Archive for August 2009

Books to the Left of Me, Books to the Right of Me   1 comment

Hooray for Baen!  They sent me another month’s worth of publishing.  Received in the mail today:

            Patiots by David Drake.  PB.  Space opera.

            The Last Centurion by John Ringo.  PB. Apocalypse America.

            Very Hard Choices by Spider Robinson.  PB.  Near future cop story.

            Exile—And Glory by Jerry Pournelle.  PB.  Reprints two seventies near future space novels by Jerry Pournelle.

 

            The Stoneholding by James G. Anderson & Mark Sebanc.  TPB. Never heard of these guys.  Looks like your standard high fantasy epic—the land is in danger, yada yada.  I like fantasy.  I might read it if I run out of other stuff to read. 

            Fledgling by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller  HB.  A new Liaden universe novel.  The 11th novel in this series by Lee & Miller.  This sci-fi series has never really taken off, but is just successful enough to keep getting published.  Lee & Miller, wife and husband, are to be commended for never giving up.

            The Serrano Succession by Elizabeth Moon.  TPB.  Reprint of Change of Command and Against the Odds in one trade paper.  More of Moon’s feminist space opera.

 It’s great that Baen still sends me these books, but I doubt if I’ll read any of them.

 Finished today:  two graphic novels:

             Chaos by Ted Dekker—uninspired fantasy of medieval warriors in near future America.  Not a new idea in the whole series.

 Nightschool: the Weirn Books by Svetlana Chmakova.  American manga published by Yen Press.  Seems to be a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hogwarts, and the Twilight Books by Stephanie Meyer.  Vampires and other creatures of darkness all around.  A child with great but sinister powers.  Hidden evils hiding in the modern world.  Pointy chins, big eyes, super-deformed art wherever the artist ran out of space or was in a hurry to zing the reader with a weak one-liner.  Almost 200 pages of slightly humorous vampire chills and thrills.  It was ok, but not going into my elite bookcase of really good stuff.

 And there you have it, a week without much entertainment excitement.  Well, you can’t have everything you read be great.

 Worth mentioning, Warehouse 13 had an entertaining episode that doesn’t hold up to any form of critical thinking.  A psychotic Alice Liddell trapped in Lewis Carroll’s mirror gets free in Mica’s body.  It would take too long to explain why the episode doesn’t really work, but it did offer some nice eye candy along the way.

 End

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Posted August 28, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

A Message from the Overmind?   3 comments

Yay, I finished a book today.  I’m always happy to notch another one.  Today’s book was THE KING’S GOLD by Arturo Perez-Reverte.  This is the third in a series of tales about a hard-bitten Spanish swordsman named Diego Alatriste, called Captain Alatriste by his friends, although he is not a real captain.  This is a short historical novel, and no epic.  The whole book is really about a single adventure–the violent capture of a treasure ship by a band of ruffians and thieves in the temporary service of the King of Spain, who wants the money for himself.  It’s light reading, but entertaining.  I have now read three of the Captain Alatriste novels, and I don’t think the fourth one has been published in English yet.  I could read it in Spanish if I could find a copy, but I might have to go to Spain to do that.

I finished a big graphic novel on Sunday: Magician: Apprentice.  This is the story of Pug, greatest wizard of Midkemia when he was a boy.  This is a comic adaptation of a novel by Ray Feist.  I know Ray Feist; he knows me. It’s not a great friendship since we live in separate states, but we are both frp gamers.  Ray is one of a very few American gamers to turn his games into best-selling novels, and they were good ones.  I’ve read them all, and I recommend Ray Feist to anyone who likes strong fantasy in the old heroic style.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but graphic novels are no substitute for the books they illustrate.  Scenes have to be carefully chosen to carry the story, and the true depth of world-building and character development that are what novels do best is only hinted at.

In other news, Tor sent me a free book today.  It’s a handsome trade paperback reprint of Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust.  If you ever wondered what an empire of nigh-immortal elves would be like, you owe it to yourself to find the Dragaeran novels.  There are 17 of them.  If Alexandre Dumas wrote sword and planet fantasy, he might well have produced these books.  It seems like a lot of things have been bringing me back to Alexandre Dumas lately–the Captain Alatriste books, the Musketeer mysteries, and now Tor sends me this epic tome.  Is the universe trying to tell me something?  Am I being subtly ordered to reread the Dumas books that I enjoyed so much as a teenager?  So little time, so many books!

End.

Posted August 25, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

Swordidly   12 comments

I used to sign my letters that way, pun intended.  Swordidly, sordidly, with sword in hand, I’m a dirty guy.  heh.  I don’t do that any more.

I’m always happy when I finish a book.  Today I finished The Book of Swords by Hank Reinhardt.  I never knew Hank.  I doubt if we would have gotten along.  But this little book about weapons and armor has been my main reading for the last week or so.  The man spent his life learning about handheld weapons of war.  Don’t know if he ever played a rpg like Dungeons and Dragons–doesn’t matter.  His knowledge of the physics and reality of edged weapons is valuable information for any gamer, especially for any gamer who wants to be the Game Master, the dungeon digger, the campaign planner.

I’ve been reading about fantasy combat all my life.  When I was younger–in my 20s and 30s–I practised it a little.  I learned to fence in high school–self taught, but still the essentials.  My old gang, Bear Peters, Liz Danforth, Dan Carver and I had a summer when we met on Sundays to fence.  It was fun.  Those were the days.  Even before that I was a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).  I was never any good, but I know what it feels like to wear armor, to have a pot helm obscuring your vision, to hold that sword ready for a cut, to pivot the shield down to cover your leg, to raise it to protect your head.  I did these things–sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  I write fantasy fiction, and I like to think I write good fight scenes–the kind of fight scenes that most women writers can never do–simply because they don’t have the experience.  I took archery for a couple of semesters in college.  I know what it feels like to draw a bow.  I know how hard it is to hold it until the target is centered, to simply let the fingers relax and have the bowstring speed the arrow on its way.  The slightest twitch moves the bow.  Moving the bow misses the target.  And I mention all this because it is something I had in common with (the now deceased) Hank Reinhardt.

You don’t really get to know things by reading about them.  You get to know things by doing them, by living them.  But, reading can give you an acquaintance with things–things like swords, man to man combat, the nature and function of armor.  If you read THE BOOK OF SWORDS  by Hank Reinhardt, Baen, 2009, you too will get acquainted with these warriors’ weapons.  If you don’t care about such things, by all means avoid this book.  It is really only for those who love the weapons themselves.

Remember I said that books like this help a game master, or game designer.  I’m currently working on the chaotic 8th edition of Tunnels and Trolls–that will probably be the last one I do.  Reading this book I saw the names and descriptions of weapons I had never heard of.  I learned more about weapons than I knew before.  One thing that bothers me about T & T in its current form is that the weapons tables are full of all these things with European names.  Tunnels and Trolls is not meant to replicate old France or Rome.  It is meant to be its own place, it’s own world.  Calling swords epees and rapiers sound more like musketeer France than a new reality.  Hank’s book is full of sword names that I’ve never heard before.  And if I’ve never heard of them, you probably haven’t either.  Look for the swords in the next edition of T & T to have names like the nimcha, the flissa, the quaddara, the kopesh, the falcata, the kora.  The other thing is, I believe the weapons will be more differentiated by the Kindreds that use them.  For example, I renamed the Viking spike shield to the Dwarven spike shield.  Dwarves are the perfect kindred to wield big round shields with a metal boss and a point in the center.  I’ve already given the uruks the urukish scimitar.  But, uruks would love the kora–a very distinctive and vicious sword that is even better for them than the scimitar.  Ogres would be great for using the shamshir.  Trollish war hammers just sound especially nasty.  Reading the BOOK OF THE SWORD crystallized a half-formed intention I had for making T & T weapons more colorful and interesting–just watch me do it when the Chaotic 8th edition comes out. 

Also read this last week:

Justice League of America #36, in its new, weaker form, without many of the big guns like Superman and Batman, [Batman Bruce Wayne is dead, although how long he will stay dead remains to be seen.  Superman is off on counter-Earth, New Krypton, trying to make a go of things in a truly Kryptonian society.] vs. the Royal Flush gang, and

Conan the Cimmerian #13, finishing the comic version of Black Colossus.  This may have been Robert E. Howard’s best Conan story ever–the quintessence of swords and sorcery, beautifully adapted by Dark Horse comics.  Get it, read it, enjoy it.  Conan doesn’t get any better than this.

–End

Posted August 23, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

That’s Entertainment???   10 comments

I don’t have much to talk about this morning in the way of books, comics, movies, or gaming, so I thought I might do something different and just talk about me.

Every weekday morning at 7:30 a.m. I have an appointment with a pretty nurse, sometimes more than one, who does intimate things to me while I just lie there and take it.  This happens because I have prostate cancer, and I get my treatment for it every week day morning at 7:30.  I’m just lucky to have pretty nurses.

Cancer is a scary word.  We all know people who have died from one form or another, and if you don’t, you’re probably real young–lucky you!  I’d like to be real young in today’s world.  However, cancer is not always fatal.  There are many different forms of cancer, and some of them have cures.  Sometimes the cure is surgery; sometimes it’s radiation; sometimes it’s chemotherapy.  For me, the cure will be radiation.  And I will be cured, and live happily ever after for at least ten years.

Cancer happens.  If you live long enough, it will happen to you, too.  You could look at it–if you’re old–as a mark of success.  If you hadn’t been so successful in living so long, you wouldn’t have gotten that cancer.  If you’re young, cancer is more of a tragedy because it may cut short your life.  But, if you ever get cancer, don’t let it get you down.  Modern medicine is pretty good.  The doctors can probably cure you.  They will cure me. (Heh!  Attitude is a lot–my attitude is that this cancer thing is a minor inconvenience and I will beat it.  No reason to think I won’t.)

Each morning session of radiation beam therapy is a form of entertainment for me now.  It has become a routine that I almost look forward to.  AT 7 a.m. I leave my house and drive myself to Good Samaritan Hospital at 10th Street and McDowell Road.  I park in an exclusive gated parking lot, and I hike through a long long corridor to the Oncology section of the hospital.  I avoid the main entrance and come down an elevator by the back way.  I check in at the tomography desk, and if all is going according to schedule, i soon find myself taking my shoes off, pulling down my pants, and reclining upon a very lightly padded bench–a sort of movable table.  My slacks are down at the bottom of my buttocks, and my underwar is pushed down until the base of my penis is exposed.  (not the whole thing–just the base–modesty is minimally preserved).  A large strong rubber band clips my feet together while a broad strap goes around my upper torso and helps support my arms.  I link my fingers and try to relax.  They have done something nice with the ceiling.  As I lie there looking up I see beautiful leafty tree branches and clear blue sky above my head.  It’s peaceful and serene, and only slightly marred by the fact that the center panel is missing and I can see a light fixture aiming a ruby targeting laser down at my body.  Alas, the sky has a hole in it!  (you know, we Americans don’t really do enough with ceiling decoration)

I have two main nures, Alicia and Maria.  Both are young and attractive–at least compared to me.  There is also Cassandra–neither young nor attractive, but good at what she does.  Way back at the beginning of July, the doctor and his nurse assistants first laid me on this bench and tattooed me.  I have small red circles now on hips and abdomen that help them line me up on the table every day.  The radiation beam, althrough invisible, must be precisely directed at areas inside my prostate gland.  They achieve this, not by having an aimable beam, but by putting the body exactly where it has to be for the beam to do its work.  This requires precision–a few millimeters off is a wasted treatment.  My nurses push and pull and move me around like a dummy until they’re satisfied.  My job is to remain absolutely motionless–not an easy job for me because I am prey to random itches and stabs of pain all over my body.  But, if I get a twinge, I can’t move to rub it.  That’s agony for me.  And the bench I lie on isn’t all that comfortable either.  It’s hard as a board and parts of my body ache on contact with it.

When I am properly positioned, the whole bench moves and inserts most of my body into the tomography machine–don’t know what else to call it.  The machine itself is a huge, free-standing, dull beige lump of metal with a couple of small computer screens on the front.  It is hollowed out in the center so that a body can be positioned inside it.  The bench is on a moveable track so that it can slide in and out of the machine to any desired degree.  This is the first of two journeys into the machine.  On the first journey they do a C.A.T-scan of my prostate.  After looking inside me briefly, they figure out how much more I need to be moved for the treatment I’m getting that morning.  Then they haul me back out of the machine, come back and readjust my positioning on the slab, and when everything is perfect they put me back inside the tomographic unit and fire up the radiation gun.

During this whole procedure I am lying there like a dead man, or at least trying to be like a dead man.  My hands are folded on my chest with knuckles interlinked to hold them together, my eyes are closed, my breathing is shallow.  There is usually a CD playing in the background–it has a medley of old rock and roll from the sixties.  It’s kind of pleasant.  I guess you could say that’s the entertainment part of the morning procedure.  When my altitude has been perfectly adjusted–that’s what the scan does–it tells them how much my body needs to be raised, lowered, or inclined–they gun the motor and put me back inside.

Then follows about 5 minutes of the actual treatment.  While I am lying there with my eyes shut, pretending I’m in deep sleep, or I am the dead knight on the slab, the machine works its magic.  I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this is the noisiest room in the hospital.  The C.A.T. unit makes a horrendous din, even when it isn’t doing anything–something like the sound of gigantic refrigeration units pounding away inside the metal.  When the radiation is being administered, it also makes a sound like a cranking solenoid in a car.  Rarr, rarr, rarr, rarr.  It sounds like rocks grinding together more than anything else. 

This part lasts about five minutes, and is really the best part of the procedure.  This is the part where I can imagine the magic machine is actually reaching inside my body, sorting out the bad cancer cells from the good healthy ones, and getting rid of the bad ones.  At this time I sometimes drift in and out of consciousness.  I am never very deeply asleep, but for moments I am less aware of the discomfort.  It’s kind of like hurting, but not caring. 

And then it’s over for another day.  They release me.  I pull up my pants, put on my shoes, always say thank you to my attendants, and speedily depart.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I come back home and have breakfast.  I don’t have to be to work until 10 a.m.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m due at the library at 8 a.m.  I’m about half an hour late on those days.  I usually go by Whataburger and get some breakfast on the way.  Whataburger’s biscuits and muffins and burritos are about the same you’d get at any other fast food place, but they have the best orange juice in the city.

And that’s my morning entertainment every week day–a mixture of routine, pain, music, and hope.  I consider myself fortunate to have this particular adventure in medicine.  Every morning when I go in, I see the other cancer patients getting their daily treatment.  All of them seem to be suffering more than I am.  One man comes every day in a wheelchair–he is such a frail-looking old guy.  Another woman looks like she is in actual agony when I see her come out of the tomography room or into the dressing room.  Yes, I’m glad that my ordeal is nowhere near the most difficult being faced by people in this room every day.

Now that I think about it, the whole procedure is very sci-fi in nature.  Lasers, internal body scanners, healing rays–if that isn’t science fiction, I don’t know what is.  The tree branches and sky on the ceiling are very nice.  I kind of wish they’d go a bit more Hollywood with it all.  Why is my doctor machine a dull beige monster?  Why can’t it be sexy black or gleaming green panels?  Why is the radiation beam invisible?  For a few extra bucks, they could have rigged the inside of the machine to sizzle and crackle and make it look like lightning is dancing around your body.  Think of the psychological benefit such theatrics could have!  A person would really feel that the cancer is being zapped in such a machine.  Perhaps I should tell the doctor next week about this dream.  The application of just a little more imagination on their part could really jazz up this treatment.

Today I”m not working, so I’m following my session on the rack with the pleasures of blogging and doing my laundry.  When I finish this, I will give Trollhalla members their trollish victory points, and then send Tosatt Earp the notebook he purchased from me,  Yay.  A trip to the post office.  🙂

End.

Posted August 21, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

Today’s Comics   2 comments

Escalation!

 It’s the name of the game.  Where will it end? Will it end?  Let’s hope not!

 Surely, if you read comics today, you’ve noticed that Marvel and D.C. are caught up in a war of mega-stories and special events.  Once upon a time (a long time ago, admittedly, getting back to the sixties and before) a writer could tell a satisfying story in 8 pages,  The story would be something simple—something like Pulverizing Man needs money to pay a parking ticket, so he robs the local candy store and is thwarted by Super-Jughead.  The story is over in 8 pages and 4 of those are pin-ups of Hetty and Moronica.  There used to be three, sometimes four such stories in a single comic book.

 What do we have today?  We have stories that take 80 issues crossing over through the entire company line and 8 months to tell.  Saving the world isn’t enough any more.  Saving the whole galaxy has become the new bottom line for the super folks, and if the galaxy isn’t enough, then our heroes must save the universe.  For D.C. one universe wasn’t enough, last year’s event had 52 parallel universes on the line, and I have no idea how much of creation is being threatened right now by the Blackest Night crossover event that has been building up in Green Lantern comics for the last 2 years.

 Marvel does the same thing.  I just finished The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares.  In the course of the story there are terrorist attacks that take out giant skyscrapers and whole sections of cities—the casualties are in the thousands.  Tony Stark, who has single-handedly changed the face of the Marvel Universe with his Registration Act, has to run 20 Iron Man suits by remote control to finally defeat his enemy. 

 Comic companies slide from one mega-series to another.  I don’t even try to follow Marvel—I just pick up graphic novels at the library and browse the covers at the comic book store—but it seems to me they’ve gone through Civil War, the Initiative, The Secret Invasion and now Dark Reign in about the last 2 years.  Back in the 80s we used to have one double issue crossover event a year.  Now we have two (or more) multi-issue crossovers every year, and one hasn’t really ended before the next one begins.  To try and read all the tie-ins would cost a person hundreds of dollars a month.  Not to mention Spider-Man, whose story and personal life had so escalated out of control that they had to do a deal with a devil and reboot the entire nature of reality in the Marvel universe to give him back his secret identity and a bit of operating room.  A deal with the devil that rewrites the entire nature of reality?  Come on! 

 Are all the comic writers playing games of Top This If You Can?  It certainly seems like it.  The whole phenomenon reminds me of a Catastrophe Theory graph.  That looks like an ascending curve until suddenly the line just breaks and plummets down to the base level again.  Where will it end in comics?  Possibly with the bankrupting of Marvel or D.C. when they finally try to do too much and nobody buys their overpriced fantasies any longer.  It has to happen—if not this decade, then sometime in the next 50 years.  Will they crash back to a manageable level and survive, or will they just be replaced by some cheaper and more satisfying form of entertainment?  Time will tell.

 In other news, I’ve finished reading:

 The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares—very good story for all my railing about escalation above.

Spider-Man: With Great Power—a re-imagining of the Spider-Man origin story, and much more complex than Lee’s original origin.  Peter Parker, Spider-Man, puppet of organized crime—oh my!  Beautiful painted art throughout—a masterpiece of comic storytelling, really, and I don’t think anyone will even notice.  This level of production values has become commonplace and expected now.  It isn’t only the size of stories that is escalating, but production values, customer expectations, everything is just going up and up and up.

 Found this morning at the library, all of these I intend to read:

Superman/Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

Justice League of America: the Injustice League by Dwayne McDuffie and others

Chaos by Ted Dekker

Renegade by Ted Dekker

Usagi Yojimbo: Bridge of Tears by Stan Sakai

Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool: the Weim books. (an American manga that deliberately apes the Japanese style, pointy chins big eyes, spiky hair and all)

 

I might add here at the end that the independent comics give me some hope.  They’re not all about the cataclysmic saving of the universe—they are about stories of people in difficulties or unusual circumstances.  I’d migrate to them, except that I really do love superheroes.  I guess that’s because I always wanted to be one.

 

End.

Posted August 20, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

A book review and some notes   3 comments

It’s amazing how if you let a day go by without blogging it becomes so easy to just let it all slide into oblivion.  I want to keep this entertainment journal going, but it seems like there’s always something better to be doing.  Thus, I find I have almost a week’s worth of comments to catch up on.

I made a long list of the comics I read last week, but I don’t have it with me, and it’s all last week’s news.

I finished a book this morning.  Yay!  Book review follows.

THE MUSKETEER’S APPRENTICE by Sarah D’Almeida.  New York, Berkley Prime Crime, 2007. $6.99.

It seems to me that there is no greater pleasure for a reader to meet old friends from his youth again in new books, having new adventures, sharing new insights, never growing old and stale.  This delight in being in the company of the great characters of literature, or even the not-so-great, is the reason why authors write so many sequels, and why other people write sequels to the sequels long after the original author is dead.  I wonder what Arthur Conan Doyle would say if he could see all the spin-offs from his Sherlock Holmes stories. 

             And I am no different.  A chance to read the new adventures of some old friend will make me pick up a book faster than anything.  Thus, when I discovered the Musketeer Mysteries by Sarah D’Almeida (really Sarah Hoyt, but I don’t blame her a bit for taking the pseudonym—after all, her main characters all used false names), I, who am not much of a mystery reader, could not help but pick up the books and start reading.  I have just finished the third in the series, THE MUSKETEER’S APPRENTICE, and I enjoyed it very much.

            I bet you didn’t know that Porthos (whose true name was Pierre du Vallon) was a sword master and teacher of swordplay before he entered the Musketeers.  As our tale begins he had taken a new apprentice, an ambitious lad who wanted to learn to fight.  When the boy was late for his appointment, Porthos went looking, and found the boy dying, poisoned with deadly nightshade.  It didn’t take Porthos long to bring his friends, Athos, Aramis, and D’artagnan into the case in a quest to find out who killed Guillaume and why.

           A poignant revelation was that the boy was Porthos’ own son from his earlier liaison with a farm girl back home.  Now the murder was not only a serious threat to Porthos, but also personal.  Someone must pay.

             What I like most about this book is the further insight into the lives of the Musketeers.  D’Almeida explores their characters in a way that Dumas—much more plot oriented—would never have considered.  She also weaves her mysteries into the greater story of The Three Musketeers, and as a reader you get a little frisson of pleasure each time you recognize something from Dumas’ tale—a foreshadowing of the grand and tragic adventure that is yet to come for our four friends.

            If you ever thrilled to the adventures of the Three Musketeers, seek out these little books by D’Almeida.  The swordplay is rudimentary—I doubt if she knows a foible from a forte, but the storytelling is very fine indeed.

 -Ken St. Andre

Aug. 19, 2009.

In Runescape news, I achieved Level 91 (out of 99) in slayer last week.  That’s a lot of dead pixel creatures, let me tell you.  I also pushed my cash in the bank up over 20 million coins.  While these are both enormous sums, they are by no means anywhere near the real top rank of Runescape players.  I am currently working on getting Runecrafting 72.  I have used up all my pure rune essence and am still a few thousand points short.  But I will get it soon.

On the comics front now, I am currently reading: Spider-Man: With Great Power and The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares.  These are brand new graphic novels that just arrived in the library in the last three days.  No place better than a library for getting the new stuff. 

I have reached page 147 of the Book of Swords by Hank Reinhardt.  Hank was quite a weapons expert, and I have learned a lot. The most enjoyable parts of the book are when he gives examples from old sagas and chronicles.  But after a while it becomes hard to tell the difference between a falchion and a cutlass, a broadsword and a tuck, a scimitar and a saber.  Reinhardt makes a point that back in the day no two swords were exactly alike.  Each one was made according to the ideas and abilities and materials that the blacksmith had available.  So classes of swords somehow seem to fade into other classes of swords.  One thing he spends a lot of time on is how swords were affected by armor, and vice versa.

And speaking of swords, I am still reading the adventures of Captain Alatriste, the hard-bitten Spanish adventurer with the heart of gold in the series written by Arturo Perez-Reverte, Spain’s foremost novelist these days.  I’m now on page 55 of  THE KING’S GOLD.

That’s all for now. 

–Ken, a troll

Posted August 19, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

Batman and Madness   3 comments

Today’s quick update:  I have reached page 231 in The Musketeer’s Apprentice, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk about today.

A lot of what I read comes to me by pure serendipity.  It just happens to wind up in front of me, and I pick it up and start reading.  This happened recently with two graphic novels from D.C.  One is Superman/Batman: Vengeance, written by Jeff Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness, inked by Dexter Vines.  (Is that a real name?).  The other is Batman: Arkham Asylum: a serious house on serious earth, written by Grant Morrison with art by Dave McKean. 

This blog started this morning with me thinking how strange/weird/ugly Dave McKean’s art is, and how I don’t like it.  Then I got to thinking that McKean is a genius and far better at what he does than I am at what I do, and for me not to see how brilliant his work is shows a serious lack in me, not in Dave.  I called it a lack of sophistication, and that might be it because I’m really a barbarian at heart.  I do like simple situations and simple solutions, and I guess I like simple artwork.  McKean doesn’t do simple artwork.

By contrast the art of McGinnis is very clean.  The inking by Vines is full of primary colors.  It’s all ZAP POW YARRRGG!  In other words, just what comics should be.  No sound effects in McKean–just weird geometric signs and collage lettering that is almost illegible.  You have to strain to read the story, and that becomes part of the story’s effect on you.  Loeb’s story zooms along at the speed of reading, crossing worlds, dimensions, and universes with ease and joy.  Morrison’s story crawls like a crippled blind man in a debris-strewn maze.

And yet, both stories feature Batman and the Joker.  Both stories are a Joker plot to destroy Batman.  Morrison’s tale is earlier, 2004.  Loeb wrote his in 2006.  Morrison’s story delves inwards–into the guts of an insane asylum that is no asylum for anyone.  Loeb’s story moves outwards, transcending the barriers of any single universe.  Morrison’s story is grim and creepy.  Loeb’s is frenetic and funny.

I like the Superman/Batman World’s Finest team-up with 5 versions of Superman, Batman, and Supergirl in it.  I’m revolted by the murky horror of McKean’s Arkham.  There are no primary colors in that book.  It’s all dark, murky, muddy, hard to see, hard to understand.

And yet, I have a feeling that when I’m done with both books, it will be the Morrison/McKean creation that stays with me.  Loeb’s universe-hopping extravaganza will be soon forgotten, although I have to say I really like McInness’s art better than McKean’s.

I thought it was very kind of the Joker to tell Batman that if things got too hectic for him in Gotham City there would always be a room waiting for him at Arkham Asylum.

Anyway, these graphic novels are available at better public libraries everywhere, including Phoenix Public Library.  For two different takes on Batman and the Joker, get them, and do your own compare and contrast.

End

Posted August 14, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized