Saturday, May 29, 2010

Interview: Sandy Bruckner

"I saw my first episode of Babylon 5 and liked it," Sandy Bruckner says, "despite the fact that it was ‘Infection.' " From there, she begun digging into the wilderness that was the early-generation internet and discovered, in short order, that a convention was to be held in nearby Norfolk, Virginia. Almost on an impulse, she decided to make it her very first con. The year was 1995.

Michael O’Hare, who portrayed B5’s original leading man, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, was the guest of honor. She was so enamored of him, she signed up for his acting class, joined his fan club, and began attending his conventions, from Boston to New Orleans to Los Angeles. Along the way, she came across an early B5 newsletter run by Michael Zmuda, a "hard-copy-only version and a wonderful resource about the show." She offered to contribute articles based on her convention experiences; Zmuda agreed.

When series creator and showrunner Joe Michael Straczynski and his executive producer partner, Douglas Netter, were looking to take their newly developed Official Babylon 5 Fan Club in a different direction a short while later, he turned to Sandy and Zmuda, who had already been to the studio once or twice to watch filming and interact with the cast and crew, to head the new publication. The year was 1997.

1999, of course, a date of infamy in Babylonian fandom, saw the end of the B5 spin-off, Crusade, before it had even started – and the Official Fan Club along with it. Sandy, however, finding it hard to say goodbye, founded The Zocalo Today, a gathering of sci-fi news and notes. It has been in continuous operation ever since.

Given Sandy’s wealth of involvement with Babylonian Productions, from Straczynski – affectionately known as JMS by his hordes of online followers – on down, there was one question among all others that I, a fellow diehard, had to know: what was O’Hare, who portrayed a character so wooden and emotionally flat that he had to be phased out of Straczynski’s original ten-year storyline after only one year, like? "He was great," Sandy says. "Intelligent, funny. He was very much unlike Sinclair in that regard."

That's an understatement, and the launching point of our conversation.

How much of Sinclair’s portrayal do you think is the result of Straczynski's writing and O'Hare's personality? How much of it do you feel was intentional?

I think most of what you see on-screen was intentional – the way Joe wrote it and intended it to be played. You have to remember Sinclair is a very troubled individual, even before he began to put [the] pieces [of his life] together. He had to be constantly thinking about why he was chosen to command Babylon 5 ahead of much more qualified people. He was spared during the Earth-Minbari War but never had a clue as to why. The weight of command was pretty colossal, given the varied population and host of characters he had to deal with; at times, you get the feeling that he couldn't go to the john without the communicator buzzing about some emergency. It takes a few episodes for you to really see that Sinclair does have a personality. You get a peek during "Parliament of Dreams," when he runs into Catherine Sakai. You see his dry sense of humor during "By Any Means Necessary." Michael always said that he played the role exactly as JMS wanted it, saying each word as written. There was no ad-libing – no one felt they could do better than what was written on the page.

The first time I met Michael was in an elevator at a convention – the first for both of us. It was in Norfolk, Virginia, and he brought his mom and dad with him. His brother was in the Navy, and so there was a great connection with the setting – ships in the harbor, etc. Michael gave an acting class that was marvelous, and he sang on-stage. He had a pretty good voice and told me that he used to sing in the Harvard Glee Club. Michael loved to laugh, and his laugh was infectious. I thought Michael was a very classy guy. He never talked badly of anyone on the set and always had a good word to say about JMS – even though he had already been cut from the series before his first convention appearance.

Knowing that he would not be on the series was very traumatic for some of his fans; by the time the first season was coming to an end, you had gotten to see a bit more of Sinclair, and the mystery surrounding him grew as the story broadened.

Based upon your interactions with Straczynski, how much of his personality do you think bled over into Sinclair – and into Sheridan and Lochley?

I wish I had gotten to know JMS better. To tell you the truth, he scared me to death! I was afraid I was going to do something wrong. I was working on the website and there were always issues, so our meetings were not always pleasant. The Fan Club was always in the red, so there were big issues to be dealt with all the time.

From what I do remember of JMS, he had a very dry sense of humor. He had a strong sense of integrity and honor. All of these were definitely characteristics of Sinclair, as well as Sheridan and many of the main characters of Babylon 5. JMS was also a good listener and very observant; he would watch the cast in their unguarded moments and incorporate things he saw into their characters. There are a number of postings that talk about this. I think this made the portrayal of the characters easier for the people because they were showing very normal reactions.

I was always amazed by JMS. As a professed atheist, he wrote some of the most amazing spiritual material for G'Kar and others, but especially G'Kar.

You know, Robert McKee, amongst many, many other writers, hold that one's most deeply held beliefs are only fully and truly exposed in one's writing – explaining, I suppose, Joe and his atheism.

There's another huge trend I've noticed in his writing. Babylon 5 was about a group of characters having to turn their backs against their government, breaking away to form an independent movement. Crusade would've been about a group of characters, on the run, having to clear their good names from a government that had framed them. Legend of the Rangers would've followed a group of characters that had to weed out corruption from the upper echelons of their military/civilian handlers, possibly going on the lamb to do so.

What do you make of this?

I'm not sure that I ever thought about it in any way. Perhaps the ability to differ with the establishment is a sign of a true democracy. There are always things that the government does that we don't agree with, and perhaps JMS uses those differences in his writing as an expression of that freedom. If there were no controversy, it would be less interesting, as well. Some sort of social tension makes for an interesting storyline that continues over time, whether it is through political strife or something else.

JMS had a great way of developing characters that we cared about, each having their own views and traits, religions and beliefs. That is what made us like G'Kar, Londo, Delenn, and the others. We were curious about our differences and our similarities. The beauty in the writings from G'Kar through JMS touched our hearts and perhaps made us see things in many different ways.

How did your involvement with Joe and the Fan Club come to an end? Was it at the same time that Crusade got its plug yanked?

The Fan Club was only created around 1997, so it was fairly late in the game. The show was constantly looking at cancellation and the Fan Club got off to a shaky start. While it had a number of people join, getting publications out proved a larger task than anticipated. That's when Mike Zmuda and I were brought on. Mike, because of his background in his own B5 newsletter, The Centaurian Sentinel, took on the task of publishing the newsletter. I helped with doing interviews and writing articles. I took on some of the chores with the website – dealing with the chat room and posting information about the show and the Club. They hired a firm to pull the Zocalo together for the merchandise sold exclusively by the Fan Club. There were t-shirts, sweatshirts, polos, pins, baseball hats, magazines, etc. I don't think the Club ever saw any profit; the money went out faster than it came in. JMS wanted to have merchandise everyone would want to own and all that took money – licenses, production, etc.

The online community associated with Babylon 5 was dedicated, opinionated, and, unfortunately, contributed to the downfall of the Fan Club.

When B5 moved to TNT, I worked with the web staff there, putting out notices about the show, doing web chats, posting reviews of magazine articles, books, etc. The TNT web guys were great. They loved the show, but it was cancelled before it even began.

The Fan Club became a financial liability to JMS and Doug Netter. It was taking more time than they had to give, so it ended. About the time the Fan Club ended, I started up The Zocalo Today as an online newsletter. The website and newsletter have been running since September 1999. I had had an email newsletter before, The Zocalo, that I managed with two other people. We ended that newsletter pretty much when the Fan Club started. I can't remember when it actually ended, but I started it in 1994 and it ran for a number of years.

What are your thoughts on Crusade, both as a series in-and-of-itself and as a follow-up chapter to B5?

I think Crusade could have been as popular as Babylon 5 had it had the chance. It was sort of DOA from the start. I liked the premise and the subplots – the whole Galen story, his interaction with the techno-mages and Dureena. And there is the thing about the Apocalypse Box and Eilerson and Interplanetary Expeditions. There are just so many story possibilities.

You were on set for the filming of The Legend of the Rangers. What was that like, and how did that come about?

Going to Vancouver was another instance of right place, right time. There was going to be a fan event in Vancouver and JMS had agreed to bring a clip of the new movie to share. The SciFi [now SyFy] Channel asked me if I would go to cover the event and report on it for them. What could I say? I worked with the WB publicity folks and went up a couple of days before the actual convention at a local university. I flew up to Vancouver, rented a car, and wandered about to find the studio. It was not far outside of town, and actually in an area where other TV series, like Stargate, were being filmed. Legend of the Rangers took over space from another SciFi show that had been cancelled. It was somewhat like the [Babylon 5] studio set-up in Sherman Oaks, but far smaller than you would think needed to shoot a movie.

I had a great time in Vancouver. I got to interview all the cast members, JMS, Doug Netter, and Andreas Katsulas. Doug Netter was absolutely wonderful. I hadn't talked to him since my second trip to the studio, and he was really hopeful that the movie would launch a new series. I loved the interview with Andreas. I had the feeling he was more nervous than me! He was delightful, though.

The mini-convention was wonderful. It was on the campus of Frazier University and the auditorium was full. The fans in Vancouver were really hyped by the video JMS showed and the cast members stayed to sign autographs and talk with us. They were all excited about the project and couldn't wait for the movie to air.

There seems to be a fair bit of divisiveness within the B5 fan community over The Lost Tales. What do you make of both that and the DVD itself?

I think that The Lost Tales was okay – not anything great because there was so little action involved. It was more like a play, and the lack of financial resources devoted to the project was probably the cause; post-production is fairly expensive. I think many fans loved The Lost Tales because it was Babylon 5 and they had waited so long for something more. It filled a gap, but, for many, it didn't have the depth of story that we had become so accustomed to with JMS's writing.

Do you have any last comments or final thoughts on the whole journey? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

I often wish that I had been more observant, known more about how TV series were made, and listened better to everyone I met while associated with Babylon 5. Jeffrey Willerth was my closest associate during my Fan Club days, and Mike Zmuda and I worked with JMS and the various Fan Club heads during our tenure. I can't tell you how many times I screwed up, perhaps trying too hard to impress people. I learned a lot through my visits to the studio and the wonderful professionals associated with the show. I was always fascinated by the prop cage and spent a lot of time there with Bear Burge. I missed meeting Edward Woodward by one week – he was to guest-star the week after I visited the set, but it was [still] great to see "Well of Forever" filmed. How do I wish Crusade had been given a chance!

I got to know a number of the cast members – Michael O'Hare, Jeffrey Willerth, Pat Tallman, Peter Woodward, David Brooks, Jason Carter, Stephen Austin. During our last trip to California for Babylon 5, we actually got to be extras in the last episode filmed, "Objects at Rest." John Copeland was directing and it was a real blast. I remember going to wardrobe and getting my outfit and getting dressed and waiting on the set for our cue to greet Sheridan and Delenn as they left the station. Jeffrey Willerth was behind me as a waste disposal engineer in a marvelous blue jumpsuit. I forget what Mike Zmuda had on, but we would wait and wait and wait through the many takes until everything was just right. The poor guys in Pak'ma'ra masks were dying because it was really hot on the set that day. Periodically, people would come out and give them something to drink, and when they took off their masks, they were beet red underneath. I remember John Copeland looking at me and asking where my glasses had gone. I'd taken them off, thinking there were no glasses in 22-whatever. He told me to put them back on so I wouldn't run into anything!

When I received copies of the blooper reels to take out to conventions, I was on top of the world. I was going to a number of conventions anyway, but now I got invited to conventions in Berlin, Australia, and a number of cities around the US. It was an absolutely awesome experience meeting all the Babylon 5 fans. It was also a bit scary – they knew every word, every character, every scene of the show.

I am still in touch with many of the people I met during my time with Babylon 5. Through my website, ISN News: The Zocalo Today, I help Pat Tallman with her Penny Lane charity at Christmas time, and I've participated in a couple of the B5 podcasts with Jeffrey Willerth. Bill Mumy sends a note when he has a special gig that he wants folks to know about.

I truly appreciate the chance I was given by JMS and others to expand my horizons and experience a totally different world. If I could do it all over again now, hopefully I would not goof up as much – and perhaps I could keep my mouth closed a bit more as I gazed at the wonder of TV production. Considering the state of technology at the time, they were doing some totally awesome things with very limited resources.

I look back on the experience with very fond memories. Babylon 5 will always be very special to me because of the people I've met and experiences I've had. It was unlike anything I've ever done before.

This piece is part of Marc N. Kleinhenz's The Babylon Project series of articles, which comprises essays, reviews, and interviews. The other items can be found here:

The Passing of the Techno-mages and the expansion of previous narratives
November 2009
Blue Buddha

The Lost Tales and the undermining of worldbuilding
December 2009
Blue Buddha

The Shadow Within, The Passing of the Techno-mages, and the role of technology in love
January 2010

The history of Babylon, from Babylon 5 and Babylon Prime to Crusade
February 2010

Patricia Tallman, Lyta Alexander, and the path to extremism
June 2010

Matthew Gideon and the apocalypse
July 2010

Maggie Egan, ISN Jane, and the craftsmanship of delivery
August 2010

Jeanne Cavelos and the perfection of storytelling
November 2010

History and metatheater in the world of Babylon
December 2010

Joe Michael Straczynski and the dark side of Babylon 5
January 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman, star of Diff'rent Strokes, dead

News link here

The oft recounted tragedy of a child star's life is not that they didn't remain a star, but of how their lives went awry in the absence of stardom, or, how they were abused during their stardom by people who should have cared for them, rather than seeking to make money from them.

Gary Coleman faced a lot of problems in life, his health was bad, he was used as a money making vehicle for family, and he was keenly aware that the people who saw him remembered him not for his wit, or abilities, but for his time as an actor on a comedy show. There are many different stories of his struggles to be alive in a quiet existence, but his life didn't allow him to fade away gently, or quietly.

I liked Diff'rent Strokes when I was younger, but now I see it as a facade covering some sad people's lives.

Farewell Gary Coleman, I hope wherever you are now you enjoy your existence more than you did this one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gulf Oil Photo Essay

It almost makes you want to cry. I spent time in the Gulf while in the Navy, and have been on several cruises in the region. Even if the 'topkill' works, this will not be corrected for years, if ever.

Bare-Knuckle Steel Cage Art

I caught the tail end of an interview on the radio today with a choreographer who expressed a wish that some of the interest that we have in this country for sports events could be shown for the arts as well. He felt some optimism due to the exposure dance has gotten from TV programs focusing on competitive ballroom dancing; "ballroom dancing is a form of dance," he conceded.

My immediate reaction was "Yes, but..."

The reason why Americans watch sports is not to admire the ballet-like grace of Brett Favre executing a precision pass, or Michael Jordon soaring over the basketball court; it's to see who wins. Seeing your team play well has a beauty of it's own, to be sure, but we still want to keep score. Skill and artistry are but means to the end; and Vince Lombardi could tell you what that end is: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

The choreographer on the radio admitted as much when he attributed a renewed interest in dance to TV dance competitions. Oh, he put the emphasis on television for bringing dance to the multitudes, but the fact is that television wouldn't be interested and neither would those multitudes unless there was a prize to fight for.

But that got me to thinking. Maybe that's just what Art needs; a little conflict, a little drama; a little good, healthy competition to get people's interest.

But then, isn't this antithetical to the very idea of Capital "A" Art? After all, Art is supposed to be about Beauty and Aesthetics and Good Stuff Like That There, right? The Artist should be pure, creating Art solely for Art's Sake, without crass consideration of commercial value. Otherwise, Art gets dragged down to the level of the Lowest Common Denominator and we'll be stuck with blah, derivative art that imitates whatever's popular at the moment.

Except Art also needs an audience. If no one experiences the Art in one way or the other, it's just a tree in the forest falling on a philosopher when there's no one around to hear him yell. More importantly, even a Starving Artist has got to eat. As Samuel Johnson once said, "No one but a blockhead ever drew nekkid cat-girls except for money." (Or maybe he said something like that).

And even closer to the point, artists compete all the time. They compete against each other for inclusion in art exhibits; for grant money; for seats in an orchestra. It comes with the territory. This Darwinian Survival of the Most Aesthetic generally goes on invisibly, out of the view of the usual consumer of art; but maybe it's time to bring the general public into the process.

Theater was actually born in this type of environment. Greek theater started out as religious rituals, re-enacting old myths and legends of the gods; but by the Classical Era, it had become the tradition to hold competitions. At the Diyonisa, an annual festival in Athens, prominent community figures would produce plays that would compete against each other and the audience would vote on the best. Most of the Greek plays that have come down to us were entries in this competition.

Now granted, the Greek plays that are most highly-regarded today weren't always the ones who won the prize; but the very fact that they were a part of the competition brought them to an audience.

So would this type of thing work in other areas of art? It's an interesting indea. Composer and satirist Peter Schickele once offered a suggestion along similar lines:

New Horizons in Music Appreciation.

Then again, maybe what Art Galleries needs is more cheerleaders.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One of the Good guys: Douglas Dial of Hometown Comics

Douglas Dial and I began our internet friendship via the social network Myspace. He had a profile pic of Nick Fury as a Skrull and I left him comments saying Krees rule. Eventually he poked back, and really, its been fun.

He owns a store in Edwardsville, Illinois, and it is called Hometown Comics. When he told me he had some big news I thought to suggest an interview, and I am very glad he said yes.

Alex: Why do comics?

Douglas Dial:
We LOVE comics! The amazing mix of story and art is fantastic! It is the ambrosia that we live for! Hollywood gets it wrong more than right with a lot of their adaptations. Movie fans are discovering they've been cheated out of a lot of great entertainment. Comics are being seen as a more viable entertainment option as the stigma of being only kids fare diminishes.

What is exciting about selling comics right now?

It is exciting to be surprised by the level of storytelling and art that can be produced on a page. It is most satisfying to have people who, after making their first visit here, come back to thank us for the recommendation and ask for something else that will stimulate them.

Do you stock books too or just comics and tpbs?

It is 95% tpb's, a few comic/scifi/fantasy novels. I've got Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter, WWZ, 10¢ Plague, Comic Wars, a bunch of D&D/Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance/ Warhammer/WoW and a few novels by local authors.

When you started were you one of many comic stores?

There was nothing in town when we opened up. Then a Borders showed up 7 months later and two other stores in the area started adding comics to their mix of product sales They've only helped my business by helping to create more comic fans, that eventually come to us.

What is your ultimate dream/goal for your store?

For Hometown Comics to be one of the stores people think of regarding comic shops that provide entertainment for everyone of all ages. To have people come to Hometown Comics every week for their entertainment the same way they currently go to the video, book or music store for those new releases.

Do you do mail order, or online sales?

Just started. People can go to Hometown and order anything we put up there.

When people come to your store what do you want them to think?

I want them to think, "This is where I want to go for comics".

In 10 years will there be single issue comics, or will everyone download from the publishers directly?

In 10 years, there will be a LOT of digital comics. But, people will still want their new comics every week or the latest collected edition. There have been some interesting attempts at animating existing comics, Watchmen, Astonishing X-Men, Iron Man, Spider-woman to name a few. I'd like to see the quality improve on those.

What do you think of the comic market in general and the direct market in particular?

I think that the industry needs to get control of their deadlines. There is a LOT of hype for things that end up late. We retailers order for two months down the road. One example. Spawn #197 just came out the beginning of May 2010. It was supposed to ship in October 2009. Meanwhile, I recently placed my order for Spawn #204 which is supposed to come out in June. I do not see Image publishing 7 new issues of Spawn by June. Companies should solicit in a catalog what they know they can publish, not just put stuff in a catalog to have something listed in a catalog. Some fans get mad and I tell them, "I can't make them publish the books any faster. We all have to wait til the get their...stuff together". Then I show them something else to spend their Spawn money upon that did come out on time.

Tell me, about your store’s selection

We maintain over 3000 tpb/gn's in stock and growing. Different, unique books not just DC and Marvel. Borders and Barnes & Noble will pad their shelves with multiple copies to make it seem like they have a lot. We had to buy more shelves to display them all. Some of the best stuff is Independant Publishers. The only way a small "mom-n-pop" shop like this can compete with multi-million dollar corporations is to have what people want when they want it and to know what they're talking about regardless of how obscure. We don't get paid extra to push the Marvel or DC stuff. We try to spotlight great works coming out regardless of their publisher, that leads me to my news. Who do you think of when you think of comic horror writers?


He's coming here.


He has a new series with IDW titled, "Mystery Society". Steve will embark on a 13 store signing tour starting the day issue 1 arrives, May 26th. He will arrive at Hometown Comics on June 8th.


The closest store on the tour to here is either Pennsylvania or Texas. The 1000 copies we're getting have our logo on the cover that will be available at Hometown Comics on May 26th.


Steve Niles! One of today's most acclaimed horror writers, best known for 30 Days of Night, as well as Spawn, Batman, Criminal Macabre, and MANY other, is coming to Edwardsville! Steve has a new series that releases on May 26th, titled, "Mystery Society" produced by IDW Publishing! He is embarking on a signing tour across the U.S. to promote this awesome new series. Cities include L.A., Houston, Pittsburgh, Boston, NYC, Miami ... and EDWARDSVILLE!

Hometown Comics is proud to be a part of this event to bring Steve to town for you, the fans, to meet and get things signed by him. The closest stores that are participating are Pittsburgh and Houston. There will be a LOT of people wanting to meet Steve and get their books signed.

IDW has printed up for us 1000 copies of an exclusive variant cover of "Mystery Society" #1 which you can see in the pictures gallery. Steve will be signing all 1000 copies. Also, because we want people to have the chance to read as much of Steve's work, all Steve Niles books are 20% off! That is, except for "30 Days Of Night Volume 1", which is HALF PRICE! Only $9 instead of $18! This sale continues while supplies last until the day Steve arrives at Hometown Comics on June 8th!

Pricing on Mystery Society #1 as follows:
"Mystery Society" #1-Regular Cover is $3.99
"Mystery Society" #1-Special Variant is $8.99
"Mystery Society" #1-Hometown Comics Variant is $3.99 for regular subscribers at Hometown Comics until after June 8th. $4.99 for non-subscribers who prepay by May 25th. $5.99 for non-subscribers from May 26th-June 7th. $6.99 on June 8th.

Any questions, call 618-655-0707

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is it so tragic?

Here is an example of how beautiful people are the darlings of media. Brittany Murphy died to much sorrow. Her husband, Simon Monjack, 8 years older and not nearly so beautiful dies and people barely flinch.

Brittany Murphy was beautiful. Simon Monjack was not. But they are both far too young to have died.

The tragedy of loss of both is immense.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Being -- Or Non-being

To be, or not to be -- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

To die, to sleep
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep -- perchance to dream -- ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause.

There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Making Sex Work

As a man I suppose I should stay out of this discussion. It would make me look like one of those guys who favors this because he likes porn or prostitution. While this may be true, at least at some point in my life, I think the women in this video make valid points on a number of issues.

This is a subject that is not discussed, certainly not by the Mainstream Media, unless like Fox often does, can use it as an excuse to show scantily clad women. Which, of course, they then condemn. Just something to think about!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A great artist passes away

Frank Frazetta lived a full life, doing great work. But the selfish instinct we have is to desire him around to continue to paint. Rest in Peace Mr. Frazetta, we wish that you had never passed behind the veil.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Plea to Todd McFarlane to please make money

Dear Todd McFarlane

Steve Niles is now a very popular writer, he is famous now for 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and you might remember when Niles wrote Spawn the Dark Ages and Hellspawn. I'd very much enjoy paying the little money I have to you in exchange for collected versions of those runs.

Thank you
Alex Ness

Dear Reader...

Spawn: The Dark Ages in my opinion was a comic book series worth collecting as a trade paperback (TPB).

Lord Covenant is a 12th Century knight killed in holy crusade and is returned to earth as a Spawn from Hell. He is faced then with a choice that marks him as either hero, or demon. Does he choose to defend his people, his countrymen, or, does he join in the deathly task of killing and causing havok.

The setting is perfect, the Norse wars are just about to peak, the violence of the era palpable, and, the first 14 issues of the book established an interesting world. But, whatever the quality of those issues, Steve Niles, Nat Jones and Ashley Wood took the book, and made it incredibly powerful, even if not a lot of people bought it. The raging choices of morality, decisions based upon his flesh versus soul, and the imminent threat to his land lead Covenant to make decisions that remind the reader why they read heroic fantasy.

The mood is horror, the setting is medieval and violent, and the work, while somewhat raw, is very well done. Niles is in his perfect place, being able to show horror while depicting the thoughts and emotions behind the decisions. Nat Jones is decidedly perfect for the genre, the work is angular and jagged, depicting the emotions of the story. And, Ashley Wood kicks major ass upon the work on most of the covers, particularly the last few of the run. i.e. If you enjoy horror this book has it. If you dislike other versions of Spawn, this one has meat to the story that goes beyond gore. If you like heroic fantasy, this book works in that fashion too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dark Humor to waken a spirit.

Please click the pic to get the full view

When I am depressed I need something to crack open the ice upon my heart.

Shakes the Clown does it for me.

It is a dark, horribly dark humorous satire of the world of entertainment. Clowns, Mimes and Clowns who are Television hosts are analogues for Comedians, Actors and Talk Show hosts. Ready yourself to be repulsed and shocked, but then, realize this work is free from cliché and works to tell a story that is an allegory for a world you might not realize exists. It is dark, yes, but it is also funny, and affective.

Why am I depressed? Original member of and Poplitiko Alan Coil died upon April 30th, 2010 of a massive heart attack. He was one of my better friends in this world, and I will miss him, deeply.