Book Review “DC Comics: A Visual History”

Author: by Daniel Wallace
Hardcover: 376 pages
Publisher: DK ADULT
Release Date: September 29, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

DC Comics is becoming much more relevant recently following the success of Marvels. Especially with the bunch of new films announced by DC including “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, fans are going to be looking for history of these characters in preparation for the films. This updated and expanded edition of “DC Comics: A Visual History” is a must have for any comic fan. It includes 16 new pages to cover 2010-2014 and an amazing new slipcase design along with two NEW prints packed inside. This has everything any fan would want to find out. It is detailed as hell and jam-packed with amazing information.

Official Premise: Trace DC’s fascinating story: the company’s beginnings as National Allied Publications in the 1934, and its subsequent change to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1937. The book details all the major DC publishing landmarks and more, displayed clearly, month by month. Highlighting the debuts of iconic super heroes like Superman and Batman, the geniuses that invented them, and the real-life events, like the Vietnam War, the atom bomb, and the Space Race, that shaped the atmosphere of the times, DC Comics: A Visual History follows the characters’ foray into the real world through TV series and blockbuster movies.

There is a solid foreword from former president of DC Comics (2002-2009), Paul Levitz. I have to admit, even though I have been a huge Batman and Superman fan since I was a kid, I have never been too big on the rest of the universe that was surrounding them. After reading this book, I understand that it is quite massive and really exciting to see what is set to come in the future. DK did an amazing job on this release, it is a literally a marvel (no pun intended) to look at and is so detailed, colorful and there is not an inch wasted throughout as it is filled with amazing images and facts.


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Book Review “Batman: A Visual History”

Author: Matt Forbeck
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: DK ADULT
Release Date: September 29, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow! When they say that this is the “definitive guide to the world of the Dark Knight”, they are not exaggerating. “Batman: A Visual History” is easily one of the best books that I have received in recent years along with the DK released “DC Comics: A Visual History”. This book follows Batman from his first appearance in 1939 right through today, which is it’s 75th anniversary. The book also includes two original prints! If you are a Batman fan, this is the ultimate book for any fan, young or old.

Official Premise: “Batman: A Visual History” follows the DC Comics hero from his 1939 origin as a vigilante created by Bob Kane to his present status as a worldwide cultural icon. The book features Batman’s greatest stories and charts the careers of the Super Heroes and super-villains associated with the Dark Knight, including Robin, the Justice League, the Joker, and Catwoman.

I literally just stared at this book when I received it. It is absolutely stunning. It is also large as hell. It comes in this beautiful slipcase with specially commissioned artwork by a top DC Comics artist. I have been a Batman film since I was about 6 years old when Tim Burton’s “Batman” hit theaters. This book is just perfect. I do not think words can honestly do it justice. When you open the book is jam-packed with so much information and there is not a inch of space wasted on any page. Cannot recommend anymore!

Book Review “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History”

Author: Andrew Farago
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: June 24, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are my jam. They just are amazing. I grew up with them from the very first episode on TV when I was a kid. I had all the action figures, t-shirts, Halloween costumes etc. What I love the most about them is that they have been around for 25 years now and are just as cool as they were when I was a kid. With the new live-action $100 million dollar movie coming out this August only proves that point. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History” is the latest companion book put out by Insight Editions. This book is literally a must own for any TMNT fan, no question. It has the same feel as other Insight releases like “The Dark Knight Manual” and literally a piece of art itself.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History” takes us through the entire history of these heroes in a half shell. We are in their first appearance with their black-and-white comics to the new hit animation show from Nickelodeon and even the latest Michael Bay–produced live-action movie. There are tons of great interviews with every key figure in the Turtles’ evolution including co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, animation legend Fred Wolf, creature effects maestro Brian Henson, and even Vanilla Ice, who made my made the song “Ninja Rap” from the film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II The Secret of the Ooze”. So there are plenty of great content to accompany this visual history.

I was found myself just starring at each page for minutes just soaking up all the details and beautiful content included in this book. This is one of those books that you need to go through a few times just to get every time out of it. Also like I mentioned, like “The Dark Knight Manual”, this book has numerous pull outs and bonus extras included through the book. I love that Insight comes out with these great books for their fans, it is a really a treat opening this book it is not only visual amazing with the high quality images but also with the additional content. If all that isn’t enough in the back of the book, there is a reprint of the original #1 comic included, which is worth the price of the book alone and then there is also a fold out decent poster size of our green friends. If you love TMNT, I just cannot stress enough that you need to have this in your collection!

Visual Effects Legend Ray Harryhausen Dead at 92

James Cameron. Steven Spielberg. John Lasseter. Rick Baker. Peter Jackson. No, the category isn’t Oscar winners. It’s a list of people whose careers were influenced by one of films true legends: Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen, whose career spanned six decades, died today in London. He was 92.

Beginning with 1942’s “Tulips Shall Grow” and ending with his best known film, 1981’s “Clash of the Titans,” Harryhausen inspired moviegoers throughout the world.

Born in Los Angeles on June 29, 1920, Harryhausen’s life changed when, in 1933, he saw the original “King Kong.” Interested in filmmaking, and experimenting in animation, a friend introduced him to Willis O’Brien, who had created Kong. He showed O’Brien some of his work and was soon taking classes in sculpture and graphic arts. In 1939 he and an author friend joined a local Science Fiction League which was presided over by Forrest J. Ackerman. The author was Ray Bradbury and the three remained friends up until their deaths. One of my most cherished autographs!

After securing a job working on George Pal’s “Puppetoons” he was drafted into the United States Army, where he was placed in the Special Services Division under the command of Colonel Frank Capra. He was a jack-of-all-trades for Capra, filling in wherever a hand was needed on his film crew. After his discharge Harryhausen went to work on his first big film, 1947’s “Mighty Joe Young,” which allowed him the chance to work with his idol, O’Brien, who went on to win that years Academy Award for Best Special Effects. He went on to produce the visual effects for such films as “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “Earth vs the Flying Saucers,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and it’s sequels, “One Million Years B.C.” and “The Valley Gwangi.”

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Harryhausen on a couple of occasions and a nicer man with a genuine affection for his fans you will never find.

In 1992 he received the Gordon E. Sawyer award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But perhaps a greater honor came in PIXAR’s hit film “Monsters, Inc., where Mike Wozowski takes his dinner date to the best place in town. It’s name: Harryhausens.

Book Review "Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary"

Author: Paul Ruditis
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: DK CHILDREN
Release Date: March 18, 2013

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Are you a fan of the “Star Trek” franchise? Or just becoming a fan? Either way there is something here for you in the “Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary”. Obviously this book is aimed for the younger audience but it is still delivers. It covers the everything “Star Trek” including the live-action TV series and films. The book is only 96 pages, so it is a little crammed but there is a lot of great content included in this book. Fans of the “Star Trek” universe take a look at the characters, aliens, starships, and technology from this incredibly vast franchise. I highly recommend for all Trekkies.

We start off with a wonderful forward from John de Lancie (who played Q in “TNG”). I have had the priveldge of chatting with John and he is such a cool guy.  He contributed so much to this show throughout his few episodes and remains of my favorite characters. Each of the series gets its own sections to showcase their ship, captain, and crew. We also get to explore the various races in the series inclduing the Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Borg, Dominion, and Cardassians. If you know “Star Trek” then you know what a vast universe this is. So does this book cover everything? No. But it is enough to showcase the most important parts of the show and will easily assist with any new fans young and old.

For a long-time fan like myself, I was still able to learn new specific details about various characters and many obscure facts like costume or weapon background info. The images are extremely high quality and very detailed as well. You can tell that there is no shortage to the level of attention given to this book. The author, Paul Ruditis, worked in full collaboration with CBS Consumer Products on this, so you know everything is accurate and valid. With the new “Star Trek” movie just around the corner and the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of “TNG”, “Star Trek” has never been more popular and this is a great way to get your fix.

Book Review "Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion"

Author: Mark Salisbury
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions (February 5, 2013)

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When I first heard that Tim Burton was making a full-length stop-motion feature remake of his original 80’s short film of the same name. I think I did a back flip.  When I saw the film on the other hand I was a little bit disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong the film was visually amazing.  I am huge fan of the art of stop-motion and I feel that it doesn’t get enough attention that it deserves.  The film has grown on it quite a bit with repeat viewings. There is a lot to this film that can be missed with just one viewing.

Let me tell you after reading through “Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion”, I have more appreciation for the amount of work that was put into this film.  I will be scheduling a screening within the next week to revisit this film again just thanks to this book.  To start off there is a terrific foreword by the man himself Tim Burton.  This project has been a real labor of love for him and it really setup up the pace for this book.  Disney Editions has delivered a absolutely gorgeous hardcover book with some really amazing photos jam-packed throughout. I end up reviewing quite a bit of companion or art-of books for various films or video games and this one literally is one of the best I have seen since “The Art of Tron Legacy”.

When it comes to the author Mark Salisbury, if he is doing a companion or art-of book then I know that it is going to be amazing.  Just in 2012, he also authored “Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion” and “Prometheus: The Art of the Film”.  They were easily two of my favorite in 2012.  If you are looking for an in-depth look at the making of “Frankenweenie”, then you will not be left wanting more there.  There is everything from early sketches, puppets development and tons of amazing behind-the-scenes photography. The film is black and white but this book is packed with great color while still respecting and giving ode to the black and white charm the film carriers.

This book was originally scheduled to be released with the film’s theatrical launch but was pushed back to February, which I guess is time with the recent Blu-ray release.  I have to tell you that this is worth the wait for sure.  It is too bad that this film was not better received since like I said after reading this book, you really have to tip your hat to these talented people that are responsible for this film.  Lastly be sure to take a little peak behind the dust cover for a very nice surprise.  I look forward to future releases from Disney Editions, as they have literally never delivered nothing but perfection.

Book Review “LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary”

Author: Simon Beecroft
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: DK Publishing
Release Date: September 21, 2009

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

DK Publishing is known for taking care of the nerds with books focusing on  Star Wars, Harry Potter and Batman and much more. This Visual Dictionary looks into the world of LEGO Star Wars, it is a blend of characters with showcasing on the current available LEGO Star Wars sets. To top off the coolness of this book, it comes with an exclusive Like Skywalker mini-figure. If you are looking for the go-to book for LEGO Star Wars, I would highly recommend “LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia”. This book would be perfect if it ran a little longer, it clocks in at under 100 pages.

Official Synopsis: In true DK style, LEGO® Star Wars™: The Visual Dictionary elucidates, illuminates, and excites even the most discerning LEGO Group, Star Wars™, and minifigure fans around the world. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and more are brought to life with dozens of little-known facts and hundreds of photos of accessories, vehicles, weapons, and even the Death Star! Learn about the history, manufacturing, and construction of the minifigures of the Star Wars galaxy, and come away a LEGO® Jedi Master.

One thing this book was successful at was making me want run out and purchase some new LEGO Star Wars sets.  Luckily Santa Claus brought me the new LEGO giant R2-D2 set, so this book has inspired me to get to building that set ASAP.  Even though I prefer “LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia”, this book has more detail in various aspect of LEGO Star Wars, not just the characters. So it is recommended to have both book as a companion to each other. With the LEGO Star Wars universe only growing each year, I am excited to see what DK Publishing is planning next.


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Book Review “Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion”

Author: Mark Salisbury
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: November 27, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When I first saw Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s “Dark Shadows”, I have to say I was a little let down.  I am very familiar with the 70’s Soap Opera series and I thought this would have been a perfect collaboration for them.  After my second viewing of the film, I enjoyed it a bit more.  Honestly after reading this visual companion, I am feeling very compelled (vampireget it?) to watch this film again. This book literally takes you through every aspect of the film from the characters to the score.  If you have your doubts about this film, I suggest you check out this book it will easily convince you to give the film a chance.

“Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion” is wonderful produced by Titan Books, yet another gem. Author Mark Salisbury was in close cooperation with Tim Burton and the production team during its creation.  It includes a very nice foreword by Depp, an Introduction by Burton and an afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck.  I really enjoyed Zanuck’s words, it is sad that this was his last film but at least from his what he said it seems like he really enjoyed the experience.  Mark Salisbury is the former editor of Britain’s magazine, Empire, and has worked with Burton before including “Alice in Wonderland: A Visual Companion” (one of my favorites) and also on “Burton on Burton”.

Like the film itself, this book really took two going throughs in order to really wow me.  I did my usual quick flip through to see what catches my eye and I though it looked good but not great.  But when I really dug into this book, I realized that it was in fact a great visual companion, as it is titled.  It is jam packed with wonderful photos, concept drawings and production designs.  You really get to learn about the characters and their part in the film.  There are also some great interviews with the cast and crew.  All that would normally be good enough for me but there is still more.  They touch on the visual effects, creating the town of Collinswood and even the score from Danny Elfman.  There is not a detail left out here.  So if you whether you are a fan of this film or a curious party, I highly recommend picking this up.

Book Review “The Art of John Carter: A Visual Journey”

Author: Josh Kushins
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions
Release Date: March 6, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The film “John Carter” is visually amazing…whether you like the film or not. I happened to really like it. I thought it was very entertaining and fun. This book really brings forward John Carter’s best qualities…it’s visual effects. There is also a great nod to “A Princess of Mars” author Edgar Rice Burroughs throughout. If you enjoyed this film, I would highly recommend this book as a perfect companion to the film.

Disney Editions never let me down on their “Art of” books. This book really delivers the whole film in a nice wrapping. If you haven’t seen this film and read this book it will definitely send you out to the store to pick up the Blu-ray for sure. The art presented in this book is the highest image quality and fantastic paper stock. I am a big fan of intros and afterwords and this book does not disappoint. Director of John Stanton delivers a great kick-off to this visual journey. Also art director of “John Carter”, Ryan Church, respectively closes the book and does a great wrap-up job.

“The Art of John Carter: A Visual Journey” covers every aspect of the film starting with the character of John Carter to Barsoom to the Tharks. The art that is showcased in this book ranges from sketches, paintings, 3D renders and film stills used for comparison. I am big proprietor of Disney Editions books and I was completely satisfied with this book and I would even say it made me like the film even more. Now I get to go back and watch it again with the knowledge from the book and just realize how much work has really gone into the creation of this film from the pages of a book to the screen.

Book Review “The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion”

Author(s): Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 17, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Joss Whedon is literally a God amongst his fans.  He is the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”,”Firefly” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog”, just to name a few.  He also wrote/directed a little film called “Marvel’s The Avengers”.  Match that with the genius of Drew Goddard, writer of “Cloverfield” & “Serenity” and you get one of the best horror film of the year.  This book is official visual companion and it is easily the best companion book that I have ever seen.  It is not only caters to fans of Whedon but all horror fans a like.

This book features an amazing 40-pages visual in-depth interview with both Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard.  It simply answers ever single question any fan can have about the film and its production.  It also includes the full screenplay by Whedon and Goddard accompanied by some fantastic production art and hundreds of color photos.  The images included are really high quality and although no hardcover it still looks great.  Lastly the film goes into great details on the film’s creatures, but I will stop there as not to spoil anything.

Be warned if you have not seen this film, do not pick it up prior to watching since it contains mucho spoilers.  If you have seen the film then you can’t pick it up quicker as it is not only super descriptive about the film but it encompasses every aspect a fan can wish for. Overall this book is really well produced by Titan Books, who delivered yet another amazing release.  They are the best when it comes to providing fans with the official visual companions.

Book Review “Serenity: The Official Visual Companion”

Author: Joss Whedon
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: September 1, 2005

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Serenity” is one hell of visual movie and a great follow-up to the “Firefly” TV series. My favorite part of this book is the beautiful movie stills, storyboards and rare pieces of production art. Most of the book consists of the the full shooting script accompanied by these photos. It really brings you into the development of the film. Either way this it is definitely great for the fans of the series and movies.

If you are unaware of the premise for the film it takes place “five hundred years in the future, Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew of the transport-for-hire ship Serenity take on two new passengers and soon find themselves in a crossfire between an invincible military force and cannibalistic savages”. It is written and directed by Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”. in his feature film directorial debut. It wasn’t a success at the box office, which I wish it was, so the future fate of the show was mostly lost, though fans have keep it alive in their own way.

This paperback edition includes full color pictures from the movie and looks really sharp. There is a great introduction by Joss Whedon and it is an ode to his fans. Also included is a very in-depth interview with him about the making of the film. One feature I found very neat was the shooting script that is included in the book also includes scenes cut from the final film. There are production and background memos provided by Whedon, which are great to be able to read. Lastly if you really want to emerge yourself in the film there is a great “A Brief History of the Universe”, circa 2507 A.D. Final word: No-brainer for fans.