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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Timothy Truman's CONAN THE CIMMERIAN



CONAN THE CIMMERIAN

When Dark Horse Comics sent me a package of Conan and assorted books to review, I was in a place that was very difficult. Not for what they’d sent but for the fact that I was writing a long article, and wanted to review fantasy heroes and they were kind enough to send me some things to review in that vein, and then I nearly died, ... THREE TIMES. My appendix blew, I had two massive infections, and all my work began to overflow, since my schedule and life had been turned upside down. And I gave up on the very long article in the midst of one of the infections because I couldn’t think straight. 3000 words of musings about fantasy as a genre shot to hell. So when the new Conan series began I decided to buy them and review them to say thanks to Dark Horse and to catch on to what they were going to do, with a new #1.

So with the solicit information below this, I want to say that Timothy Truman is very much the writer of Conan that RE Howard would have wished to adapt his work. Conan is not a mindless barbaric warrior. He is not an ape with a sword. He does not dance about issues, he is a plain speaker and desires nothing more from others. In these issues Truman never once makes Conan say something that I couldn’t see REH writing himself. The art is quite good, but perhaps less to my taste as Truman’s writing. But that is irrelevant. Altogether the two comics (three if you include the variant cover) were well done and worthy of the new numbering. Which begs the question, why start over with a new number one? In today’s market we are flooded with comics that start but get canceled or are lost in the mists of diamond’s system. Number one issues are easy sellers, but when there is no real difference in tone or talent, why do it? Ultimately the work deserves attention, and if new numbering works, go for it. I could read Truman’s Conan in mini series, regular series, prestige series, limited prestige series, maxi series and more. Frankly he gets it. He truly gets it. And I love that.

FromDARK HORSE

Conan the Cimmerian #0
Writer: Timothy Truman
Penciler: Tomàs Giorello
Colorist José Villarrubia
Cover Artist: Tomàs Giorello

“Conan the Cimmerian #0 marks a transitional period in young Conan's life, as he spurns the magicians, turncoats, and legal trappings of the cities he's seen in order to return to the beloved northern frontiers of Cimmeria, where he was born and raised. It also marks a turning point in the artistic muscle that will fuel Conan's adventures throughout 2008 and beyond.”

Conan the Cimmerian #1
Writer: Timothy Truman
Penciler: Tomàs Giorello, Richard Corben
Inker: Richard Corben
Colorist Jose Villarrubia
Cover Artist: Frank Cho
Cover Artist: Joe Kubert

“Conan home with a crack to the head, and another begins to weave a tale about Conan's grandfather--another Cimmerian who was filled with wanderlust.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Professional wrestler BARON VON RASCHKE speaks!



a reprinted interview: AN INTERVIEW WITH MY FAVORITE WRESTLER

I grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota. One of the two things you got used to were: bitching about the cold weather, and AWA wrestling. I never worried about it being “real”, as I enjoyed it as entertainment and it was that. Some people might have taken it seriously, but that was not the point, at least in my view. Whatever it was, the athletics were impressive, and the drama was fun to watch. Today wrestling is rarely about athletics, it is about steroids, vulgar displays, and loud and vulgar people. So while I was in the midst of bemoaning the loss of innocence, I decided to look up my favorite wrestler online, Baron (James) Von Raschke, “Der Klaw”. To my great pleasure he had his own website and I sent him an email. This interview is a result of that exchange. AND DAT IS ALL DA PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!!

Alex Ness:How did you enter wrestling as a career?

Baron Von Raschke: After wrestling in high school, college, and the army, I contacted Joe Dusek, a promoter from my home town of Omaha. He, in turn, introduced me to Vern Gagne.

Alex Ness:What wrestlers were your greatest enemies?

Baron Von Raschke: Enemies? It was my work. Like a doctor or lawyer, I had a job to do and did it without worrying about making friends or enemies.

Alex Ness: Considering the changes from many regional promoters to a couple national ones, has wrestling become too interested in shock value and ratings, over the simpler, far less scripted (or overwrought) rivalries and matches of the past?

Baron Von Raschke: Yes, it has gone from family entertainment to a vulgar display that has little or nothing to do with wrestling.

Alex Ness: Could you crush my skull with your CLAW move?

Baron Von Raschke: Get real. It shuts off the blood supply. It doesn't crush anything.

Alex Ness: How did you come upon your signature move?

Baron Von Raschke: It was passed down to me (see my bio on my web site).

Alex Ness: If you crushed my skull, would it leave dents?

Baron Von Raschke: As I said before, get real.

Alex Ness: You’ve been seen on the new AWA Superstars recently as a manager. Do you enjoy managing as much as you did wrestling?

Baron Von Raschke: At my age, yes.

Alex Ness: With Wrestling now being generally acknowledged as “sports entertainment” does it help you feel less pain in areas of your body damaged doing purely athletic moves?

Baron Von Raschke: They do a lot of dangerous and reckless stunts that have nothing to do with wrestling, and I am sure they pay the price just as I did.

Alex Ness: What is the most rewarding aspect of having had a career in Wrestling?

Baron Von Raschke: I will never be a normal citizen, because people still recognize me and ask me to make appearances.

Alex Ness: Is a retired Wrestler like the Lion in Winter, still having a heart that enjoys the action, but knowing that it is over? When you retire from Sports entertainment is there anything like a retirement plan? Or do you have to make your own way?

Baron Von Raschke: A. My wife and my body said it was time to quit wrestling. I'm satisfied with what I did and with what I am doing. B There is no retirement plan. There is no health plan. There is NUTZING!

Alex Ness: How do fans contact you or meet you? Do you have a website?

Baron Von Raschke: I make appearances around the country and, yes, I do have a web site, which you went through to get these questions to me. The address is The Baron

FINAL THOUGHTS: Thank you Baron and Karl!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ICONIC DEAD PEOPLE



Posted here is a collage of faces that made the most money in the last few years while being dead. They are famous faces, icons of popular culture, can give us insight into what we celebrate in our culture. The names of the assembled deceased people of fame are: Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, Albert Einstein, James Brown, James Dean, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, ((Anna Nicole Smith)) Steve McQueen, Kurt Cobain, Andy Warhol, Che Guevara, Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, JRR Tolkien.

Some conclusions:
The people with darker skin were entertainers or rebels.
The two women, both white, were on the list for their iconic beauty.
The white males did not have to be physically attractive to find themselves upon the list, although some were.
Despite Asians, both South Asians and East Asians, being a fair portion of the populace none made the list.

Earning power seems to have/have had to do with:
Charisma, Achievement, Popularity while alive, Iconic status while alive, and in many cases, famous photos that seemed to capture the essence.

Why do we savor the people who were icons in life, in death? There is a difference between say JRR Tolkien’s resurgent popularity and that of Anna Nicole Smith. Tolkien wrote something who’s legacy remains. Smith’s legacy was beauty. While beauty fades and literary excellence does not, beauty is not an eternal constant. Quality of literature is relatively secure. So while popularity in life might come from something like looks, there is little guarantee that the qualities seen will remain popular.

What else is there we can see? Achievement is not in itself the key, for many of the greatest deceased writers, scientists and scholars cannot be found upon the list Popular culture must therefore demand something beyond talent, and, beyond an iconic or recognizable image. I suggest what it demands is a moment in time. Where the talented person that existed appeared at the time to be an important actor of the time.

People who I thought would be on the list?:
Former US Presidents, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, more women in general, and more people of ancestry outside of Africa or Northern Europe.

What am I missing here? Why else are these people upon the list? Why are some famous people who’ve died not bankable?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Art of Video Games

Tasked with restoring an afflicted sapling to its former beauty, you bring it to life with a swirl of your paintbrush. The sapling bursts with light, a melody of soft pink flowers blooms on its young branches, and lush green meadows breathlessly sweep away the cursed countryside, returning vitality to the diseased landscape.

The story of the video game, Okami (Wii) is told through cinematic cut-scenes and a visual presentation designed to mimic the style of traditional Japanese artistry -- specifically woodcut and watercolor paintings. This unique look is complemented by cel-shaded graphics and the result is beautiful. The word picturesque accurately describes the setting as Amaterasu (main character's) runs through the spectacular, giant-sized locales, all seemingly straight out of a painting.

Compare this:


To this:



Indeed, the first one is an in-game screenshot of Okami, and the second is concept art for the game. They are both beautiful, aren't they?

Okay, let's head on over to my favorite place: Zelda.

In-game screenshot:


Concept art:



Yeah, it isn't as close as Okami is, but it is still portrayed nicely.

A view of Popular Culture from the Retail perspective

As a reader of comics and buyer of comics (not collector however) I have seen many stores die in the cut throat world of retail. I've seen more publishers die I think, but both aspects of the comics world are difficult to make a living in. So I asked a great many retailers why. "Why do you sell comics? What about that business and arts world made you want to tough out all the difficulties of such a small market and industry?"

The two that answered said:

From
Tim Broman of Collector's Connection Duluth, Minnesota.

Why not?

I've sold real books, Jewelry, Shoes, tobacco, booze, candy, porn, magazines, yarn, goldfish, and so forth. I've worked for giants such as F.W. Woolworth, B. Dalton's Bookseller, & K-Mart. I've also worked for (Twin-ports based) little guys like Snyder Drug, Granada News, Gifts-N-Fixins (now LTD Jewelers) and the current employer, Collector's Connection.

Just for the record, I started working back in 1975, and have also worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken, a defunct Solar Hot Water sales company called Solar Resources, and the Viking Bar.

Something that I noticed was the specialty shops were always funner places to work, because the people who were there wanted to be there. I also noticed that if I personally knew (or could at least recognize) the owner of the business, these were places that were more enjoyable to work at.

Having never been a serious comic books fellow, I was initially hired at C/C based on my experience in other retail organizations. I did (in my younger years) read comics, and collect sports cards, so I had some interest in the field. That, plus I could be counted on to not blow off my schedule, or show up drunk and/or covered in blood and feathers.

I did not see Comics any differently then selling shoes, or jewelry. They were specialty businesses that drew a specific audience.

From
Charlie Harris of
Charlie's Comic Books
Tucson, Arizona.

There are only a few businesses left in America available to independent retailers; most can no longer compete against the flood of subsidized ‘big box’ stores. There are no more ‘Mom and Pop’ grocery stores, drug stores or hardware stores because they can't compete with the likes of Home Depot, Safeway, Walgreen’s, etc. Even those with years of higher education like legal and medical professionals no longer hang out a shingle expecting to support their families. There are still some hair and nail salons that haven't succumbed to the chains and, although Borders and the like have done away with independent book stores the comic business is still struggling as independent entrepreneurs try to succeed in merchandising products produced by large corporations.

For me personally the benefits of owning and operating a comic book shop are many but the biggest benefit is that almost every person who comes through my door is not only literate but chooses to spend their entertainment budget on reading material. The quality of my clientele is what leads my customers to also be my friends. I see my customers weekly or monthly and I get the opportunity to know them and their families have minimal trouble with crime and shoplifting and consequently feel like part of the community in which I live.

When I ride my bicycle to work neighborhood kids and parents greet me by name and I feel like an individual instead of a corporate cog in a large, often unseen and malfunctioning machine.

The opportunities for independent entrepreneurs has been limited to comic book stores, beauty salons, ‘head’ shops, auto repair, food service businesses (that fail ninety per cent of the time, in competition with the chain restaurants and bakeries), and the occasional music or computer related businesses that haven't quite been quashed by the new chain stores filling these niches.

With the recent success and growth in the comic industry I don't expect the book store chains to allow us to cut into their profits for much longer and Marvel Comics Group is now stocking a full line of their comics in 300 Border’s establishments to ‘test the waters’ and, of course the big box gets better discounts and returnability than Marvel would ever deign to give to independent retailers like myself; in fact Marvel, the number one comic publisher offers less of a discount than DC, Image or Dark Horse Comics who all do substantially less sales volume. Marvel is also now offering all of their comics in a digital format from their web site effectively cutting the retailers out of the loop.

For now, this is one of America’s last resorts for individual and independent businessmen. If America were concerned about their future than independent retailers would be getting the government subsidies instead of firmly established and successful corporations insuring a future that doesn't involve moving to China to find work.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Furry Introduction

In my secret identity, I am a ninja cartoonist. I live in the Enchanted Land-O-Cheese with my wife, Lute; my daughters, Gamera Rose and Rodan; and a menagerie which currently includes three ferrets, an enormous cat, a finch and several fish.

I’ve written and drawn hand-made comic books and have done comics work for INNOVATION, for Antarctic Press and for Radio Comix. I’ve drawn stories for “Adult” furry comics; I’ve also written puppet plays for Sunday Schools. I’ve been a moderator on a Harry Potter fansite and president of a local Anime club.

And I’m an avid Role-Playing Game enthusiast, having been gaming almost as long as there has been D&D. Yup. I’m an RPGeezer.

Here are some of the sites I lurk at and post on:

Pop Thought -- Where I write an RPG column titled “Live and Let Dice”

D2MF -- One of Alex’s other blogs where we write about spiritual matters.

ComicSpace -- Where I have a few galleries of my cartoons up and hope to start up an web comic soon

Steve Jackson Games Forum -- I occasionally post comments on this site under the name “quarkstomper”

Street Prophets -- An online community for progressive people of faith.

The Arcana Wiki -- More on this to come.

In short, my interests are weird and eclectic. And I hope to share some of them with you.

--Kurt (aka quark)