The First Frank Frazetta Book I Owned

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I’m having a rough week, don’t bug me about filler!

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This one above is earlier Frazetta, which shows a little Roy Krenkel influence, methinks. A pencil-like roughness, as contrasted with Frazetta’s swashes of color-roughness.

My favorite Frazetta:

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http://frankfrazetta.net/

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Sounds Great, Just Don’t Make Me Watch It: JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

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One of my favorite visionary directors takes on a massive science fiction project, designed by some of my favorite SF illustrators, scored by Pink Floyd, starring, among others, Orson Welles…where do I stand in line for a ticket????

At the same theater showing the deleted footage from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and Ridley Scott’s I AM LEGEND, that’s where. Alexandro Jodorowsky tried and failed to adapt Frank Herbert’s DUNE into a movie. Ever since, the story of moviedoms most expensive failure to launch has been a cautionary tale about how The Suits will stomp on the fragile dreams of The Artist. And all The Artist asks for is for someone to fork over millions of dollars, no questions asked.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is definitely a film artist. That lets people give him a pass when he spouts off about his goofy, weird, inspired and sometimes laugh-out-loud inane work. Danny Peary put it best when he wrote about EL TOPO that it was like Jodorowsky crammed in every idea that ever appealed to him.

Watching JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, a documentary about his failed attempt to make a movie of Frank Herbert’s book, you see how easily people in Hollywood get inflated ideas about themselves. (For all the talk about eeeevil Hollywood, people bow and scrape to Jodorowsky like he’s the director of the latest big budget piece of crap.) Jodorowsky is not an American director of big-budget schlock, see, so when he says such crap as,

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” I wanted was to create a prophet. I want to create a prophet… to change the young minds of all the world. For me, Dune will be the coming of a god. Artistical, cinematographical god. For me, it was not to make a picture. It was something deeper. I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective.”

I’m sure that would’ve made an enjoyable, unpretentious entertainment.

I love ambitious movie makers, and especially ambitious science fiction movie makers. But when I see and hear his plans for this, I see someone who isn’t all that far removed from a campier Wachowski brothers act, powered by some vague New Age philosophy, starring his 12-year-old son and flamboyantly-dressed stars like Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali (or his inflatable double), with a lot of palace intrigue. For twelve hours.

Did he or anyone connected to this think about the impossibility of making a twelve-hour movie ‘inspired’ by DUNE? It certainly didn’t seem like he was interested in doing anything like a faithful rendition of the book. He says early on he started this without having read the book. I’m still not convinced he’s read it since.

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I think people get off on the idea of a lunatic (the good kind) making a folly. It appeals to people to think of The Suits paying for something truly screwy. But when proof of your unmade movie’s influence on the world is that some of its design aesthetic ended up in FLASH GORDON and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, you might want to reconsider all that bragging you’re doing.

 

The very people turned off by David Lynch’s sometimes-chintzy, sometimes grotesque adaptation applaud Jodorowsky’s transvestite-chic vision? The movie looks dated already (which is saying something for a movie that hasn’t been made). Do people really want to see this stuff? I can practically hear the laughter as each intergalactic clothes horse stomps on the scene.

The documentary reaches its climax when the world’s easiest target, The Suits,  turn out to be the only reason this boobdoggle never happened. Why couldn’t Disney just hand over a few million dollars to make some stranger’s dream project come true? People would wouldn’t dream of letting the guy who remodels their bathroom spend a hundred dollars without the home owner’s input scoff at the idea that a commercial studio wouldn’t open up the coffers.

If Jodorowsky and others like him would get their own financing, they could make their dreams come true on film, instead of blaming strangers with money for not funding their dreams. It’s such an accepted truth that if you deny millions to dreamers you’re a villain, but I don’t see a lot of crowd-funded epics being made today.

You should see this documentary. You should see EL TOPO, SANTE SANGRE and especially HOLY MOUNTAIN.

I’m just glad I don’t have to see Jodorowsky’s 12-hour ego trip.

 

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Art of my Misspent Youth: P. Craig Russell’s KILLRAVEN

I don’t have much to say about the Killraven art of P. Craig Russell.

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It is baroque, it is colorful. It is not like most comic book art of its time (the seventies).

It is both beautiful and creepy at once.

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It is evocative of a science fiction world bigger and deeper than any science fiction movie I can think of. No, not even that one.

It depicts a world in which humanity has been defeated and enslaved by alien beings who send young people to gladiator pits. A handful of them escape.

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One of them, called Killraven, is a nineteen-year-old who’s been winning in the gladiator battles, and uses his strength and prowess with fighting and weapons not to benefit his Martian slavemasters, but to seek out his brother in a devastated world. And maybe, on the way, help defeat the Martians.

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From the KILLRAVEN wikipedia entry: ” P. Craig Russell…whose sensitive, elaborate artwork, evocative of Art Nouveau illustration, gave the landscape of Killraven’s America a nostalgic, pastoral feel, and the Martian architecture the look of futuristic castles.” – Peter Sanderson, MARVEL UNIVERSE

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Russell’s world was a forerunner of Bruce Pennington’s (left) and Don Maitz’s (right) covers for Gene Wolfe’s BOOK OF THE NEW SUN.

Russell created a STRANGE science fiction world, more like that of a fantasy than a hardware scifi story.

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P. Craig Russell made KILLRAVEN stories visual feasts. You could just drink in the art, and still follow the story.

https://www.facebook.com/pcrart/

Unfunny Book: THE LOVECRAFT ANTHOLOGY Volume 2

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The attempts to ‘do a Lovecraft’ don’t work for me. They encounter the problem of all reboots: You can replicate an artist’s style, but not his/her spirit. THE FORCE AWAKENS LOOKS like an original trilogy STAR WARS movie, moreso than the prequels directed by Lucas himself, but they are lifeless, empty things. Similarly, the stories that have tried to copy Lovecraft have slithering god-aliens with goofy names and (usually) cleaner prose, but they don’t have the qualities that everyone loves about Lovecraft. You can’t copy an artist’s particular creative bent anymore than you can his fingerprints.

The exception is HOUSE OF LEAVES, which gets at some of the dimensional horror that Lovecraft got at because Danielewzky isn’t trying to copy Lovecraft, he’s coming at similar material from his own unique, wapred angle. Both of them are trying to mess with our perceptions of reality, but he’s doing it in his own style, not trying to copy HPL, and by chance his lands in the same general area.

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Comic book adaptations have the advantage of being of a medium Lovecraft didn’t practice. By their very nature, they’re nothing like Lovecraft’s work. The pieces in THE LOVECRAFT ANTHOLOGY VOLUME II are as uneven as those in any anthology, but several work on the same feelings of dread and doom that make HPL such a laugh.

PICKMAN’S MODEL starts out promisingly but ends up being even less effective than the NIGHT GALLERY adaptation. It follows the story more accurately, but withholds a clean image of the monsters at the core. They went for suggestion over depiction. It’s okay, but not great.

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Spoilers. But you don’t see anything, so maybe not.

Adrian Salmon’s style doesn’t do much for THE TEMPLE, one of the Lovecraft stories that’s really the buildup to the discovery of An Abandoned Place Where The Old Ones Used To Crash. Humans get near an underwater temple, go nuts, arrive, the end. Why don’t I skip the ones I didn’t care for? I’d start over, but I did type all that above, so I’ll leave it in.

The next one I liked: FROM BEYOND. Here the art by Nicholas Fructus really brings the stuff. A man uses the pituitary gland to see into the unseen world around and inside us all. No Jeffrey Combs eating brains, no Barbara Crampton in leather gear, but still worth reading for the depiction of the creatures.

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THE HOUND is the most like a Robert Bloch Cthulu mythos story with a straightforward tale of grave robbers who pick up an amulet and are then haunted by a howling thing they don’t see. Bryan Baugh’s work is more precise than Fructus’ and it’s appropriate, because the threat is a monster in our world. The final beast resembles the thing at the end of HELLRAISER.

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Spooky room.

THE NAMELESS CITY is, like THE TEMPLE, another Tour of Wonders tale.

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I liked this page, and one other.

Recommended over FALL OF CTHULU: THE FUGUE because if you want Lovecraft comics, why go for a post-SANDMAN Lovecraft TYPE of comic? Get the real thing.

Lovecraft Comics: FALL OF CTHULU: THE FUGUE

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I miss out on every Latest Thing. It’s a habit I’m happy to nurture, as it helps me keep my wits when the hype and the balloons and the dancing girls and the free crock pot give-aways destroy all reason in fans and they end up actually claiming to like crap like TWILIGHT, BATTLEGROUND EARTH and EVENT HORIZON. No, it wasn’t, it SUCKED.

According to the back cover, this collects the opening arc in the comic book sensation that took the comic book world by storm in 2007-2008. And I missed it! This isn’t a comic book adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft stories, but a series influenced by and using some of H.P.L.’s concepts, such as the squid-faced dude and the ancient city under the waves. I ain’t looking up the spelling for every word I type, I’ve got a book I’m trying to finish. I’ll be commenting on some other Lovecraft comic material later in the month, but I’m starting with this interesting little appetizer.

It opens with a little mood-setting, with talk of primordial stone and the world being plunged into despair by R’yleh, the conniving, oozing schemer.

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Despair, west of Java.

We then see a few happy moments in the life of the writer of the Necronomicon, a scribe we shall call “Al” because I’m not checking the spelling repeatedly. After a shaky opening I found this part interesting. Any reader of HPL knows the name but Al doesn’t end up in many adventures. This promises good things, this section.

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The bulk of the narrative isn’t what it could be. Cy and his girlfriend Jordan are a couple, and Cy’s uncle has been poking around into Ye Olde Ones. He shows up while the happy couple are being happy, the uncle, and promptly blows his brains out. Cy’s investigation into his uncle’s work drives the plot…which takes a long time getting underway. Uncle was involved in the coming of Thou Crusty Crustaceaonous Slithery Gods, which is inevitable. Cy’s girlfriend stands around being annoyed because keeps leaving the Evil Jewel-Encrusted Blade on the kitchen table and the dishes piled up in the sink. I was kind of surprised that the lead woman was such a dull cliche.

Once Cy checks out Uncle’s digs, things start to pick up.

My anti-comic book prejudice fell away when I realized what a good intro to Lovecraft for contemporary readers. Lovecraft is hard to take full-strength. Of course some of us are entranced right away, but his style was baroque and purple when it was new, so almost a century’s reading habits later, it’s tough to take for newbies.

Kids today do not watch black and white movies, so reading something from decades ago is a challenge. If the comic form can help a reader dip yon toe into the primordial ooze, that’s a good thing.

The art is sometimes dull, sometimes inspired. The Al sequences are dust-clogged and dark.

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The contemporary parts of the story are less impressive, but have their moments.

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Jean Dzialowski is responsible for most of the art, which is okay in the main but inspired in the Al sequences. The creepiest work comes from Andrew Ritchie, who did the dream sequences. As was the case with the art direction of ALIEN, bringing in a different artist for the more ‘out-there’ material creates a collision of styles we’d expect when leaping from one world to the next.

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If you’re a Lovecraft fan, it’s safe to skip THE FUGUE. All Lovecraft sequels or tributes are rooted in our contemporary world, and the introduction of Lovecraftian elements bang into that ‘normal’ world. But Lovecraft was twisted, and his stories were twisted–the ‘normal world’ is nodded at, but HPL’s Lovecraftiness pervades every putrid, rotting sentence. He wasn’t normal, and those who try to jump on his bandwagon are. (Or their abnormality isn’t his; Thomas Ligotti, for example).

If you or someone you know is curious about Lovecraft, this is a good place to start, maybe even better than a hit of the real stuff right off (though that’s preferable). I’m thinking of those danged young ‘uns again, and their color T.V. and disco music–Lovecraft and the other Weird Tales folks might just be too tough for them. So give ’em this. It’s a little too much like Neil Gaiman for me, but that might just be because I’ve read almost nothing in comic book form but a little Neil Gaiman in decades.

And the dream sequences are good.

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Blech!

Bernie Wrightson

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Bernie Wrightson died in March of this year.

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If you don’t know who he was, do yourself a favor and do a YouTube search and a Google search on his name, and expose yourself to his work.

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He was a comic book artist with a magnificent style, mostly applied to horror topics. He illustrated the first horror comic that really messed with my mind, “Jenifer,” written by Bruce Jones. I hadn’t seen it in years until a few years ago. I have a terrible memory, but I’d remembered the Wrightson art from this almost perfectly. It really made an impression.

He was known for decades of work, but the original Swamp Thing was a monumental work. Later, he created his masterpiece, the black and white illustrations for FRANKENSTEIN.

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I used to like comic books but lost interest when I started reading more novels and short stories. A few artists so impressed me that I kept looking for their work: Eisner, Steranko, Adams, Kaluta, a few others. I always considered these folks and Wrightson not only comic book artists, but just plain artists. Their work went beyond the average, the accepted, even the popular. Their work was original, sure, but it was strikingly different–it made you think, “This isn’t like the usual stuff.” Alex Nino is another example of an artist whose work was so damned odd that he did a lot of horror and fantasy–his ‘average’ work was just too weird for something like Superman.

 

Wrightson’s figures always seemed gnarled; when his characters smile it’s startling. There are few sunny days in Wrightsonworld. He was a shaper of darkness, from the various locations in his issues of Swamp Thing to the CREEPY stories he did, which were in the tradition of EC in their gruesome detail. He could bring an edge to the futuristic world of Captain Sternn (which was a segment of HEAVY METAL) and the Stephen King small town of CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF.

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I recommend you check out the Paper Tiger book THE STUDIO, about four artists who shared a space for awhile, Wrightson among them. It was one of the first art books I ever bought, in large part because it was by the man who drew “Jenifer.” For all his accomplishments, he’ll always be the creator of that story about a man who rescues a horrible girl from death in the woods. It was done for Masters of Darkness, and seeing that segment is a good example of how even a good director and a faithful adaptation just can’t compare with the real thing, taken straight.

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I’m not sure why I’m drawn to this artist, don’t care for that one. In Wrightson’s case, it’s easy to say why I liked his work: It was the first comic book art that showed me comics could be more than just fun superhero action, they could be truly terrifying. For a kid who loved horror stories and movies, it was like finding the universe had an extra dimension I hadn’t known about.

 

 

He was a great artist in his chosen form. What more can I say about someone whose work I love?

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An episode of The Walking Dead was dedicated to Wrightson.