Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tryptophan Overdose

Sorry folks- due to an unexpected assault of tryptophan over the past few days, I won't be posting anything just yet.
Well, other than this.
Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend with whatever you got into. I have a couple ideas for various projects- like always, we'll see how far any of them get along.
PS- it is now acceptable to listen to Christmas music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 9: The Devils I Know

7/1/93 (Happy Belated Birthday, Mark!)

Well, unintentionally, I'm continuing the theme of Hell and the Devil with this retro post from '93. It takes two of my then-favorite characters, Daredevil and Grendel, and puts them in a dynamic, but dangerous, confrontation.

As you can see, still going with the super-musculature here. Lots of blacks (Grendel's outfit is meant to be black, but it's pretty hard to show detail like that). For me, a pretty decent dynamic to the figures. I remember enjoying drawing this a lot- like I said, a lot more dynamic than most of the things I drew (then and now), and they were two of my favorite characters.

Most of you probably know who Daredevil is, from the mediocre (at best) Ben Affleck movie if nothing else. But to sum up: Blind Lawyer by day, Blind Vigilante by night. Grendel, however, is a bit more complex. The character of Grendel (in comics) first appeared in the guise of Hunter Rose, a millionaire playboy who dressed up in a stylish costume and went out into the night (sounds like Batman, right?). But in this instance, Grendel was the villain of the piece. In fact, he only lasted for one story; he was killed at the end of it. The story's title, Devil by the Deed, began to make 'Grendel' and 'Devil' synonymous. The character became a cult hit, and was revisited repeatedly, even showing a meeting with Batman, and eventually, Hunter Rose/Grendel became the driving force for the entire planet. Gone was the thief/murderer Hunter Rose; in his place was Grendel, the spirit of aggression. A large number of stories were told in this future world, and how the spirit of Grendel (more metaphorical than literal) affected every single part of the world. I've not revisted the Grendel universe in many a year; perhaps it would be worth another trip. I remember quite enjoying it back in the day.

Anyway, the picture: mostly, I just thought it was a nice opportunity to take two 'devil' characters and put them together. Plus, with Daredevil being a pretty close analogue to Batman, I thought it would work well. No story beyond that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all; I'll be back sometime next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hell and The Necromancer; my book report by Karloff's Ghost

I read two books in a row. One was called Hell by Robert Olen Butler and one was called Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard. They were both about Hell, though I didn't plan to read them both in a row. I guess I should worry that I subconsciously chose two books in a row about Hell, but I won't. They were very different from each other, but were both very good.

Hell took place, unsurprisingly, in Hell. The main character is Hatcher McCord, the newscaster for Hell's evening news. Hell is not like most ideas of Hell we've seen in the past. There's fire and brimstone and acid storms, but it's a big city (Hell enough for some people) that runs just like a terrestrial big city. Hell is a lot more devious than lakes of fire. Hell is pretty subtle- doing things you know will not work, or will only disappoint you, but being compelled to try anyway in the hopes that, maybe this time, things will be different. Hope springs eternal in Hell, as does disappointment. Hell is populated with quite the array of guest stars: Humphrey Bogart, the Clintons, G.W. Bush, Hitler, even (though implied rather than stated) the author himself. And not just them- a number of surprising folks turn up. Some of the most interesting and thought-provoking parts of the novel are the descriptions of the sufferings of the famous. But, this isn't simply a 'Who's Who' of the damned. When Hatcher learns there may be a way out of Hell, he begins a journey that takes him from one end of Hell to another, and a journey through the ideas of personal pain and suffering, human connections, free will, and the possibility of redemption.

It's not light reading, by any means- though the language is hardly florid, the directions Butler takes with his characters, often veering off into stream-of-consciousness internal monologues on the suffering of the damned, can take you out of the 'plot'. However, these side trips into their suffering are really an integral part of the meaning of the book. Some of these moments, especially when revisiting the damned, make for some of the most emotional moments of the book. By the time the novel ends, you have traveled nearly as far as Hatcher has, and the ending hits the reader profoundly, all the moreso for its understated nature. Its impact is only reinforced as you look back across the events of the novel. I found myself repeatedly thinking about the novel after I'd finished it, wondering at the deeper meanings of some of the events. It has been said that Hell is other people, but after reading this novel, I believe that the author, at least, thinks that Redemption might be other people, as well.

Johannes Cabal The Necromancer does not take place in Hell. Or at least, not entirely. Most of the story takes place in a carnival. Which could be like Hell for some folks. Especially those not liking clowns. I'm not really sure how best to describe the story- though the plot is pretty straightforward: Man sells soul to the devil in order to discover the secrets of life after death, decides that wasn't the best way to learn, then renegotiates his contract, trading one hundred freely-given souls in one year's time for his own back. And he has to collect them using a carnival. It takes places in an unspecific time and place- I was convinced it took place in Victorian England, until they started referring to things like radio and genetics. it's somewhat reminiscent of the mysterious European country that so many of the Universal monster movies took place in- filled with superstitious villagers alongside modern technology.

I found myself often rooting for Cabal, then realizing he was still collecting the signatures of people to send them to Hell. Hardly a typical good guy. In fact, there's very little immediately likable about him- he's not only soulless, but pretty much amoral as well. However, he's very good at what he does, and his determination and unflappability in the face of Satan himself, help to make him a more sympathetic lead. The whole book is written in a quirky, slightly off-center way that's become very popular in recent years. I found it very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, or the movie version of Big Fish, though with a bit drier sense of humor. The novel is populated with an interesting array of characters, not least among them Cabal's business partner. The novel itself, once it gets rolling (so to speak; it's a carnival that travels by train), unfolds in a series of vignettes at each stop along the rail. Each stop brings some new challenge to Cabal's plan, or to Cabal himself. It's not meant to be as philosophically engaging as Hell, but is quite enjoyable as an above-average supernatural humor/adventure story- one that also deals with ideas like suffering, human connections, and the possibility of redemption.

Those were the books I read. I would recommend them to anyone who likes to read and isn't afraid of the Devil or Hell or laughing or thinking or all of the above. I do not recommend reading them both in a row, or letting people know you are reading books about Hell- they might wonder what's going on in your mind. Or not, if they know you well. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Burgh n'@

Not misspelled, spelled the way a Pittsburgher says it. I love my hometown.

And, I just really liked this. It was about 70 that day.

More later. Probably about Hell, but maybe something artsy. We'll see. Cheers!

Music: "My Hometown" - Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 8: Devil May Care


Back to the past, as it were. This one was still in that super-muscled phase I went through back then, but at this point I was starting to come into my own by making it a little more stylized. Daredevil was a long-standing favorite character of mine, and it was a nice change to do something slightly more action-oriented (for me), while still giving a somewhat iconic pose. Of course, there're tons wrong with the picture (anatomy, still not a strong suit), but I was pleased enough with it. I liked using the other inks to make 'highlights' of the picture, and this was more shading (fake though it was) than I normally used. It was a bit of a different picture than I was used to, but I still like it.

Probably nothing to post next Monday. It's been quite the week thus far, and with friends coming in from out of town this weekend, I'll most likely not get a chance to prep anything Sunday. So, see you Wednesday.

Music: "Devil Inside" - INXS

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Remembrance Table

This Table set for one is small -- Symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. Remember!

The Tablecloth is white -- Symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms. Remember!

The single Red Rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return. Remember!

The Red Ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing. Remember!

The Candle, the candle is lit -- Symbolizing the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit. Remember!

A Slice of Lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate. Remember!

There is Salt upon the bread plate -- Symbolic of the families' tears as they wait. Remember!

The Glass is inverted -- They cannot toast with us this night. Remember!

The Chair -- The chair is empty. They are not here. Remember!

Remember! -- All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you. Remember!

Remember! -- Until the day they come home, Remember!

--Larry H. Tassone, USAF (Ret)

Today is a day to honor all veterans, but I thought it would be an especially appropriate time to post this picture, taken this past Memorial Day at the Plum Legion. I'd never seen this tableau before- I've been to more than one Memorial Day tribute, but this was new to me. The solemnity and reverence with which the men of the Post attended to this table, and to the reading of the above, truly touched me- all the more remarkable given I was there for a ceremony honoring my father, as well as all those members who passed on over the past year.

So often, when I think about all those men and women who have served America, I think about all the ones who died, fighting for their Country, or their Family, or just the Soldier next to him. Or I think about those who lived, and came back to their Country, and to their Family, and to their fellow Soldiers.

Not often enough do I think of those soldiers lost to us- those Missing in Action, unable to come home to their Country, to their Family, to their fellow Soldier; and the Prisoners of War, who sometimes do come home, but are always haunted and marked by their time kept away from their Country, their Family, their fellow Soldiers.

So please, think about them all- think of the veterans living, deceased, and lost...


And Remember.