Archive for June 2010
June was a big month for D.C. Comics. Two landmark issues came out–Batman number 700 and Superman number 700. Neither Superman nor Batman are my favorite characters in the D.C. universe. I always liked Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow more. But, I bought both books.
I hate to say it, but there really isn’t anything very memorable in Batman 700. There are stories of Batman past, present, and future. I think it’s a bad idea to create future continuity for superhero comics. Dick Grayson is Batman now, but we all know that Bruce Wayne is coming back, though hell and the entire universe stand in his way. I am not privy to D.C.’s plans for its characters, but if Bruce Wayne comes back, I hope he retires. It is Dick Grayson’s turn to be Batman, and a one or two year run in the title really doesn’t do it for me.
I haven’t been following Superman very closely for the last couple of years. I never follow him very closely. I find out what happened in graphic novels 2 to 5 years after the stories originally came out. I know that Superman has been living on New Krypton. I know he returns to Earth just in time to save Lois Lane from the Parasite. Lois and Clark together again–that gives me a warm feeling. It feels right. Joe Stracyzinski is a lucky guy to get to write that story.
But, you know, it’s just a return to the old status quo. The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the D.C. universe. I bought Batman and Superman 700 because they were milestones in the history of the characters. But they aren’t very big milestones. Two weeks after the event, I kinda wish I had my $10 back.
One of the good things about working for a library is that people donate their old book collections to the library all the time. 99 percent of such donations are considered junk by the librarians who evaluate them. For a book to join a library collection it must pass certain high standards. For one thing, it has to be in excellent condition–like new, almost unread. Secondly, it has to be in the collection already. We don’t usually add things that we don’t have already–adding a duplicate title costs very little in processing costs. Cataloging a new title means the book cost us about $20 just to put it in the collection. Thirdly, it has to be in demand. People are generous with their book donations–they generate thousands of items per library per year. A few of them get into the collection in spite of all the obstacles.
The rest of them are given to the Friends of the Library who put them into a book sale near the front door. The money the Friends raise from this neverending book sale helps the library purchase things for which we have no regular budget.
Sometimes (very rarely and usually only when someone dies and their books all get donated to their library) we get truly excellent things that have no place in a modern public library collection. These generally turn into wonderful bargains for the people who haunt library book sales. Those are the things I look for.
Three weeks ago, my library inherited this august and ancient tome. Actually, it’s not so ancient. It fooled me. I looked on what I thought was the back of the title page and it said: Copyright 1927 and 1940. Rats! I didn’t get the 1927 edition, but still, 1940 isn’t bad from the standpoint of 2010. Then when I got it home, I looked more carefully and found the page where it said: SEVENTEENTH PRINTING MARCH 1971. Dang! The book is only 39 years old. Still, I think it is probably a good copy of what the original looked like back in 1927.
The library isn’t going to want such a book, but I’m very happy to give the Friends $1 for it. Now it’s mine. Let’s look at it more closely and see what the message of the stars is.
Message of the Stars
Augusta Foss Heindel
The Rosicrucian Emblem of Esoteric Christianity
AN ESOTERIC EXPOSITION OF
NATAL AND MEDICAL ASTROLOGY
EXPLAINING THE ARTS OF
READING THE HOROSCOPE AND DIAGNOSING
The Rosicrucian Fellowshp
MOUNT ECCLESIA, OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA, U.S.A.
L. N. Fowler & Co. Ltd. 29 Ludgate Hill
London, E.C. 4
Wow! They just don’t make title pages like that any more. And the book is also amazing. It’s 728 pages long, and then there is a 12 page catalog of other books that Heindel wrote. Did the American Rosicrucians really get their books printed for them in England? Apparently so.
It turns out that Max Heindel is the guy who founded the secret society of Rosicrucians in the United States. He did this in 1909! Like Mohammed and Joseph Smith, it seems that an angel, or at least a Higher Being, came to him and instructed him in what to do. You can read all about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Heindel. He was born in 1865 and died in 1919. That’s very odd because the earliest edition of this book is 1927. It would seem that Augusta Foss Heindel is the true power behind these revelations. In any case it would appear that the whole book is a message from beyond the grave.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was a young man, the Rosicrucians used to advertise for converts in the back pages of the science fiction magazines. Those ads promised you the secrets of the universe if you’d simply join their society. I answered one once, and got some introductory literature, but it all seemed just a little too flaky for me. I never followed up and became a full-fledged Rosicrucian. A typical ad to lure you into the organization might look like this:
Well, I never went down that path, and I’m not going down it now, but I may browse through this book. Modern books of astrology aren’t anywhere near this complete.
Is Astrology a form of Magic? Some people would say it is. Others might claim it is a science. Certainly Heindel would have made that claim. He wrote another books called SIMPLIFIED SCIENTIFIC ASTROLOGY.
I have always thought of myself as something of a wizard. I have made a fairly detailed study of the western occult tradition–not enough to be called an Occultist–just an educated Layman. I’m not a great wizard, no Gandalf nor Merlin nor even Harry Potter–just a hedge wizard, always a bit surprised when my own magic works. (Buy me a drink sometime, and ask me about the time I magically summoned a bus.) The world is full of strange books, and during my life, a few of those grimoires have found their way to me. How much more might I have found or learned if I had seriously pursued such matters! Yet, I am not one to deny the existence of Magic. It’s all around us–depending on how you define Magic, of course. Keep your eyes open and maybe some magic will come your way also.
Toy Story 3 starts with a great action sequence–the Potato Heads are pulling a train robbery, and Sherrif Woody is trying to stop them. I kind of liked the part where the train full of screaming Norphins goes off the blown-up bridge. Buz Lightyear shows unexpected power in catching it and rescuing Woody and the Norphins.
Andy's Toys Face a Challenge They Can't Win
Movies that remind me of my own mortality always make me sad. While everyone around me is cheering the happy ending of Toy Story 3–yes, it has one, no I won’t tell you what it is–I’m practically in tears with a big old lump in my throat.
Toys depend on their owners–nothing sadder than a toy that isn’t played with any more–at least that’s what the producers of Toy Story 3 would have us believe. Woody, Buzz, and all the rest of the toys in Toy Story 3 belonged to a kid named Andy. The kid and the toys had great adventures together like the one that opened the movie . . . . but that was years ago. Andy has grown up and doesn’t play with those old toys anymore. It looks like the trashcan, the Day Care Center, or the Attic for them. Andy’s toys are not the kind of toys to take such a fate lying down.
They wind up at the Day Care Center, which looks like a veritable paradise for neglected toys. There are plenty of kids who want to play with toys there. But it turns out to be The Other Place when the toys all get sent to the Toddler’s Room–a nonstop destruction derby. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Run screaming–that’s what the little ones do, and you should, too.
There is a berry, berry, bad bear in this movie. No Emperor Zerg, but a tyrant is still a tyrant.
Never trust a Chartreuse Teddy Bear.
The theme of Toy Story 3 is Abandonment. That’s a very sad topic indeed, no matter whether you are tha Abandoner or the Abandoned. Yet, the movie was a blast. Abandonment doesn’t usually have a happy ending in the real world, but for toys, at least, there may be a way out.
A Couple months ago I put up a list of all the things I was trying to read. I thought I’d go back and tell you how I’m doing.
Number 1. I finished this book last week. My actual favorite story was a novella called In-Between Heroes. It took up about 1/3 of the book, and was almost as long as Marl’s Tale. It’s a roleplaying adventure, but it ends with the resolution of one quest, and starts with the beginning of another. In that time between adventures, the characters manage to get three of their five members turned to stone, and thwart a demonic invasion of the world. The rogue learns some magic, an undying elf becomes an undead zombie, and a romance begins for two party members. At times the story is kind of slow, but it really gives one more of the feeling of life in the fantasy world than the hectic pace of your standard dungeon crawl. The author, Jeff Freels, has a site here: http://jfreels.com/. I encourage my readers to visit his site and buy this book.
Number 2. Excellent graphic novel and fairy tale for young adults.
Number 3. I started reading this last week. It didn’t hold my attention, and has fallen down to the bottom of my reading list. On the other hand, my 19-year old son raced through it and apparently loved it.
Number 4. Boring! I did about 50 pages and decided I don’t have to read this series by Cook. Unlikeable characters in a pseudo-renaissance plot–never mind!
Number 5. Finished it. Average kind of Wild Cards anthology. A pretty good story–weakened by having too many authors writing too many different points of view.
Number 6. I’m almost finished with it. I pick it up and do a chapter when there is nothing else to do.
Number 7. Once again I picked up AN EMPIRE UNACQUAINTED WITH DEFEAT thinking that it would be more fantasy fiction like his Black Company novels. It isn’t. It turns out that this is an anthology of some of Glen’s earlier fantasy short stories. In those days he wrote like a combination of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. That is exactly the way I’d like to be able to write. These stories are less grim and more amusing. I’ve finished them all now, and though they were entertaining, I take back my high praise from the earlier review. The first story was the best of the lot, imho. Some of the stories seemed rather pointless, and I don’t see how or why they garnered so much critical praise back in the 80s when he first released them.
Number 8. It turned out that I had read this before. The further into it I got, the more I remembered it. The further into it I got, the more familiar it seemed, until I could start predicting what happened next. The Garrett novels are just as funny on re-reading, but I don’t really have time to read books twice. There are so many other good things that I would be skipping to do so.
Villiany at its most incompetent--funny stuff.
Number 9. At the beginning of June I took the family on a trip around northern Arizona–we do this every year, mostly I think for the incomparable luxury of sleeping on the beds at Little America. When we passed through Sedona, we looked for our favorite bookstore–the Golden Word. It is Sedona’s finest bookstore, and it specializes in the New Age/Occult sort of thing. There’s usually a tiny bit of sci-fi and fantasy. And all kinds of magical gear can be bought there–from crystal balls to incense to pewter wizards and dragons. Tis a very cool shop, and we like it a lot. It moved, and we almost couldn’t find it again. I bought just one book there this year. It’s the scripts for the Black Adder comedy series–a BBC production of several years back. If you saw them on tv, you’ll realize what a treasure this is. If you didn’t you’ll probably think I’m raving mad. These episodes should be sampled–one a week perhaps, instead of guzzled down from start to finish. It’s 433 years of British cowardice and venality compiled into a single volume of scripts. I didn’t know it existed, and thus it turned into a spectacular find for me. Now that you know it exists, it would be relatively easy to get your own copy.
I never read Pride and Prejudice before.
Number 10. I have actually gone through quite a few graphic novels since my earlier post about these books. I finished PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES tonight in a single sitting. Tis a fiendishly clever redo of Jane Austen’s novel, and comes across as a brilliant satire of the 18th century British aristocracy. Martial arts has been added to the mixture. My one comment is that the graphic novel seems to have been rushed into print. It’s all black and white, and in many places seems to be unfinished pencil work. In places the art is brilliant, but much of it looks like hurried sketches thrown together to keep the story moving. I wonder why they published the book this way–it seems incomplete and only half done. Oh well, I’m sure the same could be said of some of the stuff that I’ve done. There is only so much energy available for some projects, and when the energy is gone, the project is done, whether it meets some external critic’s criteria or not.
Talk about your stiff upper lips–the zombie apocalypse is just a damned inconvenience to British Society.
I have been thinking about it lately, and I’d say the greatest comic book writer ever is Alan Moore, the British magician. I rate him the best based on the stuff of his I’ve read, and the movies that have been made from his books.
Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, and Roy Thomas were or are truly great comic book creators. Their characters and some of their stories will last as long as comic book literature is remembered. In my humble opinion, Alan Moore is better.
Maybe he gets his strength/inspirtions from his hair.
That’s a picture of the young Alan Moore. You can real all about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Moore. He got his start in British comics where he did such things as Dr. Who and . . .
He has worked for both Marvel and D.C. and doesn’t think either company treated him fairly or kept their end of the bargain. Some of his best work includes: (probably not in this order)
about Jack the Ripper
The Joker finally makes Batman laugh.
I don't know what this is about. Must look into it.
Bad art turned me away from this without knowing what I was missing.
Promethea is my goddess.
In my humble opinion, the Promethea series was the best work Moore has ever done. Moore explains magic in these books and his psychedelic artist captures it all perfectly. I loved this so much that I actually went to Amazon and bought all the graphic novels.
They truly are extraordinary.
He's just Mr. Fantastic with muscles and weirder friends.
Brings out the rebel in all of us.
Deconstruct superheroes all you want, Alan, I still like them.
And this is what the very hairy Mr. Moore looked like in 2008. I’m so jealous. He kept his hair.
How could one man have done so much great stuff in his life? Maybe a better question is, how can the rest of us have done so little?
I think I am a case of arrested development. I never get enough Swords and Sorcery My incessant quest for strong heroes battling and triumphing over magical foes has brought me to:
Hulk smash! Wait, that's the son of the Hulk. Skaar, Son of Hulk, smash!
I almost bought this comic when I first saw it appear in the comics shop. Browsing through it on the spot, I decided there just wasn’t enough real story in it to justify spending the money. Marvel has finally collected the first 6 issues into graphic novel format, and that gave me a chance to read them all at one time. That’s a bit better. A story begins to emerge.
Skaar is the son of Hulk and Caiera the Oldstrong. Born in tragedy, the gigantic explosion that destroys the city where Hulk and Caiera ruled as king and queen, incubated in fire, and raised by ugly toothy bugs, Skaar seems to be a hero of the old school–all brawn and no brain. The comic is one savage feat after another.
For the full story of Skaar, I refer the reader to the article in wikipedia which can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skaar, What attracted me to the story in the first place was that it looks like a great example of Sword and Planet fiction, but all illustrated. Sword and Planet, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is Swords and Sorcery set upon an alien world, usually with a bit of super science thrown in. The best-known example of Sword and Planet are the John Carter of Mars novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Large green monsters are apparently a standard feature of Sword and Planet.
Sword and Planet is somewhat harder to find than Sword and Sorcery. I happen to love this stuff, and I’m tempted to buy it whenever I see it.
Authors who have written notable Sword and Planet tales include but are not limited to:
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Otis Adbert Kline
Ralph Milne Farley
L. Sprague de Camp
and even Robert E. Howard in his novel: Almuric.
But, let’s get back to Skaar. A standard part of such hero stories is man’s conquest of unbelieveable monsters. The planet Sakaar, from wich Skaar drives his name, has more than its share of such beasts–gigantic things that must have been great fun to draw, but one wonders how the ecology of a desert planet can support such creatures.
Wouldn't you like a big red dragon as a pet. Skaar just kills them.
The graphic novel includes the first 6 issues of Skaar (and a little something extra). The artists, Butch Guice and Paul Mounts, went crazy with their depiction of Planet Sakaar. The comic isn’t all just a bunch of rectangular panels. It can explode into a 2-page panorama at any time. Not since the days of Jim Steranko has their been so much fun with panel design and layout. Frankly, it’s gorgeous artwork. The artists must have had a great time drawing this stuff. The swords and sorcery imagery is outstanding–there are pictures that look just like Conan, and others that look just like the Hulk. I had a great time looking at it.
I don’t have many kind words for the story, however. It cruises from one pointless brutality to another. Sakaar is a war planet to make Barsoom seem as tame as your own back yard. One wonders how life, especially any kind of human life, can survive in a place that is just one massacre after another.
Still, I was happy enough with this tale of monsters, mortals, and scheming wizards until the Silver Surfer appeared at the end of issue 6. Skaar has to be integrated into the Marvel universe. He’s destined to wind up on Earth–just what we need, another Hulk clone–NOT!
For gorgeous fantastic imagery, I give Skaar an A+. For storytelling, I give it a C-. If you like fantasy, you’d probably like Skaar. Just don’t think about the story much–that’s where I always go wrong.
I got a present in the mail yesterday. Alf Seegert sent me a copy of his Bridge Troll board game, and I sent him a copy of Tunnels & Trolls 7.5. Why this exchange of gifts? Is it National Troll Day or Month? Not that I know of . . . I wonder if there is a National Troll Day, perhaps in Denmark or Norway. Hmmm!
I haven’t had a chance to play this game yet. I have heard and read good things about it. I hope to have a chance to play it soon.
I have Google working for me. I’ve placed a number of alerts with them, and they tell me when such key phrases as Tunnels & Trolls, Ken St. Andre, and Trollhalla are mentioned anywhere. The first one is my game, published in various editions by Flying Buffalo, Inc. and FieryDragon, Inc. The second is me. If someone is talking about me, I want to know about it. (That’s partly ego, and partly self-defense, and partly business promotion–I do sell things like my games and stories and am always looking for new ways or places to market them.) The third one is the name of my club for Tunnels & Trolls players on the internet. You can find it here: http://trollhalla.com. That is a pretty distinctive name. I searched the internet when I made it up, and the only other Trollhalla that I found was a guest cottage at a hotel in Europe somewhere. I’ve been running Trollhalla since about 2002. Imagine my surprise when I found this game already being advertised though it hasn’t been published yet.
I have to admit that my feelings were a bit hurt to see my fanclub name being appropriated for someone else’s game. I know I don’t own the concept of trolls, and I’m happy to see other gamers do things with it, but . . .
So, I made a bit of a humorous complaint about it on Twitter.com where I am known as Trollgodfather. (a joke perpetuated on me by Moonwolf95).
A few hours later I got a very nice email from Alf Seegert, the game’s designer. I explained my hurt, and offered a few other names for the game like: Trollholla, Trollhaula, and since they are trollish vikings, Trollhulla. (That’s a pun, Son) Nope. The game is already too far along in production to change the name.
It turns out that Alf was influenced by Tunnels and Trolls back in the 80s, but moved away from the game as he got older. I hear that a lot. But he remembered it fondly.
Through an exchange of emails, we quickly became friends. After all, we have a lot in common. We’re both game designers with a fondness for trolls. He offered to send me his game; I offered to send him mine. Voila! Game exchange! This is what I sent him.
I also talked Alf into joining Trollhalla, where he will be known as Grrralf. I have a lot of talented people in Trollhalla, and I’m very proud of that. Working together, we make gaming better for everyone.
We also have a possible trollish alliance forming. There are several game companies that use the word Troll as part of their company name or product. I think it would be awesome if we all cross-promoted each other. I’m working on that part.
It just goes to show what can happen when there’s a bit of freindly communication. No lawyers need be involved, and it will turn out to be a win-win situation for all of us.
And that deseves a big TROLLISH GRIN!