Friday, March 30, 2012

Kill All Monsters at Emerald City (and other updates)

I'm not at Emerald City Comicon this weekend, but Jason is and he has Kill All Monsters! ashcans and prints (color and extremely limited edition black-and-white) with him. You can find him and KAM letterer (and awesome writer of his own stuff) Ed Brisson at table F-10 in Artist Alley.

As long as I'm on the subject: if you haven't Liked the KAM Facebook page yet, you totally should. Whenever we hit a Likes milestone, Jason draws a random name and then draws a KAM picture for that person. The one above is the most recent.

It's been a long time since I've updated you on the comic, so let's do that, too. I'm currently writing the last chapter, but we're already deep into plans for the return of KAM. I can't say much yet about what that'll be like, but I will say that there will be another print version before we relaunch the digital version. Not another ashcan, but that's all I'll say about it for now. We're way excited.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

LXB | March Madness: The Winner

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Well that wasn't even close. Between Twitter and here, a little over 70% of you chose Jason Bourne over James Bond as the winner of the final round. The discussion followed my own train of thought pretty closely. On Bond's side are longevity and - let's be honest - tenacious loyalty on my part. I've been a Bond fan since childhood and it's painful to admit that a tougher spy may have come along, especially since Daniel Craig  has put the tough back into the character.

However, part of making him tougher is also making him more realistic. Craig's Bond doesn't rely on gadgets, so he's not as ridiculously superheroic as some of the earlier Bonds, but taking away those superpowers does weaken him. Yeah, Craig's Bond can fight better than any of the previous ones, but he's still human. I guess I'd compare him to Batman. Roger Moore was the Silver Age version who had a tool for every occasion in that utility belt; Craig is the modern Batman who still has some toys, but relies much more on his brain and his fists.

Bourne, on the other hand, is a machine. I compared him to Captain America at one point and I still think that's accurate. Bond is as good as a human can get on his own; Bourne had a little help from science to push him over the top. Not into cartoonish territory, but he has the edge on Bond and all else being equal (which I think it pretty much is), he wins.

You didn't have to vote for the winner to win the contest (I chose a random name out of all the entries), but of course the odds were in favor of that happening. Mark Juelich won the Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers graphic novel and Hanna DVD. Congrats, Mark! I'll contact you about getting you your prizes.

Thanks for all the great discussion everyone! This was fun! (Incidentally, Brian at Cool and Collected also picked Bourne to win the whole thing, though he got there on a much different route. Other LXB choices for top winner were Ash, John McClane, Bruce Lee, and two votes for Snake Plissken.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amulet, Books 1 and 2

While I'm counting up results from the Bond vs Bourne comments, how's about a quick reading recommendation?

I’m two books into Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series of graphic novels and am plenty impressed. There are a lot of stories in the world about kids and a newly single parent who move to a remote, run-down, inherited estate where they discover a family secret involving dangerous magic. I love that concept more than I usually enjoy the stories that come from it, but Amulet is living up to its potential.

For Emily and her brother, Navin, the magic takes the form of an amulet that gives its bearer strange powers. Unfortunately, another power craves the amulet and abducts the siblings' mother, transporting her to a fantasy world that’s been overrun by evil elves. The kids go after her and meet their great-grandfather, a dying man with a walking house full of small and cute, but courageous robots. As the kids plan to rescue their mom, they’re also trying to understand this world and why they’ve been pulled into it. Kibuishi does an awesome job filling it with awesome, steampunky architecture and a cast of talking animals and fantasy creatures. I hesitate to compare anyone with Miyazaki (and Kibuishi’s art is stylistically very different from Studio Ghibli’s), but the setting and the epic scope remind me a lot of films like Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away. It's a world I'm very much enjoying and looking forward to spending more time in.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wild Boy and the Noble Savage

One of the most difficult things to get right in jungle fiction is portraying people who are indigenous to the setting, especially if you're a white person who's writing jungle adventure stories for a predominantly white audience. How do you do that while also sensitively portraying the non-white characters who make up most of the population of the region you're writing about?

Most agree that making them all savages is out of the question, but the Noble Savage stereotype isn't cool either; mostly because it's a stereotype. This Wild Boy story on Comic Book Catacombs is a good example. It shows that the Noble Savage idea isn't so much racial as cultural. It's the notion that humans are inherently good and will stay that way unless corrupted by "civilization." In the comic, that applies to both the indigenous people and the white Wild Boy. In contrast, the White Man's World - because it's civilized - corrupts everyone, including the indigenous man who visits it. The problem isn't racism, it's using stereotypes in place of characters. All the primitive characters are good; all the civilized characters are bad.

I don't want to be too hard on the story. It's a Golden Age comic and those weren't about characterization. Compared to other Golden Age jungle comics, it's downright enlightened. But it does illustrate how problematic it is when a writer paints everyone from a certain group - whether racial, cultural, or something else - as being exactly the same. That's why stereotypes suck. It's not that you can never write a character who falls into a particular stereotype, it's just that it's far more realistic to have characters occasionally buck against expectations. And more interesting too.

It also helps when they wrestle crocodiles and apes, but that's beside the point.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ocean skyscrapers, Jurassic Park 3D, and other news

People vs Nature: The Fort

  • As the climate continues to change and the world gets deadlier for humanity, a couple of Ukranian designers have conceived what they believe to be a structure so sturdy that God himself couldn't sink it. I know I've heard that somewhere before... Bold claims aside, I'd totally live in that place.

People vs Nature: The Swim

People vs Nature: The Biopic

  • James Cameron is producing a film about "the love between free divers Francisco 'Pipin' Ferraras and his wife Audrey Mestre, and the record-setting attempt that claimed Mestre’s life." Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Green Lantern) will direct.

People vs Nature: The Tour

  • If you missed out on that Groupon trip to the Titanic wreck, you can still book a similar trip for regular price. Deep Ocean Expeditions will be happy to take you down to 10,000 feet or deeper. All you need is between $30,000 to $375,000 depending on location. The Titanic costs around $60,000, but you can get to the Bismark later this year for less than $48,000. The most expensive one is called 20,000 Leagues Under the Atlantic and allows tourists to "traverse the North Atlantic basin, picking out an undersea route from Europe to North America."

Remember those photos of the Titanic wreck?

So just what is down there at the bottom of the ocean?

The US Navy wants Robo-Subs

Why giant squids have giant eyes

Floating islands

Speaking of isolated islands

Hanging tents

  • A company called tentsile has invented a cross between a tent and a hammock "to provide separation from wildlife, including insects, snakes and other predators but also from sand storms, earth tremors, cold or wet ground, debris or contamination." I do most of my camping at the Hyatt, but I still want one.

The River could join Terra Nova at Netflix

If you want to watch something about a river... 

Tarzan trading cards

Reading List: Becky Cloonan's The Mire

Jurassic Park 3D

CONTEST | U-DECIDE LXB's March Madness: Bond vs Bourne

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

I promise I didn't realize this ahead of time, but I'm thrilled that it came down to these two. Looking back at the list of contestants, it always had to.

I've got thoughts on how this would go, but I think it'll be more fun if everyone chimes in. It's been ages since I've run a contest, but let's try one. Simply vote in the comments field with who you think would win: Bond or Bourne. Or, if you prefer, tweet your answer to me @michaelmaycomix. I'd love to hear the rationale for your choice as well, but that's not necessary to win. Deadline is midnight CST, Monday, March 26.

Sometime on Tuesday, I'll compile all the entries into one list, pick one at random, and that person will win a spy-pack that includes Matt Kindt's Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers graphic novel and one of my favorite films from last year, Hanna on DVD. I'll announce the winner of the contest, the winner of the March Madness battle, and my own thoughts about Bond vs Bourne at the same time.

So get to voting!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Human Heads Hate Cephalopods

By Guillaume Poux.

LXB | March Madness: Jame Bond vs Jack Bauer

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Kelly from Byzantium's Shores made an interesting and valid comment on the Riggs vs Bauer fight and I haven't had a chance to string thoughts together about it until now. So instead of replying in the comments thread, I'll address it here. Kelly's point is that I may have let Jack Bauer have that fight too easily.
Bauer is pretty unstoppable, but in this abandoned city, I don't think he'd have all of the resources he's used to working with (he can't have Chloe hack into the security cameras and tell him where Riggs is, for instance). Plus, Riggs is more than a physical match for Bauer, he's got some martial arts skills of his own, he's probably orders of magnitude better than Bauer with a gun (Riggs is a crack marksman), and Riggs is very good at making creative use of the things around him. Plus, there's that whole dislocating-his-shoulder-at-will thing. Maybe Bauer wins, but it ain't easy for him.
Those are excellent points; especially about Jack's not having the resources he's used to. It's been a while since I've seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies or 24 (or really any of these movies), so my calls are based on whatever the strongest, overall impression is that I have of the characters. For Riggs, it's that he's crazy. For Jack, it's that he's tenacious and more or less amoral. But Kelly reminds me of some of the details that I was glossing over and sure enough, that would affect the outcome. For the sake of the scenario we're building, I'll stick with my original call, but let's certainly acknowledge that it's a much tougher fight for Jack than I suggested.

The question now is: how to apply Jack's weaknesses to a match against James Bond? Depending on the Bond we use, he can be as reliant on his organization's resources as Jack is, but since we've settled on Daniel Craig, that's not an issue. The Bond of Casino Royale and especially Quantum of Solace is very comfortable going off the grid and getting things done on his own. He's also as persistent and ruthless as Jack and I'll argue that he's more experienced too. Even if you don't count his previous incarnations - which I'm not - the mere fact that he's a Double-O counts for a lot more than the domestic terrorists Jack's spent his career fighting.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Captain Fear and the Rat's Nest

I got interested in DC's Captain Fear character last year when I learned that Walt Simonson is working on a Captain Fear story. I didn't know anything about him other than he's a pirate, but according to Simonson, the stories were "an historical rat’s nest” with ships, uniforms, and weapons from many different time-periods (or no recognizable time-period at all) appearing in the 1850s. Frankly, I didn't think that would bother me.

And now that I've been able to catch up on the original Captain Fear stories thanks to Diversions of the Groovy Kind, I know I was right. The mixture of historical details is awesome. What bothers me aren't anachronisms, but the rat's nest of storytelling.

The stories were originally a series of back-ups in Adventure Comics and were written first by Bob Kanigher and then by Steve Skeates. I wish I could blame the mess on switching writers, but anyone who's read Kanigher knows how nuts his stuff is anyway. Skeates continued that tradition quite nicely.

It starts off pretty cool with some Carib slaves taking control of a pirate ship and becoming pirates themselves, but immediately goes all weird. The first thing they do is hire themselves out to rescue the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner (because of course a bunch of former slaves are going to want to help that guy), but do not vet the job at all. Not only is Dad not wealthy, his daughter is certifiably insane: trying to make out with her rescuer and then accusing him of the same when he rejects her. More than once.

Fear can't keep control of a ship for more than an episode or two. He's always being taken over by someone else before jumping overboard, getting captured, and escaping again to steal another ship. He's a great escaper, but a lousy pirate. Hopefully, Simonson will fix that in his version, but there's a chance that other wirters have already done that. The character has also appeared in more recent comics like John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s Spectre series in the ’90s as well as Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Doctor 13 story in Tales of the Unexpected. Most recently he’s shown up in The Outsiders #26 and Peter Tomasi and Gene Ha’s story from Superman/Batman #75. I'm curious to see how all those guys handled him as well.

LXB | March Madness: Bourne vs Rambo

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Up until now, the photos I've used for Jason Bourne have been of him looking nonchalant or vaguely pissed off while his opponent postures as badassly (it is so a word; shut up) as possible. The reason being that Bourne's so tough that he doesn't need to pose or even get worked up to beat most of the guys in this tournament. But that doesn't apply to John Rambo.

This whole time, I've been thinking that Bourne comes out the winner of the whole thing. I hadn't thought it all the way through; that was just my gut. He's as superhuman as you can be without becoming Ash. But as I'm looking through images of John Rambo and reliving especially First Blood and Rambo: First Blood, Part Two, I'm reminded of how unbelievably tough and insane he is. I dinged Martin Riggs for being nuts, but his craziness comes from a death wish that can only hurt him in a tournament for survival. Rambo's insanity is all about survival.

I've said about a few other characters that they don't stop until the job gets done, but I think that's only because we haven't yet seen their limits. Their limits are way beyond a normal person's, but there's no reason to believe that they don't exist. For Rambo, I'm not sure that they do. On top of that, he's equally effective in urban and wild environments and capable of using either to kill you from miles away.

Jason Bourne, on the other hand, is a master strategist and a superstar at combat. Rambo's not going to catch him in any trap, so it's going to come down to sneaking up on Bourne and taking him out before he knows Rambo's there. But can Rambo do that? In the films, Rambo is jaw-droppingly effective against sheriff deputies and grunt soldiers, but Bourne is neither of those. Eventually, Rambo's going to have to fight Bourne hand-to-hand and as long and hard-to-win as that fight's going to be, I think the victor is clear.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LXB | March Madness: Martin Riggs vs Jack Bauer

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Though this is a close match in terms of toughness and ability, Bauer's (relative) sanity and lack of a death wish give him the clear edge. It's not a short match, but it is one with an easy-to-pick winner.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Andy Briggs clarifies intent of rebooting Tarzan for YA readers

Reason Number 5,984 why the Internet is awesome: publicly airing your struggle to understand the purpose of a Tarzan reboot for Young Adult readers and receiving a personal response from the author. After my news roundup post on Friday, Andy Brigss sent me a very nice email that he's given me permission to re-post here.
Hi Michael

Hope you are well! I just read your blog post on my Tarzan, and SHOCK, agree with you...

Let me explain; (as you kindly indicated) I never said my reboot was to replace Tarzan - EVER. In fact, the whole idea is to encourage a new generation of readers to be introduced to the character and fall in love with him so they will eventually read Burroughs originals. I was asked by Orion to write the foreword to their new compendium (in the UK) of Burroughs' first six Tarzan books, and again I state that my version is to reach out to new readers and introduce them to the original.

I would bristle too if somebody re-wrote Tarzan or suggested that children won't read the originals. However, worldwide library and publishing statistics clearly show that Tarzan is not being read by nearly as much as he used to. His popularity is rapidly declining, and, as a fan, I didn't want to see that happen. I know kids WILL read the originals, but the fact is, they need a push! Especially in the UK, children are being "forced" to read "classics" such as Dickens rather than Burroughs or Conan Doyle.

Any way, thanks for getting a Tarzan discussion flowing, and thank you for being objective in a constructive manner!

Best Wishes

Andy Briggs
In a second email, Briggs clarified that he's "not being an annoying protective author (well, trying not to be!)." I totally appreciate that position. There's a fine line between clarifying your intentions as an author so's not to be misunderstood on the one hand, and getting defensive on the other. Briggs stayed clear on the side of claifying, even noting in his second email that "I appreciate people may not like the book (after all, there are books I don't like!) but I definitely don't want people to think this is any sort of replacement."

He also points out that there's a download pack for teachers on his website that includes rough ideas for lesson plans, notes for reading groups, and encouragement for readers to check out Burroughs' original novels and make comparisons with his. Very classy.

Incidentally, I discovered from his website that Briggs also wrote a couple of issues of Markosia's Kong: King of Skull Island adaptation and has a graphic novel called DinoCorps coming out later this month. So that's pretty cool too.

LXB | March Madness: James Bond vs Indiana Jones

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

I gave Indy an upset against Vin Diesel - and he's still going to cause trouble for Bond - but I think his luck and wits only get him so far against the world's deadliest spy. Though Indy can be lethal, it's always in that pulpy way of letting the villain kill himself with his own greed or incompetence. Bond is a stone-cold killer and that's going to give him the advantage in this fight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Titanic mapped, Tarzan unchained, and other news

More news this week. Is this the start of a regular feature? Mmmmaybe...

Tour the Titanic site

  • There are actually a couple of ways to visit the wreckage of the Titanic. The best one is to have $12,500 sitting around and schedule your deep-ocean sub excursion through Groupon. You also need a time machine to go back and beat the group who's already booked it. It's normally a $60,000 value though, so assuming you have a time machine, it's totally worth it.
  • Otherwise, you're stuck with looking at these awesome sonar maps like the rest of us. The image above is from the ship's intact bow, but check out the link for other sections as well as a map of the whole debris field. It's amazing.

Private island for sale
  • You know, if you're rich, don't have the time machine, and are looking for other things to spend your money on, you could just buy this $12 million island and its "rustic" house in the Florida Keys.

Penguins harness ocean energy

  • I'm pretty sure that "rustic" includes electricity in those island digs, but if it didn't, maybe you could power the place with this wave-energy converter (called the Penguin) that a Finnish company has created and is ready to deploy.

Jungle Book: The Musical

  • People have been putting on musical productions of Disney's Jungle Book since at least 2010 when that cast photo above was taken, but since Robert Sherman passed away last week it seems kind of appropriate to mention that there's a new one. And this new production is bigger than the Jungle Book Kids shows that have been around for a while. It's adapted by a Tony-winning writer/director and will open in Goodman's Albert Theatre in Chicago at the end of June.

Jungle Hooters

Tarzan wants his animals back; needs to feed them correctly

Tarzan: an adoptee's perspective

  • Adopto-snark has a fascinating perspective on the Tarzan story (particularly how Disney portrayed it) and what it says about adoption. It's fascinating because it's based on real pain and rejects the popular view that adoption is all warmth and hugs. "Tarzan narrates the adoption experience from the adoptee’s point of view more honestly than any Disney film to date," she writes. "Despite itself, it addresses the unhealthy practice of denying rather than acknowledging or even celebrating differences…but it really fucks things up when it shows that this denial is the right thing to do, and that APs [Adoptive Parents] will be rewarded for it."

Tarzan for the YA crowd
  • I bristled when I read this interview with author Andy Briggs about his re-writing Tarzan for modern, YA readers. I love that he gave an encouraging talk to kids about the writing process; it's just that Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels have always been discovered and enjoyed by young readers. I resent the suggestion that the current generation of kids "probably wouldn’t read a book that was 100 years old." I argue that they will if it's well-written and marketed towards them.

    When I sighed about it on Google+ though, a YA lit educator questioned me about it and made me rethink my position. I still hate the suggestion that Briggs' book is designed to replace Burroughs' (though I probably inferred that, rather than Briggs' actually implying it), but I agree with my Google+ friend that "we should be pushing for more 'pairing', e.g., ERB's original writing with other interpretations of the character and then asking the reader to compare and contrast ideas, themes, etc." I would totally love to spend an afternoon listening to kids talking about the similarities and differences between Burroughs' original and Briggs' take on it.

Speaking of new books...

I may have to spin this off into a separate feature if I can keep up with it, but here are a few ocean/jungle adventure books coming out soon.

LXB | March Madness: Jason Bourne vs Snake Plissken

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

As it should be, fights are getting tougher in Round 2. Jason Bourne is the Captain America of this tournament: he's as perfect as any human can expect to be without having actual superpowers. And then there's Snake Plissken who's so at home in this "airdropped into an abandoned city" scenario that it's practically his briar patch. If anyone was designed to excel at this contest, it's Snake.

It's a tough battle and it goes on for a while with Snake's running around and using the environment to his advantage, but in the end he's neither as smart nor as good at hand-to-hand as Bourne.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wulf Hates Cephalopods

LXB | March Madness: Bruce Lee vs John Rambo

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Round 2 begins! And again my ignorance about Bruce Lee is going to influence my call, only not in his favor this time. As legendary as Bruce Lee is, he's all about the martial arts right? 'Cause you kind of have to get up close for that. And while Rambo can get really, really close without your knowing it, that's not the only trick in his repertoire.

Unless Bruce Lee has supernatural senses of some kind, I say Rambo takes him out long-range before he's even aware of it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LXB | March Madness: Ash Williams vs Jack Bauer

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

This is another tough one, but for a different reason than some of the others. The problem is Ash, who - let's face it - is a cartoon character. We love him because he's impossibly awesome. He's a whiny, little dork who inexplicably becomes a badass demon hunter with resourcefulness that would make MacGyver jealous. It's difficult to imagine that a guy who can cut off his own, demon-possessed hand with a chainsaw could be beaten by anyone. On the other hand, he's cowardly and inept at times, only showing competence when he's killing demons and tossing out one-liners. So the question is: how seriously do we take him, and - by extension - this contest?

We have two choices: either we embrace Ash's cartoonishness or we consider him to be a real character with real flaws that can be exploited by an opponent. If we let him stay a cartoon: he wins the whole thing. It's like putting Bugs Bunny in the brackets. You're never going to kill him and sooner or later he's just going to drop an anvil on your head. The problem is that that makes the whole competition ridiculous and pointless. Or more ridiculous and pointless than I want it to be.

The second option's major problem is that it takes all the fun out of Ash. I hate to do that, but it's the lesser evil. If the contest is going to continue past this bracket, we've got to put Ash in the same arena as everyone else. That means acknowledging that he's extremely inventive and persistent when his life is on the line, but also kind of lazy and cowardly and fond of his own voice.

Jack Bauer on the other hand is a no-nonsense machine who does whatever it takes to get the job done. I think that while Ash is still making jokes, Jack caps him from a distance and moves on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LXB | March Madness: Rocky vs Riggs

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

Easy one. Especially for Riggs. Rocky Balboa has consistently been shown to be more about heart than ability. Once he finds a reason to fight, there's no stopping him, but it always takes a while to get him going. It's all about the build-up for him.

Riggs, on the other hand, is a crazy man with a gun.

Monday, March 12, 2012

LXB | March Madness: Indiana Jones vs Dominic Toretto

For the first three weeks of March, we're going to answer the question, one match at a time, of who would win if 12 movie tough guys were airdropped into an abandoned city and only one could escape.

This is the most difficult one yet. I love Indiana Jones, but I don't usually think of him as a Tough Guy. Intrepid as hell, yes - except for snakes, of course - but he also gets beaten a lot. Whether it's Belloq stealing his loot or Nazis capturing him or giant mechanics and temple guards beating him up, Indy is extremely fallible. That (and his not letting it stop him) is part of his charm.

Dominic Toretto, on the other hand, is a Tough Guy. And he's not a dumb one either. He's a planner and his plans usually work out pretty well. If I were going to bet money on this match-up, I'd put it on Dom.

But here's the thing: In many ways, Dom's a nicer guy than Indy. Dom has a good heart and believes in second chances. Indy cheats and changes the rules to his advantage. He doesn't go toe-to-toe with his opponent unless he absolutely has to, and even then he figures out how to let his environment do the work for him. Dom's a schemer, but Indy thinks better on his feet. If Dom could end the match quickly, he'd have it, but I don't think he gets that chance. Indy's going to drag it out until he has what he needs to win.

It's an upset, but this one goes to Dr. Jones.


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