Tuesday 31 August 2010

Of Fakirs, Faqirs and Fakers

There's been some discussion on the Robert E. Howard Forums about Stephen Lang's, and subsequently Howard's, use of the term "Fakir." Originally, Amra of AmratheLion brought up the connection, recalling Conan's brilliant note to Xaltotun in The Hour of the Dragon:

To Xaltotun, grand fakir of Nemedia: Dog of Acheron, I am returning to my kingdom, and I mean to hang your hide on a bramble.

I had a look through the REH stories for other uses of the term, and found this in "Beyond the Black River":

Who can be sure that all the inhabitants of that black country are natural? Zogar Sag - a sage of the eastern cities would sneer at his primitive magic-making as the mummery of a fakir; yet he has driven mad and killed five men in a manner no man can explain.

This would seem to give the impression that a fakir was not a true sorcerer, or that it was some sort of "low-level" magic user looked down upon by the Sons of the East (who are greater than the Wizards of the West, according to Hadrathus).  In this context, Conan is taunting Xaltotun's skills as nothing more than "the mummery of a fakir."  "Grand Fakir" is then Conan saying Xaltotun is either the greatest Fakir of them all, or a puffed-up fakir with illusions of grandeur.  It could be taken a number of ways, methinks.

Some discussion of the term is necessarily.  Fakir, as I understand it, has become a common insult analogous to "beggar," and indeed, the modern Faqirs are among the most marginalized Muslims in all of India. Howard's usage could have just been used in this sense.  However, faqirs are also holy men who are bereft of worldly possessions.  Xaltotun, too, is without his most important possession in the Heart of Ahriman.  The most powerful artifact of the age and one of the things Xaltotun needs to have.  Conan is effectively taunting Xaltotun about this, from that frame of mind - but Xaltotun didn't know that the Heart was gone.  There's another: fakirs are homeless.  So is Xaltotun.

Xaltotun's Acheron is gone, and it clearly affected him:

Orastes unrolled before the stranger a map drawn cunningly on vellum.
Xaltotun regarded it, and then shook his head, baffled.
"The very outlines of the land are changed. It is like some familiar thing seen in a dream, fantastically distorted."
"Howbeit," answered Orastes, tracing with his forefinger, "here is Belverus, the capital of Nemedia, in which we now are. Here run the boundaries of the land of Nemedia. To the south and southeast are Ophir and Corinthia, to the east Brythunia, to the west Aquilonia."
"It is the map of a world I do not know," said Xaltotun softly, but Orastes did not miss the lurid fire of hate that flickered in his dark eyes.

The confusion at the geographic outlines, the distortion of the national territories initially baffle him.  Then he realises Acheron is history, and the Hyborians rule over the ruins of the empire.  That lurid flicker of hate: they destroyed my home, my people, my worldThey will pay for this.

Steve Tompkins pointed out in The Lion's Den of The Cimmerian print journal that Xaltotun's motivations are rather sympathetic: he was a patriot whose entire world has fallen apart.  And I agree.  The world as he knew it was gone, and he could barely understand this new one.  Dark and terrible as it was, he missed his home.  All he wanted was to bring it back.  The scary thing is, he could bring it back.  Thus the plot of The Hour of the Dragon.  If Xaltotun was the protagonist, this would be a mixture of the Revenge and Journey Home archetypes.

So for Conan to equate Xaltotun with a landless, possessionless beggar is kind of a triple-point score that could've hit pretty close to home, from that point of view.  Did REH plan it this way?  Who knows.  I have an inkling he merely used it in the same terms as in "Beyond the Black River": a minor, insignificant mummer.  Still, it's an interesting thing to ponder.

Monday 30 August 2010

King Conan: A Necessary Evil?

The history of the King Conan movie has been one long, drawn-out tease since the late 1990s. Milius' script, King Conan: Crown of Iron, was intended as the first of two films, followed by King Conan: Beneath My Sandalled Feet. Another script was, apparently, the disaster which would become Kull the Conqueror, leading many to note the hilarious irony of Kull the Conqueror being a rewrite of a Conan adventure when the literary Conan's first adventure was a rewrite of a Kull story - not helped by the fact that Milius stole a lot of Kull's back-story to supplement his Conan. However, neither came about, because Arnold decided Batman & Robin was a better use of his time - and I have to admit, he was the best thing in that wreck.  When it came to finalizing trilogies before he conquered the Proudest State of the American Continent that Reigned Supreme in the Dreaming West Coast, he settled for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. When Schwarzenegger ran for office, plans for a King Conan film were doomed, at least for the 2000s. I'm glad it didn't happen.

Sunday 29 August 2010

"Dammit, they stole my idea!": Hyperborean Mice

 Curse you, David Petersen!

This happens occassionally.  Sometimes I think up some cool little idea that I think nobody else could've come up with.  It might be whimsical, horrific, bizarre or just plain weird, but I feel like I just might have thought of something new.  (Shut up, Ecclesiastes.)  And then someone comes out with an idea pretty much just like what I was thinking.  Dammit, they stole my idea.  Or, in South Park speak, DEY TUK MAH DEER!

Such were my sentiments reading about Hyperborean Mice over at the Black Gate blog, by way of Scott Oden.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Return of the Flood, and something that'd been bothering me

A while back, I discussed Alison Flood's discussion of Conan, along with her rather amazing admission that she hadn't read all the stories.  Sheee's baaaaack.

Friday 27 August 2010

Testosterone Poisoning: The Expendables and what it might mean for Conan

I'm of two minds about The Expendables.  One enjoys it for what it was: another hates it for the same reason.  There are ramifications for further action movies, including Conan - ramifications I'm not enjoying the prospect of.

Thursday 26 August 2010

So Why The Hell Am I Doing The Conan Movie Blog Anyway?

Ever since the Conan film script was leaked and the resulting character casting sheet released, the film's kind of beyond the point of no return for me.  Generally, if I'm talking about the upcoming Conan film, chances are it's tinged with a mixture of resentment and resignation.

"It looks just like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  Of course it looks just like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys."

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Another Conan Kerfuffle

Originally reported by Hollywood Reporter, and shamelessly parroted by Todays (sic) Hot News, the Montreal Gazette and Business Inside, no doubt to be followed by others.

Case closed, right? Not quite. Let's say O'Brien wants to call his show "Conan," which TBS's "Conan is coming this November" promos seem to suggest is a distinct possibility. Simple, straightforward, it's how everyone will refer to the show anyway ("Did you see Will Ferrell take his shirt off on Conan last night?").

Just one problem: Our quick search of the Patent and Trademark Office website reveals O'Brien doesn't own the trademark on "Conan." Despite his 17 years on television hosting NBC shows with "Conan O'Brien" in the title, use of the "Conan" mark for "entertainment" purposes is owned by a European company called Conan Properties International, which for decades has used the "Conan" mark in connection with the Conan the Barbarian films.

Will we see a Conan vs. Conan fight to the death? Probably not. If Team Coco wants to name the show "Conan," it could decide to plow forward and test the legal waters. At the very least, there is a good argument that the average person watching a commercial for something called "Conan" would know to expect self-pleasuring-animal humor, not heavily-accented barbarians (unless maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger was a guest). But there is another Conan the Barbarian movie in the works, and this one's called just "Conan." So the owner of the Conan mark might argue that the O'Brien show could confuse the public and damage the movie.

Given the legal fracas that led to O'Brien leaving NBC in the first place, we're guessing that if he wants to name the show "Conan," his team will probably just pay Conan Properties International a little money so it doesn't sue. Or they could just go with "Conan O'Brien," which not even the most clueless TV viewer would mistake for a sword-and-sandal adventure.

Problem solved. Unless, of course, Conan decides to call the show "Jeff Zucker and Jay Leno Wouldn't Know Funny If It Smacked Them In Their Big Fat Heads."

There was a case a while back where the anime known (in English) as "Detective Conan" - a Sherlock Holmesian little number named in homage of Arthur Conan Doyle - changed its name to "Case Closed" when shown in the US.  Contrary to popular opinion, however, this was not a case of CPI throwing its weight around - rather, it was the anime's US distributors, 4Kids, which mandated the change, likely so they could have a trademark they could use.  Because, of course, nobody's going to confuse a cute little bespectacled detective with the Damnedest Bastard Who Ever Lived.

This isn't comparable to that situation.  Is this news? Is this seriously what counts as news? They're really stretching if they think there's any sort of possibility for legal problems.

I particularly love that third-to-last paragraph, where they say that the fact Conan O'Brien is more well known than Conan is a decent argument.  As if that somehow invalidates the fact that the trademark predates Conan O'Brien's birth.  And frankly, I'd even contest that.  Sure, among the clueless frat boys and teenyboppers O'Brien may be the first that springs to mind, but this is Conan we're talking about. Conan's been a pop culture icon for over half a century, with dozens of books, comics, games, films, tv shows, action figures, lunchboxes! You can't tell me that O'Brien dwarfs the other Conan's popularity, even in this day and age, to the point where it's worth contesting trademarks.

Finally, thwarting any possibility for this news to be worth a fig, the article solves the "problem" by itself, suggesting that Conan might just use his full name: "Conan O'Brien."  So... what was the point of that discussion?  Is there any indication that O'Brien would go with plain old "Conan" as the title of his show?  From what I gather, O'Brien's a comic genius who contributed to the best years of The Simpsons - I doubt he'd go with such a plain title as "Conan."  Meaning this entire report was completely pointless.

I hate journalism sometimes.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

A Belated Happy Birthday to Ray Bradbury

Wow, 90 years old.  I was alerted by Morgan Holmes, but unfortunately I never got around to it until just now.

Monday 23 August 2010

Collectormania '10: Disappointments and Pleasant Surprises

As you might know, Alice Krige couldn't make it, and I was sad.  It turned out Joe Flanigan landed a movie role, and had to fly out at the last second, robbing me of the chance to cheekily grill him about Momo.  So I was sad.  Indeed, I was so sad that I didn't even actually attend any of the talks, or go to meet any of the other guests - not even Chris Barrie or Danny John-Jules.  I'm probably going to regret that pretty soon, but I just didn't have the heart for it.  What was quite strange was I didn't feel that strange rush one gets when in the presence of someone famous or well-regarded, certainly not like last year.  Am I becoming desensitized to celebrity, or was I just too low to fully appreciate them?  I met a ton of famous folks at Cross Plains, and was a teeny tiny mini-celebrity-of-sorts at Cross Plains - four people came up to me saying how much they enjoyed my work, which is just the most wonderful feeling in the world even when the annoying self-consciousness and self-deprecating modesty sets in.  Or maybe someone needs to prick my head for fear of it carrying me into the stratosphere...

Sunday 22 August 2010

Weird Crime Theatre and Savage Sword

Weird Crime Theatre's review of Savage Sword is interesting, but as you'll see, has a few shockers too.

Conan was the role Arnold was born to play. Anyone who says Terminator is talking out of their ass. Why would Skynet program all the T-800 units with Austrian accents?! Is that supposed to make them less detectable?! No — in Conan, Arnold works because of the exotic accent and the physique. Anyone who doubts Arnold’s range as an actor in this movie needs only look at the 1997 Conan TV series starring Ralf Moeller to see real cardboard acting. And at least Ralf had the size and an accent — I am gravely concerned about the newest movie version coming out, though it’s one which I will surely never see.

It never ceases to amaze me whenever I come across people who've read the comics, and yet still assert that Arnold was the ideal Conan. I just can't see it, folks.  The exotic accent and the physique - maybe, at a stretch.  But you're seriously telling me that there was nobody around in 1982 who couldn't have done a better role than Arnold?  Anyone?  Anywhere?  Because I can name at least one: Clancy Brown.  Now he would've made an interesting Conan. But let's play the "who would I have rather seen play Conan in an actual Robert E. Howard adaptation in 1982" game later.

Saturday 21 August 2010

See, This Is What We're Dealing With.

I really hope Kortoso's fan-film does better than this.

Conan and his intrepid female warrior-thief escape from the walled city of Cimmeria with a chest of treasure. However, their flight has been cut short by the elite Cimmerian border forces.

... Yeah, it's just like in the stories!  I remember when Conan and his unnamed female warrior-thief companion mount a daring raid on the great walled city of Cimmeria!  The fight with the Elite Cimmerian Border Forces was sensationally written by Robert Heinlein!  What was it called... "The Turret of the Pachyderm!"  Yeah, that was it!

*takes a big swig of whisky*

Friday 20 August 2010

Well, dammit.

Looks like I won't be interviewing Alice Krige after all.

We are sorry to say that due to a change in work schedules Alice Krige can no longer make Collectormania Glasgow.
After all that...

I'm sad now. 

Infamy! Infamy! A follow-up

A quick follow-up to Et Tu, Alan?, wherein I elaborate on an excellent point Monsterhoodoo and David J. West bring up.  Let's have a look at that first paragraph again:

How many times have you opened up a copy of Savage Sword of Conan to find some barbarian forcing a lithe Kothian dancing girl back into the hay, ignoring her feeble half-hearted complaints and taking his cue from the delirious ecstatic look that the artist has drawn onto her face, showing you that she doesn't mind really. In fact, she likes this sort of treatment. Sure she does. Anyone would enjoy being sexually assaulted by an illiterate musclebound oaf who stinks of bear grease. That's most people's idea of a good night out.

Now, I forgot to mention that Moore is clearly making the mistake/misinterpretation of assuming that the "some barbarian" is meant to be the hero.  Judging by his later "Conan the Rapist" remark, it's clear he's trying to say that Conan would be among them.  I can't recall Conan ever forcing any girl, lithe, Kothian or dancer, into the hay in Savage Sword (at least up to 84, I haven't read beyond yet) but I can recall many merciless, violent bullies who do.  And, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the audience is supposed to be rooting for filth like Constantius the Falcon.

Does this look like the kind of guy the reader's supposed to root for?

Thursday 19 August 2010

Et tu, Alan?

I'm rather sad now.

I kind of got the impression that Alan Moore wouldn't have liked Robert E. Howard.  Moore, for all his undoubted genius and coolness, was one of those people would've been likely taken in by the myths and misconceptions regarding Conan's creator that were riddling the world 25 years ago.  This was the age of Dark Valley Destiny, after all - and just a year after the appearance of Conan the Barbarian in cinemas. 

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Shocking Announcements from the Robert E. Howard Foundation

Holy Smokes!  New letters, new poetry, new drawings!

As you can see, lots of exciting stuff.  Steve Harrison's Casebook and Tales of Weird Menace sound fun: I distinctly remember some stories were left out of The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard because they were considered to be of the latter genre ("Skull-Face" in particular.)

However, I notice one glaring omission from Tales of Weird Menace (glaring to me, at least): where's "The Black Bear Bites"?  That's pretty clearly Weird Menace, it isn't a particularly long story, and it isn't half bad in my eyes.  What gives, REHF?  "Black John's Vengeance" sounds like it could be another name for TBBB.

Still, aside from that, looks good.  I suppose if they didn't include "The Hyena" from Horror Stories, for whatever reason TBBB didn's pass muster.

EDIT: Paul Herman and Rob Roehm have helpfully confirmed that "Black John's Vengeance" is, in fact, "The Black Bear Bites," and that there's a little controversy about the two titles and Howard's final word on the matter:

I've heard two stories about this. One of the stories is that "Vengeance" was changed to "Bites" by an editor or someone because it gave away too much of the plot. The other story is that "Vengeance" was just a "working title" and that "Bites" was the final. I chose to go with "Vengeance" because that is the title that is on the typescript I used, and there was practically no difference between that ts and the published version of the story -- a single word here and a comma there.

Huzzah, big Black John's in Tales of Weird Menace!

Tuesday 17 August 2010

This guy really loves his Dark Horse Conan...

I guess it's hard for me to say anything about Dark Horse's run on Conan.  Most would accuse me of being an unpleasable fanboy, that no comic adaptation could possibly compare to the artistic vision of Howard, and that anything would come up short.  To which I say, absolute hogwash.  There have been absolutely fantastic adaptations of Howard stories over the years: Savage Sword's "Worms of the Earth," Dark Horse's "The Tower of the Elephant," Scott Hampton's "Pigeons from Hell," Marvel's "Red Nails."   No, none of them are perfect, but they're all so damn close I can easily consider them as successes, with the majority of my reservations ultimately in the minority to the stuff they got right. So just to get that out of the way: no, I am not impossible to please, as I have been satisfied by comic adaptations before.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Urge... To Kill... Rising... Again.

Macha, Morrigan, Badb, Nemain, Lir, Manannan Mac Lir, Dagda, Diancecht and Crom...

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Saturday 14 August 2010

Alice Krige at Collectormania Glasgow

I am giddy as a schoolgirl right now, because one of my favourite actresses is coming to my neighborhood!

One of my few disappointments with the Solomon Kane DVD was the lack of input from some of the cast, especially Alice Krige.  Alice has a special place in my heart, because she's one of the first "celebrities" I met: at one of the last Star Trek conventions of the 20th Century, a few years after Star Trek: First Contact.  Because I was going through a ludicrous "Simpsons caricature" phase at the time - come on, I was 15 and stupid, cut me some slack - I got her to sign my caricature of her.  She was most accommodating to this weird little boy, and when you're the weird little boy at a Star Trek convention...  Later, we (and a few hundred others) danced at the ceilidh at night.  She was the sweetest, mostly lovely woman, and took her time talking to everyone.

Friday 13 August 2010

Urge... To Kill... Rising...

Anyone want to place bets on the likelihood of this guy never having picked up a Robert E. Howard story in his life?

Has an actor ever embodied a comic-strip/comic-book character better? It's as if Robert Howard knew Arnold would come along when he created the character in the 1930s.

My God.  I mean My God.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Fine Line Between Homage and Ripoff

I'm not enamored with Kurt Busiek's run on Conan. For all the awesomeness of The Tower of the Elephant, there's a Born on the Battlefield to shake everything apart.  But then, that's for another time.  From what I can gather, Busiek is well-regarded in the comics world for his work.

His latest creation is... rather familiar...

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Pastiches 'R' Us: Ryan Harvey Inadvertently Destroys De Camp

Full confession time: I haven't read Conan of the Isles.  I have, however, read Roy Thomas' adaptations of various De Camp/Carter pastiches in the recent Marvel reprints courtesy of Dark Horse, and from what I can gather, Thomas was - unfortunately - as faithful to De Camp as he was to Howard. Admirable on Thomas' part, but leads to a lot of infuriated spluttering on my part. Like Conan the Liberator. To hell with that.

Monday 9 August 2010

Agnes the Barbarian Review Reviews: SF Appeal

It's refreshing to have another subcategory for the "Review Reviews," this time for Agnes the Barbarian.  This time, SF Appeal (SF for San Francisco).

One of the dumbest things a theatre company can do in establishing a play's mood is to the waste the first opportunity they have to make an impression. From the moment someone walks into a theatre, they are at some level, immersed in the world of the play--even if the curtain has yet to rise. Most companies fill this pre-show space with music but few are particularly deliberate about their song choices. Sure, there's generally a wide-swath effort to pair upbeat pop songs with whimsical comedies and morose ballads with heart-rending dramas, but rarely does a song played before a show tell you exactly what to expect the moment the actors come onstage.

Thunderbird Theatre Company's world premiere comedy, Agnes the Barbarian, is a welcome exception.

So, it starts off well. Then...

Before playwright Jason Harding' s hilarious a-historical farce, Tenacious D's "Wonderboy" blasted over the theatre's sound system. Tenacious D, a band comprised of comic actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass, lovingly mocks area rock clichés by embracing them so wholeheartedly they're rendered even more patently ridiculous then they were originally. "Wonderboy" is the band's self-aggrandizing origin story, in which our heroes meet for the first time, band together on an epic quest and slay a ferocious beast.

So... area rock is patently ridiculous, then?  The thing is, Tenacious D love that stuff.  They can't get enough of it.  Mocking is something you do to something you hate.  It's taunting via shallow imitation.  Poking fun at something you love is something else altogether: self-deprecation.  Self-deprecation is parody: mockery is satire.  And satire isn't always funny, nor is it always intended to be so.

Tinged with Led Zeppelin's penchant for heavy riffs and mystical imagery, the song is a perfect corollary for Agnes The Barbarian, a play that follows the same basic structure (young hero sets out on adventure, meets friends along way and ends up successfully running her sword through something evil) and has a similar relationship with its source material: a blend of genuine appreciation and the kind of smirking condescension without which good farce is impossible.

"Smirking Condescension" is something without which a good farce is entirely possible - I'd even say it's what separates the gems from the detritus. There's a difference between honest lampooning of faults or tropes, and being condescending about it: most notably, a distinct lack of maturity. Compare the likes of Airplane! and High Anxiety to Meet the Spartans and the ____ Movie series: the former are permeated with "genuine appreciation" for the source material, while the latter seem to treat their sources with little more than thinly-veiled, sarcastic contempt - or "smirking condescension." The gap in quality between the two groups is vast: while affection for the source material may not be required, and I'm not seeking to prove some sort of correlation, it seems to be the case that more good parodies have a decent amount of affection in them than the bad ones do.

Of course, good satire is a different animal, but even then, smirking condescension is surely less powerful than biting, belligerent wit.  The most powerful satires are pointed, savage and relentless - so much so, that it's as likely to result in deathly silence as to riotous laughter.  Satire and parody are two very different things, and it's clear Agnes is a parody.

Besides which, I can't really see a use for smirking condescension in any context, save one to provide an excuse for a good skelp on the cheek. Condescension in any shape or form is irritating in the extreme.

The source material here is the post-stone age, pre-Roman world of swords and sorcery created in the 1930s by Texas writer Robert E. Howard and inhabited by Conan the Barbarian, Krull the Conqueror and pretty much every character ever played by Kevin Sorbo.

I... I... I got nothing. The reviewer seems to be under the delusion that the Hyborian Age takes place during recorded history. And that Conan and "Krull" shared the same epoch. And that Kevin Sorbo only played one REH character (and even then that's seriously pushing it), and I sure can't remember Howard ever writing about wisecracking Hercules or Captain Dylan Hunt. The silly person can't even take a few seconds to check Wikipedia to get Kull's name right. I guess this is the sort of "smirking condescension" he or she is talking about. Hate to break it to ya, kiddo, but condescension doesn't work when the person you're talking down to knows you're talking complete balderdash.

Aging, balding, increasingly corpulent and perennially shirtless, Conan (ably played by the playwright) has ruled Aquilonia with not quite an iron fist for decades, but is currently vexed by both the constant stream of paperwork given to him by his scheming, corporate-style advisers intent on destroying the kingdom and his ever-rebellious daughter, Agnes.

See, Agnes doesn't want to be a barbarian. She much prefers the Utopian, left-wing ideals espoused by her unseen pen pal to the violent, ignorant way of her barbarian, Crom worshipping forbears. Conan hates how Agnes, "struts about the castle, fully dressed, reading books," and wishes instead she was more like a traditional barbarian woman, "more of a smolderer or a temptress." But like most parents, his most serious complaint is that she always leaves her dirty laundry on the floor of the throne room instead of in the hamper where it belongs.

Based on what parts of the script Jason sent me, I could at lest rely on him in some parts (Elseworlds Conan, Elseworlds Conan, Elseworlds Conan...) but I never could've imagined him taking the title role!  Heh, above and beyond, methinks.

Conan's advisers, who have conned him into getting bogged down in a war to eliminate a foreign power's weapons of mass destruction (namely zombies and catapults) that turned out to be as imaginary as their real-life counter-parts, need Agnes dead to complete their plan.

Unfortunately, not everything really works. WMD gags were overplayed when the WMD controversy was new. And if you're going to look for commentary on the Iraq war (or at least the applicability of such a work to current events) one needn't go further than the source:

Such a wave of enthusiasm and rejoicing as swept the land is frequently the signal for a war of conquest. So no one was surprized when it was announced that King Tarascus had declared the truce made by the late king with their western neighbors void, and was gathering his hosts to invade Aquilonia. His reason was candid; his motives, loudly proclaimed, gilded his actions with something of the glamor of a crusade. He espoused the cause of Valerius, “rightful heir to the throne”; he came, he proclaimed, not as an enemy of Aquilonia, but as a friend, to free the people from the tyranny of a usurper and a foreigner.
- The Hour of the Dragon, Robert E. Howard... written in 1935

I'm dreading the LotR comparisons if "The Phoenix on the Sword" ever gets an adaptation...

Much like in Harold Ramis's uneven, yet underrated, Year One, most of the humor in Agnes the Barbarian comes from anachronism--the incongruity of trying to apply our modern sensibilities to an unrepentantly pre-modern time.

I haven't seen Year One yet. My distaste for Michael Cera and ambivalence to Jack Black (how I loathe and like him) notwithstanding, this sounds an awful like the sort of stuff not just Terry Pratchett, but Monty Python was doing too. Life of Brian, anyone?

Evil sorceresses have to deal with ex-boyfriends who call them relentlessly, and crossbow wielding assassins talk like they just walked off the set of The Sopranos. The aforementioned royal advisers assure their victims that their evil deeds are, "nothing personal, only business" and make everyone sign everything in triplicate. Unlike some of the show's baser running gags, the humor of anachronism never gets old, thanks to the sharp characterizations and snappy pacing.

That, too, sounds extremely Pratchettesque.

Even though the show is essentially a follow-up to Arnold Schwarzenegger breakout role...

On that, I think we can agree, given the frightening similarities Agnes the Barbarian shares with King Conan: Crown of Iron.  (And only one of them's meant to be a parody!)

... the figure looming large over the production isn't one based in Sacramento--it's Mel Brooks. From its incessant breaking of the fourth wall and winking pop-culture references to its Borscht Belt comic sensibility, Agnes the Barbarian could be presented as Mel Brooks's take on the fantasy genre without anyone batting an eyelash.

Mel Brooks! That's another one.  Man, if I were Jason, to be considered in the same sentence as Mel Brooks would be awesome (unless Jason doesn't like Mel Brooks for some unholy reason).

So it seems Agnes the Barbarian succeeds with the general crowd who don't know their Robert E. Howard from their Robert E. Lee - I suspected it would, since the novelty is there, and it sounded like the sort of crowd-pleasing thing one would get.  I haven't yet heard from any Californian Howard fans on the production, though.  I guess that'll be Agnes the Barbarian's hardest battle.  In the meantime, I suspect further reviews will be of this ilk - next to no knowledge of the source material outside of the films and maybe the comics, assuming that having Conan being swamped by paperwork and courtly bureaucracy is some sort of gag in itself, and that Agnes' bookish, independent, politically-minded daughter would be nothing like any of Howard's heroines.  Ah, well, at least he didn't bring up the suicide or some of the more stupid "factoids," or blame something from the films on Howard.

... Sacramento?

Saturday 7 August 2010

Robert E. Howard, or, What's in a Name?

"That teller of marvelous tales, Robert Howard, did indeed create a giant [Conan] in whose shadow other 'hero tales' must stand."
– John Jakes, New York Times bestselling author of the "North and South" trilogy

I can never quite decide whether this is something I should necessarily be bothered about or not.

The man's name was Robert E. Howard.  That's what he's credited as on the manuscripts and publications, indicating that's the name he'd like to go by.  Ergo, the man should be referred to as Robert E. Howard, or Howard.  In a pinch, the informal use of Bob Howard or REH would do.

However, there are certain combinations of Howard's name that, for some reason or another, irk me.  I've seen it rendered as Robert Howard (as in the above John Jakes soundbyte), R. E. Howard (as quoth by James Purefoy in a BBC interview) and even R. Howard (as emblazoned on the cover of Wordsworrth's The Right Hand of Doom and Other Tales of Solomon Kane).  I don't know exactly why it annoys me, but it does.  Perhaps it's because other people aren't as fast and loose with other authors' names.  You never hear, for example, Jo Rowling, or Joanne Kathleen Rowling, or even Joanne Murray: it's always J. K. Rowling.  Same with Stephen King: nobody calls him Stephen E. King, or S. E. King.  I couldn't possibly list the number of variations of J.R.R. Tolkien that could be made, yet nobody strays from the standard.

So why does Howard run the gamut from Robert E. Howard, to Robert Howard, to R. E. Howard, to R. Howard?  Are people really that unaware?  Do they just not care?  Do they - dare I say it - throw their hands in the air with a Care Bear Stare?  (Sorry, I got into an Infinite Causality Rhyming Loop for a moment)

It just seems anathema to me.  Who knows, maybe I'm just really finicky or something.  I'll just go back and sort my Henry R. Haggard from my E. R. Burroughs, see if I can find that Terence Hanbury White that's been running about, and put the G. Raymond R. Martin and Lyon S. D. Camps collections back on the shelf.

... See how annoying it is?

EDIT: And as if to prove my point, I came across another R.E. Howard. What gives?  Still, this is worth a look, since he talks about Breck Elkins and the accompanying webcomic.  Cool stuff.

Friday 6 August 2010

Agnes the Barbarian in Action

Agnes the Barbarian - Map Thy Quest from Brad Robertson on Vimeo.

A bit of silly fun from the cast of Agnes the Barbarian, where we get to see a taste of the actors (including Jamie Lee Currie as the titular lass, looking rather Xena-esque) and their characters.  The costumes aren't half bad either, considering the scale of the company and production.

There are three others: the lament of an evil sorceress whose heart just isn't in it, proper etiquette between rival necromancers, and Conan himself engaging in Kingly Decorum.  (Those Howardists with a sensitive disposition may wish to avoid that last one - remember, Elseworlds Conan!)

Thursday 5 August 2010

Deadliest Warrior: The Video Game

Finally, we can re-do Deadliest Warrior's fights right... At least, that's the idea.  I'd love to have the Viking destroy the Samurai, the Knight obliterate the Pirate, and everything in between.

I hate Deadliest Warrior.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Robert E. Howard Movie Review Reviews: Richard Scheib's Moria

Originally, I was going to take Richard Scheib's movie reviews one at a time, but seeing as he recently put up his Solomon Kane review, I feel I might as well do them all.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Another Custom Conan Action Figure

Would you believe it, another one's popped up - and there's more on the way.

Hey Folks!

I'm really excited about my new series of custom figures of which this is the first. I am working on a series of custom figures based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, specifically inspired by John Buscema's magazine work, but also inspired by other sources such as the work of Frank Frazetta, my own imagination, and my own interpretations of the descriptions taken directly form Howard's writings.

Well, as you can see, this is a pretty damn close approximation of Big John's Big Cimmerian.  However, this isn't the only figure Miked (Mike D?) is working on:

I thoroughly enjoyed this guy and am looking forward to presenting my current wips: Frost Giant, Turanian soldier, Pictish warrior, Vanir warrior, Hyrkanian archer..... and more! Thanks for looking and as always comments are appreciated! 

This is very interesting to me. Plenty of folk do Conan action figures, but not so many choose to depict other aspects of the Hyborian Age - a grave oversight, given the sheer majesty and colour of the setting. Buscema's Picts are pretty good inspirations (hope Miked doesn't miss the great white skulls painted on his chest and face), and the Barry Smith Vanir & Frost Giants are more or less accurate too.  I hope his Turanian archer sports the famous spired helm and tigerskin cloak.

As for "more," maybe we'll be seeing Bêlit and Valeria. I sure hope so!

Monday 2 August 2010

Had enough of people mining Harryhausen for soulless remakes?

Too bad!


Just... why.  I mean, there's ripping off Bradbury, and there's outright plagiarism.  "In Dynamation!" it boasts - Harryhausen should sue.  Not to mention this comes hot on the heels of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Mishmash of the Cretins, a truly Asylum-esque marketing ploy.  (I haven't seen Prince of Persia since my last experience with a mythologically-tinted movie was... unpleasant.) About the only good thing about the production - that being they finally have an ethnic Persian as Sinbad - is wasted since for some reason this Sinbad is bald.