Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #166, May 1991: Robin Hoods – Princes of Thieves

True, Robin Hood is in no way science fiction. Bows, arrows, hand-to-hand combat. It’s really just glorified road brigandage. Yet, SF fans tend to love it, probably for the action and the high principles involved of helping the poor (though by stealing from the rich; I suspect this makes the Tea Party people have nightmares).

This issue, the latest Robin Hood, as played by Kevin Costner, takes center stage, though the magazine also highlights other Hoods from legend, screen, text, and television. The historical article, by William Wilson Goodson Jr., does a good job at showing how Robin Hood evolved over hundreds of years, from a rebellious freeborn man (neither peasant nor nobility) to eventual noble defending the king.

Starlog #166
80 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

At last, our long national nightmare is over. Starlog finally boosts its page count for the first time in five years. Since 1985, its regular-issue page count (thus not including 100-page special issues) has been 76 pages, including covers. This issue, the publisher adds another four pages to its basic package, and Starlog also rearranges the placement of its color and B&W+1 (black-and-white plus one color) pages. Again except for special issues, the magazine has for 15 years alternated four B&W pages with four color pages, with roughly half of the pages color. With issue #166, the B&W+1 pages are all ganged together (as pages 5-24, and 57-76).

This might be too much arcana to most of you, but it’s worth noting because it also changes the way the magazine is designed. When you only had four pages of color in a row, that meant the designers would sometimes do interesting (or not interesting enough) things to start a feature article on a color page opposite a black-and-white page. (This has occasionally limited which page spreads I’ve scanned for display with these article writeups.) Now, increasingly, the feature articles all begin on two-page color spreads, which livens up the design options available to the art staff. The departments (Videolog, Tribute, From the Bridge, etc.) migrate to the B&W+1 pages, which also give the magazine a more traditional division between departments and the feature well.

Okay, all of that is probably far more interesting and significant to a magazine editor like me than it is to you.

Perhaps of more general interest is that in this issue, Starlog runs its first ad for the official Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special, a 100-page, all-color magazine celebrating the silver jubilee of the science-fiction series that inspired Starlog 15 years earlier. It’s a very nice publication, and it also must have brought in a good amount of money to the company; the 25th-anniversary special magazine would reportedly become a huge best-seller. Priced originally at $6.95, it can sell for multiples of that amount on eBay in 2010, though I see one seller who’s priced it at $1.40. The fool!

The rundown: Kevin Costner grabs the prime cover spot, dressed as Robin Hood, who’s a prince of thieves, as you probably know; and if that’s not enough for you, he’s also featured on the contents page. The Communications pages are filled with readers commenting on past coverage of Robin of Sherwood, Edward Scissorhands, Beauty & the Beast, and more, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features the Morlocks; David McDonnell’s Medialog reports on yet another Robin Hood project, this time for TV; and the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s directory of fan clubs and the convention calendar.

Drew Bittner previews Car Warriors, a new four-issue limited series Epic (Marvel) comic book; Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge discusses a man whose passion and profession is designing the spaceships of today – airplanes; Bill Warren previews the science-fiction comedy Mom & Dad Save the World; in “Saracen Sentiments,” Jean Airey talks with actor Mark Ryan about his role as Nasir in Robin of Sherwood; William Wilson Goodson Jr. explains the origins and development of the Robin Hood lore; and Adam Pirani previews Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Marc Shapiro visits the set of The Rocketeer (in my opinion, one of the unappreciated gems of 1990s filmmaking); Daniel Dickholtz interviews Paige Turco, human star of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze; interplanetary correspondent Michael Wolf (with illustrations by George Kochell) looks at mutants in genre history; David Hutchison’s Videolog column announces Ghost and other genre releases; Peter Bloch-Hansen and Elyse Dickenson provide a complete episode guide to TV’s War of the Worlds; I swear to God there’s a classified ad that reads: “GIANT AMEBA! Grows hand-size, bigger. Unearthly, ‘desktop Blob.’ $5.00 guaranteed alive! ...”; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell talks SF conventions and also says good-bye to long-time Starlog editorial staffer Eddie Berganza. Berganza would go on to an even longer career as a comics creator at DC.
“Over all, Robin Hood is established as Robin of the Village of Locksley. A yeoman, a freeborn man – neither noble nor peasant – he’s outlawed for poaching deer and killing a royal forester (in self-defense). And that’s where the adventures begin. Robin’s popularity comes from his humiliation of such figurees as the Sheriff and the Abbot, who were hated as tax collectors and enforcers of petty laws. While not a noble himself (in most legends), Robin Hood represents chivalry’s ideals, demonstrating personal honor, generosity, courage and loyalty to the Crown. To England’s commoners, an outlaw’s life, free of backbreaking farm labor and the daily duties to the lord of one’s manor, must have seemed like paradise.”
–William Wilson Goodson Jr., writer, “The Many Adventures of Robin Hood”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.
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