Archive for January 2012

Forgotten Art   3 comments

I’ve been doing science fiction conventions for over 40 years now.  Part of any good con is the art show, and I used to go to them a lot, drooling over the art I liked, occasionally bidding, occasionally winning.  Now the last few months I’ve been in transition to a new house, an apartment actually, and back to the good old bachelor existence.  And I have been rediscovering some of the treasures I collected Back in the Day.   Here’s one that I found last week.

Peacock Fan. Ink and colored pencils. Liz Danforth. 1977.

I don’t remember where or how I got this.  I’m guessing I won it in an art auction in 1977 or 78, probably LepreCon–the first of the Phoenix science fiction conventions, and one that I helped start.  My scanner wasn’t quite big enough to get the whole thing, so the brown part you see on the right is the mat.  Back in the day, when role-playing was young, and so was I, Liz and most other artists would simply mat their works and put them up for sale at convention art shows.  I hadn’t known her for long–she was like the second decent artist to appear in fannish Phoenix circles–the first being Rob Carver.  Prices were ridiculously low in those days–an original piece of art would often start at $5–some of them had no minimum bid.  I don’t know what I paid for it, but I was happy to get it.  Then when I got it home, I discovered I had no place to put it.  My wife would not let me put fannish art up around the house.  So this piece of art nouveau went into the back room, where it graced a wall for a while, then got taken down and buried in a stack of other originals that I acquired over time.  I have a lot of these treasures–most by artists who never went on to acquire the kind of reputation for excellence that Elizabeth T. Danforth has.  In those days I wanted art for fanzines, for T & T, and just because it looked good, but most artists sold their stuff without reprint rights, and I never got to really use most of it  IMHO, art should be seen, shared, and appreciated.  When I found this again, I sent Liz a scan and asked her if I could share it on the web.  She graciously agreed.

The Peacock Fan is very early Danforth, but you can already see the beauty of the characters, the gracefulness of line, and the balance of composition that characterizes her work.  There is nothing overtly fantastic about this piece, but it has that fantasy feel.  This redhead could be the heroine of any early 20th century fiction.  She’s a real beauty.

end

If you like Danforth’s art, feel free to leave a comment here.

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Lord of the Jungle   4 comments

I’ve been a Tarzan fan since I saw my first Johnny Weismuller movie as a kid, and that was more than 55 years ago.  I’m not the greatest Tarzan fan.  I’m not a member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles or anything like that, but I have seen every movie I could, read all the books, collected the comics to some extent.  So I was pleased when Dynamite Entertainment–a comic book publishing company decided to redo the original Tarzan stories in comic book form.  They could do this because those books are in the public domain–Burroughs has been dead since 1950, and his copyright goes back to 1912.

And now the tale is being told once more, superbly illustrated by Roberto Castro, and scripted by Arvid Nelson.  Nelson must be quite a Burroughs fan, or else he has decided to hitch his star to the Burroughs legacy, because for a little more than a year now he has also been doing an adaptation of Burroughs John Carter of Mars series.

Dynamite does an interesting and good thing, in my humble opinion.  They bring out the first issue of new titles at a very affordable $1 price, and they do multiple covers, with the rarer ones commanding collectible prices like 7.99 and 9.99.  I kind of think the collectible covers are a bit of a rip, and I won’t pay $9.99 to have a negative version of a cover, but I guess some people will.

The four covers for Lord of the Jungle #1 in January 2012.

Here’s a bit of an oddity.  The comic could not be called Tarzan, so they used Lord of the Jungle instead.  Burroughs used that title for one of his novels, but I don’t think ERB Inc. trademarked that phrase the way they trademarked Tarzan of the Apes.  We might have a Tarzan comic in which the word Tarzan never appears.  I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

The four covers are by Alex Ross, Ryan Sook, Paul Renaud, and Lucio Parrillo.  Ross is the only one I’ve ever heard of before, but all four artists are masters of their art.  Arvid Nelson has done an excellent adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes, and I will be buying this book as long as it comes out.  I can only hope that it wanders off and breaks new ground with original stories the same way his Barsoomian books have.  They deserve a blog, too.

Dynamite Comics has somehow stumbled into a slightly different way of doing comics.  Instead of maintaining one consistent superhero universe in the style of D.C. and Marvel, they are simply doing popular characters of the past–legendary characters including the Lone Ranger, Zorro, the Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, Vampirella, Red Sonja, Sherlock Holmes and many, many more.  Their art is always clean and realistic–their women are indescribably beautiful–their male heroes are classically heroic.  Dynamite pushes the envelope of sexiness and great storytelling with almost every issue.  I didn’t realize how many titles they publish until I started to do a little research for this blog.  As a comics fan I’ve always loved the stuff from D.C. and Marvel and Dark Horse, but the company producing, imho, the very best adventures in comics today is Dynamite.  If you’re a comics reader, they have something for you also.

Comics fans and Tarzan fans are invited to make comments here.  Do you like the Dynamite books?  If so, which ones are your favorites?  And why?

DarkCon 2012: A Report   43 comments

DarkCon, a Steampunk science fiction convention for Arizona.

The fannish new year of 2012 started off very well for me with DarkCon in Mesa, Arizona.  I live in west Phoenix, and it was a long drive back and forth, but still less expensive than getting a hotel room.  The Con Committee invited me to the show as a guest and were extremely nice to me.  Look at the great gifts they gave me, and the other Guests just for showing up.

This bag was packed with food, drinks, jewelry, the pocket watch you see, a treasure chest, a calendar, a special Dark Ones shot glass, and other goodies. The name tag isn't paper in a holder--it's a golden plaque. Wow! I have never been treated so nicely in my life, and other guests also got great stuff.

DarkCon ran from Thursday afternoon at about 2 p.m. until Sunday night.  They had 7 notable professional guests this year.  First was Jacqueline Carey, the Author Guest of Honor.  She has several fantasy epics to her credit, and I have to tell you all I consider her writing to be a little kinky–I like it.

Jacqueline Carey graciously took this picture with me on Sunday.  The lady in the blue sweater in the background is actress Meg Foster, and we are at the Wrigley Mansion in Biltmore.  You can see Camelback Mountain in the background.

There were 2 media guests: Ernie Hudson and Meg Foster, an actor and an actress, and they shared their experiences making such video entertainment as Stargate and Masters of the Universe.  These three people were the true stars of the convention.

Gaming guests were John Wick and Ken St. Andre.  Tod VanHooser, the master of the Laughing Moon system, was also there.  All three of us ran games for fans who wanted to play.  We also collaborated on a panel about Game Design on Friday afternoon.  The panel was well attended.  Many thoughtful questions were asked and answered.  John Wick and I wore our hats, and we advised Tod to get himself a signature hat if he wanted to make it big as  a FRP game designer.

John Wick and I are trying to look dynamic. We are good friends, and admire each other's work--at least I admire his.

Tod VanHooser in the Superman shirt is running a Laughing Moon adventure for some of his devotees. In addition to the game, there is Laughing Moon fantasy fiction available from him as well.

Artist guests were Madame M, and Mark Greenawalt.  Madame M was promoting her new book: CREEPY LITTLE BEDTIME STORIES.  Mark Greenawalt did a body painting exhibition that was most entertaining.  Alas, I had very little to do with the artists as I spent all my time gaming.

DarkCon is the brainchild of the Dark Ones, a Phoenix fan group with Steampunk and media connections.  Jeff Jennings and Nola Yergen are two of the ringleaders in that group–they are the two that I know best, although I really don’t know any of them very well.  The Dark Ones are an intensely social group, well known in Arizona for the great parties they throw.  Although there were parties every day, I really only attended the opening party on Thursday night and the Sunday Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion.  The food, drink, and conversation at both parties were truly excellent–I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of gourmand, and I don’t want you to be jealous.  (grin–but I will say I was treated to champagne with orange juice at the Wrigley Mansion–first time I’ve ever had champagne for breakfast.  Yum!).

Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion--living the good life! The empty chair in the foreground is mine. The two ladies on the extreme right are Jacqueline Carey and Nola Yergen. The man in the orange shirt is Chris Colbath, a friend of mine who helped make the con a lot of fun.

I really can’t tell you too much about the Con.  We held it in the magnificent facilities at the Marriott Hotel at 200 N. Centennial Avenue in Mesa, Arizona.  There was a huge space allotted for gaming, and we filled it up with every kind of tabletop game you can imagine.  There was computer gaming in a separate room, but I never found it, and frankly, I didn’t miss it at all.  In addition to the two games of Tunnels and Trolls that I ran,  I also got to play Ticket to Ride (Europe), Settlers of Catan, Thunderstone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me as the evil Master, Last Night on Earth (Zombies and Martians and Monsters, oh my!), Apples to Apples, and an ancients naval miniatures game with quinquiremes (for which Jay Nash and I made up a whole set of alternate rules–game designers tinker with everything–especially if we can see a way of doing the same thing that makes more sense.)

Jay Nash taught me how to play this game, and then I made him rewrite all the rules for it. I'm the guy in the hat.

Jay and I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon together, first playing his game, and then just hanging out during a meal at the hotel restaurant.  I showed him where the free Con goodies were at the DarkCon suite and the Green Room, but he preferred to buy something, and he bought me lunch too. Thanks, Jay.  The reason I mention this is because Jay is one of the chief organizers of Vul Con, a pure gaming convention which will be held Feb. 25-26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, and I will be a gaming Guest of Honor at that convention also.  (If you live in the Phoenix area, come say hi, and maybe game with me.)

Let me just rave about my enthusiasm for DarkCon for a moment.  Gaming!  That is what I like, and Gaming was well represented and attended at this Con.  The Arizona Men in Black (who promote Steve Jackson Games) were there, and running excellent games continuously.  I got to play The Stars Are Right, and had victory assured on my next turn when Jason Youngdale (who took most of the really good photos in this blog, and who is also setting up a gaming convention here for June called Con-Flagration) beat me to the punch.

Just one of the tables maintained by the Men in Black. This group, under the leadership of Jesse Foster, consistently runs high quality gaming events at Arizona Sci-fi and gaming conventions. Not only do they provide the games, teach people how to play, but they offer free prize support for them all. I love these guys! (in a purely platonic way)

The Arizona Guise Knights were also running games at the convention, and I played with their members more than once.  This is an indenpendent Arizona group not associated with a gaming manufacturer in the same way that the Men in Black are.  Excellent and friendly gamers however, and a credit to the gaming community.

Tiffany Branum ran the Game Room and did an excellent job of it.  Signing up for games was extremely easy.  She and her staff smoothed all obstacles.  Phoenix area gamers owe Tiffany and her husband Chris a lot for all the work they do in creating great gaming environments.

I gamed with the Guise Knights more than once, but Jason never got my photo with them.

If you look carefully at the pictures, you will see that many of us, including me are dressed oddly for a science-fiction convention where the usual attire is jeans and sf t-shirt.  The Dark Ones have an affinity for Steampunk–Nola Yergen is an expert costumer,

A beautiful young lady who I met at the Thursday night party in one of Nola's many amazing costumes.

and her work is often in the Steampunk genre.  I put together a modest steampunk outfit–vest, pocket watch, hat with goggles on it, and if you look carefully a demon-head pin that identifies me as a member of a secret magician’s society.  There were many better costumes than mine–in fact, most of the true costumes were better than mine–look at the Guise Knights picture again for an example of true elegance.  Such fannish conventions often feature costumes, and always have a masquerade in which the best of the costumes are displayed for admiration and prizes.  I’m sorry, but I missed the masquerade.  I missed the Memorial Barry Bard movie previews and free goodies dispersal also (and I really like to go to those just to keep my t-shirt collection fresh.)  I missed a ton of great stuff at DarkCon, and I was still as busy as I could be with the stuff I did.

Chris and I model the magnificent lanyard badgeholders provided by the Con Commitee for VIPs (him) and Guests (me). I am steampunk. He isn’t.

Much more happened at the Con than I am able to convey in this blog.  I spent part of my time hanging out in the Green Room–a hospitality room for volunteers and guests.  The food and friendliness in that room kept me going even when I was tired, and especially when I was hungry.  I played Texas Hold’em on Friday night with a great bunch of riverboat gamblers.  I never won a single hand, but it was fun while I lasted.  I took some weapons training from the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship–those guys really know how to use all kinds of swords, and thanks to their training, I know a bit, too.

I had a lot of fun.  I saw and talked to a lot of friends.  If you were there, you probably had a great time also.  If you weren’t, then you missed a really good time.  You can look up the Dark Ones, the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, the Men in Black, the Arizona Guise Knights, and just about everyone else that I mentioned on Facebook, so I’m not providing any links.  This is going to be a great year for conventions in Phoenix.  I recommend that you try to attend some of them.  I will be there–you can count on that!

I like to spend time by water. It's so symbolic. (grin)

(a note about the photos and pictures used in this blog:  some of them are my own photos, others were taken by the stalwart Jason Youngdale, and a couple were lifted from Nola Yergen’s DarkCon page on Facebook–copyright and ownership of all the photos and pictures belong to the original creators.  I recommend searching DarkCon on Facebook.com to find many more pictures of the convention–it was a fantastic place and time for us.)

If you were at DarkCon this year, or wish you had gone, why not add your own comments below?

–end

Nefertari and Clyde–Best Friends   1 comment

"I wish this hole was full of water," said Clyde. "And I wish the waterfall ran all the time instead of just when the giant washes his hands and face," Nefertari answered.

This is the story of two hippopotami that came to live with me.  Came may not be the right word.  I brought them to live with me on a whim.  I passed a big yard sale one Saturday morning last November, and the only thing that really caught my eye there as a small blue pottery hippopotamus.  She is the color of lapis lazuli, and elegantly tattoeed with lotuses all over her body.  I knew at once that she was Egyptian, probably royalty.  The princess Nefertari, far from Egypt in Arizona.  She looked so serene and so out of place that I decided to take her away from all that squalor.  After a short negotiation, she entered my company, and went for a long walk.

As I walked I heard this tiny voice say, “Where’s Clyde?”  I knew at once that the hippo princess was talking to me.

“I left him behind,” I answered.  “You are so elegant, and he is not.  That other hippo is the kind of guy that has birds on his butt.  He’s a bumpkin.”

“He is my only friend.  I will be so lonely without him.”

“I will see what I can do.”

As I walked home, I went by the yard sale again.  There was no sign of the second hippo, so I asked.  The sale coordinator said, “Oh yes, I was just about to give him to Good Will.  She pulled a large cardboard box open and extracted a brown hippopotamus.

“The blue one will be lonely without him.” I explained.

“Then you shouldn’t break them up,” she said.  Thus it came to pass that two pottery hippopotami came to live with me.  One is blue and one is brown–sky and earth personified, or maybe the word should be hipponified.

Love is blind. These hippos move around. I never know what they will be doing next.

Now they live by my restroom sink–the watering hole.  Today they came out to the new computer to inspire me and make certain that I told their story properly.  I have done what I can.  I don’t really know their stories, just that they belong together.  Nefertari is elegance and complacency.  She is demure, solid, and wise.  She looks down all the time.  Clyde is lean, athletic, plain, and friendsly.  He must be friendly to allow a family of birds to perch on his buttocks.  He is alert, and his eyes look up at the sky.  His ears are continually perked upwards.  The two of them really don’t fit together very well, but fate has united them, and one without the other would be so incomplete.

I imagine them at night turning on the faucet and lowering themselves into the water hole to take a swim.  Sometimes I think they are in different positions when I wake up in the morning.  Nah, couldn’t be, could it?

The End

Posted January 11, 2012 by atroll in Friendship, Hippos, Pottery Hippopotami, Uncategorized

An Old Treasure Revived   2 comments

Monsters! Monsters!

I forget why Liz made this really nifty picture, but it seemed likd a good cover for my new Monsters! Monsters! game.

Way back in 1977, when Tunnels and Trolls was new–way back when roleplaying itself was new, a man called Howard Thompson, who ran a company called Metagaming, asked me to design a role-playing game for him.  What I came up with was sort of the flip side of Tunnels and Trolls–a game in which the characters played the monsters and competed with each other to do more monstrous havoc than the other players.  The mechanics were pure Tunnels and Trolls–same combat system, same magic system, same saving roll system, but all seen from the other side of the fight–all seen from the monster’s viewpoint.  Players could be Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, Dragons, or whatever they wanted.  The adversary victims would be Men, Elves, Dwarves, etc.

And Elizabeth Danforth (Liz to her friends) who had become my main T & T artist at the time did this stunning painting for the front cover of the game.  I don’t remember who paid for the artwork, probably Thompson, but somehow I wound up in posession of the actual painting, and it rested in my back room, quietly undisturbed for decades.  I think I must have paid Liz some money for it, but I have no idea now how much.  Maybe she just gave it to me.  We were close in those days.  I moved away from my old home of the last 3 decades, and as I move my stuff out, I keep discovering things–treasures!  This (and a whole ton of other art from the Day) is one of the best of those treasures.  Now, I just need to get it framed and hung.  I wish I knew how to do that.  I guess it’s time for an internet search.

–Ken St. Andre
–Jan. 3, 2012

Posted January 4, 2012 by atroll in Uncategorized

An Old Treasure Revived   1 comment

Monsters! Monsters!

 

Way back in 1977, when Tunnels and Trolls was new–way back when roleplaying itself was new, a man called Howard Thompson, who ran a company called Metagaming, asked me to design a role-playing game for him.  What I came up with was sort of the flip side of Tunnels and Trolls–a game in which the characters played the monsters and competed with each other to do more monstrous havoc than the other players.  The mechanics were pure Tunnels and Trolls–same combat system, same magic system, same saving roll system, but all seen from the other side of the fight–all seen from the monster’s viewpoint.  Players could be Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, Dragons, or whatever they wanted.  The adversary victims would be Men, Elves, Dwarves, etc.

And Elizabeth Danforth (Liz to her friends) who had become my main T & T artist at the time did this stunning painting for the front cover of the game.  I don’t remember who paid for the artwork, probably Thompson, but somehow I wound up in posession of the actual painting, and it rested in my back room, quietly undisturbed for decades.  I think I must have paid Liz some money for it, but I have no idea now how much.  Maybe she just gave it to me.  We were close in those days.  I moved away from my old home of the last 3 decades, and as I move my stuff out, I keep discovering things–treasures!  This (and a whole ton of other art from the Day) is one of the best of those treasures.  Now, I just need to get it framed and hung.  I wish I knew how to do that.  I guess it’s time for an internet search.

–Ken St. Andre
–Jan. 3, 2012