Tuesday 11 May 2010

What Hideous Cosmic Junction...

... That we have the first underwhelming shots of Jason Momoa as "Conan" leaked on the same day that we learn of the astronomically more important news, that of Frank Frazetta's passing?

Naturally, the first story has all the numbskulls whose knowledge of Conan begins and ends with a vague recollection of the film through marijuana smoke. Some hilarious fellows out there engage in some questionable humour: "I guess he saw the new Conan, and died on the spot."

To all those masters of subtle, nuanced black humour making such comments:

Go to hell.

Frank Frazetta's death, while only a matter of time given his rapidly deteriorating health and the stress of the past year, is important. This "Conan" film is not important. The only reason I have it up on The Cimmerian is because I already had a blog written on the other set pictures, and when the news broke I just added it as an afterthought. There's no reason to dwell on it further. It's a bunch of blurry pictures from the set of a film that has been met with hostility from near every corner except Stargate Atlantis fans, Jason Momoa admirers, and those people who don't know about the script. It is of such monumental insignificance in comparison to the passing of one of the great illustrators of the 20th Century that merely bringing it up is pointless, and only serves as a pitiful attention-seeking measure. So to those people, get your pathetic carcasses to Hades before I send the Hounds of Tindalos after you: the Lord of Hell will be a kinder foe than a pissed-off Frazetta fan.

Indeed, it seems I've gained someone's ire, the chap who runs "Your Dungeon Is Suck" had this to say:

I am at a complete loss to comprehend J-Mal’s reckless compulsion to cockeralgobble pube-bearded Al Harron. Today’s post is another weird example of his tireless efforts to extend kudos where none have been earned.
As usual, Al Harron isn’t ‘reporting’ a god damn thing. Despite trumpeting himself as some sort of insider, he simply devours others’ scoops collected from around the web, and then heaves them back up onto his blog coated in the stinking bile of his seemingly syphilis-inspired rants. His Conan tidbits are culled from other, more responsible parties - usually Latino Review, although today’s big scoop is a Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from the REH fan forums, Operation Kino, and Facebook.
Why indulge in the private fantasy that Al reports, rather than regurgitates? Why go out of your way to promote that unseemly illusion to a world that knows better? Very odd…

My response, just in case the good fellow has a power outage or accidentally deletes it:

Hi there.

May I ask exactly what the problem is? At no point am I claiming that I'm making some sort of "exclusive scoop," neither in regards to Frazetta nor the Conan movies. I've never made any sort of claim to be an "insider," since a simple click on the links would show otherwise, and I'd look rather an idiot for doing so. Indeed, I offer links to those articles myself. I am simply collecting them for The Cimmerian website, and commenting on them. The reason I do this is because not all Cimmerian readers would frequent the same sites that I do, and thus it works as a useful "hub" for articles that might be of interest. This has been a fixture of the site since its inception.

I didn't realise this would be a source of confusion, since this is generally how journalism works: news is broken, and the rest of the world goes about covering it. Sometimes they'll show footage captured by other network's cameras, or information gleaned from other journalists. Sorry to confuse you so.

As for "syphilis-inspired," I'm flattered that you imply I have a sexually transmitted disease, since most people think I'm a sad basement-dwelling virgin whose last intimate experience with a vagina was birth.

As an aside, "pube-beard" is pretty accurate, since beard is categorized as one of the characteristics on the onset of puberty, just like the stuff that sprouts around genitals.

It's somewhat bewildering and perplexing to find someone who seems to have such a big problem with me, considering I think of myself as a fairly nice guy. Any threats against people's lives are done so tongue-in-cheek (like the above Frazetta thing) that I can't imagine people would take it particularly seriously. Unless you really think I can control the Hounds of Tindalos - which, sadly, I can't. Ah well.

At the same time, I'm very wary that the Frazetta news will spill over into that other debate: the Lancer conundrum, sometimes boiled down to "without Frazetta, Howard would've been forgotten." We see phrases pop up like

The defining image of Conan isn't Howard's descriptions, but Frazetta's illustrations.

Frazetta's vision of Conan, as seen on the covers of the Lancer paperback collections of the 60s and 70s, became the definitive picture of the character... still is, actually, though he bears only a passing resemblence to the Cimmerian as Robert E. Howard described him.

And so forth. On the other hand, maybe some would downplay Frazetta's contributions. The truth is that Frazetta & Howard were equals in different fields. What Howard was to fantasy fiction, Frazetta was to fantasy art. Frazetta didn't "elevate" Howard, or become "bigger" than Howard: he complemented him.

Frazetta's illustrations may be, for many, the definitive Conan, but that's because Frazetta was the first artist to really get Conan. He didn't make "more" of Conan than Howard did, or "reinvent" the character: he discovered him, and allowed the elements which made Conan Conan to shine through. Other artists were confined to the styles and mores of their respective time period, or the preferences of L. Sprague de Camp (who wasn't a fan of Frazetta's "ugly" Conan who "needed a haircut"), he tore away from his period to make something timeless. Something timeless like Conan. He illustrated Conan.

I'll be going into more detail on The Cimmerian, where I'm analyzing and critiquing his Howard art. I know he did a lot more than Conan & Bran Mak Morn, but it's that art which is of most interest to me on The Cimmerian (being the REH Shieldwall), and it's that which is his most lasting legacy. Don't get me wrong, I love his other work, but I could write forever on his Burroughs illustrations, Dark Kingdom, Devil's Generation, Neanderthals - but it's his Howard work that is most pertinent.

I think it's a fine legacy.


  1. Hilarious Al.

    As for the statement some have made- "without Frazetta, Howard would've been forgotten."

    Let me ask how many people are out hunting for the Brak or Thongor stories, Brad Steiger's Atlantis Rising, or even the Death Dealer novels...whereas Howard has gone through myriad reprints.

    So as you said they complimented each other very well.

  2. I'm not sure it'll make you feel any better but, as far as "Your Dungeon is Suck" goes, Al, you're collateral damage in this halfwit's Quixotic war against me. Ridiculing me seems to be the primary purpose of this blog, though God only knows why. Given that I'm more generally boring than laughable, its proprietor gropes about for anything he can use toward that rather pathetic purpose.

    They say one is known by the quality of one's enemies. I hope that's not true, since what does might it say about us that that we've attracted the opprobrium of an anonymous buffoon with a fellatio obsession?

  3. David: that's exactly the point I was going to make, but I don't want to give the impression I was dissing Frank, even if it was in the stating of facts. I'm going more from the complementary angle, though I might bring up how Frazetta was frequently better than the books he illustrated - Death Dealer being one of the few examples I can think of done in reverse: a book written to accompany an illustration!

    James: I vaguely recall this mysterious chap popping up over at your blog sometimes. I was initially shocked, but when I thought about it, it gave way to a sort of grim amusement. As for judgement by an enemy's quality, well, I guess one can get around it by definition of "enemy." I'd rather call him a "misguided fan."

  4. But wait, there's more!

    Here's The Unnamed Dungeon Master (let's call him Gary) and his response:

    “I’ve broken the news on The Cimmerian…” is your quote. That’s as definitive a claim of sourcing as there is. The confusion begins with you, amid the the numbing swirl of questions that haunts your tortured mind:

    “Why didn’t they even respond to MY treatment for a Conan movie?”

    “Nobody loves REH as much as me… can’t these imbeciles SEE THAT?!?!??”

    “Why don’t the PR people send me pictures from the set or casting scoops?”

    The answer to all of those questions is the same, and one you have doubtless encountered throughout your life: You are an insufferable cunt and no one values your opinion… except J-Mal, leading to my rhetorical ‘Why?’

    Shave the beard, it looks terrible – you look like upside-down-Buckwheat.

    Here's my response:

    "I’ve broken the news on The Cimmerian…” is your quote. That’s as definitive a claim of sourcing as there is."

    Yes it is, because I've broken the news *on The Cimmerian.* Meaning that I'm the first to report it on The Cimmerian website. Not *to the entire world.* Again, simply clicking on the link would prove that I *didn't.*

    You make a bunch of assumptions about my motivations. You implicate that I dislike the direction of the film because I'm hurt that they're not doing things *my* way, when in fact it's perfectly clear that there's plenty to find fault with beyond something as egotistical as that. I don't know where you get the idea that I'm offended that they haven't chosen me to break scoops: this just seems to tie in with your strange idea that I had the audacity to claim "breaking news" to the entire world in such a way as to make me look like a fool. Weird, altogether.

    "The answer to all of those questions is the same, and one you have doubtless encountered throughout your life: You are an insufferable cunt and no one values your opinion… except J-Mal, leading to my rhetorical ‘Why?’"

    If nobody valued my opinion, why is it I regularly get hits that number in the hundreds for my posts, daily, occasionally in the thousands? None of whom have complained about my "insufferability." Surely they can't ALL be holding their tongue, afraid to point out my faults?

    "Shave the beard, it looks terrible – you look like upside-down-Buckwheat."

    Talking about my writing is one thing, but criticizing my appearance has nothing to do with that. I don't see how altering my appearance would make any impact to my writing - nor why it would matter to you either.

    In any case, I don't want to get involved in your tiff with James. That's between yourself and him. I'm a really rubbish enemy: you'll get little sport from me, since I prefer to promote positive vibes on the aether, and there's nothing quite so sad as perpetuating a feud on the internet. You and I would both be better off without it, and it'll increase both our lifespans significantly.

    Have a nice day!

    I don't think I'll bother with him any further. I don't like enemies, and I have no interest in feuds that don't matter.

  5. I don't think that noting that Howard isn't remembered because of Frazetta says anything bad about Frazetta.

    I might have even continued with Brak. There's every reason Brak should be remembered. He's even written by a bestselling author. And I kind of like the books, actually. Own them all and such. And while Frazetta's Brak may be less iconic than some of his Conan stuff, it's certainly a compelling painting.

    But I also think the focus on Conan diminishes Frazetta. I love his Conan stuff as much as any other fantasy geek or Howard fan. It's amazing stuff. But so is so, so many other things that Frazetta did over the years. The fact that his relationship with the Howard books and Conan especially resonated particularly well with people, should not be to devalue anything about either of their work outside of that context.

    It's ridiculous.

    What's funny to me, is I suspect most of the people making the lame jokes about Frazetta/Momoa remarks aren't thinking from a purist perspective, but the desire for Conan to look more like a bodybuilder, which isn't Frazetta's vision at all. I was just reading his interview with The Comic Journal and he says, "Biceps don’t mean a hell of a lot, not as much as triceps. That creates certain types of power. Weight lifters develop biceps on top of their biceps and keep going from there. And they develop all the wrong muscles because they think it’s cool. But if you’re ever seen a lumberjack, who chops wood all day, you’ll notice the powerful wrists and forearms and triceps. And the chest should never be overblown. It should be nice and square and tight. Tight muscles. They could be fit, they could be lean, but there’s just a certain type of muscle that suggests someone who can really move quickly and has tremendous power and speed…in lieu of a bodybuilder."

  6. And kudos on the response to the Dungeon Master. He clearly has no interest in a productive discussion, which is sad and uninteresting.

  7. So, "You're Dungeon is Suck" is an entire blog dedicated to attacking James Maliszewksi and anyone associated with him. Um...why, exactly? And is traffic to this blog entirely predicated on those he attacks linking to his rants, or his trolling of their respective blogs? Because I just don't see that many people caring all that much.

  8. Neil, I agree that concentrating on Conan - or any one aspect of his work - simply can't convey how much of a giant he was. His work on comics alone influenced a generation. Although I will be concentrating on his Conan stuff, I'll definitely make sure people know that.

    However, I'm confident that Deuce will cover all the bases, and any other Cimmerian shieldbearers joining the vigil. Even his life was an inspiration.

    I can only hope that this Dungeon Master finds something else to do with his time, hopefully something productive. It upsets me when people do stuff like this, the waste of a human brain.

  9. Fellow goes to sleep for a few hours and misses all the excitement..

    I'm rather surprised you even bothered responding to him Al, that might only encourage him to greater feats of antagonism.

    I'll admit I got quite a few funny looks when I was hunting down the Thongor and Brak books.. most of them have rather nice covers too.. so if it was simply Frank's artwork, I'd no doubt have had far fewer problems finding them all.

  10. Well Lagomorph, if he does, it'll fall on deaf ears. Generally I give people an opportunity to state their position, to see if they have a point: if they don't, well, they had their chance. Look at those guys from "Oh the places we will go." Haven't bothered with them since.