Casper And The Spectrals #1

Casper and the Spectrals #1Ardden Entertainment made a good impression with their new Flash Gordon series and look set to use the same contemporary approach to another classic character – Casper. I know when the cover of the first issue was released a while back a few jaded fanboys rolled their eyes with this apparently desperate attempt to make the loveable ghost “down with the kids,” but really there are so few all-ages series on the shelves today, especially those in which parents, (or even grandparents in this case as Casper is turning 60!) can enjoy with their children. Newsarama seemed to enjoy the first issue and it is written by Ardden’s Brendan Deneen as well as great Spider-Man writers J.M DeMatteis and Todd Dezago, so is worth a look. Details below. The first issue is available this week.

Just in time for Casper the Friendly Ghost’s 60th anniversary, Ardden Entertainment proudly debuts Casper And The Spectrals, an all-new take on the world’s most famous ghost and his two friends, Wendy the Witch and Hot Stuff!  There is a city within New York City known as Spooky Town, but most humans are unable to see it. Within this city live the Spectrals, the ghosts, goblins, demons and witches of the world. When an ancient entity known as the Volbragg threatens both New York and Spooky Town, Casper and his friends are forced to band together and defeat an unimaginable evil!

Casper and the Spectrals #1B

Story by JM DeMatteis & Brendan Deneen; Script by Todd DeZago; Art by Pedro Delgado; Color by Kieran Oats

Flash Fanatic

flashgordon alexrossSo apparently Frank Miller’s next film project after The Spirit, which opens on Christmas Day, will be Buck Rogers. That’s not very exciting really. The Sin City and 300 creator has a deft visual hand to be sure, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to box office mojo. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Spirit doesn’t set cinema screens ablaze, and if it doesn’t maybe he won’t get Buck Rogers after all.

A better choice would be Flash Gordon. He’s not as old as the Buckster, but is much more recognisable. (Even if non-geeks do confuse him with DC’s The Flash). The 1980 film starring Sam Jones and Timothy Dalton was glorious, especially with the unforgettable Queen soundtrack. Plus the classic character is on a high at the moment. Superstar painter Alex Ross is a fan and even helped BifBangPow! with their Series 2 figures based on the film, which you can pre-order now.

flashtoys

There’s also the excellent new series by Ardden Entertainment. The next issue, #4 is out next month and features Flash, Prince Thun, and the blonde Arborian ranger Eldun invading the Hawk Men’s floating prison city  to rescue Dr. Zarkov. It also features Prince Barin in the icy land of Frigia and Dale and Ming getting a little too cosy.

Really, Flash Gordon is begging for a film re-make. Just not by Frank Miller.

Flash Gordon #3 Review

fg3Along with Radical, Ardden are my favourite new publisher. Both companies seem committed to wisely selecting original titles, rather than flooding the market with more spandex wannabes. Flash Gordon is a great licence for any company to have, and the decades old sci-fi hero hasn’t always been treated with the respect he deserves. Ardden look set to change that by putting the focus unashamedly on the hero’s swashbuckling roots but with a contemporary shine that makes it hard to resist. The recent announcement of the company’s new series, The Stand-In, by writer Jim Krueger (DC’s Justice, Dynamite’s Project Superpowers) makes an intriguing second series for this new publisher.

The third issue of Alex Raymond’s classic hero begins with Dr Hans Zarkov (who inadvertently dropped Flash, and FBI agent Dale Arden knee deep in their current predicament) on the Penance Wheel before soon cutting to Flash and his new hot blonde friend Eldun, an Aroborian Ranger. The captured pair are being taken to Mount Karakas by Prince Thun, leader of the lion men. Then it’s another cut to Dale as she’s being given a city tour by the oddly accommodating Ming.

These three main developments occupy the bulk of the story and through some smart exposition we learn that there was once a civil war on Mongo. King Jugrid, Prince Thun’s father was negotiating a peaceful resolution, before he vanished, leaving Ming to take control. Of course, Ming tells Dale his version of the story. His words seem dipped in honey and poison, but Dale appears swept up by his charismatic ways, so much so that she manages to curb an assassination attempt on his life. Meanwhile, Flash and Eldun are thrown into the arena against Thun, thanks to Flash putting his foot in his mouth and insulting the lion men. Finally, Zarkov faces his own threats, namely at the hands of Prince Vultan who demands Zarkov’s help in breaking the slave collars from himself and his winged brothers-in-arms. Dale and Zarkov aren’t the stars of the show in this issue however, and as the title suggests, it’s Flash all the way, joined by Eldun. At issue’s end we learn Eldun’s real identity, but the two sub-plots centred on Flash’s friends leave them in a place where they must decide who can be trusted. On the weird, cruel world of Mongo, everyone wants something from these strange new visitors.

The fast moving plot, quick cuts at pivotal points, and constant action reminded me of Star Wars (the original trilogy). That’s high praise, to be sure, but this series has all the hallmarks of George Lucas’ greatest creation-rogueish characters, separated friends on their own missions, strangers in a strange land, different alien races and cultures, and hints of drama and romance along the way. Of course, Star Wars was inspired by Flash Gordon, and other old-timey adventurers of the past, but Flash has been out of the cultural lexicon for a long, long time. Ardden know that and are smart enough to give Raymond’s characters a fresh paint of ink that will resonate more with today’s pop culture lovers.

Brendan Deneen’s scripts give enough back story to fill the gaps if this is your first Flash issue, but as the title continues and the story becomes more involved, a “Previously in Flash Gordon” page may be a welcome contribution. The only real misstep in the script is the unclear nature of Thun’s relationship to King Jugrid, as ‘explained’ by Eldun. Are they father and son? In the same sentence she seems to offer opposing truths. Paul Green’s slick art retains its manga-lite flavour and is as simply dynamic as ever. In a few panels it’s obvious that some are simply copied, with new word balloons, but it’s not distracting, and as he continues to hone his craft he’ll hopefully become quicker and bolder, allowing for more risk taking in his page designs. I must also mention Richard Emms’ lettering. Along with Deneen, Emms is the main force behind Ardden, and shows what a great job he can do with some creative text design. Flash’s captions and Ming’s speech balloons have enough flourish to give them a distinctive look.

I’m glad Ardden are having success with this series and presenting, or re-presenting, Flash Gordon to a wider audience. Now that the main characters are all introduced, things on Mongo are starting to heat up. If you are, or know a Flash Gordon fan who also happens to be a comics collector, then you can also grab a great Christmas special from their on-line store, consisting of all 13 variant covers to the first three issues for only $US 45.

Jim Krueger’s New Series at Ardden

Jim Krueger’s one of my favourite writers. His work on Justice with superstar painter Alex Ross showed the vintage Justice League in a bold new light, and his awesome Earth-X book showed that he was the only man on earth smart enough to make sense of Marvel’s history, and give it a unifying naturalism. He’s simply a great story teller with big ideas, and his current work (again with Ross) can be seen in the Project Superpowers series at Dynamite. Now, he’s moving away from superheroes for his intriguing new series with Ardden Entertainment. They’re the guys behind the fantastic and faithful Flash Gordon title, which is definitely worth a look. Press release for The Stand-In below.
stand-in_coverArdden Entertainment is proud to announce that bestselling AVENGERS/INVADERS and SUPERPOWERS scribe Jim Krueger has joined the Ardden team and will be penning the four-issue spy thriller mini-series THE STAND-IN, with art by Alex Cal, who has worked on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY for Marvel and drew the NORTH WIND mini-series for Boom! Studios.

THE STAND-IN chronicles the adventures of Dexter Laumb, a talented but troubled and out-of-work actor who’s desperate for money. When he’s offered a job to “stand in” for a low level Senator who has double-booked two events for the same evening, Dexter is excited by the prospective paycheck and thinks the job will be a breeze. Hair dye and make-up transform Laumb into a virtual double of Senator Joe Murphy. However, he soon realizes that he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he’s partnered with one of the Senator’s senior aides, beautiful but acid-tongued Jennifer Forsythe. The two quietly go at it like cats and dogs while Dexter acts the part of the Senator, schmoozing and boozing as necessary. However, when a bullet rips through Dexter’s shoulder and the crowd scatters, he soon finds himself on the run with Jennifer, attempting to unravel the truth behind the assassination attempt, and finding himself in the middle of a conspiracy with earth-shattering consequences…

Brendan Deneen, Ardden’s co-publisher, comments, “It is a huge honor to be working with one of the most successful comic book writers currently working in the medium. I’ve known Jim for years and we’ve been trying to find something to work on together that whole time. THE STAND-IN is the perfect collaboration and I feel privileged that he’s publishing it through Ardden.”

Ardden will be debuting THE STAND-IN #0 at the New York Comic-Con in February 2009. The issue will feature an action-packed story that takes places before the events of the mini-series. Alex Cal’s cover for THE STAND-IN #0 was inspired by John Byrne’s classic cover for UNCANNY X-MEN #141.

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