Monday 7 June 2010

The Pages that Time Forgot

Well, folks, here we go, the first of a few ideas I have for The Blog That Time Forgot.  The titles are works-in-progress, though some might remain.  Some may be moved over to the formative Shieldwall, others will stick around.  If I do move them to Shieldwall, then TBTTF will have its own pages based around my favourite things that aren't Howard or Tolkien, though based on one particular thing.

For instance, the Transformers page would be based on, say, my take on Transformers Evolutions.  The idea of TE is sort of a Transformers-centric "What-if" line, the case being "What if the Transformers were awakened in a different time?" Only one volume has been produced so far, and it's the unspeakably awesome Hearts of Steel, where the TFs awaken not in the 1980s, but the 1860s. Instead of cars, jets, trucks, tape decks and whatnot, the TFs turn into trains, ironclad warships, flying machines, cannons, airships and other things more suited to a steampunk fantasy than what one would normally associate with Transformers.

And yes, that's Mark Twain fighting a steam-powered robot panther.  What more do you need?

Sadly, the damned movies meant that to prevent confusion with the various continuities running about, Evolutions was cancelled.  Yet another crime to add to the prosecution's case against Bayformers.  It's a shame, because you have the entirety of human history to go with.  World War II Transformers, with the Autobots assisting the Allies and the Decepticons with the Axis.  '60s Transformers, with all the style and vehicles of the time, and international conflicts of the period.  Colonial-era Transformers, where stagecoaches, carriages and omnibuses ruled the roads and sailing ships command the seas.  Renaissance Transformers in an alternate world where Leonardo's inventions took off. Medieval Transformers that become trebuchets, catapults,siege towers, rams and ballistas.  Roman era Transformers that applied Hero of Alexandria's aeliopile to develop the steam revolution centuries earlier.  Homeric era Transformers that took the roles of gods and mythical creatures to interact with humans, transforming into dragons, griffins, Sphinxes, hydras, and other beasts.  The motherlode, of course, being Transformers: Age of Dinosaurs, and I think you can guess what I mean here.

But I may have revealed too much, so for now, I'll just present my Howard/Tolkien ideas.  All titles are placeholders, though I might keep some of them if nothing better comes along.  Offer your thoughts!


Conan the Barbarian: A Movie-Goer's Guide

This would be inspired by the fantastic series of articles at the Encyclopaedia of Arda, where the most important divergences Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy makes from the book are listed and noted.  Basically, that "Howard Quotient" post I did a while back, except all the samples are expanded, detailing why everything I call antithetical is antithetical, and so on.  I doubt I'd be as generous as the EoA are to their respective subjects, but I'll try to be as fair as possible.  A possible extra would be a "commentary track" that I'd record pointing out those things, so viewers could have a better perspective. (Speaking of the EoA, who else would kill to see an Encyclopaedia Hyboriana?)

Solomon Kane: A Movie-Goer's Guide

As with the above, this would point out the divergences Bassett's film makes with the source material.  As with Conan the Barbarian, it's a harder job making a Movie-Goer's guide when it would probably be far easier listing and noting the similarities than the differences.  An advantage here is that Solomon Kane hasn't been released over in North America yet: it would thus be pretty cool to have it ready by the time it gets a theatrical/DVD release, so that people have a resource with which to compare the films to the original stories.  Again, because I kinda like Solomon Kane, I won't be quite as judgmental, apart from the really painful things like making Kane into a bad guy, mucking with the timeline and whatnot.

Conan the Destroyer / Red Sonja / Kull the Conqueror
A Movie-Goer's Guide

I really don't know if it would be worth doing a Movie-Goer's Guide to the likes of Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja and Kull the Conqueror, though it might be useful to do it in the cases of them absolutely mucking up Howard (Taramis, Toth-Amon and Shadizar in Conan the Destroyer, the Hyrkanians in Red Sonja, Kull, Borna, Akivasha, Ascalante, Tu, Acheron, Valusia, Valka... heck, just about everything in Kull the Conqueror).  Unlike Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, I have no interest in saying anything nice about these films, save the non-rock elements of Kull's soundtrack: sorry Korak, but you're on your own with Destroyer. I'm sorely tempted to do a video review of Kull the Conqueror in the style of The Spoony One or the Nostalgia Critic.
I hate that film so much.

Conan: A Movie-Goer's Guide

When the film comes out, I expect there'll be a lot of confusion about what is Howard and what isn't, so this will be out as close to the film as possible.  It's mostly a preemptive "wrong, sir, wrong" to those who make arguments that Milius was right to diverge from the source material.  Although I've read various iterations of the story structure in various forms that may or may not include the script, I'd rather wait until closer to the film's release.

Conan the Barbarian Recut

Remember a while back I was talking about editing Conan the Barbarian into a more faithful pastiche?  Well, conceptually, it's pretty much done.  All that remains are some illustrations: Conan with digitally-coloured blue eyes and black hair, a more impressive Shadizar, shots of map transitions.  Now if I could just figger out how to do all that editing myself (as well as take screenshots from the damn DVD)...

Solomon Kane Recut

It only recently occurred to me that there's a good Howardian pastiche in Solomon Kane begging to be let out.  Hey, if it can be done for Conan the Barbarian, why not Solomon Kane?  Now, because Kane's origin takes up more of the story, it'd be more difficult to do: however, I think it's possible.  (Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja & Kull the Conqueror, though... no, there's no saving them.)

For instance, Marcus & Josiah are no longer Kane's brother and father, but old friends: thus we still have the emotional resonance without wreaking havoc on Kane's genealogy and upbringing.  There is precedent in the Kane stories for interaction with old friends and allies, such as in "The Moon of Skulls."  However, Kane's part in what happens to Marcus will be excised: it's just a bit rubbish, IMO.  Also any un-Kane like detours like him letting himself be beaten up, getting drunk, being crucified and whatnot will be snipped.  I think it'd end up more like a short film or an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories length-wise, but it's worth a shot.  Best of all are my plans for "Evil Kane" at the beginning: i think it might work quite well.

Everything You Think You Know About Robert E. Howard's Conan Is Wrong

I'm an avid watcher of QI, and think it performs a much-needed service: dispelling old myths held as "true" by the ignorant, or "General Ignorance" as it is called.  QI looked at the old nonsense, "people of the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat," "Lupe Velez died with her head on the toilet," "Napoleon was a shortie" and so forth, and thoroughly debunked them.  Mythbusters without the explosions or Kari Byron, but Stephen Fry & Alan Davies' delightful interaction more than makes up for those lacking qualities. Vindication, so sweet, like swiping last jellybean at a party.  This would be one grand page narrowing down the myths, misconceptions, fallacies and outright nonsense surrounding our favourite Cimmerian.

"Conan had sex with the girl in every story?"  I'll break down the tales to show exactly how wrong that is.  "Conan was racist/sexist/chauvinistic?"  I'll cite quotes showing him to be a very egalitarian barbarian.  "Conan always used violence to solve his problems?"  If he did, he'd end up dead in half of his adventures. The things that people think Howard said about him - that he compared Conan to Cormac, Conan's grandfather coming from a southern tribe that is not Cimmerian - will be similarly debunked.

In addition, there'd be a section talking about the Hyborian Age in general.  Aquilonians inspired by the Romans, Hyperboreans as giant purple-skinned sorcerers and ogres, whatever chucklehead decided to keep using that map that inflates Aquilonia to three times its size despite there being perfectly good Rippke and Darlage maps...  The other myths - The 10,000 BC dating, Lovecraft's "Crom-Ya" being depicted as a chieftain deified as Crom, "Hyboria" - all in the scopes.

There'd also be a section dealing with REH.  This will be more complicated, but I'll be concentrating on the really stupid things, like everything in "Conan Unchained" and whatnot. So as not to delve into psychoanalyzing territory, this will be a very "quote-oriented" page.  Charges of chauvinism fall apart when one takes into account his magnificent rebuttal to "Why There Is No Such Thing As An Intellectual Woman."  Silly ideas of Howard being a Nazi sympathiser are destroyed when one quotes exactly what he thought of the contemporary government of Germany and their little Italian buddies.

As for the charges of racism, while there are indeed plenty of examples of Howard's less-than-palatable quotations, I'll be providing examples of the man's non-racist and even anti-racist sentiments in his stories and letters.  Because everyone quotes the "Aryan Barbarian" part of "Kings of the Night," but everyone utterly ignores the most profound expression of grief ever displayed in a Howard story in that same story: the anguish of a white man who failed to save his black friends.

Illustrating the World of Conan

This would function as a sort of illustrator's aide.  Everything I can think of - descriptions of Conan's features, height, musculature, skin, eyes, hair, attire and whatnot - would be thrown in, with quotes and analysis.  I'll probably compare various visualizations of Conan, noting which is "good" (Frazetta, Gianni, Fabian, Kaluta, Kayanan, the Keegans) and which isn't (Joe Bennett, poor Brundage).  For hair, I'll provide examples of possible styles; for musculature, I'll post statues, paintings, art, photographs & whatnot that show the kind of build that seems most suitable. I'll give examples of "black Irish" types for people to get the idea, hopefully well-tanned ones.

Eventually, I hope to do a series of illustrations myself, showing Conan in his various guises throughout the stories, though especially the king and mercenary ones, since there aren't nearly enough depictions of Conan in mail or plate armour. Maybe I'll have some fun, doing that "cut-out costume" things you see in kid's activity books. In addition, I'll also do other characters like girls, allies, enemies, monsters and places.

Mighty Middle-earth: Reclaiming Arda

This is where I'm going to make my case against all those elements of Middle-earth that are perceived to be "effeminate," "androgynous," or otherwise "non-manly." Tolkien's badass females are rightly lauded, but his work is teeming with manly macho men doing manly macho things.  Sort of a riff on Brian's brilliant "Terrific Tolkien."  Things like Bullroarer Took inventing golf, Pippin fighting the troll, Helm going Rambo on the Dunlendings, Aragorn during his Thorongil years, Echthelion defeating Gothmog, Glorfindel, Fëanor doing anything.

Most of all, I'm arguing for manly elves. Does anyone seriously think Tolkien, when he envisioned the great Elven-smith Celebrimbor (whose very name means "Silver Fist") forging the Rings of Power, imagined something like this...

... or something like this?

Yet so many Tolkien fans mock McBride's illustration, usually with something glib like "Tolkien didn't write Celebrimbor as Conan the Barbarian, hyuk hyuk!" Implying that Tolkien didn't design his elves to be manly.  Seriously?  Tolkien?  A guy whose world was inspired by the freaking Norse Sagas?  Who championed Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Vikings?  Who once dressed up as a (proper) Goth, ran down the street whirling a battle-axe, screaming at the neighbours as a practical joke?  Garbage.

Visualizing the World of Middle-earth

A companion piece to Visualising the World of Conan, this will take many aspects of Middle-earth that are frequently illustrated wrongly (or at least inappropriately), as well as showing how some ambiguous things generally adhered to because "everyone does it" - like Blond Legolas, Winged Balrogs, Ents being walking trees - can be more interesting with some variety.  Being the contrarian type I am, I quite like the idea of a black-haired Legolas & wingless Balrog.


Well, that's ten: only two are Tolkien, but I think I can encapsulate everything in them.  If "Shieldwall" gets up and running, they'd be moved over there, and TBTTF will have different pages like the Transformers one at the beginning.


  1. eh, sorry but I don't think much of those McBride Illustrations.. My first thought certainly wasn't "Oh that must be Tolkien"... honestly one of the worst bits about the various Conan covers is the half naked oiled up meathead on the cover...

    I think its ridiculous that men have to look like that McBride piece in order to be considered " Manly ".. I mean if physical prowess and a square jaw is all it takes then Tom of Finland must be the manliest man in the world..

    also, the WWII Transformers has been done. It was the first GIJOE VS the TRANSFORMERS series that Dreamwave did. Just happens that the artwork was so bad you couldn't really tell what was going on.

  2. My use of McBride's Celebrimbor was deliberately extreme to make a point. I'm not saying all elves should be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there is a clear tendency among Tolkien artists to depict them as anorexic male models, which is IMO just as bad, not least because it's simply not how Tolkien described them. I'm just saying that there should be an alternative to all the Doug Jonese interpretations.

    Besides, Celebrimbor was an artisan & blacksmith. Blacksmiths tend to be pretty burly dudes. They also tend to be sweaty, and given their extreme proximity to heat, it isn't surprising a lot of them might go shirtless. Granted, McBride could've made him a lot dirtier and less "clean," but I see quite a distinction between his Celebrimbor and the likes of a Boris Vallejo cover.

    Of course "square jaw & physical prowess" aren't all that's required for manliness (who said they were?), but neither should they be ignored in depicting a race that is generally designed by Tolkien to be "superhuman."

    Also, I didn't know GI Joe & TFs was set in WW2. Cool.

  3. I just feel that the Rackham/Bauer inspired artwork of Lee/Howe is more faithful to Tolkien's own illustrations for the Hobbit than a lot of later illustrations from the likes of Frazetta, and the Hildebrant Brothers. I really can't stand Boris.. He's always come across as some one trying to parody and caricature Frazetta.

    You didn't say it, so I apologize for sounding accusatory, but it is something of a major buggaboo of mine and it perhaps causes me to see things which aren't present.

    I do think that some illustrators take the thing too far in either direction... but thats artistic imperative I suppose.

    That particular comic was Transformers/GIJOE and was written by John Ney Reiber (Books of Magic) and Illustrated by Jae Lee.. Reiber was good and went on to write the GIJOE reborn series for Devils Due.. which was a far better re-imagining of that mythos than IDW's is. I believe it came out in 2003ish? but like all of Dreamwaves comics is now out of print and is selling on Amazon for 40-115$ which is.. frankly ridiculous.

  4. As Patrick McGoohan said to the guys from Iron Maiden, "Do it!"

    We NEED The Shieldwall! There HAS to be another warrior site to stand as a bulwark against the roaring seas of Decampistas and Maggies out there.

    Plus, on a personal level, I need a real hoss to replace The Cimmerian up on the bookmark toolbar. The Shieldwall should do nicely!

    (from the Howard Forum)

  5. the shieldwall as I said before is the better idea, the issues you mention in ths post are interesting but I would added The hyborian gazeteer and,please, historical oriented articles...
    I like Boris Vallejo, do you know sometimes he uses himself as a model,he is weightlifter, and her wife the same, she's a french model...?

  6. What about your Races of Middle Earth series? You should transfer those posts, and continue that one. Really.

  7. Lagomorph: One of my big disagreements with Leo over at TC is that I really like Lee (he doesn't). I think being faithful to Tolkien's illustrations is a great route to take, but I also don't think it should be the *only* route. After all, Frazetta's work is inspired by the old masters.

    That said, some of my absolute favourite Tolkien art is probably Michael W. Kaluta's for that calendar he did: it's like how I imagine a "Book of Kells" version of LotR. I'm a bit ambivalent to Howe, not just because of his dismissive views of REH, but because I think he tends to take a lot of liberties. His Fell Beasts, for example.

    Boris did some very good art in his early days, but I have to say I'm not a fan of his very '80s work (with the perms on the girls, somewhat stilted poses and whatnot.) It's very well drawn technically, though.

    Tex: the support for a Shieldwall is gaining much ground from many quarters, so it's making me seriously reconsider things.

    Gabriele: The reason I didn't go for "Barbarians of Middle-earth" and "Hyborian Age Gazetteer" for the pages is because they'd end up being ludicrously long, with massive load times for the illustrations, and a bit unwieldy to navigate. I'm definitely going to be continuing them on TBTTF, but because there would be so many barbarians and nations to describe, I think it'd be better if they had their own posts rather than lumping them all on one big page.

    If there's a way to exploit the pages so that they can be more manageable, then I'll most certainly move them, as well as things like Almuric, Frazetta & REH and whatnot to dedicated page. I could also offer an "Index" to the posts that link straight to them.

    Francisco, I have a couple of historical articles in the pipeline. Hope you don't mind a lot of Scottish stuff!

  8. Oh, I meant a series of posts, not one single huge one. Should not post at 3 am (German time), lol. Though it would be helpful to have a master post with all the links, because that's easier to link to from other blogs.

    I'd like to spread the word and put up a post about some fun stuff going on elsewhere, like your Barbarians, Brian's Silmarillion reread and the Ten Battles, Keith's Uther series, the Wagner's Ring from and such. I'm sure some of my readers would be interested in that.

  9. One trick to make laoding faster is to downscale the photos. Look at my blog which has a lot of pics and all in good quality to be viewed onscreen, but they're not huge files.

    For one because they're easier to (up)load, and second because I don't want people to use them without asking me - can't do that with the low pixel versions. :P

  10. Great advice, Gabriele. I certainly appreciate your offer to spread the word, cheers! Hopefully my historical posts will pass merit too.

    Some of my historical posts are a bit silly, like a reimagining of the Battle of Bannockburn via Frank Miller, but others are more serious.

  11. I don't know so much about scottish history, Brave heart and the story of Robert Bruce and the spider in a comic of The Freak brothers... but could be very interesting, specially the last revolts against the jacobites...??? the Hannover...??? in 1715 or 1745...
    what's Gabrile C's blog...?
    by the way I forgot to mention the series of Frazetta and Howard to be in the shieldwall or in the blog...

  12. Well Francisco, Scottish history is as full of turmoil, heroism, blood and thunder as any other country. There are many moments that are really fascinating, yet are almost unheard of: many seem to know the battles of Bannockburn, Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, Flodden, Culloden and the like, but Ancrum Moor's practically unknown despite being one of Scotland's finest triumphs. Same with some historical figures like Andrew Moray, who's at least as important as Wallace in the battle for independence. I'll be going into that sort of thing.

    Gabriele's fine blog (that I really need to comment on more often) is The Lost Fort:

    I'm pretty sure you'll love it!

    Frazetta & REH will definitely be in the blog: I have the outlines for another nine parts organized. I'll also be doing one on Frazetta & Tolkien: while there are some undeniably weird elements like his take on Eowyn, I think there are still some really good pieces, like his Gollum and Gandalf.