American Vampire

In my last post, I discussed vampires from space. Today, we’ll take a look at thoroughly Earth-bound vampires, though we will travel back in time to 1920s Hollywood and even a little further back to the Old West. The comic book series American Vampire first captured my attention because one of its stories was written by Stephen King. Even though King’s works had been adapted for comics, American Vampire was the first time King actually scripted a comic. What’s more, I had enjoyed the way King played with the tropes of the American west in his novel, The Gunslinger, so I hoped he’d capture some of that magic again in a novel actually set in the American west.

American Vampire

The first volume of American Vampire actually tells two stories. The lead story, written by Scott Snyder, introduces us to Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress in 1920s Hollywood. As the story opens, she’s pretty much just picked up small parts in films, but it looks like her luck may change when she’s invited to a party hosted by some of the players in the movie industry. It turns out these producers and directors are vampires and she’s there as part of the buffet. Somehow she survives the initial assault and a mysterious stranger, who also proves to be a vampire, helps her become a vampire. The mysterious stranger is Skinner Sweet, a vampire who appears to have a grudge against the old European vampires who attacked Pearl.

The other story running through the issues is Skinner Sweet’s origin story penned by Stephen King. We meet Sweet as a human outlaw on a train. A Pinkerton agent is taking him to face justice. Sweet expects to be freed by his gang, but one of the men who paid the Pinkertons is a European vampire who wants Sweet dead so he can fulfill his plans. The vampire attacks Sweet and appears to kill him. Unknown to anyone, Sweet managed to drink some of the vampire’s blood. Sweet is buried, but eventually rises again years later. This segment is told through the eyes of a successful author who wrote a book based on Sweet’s story. For the most part, it worked. King did lean heavily on the tropes of the American west, plus tropes within his own writing, but he delivered a solid vampire origin story.

The two stories weave a tale of vampires evolving in the new world. American vampires have new powers and fewer weaknesses than their European counterparts. As a metaphor for Americans embracing the new and moving forward, sometimes in dangerous ways, I found this interesting. Still, as a scientist who likes to ask why things happen, I wanted to better understand why American vampires are fundamentally different from European vampires. What’s the mechanism that caused vampires to evolve in this world? Admittedly, I’ve only read volume one, which contains the first five issues of the comic, so it’s possible this is explored more later.

Both stories were nicely told, but I think the real star of the comic was Rafael Albuquerque’s art. Having the same artist on both stories really helped to unify them. Also Albuquerque’s art felt very dynamic, which fit the stories well. I loved his use of color to both differentiate the stories and set the moods of the stories.

Another thing I appreciated in the graphic novel editions was the inclusion of sample script and early art pages. As someone who has long been fascinated by the process of creating comics, I liked this behind-the-scenes look.

You can learn more about my vampire comic, Guinevere and the Stranger by visiting http://davidleesummers.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order.html

CoKoCon 2022

I’ll be celebrating Labor Day Weekend at CoKoCon 2022 in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. The convention is being held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Phoenix Tempe in Tempe, Arizona. CoKoCon is a traditional science fiction convention with panels, an art show, a dealer’s room, gaming and room parties. The author guest of honor is Joseph Nassise, who I have been proud to share a dealer’s table with at Phoenix Comic Con a couple of times. We also shared a table of contents in an issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine. The local guest of honor is the multi-talented Linda Addison. She’s a poet, storyteller and winner of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America. The artist guest of honor is Ave Rose, who is an automation maker and a jewelry designer. You can get all the details about CoKoCon on their website at: https://www.cokocon.org.

Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the dealer’s room and I will be on several panels through the weekend. My schedule is as follows:

Friday, September 2

7:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Cryptids During the Pandemic. While humans were staying home during lockdown, did Bigfoot come out to play? Panelists discuss these mysterious beasts and how they differ from other mythical monsters. On the panel with me are Joseph Nassise and Avily Jerome.

Saturday, September 3

1:00pm – Coronado Room – To See New Earths. I’ll introduce Kitt Peak’s planet-hunting detector, NEID, and discuss its role supporting NASA’s TESS mission, hunting for Earth-like planets outside the solar system.

6:00pm – Coronado Room – Writing Speculative Poetry. I’ll join Linda Addison and Beth Cato to discuss the craft and market for speculative poetry, and maybe we’ll even share some of our work.

Sunday, September 4

2:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Mapping the Universe. Kitt Peak’s DESI instrument is engaged in a five-year mission to make the largest 3D map in the universe. How does it work? What are some things we’ve learned along the way? And what do we ultimately hope to learn?

7:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Historical Fiction Meets Fantasy. What is the proper proportion of facts with fiction when writing historical fantasy? What resources can authors turn to. What are the perils and joys of research? On the panel with me are Beth Cato, Bruce Davis, and Dani Hoots.


If you’re in the Phoenix metro area this coming weekend, I hope you’ll drop into CoKoCon and say “hello.”

Bubonicon 53

This weekend, I’m excited that Bubonicon will return in person. The convention will be held at the Albuquerque Mariott Uptown from August 26-28. This year’s theme is “After the Plague Years, Plagues and Pandemics in SF/F.” The author guests of honor are are Rae Carson who wrote the Rise of Skywalker novelization and Keith R.A. DeCandido who wrote the Serenity Movie novelization. Keith R.A. DeCandido also wrote All-the-Way House, which is volume 4 of the Systema Paradoxa series. My Breaking the Code is volume 3.The artist guest of honor is Chaz Kemp, who did the covers for the current editions of my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. The toastmaster is A. Lee Martinez, author of Constance Verity Destroys the Universe.

Among the other attendees this year will be Jane Lindskold, George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, Ian Tregillis, Robert E. Vardeman, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the Flea Market. Several other familiar faces will be there with great products, including Who Else Books, Ashelon Publishing, and 7000 BC Comics.

I’ll be on the following panels at Bubonicon:

Friday, August 26

4pm – Main Room – Steampunk Versus Alternate History. Science fiction never blinks at incorporating events and icons of history but when it comes to Steampunk, an argument is bubbling in boilers about what makes something “steampunk” and what makes it “alternate history.” Why are authors hesitant to combine history with their fantasy? Where is the line (if any) between “steampunk” and “alternate history”? On the panel with me will be Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn. Chaz Kemp will be moderating.

Saturday, August 27

1pm – Main Room – Why I have Done Young Adult Fiction. Writers discuss why they have done or currently are doing Young Adult novels. What is the appeal? Are there things that can be done in YA fiction that can’t be done in so-called adult novels? How do you approach writing for the YA or Middle School market? Do you have to write the tales differently? How do you avoid talking down to young readers? What makes a tale good for YA as opposed to adult SF/F? What can other genres learn from YA in terms of story, theme, or vision of the future? Why should other writers read YA works? On the panel with me will be Rae Carson, Darynda Jones and Emily Mah. Betsy James will be moderating.

3pm – Cimarron/Las Cruces Room – Snack Writes: Writing Exercises. Josh Gentry will be moderating this panel where he gives three writers a prompt and then 5 minutes to write something. Then the writers read what they have and audience also gets to read their writing. Also on the panel are Robert E. Vardeman and Jane Lindskold.

4:25pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing. The authors of Bubonicon will be on hand to autograph your books.

Sunday, August 28

10am – Main Room – Ray Bradbury: Beyond Green Town and Mars. I’ll be moderating this panel discussing Ray Bradbury’s short stories not under his Green Town or Mars mythology. Why was the platform of a short story so alluring to him and why should readers return to reading them? What were some of his works that are even more relevant today? What was it about his language, his plot timing, and the genius of his work? Is he as lyrical in his stories as the writing in his few true novels? On the panel are Lou J. Berger, Sheila Finch, Wil McCarthy, Patricia Rogers, and Connie Willis.

12:30pm – Main Room – Editing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Come and hear stories about edits which went above and beyond clarity and reason. Writers discuss different editing styles they’ve encountered, and talk about some of the good and bad experiences they’ve had with editors. (Names will be withheld to protect the innocent!) On the panel with me will be Jane Lindskold, Jim Sorenson, and Sarina Ulibarri. C.C. Finlay will be moderating.

2:30pm – Salons A-D – 50 Minutes with David Lee Summers. I will read a selection or two from my stories including my novella “Breaking the Code.” I’ll also likely discuss a little of what’s new in my astronomy life.


If you’re in Albuquerque this coming weekend, I hope to see you at Bubonicon 53!

Arkham Dreams

In several posts, I’ve mentioned being a Star Trek fan from a very young age. Even before I discovered Star Trek, I was a fan of the Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Part of Batman’s appeal in whatever format is the rogue’s gallery of colorful criminals who try to get away with some dastardly deed only to be foiled by the caped crusader and the boy wonder. My favorite villains at the time were the Penguin played by Burgess Meredith and Egghead played by Vincent Price. Nowadays, I’ve come to appreciate Caesar Romero as the Joker and all the talented actresses who played Catwoman.

Over the years, I’ve remained a fan of the Penguin as a character. Some of that, no doubt, is because I still hear Burgess Meredith’s performance whenever I see the character in the comics. I have to admit, I liked the Penguin’s tuxedo. Some of the appeal came from the Penguin’s use of gadgets hidden in umbrellas. As a kid, umbrellas were fairly easy to come by, so it was easy to play the part without many other accessories. I have to admit, the fact that the Penguin was portrayed a bullied, bookish kid in the comics played on my sympathies. In fact one of my favorite Penguin origin stories was “The Killing Peck” written by Alan Grant with art by Sam Kieth. As it turns out, I wrote about the artist just over a year ago, when I reflected on the comic and animated series, The Maxx.

Batman meets the Maxx

I recently learned that in 2018, Sam Kieth returned to both the worlds of The Maxx and Batman in a comic book miniseries called Arkham Dreams. Three issues of the mini-series were released in 2018, then there was a hiatus, and the series was finished at the end of 2020. The Maxx himself is a large, purple-clad homeless superhero. In Arkham Dreams, we find him in Gotham City going back and forth between the real world and the Outback, which is the world of the subconscious, and, as it happens, fertile ground for exploring both the psyche of Batman and many of his nemeses. The story opens with the Maxx among Gotham’s homeless. Batman catches up with him and takes him to Arkham Asylum for treatment. Of course, Arkham is where many of Batman’s rogues gallery are housed when they’re not committing crimes. At Arkham, Batman encounters a new doctor named Disparu who is trying a new treatment on the Penguin. With the Maxx at Arkham, the worlds of Gotham City and the Outback begin to merge and the two heroes must figure out why this happening and whose Outback they’re going into before the world devolves into chaos.

I love it when characters from different universes meet. Part of what made The Maxx great was its quirky sense of humor even as it delved into serious issues against a psychedelic backdrop. These days, Batman is known for its grim and gritty storytelling, but the best stories often include a certain sense of fun. When that sense of fun is taken to an extreme, Batman becomes like the Adam West and Burt Ward TV series. Pull it back just a little and you find a middle ground where the Maxx and Batman work well together. My favorite part of Arkham Dreams is that even though it’s a crossover, it doesn’t forget to continue some of the narrative from the original Maxx series of the 90s and we get a nice continuation of the story of Maxx and his friend Julie Winters even as Batman confronts the psyches of his rogues gallery.

The real joy of a Sam Kieth book is the art, which is in fine form here. There is a fascinating sequence where the Maxx and Batman are going back and forth between the two worlds. In the Outback, they’re on an air whale battling a strange infection that’s hurting the creature. In the real world, they’re trying to release bombs placed by the Joker on an airship. Arkham Dreams is available in a handsome hardcover edition, which includes all five issues of the comic plus a cover gallery.

If you’re in the mood for crossover stories and want to see the time the Clockwork Legion met the Scarlet Order vampires, read the story “Fountains of Blood” in the collection Straight Outta Tombstone available in ebook at: https://www.amazon.com/Straight-Outta-Tombstone-David-Boop-ebook/dp/B071JGTN3H/

The Tyrant of Mongo

Today, I’m at Wild Wild West Con in Tucson, Arizona. At 3pm today, I’ll be on the “Authors of Steampunk” panel and at 11am tomorrow, I’ll be discussing the Oz novels of L. Frank Baum and related media in a panel called “Oz: A Literary Perspective.” When I’m not at those panels, you’ll be able to find me at my dealer’s table in the vendor hall. If you’re around the convention at all this weekend, please make sure to stop by and say “hello.” It seems fitting to have a post about the original Flash Gordon comics during Wild Wild West Con since I met Sam J. Jones who played Flash in the 1980 movie at the convention five years ago and I still love these comics as a wonderful piece of retrofuturism, which is one of the things Steampunk represents.

Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo

Back in January, when taking my youngest child back to college for the spring semester, we went shopping for supplies at a nearby big box store. I happened to notice two lovely action figures. One was Flash Gordon and the other was Ming the Merciless, both modeled on the characters as they appeared in the 1979 animated series produced by Filmation. As an action figure fan, I was tempted to add these to my collection, but the price tag was enough to give me pause. I thought about it and decided that what I wanted more than a couple of action figures was to read more of Alex Raymond’s original comic strips from the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, I discovered that the earliest volumes of Titan Books’ wonderful Flash Gordon series had gone out of print. After searching a few online bookstores, I finally found the second volume for a price that wasn’t much more than the cover price.

As I expected, the book was a lot of fun. The original Flash Gordon comics appeared in Sunday newspapers and this second volume collects strips from 1937 through 1941. It did give me pause to realize there had been less time between the original publication to my birth than from my birth to today! The comics open with Flash at the residence of Prince Barin of Arborea. The prince has recently married Princess Aura, daughter of Ming the Merciless. A traitor in the Prince’s house tries to steal Aura and Barin’s newborn son, which leads Flash and Barin onto a harrowing rescue mission. Flash’s adventures take him to Mongo’s frozen north where he’s captured by Queen Fria of Friggia and finally into the bowels of Ming’s capital city. All the way, Flash battles giant monsters and slimy traitors while finding friends and no shortage of women who find him irresistible, all to the irritation of Gordon’s companion, Dale Arden.

What I found most interesting reading this book after reading other comics in recent months was the lack of word balloons. They occasionally appear, but most of the time, the story is told in narration panels and dialogue is narrated as it would be in prose. The upshot was that my wife and I had fun sharing the comic because I could simply read it to her while she worked on her crochet. As with volume 1, “On the Planet Mongo,” the real highlight is Alex Raymond’s highly detailed and beautiful artwork. In a very real way, Flash Gordon is less a space story and more an adventure in an exotic foreign land, where people just happen to use ray guns, talk to each other on video phones and occasionally use rocket ships to get around. One thing I liked was that although Dale Arden sometimes falls into the trope of being a femme fatale, she often shows strong will and a lot of competence. She builds things, provides first aid, rescues people, and fires weapons right alongside a lot of the men in the strip. As a writer, perhaps the most interesting thing to see was how well Raymond handled the weekly cliffhanger. When I reached the end of one strip, he made me want to keep going, even though these were meant to be read with a week between each strip.

I loved Titan Comics’ presentation of these strips. The colors are crisp and they were printed at an easy-to-read size. If you can’t find a used copy of this edition, Checker Books also collected the early comics and they seem to be a little more readily available.


If you enjoy my posts, please take a moment to learn about my novels at http://www.davidleesummers.com or consider supporting me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers so that I can maintain an ad-free experience here at the Web Journal. When supporting me at Patreon, you’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at my creative process.

The Ring of the Nibelung

I enjoy retelling myths and folktales and love seeing the ways other people interpret those myths and folktales from their perspective. I’m a fan of movies and their soundtracks. In fact, I often put on soundtrack music as a background when I write to help set a mood for the story I’m telling. I also love fantasy tales involving quests, dragons and magic. For all these reasons, I feel drawn to Richard Wagner’s famous opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. The whole story is a retelling of Germanic myth. The cycle introduced the “leitmotiv” or recurring theme for characters or moods and the music itself can be stirring and powerful.

P. Craig Russell’s Ring of the Nibelung comics and my Blu-Ray of the opera

Taken as a unit, these four operas are enormous. The total running time is some 15 hours, and it’s common for them to be performed over the course of four nights. When the operas are performed, there’s a lot to take in. There’s grand and epic music. Typically it’s performed in the original German. It’s a mythic story performed on stage with a large cast. Even a “minimalist” approach to staging these stories takes a lot of technical skill. I’ve only watched the whole thing through once on Blu-Ray and while I followed the story, it was a challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that artist P. Craig Russell adapted Der Ring des Nibelungen into comic book format under the translated title The Ring of the Nibelung. On one hand, this seems audacious, moving an opera into the silent world of comics, but I thought it worked remarkably well. His illustrations are gorgeous and you see the four stories that compose the operas as the mythic stories they are. He visualizes the dwarf Alberich who steals gold from mermaids in the Rhine to make a ring of power. We see the god Wotan as he’s caught between what his heart tells him to do and what the law tells him to do concerning his twin children Siegmund and Sieglinde. We see the valkyries visualized and Russell shows us the battle between Siegried and the dragon for the ring made from the Rhine gold. Next time I sit down to watch these operas, I plan to start by reading Russell’s comic adaptation to help me see the story threads as I also appreciate the music and the staging.

One of the things I found fascinating when I did watch Der Ring des Nibelungen and was reinforced when I read the comic adaptation were some of the parallels between Wagner’s opera and J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings. I assumed the parallels exited because both Wagner and Tolkien were inspired by the same source material, but I recently learned that the central element of the cursed ring is not found in the older legends. Tolkien himself was a scholar of Germanic and Nordic legends and was highly critical of, what he considered, Wagner’s loose interpretation of the legends. I’ve seen it suggested that Tolkien may have been inspired to write his books because he thought Wagner had missed the mark. I’m not enough of a Wagner or Tolkien scholar to know how likely that is. Still, like following a ring full circle, this gets to the root of what I find fascinating about retellings. Wagner and Tolkien saw different aspects to the same source material and both created fascinating works that provide food for thought.

Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete

Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete

In October last year, I had the pleasure of meeting artist Alejandro Lee at the Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California. He had a booth in the vendor hall where he was selling copies of his creator-owned graphic novel Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure. I’m always delighted to explore cool-looking indie titles, so I decided to pick up a copy. I was surprised and delighted when he also threw in vinyl figures of the title characters as a bonus.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world with overtones of the Wild West. Pete is a robot built sometime in the past who has lost much of his memory, but is compelled by a strong need to fix anything that’s broken. Given that he lives in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world, there are a lot of broken things that need fixing. Early in the story, he stumbles upon the crash of an airship and finds a little girl, barely hanging onto life. He takes her back to his workshop and gives her a robotic body. Like him, she’s lost much of her memory, so he names her Sally Sprocket and she becomes his sidekick.

Pete also works to bring reliable power to the town of Kratera. He finds a capacitor that allows him to collect energy from one of the many fierce storms that rage across the hostile landscape. However, this puts him at odds with a mad scientist Morticus Angstrom IV, who also claims the capacitor. Both Pete and Morticus are vying for a highly coveted place in the Daedalus League, an elite academy of science. One of Pete’s supporters is Doc Governess, the chief physician of Kratera, manager of its orphanage, and who seems to know something of Pete’s mysterious background.

I love the artwork in Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete. For the most part, Lee works in a subtly sepia-tinted grayscale evocative of old photographs. Occasionally, he drops in vivid color for effect. The art style walks the line between cartoonish and realistic. While Lee’s style is uniquely his own, I’m reminded of Brian Kesinger’s steampunk work. I cared about the characters and the story engaged me. One of the challenges of comic writing is making sure that all your panels tell a complete story, but you don’t bog the story down with unnecessary details. I felt like there were a couple of places where Lee wasn’t as successful with this as he could have been. That said, I get the impression Alejandro Lee is a serious student of comic books and graphic novels and is improving his narrative skills as he progresses. I would absolutely pay full price for a sequel to see what happens next in the adventures of Sally and Pete.

If you would like to read Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure, you can find the book on Etsy at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThePistonAndSprocket. The Vinyl figures are also available at their Etsy store. You can see Alejandro Lee’s amazing art and read some samples of the graphic novel at his DeviantArt site: https://www.deviantart.com/47ness

Perry Rhodan Comics

Given my love of comics and my recent dive into the world of Germany’s Perry Rhodan space opera series, my birthday present from my wife this year was a complete digital set the Perry Rhodan comics published in 2015 by Cross-Cult Comics. The comic series is written by Kai Hirdt with art by Marco Castiello. The only catch is that these comics are only available in German. However, it provided a fun opportunity for me to dust off my German language skills and explore some Perry Rhodan as originally written. Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series only ran for six issues and there are two three-issue story arcs. So far, I’ve read the first three-issue arc, titled “The Cartographers of Infinity.”

The comic is set in the year 3540, which places it well after the early Perry Rhodan adventures I’ve been reading in Perry Rhodan Neo, and before the ones in Perry Rhodan Lemuria. In the comics, Perry is leading a deep space expedition aboard the Starship Sol. The Sol is a massive starship 6.5 kilometers long, holding 10,000 crewmembers. Among the crew are some characters, who I believe are well known to regular Perry Rhodan readers. These include: Gucky, a “mouse beaver” who is a telepath and can teleport people and objects from point to point; Tolot, a massive warrior with four arms; Belayn Parcer, a space jet pilot; and Irmina Kotschistowa, a human mutant who can heal through touch.

In this story, the Sol is lost in space and the crew is trying to find their way home. Fortunately, they find a space observatory crewed by an insect-like race called the Skra’Bji. Unfortunately, it’s under attack by a group of aliens called the Umal Pact. The crew of the Sol drive off the attackers, but they can’t read the data and the only surviving Skra’Bji named Tr’Frel is seriously wounded. So, they take her to her homeworld to find a blood donor. Once there, they discover her world has been occupied. Meanwhile, Gucky has entered Tr’Frel’s thoughts and learned her history and supports her cause.

The story is solid space opera adventure with lots of action. My only script complaint was that we have a few pages where it seems like someone is shouting NICHTS! (NO!) every two or three panels. The artwork feels very much like what one would expect to find in an American comic. The only character I knew before reading this was Perry Rhodan himself and he looked like the square-jawed American astronaut I would have expected from the books. I enjoyed the characters. The focus is largely on Perry and Gucky, but Belayn and Tolot both get great moments to shine. I can see a lot of story potential for Irmina and she had some great lines, but because she heals through touch, she’s dressed in a skimpy outfit and the artist does indulge in “male gaze” more than once.

If, like me, you know some German and enjoy space opera comics, Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series is a worthwhile introduction to the Perry Rhodan universe. Digital copies are available at Amazon.com for $4.99 each and a hardcover collection of the first three-issue story arc is also available. I had fun exercising my language skills. I spent a lot of the first issue using Google Translate to refresh my vocabulary but by about the middle of issue 2 I was mostly just using Google as a check on my comprehension.

As always, you can find my space opera stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com. Just look for The Solar Sea or the books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series.

Moonbase Alpha

Back in April, I shared the model I built of Main Mission, the command center of Moonbase Alpha from the 1970s TV series, Space: 1999. As I mentioned at the time, the command center was only one part of the kit. The main part of the kit is effectively a diorama of the full Moonbase from the series. We saw the moonbase at the beginning of each episode in the title card, and often at various points in the series.

In the series, Moonbase Alpha was located in the crater Plato and was approximately four kilometers in diameter. The central tower housed the main mission command center we saw in the first season. The overall base housed some 311 people. The premise of the series was that a nuclear accident launched the moon from Earth orbit and sent it hurtling out into deep space. The series goes on to show the Alphans as they fight for survival during their encounters with assorted natural phenomena and various alien races. Needless to say, it was challenging to see how the physics would work out to get the moon out of the solar system in a short time span. Despite that, the moonbase was designed in a way that felt real. As a child, watching the show with wide-eyed wonder, I could imagine living on the moonbase and flying the Eagle transport craft. I remember asking my parents for an early edition of the Moonbase Alpha kit. They wisely turned me down. While it looks simple, I encountered some challenges along the way, even as a relatively experienced model builder. Here’s the finished model, photographed from approximately the same angle as in the title card.

Moonbase Alpha Model

Perhaps the biggest challenge of building this model is that the moon crater ground pieces are vacu-form plastic while the moonbase pieces are polystyrene plastic. What this means is that you can’t use standard polystyrene model glue to assemble the kit. Most of it must be done with a more general bonding agent such as cyanoacrylate adhesive or super glue. This is tricky stuff to work with, since you don’t want to get it on your fingers. If you do, it’s a good way to attach parts of the moonbase to yourself permanently! Another tricky aspect of this kit was that the travel tubes, the long radial segments coming out from the buildings, had to be cut to size. Fortunately, I’d watched a good video on YouTube from Starship Modeler that suggested that I should measure the pieces on the model itself rather than use the guide in the kit instructions. It gave me nice results and I was able to fit the tubes into position with little trouble.

Eagle on the pad ready for liftoff!

One of my favorite aspects of the series were the Eagle transporters, used to shuttle our crew on Alpha around the moon or to alien worlds they encountered as they hurled through space. One of the things I love about the most recent Moonbase Alpha kit is that they provided nice, detailed decals for the landing pads and the Eagles were made to scale. The challenge is that the Eagle in the photo above is only 1.5 centimeters long! I had to paint the details using my jewler’s magnifying loops. Still, I’m pleased with how the Eagles came out. I chose to place two of them out on landing pads since that seemed typical for a reconnaissance mission.

Moonbase Alpha mounted in its frame

I ended up mounting the whole base on form board to give it extra stability, and then having it framed at a local shop. It was a little expensive, but it now makes a nice wall hanging in my home.

While working on the model, I sought a little inspiration and came upon the Gerry Anderson Podcast. This podcast is hosted by Jamie Anderson, son of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who created Space: 1999, Thunderbirds, UFO and numerous other wonderful British TV series. Jamie’s co-hosts are Richard James and Chris Dale. In each episode of the podcast, they discuss trivia about episodes, share news about new memorabilia and upcoming projects related to the Anderson shows, and interview someone related to the series production or has some insight into one or more of the series. A highlight of each episode is the “Randomizer” where Chris Dale watches an episode and provides commentary and insight. At times, his remarks can be as much fun as watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater. What’s more, his Randomizer segment has induced me to seek out and watch some of the Anderson entertainment shows I didn’t know about before discovering the podcast. I was especially delighted when they chose to read an email I sent in. If you would like to hear it, it’s in show 162 a little over 13 minutes into the episode. There is a Facebook group devoted to listeners of the show. I have enjoyed being part of the group, in part because the other fans take such delight in the podcast and the shows. Any criticism of the shows is clearly made with a good-natured spirit. You can learn more about the Gerry Anderson podcast and find places to listen by visiting https://www.gerryanderson.co.uk/podcast/

Marvel Comics in Oz

While reading L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels, I discovered that Marvel Comics ran an Oz series from 2009 through 2012. Written by Eric Shanower with art by Skottie Young, the series adapted the first six Oz novels into comic format. Shanower is a long-time Oz fan and knows the books and characters well. He’s also an artist in his own right and I first discovered his work by finding his illustrations of Oz characters, which are strongly inspired by John R. Neill’s illustrations for the original novels.

Skottie Young started at Marvel drawing such titles as Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider Clan, Human Torch, and Venom. He was soon tapped to take on the Oz series. I have to admit, when I first encountered these adaptations the art almost kept me from diving in. It was a little more stylized and, well, cartoonish than my taste in comic book art. However, the more I looked at the art, the more I was reminded of the surreal illustrations Tim Burton drew while imagining The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s something about the illustrations that’s warm and loving, but just a little creepy, which actually suits the material nicely. I warmed to Young’s style even more after watching a video where he told how Oz helped him find his preferred artistic style. I really love his take on Dorothy, the Wizard, and the Tin Woodsman, along with characters like General Jinjur and Professor H.M. Wogglebug T.E. from the later books. He also does real justice to scary characters like the Wicked Witch of the West and Road to Oz’s terrifying Scoodlers.

The comics are almost word-for-word adaptations of the novels, which means the adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has many notable differences from the famous MGM movie. That said, I noticed that Eric Shanower didn’t slavishly adapt the Oz novels when writing these comics. In his adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Shanower actually corrects a logic problem in the novel. Where L. Frank Baum gave us a deus ex machina ending, Shanower tweaks the resolution slightly and foreshadows it giving us some plot tension along the way. Yes, Shanower changes Baum, but he shows us how someone who knows and loves an author’s work can make it better. I suspect Baum would have approved.

After reading the six adapted novels, my primary complaint is that they didn’t continue to adapt the rest of Baum’s canon. Still, if you’re looking for a way to quickly see what the larger Oz universe has to offer, the Marvel Oz comics are a good place to jump in. They helped to refresh my memory of the first three novels, which I’d read several years ago. I then had fun seeing Shanower and Skottie’s adaptation of the three novels that began my current journey through Baum’s fantasy series. In 2020, Marvel brought the series out in three digest-sized volumes under the title Oz: The Complete Collection. Copies were available at both my local comic store and my local Barnes and Noble.