Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Like most fantasy aficionados I have been looking forward to this film ever since it was announced (and hoping for something like it since I was a kid); not just because I wanted to see it, but because I knew that my son (who is now eight) would be the perfect age to see it -- this could be his Star Wars. The Hobbit was the first "real" book I read to him when he was three. He saw the Rankin-Bass animated version at four (the same age I saw it when it originally aired). He got the graphic novel adaptation at five and the video game at six (the latter was like digital crack for him for a while). At seven he saw the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy and was blown away. Recently he's begun reading the The Hobbit on his own and his Christmas list is filled with various Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Lego sets. So needless to say, the debut of Jackson's film adaptation of The Hobbit has been looked upon with great anticipation in our household.

But then as the release date neared the negative rumblings began to roll through the interwebz and blogosphere. "He's breaking it into three movies unnecessarily." "The new 48 fps speed looks fake." Etc. As the first reviews began to trickle in the rumbling increased. "It's too long." "The 48 fps looks fake." Etc. The so-called online "professional" critics, most of whom seem to lack the ability to formulate original thoughts or opinions and who are desperately afraid to admit they like something that other so-called online "professional" critics don't like, began to parrot each other as they often do. This created the beginnings of the kind of negative echo-chamber effect that unfairly sank John Carter earlier this year. Unlike with John Carter, however, it doesn't seem like the movie-going public is buying it this time. And thank Ilรบvatar for that, because otherwise they would be missing out on a great film.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 3

Previous Installments:
Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 1
Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 2

December 1932 - First Appearance of Conan
In the last installment of this series, I discussed the issues of Weird Tales in which Howard’s work appeared, from his first published story in 1925 up to the end of 1932. During that period, Howard continued to submit his yarns to a number of publications and began to branch out into other genres such as boxing and historical fiction. Weird Tales, however, continued to be his primary publishing venue and in the December 1932 issue the character with whom Howard has always been mostly closely associated made his debut in print. Combining the fantastic imagery of his earlier Kull stories and the weird horror themes that had always been his mainstay with elements of the historical adventure he had been writing recently, Howard created an amazing new world – the Hyborian Age – and its most prominent inhabitant – Conan the Cimmerian.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 2

Previous Intstallment:
Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 1

There are few creators who are as enjoyable to collect as Robert E. Howard. His works have been published and adapted in various forms and in numerous media for over eight decades.  Howard items have an incredibly broad range in scarcity and value so that any collector on most any budget can usually find a niche within the hobby that suits their tastes and resources.

Out of all the REH collectibles out there, however, there is nothing – at least in my opinion – quite like the original pulp magazines. To be able to hold in your hands one of these relics of a bygone publishing era and read one of Howard’s yarns as his first generation of fans would have done is a special experience indeed. The primitive line drawings that comprise the interior illustrations, the smell of the pulp paper, the letters from readers arguing the tastefulness (or lack thereof) of Margaret Brundage’s latest racy cover – all these things help to connect the modern collector with that earlier time when Two-Gun Bob was still alive and well and furiously pounding away on his Underwood.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Historic Hal Foster Tarzan Sunday Sells for $35,000

Foster Tarzan page sells for $35K
The original art for a 1933 Tarzan Sunday page by the legendary Hal Foster sold at auction last week for $35,000. The page depicts the origin of Edgar Rice Burrough's famous ape-man and was used to introduce readers to the strip whenever a new paper picked it up. Thus, this particular strip would have published at different times in different parts of the country.

Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 1

This is a revised version of an article I wrote for The Cimmerian blog in 2009.

Some REH items from my personal collection.
I have always been a collector by nature and collecting Robert E. Howard material can be both challenging and rewarding and most certainly addictive. I began with the comic books and paperbacks when I was young, then moved on to the books published by Donald M. Grant, Arkham House and other small presses. Today, I am primarily focused on collecting pulp magazines with Howard stories. It is as a Howard collector that I will be posting here at The Cimmerian. There are many REH experts out there whose knowledge in this area dwarfs my own, but I have picked up a few things during my obsessive attempts to accumulate obscure “Howardiana” and I hope to share some of this knowledge with you over the following weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Introducing An Age Undreamed Of...

Let me provide a little background about myself. I'm an archaeologist and a historian with an avid interest in ancient cultures and mythology. But I also have a fascination with late nineteenth and early twentieth century popular culture, particularly examples of what some might consider “low-brow” pop culture – dime novels, pulps, comic strips, etc. I have always enjoyed reading good, rousing adventure fiction, but, even as a child, the speculative genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror were my favorites. I'm also a collector of various of various pop culture media, particularly books, comics, and pulps.

In the last few years I have become more involved in popular culture studies, particularly related to 1920s and 30s pulp fiction. The primary focus of my research has been on the work of Robert E. Howard, best known as the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, but I am also interested other pioneers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. P. Lovecraft. I was previously a contributor to The Cimmerian blog and have written both scholarly and popular articles for several venues such as The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, and Comic Book Quarterly. On this blog I will be sharing my observations, my research, my occasional random thoughts on various topics related to popular culture though it will tend to be comic and pulp-centric. In addition to posting new material I will also occasionally post revised versions of some of my previously published work.

Finally let me close this introductory post with a word on the title of this blog. Fans of Robert E. Howard and Conan likely know the reference immediately, but for those who don't it is taken from the opening lines of the first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword," which was published appropriately enough eighty years ago this month in Weird Tales magazine:

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of…”