Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another fandom uprising

I'll have more to say about this later, when I have some time and can craft a good, thoughtful post about it. Here is the link to the article:

Fans press Weinstein on "Fanboys"

A large contingent of 'Star Wars' fans are threatening a boycott of this weekend's release of "Superhero", a spoof of the genre by Craig Mazin, which is also being released by the Weinstein Company.

"Fanboys" has been scheduled then postponed for release numerous times, and is currently without a release date, or a final version. Essentially two versions of the film exist -- the original vision of the filmmakers, which included (and this isn't really a spoiler) the motivation for the group of friends to travel to Skywalker Ranch to see a cut of "The Phantom Menace" before it was to be released in theaters -- one of the friends has cancer. The Weinstein Company (and particularly Harvey) have felt that the cancer story makes the movie hard to market, and so has tested a version, with reshoots to excise the cancer (he's cured! no cancer!!) as part of the story.

What has happened as a result...well, go read the article. We'll have more later.

Friday, March 21, 2008

More Geek to Love

Shawna did a guest spot on Shaun O'Mac's TV Talk radio show/podcast yesterday, and he's invited her back to be on every Wednesday.

At 3 PM PDT, if you can't get enough of her, tune in to Shaun's show to listen to Shawna prattle on about whatever she wants. Shaun has other tv bloggers/columnists on the other days of the week, so you can turn in those days instead if you are sick of her.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From The Comic Geek - Not So Special FX

Newcomer writer Wayne Osborne and artist John Byrne pay homage to a time when Byrne meant something to comics. More on this story...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Blame Michael Moorcock...or Del Rey Give Moorcock the Howard Treatment Part One: The Personal Version

A few weeks ago, Del Rey released the first in a series of books collecting Michael Moorcock's definitive Elric saga. The collection will contain Moorcock's Elric stories in the order they were written/published and contain some great "bonus features" for long time fans of the character. I am one of those long time fans, so much so that I have had trouble deciding whether to write a "personal" essay about the release of the book that focuses on how important Elric/Moorcock is to me, or an article "merely" discussing the release of the new book.

I couldn't decide between the two. So, here is the first of the two essays -- the personal one.

The first words I ever read by Michael Moorcock were, "This is the tale of Elric before he was called Womanslayer, before the final collapse of Melniboné." It was 1983, the Fall semester of my 7th grade year, and a friend of mine and I were in a bit of a competition. I don't know when the "I can find stuff to read and play that you can't" competition with Mark Williams started, but I know that the Elric books were right in the middle of the competition.

By right in the middle, I mean somewhere between the "Christian found the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks" early salvo and the "Sweet Pickles Bus Proliferation" that ended our friendship. If you don't remember the Sweet Pickles Bus, watch the commercial below. The Sweet Pickles commercial starts at about second 20.

Looking at it now, the bus look kid of creepy as it drives up to the house. But back in the day, ordering about a dozen of these and having them sent to Mark's house seemed like the perfect way to get even with Mark for no longer being my best friend. Boy does that seem petty, but 7th graders aren't known for their mature ability to deal with relationships. I'm pretty sure that Mark and I were single handedly responsible for a policy change regarding whether kids were allowed to order these themselves over the phone or not. It really got ridiculous, especially on my end, but that is another story.

Returning to the tale at hand, Mark and I both shared a love of role playing games and we were both familiar with the awesome Bill Willingham illustration on the back of the fifth printing of the White Plume Mountain module. The illustration featured this cool looking albino with a black bladed sword, the black so deep it contained stars. It was quite striking to my 7th grade mind, but I had no idea what had inspired this representation of the blade "blackrazor" -- other than the fact that it was an item in the module.

But then Mark walked into our Algebra class with a copy of ELRIC OF MELNIBONE. He had searched high and low for the inspiration behind the Willingham cover, and he found it. He also made sure to show me how he was able to find the work of fantasy, a work much more badass than LORD OF THE RINGS. I immediately rushed out to my local used paperback store and purchased a collection of the entire Elric saga. I was struck by the image of this albino protagonist.

I didn't yet know what an antihero was, nor did I fully comprehend what the Greeks meant by Tragedy. As I read the books, I discovered the meaning of both. It was really remarkable and transformative, but not for the reasons one might expect. Yes, by 7th grade I'd read LORD OF THE RINGS, but other than that book my fantasy exposure was pretty limited. When I thought of fantasy, I thought of the Greek and Egyptian myths, and the stories of Sinbad. I hadn't read C.S. Lewis or Lloyd Alexander, those would come in the next year, my mind was wide open for a definition of what fantasy was. Moorcock provided that definition. Fantasy was social commentary, it was mournful, tragic, and Wagnerian. I loved every minute of it, and I still do.

That's why I'm so excited about the latest Elric release from Del Rey. Like they did with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, they are providing us with the Elric stories in wonderful editions that will let us read the stories in the order they were released. There's even the added bonus of the inclusion of some of Moorcock's defenses of his theories regarding what fantasy should be. The cover of the first edition, as well as the interior, is expertly illustrated by John Picacio. Take a look at the cover and interior below, they are quite excellent.

Excuse me while I sit back and relive the tragic tale of the last emperor of Melnibone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens is Dead...

and one of the influences from young adulthood is gone. A bit more here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alea Iacta Est: Ernest Gary Gygax ( July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)

For geeks like me, today is a day of great sadness. E Gary Gygax, co-creator with Dave Arneson of the Dungeons and Dragons game, died this morning at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

As I wrote, it is a sad day for me. After all, this man created a game that provided me with untold hours of entertainment, a game that introduced me to great literature (and horrible drivel), a game that helped me form life long friendships. Because of this man's creation, my life (and many others) were made better and more enjoyable. My prayers go out to Gary's family, especially his wife Gail.

Surfing the internet today and reading people write about Gary has been a very nice experience. It seems that today is the day when no gamers are fighting. The grognards and the noobs are consoling each other for the loss. It's nice, if not a little surprising. As one might guess from reading Matt Forbeck's entry on the topic, Gary Gygax was a bit of a controversial figure within the gaming community. Not because the community wasn't thankful for his contribution, rather because of his disdain for others in the field and his temper at those who continued his legacy. Gary didn't really like others "improving" on his creation. To be fair no one would expect him to, but those of us who have moved on from Gary's truly original creation to later "refinements" have had to endure venomous comments from Gary and his most ardent admirers. To be honest more from the admirers than from Gary, but Gary gave his share as well.

It seems that every gamer worth his or her salt has a Gary Gygax story, and I envy those that do their stories. I have no "when I met Gary story." Instead, I have a when I "almost" met Gary story.

You see...last April I was on a trip for work in eastern Wisconsin -- Racine to be specific, and I decided I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to watch a baseball game in Wrigley field. I am a huge Cubs fan, and there is no better place to watch baseball. Second, I wanted to tour Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the birthplace of gaming in America. Trust me. Whether you play modern boardgames, video games, collectible card games, or role playing games, the game you are playing likely has some connection to the gaming movement started in that small Wisconsin town.

So I drove to Lake Geneva and toured all of the locations that once housed the offices of TSR, the company that published D&D. Then finally, I stood in front of Gary's house and took about 10 pictures from across the street. It was relatively early in the evening and I contemplated walking up to the door and knocking, just to tell Gary how much entertainment his game has provided me over the past three decades. I walked up to the cars parked in front of the house (pictured below), but then I thought..."what if it is the wrong house?"

What if I walk up to the door, knock and ask for Gary and it's the wrong house? What if it's the right house? What kind of crazy stalker gamer knocks on a game designer's door uninvited?

So...I walked to the library, took a couple of pictures of the beautiful lake, walked around the small downtown area, and left. I was angry at myself for not emailing/message boarding Gary earlier, or later, and I promised myself that I would do so when I next traveled to the Wisconsin or Chicago area.

That day cannot come now.

God bless you Gary.

My group and I will have a moment of silence this weekend and I think we'll even do a small reading from one of the books you wrote. We all need to push through a little Gygaxian prose every now and then. Maybe I'll open up "Master of the Game," or read the introduction to the Player's Handbook (1st edition) one more time. That introduction made me feel like I was part of something special, even before I rolled my first die.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Comics, More Fun...

If you want to read more comics, outside the mainstream stuff you see at your LCS...

If you want to turn a youngster on to the kind of stuff you liked as a kid...

If you want to be 10 yrs. old again...

Go here.