content by

Jim Beard

“They Cut Up My Brain!” — The New Apes Project

It begins, as it should, with Heston.

The prologue to the new illustrated prose novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, published by Archaia, kicks off with these pithy words of actor Charlton Heston, as astronaut George Taylor:

“Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbors’ children starving?”

It’s so pretentious, you want to just smack him. But its not COPOTA’s author Drew Gaska’s fault—that’s the way the classic 1968 film begins. After that, Gaska picks up the ball and runs into new territory, and that’s what makes this book really exciting. I won’t spoil the surprises here—and there are surprises, just like in the first film—but suffice to say that I think this book’s a worthy addition to the franchise.

What Gaska’s done here is, basically, read between the lines of Planet of the Apes. We all know what happened to Taylor, but after the astronauts were captured by apes in the field, what happened to Landon between the time he was netted and when we later see him with his brain “cut up”? Ahh, there’s the rub of Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes.

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Series: Goes Ape!

“I Double Doc Dare You!” — Reunion in Bronze

From 1933 to 1949, Doc Savage strode tall through the pages of pulp fiction and cemented himself as one of the “greats” of the genre. Not as much of a household name as, say, The Shadow, Doc can claim a passel of passionate admirers, and a new Man of Bronze novel is cause for celebration. Thank Altus Press for that.

Doc’s publishing history is a fascinating one. After his pulp heyday, the character found new life in reprints in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, owing something to the “camp” craze. In other words, “modern” audiences found the Bronze Giant’s original adventures could be read with an entirely new mindset. As the Bantam reprints wound down, Doc fan and author Will Murray pushed forward with the idea of new adventures. What elevated him above others of the same bent was that Murray was armed with the keenest of weaponry: original Doc Savage writer/creator Lester Dent’s notes and unpublished fragments.

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A Brief History of Batman’s Trunks

Let’s get something straight here: they’re trunks, not underwear. Nobody but losers wear their underwear on the outside—and Batman ain’t no loser, see?

We’ve lost many precious things as a society over the centuries, but perhaps one of the saddest would have to be the racial memory of the origins of superhero costumes. The ability to look at the Caped Crusader’s fighting togs and see nothing but the proud heritage of the circus performer is slipping farther and farther away from us—and we are poorer for it. What was once simply a piece of apparel not too dissimilar to bathing trunks is now ridiculed as “underwear on the outside.” The universe weeps.

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Series: Bat-Week

Harriet Ascending: The Queer Case of Dick’s Aunt

Hoagy Carmichael created Aunt Harriet.

Take in an earful of “Rockin’ Chair” and… huh? Listen, you think I’m making this up? That little nugget of Bat-history comes straight from the great Julius Schwartz himself! Wait—what? “Who’s Hoagy Carmichael?” Hey, you’ve got the internets at your finger tips, bub—the entire universe of early-20th century jazz crooners is just a double-click away. Me, I’m simply here to pay homage to one of the most maligned, most misunderstood, most under-appreciated Batman cast members ever.

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Series: Bat-Week

Legends of the Super-Weird TV Specials

The release of the 1979 Legends of the Superheroes television specials on DVD doesn’t exactly salve the open, festering wound from the absence of the 1966 Batman series on similar stratum…but it helps. A little bit. Okay, not so much.

But, c’mon; despite their, ah, dubious worth, these specials stand as one of the only times Adam West and Burt Ward donned their famous roles outside their legendary TV run of the 60s, so cut them some slack. We Batman ’66 fans are mostly-pathetic creatures, scrounging for scraps and watching for signs and sigils of the Second Coming. We deserve the Legends of the Superheroes DVD from Warner’s Archive Collection (only available online through their “burn on demand” program—order yours today!).

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Gotham City 14 Miles: The Fifteenth Mile

Back in the early 1970s, I attended Saturday morning art classes at our local art museum and on Day One of my very first year I sat down at the table, a bit nervous and timid, and was presented with the first assignment: build a Batmobile. My young life was complete; they may as well have presented me with a thousand dollars and all the peanut butter sandwiches I could eat. Looking around, I wondered where the Candid Camera was…

That little kid also knew that he could carry his cardboard and construction paper Batmobile home that day and look forward to playing with it in front of a TV set showing the 1960s Batman series. It was still in heavy syndication then, a constant and welcome distraction from life’s pressures. Oh, how I pity the little kids of today.

But, here’s a radical thought: maybe they’re not ready for it.

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