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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Comic adaptations of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man

Posted in books, Classic literature, comic books, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Paxton

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I’ve always been a fan of comic book adaptations of classic literature.  The most famous versions of this are the Classics Illustrated line of comics from the 50s and 60s.  But several other companies jumped on that bandwagon over the years.

The original HG Wells novel was adapted several times in comic book form. Here are a few of them.

Superior Stories #1 Superior Stories 01 interior
In 1955, Nesbit Publishing released Superior Stories #1 which featured an adaptation of Wells’ novel. Art and inks were done by Pete Morisi.  It was a mostly faithful adaptation except that they ended the story with the death of the lead character and did not include the epilogue from the novel involving the character of Thomas Marvel.  Nearly ten years later this exact adaptation would be reprinted in Fantastic Adventures #18.

Classics Illustrated Invis Man cover Classics Illustrated title page
In 1959 Classics Illustrated #125 would feature an adaptation of the Wells novel with art by Geoffrey Biggs.  As in the last comic, this adaptation also ends with the final fate of the invisible man and completely cuts out the novel’s epilogue.  It makes me wonder if these comics were actually adapting the Universal movie instead of the book.

Marvel Comics would adapt the Invisible Man novel twice.

Marvel Supernatural Thrillers 01 Marvel Supernatural Thrillers 02
Marvel Supernatural Thrillers #2 from 1973 would feature an adaptation of Wells’ novel. It had a script by Ron Goulant and art/layouts by Dan Adkins and Val Mayerik.  The art looks pretty great in that early 70s Marvel style that I love so much.  Unlike the Classics Illustrated adaptation above, this comic features the epilogue.

Marvel Classics Comics 25 cover Marvel Classics Comics #25 title page
In 1977, Marvel Classics Comics #25 would again adapt the novel but this time with art by Dino Castrillo and Rudy Messina and a script by the great Doug Moench.  I’m surprised they didn’t just reprint the Supernatural Thrillers adaptation from four years earlier in this issue, but the art and layouts are great here as well in that 70s Marvel horror style.  And yes, this adaptation also includes the novel’s epilogue.  Not sure why the first two comics omitted it.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Man (1897) – HG Wells

Posted in books, Classic literature, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2015 by Paxton

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Yesterday, I talked about one of the very first uses of invisibility in literary fiction. Today, I’m going to discuss probably the most well known use of invisibility in literary fiction.  I decided to go ahead and lead with this book because so much of invisibility in pop culture is derived either from this novel or from Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation, which I’ll review tomorrow.

The Invisible Man was HG Wells’ fifth novel after such classics as The Time Machine and The Island of Dr Moreau. It was originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1897 but collected into a novel that same year.


Surprisingly, I had never read this book. I thought I would have been assigned it in high school or college, but that can also be said for several other classics I recently read for AWESOME-tober-fest like Frankenstein and Dracula.  Due to this I, again, have to thank AWESOME-tober-fest for manufacturing a reason for me to shoehorn this book into my reading list.  Let’s see if it was as good as Frankenstein or as bad as Dracula.

The book is certainly well written.  It begins with a mysteriously bandaged man arriving at a boarding house in the small English town of Iping.  The bandaged man not only looks mysterious, he is a very impatient man.  He immediately starts rubbing everyone the wrong way and eventually is kicked out of the boarding house when he can’t settle his bill.  This leads us to discover that he was a scientist who invented an invisibility serum and tested it on himself.  He was trying to work on a reversal serum when he arrived in Iping.

While down and out, he tries to rely on several people for help, but can’t seem to get it together.  All the while, he’s slowly going crazy from the chemicals he’s used on himself and fashions the idea that he’s going to take advantage of the invisibility and start a reign of terror to take over the country, starting with the citizens of Iping.  Will he succeed?


The story is very well told.  I like the “mysterious stranger” beginning of the novel (despite that the mystery is completely dissolved by the blatant title of the novel).  Seeing Griffin arrive, begin behaving strange and treat everyone so contemptuously is a very in your face way to start the novel.  And I like it.  Eventually, the events that precede the novel are discussed at length about two thirds of the way into the story and by then, you are ready and anxious to hear how Griffin got to where he was.  And HG Wells doesn’t disappoint with the “science-y” talk.  While much of it might be well sounding gibberish, it certainly sounds impressive to hear Wells explain the invisibility science through Griffin.  And there were several disadvantages to invisibility that Wells mentions that I didn’t expect to be brought up like not being able to sleep because you can see right through your eyelids, or that you can see food digesting in your stomach for an hour after you’ve eaten.  Even down to the weather like rain or snow collecting on your head and shoulders making you visible again.  Or dirt and mud collecting on your feet and fingernails also making you visible.  I had expected these things to have come out of later novels and movies, but not this original story.

Things I didn’t like.  The book seemed a little long.  It felt like Wells was padding out the pages a little.  Especially during the scenes where Griffin is discussing what he did before the beginning of the novel.  Some of that stuff is great, but it also felt a little too long.  And some of the side characters have crazy dialects.  It’s supposed to be English countryside dialect, and I can’t speak to the accuracy of that, but it’s damn near unreadable.

But those are small nitpicks, honestly.  I would recommend this book.  Is it as good as Shelley’s Frankenstein?  No, but it’s definitely a good, fun read and I’m happy to say not complete garbage like another classic monster book I know (looking at you Dracula).

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: What Was It? A Mystery (1859) by Fitz-James O’brien

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by Paxton

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And we are off! So, I had planned on beginning AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 on October 1, but I got excited and I’ve decided to start one day early. Today. So, enjoy everyone, my discussion of all things invisible man begins NOW.

Usually with any discussion of invisible men, ground zero is assumed to be HG Wells’ 1897 story, The Invisible Man. And yes, that is probably the most important work on invisibility to date. And yes, I am going to review that book (check back tomorrow). However, Wells’ story wasn’t the first to feature invisibility, or an invisible man.


In 1859 Harper’s Weekly published a short story by Fitz-James O’Brien titled What Was It? A Mystery.  O’Brien is considered to be one of the forerunners of science fiction.  And this particular short story is considered one of the earliest known uses of invisibility.  It predated HG Wells’ story by nearly 40 years.

I was doing research on invisibility for this month and discovered an anthology from the 70s that included stories about invisibility.  It was called Invisible Men and it’s edited by Basil Davenport.


I looked through the list of stories included. There is one from Wells himself, but not the titular Invisible Man.  It’s another story entitled The New Accelerator. O’Brien’s short story was also included. Doing a little more research I discovered the history behind O’Brien and this particular story and decided that I should give it a read.

It’s a very interesting and atmospheric story.  It’s based in an old apartment building and features several of the renters.  One of them is attacked by an unseen force one evening.  The unseen force is captured and tied to the bed.  The renters try to figure out what it is and even take a plaster cast of it.  But the invisible being dies before they can discover what it is.  That’s the long and short of it.

It’s structure is very similar to a lot of Lovecraft’s early stuff.  The story is told by a narrator from the present who is relating events that happened in the past.  The events are never really fully explained and it leaves you with an uneasy, creepy feeling.  Another similar story that comes to mind is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short and creepy The Ring of Thoth as well as Lovecraft’s Out of the Aeons.

And that is What Was It? A Mystery, one of the first uses of invisibility in literary fiction.  It was a fun and interesting read.  Especially to set the table for the movies and books to come this month.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

High Fantasy Month is back to slay some dragons

Posted in books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on February 16, 2015 by Paxton

High Fantasy Month

The last time I did this was back in July, so I thought it was time to knock out a few more fantasy books.  Next time, I may switch up the media and do High Fantasy movies instead of books only.  I’ve been sort of dying to see Sword & the Sorceror.

Anyway, recently I bought a few fantasy books I’ve been eyeballing during a fire sale on Google Play and Amazon. So let’s see how I did.

The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two (2011) – Patrick Rothfuss – I read the first book in Rothfuss’ series, The Name of the Wind, back in January 2014 and I enjoyed it. It was very story heavy with lots of characters with weird names but the book is well written and I was very interested in the world that Rothfuss had built.  So, when I found the sequel on sale for super cheap a few months ago on Google Play, I snatched it up. It continues the story of Kvothe, a legendary arcanist (ie magic user) who is relating the unbelievable events of his life story to a scribe.  Overall, this book is good.  However, it’s LOOOOONG.  The eBook is 875 pages long.  And it feels every bit of that length.  And I didn’t realize this, but it’s also a road book.  The main character, Kvothe, is sent out on a journey that lasts FOREVER.  He finishes the initial task on the journey and then goes off on an interlude. And then another interlude.  And another.  To infinity.  I was ready for the book to end.  But the book is written very well and is set in an interesting world with an interesting take on magic.  I just think, since we KNOW this book is continuing into a third book, that Rothfuss should have ended it a little sooner.  And I feel this is a gripe I have with many books in the fantasy genre.

Troll Mountain: The Complete Novel (2014) – Matthew Reilly – I’ve read most of Matthew Reilly’s books. He’s a great action adventure author who’s most famous series involves a special forces officer code-named Scarecrow.  So, this was a bit of a genre departure for Reilly.  It’s a junior fantasy adventure.  Very simple.  Short.  The novel is in three parts and each part is only about 50 pages long.  I actually liked it quite a lot.  It reminds me of L Frank Baum’s fantasy stories.  Like this could have been a lost fantasy fable found in his papers after he died.  It has that type of heart and charm with a touch of morality and lessons to be learned.  The story involves our hero, Raf, who has a sister that has fallen ill to a disease that is plaguing the land.  There are trolls living in a nearby mountain that have an elixir that will cure it but they require a high payment.  Raf, who is poor, decides to travel to Troll Mountain, sneak into their vault and steal the elixir in order to save his sister.  It’s a pretty fun, quick and light read that I highly recommend.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book 1) (2006) – Brandon Sanderson – I’ve had my eye on Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy for a while.  Finally Amazon put the Kindle versions on sale for a song (all 3 books for less than $6) and I snatched them right up.  So, I read the first book in the trilogy and it’s pretty damn good.  The world Sanderson creates is interesting and he has filled this world with interesting characters and a very interesting system of magic.  And the setup is similar to something you’d see in another fantasy series I like, The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch.  It’s a group of thieves and cons who are hired to perform an impossible heist.  Exactly the type of plot I love.  I will definitely continue this trilogy.  However, I have a similar gripe about this book that I had with the first book in this list.  The book is a little bit too long.  The first book in this trilogy is nearly 700 pages.  Knowing there are two more books in this series, reading through to 700 pages starts to get a little tiring.  And slightly annoying.  Even when I enjoy the characters and subject matter, story fatigue sets in around 600-700 pages.  However, that being said, I really did enjoy the book and would recommend it.

The Second Book Of Swords – Fred Saberhagen – You’ll recall during my last High Fantasy Month that I read Fred Saberhagen’s First Book of Swords. I actually have the compilation of all three of the original swords books, so I thought I’d pick up the book and read the second book in the series.  But, alas, I didn’t get much further than 4-5 pages.  I just couldn’t get into it.  I kept glazing over reading the pages and nothing would stick.  Not sure what was wrong.  I’m close to saying I’m not reading this series anymore, but I may give it a few months and try again.  When I couldn’t finish this book, I started to read Mistborn instead.  And you see how that turned out, so clearly it was an issue with this story and not with me getting tired of reading fantasy books.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2014

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2015 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

I can’t believe I’m doing these year end wrap up reports again.  Where does the damn time go?!

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.

Looking at that log it looks like I read about 78 books/comics this year.  That total includes not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time this year.

And I actually have four books on this list that were released in 2014.  That ties my total from last year.  It’s rare when I get to read a currently released book, but I’ve done it four times each in the last two years.  Amazing!

On to the lists!

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  All that I read for the first time this year.  Enjoy.


Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (2014) – Joe Schreiber – I predicted at the end of my 2013 Best Books I Read article that this book would be on the list for 2014.  And, as you can see, I was right.  Joe Schreiber really hit it out of the park with this one.  A prison thriller that has Maul locked up in a prototype prison that pits its prisoners in gladiatorial matches and broadcasts those matches on pay-per-view.  Very brutal and lots of fun we get lots of awesome Maul in this book.  However, to be honest, the last third of the book sort of goes WAY bananas in a weird way.  It’s still really good, but the book sort of becomes super-gonzo and you’re left scratching your head wondering, “What the f**k is going on?  Did THAT just happen?!”.  However, overall, still one of the best books I read this year.

Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger #1) (1993) – Stephen Hunter – I was not aware of this book until I saw the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter, which is based on this book.  I love that movie and finally picked up the source material this year to give it a go.  And it’s AMAZING.  Even better than the movie.  A bit more story to sink your teeth into and a bit more of an epic bad guy for Swagger to focus his revenge on.  Great action packed book.  I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s Swagger books in the future (there are several).

The Shining (1977) – Stephen King – This Halloween I decided to fill another hole in my Stephen King reading list.  Two years ago I had finally tackled The Stand and just last year I read The Talisman.  So, I thought, let’s continue that trend this year and I decided to read ‘salem’s Lot.  I enjoyed it more than I expected, plus it left me wanting to read more early Stephen King, so even though I only had about a week left in October, I picked up The Shining on my Nook for like $2 and dove in.  And discovered probably the scariest book I think I have ever read in my life.  The Shining is big on plot and character detail as early King likes to be, but once the stuff in the hotel starts happening, it gets seriously scary.  Like several nights I had trouble sleeping it was so scary.  So here it sits on my list.  But as much as I loved this book, I really saw no need for a sequel so I have little to no desire to read Doctor Sleep.  I even tried reading a sample and I couldn’t even finish it.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007) – James Swanson – Earlier in 2014 I got into an American History phase.  I read Walter Isaacson’s epic Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and was all wrapped up in the days of the early Revolution.  I then watched Spielberg’s Lincoln and loved it before starting this book.  This book is a fascinating account of the days leading up to and the 12 day manhunt that occurred after President Lincoln’s assassination.  Lots of inside stuff I never knew about.  And it’s written in a very modern way that keeps events interesting and not like reading events out of a history book.  Right after reading this book, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator to complete my unofficial “Lincoln trilogy”.  So now, I’m on the lookout for Swanson’s other books he’s written, most specifically the one about Kennedy’s assassination.  But I highly recommend this book.

Star Wars: Tarkin (2014) – James Luceno – This last slot was tough. I had a few REALLY good books I could have put here.  Most notably The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussRed Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and When March Went Mad by Seth Davis.  But I went with my gut and chose this book.  The second Star Wars book on my list.  I really love what they’ve been doing with the Star Wars novels the last few years.  They’ve really been changing it up and getting really good stories out there.  Luceno wrote one of my favorites from a few years ago, Darth Plagueis, and he looked to do the same thing here.  But this is a more intimate story than the galaxy wide epic that played out in the pages of that earlier book.  Luceno really fleshes out the character of Tarkin in this book and investigates a bit more his relationship with Vader and even the Emperor.  Lots of Star Wars-y goodness to be had.  It gets me excited to see what comes next for the Star Wars expanded universe.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (2006) – Greg Pak (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist) – Oh, man, this book is epic.  It’s bad ass.  It’s just awesome.  Hulk is deemed “too dangerous to stay on Earth” by a think tank of Marvel’s smartest so they devise a way to shoot him off to another world so he can’t hurt anyone.  The only problem, something happens en route and Hulk crash lands on the wrong planet.  A planet that enlaves Hulk and forces him to compete in gladiatorial games until he decides he’s had enough and stages a coup to take over the planet.  So much awesome contained within.  I can’t recommend this enough.

Savage Dragon Vol. 1 (1993) – Erik Larsen (writer/artist) – Back in September I decided I wanted to read the first 10-20 issues of all the original launch titles of Image Comics.  Most of them were forgettable.  However, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was not only readable, it was GREAT and deserves a spot on my list.  I was surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and I look forward to catching up on all that I missed with this character.

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) – Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist) – This was suggested to me by several people but I never listened.  But the more I heard how good it was the more I became intrigued.  So I grabbed the first volume of Matt Fraction’s series for cheap and read it.  And loved it.  This is minimalist storytelling at its finest.  Sort of a “between the panels” look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger.  Quirky, but it’s charming and lots of fun.  I’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.

Thief of Thieves (2012) – Robert Kirkman (writer), Nick Spenser (writer), Andy Diggle (writer), James Asmus (writer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist) – I’ve actually read the first three volumes of this title which cover the first 19 issues of the series.  And it’s pretty great.  Master Thief (retired) Redmond is called back into the life in order to save his estranged son.  This is a pretty great comic with some pretty great writers.  It’s also a nice change from all the super hero books I normally read.  Just a regular guy, trying to get on with his current life but his previous life and his reputation won’t let that happen.  Great book.

Krampus! (2013) – Brian Joines (writer), Dean Kotz (artist) – I think I’ve talked about this book before.  This is such a fun read.  It makes great references to all the Santa/Christmas iconography you can imagine and even makes someone like Doc Holliday, that has nothing to do with Christmas, fit right into the story.  Great art, fun story.  I really hope this gets picked up for some sequels.  So much potential awesome to be mined out of these characters.  GET IT AND READ IT NOW.

That’s my best of list for 2014. It was really hard to pare some of that list down as I read some really good stuff this year. But I also have some good stuff lined up for myself next year. I plan to continue my Stephen King reading by possibly tackling Needful Things as well as possibly It.  There are some good Star Wars books coming out next year featuring Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi) as well as two of our favorite Lords of the Sith.

My High Fantasy Month 2014 wrap up

Posted in books with tags , , , on July 3, 2014 by Paxton

If you’ve been listening to my Nerd-to-Dos on Nerd Lunch the last month or so then you know I’ve been in the middle of what I was calling High Fantasy Month.


The idea for this is that for an entire month I would read a bunch of “sword and sorcery” books. High fantasy is not really a genre I read. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t. So there’s several popular and famous series I’ve never tackled like The Wheel of Time, The Sword of Shannara and the Sword of Truth.  I’ve read a few, most notably Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley and The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, but as a whole, I just don’t really dip into the kings and knights sagas very often.

Well, I happened upon a pretty cheap copy of Sword of Shannara at a library sale so I thought, why don’t I make a fantasy reading marathon out of this? So I gathered a few other fantasy books I had lying around my TBR pile and made a reading schedule and started reading the first book on May 19. As of this week, I think I’m ending the first iteration of High Fantasy Month. I’ll do it again, but I want to move on to another genre. I don’t normally stick with one genre like this for so many books and I think I’m getting genre weary. I’m ready to read an action or sci-fi book now.

Here are some quick reviews of the high fantasy books I read this time out.

The First Book of Swords (1983) – Fred Saberhagen – I actually have all three of the original books in one giant omnibus edition.  But I only read the first book.  It’s good.  Saberhagen is a really good genre writer and he’s created a fascinating world with this series.  I’d definitely continue the story about 12 swords created by the god Vulcan and passed out to mortals.  Each sword has a different, terrific power.  The swords become lost for years but are eventually discovered and some unsavory characters do everything they can to get their hands on all 12 swords.  I’ve reviewed two of Saberhagen’s other books before, one was a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and one was a sequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Born to Exile (1977) – Phyllis Eisenstein – Book 1 in the Tales of Alaric the minstrel.  I discovered this book while reading about inspirations for Steven Gould’s Jumper books (click the link and check out the See Also section on Wikipedia). The book is about a traveling minstrel who discovers he has the ability to teleport.  It’s an interesting book in that Alaric is really the only consistent thread throughout the story which features essentially Alaric in a series of vignettes where he tries to not use his power, winds up using it, and then gets banned (or exiled) for using it.  It’s a fun light read that I really enjoyed.

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Making 7 Literary Classics More AWESOME

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by Paxton

Bad Ass Book Report

I’m a reader. I love to read. And I sometimes enjoy reading classic literature. However, some of the old stuff is just flat out boring as balls.  I mean, have you actually read Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Frank Norris’ McTeague or anything by James Joyce?  Snoozeville.  Population…YOU.  I had to read those in high school and I needed to drink a case of Jolt Cola to get through just one chapter.

So, being the helpful guy that I am, I thought I’d take some boring classics you may have had to read in high school and college and make them better.  More AWESOME.  And easier to read.

So now, here are seven ways to make classic literature a lot more AWESOME. You are welcome, literature.

Don Corleone Quixote
Don Corleone Quixote – Old guard crime boss Don Corleone Quixote sets up shop in an old windmill with trusty right hand man Pancha.

Little Haunted House on the Prairie
Little Haunted House on the Prairie – A family is brutally murdered in their secluded old farm house.  Twenty years later, an unsuspecting couple purchases the old farm house looking for a serene retreat from their hectic lives only to find skin crawling terror and wheelbarrows of blood.

Grapes of Wrath of Khan
The Grapes of Wrath of Khan – The Joad family pick up a hitchhiker on their way to California.  Little do they know their new addition is a genetically enhanced super being from the future looking to overthrow and rule the human race.  Wackiness ensues.

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