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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A Song of Geekery, Prose and Art

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to most of my 30 readers, but I’m a bit of a geek.  I know you probably aren’t surprised because if you are visiting my little vanity project here  you are probably a good friend of mine.  (Your visits are always appreciated.)  For those of you that don’t already know (I think that’s 3 of you), I worked in a comic shop in college.  More specifically the non-comic company center of the universe in the mid to early 80’s.  That explains the 15,000 or so comics and cache of original art I have. And my banner here.  About 15 years ago I added a new category to my myriad geekery – A Song of Ice and Fire.  You probably know it better by “A Game of Thrones.”

In 1983 one of my best friends handed me a copy of  Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and said it was the best vampire novel.period.  He was right.  Thanks Carl.  Thus began my love of the collected works of Mr. Martin.  His next novel was the Armageddon Rag, a rock and roll horror story.  I’ve never understood why it was not more popular.  It was, in my opinion, the perfect book for the time, with Reaganomics changing our culture, the Rolling Stone generation had hit a crossroads that I felt and saw. Add some horror and kick ass Victor Moscoso cover (on the Limited Edition) and you have the perfect book.  Try to see the words in the negative space in the picture.  Its one of the great features of the cover. Oh yes, I love my horror and my 60’s Rock Posters.  You already know our home is teeming with vintage Fillmore Posters.

Martin quickly became one of my favorite writers.  I devoured everything he wrote or contributed to.  Have you read the wild card series?  George and several others take comic concepts — super heroes, mutants and aliens — and place them in our history to create shared world series of mosaic novels, short stories and novellas.  It’s required reading if you love comics.  Or music.  Spoiler Alert – in this world Frank Zappa is a general and The Lizard King (Mr. Mojo Risin’) is a villain.  Great stuff. But in 1996, it all changed.

The internet was still developing and information flowed differently.  I got my book and literary information by going to Barnes and Noble once a week or so.  I saw on the new releases table A Game of Thrones, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire.   Not only was different from anything George had written, but it was one of the singular best pieces of fiction I’d ever read.  Thus began my love of all things Westeros.  You thought Lost (the TV show) was complex and full of mysteries? Nope.  The slowly exposed back story, puzzles hidden in the background, and unreliable narrators make these books a serious investment in thoughts and emotion; a cost that pays off in spades.

I’ve been a huge fan from day one.  It was several years later when it dawned on me that level of detail (nothing in ASOIAF is insignificant) was a fertile field of information, perfect for an internet forum.  And there it was –  Westeros.Org.  If you haven’t been there, you should go.  It’s a wonderful community (minus a few trolls, as with anywhere in cyberspace).  Elio and Linda have set up, grown and maintained an important resource for years.  With the increased interest from the wonderful HBO adaptation, it’s even more needed and appreciated.  I have benefited greatly from the discussions and friendships that have grown from being part of  that on-line community.   The Brotherhood without Banners (you’ll see them in Season 3 of Game of Thrones) is the George RR Martin fan club and has a home there.

Yes, I’m a bit of a zealot.  But it’s rational — who doesn’t want to share something they love?  I was able to make Lambchop a convert several years ago.  It took a while, but I finally got my brother to get on board and he reads far less than we do.  Even my father watches the HBO version and then calls on Tuesdays with questions.  Even though we are heavily invested in all things Westeros, Lambchop was hesitant when I insisted we go to the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno last year.   Afterwards, after making friends and being knighted by George (we and several others are now Awful Awful Knights) we were thrilled to be going again this year.

Last year we met John Picacio, a gifted artist.  His work is well represented in my book collection — He’s done the cover for several Dan Simmons novels, another of my favorite authors.  John did the art work for the 2012 ASOIAF calendar.  He debuted the art at the convention and we were blown away.  Needless to say we were thrilled to find out he was producing limited edition prints of the images.  And who doesn’t want to support people they genuinely like?  I know I do.  Of course I had to get some. I did and off to the framer they went.  Lambchop was excited to have these prominently displayed in our house.

Several years ago, through Westeros.org I had met Mike Miller.  He had done the comic art work for The Hedge Knight.  The Hedge Knight was the first of a planned seven novellas that help solve several of the mysteries in ASOIAF by slowly revealing history.  Being the comic geek I am, I was thrilled to be able get several nice pages from him, including an alternate cover, which I consider to be the iconic image of that series.  Through Facebook (isn’t social media wonderful?) I have kept abreast of Mike’s work and was able to acquire the cover to one of the issues.

Yesterday was a red-letter geek day.  We had gotten a call from the frame shop where the 5 prints from John were being framed.  We had spent some serious time pondering how best to frame and display this spectacular artwork. When we got to the framers, they purposefully took their time bringing the pieces out.  Lambchop was clearly touched by what a great job they did and how it all looked.  But they brought out the Jon Snow piece last.  It was stunning and she teared up in happiness. There really isn’t  much that compares to seeing someone you love in the throes of unbridled joy.  Tyrion found a home a top the book-case next to the Wall by Martina Pilcerova, who also does some wonderful work.

After our framing adventure, we went by FedEx where they were holding a package for me.  Being a consultant, I can’t really have packages delivered where I work; I think it is bad form.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I had a sense.  I was hoping it was the piece from Mike.  Indeed it was.   Lambchop hadn’t seen the original and seeing the color version next to the pencil and ink it was clear these needed to be framed together.  I guess I’m going back to the framer.   I might need to buy a bigger house if only for the wall space.

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