Sunday, November 23, 2014

What It Is – week ending 23 November [2014]

With apologies to Dave the Thune.

Every day.  1000 words.  That’s the goal.

Got sidetracked and took Sunday and Monday off from writing.  Which afforded my mind a chance to wander, and an incident from my childhood reared up (an abandoned and run-down home a few blocks over from my house, which had a single light on in a second floor room – prompting chills and the question of why the electricity was still on in the house).  Over the course of the week, I wrote a story using this as a springboard, something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and I’m fairly happy with the first draft.  A bit under 5,000 words, I know it will need some serious cleaning up.  But I like the point of view I took and the tone I tried to carry throughout the whole thing.  Anxious to revise this and set it off in the wild sometime next year.

CINDER & ASHE by Gerry Conway and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  Once you get past the horrendous Cajun accent Gerry Conway places in one of the main character’s mouths, this is a pretty good series.  Beautiful artwork, a compelling and multi-layered storyline, with a mystery that makes sense.  Good stuff.  If you can get past that damn accent.

THE FADE OUT & VELVET from Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist: Fade Out), Steve Epting (artist: Velvet), et al.  I haven’t been getting new comics for a  number of months now, preferring to save my money and get collections through the library when they become available.  But Brubaker and his team of collaborators pulled me back in.  I was at the local independent bookstore/music store/video store/game store/comic store, Bull Moose Music, and saw a couple issues of the Fade Out and issues 6-8 of Velvet (I already have 1-5) and had to pick them up.  And they were fantastic.  The thing about these books, besides the engaging and exciting stories, is that they often include short essays in the back related to the narrative material.  They’re the extras you expect in the collection, but they’re in the single issues.  So, for that, and for the fact that I have loved most everything Brubaker has done, independent from the Big Two, I allowed myself to be pulled back in.  And I was not disappointed.  Looking forward to getting these on a regular basis.

THE MULTIVERSITY by Grant Morrison, et al.  And, since I was perusing the comic racks, I figured I should check out the fourth issue of Multiversity, Pax Americana, by Morrison & Frank Quitely, which was burning up my social feeds online this week.  Wow.  When these two artists collaborate, it’s always brilliant.  Taking on the Charlton characters, they infused the comic with many of Alan Moore’s best-known formalistic approaches to telling comic book stories (which, it should be pointed out, are not crutches he used but techniques utilized in specific stories).  In Morrison’s hands – and this could be due to the apparent feud between Morrison and Moore – these feel like tricks used to say:  “See, I can do this too.”  They are well done and enhance the experience of reading the book, but they don’t feel as essential as when Moore utilized them in books such as Watchmen and Promethea.  Could be my prejudice showing through, but I can live with that. 
The earlier issues were also available, and I picked them up too.  They’re just as enjoyable.  Looking forward to seeing where this all ends up.  (and man, that Cameron Stewart cover for the Shazam issue looks phenomenal!)

BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and others.  Finished this book up this week.  It was really enjoyable.  Rogers’s art is amazing in this.  I don’t remember it being as good when he did the Silver Surfer, with Englehart, years later.  But it holds up in this.  And the stories are fun too, even if some subplots are too quickly wrapped up for my taste.  Overall, I would definitely recommend this, especially to a Batman fan.  Great art, good writing (for the most part), and some interesting twists that will keep you engaged. 

TURING’S CATHEDRAL by George Dyson.  I’m 100 pages into the birth of the digital age, and it’s fascinating.  So many names I’d never heard of, scientists, theoreticians, and thinkers – BIG THINKERS – all working toward the creation of a computer, in the early twentieth century.  Good stuff. 

I’m always behind in my movie and TV watching (a not unwelcome result of being a father and writer – these both take time).  But this past week I finally decided to check out Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, or the movie that should have encompassed the entirety of the book but did not.

Yeah, throwing my prejudice right out in front of this one.  The Hobbit was the first book that totally enthralled me and captured my imagination.  It was second grade.  Mrs. Corey read it to us.  I discovered that my uncle had a copy, and I borrowed it so that I could re-read each chapter at home.  I distinctly remember lying on my stomach, up on my bed, and reading my uncle’s hardcover edition – the smell of those, or similar, pages jolts my nostalgia-button in a manner that little else can.  I love that book.

So, it was with trepidation that I read about the three-film adaptation Jackson and his crew were planning.  And this is from someone who loved their Lord of the Rings films and felt them to be exemplary adaptations from Tolkien’s masterpiece. 

So, the first Hobbit film.  It’s entertaining, moves along at a brisk pace, is well acted and engaging, with beautiful scenery and amazing sets and special effects (though some scenes felt surprisingly awkward and not well done, but if you’re reaching beyond your grasp, that is, in general, a good thing).  Certainly, details were changed – as was the case with the Lord of the Rings films – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  When translating a story from one medium to another, it is imperative that the creators understand the differing strengths of each and adjust accordingly.  In that regard, I would say Jackson, et al. have acquitted themselves nicely. 

That said, I don’t find it to be a good adaptation of Tolkien’s book. 

However, I don’t know that I can fault them.  The major issue I have with the film – and let me state that I did enjoy it, and the “issue,” as I see it, did nothing to lessen that – is that it is not faithful to the book.  Unlike the Lord of the Rings, this movie shies far away from the tone of The Hobbit, as written by Tolkien.  Whereas the novel is a book for children that can be appreciated by adults, the film is one that I could never recommend for children.  But, it does match nicely with the tone of the initial films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which makes a lot of sense.  The vast majority of those seeing these films will never have read any of the source material.  And creating a children’s story after the success of the epic Rings movies would be foolish.  I understand completely why they did it.  I just wish it was a film that I could share with my youngest boy. 

For that, I’ve still got the book, and the Rankin/Bass film.

Thanksgiving next week, which means Christmas is coming up quick.  I’ve always loved this time of year – living in Maine, we used to get the type of snow and scenery you’d find in a Norman Rockwell painting; not so much nowadays.  I love Christmas trees and decorations and the classic TV specials and finding just the right gifts for everyone (we don’t shop at the mall, so it’s far more enjoyable than it could be), and I love the fantasy of the entire thing, the magic of Santa bringing joy to kids.  I prefer a secular Christmas – the holiday being a holdover of pagan rituals – and I really get into it.  So much so, that I have taken on something that J.R.R. Tolkien did for his children and write letters from Santa to my boys.  These always include some little adventure or mishap that occurred at the North Pole in the past year, which is the fun part.  I write them on nice, heavy-stock paper or, if I can find it, distinct handmade paper, using a dip pen, while sealing them in wax.  It’s one of the things I look forward to most, at this time of year.  It also means work on the novel will probably be put aside for a bit, but that’s okay.  This is more important.

As always, check out my friends – Brad& Matt and Don McMillan for their own weekly recaps on things comic-y and geeky, and we'll see what's what in seven.  


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