July 2, 2013


I took a break from editing Miki Zero last weekend and flew down for a rare mission to Los Angeles to meet with the creator of my sister COBRAS site, Double O Section. It was an eventful journey worth sharing with my fellow Spy Vibers. The adventure began with a comfortable flight listening to Paul Dini interviews about his experiences writing Batman. Double O's Tanner picked me up and we dashed from LAX to a comprehensive spy soundtrack mix. By the time we had our sushi lunch and arrived at Sideshow bookshop, I was fully primed to spend 36 hours steeped in retro pop culture.

If you you haven't been to Sideshow, you are missing something special. Although they stock a wider selection of books than Kayo in San Francisco, their genre sections are filled with uncommon treasures. Browsing in the James Bond area, we looked an original script from Dr. No (very exciting to hold!), and saw many Fleming first editions and rare magazine publications. I was able to finally find a copy of Fleming's article about Raymond Chandler in the London Magazine from 1959. Score! Double O's Tanner picked up the Moonraker record/book. I had fun looking at a vintage Shadow magazine in their small collection of pulps, which had a story related to my current Miki Zero novel project. After our purchases, it was back to the Double O lair to prepare for the evening. Sideshow image below from Illustration Matters

I must interview Double O Section's Tanner for the For Your Shelf Only series soon. Walking into his lair was like entering a complete library devoted to everything we hold dear. Do you remember those walls of computers on the set of Billion Dollar Brain? Tanner's bookshelves were equally as vast and dizzying. I saw full collections that represented a number of pop culture areas, but the spy genre materials were especially exciting to look at. There were many rare and proof editions of Higson's young Bond, hard to find Bond hardcovers, Easton Press editions, illustrated UK annuals, and more. It was all I could do to tear my eyes away and head out for the next phase of our mission. Here's a brief preview of Tanner's collection.

According to Tanner, there are fewer shops in LA these days that specialize in film posters, stills, and books. But we were able to explore two or three places that had some cool pieces. I picked up an inexpensive press kit for The Avengers movie (based on the TV show), which I hope will reveal some interesting details about how the makers intended the film to turn out (i.e. What were they thinking?). I also found a collection of beautiful James Bond post cards that I will give away as prizes on Spy Vibe soon. 

After browsing more books, toys, and props, we headed to the Egyptian Theater to meet the creator of Spy Bop Royale for a screening of Fleischer Superman cartoons hosted by animation historian Jerry Beck. My pal Brian Walker (Hi and Lois) has often mentioned Jerry, and I've seen Jerry interviewed in documentaries, so I looked forward to seeing him in person. After a brief hello, Jerry took the stage and spoke about the development and tone of the early Fleischer shorts. The Egyptian showed 35mm and 16mm prints, which were beautiful to see on the big screen. Remember that the cartoons made to watch in a theater with a crowd, and there were a few moments of spontaneous applause that were wonderful to experience. Some of the dynamic highlights were the robot scenes in The Mechanical Monsters, a machinegun-toting Lois Lane shooting it out with baddies from a runaway train in Billion Dollar Limited, and the costumed Nazi agents in Jungle Drums- real pulp thrills! The three of us then returned to the Double O lair to watch some clips from a very extensive library of Eurospy movies. I can tell you that it was hard to fall asleep! Superman still below from Jerry Beck's blog.

Tanner and I made a quick pilgrimage in the morning to see the Bronson Canyon cave, which has been used as a location for many films and TV shows. I was determined to see it because it was featured as the Batcave in the 1966 Batman program. If Spy Vibers are looking for the cave, it is an easy walk from the parking lot. Just take a right up the hill and the location is around the first major bend in the trail. The cave is actually a tunnel, and one immediately recognizes the rock face from those well-used shots of the Batmobile racing away from Batman's secret lair. The area behind the tunnel was recognizable as the Batboat peer location (in reverse shots) from the classic movie. I spent many afternoons as a little kid with my childhood pal playing Batman in his parent's garage. They had a black car with fins and we would sit inside and pretend we were the Caped Crusaders. I never would have guessed I would someday visit the actual Batcave! It was really cool to walk through the Bronson location and make that link to my boyhood fantasies. Here is your Spy Vibe host at the cave below. "Atomic batteries to power!"

A special spy summit was planned for Sunday lunch. The three of us from the night before met up with the creator of the Super7even web series. Due to a snafu, Paul from Bish's Beat was unable to attend. We had a fun and low-key roundtable gab-fest over sushi. Super7even creator Scott Rhodes has an extensive history as a stuntman and coordinator on Buffy and other great projects, so I enjoyed talking with him about his work and our mutual admiration for Douglas Fairbanks and Buster Keaton. What a pleasure it was to hang out with a group of people who can enthusiastically discuss obscure corners of Eurospy, James Bond, and comic book movies. I think if I ever lived down there, I would enjoy meeting up regularly with this cadre of agents for screenings and spy talk. Imagine the projects we might accomplish as a unified team!

Tanner and I then hit another book store, which had extensive sections devoted to film, animation, and graphic novels surpassed only by The Strand in NYC. We browsed together through the Ian Fleming, Deighton, Batman, and TV tie-in books. Plenty of Man From U.N.C.L.E. paperbacks out there if Spy Vibers are searching. There were some cool pieces in the special case, including Batman books signed by Bob Kane, Adam West, and Julie Newmar. Tanner was quite excited to find one of the rare Raymond Chandler editions by the Folio Society and Batmanga signed by Chip Kidd. I picked up a sketched/signed Batman trade paperback, one of the Wonder Woman collections from her Mod Swinging London era, and a beautiful Sotheby's catalog devoted to rare comics and original art. 

On our way back to LAX, we stopped at the Grammy Museum for an hour to look at the new Ringo Starr exhibit. Talk about boyhood dreams come true! The collection at the museum was quite large, and an hour was not enough time to take everything in. The cases, which were arranged in three main areas, were filled with interesting artifacts, including family photos, school reports, letters, posters, instruments, and clothing. The highlight for me was being able to stand close to Ringo's original Ludwig drum kit from the Ed Sullivan Show and A Hard Days Night. I couldn't help walking around the display with one eye closed to recreate the camera angles of some historic shots. And like the other drums in the exhibit from later Beatles days and Ringo's solo career, it was exciting to get close enough to see all of the tiny dings in the drum heads and cymbals where Ringo banged out his celebrated backbeat. Lots of history in those pock-marked surfaces!

Another highlight was seeing famous fashion, like Ringo's original black suit, knitted tie, Beatle boots, and his collarless gray suit from the early years. We also saw his Sgt. Peppers costume and many outfits worn in music videos, films, and concerts. A chronological display of album covers lined the upper walls of each room, and there were areas for listening, remixing, and viewing rare film clips. Ringo has not been discussed as often as his bandmates, and this show did a good job reminding the public how essential his musicality and personality were to the chemistry of The Beatles. It also served as a wonderful overview of Ringo's long and diverse career in music and film. If you are a Beatles fan, do not miss this exhibit. Photos are not allowed in the museum. Images here are from the press opening.

Special thanks to Tanner for making this LA mission a success! I look forward to our next spy summit! 

Spy Vibe is having a giant Summer Sale! Items include First Editions of Fleming, Gardner, Deighton, Rare Large-Print 007 editions, Raymond Benson, Gulyashki, Man From UNCLE, Beatles, Corgi, music items and CDs, and More! Save with combined shipping. Head over to eBay for details here. Happy collecting, fellow Spy Vibers!

Get ready to meet MIKI ZERO, a Japanese fashion model and spy from 1965! That's right, I've written a novel inspired by Spy Vibe. More info at my website here.

Check Spy Vibe for recent posts about Batman '66 and Warhol, our fiendish villains archiveCold War Comics, Sam Mendes back for Bond, Spy Vibe heroes and Wild Things, book design dopplegangersChristopher LeeBettie PageDashiell HammettMiles Davis, WWII spy Krystyna Skarbek, recycled James Bond covers, interview with Fu Manchu author William Maynard,  Man From UNCLE mangaOrson Welles the Shadow, rare Piero Umiliani Kriminal soundtrack, new Beatles Yellow Submarine game, James Bond audio book re-issues, Mid-Century Modern in Peanuts, my review of SKYFALL and more. Spy Vibe is now on Pinterest! Check out our image archives and follow us here. For Your Shelf Only collecting series links
Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger Langley, Craig Arthur, Fleming ShortMatt Sherman. 

Can you help to support Spy Vibe? Please make a small donation with our secure Paypal tip-jar link at the top left of the main page. Nothing is too small to help cover the increasing bills for the domain, web-forwarding and other costs to maintain the site. Thank you! 

1 comment:

  1. i forgot to mention that we found one of my favorite Paul Bishop thrillers at one of the bookstores, Kill Me Again, now available for your kindle here: