Loki and Odin from Scott Maynard’s Happletea
The majority of webcomics I read are ongoing stories, most with fantasy elements, that focus on character development and plot and world building. Happletea is the only gag strip in my feed, and while it doesn’t have those other elements, it brings both humor and insight in spades. Created by Scott Maynard, the strip has been going since 2008 with some regularity (though not consistent updates), and it is, according to Maynard, “the only comic that excoriates religion, pop culture, and politics while, at the same time, lauding the world of cryptozoology.” I use Maynard’s own description here because it’s not only accurate (I can’t think of another comparable comic, except very possibly Sinfest, which I read only on occasion), but because it captures Maynard’s sense of humor.
In Maynard’s strip, recurring characters include:
- Lil K, whose misadventures have included pre-looting for the Mayan apocalypse, starting a revolution in Latin America upon misunderstanding what New Year’s Resolutions were for, and coping with the chaos of New York
- Sasquatch, Lil K’s foster father, who packs wormy lunches and occasionally has bizarre fashion sense
- God, who takes the form of a cat living at Lil K’s house
- Allev, Lil K’s blond friend who is often the voice of reason against Lil K’s antics
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“Tympani” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from April 27 to July 9, 1955. The strip gets underway with Flash returning to Earth and taking Dale out to enjoy a symphony orchestra concert. Dale’s hair has reverted to its classic look, happily. The concert goes awry when the orchestra launches into a piece and the audience is deafened by the cacophonous sound.
Taking to the streets, they discover every car horn in the city is going off causing accidents and traffic jams. The situation spreads over the globe with factory whistles going off, sonar jamming, rockets misfiring, etc. Soon train accidents cripple the food industry and fuel truck accidents leave people without heat in winter. Dr. Zarkov is busy researching sound vibrations to try to get to the root of the problem that has threatened civilization.
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After about ten months of uninterrupted weekly posts, I’m taking a bit of a breather this week. Today, instead of new content, I’ll take inventory and look ahead to what I hope to deliver Black Gate readers in 2014. Perhaps I can couch it in a “New Year’s Resolutions” list — most of us allow for a bit of leeway on those overly optimistic proclamations, anyway…
1. Lose about twenty pounds, preferably at a blackjack table in Derbyshire.
2. Cut back on tobacco consumption, especially my wife’s.
3. Drink more alcohol. (It fell way off in 2013. Obviously I need to get to more conventions.)
And blah blah blah. Okay, let’s get to the stuff that someone else reading this might actually be curious about…
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Slammed art by Jason Wiser
There’s an odd intersection of SFF and professional wrestling fandoms. It surprised me when I first encountered it, but since then, I’ve become a devoted reader of Rival Angels, a woman’s pro wrestling comic by Alan Evans, and one of my favorite Choice of Games titles is Slammed by Paolo Chikiamco. Since neither is technically fantasy (although there’s definitely an element of the fantastic to pro wrestling), I’m stretching the inclusion criteria a bit for my spotlights by covering both of them together. If you’re not into the WWE, read on to see if you can be convinced that the best wrestlemania might not be on Pay Per View…
In Slammed, you play an up-and-coming professional wrestler, trying to make your name in the world and striving to compete for one of wrestling’s biggest titles. From the beginning, Chikiamco has the characters — and the PC — acknowledge that wrestling is scripted, and that a lot of the challenges revolve around how you choose to portray yourself to the fans. Are you going to be a face — a “kayfabe” — who’s a hero, or are you a trash-talking villain on stage (but a consummate professional in the locker room)? But while your career provides the context for the story, the real plot is about your relationship with a wrestler from your past — a college friend who once held you responsible for a tragedy that impacted her wrestling career. (Note: she was female in my game; she may be male in other playthroughs.) Now at the top of her game and a rising star in her own right, will she reach out to you as an ally? Or will you be enemies? And how much of the truth will you reveal to your fans?
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“The Trail of the Vulke” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from February 7 to April 26, 1955.
This is an interesting tale that sees Barry re-examining two of his favorite themes — myths and religious fanaticism.
The story kicks off with Flash driving up to Dale’s house for a dinner date and finding her home dark. Warily, he enters the house and Barry shows us menacing shadowy figures watching from the window in the front room.
It turns out to be a surprise birthday party for Flash thrown by Dale and the Space Kids. Improbably, they have arranged the rental of a rocketship from the Space Academy to allow Flash and the Space Kids to travel to Zoriana and pay a visit to Cyril and Mr. Pennington. Barry gets some mileage out of portraying Flash as henpecked and having to ask Dale permission to have an adventure. In no time at all, Flash and the boys are off to the stars and arrive on Zoriana in due course.
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There are two deck-building games out built around the major comic book franchises: DC and Marvel. I’ve had the chance to play them both, so want to share how they stand up against each other. For this comparison, I’m playing the core Marvel Legendary game (Amazon) and the upcoming stand-alone Heroes Unite (Amazon) expansion to the DC Comics deck-building game.
One of the first points of difference is the basic scenario being played out, which leads to slightly different thematic feels for each game. In both games, there are two basic actions in play: acquiring heroes and defeating villains. The games are very different in their approach to this, however, and each approach has different benefits and drawbacks.
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“At the Mountains of Madness” is one of my favorite Lovecraft tales. It was originally serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories; I was first exposed to it through the brilliant audio adaption from Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, which I listened to during a snowy commute through lonely back highways in Illinois in the winter of 2010. Marvelous stuff.
So in November, I was very intrigued to read James Maliszewski’s review of a recent comic adaptation by I.N.J. Culbard. Here’s James:
In 124 pages, Culbard succeeds in re-telling one of Lovecraft’s best tales in a fashion that’s both engaging and true to its source. That’s harder than it sounds…
Culbard deftly pares the story down to its essentials, in terms of action, dialog, and exposition. The story thus moves along at a fairly brisk pace, something that cannot be said of the novella, love it though I do. Second, the artwork, which, to my mind, recalls Hergé’s Tintin series, contributes greatly to a sense of narrative motion, which is vitally important in an adaptation of a long and complex story like this one. Furthermore, the artwork suits the subject matter perfectly, recalling as it does (at least to me) stories of late 19th and early 20th century exploration in the still-dark corners of the globe… Even though I already knew the plot intimately, I found Culbard’s strong, clear, almost innocent, illustration style gave it new life, something I didn’t think possible.
Sold! I especially enjoyed James’s description of artwork that recalled “stories of late 19th and early 20th century exploration in the still-dark corners of the globe.” I asked for the Culbard’s graphic novel version for Christmas and my lovely bride was kind enough to deliver.
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Mark of the Cloven is a nine-part illustrated novel set in the narrative world of Jiba Molei Anderson’s Horsemen series. The premise is that the ancient gods of Africa have set out to make their presence known in the world again. To this end, they have taken a sort of benign possession of seven human beings, not so much controlling their actions as giving them access to their forms and abilities. Basically, seven mortals are granted the powers of gods and use these powers to become superheroes. Of course, the existence of superheroes all but demands the equal presence of supervillains; chief among these villains are the Deitis and their superhuman children. At the start of this story, the seven god-blessed mortals are already well-known in this world; their influence has affected drastic social changes, resulting in Africa ascending to the dominant world superpower, as the United States falls into a new Depression.
Part one of this story opens with Djenaba, a doctor struggling to keep people alive in the remnants of Detroit, being asked by one of the god-mortals to help a boatload of refugees escape to Canada (in this world, America’s border patrols are focused on keeping people in, not out). In her aspect as water goddess Yemaya, Djenaba is guiding the rusted-out boat to the Canadian shore when she is attacked by three offspring of the Deitis, code-named Strain, Clarion, and Crate. All three of them are handicapped in some way, but Djenaba/Yemaya doesn’t underestimate them for long, because each has found a way to counter his or her handicap, turning weakness into strength. What follows is a series of fight scenes where our heroine struggles not only to stay alive, but also to protect the refugees (and even her three attackers).
The superhero comics came to prominence in the late 1930s, during the Great Depression. By setting the series in a new Depression, Jiba Anderson and Jude Mire evoke the very core of the superhero myth: the dream of having the power to make the world a better place. As a doctor, Djenaba is already in a position to improve the lives of others. We see just enough of her efforts at the story’s beginning to know that it is, essentially, a losing battle. As the quasi-goddess Yemaya, she has more power, but also attracts new problems in the form of supervillains. It goes back to the narrative device that keeps most superhero comics spinning their creative wheels indefinitely: all that great power only brings great obstacles that force the hero to exert more effort simply to maintain the status quo.
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“The Martian Baby” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from November 15, 1954 to February 5, 1955.
The story gets underway in another tranquil setting with Flash and Dale enjoying a picnic in the country (Dale is supporting a very short, but stylish new haircut) only to have their peaceful interlude disturbed by a flying saucer that buzzes them so closely they are forced to run for cover. The saucer lands and reveals its occupant is a Martian baby crying for its mother.
The baby is far heavier than it appears, absorbs all moisture (staying dry during rain), and munches away happily on flowers. Apart from that, the little tyke with the Mohawk seems human. While Dale’s maternal instincts quickly come to the fore, another saucer appears and obliterates the baby’s ship with a death ray beam. Flash, Dale, and the baby seek shelter in the woods. Dan Barry gives readers a glimpse of the exotic and beautiful alien female piloting the saucer and immediately diffuses the threat in accordance with the gender politics of the 1950s.
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I am just not sure how to feel about this one.
On January 24, I, Frankenstein the film will finally come to life in theaters nationwide. This after the U.S. release was originally set for February 22, 2013. Then five months prior to release, in the fall of 2012, it was abruptly moved to September 13, 2013; then in April 2013, the date was moved again to January 24, 2014.
In February 2013, Lions Gate said they would release the film in 3D and then in September 2013, they came back to tell us the film would be digitally re-mastered and released in the IMAX format – in 3D.
I, Frankenstein’s release strategy has been retooled more than the old guy himself.
There are a lot of reasons for a studio to postpone a movie release: like problems with the script/ talent/ director, the test audiences didn’t react well and new footage needs to be shot, the studio doesn’t want the release to be diluted by a competitive release in a similar genre…
Or the film just isn’t good and the studio needs time to add some additional razzle-dazzle — like 3D and IMAX.
As a fan of the graphic novel and after seeing the movie trailer, I tend to believe this case might be a combination of all of the above.
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