mostly just a ballad. The vocal track wasn't part of the opening theme.

15) 1974's "The Man with the Golden Gun" as performed by Lulu
This one has the sort of awesomely ridiculous lyrics designed for campy spy action or musical theater, but it's hard not to feel self-conscious about how ludicrous it sounds. Lulu lacks the pipes of a Shirley Bassey, but then again, who else has them really?

14) 2012's "Skyfall" as performed by Adele
Pretty easy to tune out for the first couple of minutes. The callbacks and added punch in the last couple minutes make the song, but it's still boilerplate on both the Bond and pop song ends of the spectrum. It sounds like some homely chick longing for melodrama, instead of a fatalistic sex bomb. Man, I wish Amy Winehouse had lived long enough to do one of these.

13) 1967's "You Only Live Twice" as performed by Nancy Sinatra
While not explicit, a few key lyrics and some of the tone in the music still spells out 007. The very subtle Asiatic qualities are cute, and the vocals are nice. It was a weak title sequence though, and overall a thin, tinny tune.

12) 2015's "Writing's On The Wall" for Spectre as performed by Sam Smith
The hate directed and this number was immediate and intense... in some quarters. It also won an Acadamy Award and made it to #1 in the U.K. Lyrically, there's not much there, but Smith's falsetto is like nothing ever heard before, and the orchestral sweep is present.

11) 1965's "Thunderball" as performed by Tom Jones
Similar to "Golden Gun," but played straighter with more swagger. It sells the silliness better, and the horns are more swanky. Still, it's a bit sluggish.

10) 1977's "Nobody Does It Better" for The Spy Who Loved Me as performed by Carly Simon
This is another pop song that barely qualifies as a Bond tune, but it's a pretty damned good one. Despite lyrics that aren't especially Bond-specific, the exuberant praise of masterful cocksmanship sure smacks of 007. Somehow, despite having no edge whatsoever, name-dropping the movie title and exalting the finest of men makes this the perfect proxy song for women swept up in Bond's charm.

009) 1969's "We Have All the Time in the World" for On Her Majesty's Secret Service as performed by Louis Armstrong
A ballad made bittersweet by its usage at the end of the film. This one has a killer bridge with excellent strings, guitar and horns. The lyrics have nothing and everything to do with the story, but it's so affective, I'll allow it.

008) 1997's "Surrender" for Tomorrow Never Dies as performed by k.d. lang
Look, Crow may be the bigger name and the more likely to be appropriate, but you can't tell me the end credits song isn't a strong contender against the opener.

007) 1973's "Live and Let Die" as performed by Paul McCartney & Wings
I realize that this was a hit single twice over two decades apart, and deservedly so. The bridges are exhilarating and the piano gets some refined pounding. Still, the lyrics are overly simplistic, and the reggae-funk breakdown is goofy as hell.

006) 2010's "I'll Take It All" for Blood Stone as performed by Joss Stone
Beyond the robust vocals and lyrics that actually reflect a Bond story, having Eurythmics' Dave Stewart sharing the mission can't hurt. The game themes got progressively better (and presumably more expensive) until they halted abruptly in 2012, but this was the only one to top most legitimate Eon movie themes. Heavier percussion gives it a greater action thrust that just about any other theme, and while feeling comfortable in their company, this song doesn't feel as indebted to ones that preceded it where many efforts since the '90s have a distinct aftertaste of pastiche.

005) 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever" as performed by Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey, John Barry and Don Black bring the classic Bond edge with added funk. This strikes the right balance between recalling 007 and being comically blatant. There's a reason Kanye sampled this instead of "Thunderball," y'know?

004) 1985's "A View to a Kill" as performed by Duran Duran
The lyrics are developmentally challenged, the music video is laughable, and let's not even start in on the hair styles. Regardless, the tune is snazzy and conveys the proper mood.

003) 1999's "The World Is Not Enough" as performed by Garbage
This one layers strength over strength. Clear and detailed spy thriller tune and lyrics, but not so blatant as to be goofy. Sung by a total vamp, the music combines cool jazz licks and techno beeps that represent the 007 alphabet from M to Q. Shirley Manson as a fembot makes this easily the best Bond music video.

002) 1964's "Goldfinger" as performed by Shirley Bassey
Horns that could kill a man, vocals with ballistic impact, lyrics that paint the portrait of a monster, and the most rousing finale of any song on this list. It's weaknesses are repetitive lyrics and a hollow quality to the sound, but it still takes some fantastic music to overcome this titan.

001) 1995's "GoldenEye" as performed by Tina Turner
Classy without being moldy, slinky and muscular by turns, this is an epic theme about the entire Bond phenomenon. Turner's exotic, raw voice ranges from sensual to conniving to yearning with the skill of a true diva. There's the stealthy cool, the fatal yearning, the impossible notes... Bono and the Edge craft crystalline lyrics and hooks that dig to the bone, comparable with their finest songcraft.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2017 Aliens 30th Anniversary Lance Henriksen as Bishop commission by Kyra Morphis

I was really proud for Houston's biggest and longest lived comic show to score the coup of the majority of the surviving Aliens cast ahead of its thirtieth anniversary... until SDCC did the same thing a few month's later, closer to the actual anniversary, then added James Cameron, Lance Henriksen, and Gale Anne Hurd just for spite. Comicpalooza's never tried anything on that scale again, settling into being a purely regional attraction. Given how much money I spent to get all those autographs, I'm not entirely sorry about that. Still, this was a rewarding effort, and I am building a substantially larger portfolio of commissions to celebrate one of the few movies more beloved to me than this one.

At least The H's convention bureau made up for the absence of everyone's favorite fully functioning synthetic, the android Bishop. They brought in Lance Henriksen the following year, and at the same show, I tried out a new artist in Kyra Morphis. She was either an art student or recent graduate, and her portfolio had some really interesting stuff in it. I had my copy of the souvenir magazine for reference, and she took it to work on overnight. Wanting to get a better feel for the likeness, she pulled up additional reference online, printed on heavy stock color paper, and did warm-up sketches on one of the pages. She was really nervous when presenting me the final piece, but she needn't have been, as I was very impressed with her take on the late-film bisected android and the clear attention for detail (note the serial number on his inner arm, for instance.) Never underestimate how many cool applications an artist can come up with for White-Out.

In my haste to get the finish piece to the actor to sign (he was appropriately gravelly) I forgot my souvenir book, which Morphis held on to for a year before returning it to me at the next Comicpalooza. A class act, and not the first time an artist has gone above and beyond for me in this manner. They're good people. Me, less so, since I'd held out on posting the piece because I'd forgotten her name, and then sat on the post for another year-and-a-half besides out of pure inertia. Since Photobucket bombed out most of the images on my blogs, I had to light a fire in my gut to find and repost all of the Aliens pieces (which probably means no podcasting this week,) and here they all are now. At least I got another piece from Morphis for that other project...

2016-2017 Aliens 30th Anniversary Commissions

Saturday, September 1, 2018

DC Comics 1993 Editorial Presentation: The Killing Machine

Adam Cross is a drifter. He takes an almost child-like delight in his life as a manual laborer moving from one job to another...until he is unexpectedly confronted by violence. Then, good-natured Adam Cross explodes with the devastating ferocity of a human time bomb!

In the tradition of DEATHSTROKE, THE TERMINATOR, Robocop, and The Punisher, THE KILLING MACHINE blasts his way onto the scene in this super-hero/spy adventure.

This three-issue miniseries stars a cybernetic hero, Adam Cross, who is part of a government program to create a human defense system in a world where nuclear missiles aren't likely to be used now that the Soviet Union has fallen. Instead, there are smaller "brush fires" to fight around the world. The solution? Implanting human brains in artificial bodies to create a special combat force.

Unfortunately, a glitch in the technology drives the resulting creation mad. The program seems doomed, until a crippled scientist allows his brain to be put in a cybernetic body. He becomes the first to survive, but the gov­ernment doesn't have much time to celebrate before he rebels against them for trying to use him for more and more corrupt purposes.

On the run, THE KILLING MACHINE tries to find a peaceful life. The government tries, through assassins and cybernetic controls, to eliminate him, but there's one thing they didn't count on: confronted with extreme violence, THE KILLING MACHINE goes into combat mode and becomes uncontrollable. Faced with his devastating power and exper­tise, his handlers are driven to the ultimate risk...sending a newer, improved model after Cross.
THE KILLING MACHINE is the first major work created, written, pencilled, and inked by the legendary Gil Kane since his classic His Name is Savage over 25 years ago.
Referenced in comics media in the early '90s, this project has unfortunately never seen print. At least you can see a character sheet.


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.