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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Terror of Fu Manchu

Until Cleveland author William Patrick Maynard sent me a copy of The Terror of Fu Manchu [Black Coat Press; $20.95], I had never any novels or anthology starring the criminal genius created by Sax Rohmer. I might have some of Rohmer's dozen-plus Fu Manchu books within my vast accumulation of stuff, but I never got around to reading them. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Cleveland authors, so, armed with whatever knowledge I acquired about the bad doctor from movies and Marvel's Master of Kung Fu, I sat down with the first authorized Fu Manchu book in nearly 25 years. According to Wikipedia, Terror takes place "within a gap in the narrative of The Hand of Fu Manchu (1917).

Maynard got my attention with a short opening chapter notable for its brutal, desperate action. Terror revolves around the soon-to-be-published memoirs of a former missionary, a zealot who once performed his version of the Lord's work in Fu Manchu's China and has turned from Christianity to embrace a mystic cult. The novel maintains a high level of suspense throughout, filled as it is with deadly jeopardy, seemingly inexplicable creatures and occurrences, and many surprising twists.

I was impressed by Maynard bringing a modern sensibility to the classic "Yellow Peril." Some characters, including Dr. Petrie, the book's narrator and a foe of Fu Manchu, are tolerant of other cultures and clearly aware that some actions taken by the Western heroes are conceived in racism. Indeed, Petrie is in love with a Muslim woman owned by Fu Manchu and recognizes they can never live together in either England or any other European nation.

Petrie is a complex character, a flawed hero whose makeup is marked by courage, fear, and resourcefulness. He doesn't possess the unswerving confidence of Sir Denis Nayland Smith or the French police detective Gaston Max. On the minus side, there are far too many situations where, despite his courage, Petrie is rescued from certain doom by his allies or through sheer dumb luck. Of course, such is a staple of pulp fiction, but it's most effective when used sparingly.

Fu Manchu impresses as well. He is outwardly aged and frail, and still the scariest dude in the room. His henchmen and rivals are more physically threatening, a allegedly otherworldly presence seems more likely to shatter one's soul and sanity, but I'd rather face them than the man with the mustache.

The Terror of Fu Manchu is an entertaining novel. It earns a respectable three out of five Tonys. It didn't send me rushing to read the Rohmer novels or the handful of sequels penned by others, but I would read another Maynard book. To order Terror, go to the publisher's website at:

www.blackcoatpress.com

Tony Tony Tony

******

MORE ON ADAM-12

My friend Don Hilliard, also the moderator of my message board [www.comicscommunity.com/boards/tony], sent me some additional info on the Adam-12 Season Three DVD set reviewed in yesterday's TOT and his own comments on the series:
Nice review of the Adam-12 Season 3 set, but two corrections worth noting:

The show was cocreated by Webb and Robert Cinader and is credited as such on-screen. Both men really do deserve the credit Webb's inspiration, reputation and pilot script sold the show, but it was Cinader who humanized it and gave it a realism beyond the stylistically-bound Dragnet. And as much a fan of Webb's work as I am, the season you're reviewing points this up. Cinader line produced the first two seasons of Adam-12, then moved on to develop and produce Webb's next series Emergency!. With Cinader elsewhere and Dragnet having finished production, Webb took a much heavier hand in the third season. Most of the clunkiness and stridency you note is Webb at his worst, and noticeably absent from earlier and later seasons.

It wasn't a spinoff from Dragnet, though the popularity of that show's revival drove its creation and casting. Kent McCord appeared in several Dragnet '67 episodes, in one case playing a patrolman named Reed assigned to car 1-A-12, for about 15 seconds and three lines of dialogue. Martin Milner appeared similarly with him in an episode shortly before Adam-12's pilot began filming, but the two didn't play a major role in a Dragnet episode until Adam-12 was in its second season.

Finally, not a correction but perhaps a small amelioration: someone apparently drew Webb's attention to the jaw-droppingly bad portrayals of Indians in the early part of the season. One of the season's later episodes (which you maybe haven't hit yet) takes the absolute opposite approach, casting a visibly Native American actor in a guest role without playing him as a cliche or indeed calling much attention to his ethnicity. Webb (and Cinader, again) took it a step further very quickly, casting the same actor Randolph Mantooth as one of the leads in the aforementioned Emergency!. While the new show didn't dwell heavily on Johnny Gage's Indian heritage, a number of episodes did reference it, usually to good effect. As I recall, it was recognized several times by Native American groups for being one of the few shows (if not the only) at the time to have a regular Indian character played by an Indian actor and played straight.
Thanks for the information and insights, Don.

And thanks to all my readers for spending a part of their day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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THE "TONY" SCALE

Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

Tony
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TonyTony
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

TonyTonyTony
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

TonyTonyTonyTony
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.



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