On January 27th, film legend John Hurt had passed away after battling pancreatic cancer. An old guard-generation actor with a career spanning sixty years, Hurt had a legacy with a profound impact on pop culture.
The ‘80s revival that has been steadily gaining momentum in the pop culture arena since the mid-2000s (post-Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) reached a new and impressive zenith in 2016, no doubt capstoned by the critical success of the Netflix original series, Stranger Things. This television show (which will be explored in a different retrospective at Fanbase Press) encapsulated all the trademark hallmarks of the decade: Cold War fears, slasher-horror elements, youth-centric stories, period piece music and nods to vintage advertisements, hair styles, and fashion. The show was a perfect example of homage-as-genre, a type of cinema pioneered by Tarantino in the '90s with Pulp Fiction. Other directors and producers attempted to mimic the homage-as-genre style to mixed results. This scenario has plagued the '80s resurgence as well, as the failure of the live-action version of Jem and the Holograms in 2015 illustrates; however, it is the true artisans and crafts folk, the ones who lived in the era and have come of age (late Gen-Xers and Millennials) that truly see the value and potential of the decade, and have been successfully mining it. Stranger Things may be the most prominent example for 2016, but beneath it a whole '80s world flourishes across different medias.
Fans of Lovecraft literature can be divided into two major factions. The first category are the Lovecraft purists, those folks who hold the works penned by H.P. Lovecraft himself as the only canon worthwhile to read and posit that successor works simply fail to capture the cosmic nihilism of the original texts. The other camp is composed of the Cthulhu Mythos fans, the readers hooked into Lovecraft via its most prominent and popular icon. This camp prefers stories that contain the most recognizable elements, such as the presence of Cthulhu, mentions of Miskatonic University, and throwbacks to the town of Innsmouth. This is a Lovecraft universe shaped by August Derleth beginning in the late 1930s and has been refined and expanded on by other authors since.
As unfortunate events happen to the character of Barb in the Netflix original series Stranger Things, it seems uncanny that the actress that portrays her, Shannon Purser, would also have a bit of bad luck surrounding her panel at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con that took place on Saturday afternoon, October 29th. Scheduled to start at 1:30 pm, her panel did not commence until 1:55 pm. While her panel was in two combined meeting halls, a large majority of attendees were, in fact, claiming their spots in anticipation for the following 2:30 p.m. panel on Batman ’66. This caused seating issues for folks arriving to see the Stranger Things panel, but not finding a spot due to all the Batman attendees. Per the program, the panel was to be attended not only by Purser, but also by Shawn Levy (executive producer, and director of episodes 3 & 4), Dan Cohen (executive producer), Andrew Furtado, and Tyler Craig Henry, but in the end, it was only Purser and moderator Greg Beville.
The current cycle of sword-and-sandal films has been riding the wave of the success of Gladiator since 2000, and its end has been projected many times. In the introduction to his edited anthology Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword & Sandal Film, scholar Michael G. Cornelius projected that these films, hereafter referred to as neo-peplum films, were already seeing a periodic decline in 2010/2011. After Gods of Egypt (2016) had performed poorly at the box office, Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter noted that other recent neo-peplum films such as The Legend of Hercules (2014) and Pompeii (2014) had also performed under expectations, thus also mimicking Cornelius’ thoughts that the cycle was in a rut.
For the past ten years, Classic Comics Press has been collecting and republishing American comic strips, many originating from newspapers from decades past. Their flagship line has been Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins, On Stage, but the publisher has republished many other comic series as well, such as Stan Drake’s The Heart of Juliet Jones and Frank Godwin’s Rusty Riley, both that ran during the 1950s.
Almost eight decades after his passing, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on contemporary speculative fiction remains profound. With many of his works in the public domain, other writers have sought to continue his legacy by either writing their own stories in a Lovecraftian vein, or by taking Lovecraft’s original source material and building on it with successor stories. Since the publishing barrier has been set extremely low due to the accessibility and affordability of self-publishing, a literary landscape has sprung up, saturated with Lovecraftian stories penned by both proficient writers and imitators. Almost any speculative writer can lay claim that they write in the Lovecraft fashion; hence, readers must be able to sift through the sea of stories of dubious merit to find interesting and competently written tales of cosmic horror.