Friday, December 23, 2011

The Batman Filmography: Live-Action Features, 1943-1997

McFarland sent me a copy of this book, which is a pretty cool read for a Batman fan such as myself. Full review below.


The Batman Filmography: Live-Action Features, 1943-1997
McFarland Publishers
$29.95, b&w, 230 pgs.
Writer: Mark S. Reinhart

After a lengthy introduction that provides an overview of The Dark Knight Detective’s four-color and silver screen adventures, the author of The Batman Filmography proceeds to analyze each of the hero’s live action features: Batman (1943), Batman and Robin (1949), Batman (1966), Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman and Robin (1997).

Batman Begins (2005) is mentioned in conclusion, but neither it nor The Dark Knight (2008) is covered. This is because the first edition hardcover was published in 2005, and this newly minted trade paperback hasn’t been updated to include those films. This is a shame because Reinhart does a nice job critiquing each movie (he’s a fan, but he offers objective criticism), and he includes production history without bogging down the text with too much minutia or technical jargon. He’s also adept at comparing the filmic Batman to the comic Batman.

The Batman Filmography is fun, informative (if dated) reading, but it could use quotes from cast and crew members. Photos—even some black and white shots—would also be nice.

www.mcfarland.com
ISBN: 978-0-7864-6117-2

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon


I haven't had time to blog much lately, but here's a recent book review I wrote for the Comics Buyer's Guide. If, like me, you grew up reading Marvel comics (I read more DC than Marvel, but loved and read a ton from both companies), you'll enjoy this book:

Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon
TwoMorrows Publishing
$27.95, b&w, 224 pgs.
Writer: Pierre Comtois
Grade: 3.5 Stars (out of 4)

The follow-up to Marvel Comics in the 1960s, this book covers the “Twilight Years” at Marvel, which saw the departure of Jack Kirby, the diminishing role of Stan Lee as a writer, the rise of Roy Thomas as an editor, and the introduction of a new stable of creative talent, including Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman, and Steve Gerber.

Comtois waxes eloquent about the good and the bad of the decade, referring to the “rise of imaginative new features and professionals” as well as the “growing lethargy among the company’s established titles.” Comtois is highly opinionated, and True Believers may cringe at some of his harsher criticisms, but it’s obvious from page one that he has a great deal of respect for the House of Ideas.

To tell the story of Marvel in the ’70s, Comtois adroitly breaks down key issues, such as Avengers #68 (Sal Buscema takes over as penciller), Conan the Barbarian #1 (a distinct departure from super-heroes), and Dracula Lives #1 (Marvel’s new line of black-and-white magazines begins). Key creators are spotlighted as well.

twomorrows.com
ISBN: 978-1-60549-034-2

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sample Pages Now Online!

There are now sample pages of Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 online. To view them, click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

You can order the book HERE.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Great Bill Kunkel


I'm stunned and saddened to learn of the passing of Bill "The Game Doctor" Kunkel, co-founder of the first and best videogame magazine, Electronic Games.

As a teenager, I eagerly devoured every issue of Electronic Games, reading them again and again until they literally fell apart. When I got to meet Bill at the Classic Gaming Expo in 2007, it was awesome--he and his wife were so gracious and kind. When he bought my first book, I was humbled and honored. When he agreed to write the foreword to my second book, I was left almost speechless. Luckily, Bill had plenty to say--he always did, and that's a good (make that great) thing.

Without Bill, there likely would be no Classic Home Video Games series of books. He was a good friend, and he will be greatly missed.

(Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988--foreword by Bill Kunkel)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Orbit: Stephen King


A huge Stephen King fan, I recently reviewed Orbit: Stephen King for the Comics Buyer's guide. Here's that review:

Orbit: Stephen King
Bluewater Comics
$3.99, color, 28 pgs.
Writers: Michael Lent, Brian McCarthy
Artist: Kent Hurlburt
Grade: 2.5 Stars (out of four)

Orbit: Stephen King covers the well-known highlights (and lowlights) of the famous novelist’s life, such as how his father walked out on the family, how his wife, Tabatha, encouraged him to finish Carrie (his breakthrough novel), and how, in the summer of 1999, he was hit by a van and almost killed.

Indeed, the issue reads like a greatest hits (so to speak) of King’s biography, and it does so with dialogue, an omniscient narrator, and quotes from King’s non-fiction masterpiece, On Writing. Hardcore King collectors have heard these stories many times, but there may be a few surprises in store for casual fans, such as the fact that his first independently published story, “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber,” first appeared in 1965 in a fanzine called Comics Review (though it doesn’t mention that a young Marv Wolfman later published the story as “In a Half-World of Terror”).

Orbit has a stylish, cartoony look, but a more realistic take on the subject would’ve been preferable. Also, the text could use a little polish here and there.

www.bluewaterprod.com

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DC Comics -- The New 52


My article on the DC Comics reboot was in last Monday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram. You can read it here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990



Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16 Games is finally available. You can order yours via AMAZON. Don't let the cover dates of 1989-1990 fool you, EVERY game for the systems featured are included in the book, regardless of release date.

Here's a description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of every official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by substantive entries for every game released for that console. Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy, and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein--Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

Here are accolades for my previous books:

Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988:

"This is a great book...information is spot-on...100% accurate...a must-own"
--Video Game Trader

"A great tome of reference...excellent...a must-own for any avid 8-bit collector"
--Retro Gamer

"Valuable...great...succeeds with flying colors...vivid commentary and descriptions...will save you time, money and frustration"
--Nintendo Age

"Classic Home Video Games 1985-1988 offers exactly what you want in a collection of capsule reviews: well-written text that is clear and to the point...this is the current gold standard for video game reference guides."
--Retro Gaming Australia

Classic-Home-Video-Games-1972-1984:

"a labor of love...comprehensive...recommended"
--Library Journal

"a great-looking new book"
--classicgaming.gamespy.com

“thoroughly researched”
--Game Informer

“a must-read...both fun and informative, a highly recommended purchase”
--Video Game Collector.

"Brett Weiss knows his video games, and this book is a must for all fans"
--Bart Bush (former editor of Larry Bieza's Pinball Price Guide)

“Weiss’s deep familiarity with his chosen subject matter is an asset of the text, and as a writer he conveys information clearly and without pretension...Weiss’s reviews of obscure games make the book a treasure...impressive and fun book...valuable...the breadth of coverage here is astounding...a fun read and a nostalgic trip supreme...undeniably smart, historically valuable and wide-ranging in coverage”
--GameCulture Journal

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pac-Man Collectibles -- Book Review


Pac-Man Collectibles
Schiffer Books
Deborah Palicia
$29.95
2002, 160 pgs.

A good looking book that would make a nice addition to anyone’s game room library, Pac-Man Collectibles begins with an earnestly told and at times informative introduction. However, said intro does contain its fair share of shortcomings. For example, the book mentions that the arcade classic Pac-Man (1980) was created in Japan by a Namco designer, but it doesn’t refer to him by name (Tōru Iwatani).

Further, in a section called “The Creation of Pac-Man,” the author states that “The game is thought to be the first that did not center on fighting in video outer space but rather introduced the maze.” Wrong and wrong. A little rudimentary research will turn up numerous non-space games that predated Pac-Man (such as Midway’s Gun Fight and Atari Football), and Head On, a driving game released by Sega/Gremlin in 1979, featured a top-down maze in which players drove around tracks to clear dots from the screen.

Fortunately, the bulk of the book consists of pictures of merchandise featuring Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and their pals. There are 415 full color photos of various and sundry items, including puzzles, pinball games, party napkins, cereal boxes, glassware, records, candy, lap trays, a trash can, a lamp, animation cels (from the cartoon show), and much more. I remember seeing many of these items in stores back in the day, but there are quite a few I don’t recall, making for a nice blend of nostalgia and discovery.

Anyone with their finger on the pulse of 1980s pop culture will enjoy thumbing through this book. It was published in 2002, so some of the pricing is out of date, and the author admits there are many Pac-Man collectibles not pictured, but it’s a fun conversation piece and a good resource for collectors looking to add to their array of Pac-Man swag. Without this book, for example, the average collector probably wouldn’t know to look for Archie’s Double Digest #5 and the 24th Annual Hot Rod Show World Magazine, both of which feature Pac-Man covers.

Ordering information: Pac-Man Collectibles.

Publisher Website: Schiffer.

Monday, August 1, 2011


John Hardie, Sean Kelly, and Joe Santulli, organizers of the annual Classic Gaming Expo, have launched the Videogame History Museum – a 501©(3) non-profit charity dedicated to preserving and archiving the history of the Videogame industry. Currently the group is seeking initial working capital using the unique crowdfunding business plan offered through their project on the kickstarter web-site (www.kickstarter.com) The initial goal is to raise $30,000 to help finance additional fundraising activities and also to better mobilize the museum’s collections for exhibit at various industry trade shows.

The enormous success of their display at the recent E3 trade show was evident as they garnered several “Best of Show” nominations from the gaming press along with positive testimonials from show-goers. “The videogame industry is double the size of the music industry and while there are several music “halls of fame” and museums, there isn’t a single dedicated, all-inclusive videogame museum”, said Joe Santulli. “We’re taking the necessary steps toward creating a physical museum, research facility, and reference library to honor and archive the history, hardware, software, events and people of this industry.”

The Museum has the support of many of the legends that helped create the industry and their Board of Advisors is comprised of some of the most recognizable names in the history of gaming. David Crane, one of the founders of the first third-party software publishing company (Activision), and the sole programmer of the original Pitfall and many others says: “I have always wished [the Classic Gaming Expo guys] success in finding a permanent home for [their] collection, which I consider to be the most comprehensive repository of videogame collectibles and memorabilia in the world.”

The Videogame History Museum’s collections are based on the popular Classic Gaming Expo museum which is comprised of over 20,000 artifacts ranging from games, hardware, memorabilia and prototypes to a vast digital archive containing magazines, design and developer notes, company press kits, back-ups of unreleased games and much more. Founder Sean Kelly states,”The Videogame History Museum is the natural extension of the work we started over 20 years ago. The museum we envision promises to be all-inclusive, comprehensive and interactive. Unlike some of the other efforts in recent years which have a limited focus, our intention is to cover it all: every game made for every system, every piece of promotional material made for each game, every revision of every console with specific notes as to the differences, the design progression, and so on.”

To get more information, watch their video, or to donate and become part of the movement to make this all happen, please visit the Videogame History Museum website:
Videogame History Museum

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stoogeum


Film critic Leonard Maltin visits The Stoogeum.

This article appeared in a recent issue of AntiqueWeek:

The Stoogeum

by Brett Weiss

“Dewey, Burnham, and Howe.” “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.” “Moe! Larry! The Cheese!”

If the above phrases don’t make you chortle, chuckle, grin, or guffaw, you have no soul. Okay, that’s more than a little hyperbolic, but even those who don’t quite “get” the pinching, poking, pummeling antics of The Three Stooges will have to admit that the tussling trio is one of the most popular comedy teams of all time, arguably more well-known than such dynastic duos as Abbot and Costello and Laurel and Hardy.

Originally a part of the vaudeville comedy team Ted Healy and His Stooges, which began performing in 1925, the Stooges didn’t officially became The Three Stooges until 1934, when they broke away from Healy and signed with Columbia pictures. During their 23 years at Columbia, the Stooges starred in five features and 190 film shorts.

Remnants from the Stooges’ Columbia days and much more are on display at The Stoogeum museum, a three-story, 10,000-square-foot facility billed as “the world’s first and only museum of Three Stooges memorabilia.” In addition to such offerings as a research library, an 85-seat theater, and a 16mm film storage vault, the museum boasts nearly 100,000 pieces of Three Stooges artifacts, from games to toys to movie props to costumes to artwork to rare photos (spanning 50 years of Stooges history).

The Stoogeum is home to a number of unique items, including Joe Besser’s passport, Larry’s driver’s license, and Shemp’s discharge from the United States Army. One of the coolest one-of-a-kind items currently on display at the Stoogeum is a custom Three Stooges pinball machine, which was built and designed by Eric Strangeway. The pinball is set up on free play, as is a 1984 arcade game manufactured by Mylstar. There’s even a Three Stooges slot machine customers can try their luck on.

Regrettably, unlike most museums, The Stoogeum does not keep regular hours. Rather, they are only open approximately one day per month (admission is free, but visitors should feel free to make a donation). To find out when you can get your “nyuks” on at The Stoogeum, check their website.

Contact:
267-468-0810
www.stoogeum.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

LPs Make a Comeback


This article on the state of the record industry appeared in a recent issue of AntiqueWeek:

LPs Make a Comeback

By Brett Weiss

Remember the satisfying feeling of breaking the shrink wrap on a new record album, sliding the vinyl disc out of the cardboard jacket and paper sleeve, placing said disc on the family turntable (often a component of a massive wooden console), plopping down on your favorite beanbag chair, and letting the immersive sounds of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, the Doors, or the Eagles wash over you as you whiled away the hours on a lazy summer afternoon?

If you grew up during the’60s or ’70s, it’s very likely you experienced something similar to the above scenario. Similar to today (at least conceptually), you could purchase single songs then—actually, there were two songs on a 45 RPM record since there was a second song on the flip side (often called the “B” side)—but it was the long-playing record album (LP for short) that could truly show what a musical act was capable of, both in terms of musicianship and experimentalism.

The record industry of the ’50s and early ’60s was dominated in some respects (such as radio airplay and units moved) by hit singles, but when acts like Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited), the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), the Beatles (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band), the Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow), the Rolling Stones (Their Satanic Majesties Request), and The Who (Tommy) helped turn the rock album into a singular (no pun intended) art form, no rock ’n’ roll connoisseur worth his or her headphones would be caught dead buying a 45 (though singles were still very popular with kids and mainstream consumers).

For the aforementioned landmark albums, the final product was much more than the sum of its parts. Taken out of context, the dreamlike “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” for example, is a great song, but woven into the tapestry of the epic Sgt. Peppers, it’s nothing less than a transcendental masterpiece.

Long before MP3 players, iTunes, and the Internet, which make sampling music from a variety of artists cheap and convenient, going to K-Mart or Sears to purchase a new record was an almost spiritual experience as you usually had to take it on faith what the album would sound like based on little more than cover art and maybe a song or two you heard on the radio. The anticipation, mystery, and fascination surrounding an album’s unknown contents were in fact part of the appeal of the format.

In a recent issue of The Sunday Times Magazine, longtime rocker and LP fan Jon Bon Jovi, grumpily railing against the jejune nature of downloading songs, went on a “get off my lawn” type of rant against Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, claiming that he “is personally responsible for killing the music business.” (Apple’s iTunes Store is the number one music vendor in the country.)

Explaining his position, Bon Jovi said, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it. God, it was a magical, magical time.”

Bon Jovi’s trashing of Jobs is a bit unfair—as EW.com points out, “Jobs is really pretty much the only guy who has managed to successfully monetize online music consumption”—but his waxing nostalgic about buying record albums as a kid does resonate, at least for those of us who grew up doing the same.

Bon Jovi is hardly alone in his preference of records to downloadable songs (or, for that matter, CDs). Certain audiophiles, precocious teens, collegiate hipsters, and nostalgic baby boomers are once again (or for the first time, in the case of younger listeners) getting their groove on (so to speak) with vinyl.

According to the Nielson Company and Billboard’s 2010 Music Industry Report, vinyl sales rose 14% from 2009, in which 2.5 million records were sold, to 2010, in which 2.8 million records disappeared from store shelves. In the previous two years, LP sales rose from 990,000 units to 1.88 million units, resulting in a jump of 89%.

This is a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to CD sales and music downloads (LPs count for only one percent or so of the entire market), but it is a trend worth watching as it’s rare and maybe even unprecedented that an outdated form of electronic media makes such a strong comeback.

In addition to the romanticism of the LP espoused by Bon Jovi, many vinyl devotees claim that record albums, if played using the proper equipment, have a thicker, richer, meatier sound than digital music, thanks in part to superior mid-range quality. Also, most LPs released nowadays feature collectible (or just plain fun) inserts, such as posters, booklets, stickers, limited edition art, and/or extended liner notes. (Some older records, such as Love Gun by KISS, featured special inserts, but it was hardly the norm).

As a concession to modernity, many new albums also include complementary digital downloads of the content contained on the album, meaning the music buyer can have his or her cake and eat it too. Jenkins Boyd, co-owner of Doc’s Records and Vintage in Fort Worth, TX, says that most of the popular current bands release their new material on vinyl. “People like their iPods and their downloadable songs, but they also want to have a physical piece of music.”

Even though CDs outperform LPs by a wide margin at retail giants like Best Buy and Hastings, that’s not necessarily the case at specialty shops. “We really don’t carry very many new CDs because they don’t sell well,” Boyd says. “Records are just a lot cooler than CDs, and people like the inserts and larger cover art.” (According to Billboard.biz, the top three selling vinyl artists of 2010 were the Beatles, with 36,700 units sold, Black Keys, with 36,000 units, and Radiohead, with 30,500 units. LPs by Vampire Weekend, Beach House, Pavement, the National, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, and Metallica also fared well.)

In addition to new records, Doc’s carries a wide variety of previously owned LPs, including a ton of stuff from the 1ate ’60s through the ’70s. “We can’t keep Led Zeppelin records in stock,” Boyd says. “We also sell a lot of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles. Certain Rolling Stones titles are popular as well.”

Speaking of the Beatles, Doc’s has a hard time moving some of the Fab Four’s rarer, higher priced records. “Really expensive Beatles stuff doesn’t tend to sell very well,” Boyd says. “Everyone wants the cheaper reissues. They just want to listen to the music—they don’t care so much about the collectability.”

Despite its lack of Beatlemania, at least when it comes to prestige items, Doc’s does cater to record collectors, offering an assortment of first pressings, foreign releases, picture discs, promotional items, colored vinyl, and out-of-print music. However, the majority of customers who walk through Doc’s doors are looking for a bargain, meaning most used records at the store sell in the $4 to $15 price range.

Of course, for those who are interested in rare LPs, one of the best sources is eBay. A quick search of recently completed eBay auctions turned up the following: a mono/promo/factory sealed copy of Something New by the Beatles ($967); a clear vinyl/first pressing of Stoneaged by the Rolling Stones ($455); a Sober/Prison Sex picture disc by Tool ($399); a first U.S. pressing of Moon Dance by Van Morrison ($360.55); a factory sealed-with-poster copy of Burning Love and Hits from His Movies by Elvis Presley ($314.99); a white label promo copy of Live Cream by Cream ($265); and a copy of The Beatles VS The Four Seasons ($245).

Other sources for purchasing collectible records online include: www.musicstack.com, www.wegotrecords.com, and www.gregsgrooves.com.

The record industry, which reached its peak during the 1970s, has its roots in Thomas Edison’s cylinder phonograph (1877), a crude, but revolutionary machine that recorded and reproduced sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder. Chichester A. Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, working for Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory (Chichester was Alexander’s cousin), improved upon Edison’s invention by using wax-coated cardboard cylinders and a floating stylus, the latter of which replaced Edison’s more rigid needle.

In 1888, Emile Berliner furthered the concept by inventing the gramophone record, which was a flat, two-sided disc. The 78-RPM phonographic disc followed (RPM refers to rotations per minute), and in 1948 Columbia released the first modern day LP in the form of a 12-inch, 33⅓-RPM microgroove vinyl record. Prior to vinyl, records were made of such materials as hard rubber, metal, or, most prominently, shellac, which was brittle and could shatter fairly easily.

During the 1980s, compact cassettes and compact discs began replacing LPs as the medium of choice among music buyers. By the early 1990s, thanks in part to major music labels convincing consumers to “upgrade” their music library to CDs, vinyl was declared all but dead.

Lucky for collectors, nostalgia enthusiasts, vinyl purists, and hipsters, and for “grumpy old men” like Jon Bon Jovi, the long-playing record album is once again a player in the music industry. Whether it reassumes its role as a major player is yet to be seen.

For more info on records, check out the following books: Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting (2003, St. Martin’s Griffin); Goldmine Record Album Price Guide (2009, Krause Publications); The Music Lover’s Guide to Record Collecting (2002, Backbeat Books); Price Guide for the Beatles American Records (2007, Four Ninety-Eight Productions); and Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991 (2010, Krause Publications).

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Forbidden Look Inside the House of Ackerman

Book Review by Brett Weiss

During his 92 years, the late, great Forrest J Ackerman indulged in many an eerie endeavor, from winning the first Hugo (#1 Fan Personality) to creating Vampirella to coining the term “sci-fi.”

Forry was an actor, a writer, a literary agent, the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland and the world’s foremost collector of SF (ahem, sci-fi) memorabilia, the latter housed for many years in the Ackermansion, an 18-room vacation destination for thousands of monster kids. (Forry called it Son of Ackermansion since it was actually the second home to house his immense collection).

I never had the pleasure of visiting the hallowed halls of Forry’s aforementioned abominable abode, but in 2006 I did manage to squeeze in an hour or so at the Acker-mini-mansion, a Hollywood bungalow displaying a drastically reduced portion of Forry’s autographs, posters, movie props and other items. (Advanced age, health problems and financial concerns had forced Forry to sell much of his memorabilia and move to a smaller house).

I was struck by the informal nature of the visit, with Forry—hard of hearing, but still sharp—sitting in his easy chair, commenting on his collectibles, posing for photos, telling jokes and fawning over his favorite film: Metropolis (1927), which he told me he had seen 105 times.

As the title suggests, A Forbidden Look Inside the House of Ackerman isn’t a history book (photos far outweigh the text), but it does offer certain behind-the-screams tidbits, such as co-author Paul Davids helping Forry move, and attending the 2009 auction of “the last remaining treasures from the famed Forrest J Ackerman collection”

More importantly, the book gives readers an up close and personal view of the Ackermansion (all three locations) and its many treasures, including Bela Lugosi’s Dracula ring, Lon Chaney’s teeth from London After Midnight (1927), original art by Basil Gogos, a latex head of Forry as the Ackermonster, a torso from the Rod Steiger character in The Illustrated Man (1969) and many more rare, one-of-a-kind and otherwise invaluable items.

In addition to collectibles, the book includes color photos of the mansion’s occupants (Forry and his beloved Wendayne), along with some of its more prominent guests, including Ray Harryhausen, Fritz Lang and Barbara Steele.

Forry and his Ackermansion(s) is no longer with us, but A Forbidden Look Inside the House of Ackerman will help the preserve the legend for generations of SF (ahem, sci-fi) fans to come.

My family and I hanging out with Forry at his Hollywood home back in 2006.

Monday, June 13, 2011

NOW ON KINDLE -- Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984

My first book, Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984, is now available on Kindle for $19.24, which is less than half of the price of the hardcover version (previously, only the second book was on Kindle).


You can read sample pages here: Sample Pages

You can order the Kindle version of the book here: Kindle

What they are saying about Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984:

"a labor of love...comprehensive...recommended"
--Library Journal

"a great-looking new book"
--classicgaming.gamespy.com

“thoroughly researched”
--Game Informer

“a must-read...both fun and informative, a highly recommended purchase”
--Video Game Collector.

"Brett Weiss knows his video games, and this book is a must for all fans"
--Bart Bush (former editor of Larry Bieza's Pinball Price Guide)

“Weiss’s deep familiarity with his chosen subject matter is an asset of the text, and as a writer he conveys information clearly and without pretension...Weiss’s reviews of obscure games make the book a treasure...impressive and fun book...valuable...the breadth of coverage here is astounding...a fun read and a nostalgic trip supreme...undeniably smart, historically valuable and wide-ranging in coverage”
--GameCulture Journal

Friday, June 3, 2011

Monday Night Football

On a recent trip to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, seeing this Monday Night Football game instantly transported me back to my childhood. My brother and I played this game for hours and hours.

For more photos and info on our spring break getaway, check out my wife's blog post:
Texas Sports Hall of Fame

Friday, May 27, 2011

Recently published in...Back Issue

When the Dead Heroes Issue was announced by my editor at Back Issue magazine, I knew I had to throw my hat in for Barry "The Flash" Allen, since he's my favorite comic book character of all time. Luckily, the editor liked my pitch. At 6,000 words, the article was quite a chore, but it was a rewarding project, and it was fun to re-read those old comics I enjoyed so much as a teenager.

Back Issue #48 is now on sale at finer comic book shops everywhere.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988

*****


A 5-star review of my second book just popped up on Amazon:

I just purchased this on the kindle. I was very pleased with the savings over the hardcover copy. I wish the hardcover copy was a little cheaper. With that being said, I found this book to be a great reference book for entire video game library of the NES, SMS, and Atari 7800. The descriptions were very informative and I liked the feature of listing the number of players and where else the game was released. The only thing I wished it had was if the author rated each title on a 1-10 scale. You can sort of tell the titles he really likes, but I would love to see how he would actually rate them. Also, as another reviewer noted screenshots would have been a big plus if possible. With that being said, I am looking forward to the author's next book and I might have to pick up the first one to hold me over until then. (Written by cybersp78)

You can view sample pages of the book here:
Sample Pages

Hardcover ordering information here:
Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988

Kindle version ordering information here:
Amazon Kindle

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good news and bad news...

I had terrible news this week. Two publications I write for--The West Texan News and Living with Panache(both Star-Telegram supplements)--are being canceled. One bit of good news, though, came in the form of an emailed jpeg of the cover to my new book, which will be released this summer (or possibly early fall):

Publisher description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of every official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, the three of which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system, followed by substantive entries for every game released for that console. The video game entries include extensive historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Game Boy, and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles cited in this book--Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Now Reading...


Driving Crazy
Written by Randy D. Pearson, published by Riley Press (http://rileypress.hypermart.net)
$12.99, 261 pgs., 2010

Writing a novel with a narrative that holds together from beginning to end is truly a difficult endeavor. But that’s just what Randy D. Pearson has done with Driving Crazy, a story about two slacker-types who drive from Lansing, Michigan to Weedpatch, California to pick up a Crazy Climber arcade videogame.

Along the way, the two friends—Crazy Climber coveter Jay Naylor and his unemployed ally Austin Ridenour— enjoy an assortment of adventures and encounter a variety of funky folks, all of whom come across as more than a little clichéd. There’s the guy who loses a game of pool and pounds his opponent’s face; the grumpy greasy spoon waitress who exclaims, “Look Mac, this ain’t no fine dinin’ experience”; and the kindly diner owner and his matronly wife who put the boys up for a night with free food and lodging.

Indeed, no one will confuse Pearson’s prose with that of Jack Kerouac (of On the Road fame). For a fairer comparison, Rob O’Hara’s real-life adventures in his nonfiction work, Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Arcade Games, are amusing without resorting to the type of cheesy humor found in Driving Crazy. Jay and Austin enjoy way too many “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” moments.

Despite its flaws, Driving Crazy is coherent and structurally sound. And, at least for a self-published novel aimed at hardcore gamers, it is fairly entertaining.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Recently published in...The Writer

My bio on and interview with the highly prolific James Reasoner.

(click on the image twice for a closer look)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Videogame Preview

My spring videogame preview was featured in the Fort Wort Star-Telegram earlier this week. You can read the online version here: Spring Preview.

Recently published in...

Comics Buyers Guide #1676 (reviews of Pocket God #1 and Batman: Hidden Treasures #1)


Back Issue #46 (article on The Wolfman)

Living with Panache (articles on AIM Construction and Ajax Glass)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave #1

My review of Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave was published in Comics Buyer's Guide #1675:
(click on image to enlarge)

Horror Video Games Review

My review of the book, Horror Video Games, was in Video Game Trader #16:
(click on image to enlarge)

Recently published in...

(Toy Robot Museum)


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Finally...

...after 2 and 1/2 years, 166, 075 words, 115 photos, 100s of hours of research, and way too many 4- and 5-hour nights of sleep, my 711-page manuscript for Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis, and TurboGrafx-16 is ready to put in the mail.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Forbidden Planet



The 50th Anniversary of Forbidden Planet


Released in 2006 in conjunction with the film’s 50th anniversary, the Forbidden Planet Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD boxed set rarely disappoints. Housed in a shiny red and green metal alloy case, with the typically deceptive painting of Altaira in Robby’s arms gracing the cover, the two-disc extravaganza comes packaged with a 3.5 inch Robby the Robot toy (which doesn’t speak, unfortunately), a mail-in movie poster offer, and a nifty packet of Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy lobby card reproductions. The set looks great on the shelf of any hardcore fan, but less devoted viewers can feel safe picking up the standard edition, which contains all the disc content of its more collectible counterpart.

Disc one contains a new digital transfer of Forbidden Planet (looking and sounding beautiful), lost footage from the film (including a wobbly C-57D space cruiser), excerpts from The MGM Parade (featuring Walter Pidgeon talking to Robby), trailers from seven sci-fi classics, an episode of The Thin Man starring a sinister Robby the Robot (he was frequently less than hospitable outside of Forbidden Planet), and deleted scenes. It’s easy to see why the deleted scenes in question were excised from the final cut of the film, but it’s fascinating to watch what might have been: Dr. Ostro waxing philosophical about unicorns; Robby taking the “space wolves” on a ridiculous looking ride in his atomic car; and, far less egregiously, the C-57D nearly overheating as it approaches Altair-IV.

Disc two is home to The Invisible Boy, a black-and-white thriller from 1957 that shares two things in common with the main feature: Robby the Robot and screenplay writer Cyril Hume. The film does have its share of absurdities, such as the dad trying to spank his invisible kid, who, we are told, fools his father by wearing his pants backwards (ouch!). However, it does boast an unusual concept for the time: that of a super computer achieving sentience and planning to take over Earth. In a sense, The Invisible Boy is a precursor to Terminator 2, complete with a boy commanding his machine pal to do his bidding. Even better, the movie features Robby in a relatively action-packed role as he battles the Army and blasts off in a rocket.

The second disc also contains a trio of documentaries. Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet has the cast key cast members (minus Pidgeon, who died in 1984) and other genre giants (John Carpenter, Alan Dean Foster, John Landis, etc.) sounding off on the greatness of the film and its importance to movie and TV science fiction. One of the more fascinating aspects of the doc is the interview with (and accompanying photos of) Bebe Barron, who composed the film’s electronic score. Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon lives up to its title, giving viewers an insider’s look at the famous creation that Morbius “tinkered together.” Finally, Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us, which was first seen on the Turner Classic Movies network, takes a more general approach to the subject of sci-fi films and culture.

A few months prior to the release of the Forbidden Planet DVD set, I attended Comic-Con International 2006 in San Diego, which played host to the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking film. Richard Anderson, Warren Stevens, and Earl Holliman were on hand to sign autographs, talk with fans, hand out photos, and answer questions. At one point, a fan asked each actor what role they were the most proud of. Anderson chose Major Saint-Auban in Paths of Glory, Stevens picked Kirk Edwards in Barefoot Contessa, and Holliman selected Sergeant Bill Crowley in Police Woman. The gentlemen seemed to enjoy (or at least tolerate) the attention, but were perhaps a little baffled with all the hoopla surrounding Forbidden Planet. Regrettably, Lesley Nielson didn’t make the con, and neither did Anne Francis, but I did meet the lovely Ms. Francis at a Fort Worth film festival a few years ago. She was gracious enough to sign a number of items that I had brought along and sweet enough to put up with my effusive praise.

So, the question remains: Why the ongoing fascination with Forbidden Planet? From a personal standpoint, it’s one of my favorite science fiction films of all time, right up there with The Time Machine, Planet of the Apes, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and War of the Worlds. Unlike those movies, however, I didn’t see Forbidden Planet as a young child. Rather, I stumbled across it rather serendipitously at an older friend’s house one Saturday afternoon during the mid 1980s. I was a 16-year-old Star Trek and Star Wars fan and was blown away by the obvious influences Forbidden Planet had on those two franchises. At the time, I didn’t realize that the film was based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but I was struck by the film’s glorious production values and leisurely pace, the latter of which gave viewers plenty of time to ogle the rich colors and lush terrain of Altair-IV, the technical marvels of the mysterious Krell, the gee-whiz gimmickry of Robby the Robot, and, let’s face it, the gorgeous legs of Anne Francis.

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It’s clear that Forbidden Planet is a beloved classic of sci-fi cinema. It has stunning visuals, a literate (if sometimes goofy) script, an out-of-this-world musical score, a virginal beauty to end all virginal beauties, and the coolest robot ever. If the movie fails to generate the same level of interest for another 50 years, film fandom’s “space pay” should be docked indefinitely.