My friend and consummate collector, Steve Miller, is the proud owner of both of these illustrations. Michael Calero sketched the first one for him when he attended a Walker Stalker Con in 2016, Steve later contacted him and requested a companion piece for Hilary.
My family had three or four of these vintage sleds rattling around at the back of the garage in the 1980’s; I learned only tonight that they dated from three decades prior. (We might have had the “Flexible Flyer” sleds from the era.) They’re veritable antiques.
They were nobody’s favorite. When the neighborhood kids gathered at any of its wooded hills on a snow day, it was always clear that the cheap 80’s-era red plastic sleds were much faster. (Those metal rungs that you see below pushed right down to the bed of leaves leaves beneath the snow and got caught in them.)
And do you see that wooden crossbar that seems to suggest you could steer the thing? That was pure bullshit. It wouldn’t budge. If you saw yourself headed for a tree, you simply rolled off and ditched the sled. Or you just crashed into the tree. And let me tell you something — that hurts even more than you might think.
I watched the first episode of Season 2 of “The Exorcist” series (2016), and I’m happy to report it was a fun, scary start. (The season began this past September; its ten-episode arc concluded at the end of the year.) I’d rate the premiere a 9 out of 10, and I’m on board for another demonic outing.
Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels return as a kind of dynamic duo of protagonist priests — all the more so because they appear to be on the run from a Roman Catholic Church that no longer sanctions their heroics. (The show is actually well written, and this isn’t as stupid as I just made it sound.) Herrera and Daniels are both terrific, even if an opening action chase scene reintroducing them here was unintentionally funny. (They’re absconding by pickup truck with a possessed woman — her gun-toting country family, who is unaware of their intentions, is in pursuit. I kept thinking this was a like a sequel to 1990’s “Nuns on the Run.”)
Herrera’s character feels a bit more interesting this time out. Six months on the lam as exorcist-knight-errant has made him grim and unexpectedly arrogant — his darker character is more fun to watch than the slightly cloying, pretty-boy apprentice we sometimes saw in Season 1.
There are more things that make Season 2 seem promising, too. It looks as though the afflicted woman that we see (nicely played by Zibby Allen) drives only this season’s prologue. The demon antagonist has its sights set on a foster home staffed by a likable altruistic Dad (John Cho) and his equally likable five charges. (One of them is Brianna Hildebrand, who comic fans might recognize as Negasonic Teenage Warhead from 2016’s “Deadpool.” Is she here after being thrown out of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?)
This was fun. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story.
“Black Mirror” (2011) remains the best science fiction show on television; I’d rate the six-episode third season a perfect 10. The show continues to succeed at every level with its story concepts and their execution. And I think it’s actually getting better.
It’s getting darker and harder hitting, too. I’d guess that this season’s blackmailing-hackers episode (“Shut Up and Dance”) would be the one that the majority of viewers find the most disturbing. For some reason, the man-vs.-monster story of “Men Against Fire” is the one that really got under my skin.
I was surprised to learn that nearly all of “Black Mirror’s” episodes are penned by series creator Charlie Brooker. I’m still surprised at how many clever ideas and lean, smart scripts could spring from one writer. I was so impressed that I looked Brooker up on Wikipedia — but was surprised to discover I’m unfamiliar with nearly all of his other work. The one exception is “Dead Set” (2008) — the truly fantastic British zombie horror miniseries that I’ve been recommending to friends for ages. That makes sense.
Anyway, I am fully and happily converted to “Black Mirror’s” cult following, and I enthusiastically recommend it to people who ask about it. (The show’s popularity is still growing — I believe it appeals to the same kind of fans as those who flocked to the various iterations of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits” of generations past.) But I might actually suggest that newcomers begin with the second or third season, rather than the first. Season 1 is terrific, but it’s three episodes are more subtle and thematic, while the latter seasons follow a more conventional story structure that might better appeal to more mainstream audiences. (They have more satisfying twists and emotional payoffs, too.)
And a quick caveat — I’ll reiterate that this show is indeed dark. There is a strictly human element to most of “Black Mirror’s” twists that is intended to surprise the viewer by provoking anxiety or dread. For a show that relies on technological story devices, it succeeds even more with its old fashioned psychological horror.
When I reviewed the second season of the outstanding “Wolf Creek” television series (2016) not too long ago, I neglected to mention something — the trippy rendition of Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” in its opening credits.
It’s a beautiful cover by Australia’s Sabrina Schultz, and it’s perfect for the show — it should please both horror fans and anyone who remembers the original song from 1981. It has a dreamy, melancholy quality that hints at the show’s weird juxtaposition of brutal violence with its gorgeous outback setting.
Omni in the 1980’s was an absolutely unique magazine dedicated to science fiction and science fact — it was always weird and occasionally wonderful. Its content was consistently a good deal trippier than anything you’d find in more mainstream contemporaries like Scientific American or Discover — futurism, the paranormal, and short stories that were pretty damned abstract. (I remember Patricia Highsmith’s “The Legless A” being a real head-scratcher for me.) And the covers to Omni were frequently awesome.
I had a subscription around 1989 or so — I believe I got a year’s subscription as either a Christmas or birthday present. I still remember it arriving in the mailbox. I think I had all of the issues you see below — except the third one. That issue is from January 1983, and I never had it. I’m including it here because it’s too interesting not to share.
Stephen King fans will recognize Don Brauitgam’s artwork for the cover of King’s classic 1978 short story collection, “Night Shift.” Brautigam apparently sold it to the magazine later. (Interesting, too, is the similarity of the artist’s name to a key character in King’s subsequent “Hearts in Atlantis” and his “The Dark Tower” series — the kindly psychic, Ted Brautigan.)
Anyway, if you were geeky enough to enjoy this back in the day, the entire run of Omni is currently available at Amazon for $3 a pop. It was available online for free for a while, and I think you can still find all of the short stories uploaded in pdf if you google them — I found a bunch, including Highsmith’s story. (I wonder if I’d get a better sense of it if I read it today.)