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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Cavalcade Comics #15 – The Headless Horseman vs Ghost Rider

Posted in books, Classic literature, comic books, Halloween, holiday, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Normally I do my new Cavalcade Comics cover reveal in the “Greatest Hits” section of AWESOME-tober-fest but the cover I have for today fits the ghostly theme perfectly.

Today, the appropriately themed cover I have features The Headless Horseman vs Ghost Rider.

Cav Comics #15

I love this battle. Undead flaming skull vs undead flaming skull. Here are the covers that mostly make up the above.

Headless Horseman Ghost Rider

The Headless Horseman comes from Marvel anthology series Supernatural Thrillers, issue #6, 1973. As a matter of fact, this is the same anthology series that birthed The Living Mummy in issue #5, which I talked about last year.  Ghost Rider comes from his own title, issue #5, 1974.  April, 1974, to be precise, which means this very issue of Ghost Rider *could* have been on store shelves the day I was born in early May 1974.  But it just as likely could have been issue #6 that was on shelves.

Check back tomorrow for a ghostly movie review and the final “ghost” related article of the month!



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

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Heart Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since before high school. So when I found out his son, Joe, was writing books, I was initially intrigued but ultimately never sought out the kid’s books.  Then I randomly stumbled upon Horns.  I forget how, but the synopsis intrigued me and I put it on my Amazon list making a mental note to check that book out when I get a chance.  Then, in 2013, the Kindle book went on sale so I pulled the trigger and read it.  And really enjoyed the book.  So at that point, I’m wondering, what Joe Hill book should I read next?

Enter AWESOME-toberfest 2015. I was all set to do Ghosts as the theme and I was deciding between two Joe Hill books; the short story collection 20th Century Ghost and the novel Heart Shaped Box.  However, things happen, things change, and I wind up doing invisible man that year instead.  Flash forward to 2017.  I’m really doing ghosts this time. So, I get a sample on my iPad of both books, read the samples and select, with much fanfare to no one but myself…Heart Shaped Box.

So, what is this book about?  The quick elevator pitch is that aging rock star Jude Coyne likes to collect macabre things.  Among other things he has a used hangman’s noose, a signed witch’s confession from the Salem Witch trials, and even a snuff film.  And when his assistant stumbles across a haunted suit in an online auction, Jude decides on impulse to buy it and it to his collection.  Yet when the suit arrives on his doorstep a few weeks later in a black, heart-shaped box, Jude finds that he’s going to get more than he bargained for.

Heart-Shaped Box was Hill’s first novel, published in 2007.  It’s actually pretty good.  Based on the two novels I’ve read, Hill really knows how to set up the atmosphere of his books’ worlds.  Hill’s books exist in this darker, hyper real existence where crazy things can happen but it still feels 100% real.  Like I can easily picture it and it feels like I’m in that world as well when I’m reading the book.  Hill is also good at setting up his main characters.  Jude, in this novel, isn’t the greatest guy.  He’s an aging rockstar, he collects weird memorabilia, he sleeps with goth girls that are way too young for him.  But by the end of the novel you see how the experiences in the book change him.  He realizes that how he’s been acting is wrong.  He sees the unhealthy patterns he’s following.  We also learn a little about his past that brings his current behaviors into focus.  So by the novel’s climax, the things Jude learns and the behaviors that are changed are earned.

What about the ghost aspects of the novel? Hill realizes his ghost very well.  He is CREEPY.  He has black scribbles over his eyes which somehow makes him more terrifying.  You learn a little bit about the nature of the particular ghost haunting the suit, but it’s not really made clear if that applies to all ghosts. There are clearly some rules for the ghost in the book but you don’t know if the rules apply to all ghosts or just him.

I liked this book.  I actually think I liked it more than Horns.  And don’t get me wrong, I liked Horns.   I really like what I’ve read of Hill’s books so far.  They are dark and atmospheric.  They have interesting characters that follow a good arch throughout.  And the story concepts for his books so far have been interesting and different.

I happen to also have two of Hill’s newer books The Fireman and NOS4A2 which are absolutely going to get read sooner rather than later.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners movie novelization by Michael Jahn (1996)

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

On Friday I talked about one of my favorite ghost movies, Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners from 1996. Well, as luck would have it, they released a movie novelization for it.  It was written by Michael Jahn.

 

I Read Movies

So, I recorded a very special Halloween episode of I Read Movies all about this novelization. I talk about extra scenes, I talk about new plot points, there’s even a good bit explaining the nature of the movie’s ghosts. Lots of good stuff to hear, so either download the latest episode of I Read Movies on iTunes and Google Play or listen to it right here.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Casting the Runes and other Ghost Stories by MR James

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , on October 4, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Doing research for ghosts I looked up scariest ghost stories to see what popped up that I want to cover. The name M.R. James kept showing up in lists.

MR James

He’s a very well respected author from the late 19th-early 20th century.  Most of his work with ghost stories shows up in the early 1900s.  James began what is now called “antiquarian ghost stories”.  James abandoned the high “Gothic” cliches of what was then the presiding style of ghost stories and set his stories in a more contemporary setting.  He also generally used a protagonist that was a naive or very reserved scholarly gentleman who had found or come into possession of a mysterious object that drives the crux of the story.

There have been several collections of James’ ghost stories, so I picked one that had the most variety but also one that included several that were generally considered his best.  Hello Oxford World’s Classics edition.

Casting the Runes cover

In this collection, the main ones I wanted to read were Casting the Runes, Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, and A Warning for the Curious. I also planned to cherry pick a few others depending on how much I liked what I read first.

So, I read the stories, what do I think?  Honestly, the stories just didn’t grab me.  There’s some interesting things James is doing, but none of them connected with me.  I read the story, liked the setup, but nothing ever creeped me out or scared me.  I came in fully expecting to be terrified of these stories but…nope.  Nothing.  I think James is a good writer, but for whatever reason, these just didn’t punch those specific creepy buttons for me.  I was more scared when I reread those old Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books than I ever was here.

This is a shame because I really was excited to read these stories for some good creepy fun.



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

Announcing I Read Movies microcast all about movie novelizations

Posted in books, movies, podcast, pop culture with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by Paxton

If you’ve read this blog or follow me on Twitter for any length of time you know I’m a fan of movie novelizations. I read them. I collect them. I love finding new ones I never knew existed. If you check back in the Awesome Archives you will find several reviews for many different movie novelizations.

On the Nerd Lunch Podcast, whenever we do genre movie drilldowns, I try to read the novelization for the movie we’re discussing to see if it can add anything.  Specifically, Nerd Lunch did drilldowns on all the Indiana Jones movies and many of the original Trek movies (we are currently waiting to do Star Trek V).  For Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home I did extra helping discussions on both of those movies’ novelizations.

Here are the links:

Star Trek IV novelization drilldown

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade novelization drilldown

In those mini-episodes I talked about the differences between the books and the movies including extra characters, scenes, and story differences. It was a lot of fun and I received a nice response to these solo episodes.  So, since I tend to read novelizations on the semi-regular, I decided to spin these mini-episodes into their own microcast called I Read Movies.

I Read Movies logo

Shout out to CT for creating this amazing looking logo/icon for the show. And another shout out to Shawn Robare for helping me set things up behind the scenes to get this show up and running. Without CT and Shawn’s support I don’t think I could’ve got this venture off the ground. Thanks guys.

Anyway, the two extra helpings above are essentially the prototype for what this microcast will be. It’ll be short, I’ll try to keep it under an hour. Probably even 45min or less. And it won’t have any regular time table. The show is at the mercy of what novelizations I get read. And even then, I won’t do every novelization as not every one is worthy of microcast treatment. But we’ll see. I’ll do as many as I can, even if it’s only a 10 minute episode about why the novelization is not worth a read.

So, to get things started, I already have a few episodes in the can.  The first three episodes of this new show will be a trilogy.  I’ll be doing the original Indiana Jones trilogy.

IRM Raiders

And episode 1, featuring Raiders of the Lost Ark, is LIVE. You can download it from iTunes or listen to it directly right here.

I expect to have Temple of Doom drop in a week or two and I’ll have a special repost of the Nerd Lunch Last Crusade novelization extra helping a week or so after that.  Then, I have a special Halloween episode planned for October.  So things are starting to shake over here in the I Read Movies HDQ.  Stay tuned for some fun shows.

And if there are any novelizations you’d like me to cover, let me know on Twitter.

Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1 (2014) by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , on February 16, 2017 by Paxton

inspired_by_oz

A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum.  It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed.  She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic.  It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.

Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books.  I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.

DMD Stories 1

This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns.  I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.

No Place Like Oz
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric.  It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages.  It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz.  It’s her sixteenth birthday party.  We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin.  Even some of her friends don’t believe her.  Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz.  Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it.  So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends.  Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there.  After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes.  She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.

This is the gist of the story.  Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends.  And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings.  You see her obsession with magic really take hold.  It’s a really good story.  I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable.  It’s not a 180 with no explanation.  It makes a bit of sense.  And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.

The Witch Must Burn
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City.  She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die.  And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz.  You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this.  I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.

The Wizard Returns
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in.  The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz.  The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in.  Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions.  This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it.  You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.

All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die.  However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz.  I’m glad I read this collection.  There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this.  They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts.  However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.

I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die.  It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD.  They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas.  But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.

I return to an alternate Oz with Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , on February 3, 2017 by Paxton

inspired_by_oz

From time to time I’ll read stuff that isn’t part of the established “Oz canon”, but is directly inspired by Baum’s Oz works or it takes Oz and re-interprets it in an alternate way. The 1985 movie Return to Oz would be an example of this.  Or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series.  Whenever I read this stuff I’ll try to throw a review up to add to my ever growing Oz review archives.

Recently, after watching Return to Oz for the Cult Film Club podcast and reading its novelization, I decided I was ready to try another “alternate Oz” story so I pulled the trigger on a book I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about; Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

dorothy_must_die_book_cover dorothy_must_die_book_back

I wasn’t for sure what to expect from this book when I started to read. Was it a reboot of Wizard of Oz? A sequel? A sidequel? I had no clue.  So I loaded it on my iPad and hoped for the best.

It starts off a little slow.  Amy lives in Kansas.  Her father left her and her mom.  The mom has become an addict.  Life is not good.  And we sort of get beat over the head with this for the first 75-80 pages.  Amy’s life sucks.  I get it.  This early building of character angst for Amy is sort of tiring and why I no longer read as many YA books as I used to.  That being said, the fun begins when the freak tornado hits and Amy wakes up in Oz.

What this book turns out to be is a sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  I’d like to definitively say it’s a sequel to the book or the movie, but, like Return to Oz, they sort of hedge their bets and use iconography from both.  Mainly, of course, it’s the damn slippers.  But Paige is a little bit more ambiguous about the slippers.  She mentions that Dorothy wore silver slippers, however there are statues in Munchkinland featuring Dorothy in ruby slippers and when we finally meet her, Dorothy is wearing ruby slippers.  She never takes them off actually.  But it’s honestly a minor thing, there’s a lot more going on than the slippers.

The biggest strength of this book’s story is the world building.  The events in this book seem to take place many years after the original Oz book/movie.  From context clues in the story it seems like events in the first two Baum Oz books (Wizard of Oz, Marvelous Land of Oz) happen as normal.  It’s Dorothy’s return in the third book (Ozma of Oz) that events seem to “take a turn”.  Many years before the events in this book, Dorothy returned to Oz from Kansas and Ozma made her a princess.  Those events basically happened in the Baum books, but over the years Dorothy sort of becomes obsessed with magic.  This obsession changes Dorothy’s behavior.  It makes her more erratic.  And with this change, her closes friends, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Lion sort of change with her.  Dorothy supplants Ozma as the ruler of Oz and conscripts Glinda to enslave the Munchkins to start mining Oz for magic.  Oz’s magic lies deep within its land so everyone is busy strip mining Oz and hoarding magic for Dorothy.  And like I said, Dorothy’s friends sort of follow her lead. Scarecrow becomes obsessed with getting smarter.  He starts experimenting on Oz citizens like a mad scientist.  Studying their brains and creating weird monster hybrids. The Tin Man is in love with Dorothy and becomes the captain of her guard.  The Lion goes savage and starts just indiscriminately eating people and drinking in their fear.  It’s a very interesting idea that the gifts bestowed upon Dorothy’s friends (brains, heart, courage) are the very thing that are driving them mad.  It can be dark and frightening, but I’m enjoying the world that Paige is building up.

Wanted: Dorothy

So Amy shows up in the middle of all of this.  We slowly learn all the backstory stuff I just talked about.  Amy is put in a dungeon by Dorothy but is saved by The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  The Order is a group of the witches of Oz that have banned together to stop Dorothy’s tyrannical rule.  They include Gert, the former Good Witch of the North. Glamora, the twin sister of Glinda.  And Mombi, the witch that originally secretly held Ozma in captivity from that second Oz book.  The Order trains Amy to go undercover in Dorothy’s court in the Emerald City in order to get close to her and hopefully assassinate her and allow Oz to once again be free.

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