Of Art, Ice and Fire and Untimely Deaths

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It is no secret I am a huge George R. R. Martin fan.  A Song of Ice and Fire with its  layers of hidden mysteries, plots twists and characters is one of my favorite obsessions; first the book, then the TV show. I am often called on to answer questions for my father and engage in deep analysis with some of my coworkers.  One area that I’m also a fan of is the comic book.

I must admit, however, I’ve not read the comics of  “A Song and Ice and Fire.” In my earlier days, back when Berkeley was the center of the comics universe (other than DC & Marvel offices of course) I worked in one of the premier stores in the country.  I was the old comics buyer and, I’ve been told, I might have been pretty good.  So I have a ton of comic cred, but I really stopped buying them somewhere around 97 or 98.  Having kids also played into that.  Needless to say I have approximately 20,000 comics.  I also have a nice collection of original art. Even though I’ve sold several items over the years, I still have several nice pieces.  These are a few of them:

Ken Macklin's Contractors (1987)

Ken Macklin’s Contractors (1987)

From Fish Police #8

Ted McKeever’s Fish Tale From Fish Police #8

I’ve always loved great art and these two are wonderful.  Ken Macklin never really seemed to get the fame I thought he was due.  This page found its way into my collection over 25 years ago and it is one I won’t part with.  His ability with shading, composition and making animals interesting, without being cloyingly cute are things I’ve always loved.  He’s an artist you might have missed, but shouldn’t have.

Ted McKeever, on the other hand, brings the deranged to life. I loved the work he did on Eddy Current.  Who would not love the exploits of an escaped mental patient?  This page is from a short in the Fish Police.  You’ll notice Inspector Gill stuck in a bar between two headless men.   I have a special place in my heart for Steve Moncuse’s  The Fish Police.  I might have been sitting there late one Saturday might drinking and watching SCTV when one of us yelled, “Holy Mackerel!!! It’s the Fish Police!!”  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. Steve never parted with his originals in those days, so I settled for one of the guest artists.

I may need to pick up the run of Game of Thrones comics.  I’m also a huge Daniel Abraham fan, so I feel bad that I haven’t read these.   While I’ve not read them, I do keep abreast of the covers. Michael Miller does a fabulous job with the covers and postes them regularly on his FaceBook page – Art of Ice and Fire.  You might recognize the background of my blog as one of his covers.  His work captures the look and feel  of Martin’s imagination in fantastic detail.  Needless to say, I think he is great.

I became a fan of Mike’s when he did the comic interpretation of  The Hedge Knight.  What? You haven’t read The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword or The Mystery Knight?  You don’t know Dunk and Egg?  These are Westeros stories that are set about 80 years before A Game of Thrones.  Not only do they provide clues to mysteries and questions we have about Westerosi history, they are great stories on their own.  Mike drew the art for the comic versions of the first two.  Here’s some art from The Hedge Knight.

to slay a dragon

to slay a dragon

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Tourney from the Hedge Knight

In both of those double page pieces, Mike uses composition to make the pieces really sing.  The dragon flowing out of the cowl is very reminiscent of pieces Neal Adams drew in his Ben Casey strip.  And who doesn’t want to be compared to Neal Adams?   The tournament piece highlights the speed and clash of steel that happens.  Mike takes the approach of book-ending the violence with the knights’ prelude to contact and the blood lust of the cheering crowd.  This composition helps to make these pages stand out.

I really like the cover of Dunk sitting melancholy on his horse, echoing Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer.  Growing up, Frazetta was the premier fantasy artist.  Seeing Mike’s homage the first time made me happy on multiple levels; both nostalgic and present.  As a side note, can I get a show of hands for those of you that have a copy of Molly Hatchet’s Flirting with Disaster and just had the “a ha” moment?

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Dunk

I have really liked the covers Mike has done for the comic. Clearly you know I like the one I use as a background on this blog, as well as the other ones above. He does such a great job of conveying both grand fantasy and nuanced detail.  It has been fun watching a very good artist continue to grow and be come a great artist.  In the cover below, look at how much work went into the Hound’s chain mail. Combining that with the well crafted rage in the Mountain’s expression is fantastic.

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Check out the detail on the Hound’s chain mail!

Michael’s latest piece is stunning.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that he has a dynamite colorist adding drama to the finished piece.  In his latest cover, the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister is bearing down on several unfortunate Northmen.  I thought the detail on the Hound’s chain mail was exquisite. Then I saw Jaime’s armor and his horse’s plating.  Especially exquisite is the details on the coward at the bottom of the cover.  I think he really got that guy’s goatee and nose right!  What really got me is that the character, though unnamed, is Me!.  Seriously.  I had joked with Mike previously about drawing me into a crowd shot.  If I estimate correctly, my face will peek out between the “G” “H” and “R” on the cover.  If only I could use those superimposed letters to hide from certain doom at the hands of the greatest warrior in Westeros.

recognize the guy in the bottom left?

recognize the guy in the bottom left?

Look at me prepare to die in the mud like the sniveling coward I am.  Maybe I can be resurrected and be a blue lipped warlock in A Clash of Kings.

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Interlude 47

It was 7:30 AM on a Tuesday; the setting, a commuter train in the suburbs.

The doors opened on the empty train and the passengers, eager for their own private seat, file in orderly and quickly.  Two lines of approximately 12 people filed into the car with 88 seats.  The doors closed on the quarter filled train.  Silence filled the train and I started reading my newest book, VMware  vSphere Design (2nd Edition!)  I could barely contain my excitement at the mysteries I would soon be exposed to.  This is nothing like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Then the doors opened on the train again and another throng of people flowed into what I perceived as my space.  There were plenty of seats so I did not fear anyone sitting next to me.  I have broad shoulders and menacing look.  With so many open seats, my personal space was flexing outward, keeping the unwashed masses at bay.  I’m no small, delicate flower.  But I leave room for one to sit next to me.  I really want to keep my personal space a no fly zone.  I hate when it gets invaded.

A large, yet young, man waddles down the aisle.  Telepathically I persuade him to continue past me.  This is not the seat you are looking for.  There are better seats two rows further along.  My telepathy and menace has failed and he takes the seat next to me.  While I am fully on my half of the seat, surely a solid 3/8” away from the median, his wide bottom takes up his side, my 3/8” and then some.

The main thing going through my mind, beyond his buttocks pushing indelicately into mine, is “Jimmy Olson’s Blues.”  Surely you remember the first hit single by the Spin Doctors?  “I’ve got a pocket full of kryptonite.”  It seems appropriate.   This man-child has a bag full of French fries.  The smell is both delicious and overpowering.  I realize I need to endure this smell for the next 32 minutes on my ride to work.

Who the fuck has a bag of hot French fries on the morning train?  Not only that, these fries are from Jack.  Let’s be honest:  between the train station and Jack in the Box is 2-3 miles of roads filled with McDonald’s and BKs.  So why are these fries still hot and smelling like dinner?  The only upside is that he is not wearing an overdose of Hai Karate!

I stop thinking about kryptonite and ponder the meaning of ketchup packets.  Do you think Don Draper would have come up with ketchup packets if SCDP had the opportunity for the ketchup account?  Motherfucker, I wanted his French fries.

It took all my resolve to become a criminal that morning.  Just another day in the big city.  Where is that wayward shaker of salt?

We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

(Dialogue Part 2, Chicago, Robert Lamm 1972)

Clearly not if people keep bringing French Fries on the train to work.  I predict a riot.