Monday, September 23, 2013

Bond Signing Opportunity in Los Angeles This October

Cue the familiar James Bond theme, grab your memorabilia, and a wad of cash and head to Los Angeles Westin at the Los Angeles Airport for the opportunity to meet your favourite Bond girls, villainous henchmen, or even James Bond himself! Since most of us cannot afford the jaunt across the pond to the home of MI6, Eon Productions and Bondstars, the quarterly collector’s show being held Saturday and Sunday, October 5th and 6th (a preview of vendor merchandise is Friday evening from 6 to 9 PM), is hosting 50 years of Bond reunion. The show had a big reunion at the beginning of the year with almost 20 Bond stars and this time, there’s already fourteen stars scheduled to appear. Many on the list have been to the collector’s show before, but new this time are Shirley Eaton, Mary Stavin, Valerie Leon, Kristina Wayborn, and Michael Madsen (organizers have promised he will show this time!).

As of today, the following stars are scheduled. Check the collector website often since there's time for more individuals to be added before the show.
  • ·       Luciana Paluzzi – Fiona Volpe in Thunderball
  • ·       Britt Ekland – Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun
  • ·       Caroline Munro – Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me
  • ·       George Lazenby – James Bond from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • ·       Lana Wood – Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever
  • ·       Martine Beswicke – Zara in From Russia with Love and Paula Caplan in Thunderball
  • ·       Mary Stavin – Octopussy girl in Octopussy and Kimberley Jones in A View to a Kill
  • ·       Shirley Eaton – Jill Masterson in Goldfinger
  • ·       Valerie Leon – Hotel Receptionist in The Spy Who Loved Me and Bahamas fisherwoman in Never Say Never Again
  • ·       Tanya Roberts – Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill
  • ·       Kristina Wayborn – Magda in Octopussy
  • ·       Trina Parks – Thumper in Diamonds Are Forever
  • ·       Richard Kiel – Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker
  • ·       Michael Madsen – Damian Falco in Die Another Day

If This Is Your First Show

I have attended this collector’s show many times in the past and can say that this is wonderful opportunity for fans to meet their favourite Bond stars in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In my experience, all of the Bond stars have been exceedingly gracious and kind, not rushing through the autograph to get your money and move on to the next person. Because of that, it’s important to have patience while others have their turn with the respective star. And, in return, be cognizant to not monopolize the star’s time since there are other fans behind you awaiting their own opportunity to chat with the stars.

On average, expect to spend $30 - $40 per autograph. Sometimes the photo op is included in the price, sometimes it is not. Stars who have done the collector shows in the past will typically have their prices posted and what’s included and what’s separate. Most will have 8 x 10 photos you can purchase and have autographed, or you can bring your own item, such as the coveted limited edition DVD, poster, lobby cards, etc. Plan ahead and bring enough cash with you. There may be ATM machines available at the hotel, but likely with a fee attached.

Sometimes there are maps printed up providing a layout of the stars’ tables, but as I have experienced, the organizers and the stars themselves, have moved tables. Sometimes there’s a sign indicating as much; sometimes there isn’t. Also, be aware that stars cancel at the last moment due to unforeseen circumstances. The organizers usually have a list posted, but if you are looking for a star and cannot find them, then ask – there are many volunteers that are ready and willing to help you.

TIPS: There are two. First, after you have paid your admission, walk around. Get a lay of the rooms and figure out where everyone is. Check prices and tally against your budget, if you are on one. See if there are any known no shows that impact your budget. Then, step up and meet the stars. Second, be respectful of their time (you know, all those other fans waiting behind you?) and personal space (which includes asking if they are okay with you putting your arm around their shoulder or waist during that photo op).

Have fun and if you see me – I’ll be toting my 20 lb. Taschen James Bond Archives book – take a moment to say hi and introduce yourself as I would love to meet fellow Spyfi & Superspies fans!

The Who, What, Where, and When

Location: The Westin Los Angeles Airport, 5400 West Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045.
Friday, October 4th:  Advanced Preview (check out the vendors at your leisure!) 6 to 9 PM
Saturday, October 5th: 10 AM – 5 PM
Sunday, October 6th: 11 AM – 4 PM
Cost: Varies depending on day you are going and time; check website for pricing options
Parking: $7

If for some reason you are not there for the Bond stars, the show is also hosting a reunion of the following television shows: Baywatch, Dynasty, Knight Rider, and Knots Landing. And, there is a reunion of all the children from the award winning 1960s film The Sound of Music.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Codename Action (Comics, 2013)

Francavilla and Lee Covers (left to right) for Codename Action

This is an ongoing monthly review as each issue is released. This month I provide an overview, with more in depth analyze in subsequent months as the various stories are revealed. 

Out now on comic book shelves is the first issue of Codename Action, a toy franchise acquisitioned by Dynamite Entertainment earlier this year. If the title sounds vaguely familiar, then toy and comic fans may remember a 1960s character by the name of Captain Action, a creation by Stan Weston. Captain Action could take on the identity of his brethren – Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and many others. Costumes of the other heroes were sold for Captain Action and he became such a hit that DC published a comic based on him. (See Toys You Had website for images of the original Captain Action figurine and various superhero outfits. There is a Round 2 Captain Action line out which you may have seen at your local comic shop. )

The series opens with three intertwining stories in the first issue that link into the larger, main story arc. The first story pairs a young new agent (Operative 1001) with a Cold War veteran agent (Operative 5), who must work together to solve who is the master mind behind supplanting key world leaders with antagonist, hot-headed doppelgangers hell-bent on kicking off a conflict with global repercussions. Right off the in opening pages, the reader is introduced to Operative 1001 as he successfully traverses through a danger infested office building. It is soon revealed that it was an obstacle training course, a beginning similar to the opening scenes of From Russia With Love (1963) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Meanwhile in France, an all female air defense team (reminiscent of Pussy Galore and her team in Goldfinger, 1964) is just finishing up a mission when they receive orders to eliminate a Soviet threat in Egypt. They question the order because of the global implications of carrying it out, tipping the reader off that the French Prime Minister is a doppelganger. The reader is left to wonder if they will follow orders. And in the third story, America’s officially sanctioned superhero, who has the power to influence US policy decisions, holds a press conference in which he advocates diplomacy as a peaceful resolution rather than war. However, when the masked crusader arrives home, he discovers a doppelganger waiting to step into his place.

French Pilots in action

The concept of using doppelgangers is not a new one, especially to the spy/espionage genre and of course the Bond franchise. In Thunderball (1965) and Never Say Never Again, doppelgangers were incorporated in the storyline: French NATO pilot Francois Derval and USAF pilot Jack Petachi (this impersonator also undergoes a retinal operation) respectively. These two Bondian examples were characters with high level security clearance rather than heads of state as in Codename Action, but they still had coveted access to nuclear bombs. And, one must not forget that even the various Blofeld characters in Diamonds are Forever (1971) were doppelgangers of Bond’s ongoing nemesis.

Other Bond tropes exist in Codename Action. Although the villain or secret organization is unknown at present after issue one, we do have M (Director Flagg) and a gadget specialist referred to as Quartermaster. There are gadgets aplenty, from low tech to high tech. We are deep into Bondesque territory, but writer Chris Roberson, who has written for several ongoing titles – Fables, House of Mystery, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Memorial from earlier this year - keeps the story fresh and readers looking forward to the next installment.

Lau uses white space to his advantage while Nunes colours and Bowland's lettering completes the page

Rounding out the Codename Action creative team: Jonathan Lau, Illustrator and Dynamite exclusive artist (Bionic Man, Green Hornet); Simon Bowland, Letterer; and Ivan Nunes, Colorist. Lau does a great job keeping the panels uncluttered and easy to follow. For example, the motion of a car chase and an aerial maneuver by the French pilots and parachutists is not stifled by too much detail, or alternatives, by not enough. Lau experiments with panel placement and size and is not afraid to incorporate white space to further the action on the page.  Bowland has a variety of dialogue types to contend with – television coverage, translation of an exchange in a foreign language, along with the typical dialogue of characters in the various scenes. He makes clear demarcations of the various dialogues via his lettering techniques that are clean and crisp. Nunes sticks with a palette of muted blues, greens, and browns that compliment Lau’s work beautifully and gives a serious undertone to the series.

Typical of Dynamite, they have offered up readers five “regular” cover styles from the some of the industry’s top artists including Francisco Francavilla (writer/artist of the recent noir series, The Black Beetle) and Jae Lee (cover artist of Stephen King’s Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born series). Francavilla and Jason Ullmeyer’s covers spotlight the agent story while Johnny Desjadins cover highlights the French pilots storyline. While at the moment, it would seem that Lee’s cover takes a decidedly sexy tone rather than focus on any of the storylines at all. In addition, Dynamite offered up exclusive, incentive, and ultra limited cover art for the few fortunate collectors out there.

Dynamite treats readers to several cover choices

Codename Action can be found at your local comic book shop for $3.99 and is a six-issue series from Dynamite.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Espionage Filmography, A Review

I recently picked up The Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1989-1999 during an online sale at the McFarland Publishers website since I had seen the book before, but hadn’t purchased it. Written by Paul Mavis, the oversized book has two indexes: cast list (70 pages) and crew list (40 pages), plus a two-page bibliography. There are 1,760 entries laid out alphabetically, starting with The Abductors (1957) and ending with Zotz! (1962). Each movie includes year of release, alternate titles, running time, format, cast and crew, distributor, brief synopsis, and comments by the author, which might include a quote of a review at the time of the release. While the book’s title indicates releases for the United States only, if a foreign film had a release in the US, it was included. For example, we tend to forget that the Bond films are foreign, but all of them are given their due in Mavis’ book. It also accounts for why there are so few Eurospy films included in the book. Seasoned with a light hand are good quality black and white photographs of movie posters, lobby cards and stills.

According to his bibliography, Mavis relied on the American Film Institute’s catalogue for much of his list, which accounts for some gaps in the movies listed. For instance, prolific director Doris Wishman’s Double Agent 73 starring is one such gap. And in one review comment on Amazon, early films that films shorter than five reels (the pre-1920 films) would have not been in the AFI catalogue, so consequently are not in this book. I think a chronological listing would have been helpful for connecting trends in the genre and general comparative studies. Also, since Mavis cast a wide net for films – he included some unexpected agencies such as the Post Master, Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice – a list of films by agency portrayed would have been fascinating. Hence, a real missed opportunity to dissect the genre in a new way.

I found the comments were helpful when they included reviews and/or analysis at the time of the release, mostly because the quotes provide a quick glimpse of historical context. I think this is the book’s strength, well, if that is where your research and interest takes you. The author’s personal comments were interesting from an anecdotal standpoint, but at times, they were too brief and of no substance. For example, the 1970 Sabra explored an Arab investigator’s unorthodox torturous relationship with an Israeli spy sounds fascinating and unique, but Mavis’ comment is too brisk and dismissive.

Keeping a book current is very difficult when it is a filmography. However, at the risk of dating the book with ever changing availability (I’m thinking grind house movies making a comeback from obscurity after the release of Planet Terror), missing from each entry was whether the movie was readily available on DVD, VHS, or via streaming. This is a feature that Blake and Deal included in their book The Eurospy Guide (2004, Luminary Press) and they included comments on the format quality, which was helpful when I was trying to find copies of particular films.

Of course, those items aside, it does come down to deciding whether to spend forty bucks on materials that you can find through searches on IMDB, Wikipedia or the American Film Institute. For the spy and espionage enthusiast (or completionist), this book belongs in your personal library, but if you are counting your pennies and you have the extra time, do the research online.