Monday, 24 June 2013



'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!