Book Review: ‘The Art of Red Sonja, Vol. 2’ by Various

Where the first volume in The Art of Red Sonja covered a lot of her earliest stuff, this one focuses more on her modern covers since she’s been at Dynamite Entertainment.

While I’d say that this one didn’t captivate me as much as the first volume, the vast majority of the artwork featured here is still great and worthy of being collected into this second book.

I’m a current reader of all the current Red Sonja titles and this book actually makes me wish that Dynamite was still doing covers with the quality of these earlier Red Sonja issues.

That’s not to knock the current art but the stuff featured in this book is much better and more reminiscent of the old Spanish and Italian pulp paintings from half a century ago. The art on many of the covers in this book remind me of the superb art from the Warren Publishing era of Vampirella.

There is also a lot of art pieces that are done in a more modern style but it’s the classic looking stuff that really pops off of the page. And frankly, sword and sorcery artwork, at least the covers, should look and feel like the art decorating the old van of the town metalhead.

Some of the pieces also look like pop art, manga or like Disney run amok. Those styles aren’t really my favorite for this character but it’s neat seeing them alongside some of the more traditional art pieces.

While not as solid, overall, as the first volume in this art book series, this one is still worth checking out if you enjoy Red Sonja or fantasy pulp art.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment that features the history of the characters they publish.

Vids I Dig 172: Strip Panel Naked: Using 3D Space in 2D Comic Books

From Strip Panel Naked’s YouTube description: On this episode I look at how Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant build a constant approach to showing three-dimensional depth in their comic ‘We3’. Using a constant camera angle that shows off three levels of content, foreground, mid ground and background, in almost every panel. It also leans into that way to show certain movement, showing it not as lateral left to right movement and but as back to front movement. It aims to create a real sense of place and three-dimensional space.

Talking Pulp: The National Wrestling Alliance: Out of the Fire

For almost two decades now, World Wrestling Entertainment hasn’t had any real competition, at least in the United States, its home country. But even on a worldwide scale, it’s been pretty hard for other companies to rise up and challenge them. It’s become an empire, poaching the best talent from everywhere on Earth while becoming a boring shell of what it once was. Because without someone really on your heels, what are you running from and what are you running towards?

In the last year or so, the landscape has changed pretty immensely.

Ex-WWE stars and other stars not wanting to ply their trade in that company (because of how they’ve wasted and misused talent) have started to band together, make noise and a new company has formed: All Elite Wrestling.

This fledgling AEW is being bankrolled by the Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. after becoming billionaires in the automotive parts industry.

The Khans teamed up with an ex-WWE star, Cody Rhodes, as well as some of the top North American wrestlers that were working in Japan, one of which is arguably the best in the world, right now: Kenny Omega.

They then started doing their own pay-per-view events, showcasing all the great talent that left WWE or that didn’t want to go there. Then they got a major television deal with TNT, the same network that used to host World Championship Wrestling’s weekly Nitro program, the show that nearly broke WWE two decades ago until WCW imploded.

Companies like Ring of Honor and Impact (formerly TNA) started stepping their game way up. New Japan Pro-Wrestling started coming Stateside and everything started to evolve in an exciting way.

But this isn’t really about any of those companies. It’s about the one really old promotion that seemingly hadn’t come up for air in a really long time. A promotion that no one was looking at because for most fans, old and new, it had died out years ago, even if its championships still existed and were contested for at indy wrestling shows that didn’t have much, if any, national exposure.

I’m talking about the National Wrestling Alliance, the NWA, the once gigantic organization that served as a network and governing body between all the territories in the United States.

The thing is, the NWA never really left. On the grander scale of the professional wrestling landscape, however, it hasn’t made very much noise in quite some time. In fact, it’s been pretty damn mum and kind of an afterthought once the WWE absorbed it’s top competitors and nearly every major video library of every territory that got swallowed up by the global juggernaut. They even absorbed the libraries of several NWA-allied companies from yesteryear.

Two years ago, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the National Wrestling Alliance. He had some prior experience running Revolution Pro Wrestling and handling creative for TNA, now Impact Wrestling. However, TNA had a lot of issues and Corgan ended up on the outs. But he had always had a love for professional wrestling and decided to purchase the NWA with the hopes of building it back up into the large brand that it once was.

In the time since, Corgan has grown the NWA’s exposure and with the help of his current world champion, Nick Aldis, he’s brought some real prominence back to the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

The title was defended in a major marquee match at the culture shifting pay-per-view event All In. Aldis even dropped the title to the soon-to-be AEW Executive Vice President, Cody Rhodes. Although, Aldis won it back a few months later in another massive match that got a lot of exposure.

The thing is, people were talking about the NWA and it’s premier title once again. It had national exposure, it helped make Aldis a more recognized performer on a larger scale and it planted seeds for something bigger on the horizon.

So back in October of this year, AEW was finally ready to debut their television show on Wednesday nights. WWE then decided to take their developmental brand, NXT, off of their WWE Network streaming service in order to move it to television, on the USA Network, to go head-to-head with AEW in order to try and keep that brand from becoming a juggernaut on the level that WCW once was. You know, because Vince McMahon is kind of a dick and has to own it all, unopposed.

This battle for wrestling ratings supremacy was coined the Wednesday Night War, as a play on words of the Monday Night War that was the nickname of the intense ratings battles between WWF Raw and WCW Nitro from 1995 through 2001.

But while all this was going on, the National Wrestling Alliance decided that it was going to return to the ways of old and start filming wrestling shows in a studio setting like they used to do in the ’80s, at the height of the organization’s popularity.

Knowing that nostalgia can be a very good thing and that this sort of studio presentation would generate the right kind of feeling in old school wrestling fans that miss the days of yore, Billy Corgan gave us NWA Power.

Personally, I was aware that the show was coming and that it would be broadcast on YouTube weekly on Tuesdays at 6:05, similar to how the NWA shows of old started at :05 on the hour because that’s how TBS did things back then. But I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d even like the end product that much. I knew it was going for the nostalgia thing and while that made me happy, I was unsure of what the end result would be. It could be disastrous if handled poorly and in a cheesy, hammy way that insulted fans’ intelligence.

Then the first episode dropped and as soon as I heard Dokken’s “Into the Fire” blare through my TV’s stereo speakers, I was immediately in the right place. I felt a nice ease come over my body, releasing the apprehension I had and then I heard Jim Cornette’s voice, the excitement of the live crowd in the studio and the classic blue ring apron and a set that looked like it was from the era it was emulating.

I didn’t care that NWA Power looked dated, that’s what made it so damn cool. But it also didn’t just rely on that. It taps into the right vibe and hits the right notes for fans of what the NWA once was but it doesn’t rely so much on old faces, as it showcases a lot of young, newer talent, most of whom seem like they’ve got legit chops in the ring and in the realm of being entertainers.

As each new episode dropped, my rekindled love of the National Wrestling Alliance grew. And despite the great shows that AEW and NXT have been putting out since the start of their war, it’s NWA Power that I most look forward to each week. There’s just something special about it. It’s pure and it sparks that feeling that I used to get watching wrestling when I was a kid. But nostalgia alone can’t do that.

NWA Power has stars and I don’t mean that to come across like they’re the stars of tomorrow. No. These are the stars of today. And while they might not be on the biggest platform, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete and also, who’s to say that the biggest platform is the right platform for everyone? It’s been clear that it hasn’t been right for a lot of wrestling talent. And, at the end of the day, where the biggest platform fails their talent, it only benefits companies like the National Wrestling Alliance.

Billy Corgan has big plans for new things going forward. There’s a reality show starting soon, which works as a talent search for indy wrestlers that want a shot at being on NWA Power. There is also pay-per-views, which the NWA has streaming through Fite TV, an app worth getting. Plus, there’s the ongoing Ten Pounds of Gold documentary series that follows the story of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

So this Saturday night, the NWA is putting on a big pay-per-view called Into the Fire. And that’s honestly the inspiration for me to put down my thoughts in this article. Reason being, I haven’t been this excited for a wrestling pay-per-view in decades, as far back as the Monday Night War era.

I feel like I just have to tip my hat to the National Wrestling Alliance, Billy Corgan, Dave Lagana, Nick Aldis and all the talent in front of and behind the camera for making me feel as excited as I do. Being a wrestling fan has been a really rocky road for a long time with only one big show in town. But now things are changing and weathering the storm ended up being worth it.

While the big pay-per-view is called Into the Fire, the National Wrestling Alliance really just rose like a phoenix out of the fire: reborn and ready to ignite the hearts of fans across the globe.

Documentary Review: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004)

Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title)
Release Date: September 12th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker
Written by: Ed Singer
Music by: John Williams
Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite

Prometheus Entertainment, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, A&E, 151 Minutes, 120 Minutes (TV Edit)

Review:

“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford

I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.

Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.

Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.

If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?

Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.