Friday, October 30, 2015

True Horror to Consider


Across the world there are brutal conflicts.  Some are over territory, others are about who has power.  Some wars are about the ethnic or religious differences involved in the power struggles.  When adults fight, that is bad enough, but as wars get more violent, evil, and ruthless, children are made to fight.  If Halloween is a celebration of darkness, let us consider real darkness, and how to get rid of it.

Click the images for higher resolution.




Not that adults should fight and kids not.  But let children have a childhood.




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

SANCTUM returns









Three times in the past I've pointed readers to Sanctum from Humanoids.  Well, the best just got better.  They've redone some dialogue, edited some art, and added a buttload more pages.  The work is now 600 pages, with better scenes, clarity, and ideas.  That is, I thought before that the work was very good but felt a slight bit unfinished.  And now, about 400 pages bigger, I can't think anything except, hmmmmm baby!

CLICK IT!  HUMANOIDS





































































Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Japanese Artist Noriyoshi Ohrai passes away


Noriyoshi Ohrai is known to most American nerds, geeks, and culture freaks for his work on Star Wars posters and images.  His works is sublime, recognizable, and unique.  Farewell sir.







Sunday, October 25, 2015

JOSH BROWN UFF-DA'S Man of many hats


JOSH BROWN
Writer, Editor, Publisher

I am pleased to present this interview with my friend and publisher, (and editor and format specialist) Josh Brown.  I met him on Myspace, then at FallCon, and I can't say I immediately got to know him, it was a slow process, but I immediately liked him, respected him, and appreciated working with him.  And then he brought his son to the shows, and he is adorable.  So, I thought, since I do lots of writing, and Josh has helped bring much of that to you all, maybe you should get to know him.  Here is my interview then, with Josh.

For the record please state your name, job, and reason for writing...


Hi, I'm Josh Brown, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons. 

Reason for writing is a great question – I grew up as an only child and I guess a vivid imagination came as a result of playing alone a lot of the time. Making up people, situations, entire worlds, was just something I did. I also started reading at an early age and have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. When I was about 7 or 8 I wrote a story called "The Bat Who Hated Other Bats" about a little bat who was mean to other bats until one day he looked in a mirror and realized he was also a bat. I remember my mom and grandma just loving the story and always encouraging me to be creative.

Fast forward about 15 years and I was a college grad with an English degree and a dream. I somehow stumbled into the publishing industry, first working in magazines, then with a non-fiction book publisher, then an audiobook publisher, and now I work for a book sales and distribution company. In my "spare time" I write comics, short stories, and poetry, and have also dabbled in publishing (not just talking about self-publishing either, mind you) under an imprint I call Uffda Press.


What was your first published work, did you get paid, what would you do differently on it today looking back?

In college I wrote articles for the Arts & Entertainment section of the school newspaper, the UMD Statesman.  It did pay, but not much. It got me into a lot of free concerts and museums and arts shows and such, though. That led to some more creative writing and I had a couple short stories published in UMD's literary journal, The Roaring Muse. One of the stories was pretty well-received; it was about a troubled college professor who basically threw his entire life away trying to prove the existence of Loch Ness monster-type of creature living in Lake Superior. Looking back I sometimes think I should have tried to do more with the creative writing at the time, but hey, like they say, hindsight is 20/20.


Did you get educated for a career as a writer?  If so, would you recommend the same sort of path for others?  Why or why not?


Sort of. I have a BA in English Literature and worked at the college newspaper. I loved working at the Statesman, and saw myself as going into journalism, but UMD did not offer journalism as a major or minor at that time. I think they added it was a minor the year after I graduated. So I would say I was educated for a career in publishing, but the writing sort of happened on its own.


After I graduated college I started doing more creative writing on my own. I hooked up with a couple artist friends and wrote some short comic stories that got picked up here and there, including one that was published in Negative Burn, a fairly prestigious and well-known anthology at the time. I had a poem published in Abandoned Towers Magazine, a genre zine that is now defunct. I began to experiment a little with self-publishing. I just starting writing more – comics, poems, short stories – and submitted. And got rejected. A lot. Heck, I still get a lot of rejections. It's part of the game.


In the end, I guess the best advice I can give is to not only put your work out there, but to also put yourself out there – network, make friends, be part of the community.


What dead authors are your favorites?  Do they inspire you, or do they just entertain you?

I would say there are two authors that are no longer with us that stand out for me: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings changed my life; it's what made me a fan of fantasy fiction. And Howard, man, I have always loved Conan the Barbarian and fantasy pulp and Howard's hardboiled take on the fantasy genre. The inspiring part I think is that both Tolkien and Howard were also amazing poets as well. Tolkien is pretty well known for his poems and translations of poems, but Howard doesn't seem to get as much recognition for his. Which is a shame, because it is fantastic stuff. Robert E. Howard's fantasy poems are just incredible.
 

Describe your office or I should say, your work station when you are working, is there music, pets, kids, wife, do you deal well with distractions?


I definitely wait until the kids are in bed. I usually just sit on the couch with my computer on my lap and my feet up on the ottoman. I occasionally have something playing on Netflix, or some melodic movie score playing on my iPod, but a lot of time I write with no tv or music at all. Just me and the words. I'm a morning person, so I also sometimes get up early to write. And sometimes writing just happens spontaneously – I get a couple ideas and I have to write them down in a notepad, or type them out on my phone or tablet. Writing can happen anywhere.


What kind of books haven't been successful in the market of books, that really have great potential, and what books reap enormous sales and you see them as being blech, unoriginal and booooring?


I really wish we could see speculative poetry books sell a lot more in the mainstream marketplace. Poetry books in general can be a hard sell, but I am a huge fan of fantastic poetry that draws from elements of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror.

Also, maybe because I am both a father to young children and a lover of great art and illustration/comics, I would love to see more in the way of children's picture books. It seems like the children's book market is completely dominated by most of the "big" publishers, but if you look hard enough, there are some great kids books out there from other, smaller publishers. I think we're primed to see an uptick in more quality children's picture books from a wide range of different publishers. 

I really hate to call any book unoriginal and boring. It's all a matter of personal tastes, and no matter how boring I may think a book is, there is sure to be a group of superfans rallying behind it.


 What impact has social media played in the creative world, how has it directly influenced your writing and being published, and how could it be better?


If you're an author and you're not promoting your work though social media, you might as well be a ghost. In this day and age, even the large publishers such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster expect their authors to be "pounding the pavement" via social media. It's as important as book tours, if not more so, these days.

I'm not certain there's any direct influence on how or what I write, but for example, whenever I tweet about the latest installment of Shamrock in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, there's a noticeable upswing in activity, from page views to retweets to favorites.  So there's no denying it helps get you out there.

How could social media be better? I dunno, seems like it's working fine so far, but the great thing about technology is that it is always evolving; someone is always out there working to improve upon what we already have.


If you had a money is no object situation, what would you do in publishing, assuming of course, that you would, and, why would you go in that direction?


Speaking as a publisher, I would love to publish more speculative poetry because, as I mentioned previously, I love it and think there should be more of it out there on bookstore shelves. If money were no object I would put the bulk of it towards marketing and advertising, because in my experience and from what I have learned about publishing, that's a big part of how books become successful.  Aside from the fact that they have to be good, of course!


What is the point of it all?  Doesn't digital wipe out the joy of reading, of buying books, of reading books?


Hell no! Books are books and a good story is a good story, no matter the format. I love hardcovers, paperbacks, digital, audio – heck, if books could be injected intravenously I probably would do that too! I will buy a book at the store, order a book online, download a book on my e-reader, buy an audiobook CD, download an mp3, or read some short stories and poetry online from webzines such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Fantasy Scroll, Lightspeed, you name it. To me, having all these options adds to the joy of reading!


Where do you want to take your career?

Well, as far as writing, I've been trying for some time to crack the short speculative fiction market, but it's a tough nut. Going to keep trying my hand at that. Somewhat to my surprise, I've had decent luck with poetry, so I plan on continuing to churn out some verse. I definitely want to continue to write comics, and hope to someday have a collected edition of "Shamrock," which is currently serialized in fantasy Scroll Magazine. Would love it if someday a comic publisher came knocking on my door inviting me to write for an established property. That's been a dream of mine since I was a kid.

As far as publishing, I really feel like there are voices out there that need to be heard, and I'll continue to look for quality speculative fiction and poetry to publish under my Uffda Press imprint. At the moment I'm more focused in seeking out and publishing speculative poetry, but I would love to put another anthology together sometime soon as well.



What does it mean to write?  Are you different than an artist?


Writing is definitely an art. It means everything to write. You are putting a piece of yourself out there – your mind, your body, your soul. But it's also kind of a science, and a craft, and you have to be careful to hone your craft, practice, continually strive to get better. And, for better or for worse, there's also a business side to it, that is, if you are attempting to make a living at it.

 Tell us about what you have coming up.

Well, most recently I had a short horror story titled “The View From the Attic” included in a horror anthology called Toys in the Attic from JWK Fiction, I had a story in The Martian Wave 2015 from Nomadic Delirium Press, I had a flash fiction piece published on SpeckLit, and of course there was King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology with a story from myself and 12 other absolutely amazing writers. I feel like we really took the Arthurian legend to the next level with that one.

Coming up, I have a poem titled “Flame of Cthulhu” set to appear in an erotic horror anthology called Lovecraft After Dark from JWK Fiction, I have a poem titled “The Tragedy of Dracula’s Daughter” set to appear in Popcorn Press's 2015 Halloween anthology  Zen of the Dead, I have another poems to run in Beechwood Review, I have another piece of flash fiction set to appear on SpeckLit, a short story in a dystopian-themed anthology coming from Hydra Publications, and my comic "Shamrock" with art by Alberto Hernandez continues to be serialized in Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

2015 has been a heck of a year, and I'm hopeful I can keep the momentum going into 2016!

Links to All Things Josh:

Josh's twitter

Josh's website

Josh's Amazon page

Uffda Press

Fantasy Scroll Magazine

King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology

Toys in the Attic

The Martian Wave 2015

SpeckLit

JWK Fiction

Popcorn Press
http://www.popcornpress.com

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Comics I gave Away, And the Comics I bought to give away

Over the years as a comic book fan with a blog, with a website, and reviewer with companies sending product for review, I felt a responsibility to send comics to fans, and especially to people who weren't able to buy any for themselves.  I sent comics to poor men, sleeping overnight at friend's homes with only a PO Box.  I sent comics to military members overseas.  I sent comics to many people and I didn't do it for praise, I did it so that my conscience could be clear should I not review a comic it would immediately be placed in a box for other people to read.

But those were not the only comics I gave away.  I gave away some kick ass comics from my personal list of great comics as well. I would look for cheap copies and try to buy as many if I found them cheap.   This is a column featuring the comics I gave to people, and the comics I chose due to greatness.

You could no doubt point and choose a lot of great comics, they exist.  But these are from my years in the trenches.  And I do get asked, "how many have you mailed out".  I've given away at conventions, schools and through the mail a total of over 4000 comics.  And at no point did I regret any of it.


The Spectre: Crime and Punishments by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake is a fabulous collection, however small it seems.  DC regrettably did not make it 6 issues thick, nor did they follow up with more, but it is stunning, and the series itself is beautifully bright, smart, and provocative.  Who knew a comic could raise questions about God and Good and Evil in Heaven and Earth.  Good stuff.  I gave a copy (of many I've shared) of this to friend Barry Keller who read it and said, you know this fella Tom Mandrake might have a future in comics.  I surely agreed, and that cat Ostrander ain't too bad either.

Hexbreaker: A Badger Graphic Novel is a hoot.  Mike Baron tells a fun, mostly light hearted story that has action, fun characters, and interesting philosophies.  People I've given it to say they like it but, are split often between wanting Kung Fu (ala the ABC series in the 1970s) or Mortal Kombat style action.  This work is too thoughtful for one, and t0o humorous for the other.  Instead it is just really good.

Gotham By Gaslight is a Batman Elseworlds short graphic novel.  It is set in the Victorian era, and Jack the Ripper is in his day, ripping and notoriously taunting those who hunt him.   The Batman comes into being in this alternative time line 100 years earlier, and has to catch the most vile serial killer of all time.  This is a brilliant work and I've given away well over 25 copies of this.

Silver Surfer Parable is a work that kicked my ass, and then ran a steamroller over me.  I had always seen the potential for greatness in Silver Surfer but I was rarely satisfied with any work I read.  It was either a mediocre story with great art or shitty art and interesting writing.  But here, even with the fact that Stan Lee hasn't ever really moved me as a writer, we see Galactus land upon earth, and people rush to him, convinced he is their God.  Silver Surfer must now stop him, and save earth, all the while knowing, one false move, and Galactus will act with no shame, as the consequence of holding him to his word will not work for long.  I think I bought five of the softcover of these, but kept my hardcover.  And then I traded the hardcover and started seeing hardcovers for sale.  It is a book I love, because Moebius was born to draw characters in space, and flying. 


Giving away comics I was very aware that people outside of comics often think super heroes are stupid or juvenile.  I am a 52 year old male with a Master's Degree in History with some work in Political Science and I've had two IQ tests that suggest I have an IQ in the range of 150.  I think super heroes are not stupid, nor are they juvenile.  What they are is wearing uniforms, just as a legendary hero attacking the dragon wears armor, or carries a shield with a marking of the king, so to do these heroes.  It is a symbol, not realism.  Still, not everyone thinks like me, or like that.  (Thank God for the first, and oh well to the second).  So, the comic Scout is perfect to give.  A world where the US has fallen and is struggling while we are fighting to stay alive against the vultures who wish harm to come to us?  Sounds recent.  Kings in Disguise is a historical comic, told from the point of view of young boy who runs away, becomes a hobo, and travels the Depression era US.  It is so deep it makes me feel like we are still in the Depression.  And Automatic Kafka?  It is a comic book you give to the artists and thinkers in your life.  Ashley Wood and Joe Casey created something so different the parent company DC canceled it before the audience could find it, but if it had been allowed to grow, I can only imagine the heights it would have reached.  It isn't for everybody, but it is genius work.


I know people who hate these books, but I would make sure not to give these books to those kind of jerks.  These are stories told where the heroes from the comics are morphed into characters from classic movies, and the archetypes they follow meld the two worlds and characters together.  And the beauty of these is that if you don't like them you can set them down, never pick them up again, and move on.  I personally think DC is brilliant to have done Elseworlds as they call them because Alternative worlds allows the reader to see the grace and power of the characters they love, without the trappings of costume or world they live in.  It can't really be done with less iconic characters, so Alternative stories at Marvel rarely ring true.  But, I'd be willing to be wrong.  These books I've given three sets (and kept a set for myself, shamelessly.)  I really like these and if I could I'd share more.


As many who follow my writings and interviews here know, I like the work Winter World and the reason I like it is for the great writing and the incredible art.   This is a series that went unnoticed for years, so, I was able to buy a number of sets for cheap, and share them.  Most people liked the story, some were iffy about the setting, thinking it was anti global warming, which it was so not.  (At the time it was written it was between the 70s fear of a new Ice Age and the early 90s Global Warming).  But everyone admitted, every aspect of the work was amazing. 


Under rated is how I would describe the value of Airboy, by Chuck Dixon, and a cast of many different artists, but in the beginning it had Dixon, Timothy Truman & Tom Yeates.  Although it had some flak for being a book of combat in a world that, in the 80s, was becoming more alarmed by brushfire wars, the comic itself was magnificent.  I gave away perhaps 10 or 12 sets of these, and never heard a sour pus remark in return.  As is proper.  IDW is collecting the series now and it is magnificent.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Biggest War in History


India has a great mythic history that has been captured in books and comics.  I've shared previously that I was a great big ass fan of Virgin Comics and I was very depressed when the company quit production and moved to smaller efforts and mostly aimed back towards India rather than the USA, Canada and the UK.  But, I understand it.  I told people every time I bought the comics, I am chasing a fleeting dream.  I know this won't end well, but I have hope, however small it is.  And the best stories were found in the Ramayan, which was very nearly about the end of the world.  It featured enormous battles with creatures from the sweeping tales and mythic lands and legends of the fertile minds of India.  I loved it.  The art is gorgeous, and while the writing takes a bit of time to get worked through the western mind, I liked it, and the overall story is worthwhile, and worth seeking out in single issue or tpb.


The Book Ramayana was written by a great poet, known now, in the present as the FIRST poet, Valmiki.  It tells the story of a prince, Rāma of Ayodhyā, whose wife Sītā is abducted by the demon-king (Rākṣasa) of Laṅkā, Rāvaṇa   It happened thousands of years ago in India.  And Prince Rama and Lord Krishna were called to fight.  The wages of war, alliances broken, betrayals, friends made, interventions by the gods, tremendous displays of bravery, were beyond any previous or later examples.  This was the true battle of all time.  What, you didn't hear about it?  You've probably been kept from reading about it since it is found in a country's history not your own, in that country's native religion, Hindu, and is considered by historians and academics to be "myth".  But, as you might well know, from my writings on myth, I think it has something that we can learn from.  In myth, and legend, we capture our values, beliefs, and ideals. 


Not every book of myth and legend is about war, but even if they are, as the Bhagavad Gita is, it captures a great deal of truth, spiritual fact, and words to live by.  As a Christian I grew reading the Bhagavad Gita, and when my mom died in 2012 I spoke at her funeral, and my words inspired some, as they told me afterward. 

"You grieve for those who should not be grieved for;
yet you speak wise words.
Neither for the dead nor those not dead do the wise grieve.
Never was there a time when I did not exist
nor you nor these lords of men.
Neither will there be a time when we shall not exist;
we all exist from now on.
As the soul experiences in this body
childhood, youth, and old age,
so also it acquires another body;
the sage in this is not deluded."


The book Bhagavad Gita provided for me the answer, despite knowing it, the words to answer, why should we not mourn.  My mother had died, but she suffered deeply from Alzheimer's.  Before that thief of memory, she was smart, spry, and energetic to a point of making others tired.  After it drained her, she was no longer herself.  I missed her, but, for 7 years, I already missed her.  But I knew that her spirit was alive, someplace safe, good, and happier.

As comic book collector I breathed a sigh of relief, sort of when I found some graphic novels on sale that looked remarkably like those that Virgin had put out.  I am not yet certain, and haven't confirmed that they are linked.  But when I am done reading them, I'll let you know.


 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Entering the waters of the political swamp


We approach in the US the one year mark from voting to change the regime in Washington DC.  And as the sides debate within themselves about who has the voice to challenge the other side for the final choice, we are faced with questions that talk about America, and the root of who we truly are.

Do we accept others?
Do we accept ourselves?
Are we a great country?
Are we a good people?
Do we have a goal and reason for optimism?
Why bother?
What is the fucking point?


 Here is the point, from where I see it.

American culture stands upon a precipice.  The people who voted for Obama should be satisfied with the many changes made.  The people who voted the other direction are outraged by the changes.  Either the silent majority who voted in 2004 who surprised America will return, siding with the outrage, or the revolution and change will carry on.  Either direction will bring more anger, more hate, and more division.  I am not voting major party.  But as you can see with my farcical Third Party hopeful list, I do not expect to win.

How Obama and his regime has changed America is in ways great in size, and vast in kind.  How the Bush administration changed America was in tone.  Where America goes and how it goes there, the popular media will tell the story.

I just hope that when the revolution or counter-revolutions happen, the news is serious, and I can find it, and not instead find Kim Kardashian and Kanye West being focused on.  Being she is nothing.  And he is a fool. 

Let us pray, meditate, concentrate, mediate, whatevertate that we survive the year.
Amen.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

Yes siree I've mentioned this fellow before. Yep. I like his work. Alan Dean Foster


No one in America could possibly ignore the impact of Star Wars upon the popular culture of the west, or particularly the United States.  It went further than that, obviously, but, Alan Dean Foster interpreted George Lucas's words in the first Star Wars book, wrote his own SW novel, for the first trilogy, and returned with an amazing work for the third.  His work is trusted, because it retains all the spirit and quality of the products it translates, while adding his voice, which is great.  I am waiting for the new book which will feature the new series, The Force Awakens.  I will like it I am sure.  I've never NOT enjoyed an ADF book.


I am guilty of preferring the series of movies, books, and universe of ALIEN to Star Wars.  I find the realism and horror to make more sense, and Sigourney Weaver is amazing.  So the fact that ADF wrote this series, until the later sequels, it just makes sense.  It was great, and so were his interpretations.

I love many of ADF's works.  Icerigger is perfect for me, as I love works happening in arctic or polar settings.  However, I am uncertain if ADF has spent much time in the polar climes, so it amazes me that he so ably makes my nose freeze with the wind in the work.


MAD AMOS is a favorite work, CACHALOT is as well, and MIDWORLD moves me in many different, but valued ways.  ADF is someone who has enhanced my life, and I look forward to lots more of his work.  Starting with THE FORCE AWAKENS.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

COMICS FROM DC AND MARVEL TO READ FOR HALLOWEEN

The time is approaching when people in costumes knock on your door and demand candy or tricks.  Be certain to have comics or candy with you, to prevent disaster.

Both Marvel and DC have long histories of good comics, and covering more genres than simply that of super heroics.  Horror and dark mysteries is one of the best that the Big Two have covered.  As a reader who began in the late 1960s and has paid attention until the present, it is of some great pleasure to see the many great works reprinted for those who weren't alive yet, or who didn't have the money then.  Enclosed are pics of great works, and a few links to help your quest.


hor·ror
ˈhôrər
noun
noun: horror
1.
an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.






DC'S Mature comic imprint VERTIGO







Friday, October 9, 2015

The Trouble With Doom


The FANTASTIC FOUR has not had a lot of luck in Hollywood.

During the period of its bankruptcy, Marvel sold the movie rights to several of it's properties to various studios. The first film version of FANTASTIC FOUR, directed by the legendary master of quick 'n' dirty film-making, Roger Corman, was cranked out solely to prevent the rights from reverting back to Marvel and so that the license-holder could sell the license to 20th Century Fox; something which no one bothered to tell the cast and crew. All prints of the film were destroyed, except for the inevitable bootleg copies which quickly surfaced at sleazy dealers' tables at comics conventions next to unauthorized VHS tapes of the 1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA and un-dubbed nth-generation copies of DIRTY PAIR.

The 2005 movie had it's good points, and introduced the public to Chris Evans, whose Johnny Storm was one of the better things about it, and who later did an excellent job as Steve Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA and AVENGERS. On the whole, though, it was uneven. The character bits with Johnny and Ben were good, but Reed came off as boring and Sue... well, to be honest Stan Lee wasn't always sure what to do with Sue either. And as for Doctor Doom... but I'll be getting to that.

The recent reboot had a rocky relationship with the fans even before it was released, and not rocky in a good, Ben Grimm sort of way. I didn't really care much when fans howled about a black actor being cast to play Johnny Storm, because I remembered how they howled over Idris Elba being cast as Heimdall in THOR, and before that over Michael Clarke Duncan being cast as Kingpin in DAREDEVIL, (of all the things wrong with the Ben Affleck DAREDEVIL, a black Kingpin was far from the worst), and before that over the rumors that Eddie Murphy would be cast as Robin the Boy Wonder in the 1989 BATMAN; (which turned out to be untrue, but made me wonder what Batman would be like with an all-black cast: Michael Jackson as the Joker? Scatman Crothers as Alfred?)

The notion of a black Johnny didn't bother me in the sense of taking a character who was white in the comics and making him black; (The 2005 FF did that with Alicia Masters, and frankly she was one of the more interesting characters in the film); as much as I was afraid it would wreck the sibling chemistry between Johnny and Sue. The sense that the Four are a family has always been a big part of the comic's identity. The trailers did much to reassure me that family would indeed be a theme in the movie. Yet I couldn't help but wonder, if they absolutely had to make the team more racially diverse, why they had to make the hot-headed wise-cracking kid be the black one. Making Reed Richards black would have been interesting.

But the fan anger over the non-caucasian Human Torch was nothing compared to how they reacted when Tony Kebell, the actor playing Doctor Doom made this startling revelation:

“He's Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I'm sure I'll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours – I'm a programmer. Very anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I'm 'Doom'”

Well, in the final version his name was changed back to “Von Doom”, but this points to a problem I think the most recent film incarnations of the team has had: How do you take a guy in armor and a cape calling himself “Doom” seriously?

Granted, George Lucas managed to pull it off when he called the character “Darth Vader”; (I've read that when STAR WARS was first released, more than one comics fan looked at Vader and said, “It's Doctor Doom!” and that Lucas has admitted to have used the character as a visual inspiration). And the Roger Corman version stayed pretty close to the classic Doctor Doom. But that might be the problem: a straight comics-to-film adaptation of the FANTASTIC FOUR would look as cheesy as, well, the Adam West BATMAN.

So how should the movies handle Doom? As I see it, there are four essential problems with Doctor Doom.

First off is the name. Victor Von Doom. Even the Marvel Ultimates comic book, which the latest movie used as its inspiration, tried to distance itself from the cheesy name by calling it's villain “Van Damm.” But you know, sometimes you just gotta embrace the cheese. If I were writing a Fantastic Four movie, this is how I would have it play out:

Early on, we would have a scene in which Doctor Doom is mentioned. Perhaps there's an item on the TV news about the King of Latveria coming to New York to address the UN or something. Johnny mocks the name. “What kind of a name is 'Von Doom?'”

“Actually, it's a fairly common name in Latveria,” Reed explains. “I had a roomie in college from Latveria, and his name was Doom. You remember Vic, don't you Ben?”

Ben snorts. “Yeah. What a horse's patoot he was! Didn't he get kicked out of school when he blew up that lab?”

Then later on, the group's adventures would lead them to Latveria where they would meet Doom in person.

“Richards! We meet again at last!”

“What...? Wait... Vic? Is that you, Vic? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Hey, gang, this is Vic! I was telling you about him. So, Vic, how's life been treating you?”

“SILENCE!!!”

The Ruritanian country of Latveria actually works better today than it did back in the Silver Age. In a modern setting, I could envision it as a breakaway Soviet republic which suffered a period of political instability following the end of the Soviet Union until a brilliant technological genius assumed control of the government and revitalized its economy. True, his record on human rights leaves something to be desired, but he has brought a new level of prosperity and prestige to his tiny nation. Even the castles and the cheesy Old World costumes can be seen as a nationalistic revival after decades of Soviet domination.

Then there's the armor. Why would a tin-pot dictator go around in public wearing a... well, a tin pot? Here the movies were working under a distinct disadvantage. The obvious way to address this issue would be to have somebody, probably Johnny, comment that this guy must think he's Tony Stark or something. The 20th Century Fox films, naturally, could not invoke characters from the Avengers corner of the Marvel Universe, but comparing Doom to Stark would give the audience a point of reference. The mask is another problem. In the comics, Doom wears the mask because his face is hideously scarred and he refuses to let anybody see it. Hasn't he ever heard of plastic surgery? They're doing wonderful things with skin grafts these days, you know. I don't really have a good fix for this, other than just establish it as a given and move on to something else.

The biggest problem the most recent movies have had, in my opinion, is that they feel a need to combine Doom's origin story with that of the rest of the group. Perhaps the film-makers feel that the audience will be confused if they have more than one origin in a movie; perhaps they felt that giving him a connection to the Four would strengthen the narrative. I think they were wrong.

Doom does not have super-powers in the same sense that the other do; his body was not altered to give him extraordinary abilities. Doom's power is his super-intellect; his super-technology. Giving him metal skin instead of armor and bogus “powers” instead of gadgets lessens him.

In addition, the Four are already a distinct unit. They're a family; Doom's an outsider. As others have noted, their powers are inspired by the four classical elements: Earth, (Ben); Fire, (Johnny, of course); Water, (Reed is sort of fluid, isn't he?); and Air, (okay, Sue's not a perfect fit but she's close). Doom doesn't fit the theme. He's a fifth wheel. Okay, in Chinese philosophy there is a fifth element, Metal, but having a metal suit doesn't give him metal powers.

No, I think trying to graft Doom onto the Four's origin is a mistake. Better to let him be his own man with his own background. He already has a personal connection with Reed; they knew each other back in college. That's enough of a narrative link between the two. If we really want to push it further, we could find a parallel between the hubris which led Doom to the lab explosion which disfigured him, and Reed's recklessness in bringing his friends on an experimental voyage without proper radiation shielding. Lots of possibilities for angst there without feeling a need to invent metal powers for Doom.

It will probably be a long time before we get another cinematic look at Doctor Doom; possibly not until Marvel regains the movie rights to the Fantastic Four, if that ever happens. And if it does, the studios certainly won't go looking to me for advice.

But for what it's worth, this is my advice. Yes, the Fantastic Four comic can be cheesy; but being embarrassed by it makes the cheesiness only more evident. Sometimes you just gotta embrace the cheese.

So speaks Doom.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Suicide Prevention


There are various reasons people try, and people fail, and people succeed.  But the truth is, people are left behind by the one doing the suicide, and it hurts them.  Help is available. 

Suicides have been captured in art, and by images of the news.  Enclosed below are four pics, three in public domain, one from LIFE magazine, entitled "The Most Beautiful Suicide", but don't fool yourself, no corpse ends up looking beautiful, when it shouldn't be dead.


And not to be glib, but, think of the poor bastard who had his car ruined, or what if someone had been in that car.  It wouldn't be so beautiful then.

Copyright LIFE MAGAZINE 1947