Saturday, July 28, 2012

Skin: A Mike Hammer Story

   When I reviewed the Mike Hammer novel Kiss Her Goodbye, I mentioned that I couldn't tell where Mickey Spillane's material stopped and where his collaborator Max Allan Collins' work began. That's true of Skin: A Mike Hammer Story as well. Collins has the Hammer voice down. Oh there are places where I thought, "That's probably Collins" but really it doesn't matter because no matter who did what, this is a great Mike Hammer story.
   What's extra cool about it is that it's a contemporary tale with digital cameras, cell phones, and DNA evidence, and Hammer, far from being out of touch with the times, wades right in.
   Like most Hammer tales this one gets off to a fast start when Mike, driving home from a police function, spots the grisly remains of a human body on the side of the road. The only thing vaguely recognizable is a surprisingly intact hand. The rest of the corpse is hamburger. Mike's pal Police Captain Pat Chambers, who was following in another car, joins Mike at the crime scene. The local cops show up and it looks like Hammer's part in things is over. If you don't know Mike Hammer that is.
   Mike gets involved and it's much like the old days. There are a couple of swell looking dolls, three if you count the older but still smouldering Velda, and Mike goes hunting with his faithful .45. Mike may be getting on in years but he hasn't mellowed. When he catches up with the killer in a scene that would make Robert Bloch proud, it is again, Hammer Time, and the story goes out with just the sort of Bang that Spillane was famous for.  Anyway, I highly recommend this one, available for the Kindle and well worth your time.

The Old School Action Movie Extravaganza

I was thinking the other day that I'd like to see the original Rambo movie, First Blood. Been forever since I saw it. I actually saw it in the theater originally with my Uncle Ray, fittingly enough the man who taught me how to shoot a gun. Anyway, I figured I'd swing by Movie Stop and get it cheap as a used DVD. Turned out they were having a 'buy three, get one free' sale, so with a little judicious shopping I picked up five vintage action movies. I ended up with:

First Blood (Watched it yesterday. Still a classic action film.)

Terminator 2 (In my opinion the best of the series.)

True Lies (Haven't seen this one since it came out originally.)

Time Cop (One of Van Damme's few A-list movies.)

Judge Dredd (Another that I haven't see since it was originally released.)

   Total cost. Twenty bucks. Can't beat that with a stick. (If that's your idea of a good time, as Groucho would say.) If it sounds like a warm up for Expendables 2, I'm sure that had some influence on my choices. I'd like to have gotten at least one Chuck Norris film, but decided I would cap my spending at $20. Maybe next time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Get The Long Black Train for Free

Heath Lowrance's The Long Black Train, the Weird Western I liked so much, is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow. Seriously, give this one a read.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008IL4AW2/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

In Pursuit of Spenser

   The other day I was posting about missing Robert B. Parker and particularly his private eye hero, Spenser. Well apparently I'm not the only one. I've been reading a nifty book called IN PURSUIT OF SPENSER, which is a collection of essays by various mystery writers about Parker and Spenser. Ace Atkins, who was chosen to continue Spenser's adventures, writes a heartfelt essay about what the character means to him. Lawrence Block, creator of Matt Scudder, another favorite PI, examines Parker's style. Max Allan Collins, author of the Nate Heller series and many other books, takes a look at Spenser on television. (Collins has done a lot of writing about TV and movie mystery series, including a new book on Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer. More on that later.) Ed Gorman takes a look at Parker's Westerns. Plus interesting articles by those other two well known writers of Boston PI series, Jeremiah Healy and Dennis Lehane. It's a very interesting book and a must have for any major fan of Spenser and of Robert B. parker.

What Goes On?

Hey, how is everyone? The blog has been quiet this week, I know. Part of that is because I'm hard at work on a novel and that is sucking up a lot of my writing energy. And of course since I'm writing a lot, I'm not reading as much, and as we know, what I read is the main focus of the blog. So sorry I've been less than entertaining, but life's like that sometimes. I do have a bunch of stuff in my 'too be read' pile, so I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about in the near future.
   I've noticed that the sword & sorcery content of the blog has slipped lately. Kind of drifted away from Conan and his brethren while I've been working on other things. It doesn't help that I've lately bailed on the monthly Conan the Barbarian comic book. As I feared, it wasn't the artwork that sent me packing but the writing. I'm not going to join the chorus of fanboys attacking writer Brian Wood. I still think the man an excellent writer. He and I just disagree on how Conan would behave in certain situations, so I've decided to agree to disagree and drop the comic from my reading list.
   I just finished reading a non-fiction book about gunfighters of the old west, as well as some very good western short fiction by Wayne Dundee and James Reasoner. I'll talk more about that soon.
   Other than that, life goes on. One of my cats, Amelia, has been a little under the weather the last couple of days. She seems to be on the mend but I'm keeping a close watch on her, so I'll be staying close to home this weekend. James A. Moore and I are closing on the 70,000 word mark on our follow up novel to Blind Shadows. Jim tells me that the signature sheets for the signed, limited edition of Blind Shadows are on the way, so that's kind of exciting. I get to write my name a couple of hundred times. That means the book is that much closer to publication. The release is still set for October, so it's rolling right up.
   Anyway, that's what's going on right now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Coming in August

   I really hope this sequel doesn't suck because I find that I am looking forward to it to a ridiculous degree. I mean Stallone, Arnold, Van Damme, and CHUCK FREAKIN NORRIS. I am so there.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writing Report

   Just back from lunch with James A. Moore, where we were discussing our current novel in progress. We're about to break the 60,000 word mark and we needed to talk about how we were going to start tying the threads together on one of our main plots. Got that handled, and bandied about a few ideas about the next major plot twists which will start us toward the end. Still had to believe we only started writing this four weeks back. Some massive carnage coming up. Hoo boy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Six Sword & Sorcery Stories You May Not have Read


Over at his blog The Silver Key, my pal Brian Murphy has posted a list of six somewhat obscure sword & sorcery stories. I mean, everybody has read Tower of the Elephant and Black Gods Kiss. Brian has served up a list by folks like David Drake, Henry Kuttner, and Lord Dunsany, writers the average reader may not immediately associate with S&S. Brian's article is also posted at Black gate Magazine (I'll provide a link at the bottom of this post.) and there he asks for further suggestions of Sword & Sorcery short stories.  I'm going to follow Brian's example and offer a half dozen that some of you might not have read before.

Demonsong by F. Paul Wilson

This nifty little story actually sets Wilson's six volume Adversary Cycle in motion. It introduces his hero Glaeken and his seriously bad villain Rasalom. Wilson has made Demonsong available as a free e-book, so it's easy to come by.

The Master of Crabs by Clark Ashton Smith

   Once upon a time I was fairly insistent that Clark Ashton Smith had never written a real sword & sorcery story. It was my friend Al Harron who convinced me to give some of the stories another look, and I finally admitted that a few of them do qualify as S&S. It was The Master of Crabs that really did it for me. it has swords, sorcery, and a couple of stalwart heroes. The lack of strong heroes was what had made me disqualify several other CAS stories that other folks had labeled S&S. This one's been reprinted quite a few times and it's online here:

http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/128

The Blade of the Slayer by Richard L. Tierney

This is my favorite of Tierney's short stories about his historical sword & sorcery hero, Simon Magus. It also has a surprise guest star. This may be the most difficult one on the list to track down. It appears in the Simon Magus collection The Scroll of Thoth, which is pretty expensive these days.

The Sustenance of Hoak by Ramsey Campbell

   A tale of Campbell's wandering swordsman Ryre, this manages to be not only a first rates S&S story, but also a creepy as all get out horror tale, as one would expect from Ramsey Campbell.

The Dweller in the Temple by Manly Wade Wellman

   The second of Wellman's five stories about the last survivor of Atlantis, the minstrel-warrior Kardios. Sort of a Sword & Sorcery version of John the Balladeer, but with more direct action. This story and the Ramsey Campbell tale mentioned above appeared in the first two volumes of the Swords Against Darkness anthologies.

Slim and Swede and the Damned Dead Horse by C. Dean Anderson

   This is the most recently published of the stories on my list. It appeared in Cross Plains Universe, a collections of stories in tribute to Robert E. Howard published in 2006. Trust me, you've never read one like this before.

That's it. Six wild and wooly S&S tales that you may not have read. here's a link to Brian's article. Check it out.

http://www.blackgate.com/2012/07/19/six-sought-adventure-a-half-dozen-swords-and-sorcery-short-stories-worth-your-summer-reading-time/


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staycation

I'm not taking an actual vacation trip until fall, but everybody at my work place has been vacating left and right, and I was getting jealous, so I scheduled Thursday and Friday off this week. I have no real plans to speak of, but I figured it would be nice to have a four day weekend that wasn't part of a holiday, so what the hey, long weekend for me. I'll probably hit a bookstore or two, maybe treat myself to some nice restaurant lunches. I'm sure there will be reading and writing and general goofing off. Just have to get through today.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blind Shadows Banner

I'm just posting this because it's cool. heh.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

55 Reading Questions

My friend Jeri tagged me with this quiz over at her blog. 1. Favorite childhood book? Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Leiber. Also the book I've read the most times. 2. What are you reading right now? Strange Eons by Robert Bloch. Memoirs of Usamah Ibn-Munqidh. Blackjack by Andrew Vachss. 3. What books do you have on request at the library? None at the moment. 4. Bad book habit? Throwing books I don't like across the room. 5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Nothing at the moment. I buy most of my books. 6. Do you have an e-reader? Yep, a Kindle. 7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? Several, though If I really really like one, I will switch to it exclusively until it's done. 8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? No, but the blog has led to many new discoveries. People who comment recommend all kinds of stuff. 9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? Nothing comes to mind. If I wasn't enjoying something I'd put it aside and forget it. 10. Favorite book you’ve read this year? The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. 11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Weekly. I'll give most things a shot, though I reserve the right to bail if I'm not having fun. 12. What is your reading comfort zone? SF, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror. 13. Can you read on the bus? Yep. 14. Favorite place to read? Lying on my back on the floor. 15. What is your policy on book lending? I only lend things I'm willing to give away. 16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Nope. 17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? Nope. 18. Not even with text books? Nope. 19. What is your favorite language to read in? I can only read English so we'll go with that, 20. What makes you love a book? Good characters, strong plot, tight writing. 21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? I have to really think it's worth someone else's time. 22. Favorite genre? We'll say fantasy, but on another day I might say something else. 23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? If I wished I did, I would. 24. Favorite biography? Oddly enough, Dean and Me by Jerry Lewis. 25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Yeah, mostly diet books. 26. Favorite cookbook? None. 27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? Nothing comes to mind. 28. Favorite reading snack? Coffee and a Jammie Dodger. 29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. Nothing comes to mind. I don't pay attention to hype generally. 30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? See above. 31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? As a rule if I don't like it I don't finish it, and therefore don't review it. 32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? Latin I suppose. 33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? The Life of Miyamoto Musashi. HUGE book. 34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? I fear NO book! 35. Favorite Poet? John Keats. 36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? Six. 37. How often have you returned books to the library unread? Rarely. 38. Favorite fictional character? Sherlock Holmes, closely followed by Tarzan and Conan. 39. Favourite fictional villain? F. Paul Wilson's Rasalom. 40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Whatever I happen to be reading. 41. The longest I’ve gone without reading. I can't think of a day I haven't read since I've known how. 42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. I operate under what I call 'The Fifty Page Rule'. If I'm not having fun within fifty pages, I'm out of there. The most recent was Dracula The Undead by Dacre Stoker. 43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Easily? Not much. 44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? The Maltese Falcon. 45. Most disappointing film adaptation? Conan the Barbarian 2011. 46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Hmmm, I'd say in the $400 range. 47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Once. 48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? For fiction it's usually that the book is boring me or it's badly written. 49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Yeah, I have them in categories. 50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Anything I don't think I'll read again anytime soon is gone unless it's rare. 51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? Nope, though there are some I wish I'd avoided. 52. Name a book that made you angry. Anything by Andrew Vachss and that's good. He wants you to be angry. 53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? if I didn't expect to like it, I wouldn't read it, generally. I have liked books better than I thought I would. 54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Nothing comes to mind. 55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? I never feel guilty about reading. Be it Dickens or some mindless sword & sorcery novel, reading is reading. I may enjoy it on different levels, but that's about it.

Missing Robert B. Parker

I don't read as much crime fiction as I used to. A big part of that is because of the death of Robert B. Parker. Most years since 1980 or so, I read one to three books by Parker. He wrote fast and he turned out a lot of books. It's amazing, I suppose, that as many of them were as good as they were. Mostly I miss Parker's private eye hero Spencer. I enjoyed the Jesse Stone books, and the Sunny Randall novels, and especially the Virgil Cole Westerns, but Spenser was my favorite and I looked forward to that new novel every year. No more, sadly, no more. For some reason I've been thinking about Parker a lot lately. Perhaps it's because I'm writing about a private eye in the book I'm working on now. Wade Griffin probably has more in common with Jack Reacher and Joe Pike then Spenser, but I'm aware of Parker whenever I sit down to write one of the classic PI tropes like a gun fight or like when thugs come into Griffin's office to warn him off the case. Griffin is written in the third person, so I don't have to worry about falling into my Chandlerisms or my Parkerisms for the most part. Were I writing in first person, I'd probably be crossing out phrases I picked up from both writers and maybe a little John D. MacDonald as well. Anyway, I read a nice tribute to Parker by writer Ace Atkins, who is continuing the Spenser series. Seems Atkins is as big a Parker fan as I am, which makes me feel a bit better about ANYONE continuing Spenser's adventures. Don't know if I'll ever read one or not, but I'm glad Atkins is a fan and that writing the books is a big deal to him.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

Anthology series were big in the late 1950s, early 1960s. The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits are probably the two best remembered by fans of the macabre. But there was another series, one said to be edgier and scarier than the other two, called Thriller. Hosted by former Frankenstein monster, Boris Karloff, Thriller featured episodes based on the works of such noted writers of the weird and scary as Richard Matheson, Cornell Woolrich, and even Robert E. Howard. Stephen King has called Thriller "the best horror series ever put on TV." I've seen very few episodes of the series, but what I have seen has been impressive. The other day Cliff recomended the episode YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER, based on the short story of the same name by Robert Bloch, author of the book that became the movie Psycho. I sat down and gave it a watch last night and I have to say, half a century after it was first broadcast, it still carries considerable punch. There's one scene that takes place in a graveyard that I just about guarantee will give you a jolt. It did me. Of course after watching the show I wanted to re-read the short story. I figured I had it somewhere but I had to do some digging. Turned up in the excellent collection THE DARK DESCENT, a volume recommended to me last fall by John Hocking. Thanks, John. I knew I had read the story years ago, but remembered little about it. Rereading it, I saw that the TV show had done a pretty decent job of adapting the story, adding a few scenes, but keeping the basic story, and using much of the dialog from Bloch's original. The main idea is that Jack the Ripper wasn't a madman or really even a serial killer. Instead he was a sorcerer or necromancer, who used blood sacrifices, committed at certain times of the year, when the stars were right, to recieve eternal youth from the dark gods. So Jack is still alive and well in 1943 when the story originally appeared in Weird Tales magazine, and in 1961, when the television adaptation was aired on Thriller. Presumably he could live idefinitely, which brings me to my next thought. Any of you who are fans of the original Star Trek probably remember an episode called WOLF IN THE FOLD, where Scotty was accused of a series of Jack the Ripper style murders on the planet Argelius II. The real murderer turns out to be an immortal being comprised of energy, that feeds on violent emotions such as fear. The entity is known at the time as Redjac, and the narrative strongly implies that Redjac was originally Jack the Ripper. this episode was written by Robert Bloch and is basically a SF retelling of YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER. Bloch wrote a sort of sequel to YOURS TRULY years later called A TOY FOR JULIETTE, and Harlan Ellison wrote sort of a sequel to that called THE PROWLER IN THE CITY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. However neither of these stories is a direct sequel, and neither of them provide a specific link between YOURS TRULY and WOLF. Plotting machine that I am, I immediately extrapolated an idea for a story explaining how the necromancer is transformed into a being of pure energy, and thus becomes the entity known as Redjac. (I do not have time to write fan fiction. I do not have time to...) Anyway, I very much enjoyed the short story and the episode of Thriller. In something of an odd coincidence, I received one of Robert Block's books in the mail today, the Lovecraftian novel, STRANGE EONS. More on that later.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Acquisitions

And another wallet crunching night at the comic book store. The big purchase was Big John Buscema, a MASSIVE book, originally the catalog for a European Exhibit of Buscema's work. I'll have more to say about this after I've had time to peruse it, but just a quick scan makes me think this is the biggest and best collection of Buscema's work so far. Tons of reproductions of original art, sketches, etc. Big John's Conan is well represented for you Conan fans. A great book. Also picked up Darwyn Cooke's latest Parker adaptation, The Score. Cooke has done a great job of turning Richard Stark's books about anti-hero parker into graphic novels. Looking forward to reading this one. And if The Score wasn't enough hardboiled fiction, I also got the new Andrew Vachss crime novel Blackjack, featuring Vachss' urban mercenary Cross. Been a while since Vachss gave us a new Cross story, so I'm looking forward to it. Finally, I picked up Valen the Outcast: Abomination, which collects the first story arc from the sword & sorcery comic Valen, which I've talked about before. Sort of undead Conan, with a nice dark, supernatural vibe. One of the better S&S comics anyone's done in a while, I think. So yeah, a bit rough on the pocketbook, but a lot of quality stuff.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Report

Over the 40,000 word mark on the follow up to Blind Shadows. Just like on the first book, James A. Moore and I are alternating chapters, shooting them back and forth at dizzying speed. Jim sent me one yesterday that reminded me why the guy is a Stoker nominated horror writer. Creeped me out reading it, which is great. Having a tremendous amount of fun working on this one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tarzan Returns!

Hotcha! Dark Horse Comics is finally collecting Russ Manning's Tarzan comic book work into hardbacks to match their Jesse Marsh Tarzan volumes. Manning is my absolute favorite Tarzan artist, and I have been waiting for this one for a long time. AND they're also going to collect The Once and Future Tarzan strips that appeared in Dark Horse Presents this year with art by my favorite living Tarzan artist Thomas Yeates. I am a happy camper.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Long Black Train

"There was a smoldering rage in Hawthorne all the time, a rage just under his surface, and the victimization of the innocent sparked that rage and turned it into a blazing fire." I'm thinking Solomon Kane and the cowboy bounty hunter known as Hawthorne would get along. I just read Heath Lowrance's second Hawthorne Supernatural Western The Long Black Train and really enjoyed it. It's got all the things you want in a western, Guns, horses, and a tough hombre hero, plus a big helping of gruesome horror. From the moment that a fat man with a valise full of knives gets on board the train you are in dark and macabre territory, a hell bound night journey through a bleak and desolate western landscape. Seriously this one rocks and it's only .99 cents on kindle. The kindle seems to be bringing back short stories and novellas in the pulp tradition, which is great. Some days you don't want to work your way through a 600 page doorstop of a novel. You just want something quick and entertaining. The Long Black Train is that, plus it's well written in a tight, almost hard boiled style. If you're a fan of the weird western genre, Lowrance has got you covered. I plan on checking out his previous Hawthorne tale, That Damned Coyote Hill, and I'll be looking for new stories as they hit the net.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Monsters, Famous and Otherwise

When I was a kid, one of my favorite magazines was Forest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was the only place where you could find photographs and articles about Monster movies. Frankenstein, Dracula, Godzilla, The Green Slime, you name it, Famous Monsters covered it. The magazine is still around all these years later and it also exists as a website. I'm proud to say that there's a review of Blind Shadows, the book by James A. Moore and me up at the Famous Monsters site. Needless to say, the 12 year old monster movie fan in the back of my brain is thrilled. Reviewer Peter Schwotzer had some very nice things to say about the book. You can read the review here: http://famousmonstersoffilmland.com/2012/07/06/book-review-blind-shadows-by-james-a-moore-charles-r-rutledge/

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Life On Mars

I remember reading about this BBC series when it first came out in 2006 and thinking, Gee, that sounds like something I should check out when it gets to DVD. And I recall when an American version of it came out in 2008, that I thought much the same thing. Somehow I never got around to either, but last week, while browsing selections of videos available on Amazon Prime, I noticed that the BBC Life On Mars was one of the new offerings. Best of all, I'd already paid for it in my yearly Prime subscription. (I mostly get Prime for the free shipping. Movies and TV shows are a bonus.) So I watched the first episode and was immediately hooked. If you're not familiar with the series, it follows the adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler, who after being struck by a car in 2006, wakes up to find himself inexplicably in the year 1973. He's been retro-fitted into the time period. He's still a cop, though of a lower rank and he seems to have a history, but he isn't sure if he's imagining all of this or if he's actually been thrown back in time. He's also receiving occasional audio information from 2006 which seems to indicate that he's in a coma in a hospital, but that's been doled out sparingly. What I like about Life On Mars (The title comes from a David Bowie song.) is that while the show has science fiction elements, (time travel, parallel worlds) it's still a cop show. Tyler finds himself cut off from all the tools he was used to in 2006. In 1973 forensic science was pretty basic. No one had heard of profiling. He doesn't even have a computer or a cell phone. His boss is a no nonsense, old school street copper, seemingly patterned after the character John Thaw played in the actual 1970s British cop show, The Sweeney. The two butt heads as Sam tries to hold an ethical center and work within the law, while DCI Hunt would just as soon plant evidence or beat up a suspect as follow due process. The look of the series is a lot of fun, especially if you watched a lot of 1970s cop shows, and I did. All the desks and filing cabinets are battered steel. The phones have rotary dials. Everyone smokes and the squad room has a constant haze. And then there are the haircuts, the clothes, and the cars. I was a kid in the 1973 but I remember all that stuff. The time travel element is interesting. It takes Sam four episodes to do what I'd have done first day, visit the house he lived in as a kid and see if he's there. He ends up having a cuppa with his mother, but doesn't meet himself, as the four year old Sam is upstairs with the mumps. In the same episode he ends up in a disco and you can see his bemusement. He's like, 'I'm in a disco in the 1970s. This is so cool.' Which brings me to actor John Simm who plays Sam Tyler. Previously I was only familiar with Simm from his turn as The Master on Doctor Who. He's very good in Life On Mars, playing a wide range of emotions and making Sam Tyler a decent human being that the viewer cares about. Philip Glenister, as DCI Gene Hunt is also great. Anyway, I'm late to the party on this one, but I'm enjoying it tremendously, so if you too, skipped Life On Mars the first time around, give it a look. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Conan the Patriot

I've posted this Gil Kane drawing before, but it's been five or six years and it's good enough to post again. This originally appeared in the 1976 Marvel Comics Calendar. Nothing says Independence day like Conan leading the charge.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Re-Enter The Dragon

Back in 1992, a group of comic book creators that included Jim Lee, Todd Mcfarlane, and Rob Liefeld, broke away from the two big comic book companies. Marvel and DC, to create their owned company, Image Comics. Their gamble turned out to be amazingly successful and Image became an incredibly influential Comic company in the early 90s, so much in fact, that many artists at the "big two" began to intentionally imitate the bravura style of the Image artists. I bought the first dozen of so issues of the Image titles, Wild Cats, Spawn, Youngblood, etc, but the one I liked best was Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, Larsen, like myself, was a huge admirer of Jack Kirby, and his artwork had a lot of Kirby-esque power. Second, also like myself, Larsen had drawn his own comics while in elementary school, taking sheets of 8-1/2" X 11" paper, folding them over and stapling them up the spine to make comic books, which is exactly what I did. The best part was, Savage Dragon and many of the other characters in the comic were characters Larsen had created for those amateur comics and now he had managed to get them into the mainstream. That pleased me tremendously. Just like me, he had created his own thinly disguised versions of various Marvel and DC heroes (excluding the Dragon, who is an original character), but his had made the big time. The guy was obviously a kindred spirit. I continued reading Dragon longer than any of the other Image books, but Image appeared around the same time that I was getting out of comic book collecting, so eventually I drifted away. As the old saying goes, it wasn't them, it was me. Jump forward twenty years to about a month ago. Cliff had recommended I give the returning Image comic Supreme a look because Erik Larsen had taken over as artist-writer and within one issue had pretty much destroyed everything Alan Moore had done with the character during his time writing the series. Cliff figured I'd be impressed with the utter destruction. The man knows me well. Funny thing was, reading through that issue of Supreme, I was reminded how much I had originally enjoyed Savage Dragon, and I wondered how the title was doing. So I picked up the most recent issue and found that it was still a lot of fun, and that Larsen was still writing and drawing it after all these years. So of course, I decided to go back and reread the series, including all the issues I'd skipped. Fortunately for me, since I no longer have the original comics, Savage Dragon has been collected in "phone book" style archives, each volume holding 600 plus pages of comics. I bought volumes 1 & 2 yesterday and read the first six issues worth of stories. Just as much fun as I remember it. Got a lot of reading ahead of me.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Heat Wave

We've had temperatures over 100 degrees for the last three days here in Georgia. That's warm for this part of the country in June-July. Theoretically things should be cooling off some over the next few days, eventually getting into the high 80s toward the end of the week. I went out today in the middle of the afternoon when it was about 104 and the air felt remarkably hot, so much that even the air slipping past my open truck window wasn't the least bit cool. The late afternoon was overcast and it's in the 90s now. I've stayed inside most of the weekend in the air conditioning, so things haven't been too bad all and all. Did a lot of reading, writing, and drawing. I schedule a half day off on Tuesday so I'm working a day and a half followed by a day and a half off. Not a bad schedule, but seriously, Wednesday is like the worst day for a Holiday. Still, it's a day off so I'll take it.

Channeling My Inner Kirby

As a kid my idol was Jack Kirby, the king of comics and one of the most important figures in comic book history. I spent a lot of time copying his artwork out of comics, and as a result, my stuff looked a lot like his. However over the years I became more influenced by John Buscema, another important comics artist and my work became more realistic. BUT, since I don't draw professionally anymore and only sketch things for my own entertainment, I find the Kirby influence showing up more in my sketchbooks these days. I was messing around last night and came up with this rather Kirby-esque rendering of the tenth Doctor and a barbarian. It could be Conan or it could be my Clonan hero Kharrn. But I kind of liked it. I don't ink things these days, so it's a blue pencil layout with finished pencil over that. maybe I'll ink it digitally at some point.