Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Nine – “The Tusk Men of Mongo”

Friday, August 26th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

tusk-men-12flash“The Tusk Men of Mongo” was the ninth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between February 7 and April 18, 1937, “The Tusk Men of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the eighth installment, “The Forest Kingdom of Mongo” left off with Flash and Dale unknowingly venturing into Tusk Men territory. The Tusk Men are a Neanderthal-like race of blue-skinned men with prehensile tails. They live in tribes and have fashioned crude tools such as axes. One of their scouts spies Flash and Dale and despite Flash carrying a makeshift spear, they are quickly overwhelmed by five of the Tusk Men.

Flash and Dale are bound and led many miles away to a vast network of caves where the Tusk Men dwell. There, we learn that the Tusk Men can speak a simple form of English as well as their own bestial language, and that they are cannibals who have captured Flash and Dale to devour them. The tribe is ruled by One-Tusk who claims Dale for his mate. Dale pleads for Flash’s life is to be spared to no avail. Just as he is about to be pitched into the flames, Flash breaks free of his bonds and fights against his captors. The Tusk Men greatly outnumber him and the Earth man is quickly recaptured. Death appears unavoidable.

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Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for the Creators of the New Super Hero Comic Legacies End

Thursday, August 25th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

legacies-endAs discussed last week I had the distinct pleasure of covering the Chicago Comic-Con for Black Gate earlier this month. About 20% of the enormous convention center is dedicated to comic artists and creators, set up in an area called “Artist’s Alley.” There you could see a bewildering array of amazing illustrations from the Japanese anime style to traditional pen and ink, and meet the creative minds behind both popular super heroes (last year I got to meet Gary Friedrich, creator of Ghost Rider) as well as emerging new talent.

It was there I found my friend and film actor Jason Contini (star of Shadowland) along with his partners, brother Nathan Contini, Justin Mitchiner and Nicholas Hearne promoting their new comic series Legacies End.

The gents were kind enough to give me an early look and I must say, even though I’m a bit of a super hero traditionalist (Wonder Woman for example), I absolutely loved this very modern day approach. Think X-men and Watchman meet Kick Ass and you wouldn’t be far off.

Clearly, I had to know more.

An Interview With Jason Contini, Nathan Contini, Justin Mitchiner and Nicholas Hearne

Conducted and transcribed by Sue Granquist, August 2011

GC: How did you get into creating comics? Was it to meet girls?

NICHOLAS: Why else would a red blooded American man create a comic book but to meet girls?!  Geek chicks are the best!!! (GC: so what are you implying, Nicholas??)

JASON: Well, I think that’s the main reason to do anything, right? Girls!! No, I think for us, it was more that we were all super comic book fans for nearly most of our lives. And we’ve all talked about doing a comic book of our own for years.

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EXPERTISE: The Role of the Expert in Fantastic Fiction

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | Posted by markrigney

cov0902lg-2502As I began the second story in the latest issue of Black Gate, I was forcefully (but not forcibly) reminded of a review I wrote some years ago for Tangent Online. The review covered a 2009 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the salient section being a paragraph I’d penned in response to Fred Chappell’s “Shadow of the Valley”:

As with heist movies and Tom Clancy thrillers, “Shadow of the Valley” thrives on the appeal of the expert, in this case Falco. He’s a man’s man, the icon of so many Westerns, the sort who can accurately predict the motives and movements of others, then exploit them to a tee. He has no emotional connections of any kind (indeed, women and children are notably absent from the story), and would likely deny needing any such thing. For experts, need is weakness. Think of Moorcock’s Von Bek, Fleming’s 007. We love these all-knowing cynics at least in part because they are so patently broken. Like them, Falco is the sort of tough-guy to whom readers cotton easily; his smarts and his world-weariness are butter for the bread of our reading experience. And so the story’s success stands or falls on Falco’s confident, wary shoulders; we follow the turns of this short story-cum-novelette to the degree that we bet for or against Falco’s success. Will he and his outlaw band reach the prized plants before Mutano, and will he get them back to semi-safe civilization before misfortune overtakes him? The pages turn readily in search of the answers.

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Marvin Kaye to Edit Weird Tales

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

weird-tales-358Marvin Kaye, author and editor of 28 genre anthologies, including Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never DiesMasterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, and the World Fantasy award-winning The Fair Folk, has reportedly purchased Weird Tales from John Betancourt of Wildside Press, with the intention of editing it himself.

Current editor Ann VanderMeer reported the news on her blog:

I am very sad to have to tell you that my editorship at Weird Tales, which has included one Hugo Award win and three Hugo Award nominations, is about to come to an end. The publisher, John Betancourt of Wildside Press, is selling the magazine to Marvin Kaye. Kaye is buying the magazine because he wants to edit it himself. He will not be retaining the staff from my tenure. I wish him the best with the different direction he wants to pursue, including his first, Cthulhu-themed issue. The current issue of Weird Tales is #358, just published. My last issue will be #359, which Kaye plans to publish in February…

The past five years reading fiction for Weird Tales magazine has been an honor for me. I had a blast doing this but I have also contributed to the canon of “the weird tale”— a responsibility I take seriously, not only for the readers of today, but for the readers of tomorrow. This iconic magazine originally blazed a trail for new approaches to dark fantastical fiction, and I did my best to return to that legacy.

Technically the Weird Tales name is owned by Robert Weinberg and Victor Dricks, who purchased it in the late 1970s, and who have licensed it to multiple publishers over the past three decades, including Terminus Publications, DNA Publications, and Wildside Press.

While VanderMeer’s tenure at Weird Tales was occasionally controversial — especially among sword & sorcery fans — she took some brave risks with the magazine. With Stephen H. Segal she presided over an ambitious and successful redesign in 2007, brought home the first Hugo Award in the history of the magazine in 2009, and she assumed his post as editor-in-chief when Segal departed in January of last year. I thought she did a fine job, and she will be missed.

On the other hand, always glad to see a good Cthulhu-themed issue. I’m looking forward to seeing where Kaye intends to sail with Weird Tales.  I expect it will be places both strange and familiar.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Venus, Part 1: Pirates of Venus

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

pirates-of-venus-first-edition-coverNext year brings the hundredth anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first two published novels: A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes, as well as a big-budget film version of A Princess of Mars from Disney. (The film is saddled with the unfortunately bland title of John Carter. Fear of a Red Planet?) The effect these novels had on popular cultural was immense: they created a whole medium, they altered the nature of reading for pleasure. Pulp magazines existed before Edgar Rice Burroughs had the idea he could write better than the tripe found in the publications where he was working to place ads; but it was the success of first Under the Moons of Mars (the serial title for A Princess of Mars) and then Tarzan of the Apes in 1912 that made the pulps into the artillery of the Reader Revolution. The pulps turned the U.S. into a nation of readers, and ERB fired the first two shots in the revolution.

Then, twenty years into the revolution, he fired off the few rounds of his “Venus” series.

I have planned some festivities for the upcoming centenary of the Burroughs Upheaval. One is an ambitious project I have wanted to try on Black Gate for the last two years. But as a prologue to my 2012 ERB projects here in 2011, I’ve chosen to present a look at Burroughs’s least popular series, the last one he started before his death.

These posts will have a different structure from my usual free-form analysis style. Inspired by columns I’ve seen on the movie review sites I frequent (particularly “Franchise Me” on, I’ve laid out a template for tackling each of the five installments of the Edgar Rice Burroughs “Venus Saga.” An experiment? Or an admission that trying to go academic on this series feels like the wrong approach? I’m not sure myself, but here it goes….

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William Blake and the Nature of Fantasy

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Ancient of DaysPerhaps my favourite fantasy writing is arguably not fantasy at all. The epics and prophecies of William Blake certainly read like fantasy to many people, I think, albeit fantasy in a distinctive, unfamiliar form. But is the word appropriate? Blake himself was a visionary — he literally saw visions — and may well have believed that some at least of his writing was literally true. Does the definition of fantasy reside in the writer, or the reader? And how would Blake himself want his writing to be viewed?

Farah Mendlesohn, in her book Rhetorics of Fantasy, argued that the term ‘fantasy’ did not necessarily apply to the works of Latin American magic realist writers. As I understand her, she argues that the cultures of these writers are distinct from the culture that produced ‘fantasy fiction,’ and that the writers therefore stand in a different relationship of belief to the fiction. Magic realist texts “are not meant to act as genre text. Instead, the world from which the text was written is the primary world. It only becomes fantastical because we Anglo-American readers are outsiders. … Magic realism … is written with the sense of fading belief. If we are looking for some form of it, we need the literature of a similar culture, one in which the presence of other powers is a real and vibrant thing, even if it must exist alongside scientific rationalism.”

I don’t know whether what Mendlesohn describes is necessarily a cultural outlook, or whether it can be a personal one. She acknowledges it can apply to writing from the American South. But take John Crowley’s novel quartet The Solitudes, which seems like a North American piece of magic realism and which very carefully builds in explanations for its metaphysical elements — Crowley suggests that the world remakes itself on occasion, with different rules and a rewritten history each time; magic might have worked once, the books say, but when the world last changed, not only did magic stop working, but history itself was changed so that in fact magic now never has worked. Does one need to concern oneself with Crowley’s own philosophical positions before determining whether his writing is fantasy? (In fact, it’s a more complicated question than that; briefly, the characters are half-aware that they’re characters in a story, and the text itself unfolds aware of its nature as a text. Whether this makes it more fantastic or less is an interesting point, but not what I want to talk about here.)

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IT’S ONLY PULP: A Fair and Balanced Review of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

conan2Friends, Bloggers, Conan Fans, lend me your ears! I come not to defend the new CONAN movie, but to present an informal overview that examines what works and what doesn’t work. To begin, I’ve seen a lot better movies … and I’ve seen a LOT worse movies.

First, let’s consider the source: Robert E. Howard is a largely respected fantasy author by today’s standards. However, that was not the case in the 20s and 30s when he was publishing his lurid pulp adventure stories in WEIRD TALES and similar pulp magazines of the time. In Howard’s day, pulp fiction was considered “trash,” and it was treated accordingly. Sex and violence were common ingredients in a good pulp tale, and Howard’s work is definitely full of both. However, what was considered obscene in the Pulp Era seems rather tame compared to the graphic sex and violence we see in today’s media. You can look at this in two ways: Either we as a society have gotten less uptight about certain subjects, or we have become a more depraved society. It’s all a matter of perspective. And as many philosphers will tell you, perspective is reality.

The new CONAN THE BARBARIAN film isn’t exactly a remake, but it does borrow its revenge motif from the original (and superior) John Milius CONAN film from 1982. That was NOT a Howard plot point. The Conan of Howard’s tales is not pursuing vengeance for his slain father, his slain mother, or his slain village. However, he would certainly have not been above bringing bloody and thunderous vengeance to anybody who wronged him. It simply was not his driving ambition, as it is in the movies.

Before I talk about the movie’s failings, let me first say what works about it: The visuals. Marcus Nispel’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN is a visual triumph. The Hyborian Age has never looked so wondrous, splendid, and believable on screen. From the virgin wilderness and Cimmerian villages to the decadent, sprawling cities, the vast monastaries, and the ancient citadels with skull-shaped caves, the movie simply looks fantastic. The costuming too is spot-on and suitably grimy, evocative, and well-designed. Same goes for the props: swords, spears, armor, ships, etc.

It all LOOKS fantastic. But looks aren’t everything…

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Conan the Torturer

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 | Posted by Theo

conanThe intrepid Leo Grin isn’t what one would call delighted with the new Conan movie:

Saw Conan the Barbarian last night. Revoltingly stupid, incomprehensibly plotted and edited, and overflowing with the kind of quasi-erotic torture porn (seemingly pulled wholesale out of a serial killer’s wet dreams) that’s become a staple of both fantasy literature and Hollywood films this century. Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen during decades of painfully slumming through mediocre genre fare — I daresay even Uwe Boll (the ham-fisted director commonly seen as the modern era’s answer to Ed Wood) has never made anything this irredeemably rotten.

I daresay we can soon expect to hear from the admirers of the New Nihilism informing us that Leo has once again managed to miss the point, that the new Conan the Barbarian film is, in fact, a brilliant reinvention of a genre that had grown tired and stale, that it is admirably adult in its moral ambiguity and creative depravity, and may be the greatest film since Citizen Kane. Which leads me to contemplate two things. First, since when did “adult” come to imply torture, incest, and rape? I mean, I enjoy spending a quiet Saturday night creeping about the bushes at the local university armed with chloroform and a knife in search of a new friend to bring back to my soundproofed playroom as much as anyone, but sometimes one would like a little escapism in one’s fantasy entertainment. You know, just a simple quest to find the Macguffin, defeat the Foozle, and save the world or something would be nice. Second, someone desperately needs to make a movie entitled Citizen Solomon Kane about an elderly Puritan who owns a media empire and dies with the mysterious word Rosebud* on his lips after a long life spent reporting on politicians and industrial magnates by day and slaughtering the bad ones with a sword by night.

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Elf Opera in Tang China

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 | Posted by Sean Stiennon

Matthew Surridge’s fascinating post on specificity in setting got the various gears, levers, in pistons in my head working.  I’m currently writing this in a cloud of steam gushing out both ears, and hopefully I’ll be able to finish before the gnomes who power the mechanisms of my consciousness go on strike.

The short version: Matthew, I agree completely.  There is a certain charm to what I think of as the typical D&D setting, in which castles are built out of clichés mortared together with anachronisms, and the world is a playground of exotic sights for the mismatched band of adventurers to wander among and slay monsters in.  It’s a lot of fun in a game–and sometimes fun in a D&D novel–but it lacks the kind of verisimilitude that makes a story really engrossing.chartes-cathedral

I tend to think that the richness of real-world Medieval civilization is masked by a series of misconceptions and broad generalizations, beginning with the tendency to see them as one long Dark Age spanning from the Fall of Rome to the Protestant Reformation.  But the so-called Dark Ages were home to the kingdoms of Charlemagne and Alfred, the flourishing of Irish and Italian monasticism, and the first sparks of the most vibrant intellectual life the world had yet seen.  Likewise, the High Middle Ages were an age of soaring cathedrals, vibrant art and music, and universities that studied everything from Roman law to medicine.

At the same time, the European Middle Ages were anything but homogenous.  The time period covers over a thousand years, which contain literally hundreds of distinct peoples and cultures.  The Vikings who besieged Paris later became the Normans who conquered England and ruled Sicily.  The balance between monarchs, emperor, and papacy was constantly shifting, sometimes responding to new threats or influences, as when the Mongols crashed against the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor.

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Interzone #235 July-August

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

351The new Interzone features “Insha’ Allah” by Matthew Cook, “For Love’s Delerium Haunts the Fractured Mind” by Mercurio D. Rivera, “The Walrus and the Icebreaker” by Jon Wallace, “Eleven Minutes” by Gareth L. Powell and “Of Dawn” by Al Robertson.  There’s also an interview with Lisa Goldstein and the usual assortment of book and video reviews. as well as David Langford’s “Ansible Link” column.

The publishers are reintroducing lifetime subscriptions. What you’re buying, in essence, is a 10-year subscription at the current rate.  If you think you’re going to live for at least another decade, and you think the magazine will also be around for as long, and this could be a bargain for whatever time you and the magazine have after that. If that weren’t enough, you can also opt for joint lifetime sub that gets you sister publication Black Static for a slightly reduced rate than the individual rates.  Sign your life away here.

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