Friday, 20 December 2013

The Amazons of Far Harad


This lady appears for less than 10 seconds in the film, yet she is by far the most interesting character in the entire ensemble.

I went to see The Hobbit: The Disenfranchisement of Smaug. I cannot really say anything I didn't already say about the first one. What follows is a snippet of one of the strange mental gymnastic routines that happens to me when thinking about justifying narrative issues.

Scene: a group of friends are playing a tabletop role-playing game, not unlike Dungeons & Dragons. There is Pete (the Dungeon Master), Ian (a Wizard), Eva (an Elf), John (a Dwarf), Vickie (a Ranger), and Fran (a Hobbit). Their game is very loosely based on The Hobbit, where the DM has decided to make a few changes for the sake of inclusion and to keep the group's interest. Everything in italics is "in character," with breaks in character denoted by normal text.

DM: You now take in the sights around you, shaking the fish-slime from your eyes. An eclectic and unusual town stretches beyond. It is not built on the shore, though there are a few huts and buildings there, but right out on the surface of the lake, protected from the swirl of the entering river by a promontory of rock which forms a calm bay. A great bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest trees was built a busy wooden town, not a town of elves but of Men, who still dared to dwell here under the shadow of the distant dragon-mountain. They still throve on the trade that came up the great river from the South and was carted past the falls to their town; but in the great days of old, when Dale in the North was rich and prosperous, they had been wealthy and powerful, and there had been fleets of boats on the waters, and some were filled with gold and some with warriors in armour, and there had been wars and deeds which were now only a legend. The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores when the waters sank in a drought. Among the townsfolk you see strange people unlike any you've seen in Bree - men with dark beards and unusual garb, ladies with strange eyes and silken hair, a woman with the darkest skin you've ever seen on a human - 

The Wizard: Where did they come from?

DM: (Sighs) Is this going to be a problem for you, Ian?

The Wizard: Is what going to be a problem?

(The rest of the group sighs and mutters, knowing what's coming next)


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Made It, Ma! Top of the World!


Today was a big day for me: the day where I take a new step towards respectability as a comic artist. The kind folk of the Dutch Gable House hosted a vintage craft faire, and I was invited to host a stall. Since the event had a general arty-crafty vibe mixed with Art Nouveau/Deco stylings of The Great Gatsby, I figured it would be cool to do some portraiture. I added a little twist: I took the neurological phenomenon of pareidolia, and spun it into a paranormal context - i.e. it isn't that people perceive imagery in everyday vision, but that that imagery spontaneously appears of its own accord.



PAREIDOLIC
PORTRAITURE

Alexander J. Harron, Esq

PAREIDOLIA

From Ancient Greek; παρα (para, "amiss, wrong") + εδωλον (eidōlon, "image")

Have you ever seen something unusual within an otherwise mundane object?

Perhaps an ANIMAL appears in the CLOUDS?

A WORD in the branches of a TREE?

A FACE in a layer of SOOT?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

This phenomenon is known as PAREIDOLIA – where a seemingly innocuous visual stimulus reveals a greater significance – and has been recorded throughout history!

The Neanderthals of Lasceaux conjured visions of MAMMOTHS upon the walls of a CAVE using only PIGMENTS and PAINT! The Ancient Egyptians used this craft to TRANSFORM what was once a normal mass of limestone into THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA! The illustrious Michelangelo materialized no less than THE HEAVENS THEMSELVES upon the ceiling of THE SISTINE CHAPEL!

VISAGES DRAWN FORTH!

This is but a piece of PAPER inscribed with INK. The paper was made from wood shavings as has been the fashion for centuries; the pen forged in the standard industrial manner.




Yet lo and behold, appearing upon this ordinary paper – A FACE EMERGES!
How can this be? NONE CAN SAY FOR SURE.

MASTERING PAREIDOLIA

Most examples of PAREIDOLIA occur seemingly at random – faces, creatures, or patterns seen in natural environments. But with tuition, and nerve, YOU TOO can evoke this arcane power of the ages!



It is not only stone, marble, paint or other such esoteric materials which can be used to draw forth spectral visages – tools as simple as PENCILS and PAPER!

With the secret method known as DRAWING, practitioners of PAREIDOLIC PORTRAITURE pierce the veil between worlds, and DRAW FORTH images – capturing them in this world with the materials you see before you!


  

Even something as simple as TWO DOTS and A CURVED LINE, juxtaposed correctly and clearly sketched, can summon shapes into YOUR VERY HANDS!


THE OASIS

Two travellers were crossing a vast desert, when they saw an oasis in the distance. One traveller was an artist, and so chose to set down an easel and paint the oasis; the other traveller was dehydrated, and hurried forward, intent on sating their thirst. After some time, the artist finished a wonderful painting; the other failed to reach the oasis.

In truth, the oasis both travellers saw was a MIRAGE – it was not real. And yet the artist achieved their goal to paint the oasis – while the other traveller failed. And perished in the attempt. As far as the artist was concerned, the oasis was real – but to the other traveller, it was not.

Who’s to say who was wrong or right?

PAREIDOLIA
FOR YOUR
DOMICILE
Alexander J. Harron, esq, has generously allocated some time from his tireless studies in the field of PAREIDOLIC PORTAITURE to grant the customers of VIOLET SKULLS a most extraordinary opportunity – a UNIQUE PAREIDOLIC PORTRAIT!

Give it to your sweetheart, ensconce it within a picture frame, hang it upon your wall, dangle it from your locket for identification purposes, or simply display it in your drawing room as an unusual conversation piece!


For more elaborate or ambitious PAREIDOLIC PORTRAITURE, consult with Mr. Harron for possible future opportunities – though be aware that his time is precious, and he treats EVERY project with the GREATEST of MAGNITUDE.

Mr Harron also insists that his work MUST NEVER be used in conjunction with fraud, perjury, confidence trickery, witchcraft, voodoo, necromancy, black sorcery, copyright infringement, inkblot testing, or other malefic magicks – the consequence could be most grave, and Mr Harron cannot be held responsible for loss of property, possessions, sanity, or souls.
Art really is quite bizarre, when you think about it.

So this is it: my first stall, selling my art and scribbling away. Not very fancy, ridiculously cluttered, and nerves were wracked and wrought, but I turned up and lasted the day. After seeing such talented folk as Morag Kewell, Craig Collins, Neil Slorance, Ben Templesmith, Onrie Kompan, Jared Sams, Giulie Speziani, Rob Harrington, Denae Frazier, Val Hochberg, Natali Sanders, Jolene Houser, and too many others to recall, I knew that some day, I would get there. Some day, with work, confidence and guile, I would get a wee corner at a gathering, and do what they do. So many thanks to Violet Skulls Market for hosting me, the preposterously generous Mhairi M. Robertson for being a wonderful neighbouring artist, my tireless family for the support and assistance that got me through, my friends who never doubted in my abilities when I most needed validation, and all the artists who awed me at their stalls from Glasgow to Phoenix who told me "yes, you can do it too."

You were right, guys! You were right!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Robert E. Howard in Scots

After seeing the fantastic work done by many folk translating REH into French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Swedish and many more, and having also seen many classic authors' work translated into Scots, I'm sorely tempted to translate some REH into my people's language. There are quite a few poems that I think would sound grand in Scots: obviously the ones involving a Scot like "The Rover". Maybe even some stories starring Scots.

Certainly Howard quite liked the Scots language, and he's even written a poem in the tongue.

(The following first appeared in my REHupa 'zine, "Elephants, Figs, & Lobsters With Wigs")


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Barbearians: The Right Paw of Doom


“I am a landless bear.  I come out of the sunset and into the sunrise I go, wherever the Lord doth guide my feet.  I work the will of God.  While naughtiness flourishes and boo-boos grow rank, while bears are persecuted and teddies wronged, while small things, bear or animal, are maltreated, there is no naptime for me beneath the skies, nor snuggle at any board or bed.”

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Kaiju Rising: 10 Days to Go



I hadn't had the chance to discuss this new collection of short stories which is just the sort of thing I love, but recent revelations have moved me to action:

Shh. So I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I’m one of the authors who will be unlocked if funding is met and exceeded in a new Kickstarter. There’s at least three of us mysterious contributors (I won’t tell you the identity of the others) who will be revealed if Kaiju Rising meets its stretch goals.
As it’s an anthology for monster stories, you can darned well bet that I’m drafting a new Dabir and Asim story for the collection. I’m pretty busy with other stories right now, but it was such a great looking assembly that I couldn’t stand to pass up the opportunity.
The project is being published by J.M. Martin, Tim Marquitz and Nick Sharps (the latter two serving double-shift as editors), illustrated by Dan Howard, and will feature stories by Larry Correia, Peter Clines, James Lovegrove, Erin Hoffman, James Maxey, Jaym Gates, Timothy W. Long, Mike MacLean, Natania Barron, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Clint Lee Werner, Jonathan Wood,  Gini Koch, Paul Genesse, Edward M. Erdelac, Samuel Sattin, Bonnie Jo Stufflebean, and Peter Rawlik.
The first stretch goal will include additional internal art from Robert Elrod and Chuck Lukacs, and the next three stretch goals are authors. I’m not sure which of those three I am, but I’m hoping you’ll join in the Kickstarter and unlock my story. The full details can be found here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Fan Entitlement vs Fan Passion

(Once again, many apologies for the dearth of posts recently.)

As a fan of many things, one has to wonder at times where the distinction between tasteful understated nerdrage and entitled whining lies. Being a fan means enjoying things, but unfortunately that amount of enjoyment can sometimes lead to an equal and opposite dislike of things when it eclipses, disreputes, or is otherwise perceived to threaten the thing you like.

Scott Mendelson has chosen the somewhat unusual forum of the Forbes website to discuss what he terms Fan Entitlement Syndrome:

Current fandom doesn’t just get upset when their favorite shows get cancelled, their preferred films flop, or casting choices for their favorite projects go awry. They take to the Internet to absolutely demand that they get their way as a matter of moral principle, damn the business logistics or any other logical obstacles in their way. They swear up and down that not only was John Carter a great movie (debatable) but that it absolutely was a financially successful film that absolutely deserves a sequel. Never mind that it earned $282 million on a $250m budget and lost Disney around $200m, it was merely misunderstood and this time will be totally different. They clamor for sequels to MacGruber, an amusing action-film spoof that couldn’t even match its $10m budget at the worldwide box office. They start online petitions demanding Dredd 2 even though distributor Lionsgate and producer Reliance Big Pictures lost out when the $45m Dredd grossed just $35m at the global box office. I adore Speed Racer, but I and others like me don’t run around pretending that it wasn’t a costly flop that doesn’t justify a sequel. Sometimes one is enough and we should be thankful we got that one. 

Despite Mendelson's tone getting my heckles up a bit, I think it's worth examining a few things.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Encyclopaedia Is Changing

So that's been quite a while since my official announcement, and there's been precious little information about what's going on.

Well, I've taken the first step in the next phase of the project, and I've overcome three significant barriers.  The most important is the final acknowledgement of the enormousness of the project, which had been one barrier: now that I have a better idea of how huge it all is, I have a better handle on it.  I was always aware that many people have helped me get where I am today, but I was adamant on not relying on them at the same time. Now I realise that, really, it's not that I'm putting a burden on them, it's sharing it. So rather than this being another "what could have been," I've taken measures which ensure that the Encyclopaedia will move forward - whether I like it or not!

The next is more personal: I've been working on it so much that it's taken a life of its own, and it's gotten too personal. I became so invested and attached that I started to become afraid of letting anyone see it.  I convinced myself that errors, typos, mistakes and other undesirables littered the work like autumn leaves on the road, dreading the time when the avalanche of corrections would come through. This is something I have to deal with too often, and why I don't do nearly as many commissions as I probably could.

The third is most personal of all. There is someone within the Howard community which I consider more important than any save Howard himself in terms of getting me established, encouraging me, and keeping me on the straight and narrow. He's the reason I was confident enough to post on the Robert E. Howard Forums, which remain the best, most accessible online discussion for Howard and essential for anyone remotely interested in Howard and Conan to peruse at least once. He gave me the spirit and advice I needed to ask Leo Grin to join The Cimmerian, and I doubt I would even have tried were it not for his support. And I'm pretty sure The Blog That Time Forgot would be very different without everything I've learned from him. Yet after knowing him all these years, I've lately felt intimidated by his knowledge, to the point where I was deathly afraid of disappointing him. I eventually bit the bullet and did what had to be done.

For the truth is, the Encyclopaedia was never a solo project - not really. Every Howard fan, scholar, critic, and collector I've talked to has welcomed me, even after initially hostile receptions. I know that I could send them an email with any sort of a query, and if they don't respond with an answer, they'll suggest exactly who might know. And of course, there are countless essays and articles which opened the way for entirely new ways of thinking about Conan and the Hyborian Age. All about the work of an author who's been dead over 75 years - a world he created in two dozen stories.

I hate to be a tease: I've told you about the changes, but not said what they are. Once everything's in place and collated, I'm sure an announcement will come in due course, but for now, I'll just say this: the Encyclopaedia is changing, and the change is good.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

8-Year-Old Reviews: Pacific Rim

To my utter outrage, there was no option to select Scotland at the Pacific Rim Jaeger Designer. They have Togo and the Vatican City, but no Scotland. This would not stand! Alternate names considered: Bagpipes Shoogle, Buckfast Nevis, Tartan Shufty, Glaikit Pibroch, Hootsmon Bampot, Doric Galoot, Shortbread Numpty, Stookey Teuchter, Beastie Gallus, Crabbit Blether, Muckle Skiver, Clootie Havers.

Third time's a charm, eh Aly?

WOO WOOWOOWOOWOOWOO THIS WAS AMAZING BEST FILM EVER GOOD GRIEF WHY CAN'T MORE FILMS BE LIKE THIS SEE SEE THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT MORE LIKE THIS JUST GET GUILLERMO DEL TORO TO MAKE EVERY BLOCKBUSTER FROM NOW ON RIGHT DO IT HOLLYWOOD YOU KNOW IT MAKES SENSE

Aly, I'm going to have to insist you stop with the capital locks, alright?

BUT FILM CRITIC HULK DOES IT

And Film Critic Hulk's often cogent and interesting views are difficult to read when you eschew punctuation and proper case, aren't they?

... Alright, alright, I'll go with boring old grammar.  But I retain rights to "radical," "cowabunga" and related '80s and '90s expressions that only make sense to children of that period.

Of course, how could you ask that of me?

I don't know, 29-year-old Aly, you got really old and grouchy over those 21 years.

GAZE INTO YOUR FUTURE, BOY.

First, one possible future; second, I thought we weren't doing all caps?

I AM 29-YEAR-OLD ALY I CAN APPLY ALL CAPS AS I SEE FIT

You're clearly delirious, so I shall commence with the review.


Monday, 15 July 2013

The Problem with Humans


The plight of the misunderstood orc

Taking a brief time out from my work, I've been having a gander at several things. One was G. Willow Wilson's post on Tor, "The Orc Renaissance: Race, Tolerance and Post-9/11 Western Fantasy." It's a deeply problematic essay about a deeply problematic issue, and it leads to one of my biggest issues when it comes to fantasy fiction these days - as well as a realisation I came to in my own attempts at dabbling in the genre.

Monday, 24 June 2013

1314

 

'Scots, wha hæ wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tæ yer gory bed,
Or tæ victorie.

'Now's the day, an now's the hour:
See the front o battle lour,
 See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie.

'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sæ base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee.

 'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa,
Let him on wi me.

 'By Oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins, 
But they shall be free.

'Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Libertie's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Knight's Moment of Glory



It's bloody wet, Scotland. I hate it. Damn near killed John-boy in the march up, he'll be lucky to live the march back. I'll make a squire out of him yet. Lost a horse on the way up too: hobbled itself in a bog. No matter, my destrier is watered and rested, we outnumber and outmatch the Scots, and we have Giles d'Argentan. What glory we'll bring to England, to finally unite Britain under one king, under God! I just wish our king's father lived longer, to see his work done at last.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #1


Many apologies for the delays in the Scottish Invasion the Fourth posts, the aforementioned combination of Blogger issues and Internet maladies have ganged up: don't worry, they're coming. In the meantime, I'll migrate a couple of thoughts on King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #1.

If I come across as a hardline, merciless canon-thumper in all my reviews of Howard (or Tolkien or Burroughs or just about anyone's) adaptations, I can only say one thing: Mark Finn explained to me why that's not necessarily a bad thing. As I'd said, I met and talked briefly with Tim Truman, and saw how much of a genuine REH fan he was. So I was starting to feel a bit conflicted: if I was agreeing with everything Tim was saying, and finding so much in common with his likes, dislikes and even opinions, then what was my deal with his work on Dark Horse's Conan? Luckily, you can blame Mark for elucidating what I'd been trying to figure out for a long time: using Howard as the yardstick is a measure of consistency. By comparing any adaptation to the source material, I'm making comments and criticisms that have weight for context. With so much criticism, it's easy to say "I just don't like it," but when I like or dislike an adaptation because of its divergences from the source material, then it has at least one thing going for it - consistency.

But therein lies the rub: what if you don't mind alterations to the source material? What if, after decades of reading and re-reading the stories, you actually like little tweaks and twists? What if you're of the opinion that it's not only inevitable, but desirable for the adaptation writer to diverge - thereby putting their mark on the adaptation in a way that would be more difficult in a straight translation? My only answer is well, duh! If you're OK with all that, then you're OK with all that: what could anything I say matter a bean? And likewise, when adapting an existing story, the adaptation writer has no obligation to be faithful.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Technical Difficulties


Dreadfully sorry for the lack of updates: a perfect storm of internet, technological, organizational and software troubles have conspired like a Rebel Four to usurp me from control of the blog. But fear not, for as far as this blog goes, I AM KING OR CORPSE.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Fourth Scottish Invasion of Cross Plains: Day 2

After a good night's sleep, Jeff, Barbara and I went on an adventure: to pick up Deuce Richardson, the first time I've seen him since the first invasion. We drove about an hour or so out of town to meet him and his mother. We had a Dairy Queen snack, some sort of concoction called a Pecan Turtle Blizzard or some such. It was an interesting experience: generally the fast food in America tastes much better than the fast food in Scotland - at least the ones from the big chains are.

As we drove back, we met Ed Chaczyk, Jim Barron, Todd Vick and newcomer David at 36 West. I was very glad to see everyone, especially Jim, since I was concerned he wouldn't make it this year - but he did. We all went to the Howard House, where we met Arlene Stephenson, and Rusty & Sheila Burke. We wandered around the house as ever, noticing one or two new editions - such as John Irvine's Galahad - around the place.

As we moseyed to the Pavillion we saw Indy again, and were soon joined by Mark Finn and Tim Arneson - and to my surprise, Joe Lansdale! It's funny to think of him coming here as just another Howard fan, considering he's a big writer in his own right, but there were other surprises in store...

All of us got lifts and rides to Humphrey Pete's for dinner. I was seated next to Deuce on my right and Howard history powerhouse Rob Roehm on my left, and we had a good chat about various things. For all his approachableness, I still feel a bit awed in the presence of the Big Guys like Rob, Paul Herman, Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier. While being escorted to our table, a waitress offered to hang up my hat, which is the most Texan offer I've heard since coming here, and I couldn't resist. Rather than my usual Chicken Caesar, I decided to be a bit bolder, and ordered a Guacamole burger. Which is a burger with guacamole sauce on it. Of course. Our waitress was a lovely lass called Sally, who really went all out to ensure we were all happy and content with our meal. I try to be a generous tipper all the time, so it was easy for me to repay Sally's diligence and attention.

As I was walking out, I realised I had forgotten my hat. Disastrous. Luckily however, Mark Finn went ahead of me and explained to three lovely lassies that a gentleman from Scotland was among the group, so they recognized my brogue and gushed. All I can say is the Scottish accent is apparently far more attractive outside of Scotland than it is in Scotland. One of the lassies had even been to Scotland, where her uncle lives: I would've loved to have stayed and talked more, but I didn't want to keep Jeff & Deuce back. I got about halfway across the car park when Sally came rushing out hollerin' "Wait! Sir!" Turns out Jeff had left his hat behind: I dutifully retrieved it with thanks. Above and beyond the call of duty, well done Sally!

Our next drive was to the cemetery to see the Howards' grave. Again, it always seems strange to visit a cemetary during a celebration, and yet it shouldn't necessarily be so - after all, Howard has brought together people from all across the country, and world, even though he died before many of us were born. It seems appropriate to give thanks: even in death, people can affect the world long after they're gone. The cemetary had provided a canopy in case of rain, but since we're having uncommonly good weather we wheeled it aside for the photo. Melville made his pilgrimage too.

It was dark as Deuce, Jeff and I drove back to the Pavillion. I talked again with many old friends, but I had a particularly affecting conversation with Jim Barron about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Jim & I have had very similar experiences fairly recently, so it was immensely touching to share them with each other. This is why I go to Howard Days.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Fourth Scottish Invasion of Cross Plains: Day 1

So after saying goodbyes to Arizona - aside from the searing agonizing heat and blazing ball of fire in the sky, I had grown very fond of the place - it was time for the arduous journey to Cross Plains.

We took our previous route from Phoenix to Dallas, then to Abeline. It's most fun seeing the change from the gargantuan British Airways behemoth we rode over to here from london, to the smaller American Airlines craft with only five rows, and finally the very homely and cozy little machine with three rows. The captains went from terribly well-spoken and polite, to genial and affable, to almost rowdy and devil-may-care. I'd like to think it was the same captain just getting progressively more drunk.

Down the grand 36 we went, passing the familiar sites: The Last Resort, the innumerable Baptist churches, the car graveyard, Caddo Peak Ranch, and a new store called simply "The Store": its location and eerie quiet reminded me rather of "Something Wicked This Way Comes..."

When we pulled up to 36 West, I was about ready to collapse... then I heard a familiar voice - Barbara! We all said our hellos, and then I saw a familiar figure - Jeff!  Soon I was chatting along as if there wasn't almost a whole year since our last personal meeting. Indy & Cheryl came along too, as did Rob & Bob Roehm.

We had dinner at Jean's, and discussed the coming weekend. Back at the motel, Jeff showed me some marvellous goodies - dozens of issues of "La Reigna de la Costa Negra," Terror By Night, Skull-Face and Others, Conan the Conqueror, and more. It was cool.

Early night for me: no telling what I'll get up to tomorrow!

*Also, the Roehm men should do a blog series on their courthouse adventures called "The Bob, Rob & Bob Law Blog."

Saturday, 1 June 2013

A Scottish Barbarian in Arizona: Phoenix Comicon, Day 4

The final day! Getting to bed early meant rising early, so I did something very special: sketch cards! I was so inspired by the Sketch Cards panel that I decided to make some myself to commemorate the convention. I decided to make it a theme representing my artistic career: Melville, a fairy, Kalina, and my new character Caledonia from the Bannockburn comic.


 Oh crumbs, posting old art is like looking at my embarassing baby pictures - why do I do this to myself?

Melville you're all acquainted with, as well as Kalina, and though I've still not said much about Bannockburn's plot, you can probably tell from context who Caledonia might be. But fairies? You? Al Harron? The guy who loves dinosaurs, robots, barbarians and other such rough-and-tumble Traditionally But By No Means Exclusively "Boy" subjects? Back when I was in my early teens, for some reason I loved the idea of drawing fairies in the tradition of Claude Arthur Shepperson, Arthur Rackham, and Brian Froud: watercolours and inks, mostly, with a few embellished with gold, silver or other metallic pens.  I had a bunch of them, most of them very whimsical and silly: a fairy watching bumblebees, a fairy coyly hanging from a tulip, a little warrior fairy riding a mouse with a hatpin sword and button shield...

It's probably the closest I've come to pinup art in my career. I'd love to do pinup art, and from what I've been told I'd probably not do too badly at it. I'm a Frazetta fan, of course I'd love to draw sonsie lasses dressed in cuttie sarks with hurdies like distant hills and breasties all a-panickin'.* Yet considering how bashful I am with my U-rated art, you can imagine how I'd be about (gasp) fruity ladies! Nudes are a different matter: they're expression of the human body, clinical and scientific, not as much sex involved. Still, even if I did try my hand at pinups, I can't resist poking too much fun at the idea: I'd always want to give them a silly expression, or put them in some ludicrous situation that's more funny than sexy.  Oh bother, I've spent too much time talking about that on my blog, good gracious!


Friday, 31 May 2013

A Scottish Barbarian in Arizona: Phoenix Comicon, Day 3

Day three approacheth! I discuss animation, more indy comics, couple teams, and more!

Well, I turned the heat down a few degrees on Friday night, but ended up still too hot. However, I was fed up with this, so I popped out and got some ice, and had it close at hand to wrap in a napkin and dab with. It worked well enough, though I was a bit late getting up.

I first zoomed to the Animated Career panel, which was very informative: it featured Joel Adams, Bret Blevins, Shannon Eric Denton, Kristen Fitzner Denton, and Christy Marx. It was a very interesting panel, which discussed the intricacies and mixture of patience and urgency which seems to permeate the life of the animator. Bret Blevins (who worked on Batman Beyond, one of the most interesting Batman series) had the most soothing, gentle voice. Imagine Kiefer Sutherland with his vocal cords replaced with Kashmir. And of course, we also heard from Christy Marx,* lead show writer of Conan the Adventurer, and I knew I had to talk to her!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A Scottish Barbarian in Arizona: Phoenix Comicon, Day 2

Another successful day! Today I'll discuss more artists, comics, and Star Trek! Lots of videos, so be warned.

Not as successful a night, however: I slept soundly until about 3, when I woke up, to my horror, covered in sweat. Fearing the worst, I checked the air conditioner. It showed 75! I was surprised, that's normally nice and cool. I didn't know what was wrong, but if it was 75, I daren't go any further. So for pretty much the rest of the night until 5 or 6, I kept getting up and doused myself in water, having a drink whenever I felt I needed to.

Next time I woke up, it was 8. Completely parched and sweating again. Great, I was hoping to mosey down gently. What was the culprit? The fan had been set to low. So what we got was one corner of the room nice and cool, the rest of it - particularly the beds - unchanged. Well I could've boiled the kettle without even getting mad.  I dearly hope changing it to high would make things better: I wouldn't be able to stand another night of that heat. Of course, my poor entourage tutted about the centre being cold - evidently the radiating human heat that was frying me alive ignored them.


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Scottish Barbarian in Arizona: Phoenix Comicon, Day 1

So this marks the second year I've attended the Phoenix Comicon. I feel much more comfortable this year, it isn't such a Strange New World to me, and I feel like I've gotten to know the place a bit better. In this report, I discuss comics, books, artists, and finally reveal the secret of Melville.




This little chap is my mascot, and has been since I was a lad. I bought him at the McLean Museum a long time ago, naturally named for the author of Moby Dick and proud beard-owner Herman Melville. Now, back when I was in Primary School, all the children in Primary 7 were treated to a trip to Paris. I was a very shy and retiring child, so I never took pictures with myself in the photo: I just took snaps of the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Champs-Élysées, and so forth, with no sign of me, the other children, or the teachers. When I came home, my family was perplexed: why would you take pictures of the places without yourself? To them, the whole point of holiday photos was to prove you were there: pictures of the monuments can be found anywhere, but a picture of you outside Notre Dame was unique. That revelation troubled me: how, then, could I find a way to prove I was present on holiday without actually putting myself in photographs?

Melville was the answer. Every time I took a picture, I made sure that Melville was somewhere in the frame. He might just be moseying about a corner, looking off into the horizon, or pride of place in the centre. Melville has been all over the world: Florida, France, Spain, Majorca, Corsica, Italy, and now Arizona, and soon Texas. As I grew more comfortable having my photograph taken, I still took photos with Melville for traditional purposes. There was a period prior to the First Scottish Invasion where Melville disappeared: I was most distressed, but figured he was somewhere in the house. I used to joke with the folks he was off on some adventure or top-secret mission, though in reality it turned out he was in my bedroom all those years. And so, after much ado, Melville will finally make his Cross Plains debut, and at last be photographed at the Howard House like I initially hoped.

But that's still a while away: for now, I'm a Scottish Barbarian in Arizona, and Melville's come along to his first convention!


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Red-Headed Comic Woman With A Sword Writes Comic About Red-Headed Comic Woman With A Sword

You know you're serious about a Sword-and-Sorcery adaptation when your spouse takes a picture of you with a sword. And you know you've found your soul-mate when they let you stab them for a photoshoot.

I still haven't checked out Eric Trautmann's Red Sonja beyond the first few issues, but I got the general impression that his work was well-received, so it's with a mixture of disappointment and surprise that I learn Gail Simone will be taking over for Dynamite's relaunch. Simone is an author whose work I haven't read, though she's been getting rave reviews for her work on Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl, so she seems a natural fit for the She-Devil, following Jen Van Meter into the Hall of Female Red Sonja Writers. She also gets clearly "gets" it:

Gail: Anyone following my work has probably seen that I love shoe-horning in fantasy and pulp elements into my superhero books. Catman was inspired by Tarzan, the Secret Six went to Skartaris, Wonder Woman met Beowulf and Claw. To be blunt, I love that stuff.
I love the earthy primal quality of it, I love the pulp mythos from people like Lovecraft and Burroughs, and of course, Robert E. Howard.
 - Gail Simone, welcome to the list
And in this more recent piece:

I love the primal storytelling that can be found in period pieces and fantasy settings. The world is complex and full of subtlety, it’s kind of lovely to be able to tell stories of loinclothed, sword-wielding heroes fighting demons in the desert. I’m a fan of the cultured, mannered fantasy of Tolkien and others, but there’s a tremendous appeal to the bloody, half-naked asskickers of Robert E. Howard’s earthier imaginings.

My first contact with Sonja was definitely in comics, these immaculately told stories of this incredibly dangerous woman. I loved them immediately. I wasn’t aware that she was not a direct adaptation of a Howard character, but rather an amalgam of several of his toughest female adventurers. But it’s a mistake to discount the Howard influence in those stories, it’s in the setting, the tone, it’s in everything.

I’ve been re-reading a lot of Howard stuff (and the Sonja comics) for this assignment, and one of the exciting things is rediscovering that Howard was a bit of a proto-feminist, he created many amazing female hell-raisers. There’s stuff that time has thankfully passed by, but some of his fiercest, smartest, toughest characters were female.

... My favorite Howard barbarian story is possibly Red Nails, which has so much of what I like about the sword and sorcery genre, kickass heroine, lusty bloody adventure, giant serpents, and a powerful and disturbing allegorical twist. I’m very inspired by the mood and tone of the Howard books, but also the visual kick of the best of the comics work—in particular, I love the monsters and mythical aspects.
 - Gail Simone - why isn't SHE writing Conan!?!

The internet's been abuzz about this famously feminist writer and what it could mean for Big Red. But of course - since we're dealing with general comic news sites who aren't always up-to-speed on REH matters despite all the information they need being literally thirty seconds away - then we get that problem.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Bite-Sized Blog: Iron Man the Third

What could have been...

Saw it a few days ago, before I went to the States. I’m not going to write a full review, but I do feel sufficiently moved to comment on one thing that really got my brain whirring – the villain.

As it is, Iron Man Three is another fun superhero film with top-notch effects, some sparkling dialogue, a few very inventive set pieces, one or two moments of attempted profundity, and plenty of nods and winks to fans of the comics. In my opinion, it’s better than the second film, though not as successful as the first: it’s largely middle-of-the-road as Marvel Cinematic Universe films go.

But the villain! What an incredible, brilliant, paradigm-shifting antagonist the Mandarin was... or could have been, if the film had any guts.


MARK III ARMOUR
HEAVY SPOILER ENVIRONMENTS


Monday, 13 May 2013

The Fourth Scottish Invasion

Hope Blogger doesn't eat this one...

It's been a while since I've posted anything Howard-related. To be frank, I think I'm a bit burned out on REH, not just on the Encyclopaedia, but on REHupa, and keeping up to date on news and events. Combined with working on my burgeoning comic artist career, things might be light on the Howardian front for a while. I'm particularly frustrated that I haven't continued the "80 Years of Conan" despite being a year since I started it.

That said, I'm still going to Howard Days in June, where I'll be speaking on Robert E. Howard in comics. Unlike fellow Cimmerian blog alumnus Jeff Shanks, I'm not a collector and not much of an authority on the Marvel comics; unlike Mark Finn, I haven't been asked to write forewords and afterwords to Dark Horse collections. But I'll give it a shot all the same!

I also plan on attending the Phoenix comic convention. No William Shatner this year, sadly, but there are lots of others whose ears I plan on chewing off.  I'd be ecstatic to meet Bruce Boxleitner as a Babylon 5 aficionado, but if I get the chance, I'd like to see if I could pick his brain about Robert E. Howard, since he's a hardcore REH fan himself.  On the Star Trek side, Walter Koenig, Wil Wheaton and Nichelle Nichols will be in attendance: my young cousin would practically demand I get a picture from Wil, and I very much want to meet Ms Nichols. Uhura was one of my favourite Trek characters, and she just seems like such a lovely person.

Then there are others vaguely linked to Conan and REH like Brandon Sanderson, Dan Jurgens, Geof Darrow (heh), Jay Fotos, Nat Jones, Joshua Dysart, Michael A. Stackpole (who I still owe a signing!), Mike Mignola (who I'm just as anxious to meet for his work on Hellboy), Mike Norton, and a few others like the Pinis. Peter David wrote some rather fun Star Trek novels I enjoyed: I'd love to know if he based Mackenzie Calhoun on Conan/Kull, or if it was just a fun coincidence. Rice & Haggis has a Scotsman at their panel, who I'd like to show countryman support. Katelyn McCaigue's work interests me greatly. And I vividly remember Jolene Houser and Val Hochberg from a lovely panel they did last year on female comic writers, so it'd be nice seeing them again.

Another interesting semi-Howard connection is Christy Marx, most famous for Jem and the Holograms (a fixture of my early childhood, even without considering I had a babbie sister at the time) but also the story editor and writer for the much-maligned Conan the Adventurer. Much as I had severe issues with the cartoon, it's easy to see that a lot of the problems are borne from the very nature of making a Saturday morning cartoon show out of Conan to begin with: all things considered, I'm actually impressed with the number of Howardian elements that did make it into the show. Certainly more than the more mature-themed Marvel comics at the time bothered with, I'll tell you that much.

There are a few events and panels I might go to: Writing Believable Fantasy, Worldbuilding in Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Epic Fantasy Panel (even if Terry Brooks is there, boom boom!),  The Short Fiction Panel, Illustrating Your Own Work, The World of Sketch Cards, Webcomics 101, Historical Settings, Nichelle Nichols' panel, Star Trek and the Human Potential, Historical Fiction and Dystopian Fiction: Similarities and Differences, and An Animated Career. Some of these might overlap, so I'll check closer to the event.

Most hilariously, John Barrowman will be attending - hilarious, because I live only a hop, skip and a jump away from his childhood home Millport, and in fact the Weird Sisters often spend weekends over there with friends.  Their natural charm almost got Erin Gray hijacking them for the weekend last year: who knows what would happen if they came across Barrowman?

So I'll be in Arizona shortly, where I'll spend two weeks or so getting over the flight, exploring more of the arid alien landscape, catch up with old friends, and maybe a bit of blogging in between preparing for CP. Then on to the 36 West, where I'll hope to see more old friends and make new ones.

See you there, folks!