In the new episode of Retrogaming Roundup, me and my buddy Scott Schreiber talk KISS, Encyclopedia of KISS, Atari and ColecoVision. Listen in at the 88:00 mark for my appearance on the show. You can download or listen online HERE.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Friday, December 23, 2016
Hosted by Willie Culver, John "Gamester81" Lester & gaming
author Brett Weiss, ColecoVisions Podcast covers all things Coleco, plus general videogame news and geeky goodness. This month we discuss Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and ColecoVision homebrews. You can listen HERE.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
As many of you know, my Encyclopedia of KISS is now available on Amazon. Below is my preface to the book, which will give you some idea of my background as a fan of the band.
Encyclopedia of KISS: Music, Personnel, Events and Related Subjects
As a kid growing up in Fort Worth, Texas during the 1970s, I had a blast shooting hoops, digging in the dirt, and riding my bike with friends. I also enjoyed reading comic books, watching TV, playing video games, and listening to rock music. However, other than the social aspect of it, I never really liked going to school.
Despite the fact that I now write for a living, and despite the fact that I’ve always been an avid reader, I was a terrible student. My teachers would tell me that I was “bright, but that I didn’t apply myself.” I’m sure I had undiagnosed ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as it was hard for me to sit still, follow instructions, and concentrate on what the teachers were saying. It didn’t help that I had a miserable self-esteem, and that I was often hopped up on allergy and bronchitis medicine.
I was painfully shy during the early years of elementary school and would try to obey the rules, but by the time I reached fifth and sixth grade, instead of listening to the teachers, I was much more interested in flirting with the cute girls, making the other kids laugh, and decorating my folders and book covers with drawings and magazine photos of my favorite rock band, KISS. Along with Captain Kirk, The Flash (the Barry Allen version, of course), and Julius “Dr. J” Erving, my boyhood heroes were Ace “The Spaceman” Frehley, Gene “The Demon” Simmons, Paul “The Starchild” Stanley, and Peter “The Catman” Criss.
I don’t recall the exact moment I discovered KISS (probably around 1975, when I was eight-years-old and the classic double LP Alive! was new in stores), but during the late 1970s, when I was absolutely obsessed with the band and was wearing out the grooves on the second Holy Trinity of KISS albums—Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun (KISS, Hotter than Hell, and Dressed to Kill are the first Holy Trinity)—the aptly nicknamed “Hottest Band in the World” was everywhere, and it seemed to me like they were simply meant to exist by some divine decree, the way one thinks of such iconic figures of popular culture as Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and, of course, the Beatles, one of the two or three biggest influences on KISS.
Unlike school, KISS made perfect sense to me as they combined many of the things that I loved—movie monsters, science fiction, superheroes, cartoons, and rock and roll—into one loud, colorful, over-the-top extravaganza. I never questioned why grown men would don scary-cool makeup, giant platform boots, and outlandish costumes before getting up onstage to play music, and it never seemed odd to me that Gene spit blood and fire, or that Ace played a smoking, rocket-shooting guitar. I simply thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen (or heard).
During this more innocent, more naïve time (without access to the Internet or cable television, we kids relied on playground rumors for much of our information), I had no idea KISS’s lyrics were inundated with sexual innuendo. And, like most fans, I didn’t know anything about Ace and Peter’s alcohol and drug abuse, or about all the arguing and discontentment that went on in the band. I just figured Ace, Gene, Paul, and Peter were four of the happiest people on the planet, as I was when I listened to their music.
As an enthusiastic KISS fan on a limited budget, I desperately wanted, but couldn’t afford most of the avalanche of merchandise that was produced at the peak of the band’s popularity during the late 1970s. When my family would go to K-Mart on Friday nights, I would drool over the tantalizing treasures on display in the toy aisle, such as the van model kit, the toy guitar, and the Mego dolls, but it would have taken me months to save up enough money to buy even one of these things on my meager dollar-per-week allowance. And, on those rare times when I did have extra money, such as birthdays and Christmas, I would buy what were by far the most import KISS items: the records. Despite the coolness of the costumes, makeup, pyrotechnics, and toy line, the music is what I’ve always liked best about KISS.
To compensate for my lack of funds when it came to KISS collectibles, I had to be creative. Instead of buying the KISS van model kit, which was around $10, I purchased an ordinary car model, which was only $2 and some change, and I decorated it with the temporary tattoos that were included with the band’s second live album, Alive II. I also spent my allowance on rock music magazines, including copies of Creem, Circus, andHit Parader, as long as KISS was featured on the cover. I even bought copies of such teen heartthrob magazines as 16 and Teen Beat, just to get a few more KISS pics.
After reading the magazines until they were in tatters (It fascinated me to no end that Ace claimed to be from the planet “Jendel,” no matter how many times I read it), I would cut out the smaller KISS pictures and place them in a scrapbook, and I would get my dad to take the larger photos—the pinups, as they were called—to work and make multiple photocopies of them (thanks, Dad). I would tack the original pinups to the walls in my room (thanks, Mom) and hand out the black-and-white copies to kids at school, as though I were some kind of KISS evangelist.
My parents wouldn’t take me to an actual KISS concert, not because they disapproved of the band, but because it would’ve meant driving downtown and spending money, and because they surely didn’t want to see the show themselves. As such, watching KISS on television was about as good as it got in my little universe.Long before YouTube, I would eagerly try to catch every televised KISS appearance that I could, including on such shows as PM Magazine and The Midnight Special. One of the best nights of my young life—I was 11-years-old at the time—was the October 28, 1978 airing of the made-for-TV movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, which was about the greatest thing I had ever seen: my super-powered heroes foiling bad-guy schemes, battling robots and creatures, and performing onstage at an amusement park. Viewed through adult eyes, the film is hopelessly cheesy (though I still enjoy it), but back then it was my Hard Day’s Night, my Wizard of Oz, my rock and roll fantasy, and my monster movie-of-the-week, all rolled into one.
I had a good friend with super religious parents who wouldn’t let him watch KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (after all, KISS did stand for Knights in Satan’s Service, or so some people thought), so, naturally, he came over to my house that evening after lying to his parents about what we were going to do. In the minutes leading up to the start of the movie, I was so excited that I kept leaving the living room as though I weren’t going to watch it, and then I would run back in, diving on the carpet in front of the TV set, much to the amusement and bemusement of my friend and my parents. Around the fifth or sixth time I performed this odd gymnastic maneuver, the movie began, and I sat transfixed before the television for the next two hours, blocking out the world and basking in the ethereal glow of what I thought was pure greatness.
By the time junior high school rolled around, most of the “cool” kids didn’t like KISS anymore and would make fun of anyone who did, saying “KISS sucks.” Since the band wore makeup and costumes, and since their cartoonish images were on everything from lunch boxes to puzzles to bubblegum cards, many people refused to take them seriously, even though the music they made was fantastic (if simplistic) rock and roll. This frustrated me to no end, as did the fact that KISS was rarely played on the radio because most disc jockeys and station managers, like most music critics, snubbed their noses at the band. One rare exception was the power ballad “Beth,” which even grownups liked.
I knew KISS was great and that they didn’t suck—I just wish they would have gotten more respect at the time. But that’s all water under the proverbial bridge now as the four original members of KISS entered the hallowed halls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10, 2014, a ridiculous 15 years after they became eligible. Further, KISS has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, and they’ve influenced the careers of countless entertainers, everyone from Garth Brooks to Lenny Kravitz to the late, great “Dimebag” Darrell.
To this day, I’m still a huge KISS fan. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written this book, which has been a massive (and massively fun) undertaking. A couple of years ago, while going through my collection of KISS books and magazines, it occurred to me that, other than an obscure Japanese book published during the late 1970s, no one had ever written an honest-to-goodness KISS encyclopedia. The Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead—each of these iconic bands has had at least one encyclopedia, but not KISS, so I took it upon myself to fill a gap in the rock and roll publishing industry.
The result is the titanic tome you are holding in your hands, a labor of love that catalogs, describes, and often critiques all of KISS’s albums, songs, and tours, along with most of their important movie, TV, and comic book appearances. The book lists and describes hundreds of other things related to the band as well, including prominent friends, girlfriends, family members, influences, action figures, memorabilia, crew members, session musicians, songwriters, books, magazines, and much, much more.
The primary focus of the encyclopedia is on the original fab four—Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Peter Criss—but replacement members Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer (the band’s current drummer), and Tommy Thayer (the band’s current lead guitarist) are given their due as well: their contributions to the KISS legacy certainly deserve documentation. If the KISS-related person, item, or event you are looking for doesn’t have an actual entry in the book, check the index at the back—he, she, or it is probably mentioned in here somewhere.
Whether you’re a lifelong member of the KISS Army, someone who hopped aboard during the non-makeup era or the Reunion Tour, or you simply dig the current KISS lineup, I hope you have as much fun reading this book as much as I had writing it. After all, the main philosophy of KISS is that you should enjoy life.
And now, without further ado: “You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world, KISS!"
You can "look inside" the book and order it HERE.
Friday, November 25, 2016
New ColecoVisions podcast!
Join Willie Culver, John "Gamester81" Lester and myself as we discuss Pepper II, Jumpman Jr., new books, the Coleco Expo, the NES Mini and various other video game topics.
You can listen HERE.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Hey everyone, the softcover version of my book containing descriptions/reviews of EVERY U.S. release for the Sega Genesis has finally been released, and I have copies in stock, so I can mail them directly to you. The cover date in the title of Classic Home Video Games: 1989-1990 refers to console releases, meaning the book also includes EVERY U.S. release for the Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16. The appendix includes the Game Boy and Atari Lynx.
The book is $25. Media rate shipping and handling is $5, so your total would be $30. PayPal only. I will autograph and personalize it if you like at no extra charge. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. Thanks!
You can find links to several pages of Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games HERE.
Watch RGT 85 review the book:
Watch RGT 85 review the book:
Watch Gamester81 page through the hardcover version of the book:
What critics have said about Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990:
"If you are a collector of Genesis, Neo Geo or TurboGrafx-16 games, I would wholeheartedly recommend this 300+ page tome not only as a worthy guide, but also as a great extra addition to your library of games-related reading material." -- retrocollect.com
"High quality...a really cool guide book...a great collector's item...you should pick it up." --John "Gamester81" Lester
"Awesome...I really, really like this book, it is fantastic...ridiculously cool...an impressive piece of work." -- The Old Ass Retro Gamer
"An excellent book for game historians and newcomers to these consoles to have on their shelves...very intuitive and user-friendly" -- Sega 16
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I received a review copy of Debugging Game History, an academic video game book published by MIT, in the mail today and was amused that I was called out on page 46 in a chapter called "Classic Gaming." The author of the piece, Melanie Swalwell, writes about the problematic nature of the word "classic" when referring to older games. Regarding my book series, she says: "Brett Weiss's trilogy Classic Home Video Games (2011, 2009, 2007)--encyclopedic reference guides describing every official game for programmable consoles released in the United States--highlights another problem with the term. What sense does it make to claim classic status for every game for every console...?"
How about it, gamers? Is it okay to use "classic" as a catch-all term for older cartridges, consoles, and the like? Or should writers and convention organizers use some other term? To be perfectly honest, I never really thought about it. Kind of interesting to think about, though.
You can read the first three pages of the chapter by clicking on the images below:
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Watch as I unbox Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino. Click HERE for a full-screen view.
Since I write books about video games, some people think I'm crazy for helping promote other authors' books about related subject matter. I do this for several reasons.
First: I probably am a little crazy. :)
Second: My full-time job is writing articles for an assortment of magazines, newspapers, and websites. The books are fun and look good on my bio, and it's gratifying filling gaps in the publishing industry by covering such relatively obscure consoles as the Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16, but articles are what pay the bills. If I miss a sale or two here and there because someone buys another author's book instead of mine because I've promoted said book, I'll survive.
Third: To quote JFK, I believe a rising tide lifts all boats. In other words, as the video game book publishing industry establishes itself as a relevant genre, publishers are more likely to take a serious look at future book ideas I may have in mind.
Fourth: Even with the recent onslaught of gaming books, there are very few video game books on the market compared to such entertainments as movies, music, and sports. Countless aspects of the industry have yet to be covered, and I like to point gamers to books that matter, such as the recently released Coleco: The Official Book and Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games.
Fifth: Some of these writers are my friends, such as Pat Contri, Earl Green, and Leonard Herman, and I like to help spread the word on their good work when I can. Plus, sometimes they return the favor (I'm look at you, Earl).
Sixth: I'm following a long tradition of authors who review other authors' books. This goes back at least as far as Edgar Allan Poe.
Seventh: I think literacy is important for a society. Games are great fun (and can be important in and of themselves), but reading, as they say, is fundamental. Long live the printed word!
Monday, October 31, 2016
Saturday, two days before Halloween, my son and I went to Bastrop, Texas to check out a cool shooting location from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was awesome and a great way to spend a spooky weekend.
To watch my tour of the place, click on the video below or watch it in full screen HERE.
Friday, October 28, 2016
I have a blast doing this. Not only do I love Halloween, movie monsters, and in general being goofy, I have a great time talking to the neighbors who walk up with their kids, and it's a lot of fun seeing all the different costumes. The kids love it, and my house now has a reputation as a fun place to go on Halloween, mainly because of the comics and the "scary" movies. The little ones approach with cautious eagerness, and it's fun to see the excitement on their faces. Many of the parents shake my hand, tell me they remember me from previous years, and express gratitude for my silly little set-up.
I say all of this because I feel sorry for people who hate Halloween, including those who worry about "offensive" costumes that are scary or politically incorrect, and those who think Halloween and its fantastical, imaginary trappings--witches, warlocks, wizards, demons, devils, ghosts, and goblins--somehow propagate true evil.
There's a lot of evil in this world--terrorism, racism, violent crime, and child abuse, just to name a few examples--but it has nothing to to with Dracula, Frankenstein, or the Wolfman, or with spreading some literacy around, or with getting to know your neighbors and their kids a little better. Rather, it has to do with the dark hearts and misguided desires of flawed human beings.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Thursday, October 27, 2016
A recent Facebook thread about all the recently published and forthcoming Nintendo NES books got me thinking about something I hadn't really thought about in a long time. My second book, Classic Home Video Games 1985-1988, originally published in 2009, was the FIRST to feature write-ups for every single U.S. release for the NES console. Since the cover dates refer to when the consoles were released, the book also includes every game for the Atari 7800 and Sega Master System, another first. (The Digital Press Collector's Guides are nice and have comprehensive listings--I still use them to track my collection--but many of the entries contain nothing but data and lack descriptions or reviews.)
A have nothing against the new NES books as the ones I've seen are very nice looking, and the more quality video game books being published the better (in this respect, the video game industry lags far behind the music, sports, and film industries, which have thousands and thousands of books). In fact, I contributed to one of the new NES books. But, and I suppose this is self-serving, I think it's noteworthy to mention that my book was the first of its type regarding the NES. You can find links to excerpts from the book HERE.
Helping pave the way for Classic Home Video Games 1985-1988 was Leonard Herman's essential ABC to the VCS, which listed, cataloged, and described every Atari 2600 game. This landmark book played a role in inspiring me to write the "Classic Home Video Games" series. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to guys like Jeff Rovin and Ken Uston, who wrote early video game books, and to Bill Kunkel, Joyce Worley, and Arnie Katz, the first video game journalists. I remain flattered and thrilled beyond measure that the late, great Kunkel wrote the forward to my NES book, and that his wife bought a copy of my Atari book.
Working on these books is a labor of love--I make a lot more money writing articles considering the time involved in writing books--but it's been rewarding and a lot of fun, and I'm currently working on a Super Nintendo book.
As always, thanks for reading!
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
One of my jobs is working for a major online comic book retailer, writing plot descriptions and entering data. I recently finished a massive Archie Comics project and thought I would share these cool video game covers with my readers. These days, when most people think of Archie Comics and video games, they think of the long-running "Sonic the Hedgehog" series, but here are covers of a different sort.
Click on each cover for a closer look.
The pixelated characters playing this arcade cab evokes Boxing for the Intellivision.
It's on like Donkey Kong! And Pac-Man! And some generic space game!
The rumors are true--there are people in the television set!
Space Invader! Not Space Invaders, but Space Invader!
Pac-Man: Gaming's biggest celebrity before Mario came along.
I don't remember ever playing "Capturing Archie."
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
For us groovy ghouls, October is that most wonderful time of year--a season for hauntings, Halloween parties, Hershey bars and, of course, horror movies. Some of the scariest fright flicks ever produced were filmed and/or set in Texas, including Tobe Hooper’s low budget masterpiece from 1974—you’ve probably heard of it—a little picture called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Narrated by an uncredited John Larroquette (of Night Court fame), the film finds a vanload of teens wandering off the main road and into a decrepit farm house occupied by sadistic cannibals. Much mayhem ensues, including a harrowing scene in which the now-iconic Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), a hulking brute wearing a human skin mask and wielding a chainsaw, chases a beautiful blonde named Sally (Marilyn Burns).
Nightmarish and highly influential, the original TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre (avoid the sequels altogether and approach the 2003 remake with trepidation) is the best, most famous Texas horror film, but there are a number of others worth renting or downloading, including the sinister seven listed below.
Send the kiddies to their rooms, however, because each movie is Rated R with good reason.
Race with the Devil (1975)
Recommended for B-movie buffs, Race with the Devil is as much a car-chase film as it is a horror movie, with two San Antonio couples in an RV being chased by devil worshipers across the Texas plains. The cast, which includes Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and Loretta Swit, is considerably stronger than the script, but the action-packed movie remains entertaining.
Writing for www.popmatters.com, J.C. Macek III called Race with the Devil “an unquestionable good time,” citing its “thrills, mystery and legitimate scares.”
The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Directed by Charles B. Pierce, the auteur responsible for Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) stars Ben Johnson as a Texas Ranger searching for a hooded killer who is terrorizing the residents of Texarkana, circa 1946. Supposedly based on a true story, this early serial killer film plays out documentary style and is plenty chilling. Look for Dawn Wells, a.k.a. Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island, as a shrieking victim.
A “meta-sequel” of the same name hit theaters in 2014, debuting at the 10th annual Fantastic Fest in Austin.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Elvis and JFK never died. In fact, they’re alive and well in an East Texas nursing home whose residents are being killed by an ancient Egyptian mummy. So goes the premise of Bubba Ho-Tep, an amusing horror comedy starring Bruce Campbell as The King and African-American Ossie Davis, who claims he was “dyed” after his assassination was faked by LBJ, as our 35th president.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the movie is entertaining, and it’s a surprisingly sincere love letter to Elvis Presley as well.
Texan through and through, Frailty takes place in small-town Texas and stars two of the state’s most noteworthy actors: Bill Paxton, who was born in Fort Worth (and also directed the film), and Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde and lives in Austin. A religious fanatic father, beset by visions, enlists his two sons on a mission from God to kill demons disguised as human beings.
Frailty is fairly obscure (perhaps the lame title has something to do with it), but disturbing, powerful and relevant. In terms of sheer quality of filmmaking, it’s one of the better films on this list.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Directed by shock rocker Rob Zombie, famous for such songs as Dragula and Living Dead Girl, The Devil's Rejects is the superior sequel to Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses (2003). Sid Haig (wearing bad teeth and clown makeup), Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie (Zombie’s wife) reprise their roles as members of the psychotic, prolifically murderous Firefly family. This time they’re on the run from the law, and the cops are about as scary as their prey.
Recommended for fans of extreme horror, The Devil's Rejects is excruciating and unrelenting in its use of gore and violence—don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Planet Terror (2007)
San Antonio native Robert Rodriguez’s contribution to his and Quentin Tarantino’s collaborative double feature, Grindhouse, Planet Terror takes place in rural Texas during a zombie apocalypse that was created by the unleashing of an experimental bio-weapon. The fun film takes the “Living Dead” formula to new heights with grosser, more graphic depictions of zombie carnage as a small band of survivors—including Rose McGowan brandishing a shotgun leg—fends of the unholy hoards.
The other half of the bill, Tarantino’s Death Proof, was shot in Texas as well.
The Final (2010)
In The Final, an independent film screened at the 2010 After Dark Horrorfest, bullied teens take matters into their own hands, exacting revenge on their tormentors by drugging them, chaining them together and brutalizing them using methods derived from horror movies and ancient torture techniques.
The teens take the torture, which was filmed at a farm house in the remote county of Rocky Branch, Texas, way too far, but there are some guilty pleasures to be found in this type of revenge fantasy.