It’s January 31, and that means it’s time to celebrate one our civilization’s greatest inventions–the gorilla suit!
On this holiday, we dust off that gorilla suit hanging in our closet and don it with pride. The idea is that you should do at least one thing in your regular schedule dressed up as a gorilla. Go to the store, go bowling, have a drink at your local bar, whatever.
National Gorilla Suit Day was invented by Mad Magazine cartoonist Don Martin. But of course the roots of this cultural phenomenon go way back to the beginnings of cinema, when early directors found that a man in a gorilla suit took direction much better than an actual gorilla.
Gather around friends, because this is kind of awesome.
Of course, we see wearable fan merchandise at every trade show and convention we cover, but for the most part the designs would be only be worn on high school and college campuses – or at said trade shows and conventions. It’s rare if nonexistent to find an article of clothing that would actually be suitable for average social situations while still paying homage to your favorite bit of pop culture.
That is, until JC-RT came along.
Touting themselves as the creators of, “a better tailored plaid shirt through the union of our analog and digital worlds,” JC-RT has taken plaid away from emo, west coast hipsters and elevated it to a new artistic level. Their standard shirts have amazing names like “Grandpa’s Haunted Attic Vintage Flannel” and the “Bell Jar” plaid, but the company recently outdid themselves but producing a line of gaming-inspired as well as movie-inspired shirts. Each piece in the two lines is based on the color scheme of a classic video game or movie poster.
Last December I wrote aboutSherlock Holmes & the Shadwell Shadows, volume one of James Lovegrove’s Cthulhu Casebooks trilogy. And this December, it’s on to book two, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities. I wasn’t quite as fond of the second installment, though not because it’s a bad book.
As I wrote in that first review:
The basic premise of the… trilogy is that Watson made up the sixty stories in the Canon. He did so to cover up the real truth behind Holmes’ work. And that’s because the truth is too horrible to reveal. In a nutshell, Watson has written three journals, each covering events fifteen years apart, to try and get some of the darkness out of his soul.
The darkness exists because Holmes, with Watsons’s assistance, waged a career-long war with the otherworld beings of the Cthulhu mythos.
Somewhere in another Black Gatepost, I calculated the percentage that Holmes is absent in each of the four novellas which Doyle wrote featuring the great detective. Lovegrove chose to use that novella model and it’s my biggest complaint about the book. Holmes and Watson find a journal and read it. It reminds me of the Mormon interlude in A Study in Scarlet and it takes up thirty-five percent of the book.
Fully one-third of this novel has nothing to do with Holmes or Watson. It provides background to the mystery, but it could be a standalone story and it would have no more tie-in to Holmes than an account of my going out to lunch yesterday.
The flashback takes place in Arkham and it is essentially a Cthulhu short novella. Lovegrove got to write a Lovecraft pastiche within a Holmes pastiche. Of course, these three books are aimed at fans of the Cthulhu stories, so it’s not totally out there. I’ve read stories by Lovecraft, Derleth and others. I don’t mind them, but I’m not a particularly big fan. So, I’m not the target audience for the trilogy.
Those who are avid Holmes and Cthulhu fans are likely to enjoy this second book more than I did. But the fact is that this was a third of the book with no Holmes and/or Watson.
It’s a tough gig being an editor. It’s not enough to just keep a steady drumbeat of content — you also need to mix it up a bit. That’s one reason every article at Black Gate is tagged with at least one category…. makes it easier to tell at a glance when we’re over-saturated on New Releases, Magazines, and Reviews, and it’s time to commission a News piece, or something on Comics, maybe. Or Music, or RPGs.
Of course, some categories get less attention than others. Fashion, for example, is probably the most neglected category we have. Patty Templeton asked me to add it five years ago so she could do a brief feature on Crisiswear, and we’ve had maybe half a dozen reasons to use it since. Let’s just say that fashion is not my beat.
So I’m very pleased that, after producing some 4,000 blog posts here at Black Gate, today I’m writing my first fashion article. It’s because of a gift I ordered for my son’s 20th birthday: a Spider-Man Homecoming Red Hoodie from USAJacket, which Drew is so kindly modeling for us above. Once it arrived and I saw how it looked on him, I knew other members of the Black Gate community would be interested.
First, take a look at the young woman on the cover, “A despatch rider in the Women’s Royal Airforce enjoying a tea break while seated on her motorcycle, 1918.”
She’s most likely in a warzone. She’s probably not had a bath for a while. Might have lice. Any men in her life have a good chance of not making it to Christmas with all their body parts, or at all. She’s living under military discipline. And, as she rides around, she might herself get blown up or strafed.
And fashion in the book’s title is an understatement. This is more the kind of thing Osprey would publish — kit, context, consequences and case study. It’s certainly less about the minutiae of stitching and fabric, and more about the clothes women wore, why, how, and what the experience was.
As promised by the subtitle, “Tales from the History Wardrobe,” it’s packed with stories from women’s original letters, diaries and reminiscences, so it takes us beyond fashion and into the evolving role of women from about 1910 through to 1920.
It occurred to me while writing about the benefits of chainmail bikinis that one of the major downfalls is the vast amount of exposed skin. Not for any morality or mortality reasons (although those do make for interesting points), but rather for the sheer amount of maintenance that would require. I’m not even talking about shaving and waxing. (We all agree that Conan *must* wax to pull off that oily muscled look, right?)
And let’s be realistic. Wow, the scars adventurers must have. I mean, I once had a tick removed from my tender tender belly flesh. That’s what you get for running in the woods fully clothed, so I flinch at the thought of running half-naked in the woods. You’d become a tick magnet.
Anyway, a 70-year old mostly blind doctor went at me with a scalpel to remove the tiny leg still stuck in my flesh and, I gotta tell you, that left a scar. Now that was one tiny, super sharp and badly wielded knife. So let’s pause and imagine how many scars inappropriately armored individuals must have.
This is more about the unsightly scars left behind by being thrust at with swords, spears, arrows, knives, mystical weapons, spells, and large pachyderms. Obviously there are ways of dealing with such minor scars, leaving visible only the major nod-to-backstory ones.
In my continued efforts to support sword and sorcery fashion adventurers, here’s an undoubtedly incomplete list of tricks to deal with scarring while wearing almost nothing.
We’ve all heard about the downsides of the chainmail bikini.
Sure, sure, it’ll get you pierced a thousand times over and you have to wax about every hour, but could it be that the chainmail bikini suffers from a bad rap? Could our prejudices be standing in the way of one of fantasy’s greatest female armors? Should we just silence all the naysayers out there?
I think we should at least try, because I’ve yet to see a picture of Hawkeye in a chainmail bikini. (Internet, you’ve failed us all. And it’s okay. Really.)
Here’s a list of oft-overlooked awesome chainmail bikini traits, to help redirect the conversation in a more positive way.
Show off your abs – Female warriors work hard, too! After all, even Conan had leather thongs to show off his almost-but-thankfully-not-everything everything. (Wait, is that a good pro argument? Hang on. I can do better.)
No great maintenance costs – Paladins curse this one. While they have to get their armor to the smithy after every single random encounter (well, maybe every third or fifth, depending on skill level), the female bikini-clad woman can simply strut to the beach, confident that her armor was not damaged. Because if she’d taken a hit that could damage her armor, she’d be dead.
You know your HBO fantasy series has hit it big when it makes the cover of culture and fashion magazine Vanity Fair.
The April issue, on sale now, features a cast photoshoot by star photographer Annie Leibovitz and a feature on the making of the show written by Jim Windolf. But more interesting is a wide-ranging interview with author George R.R. Martin which covers, among other things, the true scale of the Iron Throne and Martin’s plan to stay ahead of the rapidly-progressing show.
The season that’s about to debut covers the second half of the third book… But there are two more books beyond that… A Dance with Dragons is itself a book that’s as big as A Storm of Swords. So there’s potentially three more seasons there, between [A Feast for Crows] and Dance, if they split into two the way they did [with Storms]. Now, Feast and Dance take place simultaneously… You can combine them and do it chronologically. And it’s my hope that they’ll do it that way and then, long before they catch up with me, I’ll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.
I was also fascinated by his comments on the death of the brilliant Tom Reamy, whom we profiled in Black Gate 15:
Tom died of a heart attack just a few months after winning the award for best new writer in his field. He was found slumped over his typewriter, seven pages into a new story. Instant. Boom. Killed him… Tom’s death had a profound effect on me, because I was in my early thirties then. I’d been thinking, as I taught, well, I have all these stories that I want to write… and I have all the time in the world… and then Tom’s death happened, and I said, Boy. Maybe I don’t…
After Tom’s death, I said, “You know, I gotta try this. I don’t know if I can make a living as a full-time writer or not, but who knows how much time I have left?…” So I decided I would sell my house in Iowa and move to New Mexico. And I’ve never looked back.
Last week the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2 for you cool kids) rolled into town with its usual juggernaut of the innovative, the unusual and the spandex’d.
Though this is my fourth year covering the show for Black Gate, I must say it is by far the worst place to send someone like me who has a problem with staring; especially when doing so is likely to seriously annoy a very big person in a very small costume.
But never let it be said that I shirked my obligation to a long-suffering readership. Therefore I bribed Black Gate photographer Chris Z to once again wade into a precarious situation with me, this time with the promise he could meet all the crew of the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean who were listed as special guests.
Plus, Chris would be a good deterrent if I did indeed seriously annoy someone; like Batman or Chewbacca.
Almost immediately I realized Chris Z was probably in as much trouble as I was.
The first indication was a sign instructing us to text a number if we saw anything “suspicious.” At which point Chris and I looked at each other and said in unison, “Define suspicious.”
When everywhere you look are adults dressed as super heroes, Star Wars characters and video game icons, determining exactly what constitutes “suspicious” is darn near impossible. Which makes you wonder what would cause someone to text the number as instructed.
Still, Chris and I did our very best to put on the mental blinders and run through a full-day lineup of interviews, meet-and-greets and 100 aisles of merchandise.