Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not a great big phony.

I just read that J.D. Salinger had died at age 91, which is kind of a double edge sword for me.. I really liked all of his work I read.. which was basically only a small amount which was still in print.. about 5 small paperback's or about 1000 pages... I finished it and I wanted more.. But He had kept a ton of stuff he'd written for various magazines from being re-printed.. and had allegedly been stock piling manuscripts to be released posthumously.. If that's the case I'm gonna be spending a lot of money..

I of course never met him.. but as the man himself wrote:

" What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. "

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Transformers Part 3, Beast Wars Part 1

Following the lackluster run that Generation 2 had, Hasbro bought and merged its Boys Toys Department with Kenner, responsible for the Star Wars action figures, in 1994, 1995 brought a brand new Transformers line, one which built on some of the later Generation 2 figures, Ball Joints, Light Piping, among others. But the new figures were different, They transformed from Robots into Organic Animals. Needless to say at first, like many transformer fans, I was less than impressed. Transformers had always had animal transformers in the past, starting with 1985's Dinobots and Insecticons and continuing on until the Action master Partners in 1990.. But never had they had fake fur detailing or supposed to have actually been animals. A year later the TV show started, and it took some getting used too. Unlike what was given as the back story of the pack-in comic of the first wave toys, These weren't the same characters we grew up with.. I didn't get into buying the toys for a while, I was still to busy filling in gaps in my Generation 2 Collection courtesy of Toys R Us and K.B. Toy's Clearance Aisles.. But the Show, I never missed.. It was very well written.. and at the time stunningly animated.. We didn't see its like again until 2007's Transformers Animated came out.. a gap of nearly 10 years with no intelligently written TV shows..

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Martin Meltdown

over on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, they recently posted up an excerpt from the new Dunk and Egg story from George R. R. Martin, and it caused a bit of a kerfluffle. The causes for this in case you aren't aware is because George R. R. Martin is responsible for one of the most popular Fantasy series of all time ' The Song of Ice and Fire '..

The First three volumes came out over a 6 year period, followed by a 5 year gap before the 4th came out, and we are now nearly a second 5 year gap for the 5th volume.. with two more at least still to go after that.. all told, it will probably be something like 30 years between the first one and the last one being released.. the problem with that is.. that George, is 62 this year, and a few of us are worried he may in fact never finish the series.. some would say that he has no obligation to his fans to finish the series.. and that is probably true. And while I'm not trying to begrudge him his Football games, or his book signings or his jet setting.. he's worked hard to earn that.. I do wish he wouldn't be quite so blatant about it.. because to people who have an emotional investment.. not to mention a monetary and time investment in his books.. it does come across as well.. Dithering.. most of his readers I imagine.. don't care who won the football game he just spend the last 3 hours watching.. or who won the other 3 games he Tivo'd to watch latter..

I'm not going to say he won't finish the series, I certainly don't want anything happening too him, but I do hope he was at least pro-active like Robert Jordan and has arranged for such an occasion.. Telling some one who can keep a secret the ending, leaving a concise outline of where he wants to go with it.. I'd rather have another author finish the series than have it half complete.. or have to have the ending presented in an extremely unfinished form.. like what was done with Tolkien's Silmarillion.

This is part of the double edge sword with writing a multi-tome epic.. It takes time, and the world is an uncertain place.. and I look forward to reading the remaining 3 Westeros novels.. and I'm glad to get a 3rd Dunk and Egg novella.. I just wish that everyone could be calm about it, as insulting the man is not going to help get it published any sooner..

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sexism among the Robert E. Howard Fandom.

Disclaimer: The Following is a Rant about Fandom, It is neither fairly balanced not presenting both sides of the picture, I doubt many people from the specific fandom I'm citing even read this place..

I know what you are thinking, so let me explain, This isn't a post about all those Frazetta covers, or some sort of attack on Howard, I understand that a certain amount of objectification of women happens in his work and even amongst his fandom..

What I want to talk about is, the sexism towards MEN among the REH fandom. There seems to be an extremely prevalent attitude among the posters of Conan.Com that unless you are 6'4 and 220lbs of solid rock hard muscle.. You aren't a Real Man. The forum is filled with endless bitching every time some one who dosen't fit that strenuous qualification is cast in well.. just about any sort of action role.

This happened when James Purefoy was Cast as Solomon Kane.. And its happening again now due to the rumor that Jason Momoa is going to be playing Conan. endless calls of " He needs to bulk up, He needs to work out more, they are just doing this to cater to the teeny boppers" I've seen them moan about Viggo Mortenson playing Aragorn, and endlessly whine about essentially anything Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Orlando Bloom, among others.. in just about anything they are in.. The howls of derision when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker still echo despite the phenomenal job he did...

The same few actor suggestions are brought out over and over again, Charlton Heston, Charles Bronson, Jack Palance, Clint Eastwood.. In case you guys haven't noticed but three of them are dead and one of them is pushing 80. Tastes Change, Fashion Changes, Film making Changes. The World has changed, Physical prowess, a psychoctic sneer and a bad attitude do not make sales anymore.

apparently, having simply appeared on Baywatch disqualifies Momoa from being anything but some sissy boy in the eyes of some of these posters.

This is one of many things I've noticed among Conan and REH fans in general.. and I don't always like to go after people like this.. but after having read 8 pages of whining.. I felt I had too.

I've seen pictures from Howard Days.. Most of the guys in those pictures wouldn't be counted among the " Real Men " either.

I will agree I'm not really sure how to take Momoa as Conan, some of the posters on that forum have made some pretty convincing photoshops.. and I always liked him as Ronon Dex on Star Gate Atlantis.. He's not a huge name, so he won't distract from the character.. I think he is the least of the problems this new Conan Movie faces.. the biggest are the fact its being directed by the guy who directed Pathfinder(Euck!).. and so far bears only slightly more connection to the Conan character than 1982's Conan with Arnold Schwarzenegger..

And at this point, after the two Transformers films and 2009's GIJOE.. I'm used to having beloved properties raked over the coals in order to try and get people in the seats at the theater..

Friday, January 22, 2010

January - Doorway to Fantasy.

January, named after the Roman god Janus .. or the Opener of Doors, could not be more fitting.

In the month of January we have the births of some of the greatest Weird tale or Fantasy writers .. of all times.. It's arguable, that without two of these, there would be no " Fantasy " genre at all.

On January 3rd, 1892 in Bloemfontein South Africa, one, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien was heralded into the world, He went on to create the seminal work of what is now " High Fantasy ".. in " The Lord of the Rings ".. but thats only the tip of the iceberg, he also translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, helped to rehabilitate the Poem Beowulf from its place of unimportance and elevate it to its rightful place as one of if not the most important works of English literature..(I can hear the grinding of teeth in a thousand, thousand, high school classrooms from where I sit).. He worked tirelessly on his chosen field, Philology, or the study of the history of words.. helped edit the Oxford English Dictionary.. and created thousands of pages of back story and legendarium in his " Middle Earth Setting " ..

On January 13th, 1893, Clark Ashton Smith was born in Auburn California.. His work is probably the least well known on this list today, but thats a shame, as his works display an immense imagination, they are alternatively humorous and frightening, filled with bizarre sites and sounds and descriptions of all manner of weird places.. I'm glad that the majority of his work is back in print now, however It isn't yet in affordable editions.

On January 19th, 1809, Edgar Allen Poe was born Boston Massachusetts, The Weird Tale had met its master, His life was tragic and short, Lost love, Alcoholism, and a lifetime of not being taken seriously, But just last year he was immortalized on his bicentennial with a Stamp from the USPS.. He has finally taken his place among the greats of American literature. The world would be a much less interesting place without him.

January 22nd, 1906, a boy named Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster Texas, He would only live to see 30. But in this short life, he single handedly created what is today known as " Sword and Sorcery " with his character " Conan The Cimmerian " (Known to most as Conan the Barbarian due to the abysmal John Milius Movie) .. If Tolkien is the wise father of Fantasy, then Howard is the Uncle who has too many beers and tells the raucous and sometimes spicy stories of Adventure, women and battle. while Tolkien began to receive recognition for his Middle Earth Series in the 80s, culminating eventually in the Peter Jackson Films. Howard has yet to really receive his just rewards.. But his star is rising.. He has been featured in the two volume " American Fantastic Tales " released by Library of America.. and we can only hope this leads to a Howard Specific volume in that venerable series.. It's only right for him to be able to sit on the shelf next to one of his heroes Jack London, His friend H.P. Lovecraft and predecessor in the weird tale.. Edgar Allen Poe. Howard tragically took his own life in 1936, the reason for this has been bandied about endlessly, but mainly no one really knows why he did it, and to accept at face value any of the theories.. especially if they come courtesy of anything L. Sprague DeCamp wrote .. should not be undertaken lightly. In his short life time he produced an enormous number of short stories and several novels.. a Large number of these are in print now, Through Bison Books, Wild side Fantasy, and the soon to be 10 volume series from Del Rey books.. Not to mention an extremely protective and active fan base. Do yourself a favor.. Skip the movies and read the books.

And lastly, but certainly not least.. we come to C.L. Moore, Born January 24th, 1911, I can hear you scratching your head.. " who is C.L. Moore " .. She was probably one of the most important writers to come out of Weird Tales, Fantasy stopped being a Boys Club when her character Jirel of Joiry was published.. Inspired by Howard and along with her Husband Henry Kuttner, This Secretary from Indianapolis Indiana didn't so much smash the glass ceiling, as walk in with broadsword drawn and slay the installation crew. She is alas not remembered much these days, but the majority of her work is in print courtesy of Paizo publishing. Her other big character was Northwest Smith of Earth, and along with Kuttner they wrote Mimsy were the Borogoves .. Which was recently adapted into a film, " The Last Mimsy ".

So all of these Pathfinders of the field, who lit the drop zones for the future waves of Fantasy writers to follow, were all Born in January, the month of Janus, the God of Doors.. Doors to Fantasy, Adventure, Sorcery, Darkness, Evil, Far Away Lands, Beautiful Women, Dangerous Men ( And Women).. all I can say is without them, the world would be a much more boring place.

while, not nearly as interesting.. mine is this weekend as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nearly a Week Late, Happy Birthday to Clark Ashton Smith

On January 13th 1893, Clark Ashton smith was born, and thus was erected the 3rd pillar of the Weird Tales Temple. While his works are less well known than his compatriots H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, do not mistake that for lack of talent. He had that in spades, in Art, Writing, Poetry and Sculpture.

During his tenure with Weird Tales he created numerous fantasies and weird stories, taking us to ancient Hyperborea and impossibly futuristic Zothique, to Martian Xiccarph and Doomed Poseidonis, Alas I don't know very much about Averoigne, his invented French village. I've only got the four Lin Carter edited volumes from the " Ballantine Adult Fantasy " series.. and the 5th volume, slated to contain the " Averoigne Cycle " was never released, though it was rumored to be completed.

Night Shade Books released a 5 volume Set of the " Collected Fantasies " but I'm not wealthy enough to afford their prices nearly 250$ for 5 Volumes was pushing it for me, Though there are some cheaper " Best of " volumes out now, and I recommend checking them out..

Good with a Rifle, Quick on his Feet and Bloody Fearless. The Amazing Stories of Richard Sharpe.

Bernard Cornwell began writing the character of Richards Sharpe in 1981 with Sharpe's Eagle, It is however chronologically the 8th book in the series. It was followed by Sharpe's Gold, Company, Sword, Enemy, Honour, Regiment, Seige, Rifles, Revenge, and Waterloo. Thats the initial 12, they were a huge hit in the UK, so the BBC developed a TV series around the character, initially to be played by Paul Mcgann (the Doctor from Fox's 1996 Doctor Who Movie) but he couldn't so they cast Sean Bean instead. This created some problems as Sean Bean is really nothing physically like the Literary Sharpe apart from being tall and lanky. But he did such a good job, and made the character so memorable that the program ran from 1993 till 1997, and then had two more episodes made between 2006 and 2008 which are Braveheart levels of historically inaccurate.

The Television series began with, at the time, the first novel chronologically, 1988's "Sharpe's Rifles" and then continued from there through the novels more or less chronologically, though the Series played very loose with the books continuity. The show featured some really great actors like Brian Cox, and in 1997's "Sharpe's Waterloo" the now hugely popular Paul Bettany as the Prince of Orange.

The Show was so popular that the Author went back and wrote a further 10 novels and 3 short stories, these however attempted to retcon the changes of the TV series into the original 12 novels, they mainly slot into different places in the existing framework, and start the series off with Sharpe in India in what is the " Indian Trilogy " of " Sharpe's Tiger ", " Sharpe's Triumph " and " Sharpe's Fortress ".

I'd caught a few of the TV movies on PBS at various times in the past, and really enjoyed them. So when I got Netflix I quickly put the 12 they had to to the top of my list, the two from 2006 and 2008, hadn't come out in the US at that time.. and due to their continuity problems (They adapt the " India Trilogy " but move the timeline forward nearly 30 years in order to still use Sean Bean and Darragh O'mally, the actors from the first 12 telemovies) I will wait till they air on PBS before deciding if I want to buy them.

If you like Napoleonic era fiction, or are a fan of Patrick O'Brian, then the sharpe's series is something you should check out, as its a really nice companion, it being about the British Army during the same time period that O'Brian's is about the British Navy. A worthy heir to Fenimoor Cooper's Leather stocking tales, Dumas' D'Artagen romances and Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel.. I've only finished the first 6 of them so far, but I'm already wishing the series was longer than it was.

I'd planned to purchase the Sharpe's TV series, but as with most television programs from the UK, they are outrageously expensive. The Four packs retail at around 80$us each, while the 12 pack which comes in a rather nice wooden ammo crate retails for an astounding 349.99$us.. The exact same product (albeit with different packaging) is only 25.49£ in the UK.. thats roughly 50$us. A Savings of nearly 300$.. which will add up to just about half of what the US set costs after you buy a Region Free DVD player which converts from PAL to NTSC in order to actually be able to watch it. I try not to complain about these discrepancies too much, as I know that across the pond they pay more for US products than I do.. But there does come a point when absurdity strikes and incredulity takes over, and this is such an occasion.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reading List for 2010.. so far.

1. Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
2. Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. Sharpe's Fortress by Bernard Cornwell
5. Sharpe's Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Transformers part 2, and Corporate Dicks.

In my last venture here I set to lay the foundations of what exactly The Transformers were. So if you are reading this and are a bit confused I suggest going back and reading the previous post.

So that brings us to what I originally wanted to talk about.

Having grown up as a serious Trans-Fanatic, I was distraught in 1990 (as a 6 year old) to learn that the line was going to be ending. I wrote a letter to Hasbro and received a very nice letter from Head of Boys Toys Development or more like from his Secretary, and a 9x11 color glossy of the artwork from the back of the 1984 packaging. I don't think I have the letter anymore but I do have the photograph.

My mom being a wonderful person called every store in the surrounding area, to try and find out what they had left so she could get me the few remaining bits from the 1990 line I didn't already have. So as a result of it, for a very long time the Micro Masters and Action Masters were my most complete part of my collection. Something I'm forever grateful for.

In 1991, she also went to the United Kingdom to visit relatives, and went to a toy store while she was there, and found that, while the line was no longer produced in the US, it was still being released with new toys in the UK, so I had a very good Christmas Morning that year as I had no idea these toys even existed let alone where " Santa " had found them.. I assumed for a few years that he had made them specially for me.. considering none of the other kids at school had them. They had rather odd names though, Boss and Flash, but others like Thunderclash and Skyquake were perfect Transformers names. Alas I didn't maybe do such a good job putting the stickers on them (yes, we used to have to put the stickers on our own toys for those of you born in 1995 or later).

1992, she eeked out the few last 91's she had purchased in the UK, a set of Yellow Constructicons without their components to combine.. I had many days playing with those in the driveway (sand) and having them build forts and stuff for my other figures.

1993, an odd thing happened.. while everyone else was caught in the midst of Power Ranger Mania.. The Transformers were back. As Transformers: Generation 2. Complete with a Cartoon, and a new comic book. The Comic at the time didn't do much for me.. but the Cartoon was a godsend. It was just a few Season 1 and 2 episodes shown out of order with new 3d bumpers tacked on.. but it was wondrous to me. Since I'd never seen most of these episodes at all.

I was going to include the first 3 episodes of Generation 2 for your viewing pleasure. However some Spanish media company named Selectavisión apparently dosen't want people in the US to be able to view cartoons which originated in the US. So they have had Youtube take the 2nd part of each episode down. Good Job, Dicks. So this leads to the creation of a new rant heading which will show up on this forum from time to time.. Corporate Dicks.

So Instead, Enjoy a montage of the Generation 2 Toy Commercials.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Transformers.

This will be the first in an eventual series detailing my History with this very unique toy line that swept the world of the 1980s and is still arguably going strong today.

In the early 1980's a Japanese Toy Company created a series of spin off toy lines, Diaclone and Microchange, from its extremely popular Microman line. Microman having been quite successful in the 1970s in the US they felt these new lines would be equally successful. They attempted to bring them over as Diakron but the line was not as successful.. After all Microman was brought to the US as the Micronauts, complete with merchandising tie ins and a very successful Marvel Comic book series. So when the US toy company Hasbro went to Japan looking to license some Japanese Robot toys to bring over.. Takara went along with it, licensing both Diaclone and Microchange to Hasbro, Hasbro also got some molds from Takaras Competitor Bandai, which would eventually cause some usage problems with several popular characters. The Transformers hit in 1984 in the US and were such a huge hit that they were drafting figures that were not part of the line but were similar enough to others.. to sort of fill the gaps. The Line launched with a Marvel Comic book series and several Big Looker storybooks that came with Audio Cassettes and 45's.. a Cartoon special followed in 1985, and eventually a further 98 episodes and a feature film would be commissioned stretching from 1985 till 1987 on TV.

This of course was mostly before my time. But I felt I needed to set the ground work. Having been born in 1984, I was too little to catch the initial wave, but in 1987 a relative from the UK came to visit, and brought me my very first Transformer figure, The Autobot Currier, Blurr, voiced by none other than the micro machines guy himself John Moschita. I was hooked, I begged for more, Initially I didn't get very many, but as they became less new and less popular, and the kids who were a bit older than me started moving onto other things.. the Yard Sale hauls and Flea Market Finds reaped a bountiful harvest, as a result I have many many multiples in various stages of completion of the earliest figures. And at current count I'm about 90% complete in my collection from 1984-1990 lines.

The Line is of course still around, through many many permutations, some I liked, many I didn't. I decided to post this because I feel now as if the Line isn't the same line as the one I loved when I was little. It is now " Micheal Bay's Transformers " and the next decade will be defined by his piss poor adaptions of a rich mythos as told via the Marvel Comic and Cartoon Series.. This will be mostly the subject of future posts. And Transformers is not alone in this place of shame, it's joined by the Venerable Men and Women of G.I.JOE as well, By Conan the Cimmerian, soon to be butchered for the umpteenth time by Hollywood, and by Countless other characters and mythos.. the value they have to fans is unimportant.. they are now properties to be ruthlessly exploited and sold to the consumer, and unfortunatly the consumer is buying it in record numbers. I guess Shit sells.