Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Christmas Carol Project Index

Scene 1: Old Sinner
Scene 2: "A Merry Christmas, Uncle!"
Scene 3: "You Wish to Be Anonymous?"
Scene 4: "If Quite Convenient, Sir."
Scene 5: His Usual Melancholy Tavern
Scene 6: "More of Gravy Than of Grave"
Scene 7: "Your Reclamation, Then."
Scene 8: "I Was a Boy Here!"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 9: "Why, It's Old Fezziwig!"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 10: "Another Idol Has Displaced Me."
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 11: "Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 12: The City Streets on Christmas Morning
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 13: Doubts About the Quantity of Flour
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 14: "I Think He Loses a Very Good Dinner"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 15: "Are There No Prisons?"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 16: "If a Lunch is Provided"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 17: "That's the Way I Ruin Myself"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 18: Unwatched, Unwept, Uncared For
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 19: "The Colour Hurts My Eyes"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 20: "I Am Not the Man I Was"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 21: "What's To-day, My Fine Fellow?"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 22: "Not a Farthing Less"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 23: "I Have Come to Dinner"
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 24: "I Am Behind My Time."
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)
Scene 25: Scrooge Was Better Than His Word
  • Dickens' text
  • Mark McDermott (1910)
  • Seymour Hicks (1935)
  • Reginald Owen (1938)
  • Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
  • Alastair Sim (1951)
  • Fredric March (1954)
  • Teen Titans #13 (1968)
  • Albert Finney (1970)
  • Alastair Sim (1971)
  • Walter Matthau (1978)
  • Marvel Classics Comics #36 (1978)
  • Scrooge McDuck (1983)
  • George C. Scott (1984)
  • Michael Caine (1992)
  • Patrick Stewart (1999)
  • Classical Comics (2008)
  • Jim Carrey (2009)
  • Campfire (2010)
  • Christmas Classics (2010)

Let's Try This Again: Covetous Old Sinner



A couple of years ago, I started a second blog to take an in-depth look at everyone's favorite Christmas/ghost story, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Similar to what Siskoid's doing with Hamlet, my goal was to pay attention to the way Scrooge's story has been interpreted and adapted to other media over the years.

I decided to make it its own blog because I thought that I might be stretching this one a bit by talking about it here. Two things have changed my mind. First, let's be honest: I stretch the boundaries of this blog all the time (if it even has any boundaries, which I doubt). Having a Christmas Carol theme month in December isn't all that different from taking the month of October to talk about Frankenstein.

More than that though, putting this project on its own blog just hasn't worked for my schedule. It's time consuming and whenever I had to make the choice between updating the Christmas Carol blog or updating this one, this one was always going to win. Still, it's a project that I want to see through, so bringing it here will help me do that.

The way this is going to work is that I’ll break the story down into scenes (or sometimes parts of scenes) and look at their translation to 18 different films, TV shows, and comics:

A Christmas Carol (1910) starring Marc McDermott
Scrooge (1935) starring Seymour Hicks
A Christmas Carol (1938) starring Reginald Owen
Scrooge (1951) starring Alastair Sim
"A Christmas Carol" episode of Shower of Stars (1954) starring Fredric March
• Teen Titans #13 (DC; 1968)
Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney
• A Christmas Carol cartoon (1971) starring Alastair Sim
• The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) starring Walter Matthau
• Marvel Classics Comics #36 (Marvel; 1978)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) starring Scrooge McDuck
A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) starring Michael Caine
A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart
• A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (Classical Comics; 2008)
• A Christmas Carol (2009) starring Jim Carrey
• A Christmas Carol (Campfire; 2010)
• "A Christmas Carol" in Graphic Classics, Vol. 19: Christmas Classics (Eureka; 2010)

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list. I started with my favorites, then added some that people have recommended to me and then threw in some others that just caught my curiosity. We can talk about the ones I left out, but I will say that Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol isn’t here because I hate it with a passion. It’s neither a good Christmas Carol nor a good Mister Magoo cartoon. There’s also no Scrooged or An American Christmas Carol or Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. When I first started this, I tried to stick to more-or-less faithful adaptations, but even though I've since added Teen Titans to the list, I'd rather that be a fun exception and not have to figure out where I'm going to draw the line.

This is going to take years. Every December I'll talk about one scene; starting with Dickens' version, then looking at the adaptations of that scene in the days leading up to Christmas. I'm not saying that this is the only thing I'll be doing here all month - we'll have some People Hating Cephalopods and at least one Wonder Woman follow-up - but Scrooge will be the priority. Starting tomorrow, when we'll let Dickens introduce the miserable old sinner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stuff I Wrote: Hunt the Winterlands



I contributed a story to this fantasy anthology. It's a shared-world anthology with all the writers creating stories in a harsh, snow- and ice-covered land. Mine deals with a tribe of Snow Elves (a race that I probably didn't invent, but have never heard of before), focusing mostly on a young mother and her talking baby. Only, just like human babies, Snow Elf babies aren't supposed to talk either, so it kind of freaks her out and makes her wonder if something horrible has happened. Which it kind of has.

Anyway, it's available on Amazon both in print and for the Kindle and I hope you'll check it out. If you don't feel like checking it out now, it's also in my store and there's a permanent link to that on the sidebar. Much thanks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wonder Woman: Thoughtfully twisted?



As I've continued looking through Noah Berlatsky's Wonder Woman posts for revelations about her Warrior of Peace paradox, I discovered a troubling observation in his second article. In his first one, I was encouraged by a simple observation: "You can't show everyone how strong you are unless you are tied up and break free and dominate others." That's about Wonder Woman's strength-weakness paradox, not her warrior-peace one, but if we can resolve the strength-through-bondage problem, it shouldn't be much more difficult to resolve the peace-through-war one. Or at least get some good ideas about how to better talk about it. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. I knew it wasn't going to be, but Berlatsky confirms it in his second post.

"You can't show everyone how strong you are unless you're tied up and can break free to dominate others" presents the strength-weakness elements as opposed, which is an intuitive way of thinking about it. It suggests that to understand one, you have to also show the other. Like how we can't fully get what light does without first being in the dark, we see how strong Wonder Woman is by seeing her temporarily weakened. But that's not really how Charles Moulton wrote her. For Moulton, the two aren't contrasting opposites, but complementary halves of the same portrait. As Berlatsky says:
Moulton’s Wonder Woman is (ahem) bound up with his very particular set of fetishes and fantasies. Moulton made his stories about those fetishes and fantasies; that’s what he wanted to talk about, and in that context WW’s appearance (girly; uncovered), her tools (the magic lasso; the bracelets), and her contradictory image (powerful, but always being dominated) all make at least a kind of sense. His weird blend of feminism/misogyny (“I love strong women — tie them up so I may love them more!”) which means you can’t get the feminism without the misogyny, but also means you can’t get the misogyny without the feminism. In particular, the way and the extent to which Moulton presents and fetishizes female relationships seems equally tied up with his own sexual peccadillos (lesbianism is never very far below the surface here) and with ideas about girls supporting each other in a feminist or protofeminist way. Certainly, Moulton comics are far, far from the first thing I’d give to my daughter, but I can see why young girls might have found something to connect with in them. Women have power (they are so, so powerful!) and they love each other (oh, please, love each other more!)

I guess the point I’m making is that there’s misogyny, but it’s not gratuitous. Moulton has a vision. It’s not PC and it’s totally sexually twisted, but at least he’s thought about it. He cares about women. You can mock that, or argue with that, or even suggest that it might be better for everyone if he cared about women a little less, but at least there’s the sense that he’s paying attention.
What's troubling about that is that Berlatsky doesn't dig into it any deeper than that. (At least not in this post. I'm still reading.) He dismisses Moulton's portrayal of Wonder Woman as interesting, but "twisted." The feeling I get is that since it's crazy, we don't have to understand it. More than that, we probably shouldn't try to understand it. But while I get that, it's not satisfying. I suspect that if I can figure out how bondage and strength are related in Moulston's mind, it'll lead me to figuring out how peace and war could possibly connect in other Wonder Woman stories, which is what I'm really interested in.

So that's where I'm going in my next post. I don't know a lot about bondage, but I'll attempt to imagine how that fetish works and what it might suggest about Moulton's interest in strength and weakness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Minnesota cold...on Twilight



Though you couldn't tell it from the theater crowds last Thursday, clearly I ended up in the right state. The other two places I've lived are considerably more enthusiastic about sparkly vampires than I am.

How does your Twi-hardness compare with your neighbors'?

[Infographic plundered from GoodReads]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wonder Woman: What's up with the bondage?



In this week's What Are You Reading? at Robot 6, I mentioned how much I liked Geoff John's distillation of Wonder Woman's mission into something easily applicable to any time or place. In her Golden Age origin, Wonder Woman comes to Man's World to fight Nazis, but when DC rebooted their universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, that wasn't an appropriate motivation anymore. Johns restates it this way: "This place is filled with so many wonderful things, but there is also a darkness that lurks here too. One I’m going to fight. That’s what I’m here for. That’s why I’m staying. To fight."

Replace Nazis with Anything Evil and you've got a strong reason for her being here. One that makes a lot more sense than what I've always thought of as the post-Crisis mission of an Amazon warrior's being an ambassador of peace. That paradox never worked for me, so in my ignorance, I assumed it was something that George Perez came up with when he rebooted the series. It wasn't until last week that I read the latest post in Noah Berlatsky's series about Wonder Woman on the Hooded Utilitarian. In it, Berlatsky connects the warrior/peace paradox not to Perez, but to Wonder Woman's creators, William Moulton Marston and Harry G Peter:
Together Moulton and Peter created a comic that had self-conscious ideological and aesthetic content. They set out, quite deliberately, to reconcile and explore binaries involving fetish and feminism, submission and strength, peace and violence, masculinity and femininity.
It was the "peace and violence" duality that caught my attention, because I've thought about it a lot, but the others are fascinating too. And since my reaction to the Warrior of Peace paradox has been to dismiss it as stupid, I became very interested in what reconciliation Berlatsky's discovered in Marston and Peter's comics. So I'm reading his other posts on Wonder Woman in search of the answer.

I'm not far along in my search, but so far I've found this statement in his first post: "You can't show everyone how strong you are unless you are tied up and break free and dominate others." That statement raises more questions than it answers, but it's a start at bringing the ideas of strength and weakness together. This post of mine is just to introduce my study of Berlatsky's research, but my hope is that in reading the rest of what he has to say (and there's a lot of it), I'll be able to not only incorporate a problematic group of ideas into my understanding of what makes Wonder Woman tick, but also learn something about the nature of cognitive dissonance in general.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stop-Motion Johnny Quest



You've all seen this, right? It's been around for a while, but I just rediscovered it in a folder.

Johnny Quest was just slightly before my time, but I'm baffled about why I haven't binged on it yet. It's like everything I want in a cartoon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

George Lucas is to Star Wars as Han Solo is to the Millennium Falcon



"I've made a lot of special modifications myself."

"No, no, no! This one goes there; that one goes there.”

"It's not my fault!"

"I just got a funny feeling, like I'm not gonna see her again." (Oh wait, I'm sorry. That one is the fans.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Western Wednesday: Curse of the Wendigo



The summary for Curse of the Wendigo doesn't sound like a Western at first, but look deeper and there are some strong connections. First of all, the Wendigo itself of course is a myth from the North American frontier. In this graphic novel - written by Mathieu Missoffe and drawn by Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead) - the man-eating creature is relocated to WWII France where Allied and German soldiers have to form a temporary alliance to battle the monster, but there the Western flavor reasserts itself in the form of a Native American soldier who's tracked the Wendigo from his tribe's home all the way to Europe.

I'm not sure when it's coming out, but it's available for pre-order from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is amusement bad?



In Greek mythology, the Muses were the goddesses who inspired the creation of art. In verb form, to "muse" on something means to allow it to inspire you. In other words, to think about it or meditate on it.

Back to Greek again, when you add the prefix "a-" to the beginning of a word, it negates it. So "apolitical" means that someone isn't political, "asexual" refers to something or someone that isn't interested in sex, and "amoral" indicates a lack of morals.

"Amuse", then, involves the absence of thought or meditation. If something is amusing, it's just meant to be a distraction without engaging the brain in any way. And while I get that that can be attractive, is it ever good? Or should we seek out and lift up art that not only entertains, but inspires us and makes us think as well?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Good Night, Mr. Holmes (Ch 1-3)

Carole Nelson Douglas’ series of Irene Adler novels begins with three chapters that take place during the last events of A Study in Scarlet. The first chapter introduces the first-person narrator, a penniless, homeless, recently dismissed shop clerk named Penelope Huxleigh. As she worries over where her life is about to take her, she’s rescued from a pickpocket and befriended by Irene Adler. Penelope is simultaneously horrified and smitten by the American Irene’s lack of care for English decorum. Her own adherence to it would prevent her from continuing the relationship, but Irene isn’t the kind of person who takes “no” for an answer. Though not well-off herself (she’s an out-of-work actress), Irene demands that Penelope at least take refuge in Irene’s apartment for the night.

In Chapter 2, the ladies travel to Irene’s home in a cab driven by none other than Jefferson Hope, the tragic murderer of A Study in Scarlet. He’s committed his crimes and retrieved the wedding ring mentioned in Doyle’s story, but hasn’t yet been caught by Holmes. He’s clearly very sick and offers a soul-cleansing confessional of his misdeeds to the compassionate Irene. Then, grateful for her kind ear, he gives her the ring before riding off and resuming his literary destiny.

Chapter 3 mostly features Irene’s helping an unwilling Penelope to exact revenge on the girl who got her fired from her clerk position, revealing in the process that Irene is an accomplished pickpocket. It closes however at Irene’s apartment with the two women looking over the newspaper and reading the story of Jefferson Hope’s arrest and subsequent death. In the process, Irene begins connecting dots between the story and Hope’s account of retrieving the wedding ring at 221B Baker Street. She begins to take an interest in the mysterious Mr. Sherlock Holmes who receives less credit in the paper than she imagines he deserves.

Though these opening chapters are only meant to introduce Irene to the knowledge that Holmes exists, I can’t help but feel Nelson Douglas missed an opportunity. In A Study in Scarlet, Hope retrieves the wedding ring from Holmes and Watson through the help of a secret, disguised friend whom we never learn anything more about. How cool would it have been to learn that that friend was Irene herself? I wonder if anyone else has written a story revealing more about Hope’s enigmatic ally. I’d love to read it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Sherlock Holmes Timeline



I’ve never found a great, comprehensive Sherlock Holmes chronology online. Not one that includes significant, non-Doyle stories, I mean. Sherlock Peoria, Smart Remarks, and the Diogenes Club all have excellent ones for the canonical stuff, but I'm also interested in knowing where Nicholas Meyer's books fit in as well as series like Larry Millet's one about Holmes in the US or Carole Nelson Douglas' about Irene Adler. If a wider-ranging timeline exists and I’m missing it, please point me towards it. In the meantime, I’m going to create my own below.

While my intention is to include a good number of non-Doyle stories, there won't be any alternate-universe versions like the Twentieth Century Fox Rathbone films or anything else that couldn’t conceivably be the exact, same character that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about. I’ll include a permanent link on the sidebar so it’s easy to reference as I update it, but this will take a long, long time to complete. I’m not a fast reader.

Here’s what I have so far with links to my articles about each story as well as where to buy them on Amazon.

1881
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. [article] [Amazon]
Good Night, Mr. Holmes (chapters 1-3) by Carole Nelson Douglas [article] [Amazon]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pulptacular!



If you're a fan of adventure writing, you might be interested in my Pulptacular column at the New Pulp website. I think I mentioned the column here when I first started writing it, but it took me a while (and some great help from Mike Bullock) to find my focus for it. It's a different animal now and I'd love it if you gave it another look.

It started with a post about how inexperienced I am with pulp. Or at least, with the specific characters and stories that most people associate with pulp. I know the hell out of James Bond and Tarzan, but little about Doc Savage and The Shadow. For that reason, I've traditionally resisted calling the kind of fiction I like "pulp," preferring "adventure fiction" instead. It created a mental barrier for me in exploring the world of New Pulp. Though New Pulp encompasses a wide variety of genres and sub-genres that I'm interested in reading, it has deep roots in the classic hero-pulps that I'm most unfamiliar with. How was I supposed to write a column about that?

After talking it over with Mike, I decided to own my inexperience and make Pulptacular a column for New Pulp beginners. I outlined my plan of attack and went to work exploring the various New Pulp publishers from a high level perspective; creating a sort of primer to these companies and trying to figure out what each of them uniquely contributes to the New Pulp landscape. Many of the companies I've been profiling self-identify as New Pulp endeavors, but not all of them do. What's interesting to me is their shared love of adventure fiction and the extremely different ways they choose to express it. Some produce prose, some produce comics, and one group I talked to produces audio plays. Some reprint (or translate) classic pulp in new formats, some tell new stories with classic characters, and some create new characters inspired by the old ones.

Following is a list of the publishers I've talked to so far and if you visit the New Pulp publishers page, you'll see the list I'm working through for future columns. I hope you'll find it useful.

Airship 27 (new prose stories featuring classic characters)
Pro Se (new prose stories featuring new characters inspired by the classics)
Age of Aces (primarily prose reprints of classic air-combat stories)
Altus (prose reprints of classic adventure stories of many genres with a special love of Lost Civilization stories)
Black Coat (English translations of classic, French adventure stories; mostly prose, but some comics as well)
BrokenSea (audio plays ranging from original creations to fan fiction and straight adaptations)
Dark Horse (new comics stories featuring classic and new characters)
Dynamite (new comics stories re-interpreting classic characters for a new audience)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Western Wednesday: Cow Boy



Nate Cosby was the Marvel editor responsible for some of their coolest, all-ages comics. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, X-Men: First Class, Pet Avengers, the Marvel Adventures line, and the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young Wizard of Oz adaptations all happened under his watch. So even though he's doing some stuff for grown-ups lately, I still like to put him in that all-ages box and not let him out.

That means that I'm excited about the Western series he's doing for Archaia with Chris Eliopoulos (Pet Avengers) about "a 10-year-old bounty hunter determined to round up his entire outlaw family." It's also going to have back-up stories by folks like Roger Langridge, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, Colleen Coover, and Paul Tobin.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)



From the earliest scenes in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death it’s apparent that the series has taken a turn for the better. Though the last couple of films (Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and Sherlock Holmes in Washington) had figured out how to transport Holmes successfully into a spy setting, they were still spy movies and not the clever whodunits that I love Holmes for. Faces Death opens promisingly with a spooky, old, secret-filled mansion in Northumberland where the three squabbling siblings who own the place have converted it into a hospital for convalescing WWII officers.

The siblings’ bickering is mostly focused on the single sister, Sally Musgrave and her relationship with one of the patients, an American pilot. Controlling, older brother Geoffrey is vehemently opposed to the relationship and refuses to allow a marriage. Younger brother Phillip doesn’t seem to mind; he’s got other things on his mind, like how to get out from under Geoffrey’s bullying himself. I expected Geoffrey to get bumped off quickly, but the plot's not that simple. Instead, one of the hospital’s physicians, Dr. Sexton is attacked, suggesting a larger scheme than simple sibling rivalry.

Unfortunately for whoever’s behind the plot, Watson is also volunteering at the hospital and knows someone who may be able to figure out what’s going on. By the time Holmes arrives though, Geoffrey has been murdered and Inspector Lestrade called in. Complicating the case are a couple of scheming servants and the mental instability of some of the patients. There are also odd details like the village church’s clock striking thirteen the night before a Musgrave dies and a strange poem that’s ritually read at the funeral of Musgrave heirs. It’s all very weird and wonderful.

The poem and a couple of characters are borrowed from a Doyle short story, “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual,” in which a bizarre, ritualistic poem is revealed to be something else. That’s also the case in Faces Death, though the poem’s true purpose has changed slightly. In spite of the alterations though (and the twentieth-century setting), Faces Death feels like a real Holmes mystery, something the Rathbone series hasn’t done since Hound of the Baskervilles.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Panel Bound Interview



Matthew Manarino from Panel Bound interviewed me about Kill All Monsters and the writing process in general, especially working with artists. He asked some great questions and I had a lot of fun.

If you like process stuff, the site has a whole series of writer, editor, and artist interviews with folks like Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun), Shane and Chris Houghton (Reed Gunther), Christian Slade (Korgi), and Brandon Graham (King City). That's some humbling company to be in, so special thanks to Matthew for inviting me.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Awesome List: Now at Google Plus



I used to run a feature here called The Awesome List. It was my attempt to linkblog adventure news from various media, but it got way too time consuming to keep up with. I tried using Twitter instead, but that didn't last very long. I like images too much and Twitter's just dull to look at. (Seriously, I accept that Twitter is a Thing and want to figure out how to use it well, but I don't actually like it. I admit though that may be because I don't know how to use it well.)

Google Plus is my answer. I don't see it stealing everyone away from Facebook, but it's extremely useful for sharing links in a way that looks cool and also allows me to comment briefly on them. If you miss the Awesome List - or just could use a daily feed of announcements about genre projects - I hope you'll check it out.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Study in Scarlet

With Halloween behind us, I need to catch up on some Holmes.



A Study in Scarlet isn’t a typical Sherlock Holmes story. For one thing, it’s longer, though Arthur Conan Doyle would try a couple of novels before switching to the short story format that served Holmes so well. Of course he’d also return to the longer format on occasion, but Scarlet has an extremely different narrative structure even from the other novels like Sign of Four and Hound of the Baskervilles.

As the first in the series, it takes a chapter or two to get to the actual plot, needing first to introduce Watson and Holmes to readers and each other. The mystery itself – a corpse with no visible wounds lying in a bloody room in an empty house – isn’t that complicated. In fact, stripped of the origin story and a long flashback sequence, there’s nothing more to it than you find in the short stories.

It’s the flashback though that’s most memorable and why I like the book. Holmes catches his man pretty quickly, but we don’t understand the killer’s motives until the narrative moves back in time and to North America where it becomes a Western, complete with a Clint Eastwood-like tough guy; his pretty, adopted daughter, and the nefarious cult that they find themselves living amongst. Doyle identifies the cult as Mormans, but later admitted that he based his portrayal of them on second-hand stories he’d been told. I’m not going to excuse that, but not being Morman myself, I’m able to overlook it. The villains could be any generic cult that uses fear to keep its members in submission.



In the middle of all that, there’s a romance and a thrilling escape. It’s a cool short story all on its own; made cooler by tying in to a Holmes mystery. My only criticism of it is that the English Doyle doesn’t have an ear for Western dialogue, so those characters sound a lot more stilted than I’m used to from cowboys.

Another hallmark of the novel is the way Doyle relates events that happen off camera. Since the story is told first person from Watson’s perspective, Doyle has other characters describe scenes that Watson wasn’t present for. He does that in a way that’s both problematic, but also pretty great. The trouble is that no one tells stories in as much detail (including exact dialogue) as Doyle’s characters do. But once you get past that, it’s a cool, vivid way to flashback.

Any difficulties I had with Doyle’s story though are resolved in Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard’s graphic novel adaptation; one is a series of Holmes adaptations from Sterling Publishing. One the advantages that comics have over prose is the ability to use pictures to convey vital information and Edginton and Culbard take advantage of that in an extremely effective way, allowing the drawings to flash back to old events while the narrator just tells his story – without dialogue – the way normal people do. Doyle’s unrealistic way is the more exciting way for prose, but comics can have it both ways; letting the narration sound genuine while the pictures keep the reader’s attention. And since there’s no dialogue in the flashbacks, there’s no weirdness in the way the Western characters talk.



A potential drawback for comics is that the art can be less wonderful than the pictures readers create in their heads while reading prose, but that’s not a problem here. Culbard’s done a lot of research and gets the period details right. His character designs are all interesting and accurate interpretations of Doyle’s descriptions. Lestrade and Gregson are often interchangeable in a lot of visual adaptations of Holmes, but they have very distinct looks here. Watson is middle-aged, but thin and has intelligent eyes. Holmes’ chin is a much larger and more square than I’m used to, but it’s consistent with Doyle’s description of its having “the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” The famous hawk nose is also there, of course.

Beyond just getting the Holmesian details right, Culbard’s also got a fantastic eye for composition and how much detail to put into a panel without cluttering it up. The color palettes he uses are muted and simple, but beautiful. I especially love how he changes palettes from scene to scene: blues and grays for roaming London’s streets, a haunted green for the darkened murder-room; oranges and yellows for discussing the case by the fire. Seriously, the Sterling adaptation is as perfect as comics get and I can’t recommend it enough.

Scans all lifted from Good OK Bad's review because I'm too impatient to wait and scan the book myself.

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