Assassin's Creed: Heresy

Want To Win A Copy Of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy?

You might recall a few weeks back when I posted my review of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy. The entertaining new novel by the talented Christie Golden. As well as share my love of the Assassin’s Creed series of games, I also pointed out that history – real events are what keep me coming back again and again.

Like when you are rubbing shoulders with the likes of Leonardo da Vinci. Having said that there are science fiction elements to the storyline. So you in fact won’t find yourself playing a game from the History Channel.

The folks at Ubisoft were kind enough to not send just Assassin’s Creed:Heresy for me to review. But also offer you readers a chance to win a copy of the book for yourself! Now how is that for an early gift during this Holiday Season?

You might be asking yourself what kind of feat we are going to ask you to accomplish for a chance to win?

While that would certainly be an impressive way to win. The real answer is that it is much simpler.

To be entered in the drawing for Assassin’s Creed: Heresy you must state your allegiance.


Do you choose the ways of The Assassin Brotherhood?
Assassin's Creed: Heresy

Or do you in fact feel the draw of the power offered by the Templar Order?
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State your allegiance to me by way of e-mail at VicSage@Retroist.com or Twitter or even this post on Facebook. That is all you have to do – I look forward to your answers!
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Mad Magazine

1979 Mad Magazine Board Game Commercial

Mad Magazine is pretty much a cultural icon in publishing. From it’s first issue in 1952 until today, Mad Magazine still stands as a wonderful satirical publication. Whether the subject matter be popular movies, sports, and public figures of course nothing is too sacred. Naturally everything is fair game. It should probably come as no surprise though the first issue I picked up was the Star Wars one.
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As a matter of fact, the popularity of Mad Magazine had reached over two million subscribers by 1974. So in hindsight it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Parker Brothers in 1979 decided to produce a board game. With this in mind you must expect some different win conditions. Furthermore the rules stated that not only did you have to roll the dice with your left hand. But also pass the turns counter-clockwise and the ultimate goal was to rid yourself of all your money. It featured as well a board chock full of the late, great Jack Davis’ artwork.

[Via] Mr. Classic Ads 1970

Try to imagine a group of children sitting down to win this game. To say nothing of having to suddenly switch chairs during the game play. Which could have disastrous consequences for you if were almost out of money!
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In that commercial for the Mad Magazine board game did you notice a future celebrity?


You will have to look closely past the mustache and glasses but the Father is played by Richard Kind.
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Perhaps his name doesn’t ring a bell. Although it most certainly should as he has 198 acting credits. Here is the actor discussing his first summer job.

The White House

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Ubisoft Releases Assassin’s Creed: Heresy And The Essential Guide!

It is fair to say that I am in love with Assassin’s Creed.

Krull and BB-8 aren't actually art of Assassin's Creed...I just have them there.

Krull and BB-8 aren’t actually part of Assassin’s Creed…I just have them there.

Ubisoft hit that sweet spot for this particular retro-loving gaming aficionado when the first title was released. That hook was History. Moreover they reeled me in with the storyline right off the bat. As a player finds themselves plunged into a war that has taken place between two powerful and secretive factions through the ages. Two orders that desire above all things…peace. They just have a very different way of achieving that goal.

The Templar Order have a viewpoint that if humanity is to know peace. It must be guided with a firm hand. So that order and reason will prevail. Of course this also means that they feel world control is a viable choice to that end. A task made easier as they’ve become a global corporate power known as Abstergo Industries.
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The Assassin Brotherhood on the other hand desires to protect free will. Believing that the Templars will in fact harm humanity by attempting to shepherd it. They also have set themselves as guardians to oppose tyrants and defend the weak. Naturally this sets them on a path against the Templar Order.
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In addition when these two factions cross paths it gets rather violent…quickly.

To say nothing of the fact there is a science fiction story running through the entire game series. The Assassins and Templars both covet the surviving technology of the Precursors. A lost civilization that was technologically superior to the point of being worshiped as Gods. That technology has a tendency to affect human thoughts and behavior. So you can easily see why both sides would want to claim these items.
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While the series started in the Third Crusade, the 9 core game releases since have expanded the periods of history you can visit. Vastly. From the Renaissance to the October Revolution of 1917. Add to the fact you have iOS game titles, comic books as well as novels, you can see how the lore has become deep.

Which is why it is was a great idea to collect all of that lore into a handy single volume. Hence Ubisoft’s release today of Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide. A 216 page collection that is perfect for not just first time players but longtime fans of the series.
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It covers the historical settings in the the games, the important characters, and insider information. After browsing the book you’ll be in the know on everything from the Animus to what the true fate was of Anastasia Romanova.
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Now that would certainly be reason to rush out to your local bookstore…but there is more. Much more. Ubisoft today also released Assassin’s Creed: Heresy, the brand new novel by Christie Golden.
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An Author that I have a great deal of respect for to say the least. I have followed her work since back in 1991 when she penned Vampire of the Mists for Ravenloft.
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I have continued to follow her work through the World of Warcraft novels as well as Starcraft. Which is why I pretty much begged Ubisoft to allow me to share the news of her latest novel with you all.

One of the key aspects of the game series in terms of the lore has been showing that both factions, the Assassins and Templars are not wholly good or evil. Well…perhaps the Templars do tend to rank a little more on the villain scale. Which is why Golden’s new book is such a treat. It’s not told from the viewpoint of a member of the Assassin Brotherhood. We get to experience the point of view of one of the Inner Sanctum of the Templar Order. An historian by the name of Simon Hathaway, the head of Abstergo Industries’ Historical Research Division. He has taken up the task of locating the sword of none other than Joan of Arc. Which is believed to actually be a powerful Precursor artifact. Along the way he uncovers secrets about the legendary Saint of soldiers and of France as well as himself.

With the permission of Ubisoft here are some excerpts from an interview with Golden about her new Assassin’s Creed novel.


Photo Credit Elizabeth Golden

Photo Credit Elizabeth Golden


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So I very much hope that you are ready to head out and pick up these new books from Ubisoft or order them online. But I feel I should let you know in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy you have two options. You can choose the softcover edition or go with the Special Edition. If you go for the hardcover edition you also will have access to exclusive art sketches and behind the scenes interviews, as well as a special code to unlock Assassin’s Creed rewards through Ubisoft Club’s loyalty program!

So why not delve into the captivating world of Assassin’s Creed today? You can get prepared for the upcoming movie this December!

[Via] 20th Century Fox

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Celebrate Atari Day With The Art Of Atari!

Art of Atari I think is possibly the best way to celebrate Atari Day. Then again I admit I am biased in that viewpoint.
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Although this may be true it doesn’t detract from the importance of the Art of Atari to gaming enthusiasts. Tim Lapetino’s retrospective on Atari gives us an insiders look at the four decades of the company. Additionally he has amassed artwork from private collections and museums for his 352 page tome – moreover it’s official. Lapetino has also included interviews and sometimes never before published artwork of those artists that were part of the Golden Age of Atari!

Images courtesy of Atari I/O.

Images courtesy of Atari I/O.

I want to point out that Tim has sort of been working out the idea of the book since 2012. Captivated like many of us by the beautiful box art that graced the 2600 titles. Missile Command, Adventure, and Centipede to name but a few. Lapetino that year was able to obtain from another collector, slides, negatives and transparencies of such Atari artwork.
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Equally important of that purchase to Tim was coming into contact with Cliff Spohn. The freelance illustrator responsible for some of Atari’s early uniquely beautiful covers.
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I cannot stress how important these illustrations for the games were. In fact it helped to set the art style of those original releases. But it also acted as a portal of sorts to the “World” that the game on the cartridge offered. Stoking the fires of the imagination – it is easy to see how children might add an element of role-playing with Codebreaker.

You aren’t merely attempting to find the hidden code in as few as moves possible. Thanks to that artwork by Spohn you are now a shadowy agent trying to obtain the location of enemy ships!

Don’t just take my word for it. Here is the Art of Atari‘s Tim Lapetino on Atari’s early approach to advertising:


“I can say that Atari’s approach really was a product of its time. In the late 70s and early 80s, illustration was still widely used in advertising, design, and commercially. Photography was just starting to supplant hand-rendered illustration, but it was sort of natural that the folks at Atari would draw from existing, parallel industries to drawn inspiration for their package design and art. There were no video game standards, so they borrowed from paperback novel covers, LP album art, and movie posters – and expanded upon it. Cliff Spohn’s art really served as a working template of how to approach the art, and they grew from there.”

That quote like nearly all the photos in this article are from an EXCLUSIVE interview over at Atari I/O. Between Rob Wanechak and Tim Lapetino. Make sure to take a moment out of your busy schedule and read that interview – it is well worth your time.

The Art of Atari is available right this moment at better book dealers as well as at Dynamite.Com!

Remind me again what Atari Day is!


Image courtesy of Atari I/O's Facebook page.

Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.


To learn even more about the fun of Atari Day be sure to hop on over and check out fellow Retroist writer Atari I/O’s site by following the link here!

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Preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990 By Brett Weiss

Brett Weiss’s book, Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games, has finally been released in softcover. To mark this occasion, Mr. Weiss has given The Retroist permission to reprint the book’s preface.

Before we get to that, here’s the description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of EVERY official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by entries for every game released for that console (regardless of when the games came out). Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy (since they came out in 1989), and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein– Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

You can order the book here:
https://www.amazon.com/Classic-Home-Video-Games-1989-1990/dp/1476667942/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Without further ado, here’s the preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games:

“For me, 1989 was an exciting year. After slogging away for four years at a job I hated, delivering copier machines via a bobtail truck, I took the plunge and decided to do something I would enjoy, even if it meant working for less pay. I applied for and quickly got a job with Lone Star Comics, which is a retail chain in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Ironically, I was hired not because I was a comic book expert (which I was), but because of my mad truck-driving skills. My job with Lone Star, in addition to waiting on customers and sorting and bagging back issue comics, was to commandeer the company van, delivering new comics to various Lone Star stores. (My position at Lone Star led to management and then to the ownership of two comic book stores, but that’s a story for another day).

During my first year with Lone Star, three significant (mind-blowing, to be exact) pop culture events transpired: the release of the Tim Burton Batman film, which kicked off the second wave of Batmania (the first was during the Adam West era); the debut of The Simpsons television series, which changed the face of prime time television forever; and the beginning of the next generation of video game systems with the unveiling of three new consoles: the Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 (not to mention the Game Boy and Atari Lynx handheld units).

While I didn’t get the chance to play a Neo Geo or a TurboGrafx-16 until later, I picked up a Genesis shortly after the system hit store shelves. From a sheer practical standpoint, I didn’t need a Genesis – my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and other systems were keeping me plenty busy – but I simply had to have one, thanks to the stunning, arcade-like intrigue of such next-gen titles as Altered Beast, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Golden Axe, and to the “oohs” and “aahs” I kept hearing from Lone Star customers and from some of my friends who had already bought (or at least played) a Genesis.

I was certainly pleased with my Genesis purchase and was doubly so with the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), which at the time was the fastest, most dynamic platformer I had ever seen or played. The game helped make the Genesis the cool system to own. Not only that, the spunky protagonist – a blue, spiky-haired hedgehog with an attitude – quickly became Sega’s far-famed mascot, giving the company something Nintendo already had for years with Mario.

Over time, I would add many more games to my Genesis collection, including such favorites as Captain America and the Avengers, Gunstar Heroes, Mega Bomberman, Ms. Pac-Man, Road Rash, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Space Invaders ’91, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, and Sunset Riders.

Since hundreds of games were released for the system, the bulk of the book you hold in your hands covers the Sega Genesis. However, I paid no short shrift to the Neo Geo, with its plethora of bold, brash, bombastic fighting games, or to the TurboGrafx-16, with its wonderful array of quirky titles and hardcore shooters (to this day, Galaga ’90 is one of my all-time favorite games). Regardless of which console from 1989 is your favorite, you’ll find plenty of information and opinions here on all of that system’s cartridges.

Released on the heels of Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984 (2007) and Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 (2009), Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 is the third book in a proposed four-volume series. It was fun to write, but also very difficult, partly because the games of the era are typically longer and more involved than the titles covered in the first two books.

When I talk to gamers at conventions and online, I’m sometimes asked why I write reference books instead of tips and tricks guides or historical accounts of the industry. The answers are simple. The Internet and the Digital Press guides have all the tips and tricks anyone needs, and Steven L. Kent (with The Ultimate History of Video Games) and Leonard Herman (with Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames) have the market cornered on history books and do a much better job of it than I ever could.

My books contain a lot of video game history, of course, what with the retro theme and all, but the emphasis is on the individual games themselves. Each entry for the Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 includes data, description, gameplay elements, and, in most cases, critical evaluation. (The games for the console add-ons, such as the Sega CD and TurboGrafx-CD, are included in appendices near the back of the book. The handheld Atari Lynx and original Game Boy are also covered in the appendices).

Another reason I write reference books is that I’m obsessed with them. It started when I was a kid during the mid-1970s and would pore over the Guinness Book of World Records. I would sit with my tattered paperback copy of that book for hours, utterly transfixed by such phenomena as the world’s tallest man, the world’s longest fingernails, the world’s heaviest twins, and the woman with the world’s thinnest waist. (In the years since, I’ve read countless other reference books to pieces, including Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600, which helped pave the way for my Classic Home Video Games series).

In addition to the Guinness Book of World Records, the 1970s was a decade filled with entertainments that were enticing to my impressionable young mind. These included The Land of the Lost, The Super Friends, Star Wars, the rock band KISS, Marvel and DC comic books, and, of course, video games. When such monolithic testaments to man’s ingenuity as Midway’s Gun Fight (1975) and Atari’s Breakout (1976) began rubbing elbows with my beloved pinball machines at the local arcades, I became quickly hooked. To help pay for my newfound obsession, I would pop games on pinball machines I had mastered and sell the resultant credits two for a quarter.

Shortly after I discovered video games in the arcades, various cousins and friends started receiving – as Christmas presents – these incredible machines that would hook up to their television sets to play games. I wouldn’t get my own game system (a ColecoVision) until 1982, but I was a frequent fixture at the homes of anyone I knew who owned Pong (or any number of Pong clones), an Atari VCS, a Fairchild Channel F system, or an Odyssey 2 (back in those days, no one I knew had two systems).

So, since I grew up playing video games and reading reference books, and since I always wanted to be a writer, it only made sense to write reference books about video games.

The research I did for Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 was exhaustive and exhausting. An addition to playing (and replaying) an insane number of games, many of which I had to borrow from friends or purchase on eBay or in various gaming stores throughout Texas and Oklahoma, I spent hundreds of hours going over every little detail – from character names to production dates to game developers – in order to assure that the information was as accurate as humanly possible.

Also, I tried to measure the positives and negatives of each game objectively. I took the era in which the games where made into consideration, of course, but if a game hadn’t held up particularly well over time, I usually mentioned it. While graphics and sounds play important roles, my bottom-line consideration each time I evaluate a game is how much fun it is to play.

The one drawback to researching and writing the Classic Home Video Games series is that it takes away from time I could be playing modern consoles, such as my son’s Xbox 360 or our family’s Nintendo Wii. Regardless, I largely prefer 2D twitch-gaming and scrolling action over 3D exploration and first-person shooting anyway, so I’m content to mine the past while others pave the way forward.

For some of you, this will be your second or third book to purchase in the Classic Home Video Games series, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. For others, this will be your first experience with my work, and I want to thank you as well. I certainly hope you enjoy what you read.”

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Get lost in the Movie Monster Mazes of 1976!

In the Seventies, I would buy the latest issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND off the pharmacy’s magazine rack nearly every month. One of the best parts of the magazine were the mail order pages where tons of awesome monster-related and scifi-related items were advertised by the Captain Company of New York, New York. There was a multitude of monster merchandise, both common and uncommon, and in 1976 my eye caught sight of Item #21279 and I had to have it.

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I was never able to send away for anything from the Captain Company, but thanks to the local Waldenbooks store in my NJ mall, I was able to get my 8yo hands on a copy of the book MOVIE MONSTER MAZES.

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It was a great thrill to score something which I’ve stared at all month long, month after month, in the back pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine. MOVIE MONSTER MAZES did not disappoint this young monster movie fan. Not only were the mazes themselves challenging with an actual time limit assigned to each one, but the artist/author Vladimir Koziakin illustrated a wide and deep range of cinematic creatures most of whom are hardly ever utilized in merchandise.

For every classic monster in this book, such as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA…

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…there was a more obscure character, such as the Vampire from the lost silent movie LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.

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There is a maze made out of  the classic FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER…

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…and the less-than-classic FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER from the 1958 B-movie!

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A maze you can do by the light of the full moon, THE WOLFMAN.

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A maze to do as you rock around the clock, I WAS A TEENAGE WOLFMAN.

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It is the inclusion of these B-Movie monsters that makes this book that much more special to any monster fan. Here is a small sample of them from the fifty mazes you can do.

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Even the sub-genre of monster movies I love most of all, the giant monster movie, is well represented too.

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Koziakin, the illustrator, is not without a sense of humor in creating these mazes.

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moviemonstermazes-00013moviemonstermazes-00019As an 8 yo I always thought it was funny that you entered THE INVISIBLE MAN maze via his nose.

This book was published in 1976 and the monsters of modern horror were included as mazes as well.

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But out of all fifty of these monstrous mazes, the creepiest one is the maze where you’re forced to stare at the hideous visage while trying to beat its five minute limit, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

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Even though I’ve had this book for 40 years, only a select few of the mazes have been completed. It is not that the mazes were an activity not worth the time, but rather the probable reason was that the idea of being lost in a maze within one of these monsters is a bit…creepy!

 

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Holy Oversight! Batman: Facts And Stats Is Out Now!

I think 2016 is looking pretty groovy for us fans of Batman ’66. I mean we have a brand new animated movie featuring Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar just around the corner. DC Comics is continuing to publish their 1966 inspired line of comics – stories finding the Dynamic Duo crossing paths with the likes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and even Steed and Peel from The Avengers.
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Now we have the release of Batman: Facts And Stats from the Classic TV Show from Titan Books. In all honesty the book is what is advertised on the tin. It is a collection of interesting information concerning the three seasons of the TV series.

Images courtesy of Titan Books.

Images courtesy of Titan Books.


I hope you will forgive the quality of my scan on these pages. The book itself is appropriately colorful as was the Batman ’66 series. The design is thanks to Rian Hughes and it really pops – it certainly manages to capture the spirit of the show.
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Now of particular interest is the text…written by one Y.Y. Flurch. I bring this up because that is the name of a fictional author from episode 31 of the first season of the 1966 series. In an episode entitled Death in Slow Motion!
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So who is Y.Y. Flurch really? Turns out it is none other than Joe Desris – who just so happens to be a Batman historian. Desris has a coffee table book coming out in December entitled Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series!
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Who is Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show for?


Everyone that has a passing interest in the 1966 Batman series, naturally! I do think I should point out that this is by no means an in-depth look at the TV show. At 80 pages it succeeds in its task – to give the reader some fun facts and stats. From quick bios on not just the Caped Crusaders and Batgirl but the supporting players in that classic show. Of course one of the things that really made the 1966 show stand out was the many guest stars who lined up to play villains. While not every single one gets the spotlight, the book definitely goes out of the way to focus on some of the most memorable.
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Key locations used frequently in the show are given entries as well as those stylish vehicles that made appearances throughout the three seasons.
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You can pick up Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show today, nay, right this second at most bookstores. Of course you can also hop on over to Amazon and order your copy here.