Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #165, April 1991: Attack of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In the late `970s, the good folks (well, the folks) at National Lampoon licensed the rights to publish an American edition of the famed French adult fantasy comics magazine Metal Hurlant (which was the creation of Moebius and other great French creators). They launched Heavy Metal in the United States in 1977 and started a revolution in mature illustrated fantasy storytelling, influencing Warren Publishing’s 1984/1994 magazine, Epic Illustrated, even something called Gasm. (By the way, adult and mature here mean that they showed more violence and shirtless people – mostly women – than normal comics; they weren’t pornographic.)

But National Lampoon and Heavy Metal fell on hard times in the late 1980s, and eventually the company sold Heavy Metal to Kevin Eastman.

Ah, you say; you were wondering why I was talking about Heavy Metal in The Starlog Project. Kevin Eastman is the man who made zillions of dollars as co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He parlayed that success into other creator-owned comics projects. (As opposed to what I would do if I earned millions of dollars, which is pay off my credit card bills.) One of the things he did was buy Heavy Metal magazine in 1991, and he continues to serve as editor and publisher of the magazine today (2010).

Not that you asked, but in 2000, I exchanged a series of e-mails with Eastman in an attempt to interview him for a weekly science-fiction column I wrote for my friend Aaron Barnhart’s TVBarn.com. Though it never worked out (Eastman was agreeable to the interview, but he was always putting it off until he came back from various travels), I had a largely favorable opinion of the man, as someone who is charging head-first into a bunch of exciting projects, always busy, enthusiastic, and desperately needs iCal on his computer.

So, to bring this all home: The heroes in a half-shell, aka the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, take center-stage this issue of Starlog, promoting the new film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, a movie you might well have considered skipping, even if you didn’t know that it featured a guest appearance by rapper Vanilla Ice.

Cowabunga, boys.

Starlog #165
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

This is the last issue of the magazine before its publisher finally starts adding pages, which is also the harbinger of – believe it or not – yet another hike in the cover price. So cherish each page of this issue while you can ...

Oh, and a classified ad from the Did-I-Send-This-to-the-Wrong-Magazine department: “BUTTERFLY HUNT! Learn how to find, capture, prepare, preserve and display butterflies & moths. Send $3 plus $2 for shipping to ...”

The rundown: The juiced-up juvenile Japanese ... I can’t think of a synonym for “turtles” that begins with “j”, so let’s just say the turtles and be done with it – anywho, they’re on the cover; The Neverending Story II is featured on the contents page photo; all five pages of the Communications section are taken up with letters about various aspects of Star Trek, with the exception of Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile feature Blob, from The Blob; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column announces Tim Burton’s intention to make a sequel to his successful Batman film, including this tidbit: “Sean Young – briefly part of the first film, replaced by Kim Basinger – will play the Catwoman. And the penguin will be – yes!!! really!!! we’re not kidding!!! – Danny DeVito.” Despite the initial skepticism or at least surprise, DeVito would nail the role and become the best villain of the Burton Batman cycle of films.

Richard Starr interviews fantasy author Phyllis Eisenstein (Sorcerer’s Son, Born to Exile, etc.), who talks about her books and her husband, Alex, which leads me to wonder: The Eisensteins lived in Chicago, and there was an Alex Eisenstein who wrote for another (long-defunct) science-fiction movie magazine, Fantastic Films – is that the same Alex Eisenstein?; the Fan Network pages include a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze contest, Lia Pelosi’s directory of Star Trek fan clubs, and the convention calendar; Teresa Murray and Karen Funk Blocher profile actor John Levene, who portrayed Sergeant Benton for seven years on Doctor Who; in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn writes about meeting Dori and Lori, two conjoined twins who succeeded despite the odds; Edward Gross talks with Judy Burns, who wrote the “Tholian Web” episode of the original Star Trek (and who shares some interesting insight into the script for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which she critiqued for Harve Bennett and for which she urged the inclusion of more emphasis on the Kirk-Spock relationship); Adam Pirani explores the stage version of A Clockwork Orange, a theatrical version of the controversial Anthony Burgess story that managed to get performed in the United Kingdom, where director Stanley Kubrick had forbidden the release of the film since 1972.

Marc Shapiro goes behind the scenes of The Neverending Story II, with a sidebar on Neverending Story II’s co-star John Wesley Shipp, aka The Flash; T.L Johns writes the cover story, an exploration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ sequel, The Secret of the Ooze (complete with that Vanilla Ice photo); Edward Gross checks in with director Richard Franklin, who talks about FX2; back in issue #150, Gwen Lee and Doris E. Sauter provided a portion of their interview with Philip K. Dick, possibly the last interview (certainly one of the last) before his death, and this issue, Lee and Sauter are back with more Dick, who talks more deeply about his thoughts and his writing; Tom Weaver interviews Don Taylor about The Final Countdown, The Omen, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and more; T.A. Chafin explains what it takes to enter a masquerade contest at a science-fiction convention (which includes a series of photos from a very innovative “Skin of Evil” gag); Arachnophobia and other genre releases are given their due in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell highlights The Boys in Autumn, a Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer stage play by Walter Koenig and Mark Lenard.
“I had known Mr. [Alfred] Hitchcock because I had been up for a couple of his films. Rope [1948] was one of them; I had just finished Naked City and I went to see Hitchcock about Rope. We just talked. He had just seen Naked City and he wanted to know how they made this shot, that shot and the other shot. He marveled at the fact that we shot on Fifth Avenue in New York. Anyway, I didn’t get Rope, but I had been interviewed by him. And once I got to do that first Hitchcock [TV series] episode, then I used to sit and watch him direct. He was taking all the good scripts. My first year, he, Arthur Hiller and myself were among those directing. Arthur and I were way down at the bottom. If Hitch didn’t want to do it or couldn’t do it, then Robert Stevens got it, and if he had already had one, then it came down to Arthur or me. Once in a while, we’d get a good one; many times, we were struggling. But basically, those were good scripts. When I think of the stuff that goes by me today, those were excellent scripts. The only thing that was wrong with them was what was wrong with most of the shows at the time: There was absolutely no production. They would put up two walls and put a picture on the wall, a chair and a table and say, ‘Shoot.’ No books, no magazines, no papers, no frills. You couldn’t get any production worth a damn.”
–Don Taylor, director, interviewed by Tom Weaver: “Director of Men-Apes”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.
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