Friday 30 April 2010

Early thoughts on Dragon Age: Origins

So after months of waiting for Game to get a copy of the Dragon Age: Origins special edition, I was getting pretty fed up. I noticed that there was an easter sale going on, and spied a cheap PC copy. Frustrated with Game's nonsense but not wishing to punish the very cool, competent lads who work there, I decided to just purchase the normal edition. Most of the SE content requires an internet connection anyway, and my gaming rig doesn't have access. Ah well.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Recutting Conan the Barbarian

I was doing a little back-reading on The Cimmerian, when I found this old gem from Leo:
Other changes listed at Wikipedia sound even more dear, such as Faramir once again resisting the Ring as Tolkien so poignantly envisioned. I also hope that Théoden is less a grumbling and bitter contrarian and more the noble and wise lord that in Tolkien’s book prompts Pippin’s charmingly understated evaluation: “A fine old fellow. Very polite.” In any case, while there is still far more wrong with Jackson’s vision than can be cured with a re-edit, I’m going to download this version and give it a fighting chance to win me over. Just watching the montage in the new trailer of a deadly serious Gimli reaping his grim axe-harvest at Helm’s Deep was enough to stir my blood in a way I thought Jacksonian imagery never would. And if this new Two Towers does it for me, perhaps I’ll hunt down the re-edit of the entire expanded trilogy that’s supposedly floating around out there somewhere.

Intrigued by the concept of fan edits, I explored further.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Anti-Intellectual? No, Anti-Ingelligensia.

Howard and his work is often accused of being anti-intellectual, which is a notion easily splattered against the wall when one reads of his many discussions of Roman philosophers, female poets of Ancient Greece and whatnot. However, I think it's much more a case of anti-intelligensia, a dislike of obnoxious, arrogant, snooty jerks. I can certainly sympathise: I tended to get on much better with the kids in the lower range of test scores than in the top range, making it a constant source of frustration. The people I could talk to about art, literature and cinema I didn't want to talk to, and the people I wanted to talk to had nothing to say. Grah.

Generally, people are a bit better now that the Del Reys, Penguin Classics and the Library of America volumes are out. However, there's always one.

Noted in the graphs above, we can sniff out weak tales pretty easily. Not every work will be complex and emotionally engrossing. Sometimes we have to buy that paper back and go for a ride. Some weeks its Chris Bohjalian. Others, Robert E. Howard.

From context, it appears the Boston Book Bum writing this considers Robert E. Howard's stories to be "weak tales," that are not "complex and emotionally engrossing."

Once again, that timeless Tompkins quote:

You can lead a horse's ass to water, but you can't make him drink.

Ever since that other time, I've been leery of commenting on blogs. I don't know, maybe I'll go pester him, point him to the many examples of REH scholarship out there. But then, I really don't want to waste my time again.

Still, at least he isn't this guy.

EDIT: Well, get me some ketchup and olive oil, because it looks like I'm going to have to eat my words! I got an email from the Boston Literary Vagrant Kevin that explains the post more fully.

Mr. Harron

I wanted to write in regard to your coming upon our blog, Boston Book Bums. We happened to notice you quoting our site and we were worried that our note about R.E.H. was viewed as negative.

We at BBB are immense fans of Robert E. Howard, going way back to when we were kids watching the John Milius Conan movie. That movie opened us up to a world unknown, the world of Howard. Beyond Conan we are particularly big fans of Solomon Kane, so we have a lot of love for Mr. Howard's work. Howard is a classic scribe, who knows how to cut to the bone emotionally, deep gut emotions that 21st century writers can even come close to.

Our comment about Howard was meant to show the breadth of our literary likes and love, not a disparaging comment or judgment of his work. We know all too well how R.E.H. and that generation of authors are looked down upon even to this day.

We apologize for any confusion on context. We are boosters of Mr. Howard and his literary legacy.


Kevin and the BBB Team

I'm very happy to be proven mistaken or even hasty in this regard: I guess I just tend to get my heckles up very easily in regards to REH's reputation, and my heart is cheered to know it was mere misunderstanding, and that BBB are not the elitist airheads I unfairly suspected they were. My sincere apologies to the BBB gang: in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they're aw-right.

However, let this post stand as a memorial that the horse's ass commentary goes both ways: I proved myself to be a bit of one here, even if I'm somewhat relieved to be proven one. Kind of like the guy who thinks a shipment is full of explosives, only to find out it's full of chocolate: sure, he's wrong, but hey, it's hard to be mad when you're covered in chocolate.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Conan the Barbarian can't be ALL bad...

Google Alerts has pointed me to this delightful little blog.

Sure, it's all Conan the Barbarian stuff, but I still find something vaguely attractive about the film's art direction, even if it's basically a soup of Biblical, Roman and Viking epics. I particularly like the Valerias.

It put me in mind of that webcomic I'd been working on. I have, literally, dozens of ideas for strips & panels. Most of them aren't so much funny, so much as meant to be illustrative. I suppose the word would be satirical, but... well, that isn't quite right either.

An example would be Literary Conan vs Cinematic Conan, where'd I show the differences between the two, as the old theatre/film maxim goes. One strip would be about Conan's childhood: Literary Conan would be hunting wild beasts, felling hawks on the wing, fighting Vanir and such, while Cinematic Conan would be picking wild blueberries, ice-fishing, and listening to his daddy talking about Crom. Then another might have one focusing on lovers (LitCo surrounded by the likes of Belit, Valeria, the Queens and whatnot, CinCo with the whore, witch and Valeria's party impersonator), feats of strength/endurance/swordplay, that sort of thing.

Suffice to say, Cinematic Conan never really comes off well.

Monday 26 April 2010


Puny Worm-Spawn of Earth,

It is I, Zim! The one true Zim, mightiest conqueror of the Irken Empire, destroyer of worlds, Keeper of the Celestial Grill which sizzles the Fries of Ages! The insignificant slime-scraping known as "The Blog That Time Forgot" shall be the forum unto which I shall utter the words of Zim: dilate your human hearing-orifices and hear me!

It has recently come to my attention that some worthless pustule on the nostril of the galaxy has started to refer to himself as Zym, a pitiful alternate spelling of the magnificent monicker of the Almighty Smallest and future Warlord of Earth!

Now, the Pretender is planning to speak!

You're not in Kansas anymore - you're on Pandora, because Stephen "Colonel Quaritch" Lang is coming into the Empire office on 1.30pm on Monday 26 to answer your questions! Yes, the man so hard that he doesn't even need proper air to breathe will be taking part in one of our patented Empire webchats, and it's your chance to pose questions on everything from James Cameron's epic (and its planned sequel) to his roles in The Men Who Stare At Goats and Public Enemies to his upcoming turn in Conan. Be there - or he might get angry...

Foolish, inconsequential creature! I remember the obscure trinket-producing planet your minuscule minds call Pandora - it was delicious! A shame Invader Kurrr saw fit to extinguish it for the glory of Irkens everywhere.


Sunday 25 April 2010

Well, looks like Milius is getting his Genghis Khan movie...

With Mickey Rourke as a Mongolian.

"I read his script and you know, the man is known for his tough writing. He wrote CONAN and DIRTY HARRY and APOCALYPSE NOW, and it’ll be interesting to see how he works behind the camera. I’m playing Genghis. John wrote as a piece told from the son and grandson’s point of view, how they saw this mythic figure from their family. You see him in flashbacks, back when he was in his mid-40s. And back then, being in your mid-40s was being REALLY old."

It seems that Rourke is a fan of Milius. A while back, Rourke was in talks to play "Conan's" dad in the "Conan" movie, before the deal fell through. Rourke is known to be quite picky in his roles, and tends to make - let's just say - bizarre demands. Could it be that Rourke was initially excited about a new Conan the Barbarian film, realised that Milius wouldn't be involved and that the film would be different, and eventually backed out? It would be depressing if, in some interview down the line, Rourke said "When I read the script, I was all "brah, this is totally different from the original. Why'd you change it?" And when it was clear John wasn't even going to be involved, I didn't want to be party to a project that wouldn't treat the original movie with respect." Or some such.

And, of course, I can't help but make Conan the Barbarian comparisons. The very famous "Crush ya enemeez, see dem driffen befowr yu, ant heyah de lamentations of de wimmen" line from Conan the Barbarian is a slightly altered translation of a quote attributed to Genghis Khan. The original was better.

The greatest joy for a man is to defeat his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all they possess, to see those they love in tears, to ride their horses, and to hold their wives and daughters in his arms.

As an aside, the JoeBlo article has the best denoument possible in discussion with Genghis Khan.

He conquered vast portions of northern China and southwestern Asia before visiting modern day San Dimas for a high school history report.

Tarim's blessings on you, JoeBlo.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Triangulation: Roy Thomas, Blood & Thunder, and A Personal Note

There were two pretty big pieces of news this week.

First off, Roy Thomas is returning to Conan. While I have many, many problems with Thomas' myriad adaptations, there are a number of considerations which make me cut him some slack, in comparison to the likes of Busiek and Truman. For one, Thomas was wrestling with the Comics Code Authority, the draconian institution dedicated to making comics safe for tiddlypeeps, and as a result, perpetuating the "comics are for kids" fallacy. (No medium can be restricted to a demographic, people.) He also had the De Camp juggernaut to contend with, where he pretty much had to use De Camp's existing pastiches for many stories, including the maligned "The Hand of Nergal" and "The Treasure of Tranicos."

Friday 23 April 2010

Adaptations of REH's Work on Wikipedia

About bloody time.

It isn't half bad: neutral, accurate enough. Good job.

So far, the only actual REH adaptations I see on the page are the HPLHS's "Casonetto's Last Song," and Thriller's "Pigeons from Hell." Obviously I'm not counting the theatrical films, because I walk the line between angry young man and ornery old coot. I would happily include "The Return of Sir Richard Grenville" and "Cimmeria" on that list, even if they aren't quite on the same production scale as "The Hunt for Gollum" or "Born of Hope." Better adaptations, though.

Comics is fine, though it clearly needs further expansion. There is one glaring omission: Richard Corben's Bloodstar, an adaptation of "The Valley of the Worm" in all but name. I think a mention of the first graphic novel to refer to itself as such is worth a mention. There should also be mention of Kull, and the the various non-Conan/Kane Savage Sword adaptations.

Music seems to be the most comprehensive, with plenty of Manilla Road's discography, as well as Domine, Bal-Sagoth, Cauldron Born, Mad Minstrel and Rosae Crucis. The Sword's "Black River" should get a mention, as it's had quite a lot of popularity since appearing in Guitar Hero: Metallica. Man, what I wouldn't give for Manilla Road to do a whole Howard concept album...

Thursday 22 April 2010

More "Eighties Remake" silliness

This time, it's The Times Online. This isn't the first instance The Times has been an idiot, and I doubt it'll be the last. This week's idiot is Keven Maher.

What did he do this time?

For stumbling through the summer multiplex, one will soon be surrounded by cinematic flashbacks from Eighties past. The choice is to see big-budget Hollywood remakes and reboots of Eighties staples such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Karate Kid, Tron, Wall Street, Footloose and Clash of the Titans — with Conan the Barbarian, Police Academy and Private Benjamin on the way — or to see original movies such as The Expendables, which is steeped in Eighties action nostalgia and features a cast list, including Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone, that recalls the Rockys and the Rambos of bygone times.

*Insert Conan is not a remake diatribe here*

What is it about Conan the Barbarian that causes people to somehow think it was the origin of Conan? I swear, I don't think I know a single other pop culture phenomenon where not only the original author, but the pastiches & comics seem to completely elude these idiots. Do people think Dracula was invented in the 1930s? Do people think James Bond first appeared on the cinema screen? Do people have some illusion that The Shadow started off in an awful Alec Baldwin movie?

Why? Why Conan? Why is this? Not a single of the other films mentioned here - aside from the arguable example of Rambo - is based on preexisting source material, if one doesn't count things like Greek Mythology for "Clash" and the like. It's baffling beyond belief given Conan's popularity. I don't think I'll ever fully understand it.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

The 18 Best Fantasy Series Of All Time

It recently occurred to me that, if I met a "fantasy fan" on the street, I might not have anything to talk to them about. Wheel of Time, Sword of Shannara, Sword of Truth, the Belgariad, the Black Company, Thomas Covenant, Dragonlance - I know little to nothing of them, and what little I know I've long since forgotten through apathy and disinterest. I've only read the first Song of Ice & Fire and Dark Tower novels respectively, and neither made much of an impression.

So when I see lists like this, I sometimes feel woefully out of touch. Of the eighteen, I would only pick about six that might be deserving of any such list. How can I be a fantasy fan if I don't like 90% of the SF & F shelf at my local Waterstones?

Still, I'm happy enough just being a fan of good fiction. I'd hate to be the sort of guy who would read or not read a book based purely on genre.

Anyway, as these lists go, it's what's to be expected. It's hilarious that the author includes Eddings even though he admits that he has a problem calling him "the best of anything," making me wonder just why he was included in the first place. I also find it depressing that Conan languishes in 16th place, below Harry Freakin' Potter. Most astonishing of all is placing A Song of Ice & Fire above The Lord of the Rings. Really? I mean, really? Even after this paragraph which, while really overstating the case for Tolkien's impact (he popularized them, but he hardly invented the idea of the "party," "dark lord," "quest" and whatnot), he puts ASoI&F above it?

Still, that's lists for ya.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

As Usual, the Telegraph Fails.

I hate British newspapers. I even hate Private Eye at times, even though it's the only news source I really trust, and have to wait two weeks to get up to date. Still, here's an example of the Torygraph's failure-of-the-week, naturally featuring Conan.

After a number of sackings following a series of flops, many of Hollywood's surviving executives are turning to their childhood favourites, planning to spice up material that has already found success by using younger and cheaper actors and advanced special effects, including 3D.
Conan the Barbarian, the 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is being remade with Jason Momoa in the lead role.

Not a remake, 1932, Robert E. Howard, Weird Tales, blahblahblahblahblah. You know the drill, I don't even need to point it out.

However, lots of people get that wrong. That's not good enough for the Telegraph, it needs to get something else wrong too!

Momoa, 30, who has dreadlocks, is a former model and has appeared in several American television series.

First of all, I find it the height of hilarity that the Telegraph thought that Momoa's hairstyle was worth a mention. "Zounds, the man has dreadlocks, by God!" Second, Momo does not have dreadlocks. He had dreadlocks, but he cut them off three years ago.

The article has other stupidity, lumping The Neverending Story--another in the Conan the Barbarian group of "adaptations" whose source material deserves another, more faithful shot--with the likes of Private Benjamin and The Karate Kid, which are most assuredly films that shouldn't be remade under any circumstances and cause me to foam at the mouth. Then there's this... candid quote from "an executive":

"For original movies, you need to advertise the idea, the story, it's about convincing people that it's worth seeing," one executive said.
"With something that is branded, no education is required. It's also much easier to blame someone else if a remake flops. You can say it wasn't my fault."


Erik Newman of Strike Entertainment, which is developing a version of the 1982 sci-fi film The Thing, said the surge of remakes should not be taken as a sign that Hollywood had no original ideas.

Will people ever stop calling John Carpenter's The Thing a remake? Besides, the new Thing film isn't even a new adaptation: it's a prequel to the 1982 film.

Monday 19 April 2010

Taking Things Literally

After my Elves in the Hyborian Age post, I was pondering this extract from "The Phoenix on the Sword":

“They will continue to think that I serve them, until our present task is completed. Who are they to match wits with Ascalante? Volmana, the dwarfish count of Karaban; Gromel, the giant commander of the Black Legion; Dion, the fat baron of Attalus; Rinaldo, the hare-brained minstrel. I am the force which has welded together the steel in each, and by the clay in each, I will crush them when the time comes. But that lies in the future; tonight the king dies.”

Wouldn't it be amusing (well, irritating to an extent, but amusing in the long run) if a future comic adaptation took "dwarfish" and "giant" altogether too literally? Conan and the Midnight God made the Giant-Kings into literal giants, after all.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Triangulation: Solomon Kane at Newport

I think I wiped myself out on Clash of the Titans. I also spent far too much time watching Invader Zim on the internet. Khalar Zym awakened fond memories.

As such, only a link for the whole week. I'll try to get back on track, perhaps some Gazetteers, Almuric or Barbarians post. Maybe finally get around to some reviews I'm still behind on. Here's hoping.

Until then...

Thursday 15 April 2010

All Shall Tremble Before The Might of Zym!

Yes, I complained about Khalar... *grits teeth* Sssssiiiinnnggggh for a while. I suggested changing it to Khalar Shah. Well, the good news is as of the most recent news snippet, he has a name change. Hooray! The bad news is...

His name is Khalar Zym.

Khalar Zym.


I'm guessing the screenwriters never watched turn-of-the-century Nickelodeon, or they would know that "Zym" is pretty close to the name of a certain other warlord who means to dominate the world.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Triangulation: Moore, Looming Doom & Gloom, and Trash of the Nitwits

I'm still reeling from Cash-in of the Turkeys. A film has to try to be this bad, and given the amount of money and special effects pumped into the thing, it made me more than a bit angry.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Mishmash of the Cretins: Grim Foreboding for Sword-and-Sorcery in film

Generally, there are many ways one can approach the iconic Medusa of Greek Mythology. The Gorgoneion was an apotropaic amulet of the Ancient Greeks, usually depicting a tusked, snarling, bestial face leering below a mass of writhing snakes. This form was also depicted in the Athenian symbol pictured above. Others take the serpentine approach, depicting her with an ophidian tail, scales, scutes, horns and other fearsome features, such as in Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans. Most recently, Medusa appeared in the infamous video game God of War, where she sports cobras for hair and razor-sharp claws: though her face is not quite as monstrous, she still bears fangs and a somewhat mean expression. However, the exact last approach I’d go for–indeed, the polar opposite of the mythic creature’s entire being–in a remake of Clash of the Titans is a face that elicits the response “she’s absolutely gorgeous.”

This is probably the most potent example of just how much of a colossal disaster Clash of the Titans is–and what’s most worrying of all is how the mistakes made here could so easily happen in “Conan.” I’m going to warn now that the plot of the film–and that of “Conan”–will be dissected, destroyed and defenestrated forthwith, though frankly, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the whole film anyway.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Elves in the Hyborian Age

Inspired by this... astonishing thread.
I was wondering today, wouldn't it be great if there were elves in Age of Conan? I mean.. elves & boobs is a good combo!

Wow and all the other big MMOs like WAR and Darkfall have them so its obvious if you want conan to be the best you gotta have elves. It would make perfect sense in the lore cause we can just have them in next expansion, have them been in very deep slumber for a long time, and only just awakened in the forest of Cimmeria. Elves Vs Cimmerians! I mean isnt Vanir boring?

I mean we cud make them like really darker by giving them blood, and ofc having them show boobs more for the adults! But also they dont have to have pointy ears, why not just make them like bear shamans on acid?

So yeah I think elves should be in AoC! Cud even make a storyline with conan in killing the elves i mean how awesome would it be to see conan chopping elven heads screaming "For Aqulona! Elves must die!" and u fight beside him and stuff.

Monday 5 April 2010

When is a faithful adaption not a faithful adaptation?

I love this.

A barbarian trained in the arts of war joins with thieves in a quest to solve the riddle of steel and find the sorcerer responsible for the genocide of his people in this faithful adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery adventures.

What a faithful adaptation indeed... even though absolutely nothing listed in that synopsis happens in Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery adventures.

Trained in the arts of war? Didn't happen.
Joins with thieves in a quest to solve a riddle of steel? Didn't happen.
Sorcerer responsible for the genocide of his people? Didn't happen.

Maybe it's a case of "in order to be faithful to the spirit, you can't be faithful to the letter" or some such nonsense.

Friday 2 April 2010

Belated April Fool's

I had plans for an April Fool's gag. Oh, I had plans.

Remember Conan the Sumerian? I was going to do that. Try to divine more about the Conan universe of John Milius, with absolutely zero reference to Robert E. Howard's work.