Thursday, July 22, 2010

Images of Beowulf: Part 1

Originally Posted at Dante's Heart
( on November 17, 2008

I have decided to do a mini series on Beowulf. I’d almost like to think of it as a thank you to Daniel, the Editor in Chief, but then again maybe not. He was the first and only person to ever read me Beowulf in its’ original old English. The Beowulf to be the focus of this article is a story by Stefan Petrucha, illustrated by Kody Chamberlain. In this case, I will spend less on the story, which is a translation and comic-fication (I totally made that word up... oh well if Shakespeare can do it), and more on the illustrations.

Beowulf, “the world’s first—and greatest—hero,” boasts the cover of the comic book. Of course this is incorrect, since Beowulf is neither the first nor in my opinion the greatest hero in the World. Gilgamesh and Inanna (a heroine, so she may not count as evidence) are much older than Beowulf. The many heroes in the bible predate Beowulf, as the Beowulf story directly references Cain, son of Adam. Personally, I hate Beowulf, so “greatest” in my opinion is really debatable. I’d argue he is not even close to the greatest. However, Beowulf is one of the earliest English stories. It is a reflection of culture and a by-product of oral tradition. All of that I respect, if not personally enjoy. Petrucha and Chamberlain take Beowulf one-step farther and translate it into images.

The basic story is kept close to other translations. The new and unique component is the images, and the life to the story that each panel brings. The depictions of Grendel are predictable; green and slimy. Grendel’s Mother is no different really, just larger and more grotesque. There are no features on Grendel’s Mother that would make her appear feminine. An interesting choice, considering the tale has clearly given her a gender. Why would the artist choose to ignore her femininity? Do monsters lose gender? Of course, I am of the belief that Grendel’s Mother is not a monster, but a woman grieving over a lost child. The story allowed for a grieving mother, but the images do not.

Beowulf himself reminds me of the 2000’s animated “Justice League Unlimited.” He is built of the same artistic style as a few years earlier, and could have easily been the Green Arrow, Oliver Queen. Since the comic is copy-righted 2007, it surprises me. Styles do not stay the same very long. He is the only character with a lot of detail in the face. No other character of the human variety gets as much attention. Since it is his tale, it was a good choice.

Finally, Scott A. Keating, in charge of color, brilliantly adds tones of orange and brown. Green is expertly used to show the monsters and their home. The waters and swamps vary in shade, but are always green, dark and murky. They are ideally representing the unknown. The land around the humans is orange and yellow, desolate in a way. The terrorized people are painted in a lifeless shade. The sun is permanently setting it seems, leaving the story in a luminal place (though the story takes us into night, the images never really do).

While there are artist choices I disagree with, the overall comic is beautiful. And if you enjoy the story, I suggest reading this comic.

Overall rating 4 out of 5.

Keep Reading,
J.R West

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is this thought Sequitur?

Originally Posted at Dante's Heart
( on November 11, 2008

I often use Non Sequitur to brighten my day, but on one day, the ninth of November, I found this lovely tidbit. The magic turtle appears here and there throughout many myths. The turtle is old and wise. That fact is less myth considering the lifespan of sea turtles and even the Galapagos Turtles. Turtles are steady, turtles win the race. They are islands, and in Siam the world rests of the back of a turtle.

However Non Sequitur raises an interesting point. In stories where magical creatures need help, why do they need help? If a creature can grant wishes how do they get into such a predicament? How do magic fish get caught? All the legends tell us if we catch magical creatures we get wishes, but do we want the weakest of the magical group to grant wishes that could go haywire? Just a though.

By the way notice I leave the last panel alone. I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole on a blog. I know better than that.

Find Comic Here:

That's all for now,
J.R. West

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good-bye my dear Doctor

Originally Posted at Dante's Heart ( on November 8, 2008.

David Tennant was the tenth Doctor on the British television show Doctor Who. The show is the longest running television show ever, with the immortal character of the Doctor. He lives forever by regenerating into a new incarnation with each death. The Doctor is a modern (alien) phoenix. Instead of rising from ashes and flame, he uses cosmic energy to regenerate. The tenth doctor (the doctor for the last three series) has announced that he is leaving the show, leaving a gap for the eleventh doctor.

Now while Doctor Who is often considered Sci-fi, the tenth doctor has also delved into the land of fantasy and myth. In his second episode as the Doctor ("Tooth and Claw"), he and his companion encounter werewolves in the Victorian age. In "The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit," the origins of the Devil mythos are explained and expanded. During his second season in "Shakespeare's Code," witches are explained with a scientific twist using Shakespeare's never written (or lost) play, "Love's Labors Won." In the third year of this Doctor, Agatha Christy's work is brought into play in "Unicorn and the Wasp."

The tenth Doctor also referenced Harry Potter, stating once that he cried while reading the seventh book (this was before the seventh book was out). He takes myth seriously and often finds in his time travels that it is mixed with truth. All three of his companions have viewed the world as we would see it. They marveled at myth made factual through history and science.

The Tenth Doctor was lighthearted and entertaining. He was my favorite doctor, and will be my true Doctor (as the fifth Doctor was David Tennant's, as he stated in the episode "Time Crash"). He will be missed, but hopefully the eleventh Doctor will live up to the title, and bring something new to the table.

Forever a Who fan,
J.R West

Monday, May 31, 2010

Magic in the DC Universe

Originally Posted at Dante's Heart ( on October 31, 2008.

On a completely off topic note: I love Halloween. No holiday is better! I hope everyone has a great Halloween.

So, on topic: Magic and fantasy are so deeply seeped into the DC universe that I would think more people would know of the connection. I guess with the science fiction aspects of "Superman" and "The Flash" so evident, who would think about the characters dripping with magic of old?

Neil Gaiman's "The Book of Magic" introduces a new character while calling upon famous magical characters. Timothy Hunter is your average kid (British, but average). Actually, he's a bit whiny and childish, which works well. He is also skeptical and unsure of what he is seeing. He is us, but cooler since he has the possibility to use magic. Of course he knows none of this; if he did I think the story would be quite useless. The "Trenchcoat Brigade" is a group of four wise sages sent to keep Timothy on track. They are familiar names in the DC universe: The Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult, Mister E, and John Constantine (a way cooler comic book character than the movie made him). The Phantom Stranger guides Tim through the magic of the past. Merlin and Jason Blood (a man later bonded to a demon) meet him in their own time. The use of mythical history is brilliantly employed -- from the Big Bang expertly blended with Christianity's fall of Lucifer to the witch trials; Egyptian and Greek mythology are wound together into a cohesive human history. Constantine, snarky and a product of our time, shows Tim current magic.

The plot begins to pick up a bit, as the importance of Tim is uncovered. His four guardians are described nicely through tarot cards, which help Tim to understand that he "isn't in Kansas anymore." Here current DC magicians make an appearance: Jason Blood, Zatanna, and Tala. For someone entrenched in the DC mythos, this section is great for a different view on the characters. If you aren't all into the DC universe, then this section is just a bit of the story moving along. Doctor Occult takes Tim to Fairyland, where Queen Titania of Shakespeare fame plays a large role. The use of faerie laws is applied, causing Tim to be almost trapped. Finally, Mr. E takes Tim into the future. It is a jumble that connects the entire story through chaos. There is a nice side bit, if you know Gaiman's “Endless.” If not, it isn't too hard to figure out what is going on, for the story concludes its’ end as it began; a nice circle.

It's a great read if you know the DC world, and I think a good read if you don't (Of course I can only guess about that).

I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Happy Halloween
J.R. West

Thursday, May 20, 2010

International Year of Astronomy

Originally Posted at Dante's Heart ( on October 27, 2008.

This January (2009) is the beginning of the International Year of Astronomy (from here on out referred to as IYA because I am lazy). It is amazing to me how few people have heard about IYA. Within the Astrophysics community it is slowly getting talked about. However, I have heard no giant reference in the greater world. It is a disappointment really. Astronomy is part of the soul of humanity. I can think of no ancient or modern culture that has not spent considerable time looking at the sky.

The IYA is a joint project, with at least 129 different countries participating in an effort to increase knowledge about astronomy. It includes a 356 day astronomy pod cast, along with other more sporadic pod casts for various levels of science comprehension. I've heard a sample of the standard layman pod cast... it was hilarious. There are eleven corner stone projects at the heart of the year long event, and even a Second Life island has been dedicated to IYA. Furthermore, a big push is being made to increase knowledge affordably around the world, along with a global movement towards dark skies around the planet.

It seems like such a big deal to me, yet it is mostly being ignored. The Greeks, the Mayans, and many Native American tribes named the constellations and attached stories to them. This tradition oral story telling based on the stars spanned both cultures and time. In addition, the Incas Aztecs and Mayans are known for there insanely accurate calendars based on the movements of stars and planets, the Mayans even predicted many of the comets it took modern astronomers years to "discover." Werewolves are dependent on the moon's phases, and though vampires have problems with starlight from the sun they revel under the dim dots in the night sky. Science fiction writers have a field day with new science. And the movie "Event Horizon" placed hell on the other side of a black hole. Children look up at the night sky with wonder, and long lovers spin poetry of eyes shining like stars. Imagine if the next love poem compared you to the cosmic microwave background: "beautiful in the nearly hidden complexity, giving birth to the stars that shine in your lovers eyes." Or imagine cursing someone, "You're as volatile as a Red Super Giant Star, I'm just waiting for you to supernova."

Astronomy is poetry, so I urge you all look up information on IYA.

J.R West

Friday, April 23, 2010

Viva la Steampunk Revolution

As a genre/subculture/fashion steampunk is fairly young. The term was first coined in the 1980's by K. W. Jeter. And of course, it was HG Wells and Jules Verne who first wrote what is now considered steampunk; but for them it was simply science fiction. Anime employs steampunk, as do many movies and novels. As an art form there are many artist creating steampunk pieces, ranging from clocks to computers. There were even a few steampunk fashion lines shown recently at different area’s fashion week (Boston's being the most notable). So what does all of this mean?

Embrace the Steampunk! It is likely that you have already done so without noticing. Here is a partial steampunk list with qualifiers:

Dr. Steel
Abney Park
Human Wine
Gilded Age Records

Howl's Moving Castle (fantasy)
Back to the Future III
Brother's Grimm (Fairytale)
Golden Compass
Hell Boy
Return to Oz
Tin Man
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Diesel Punk)
Time Machine
Van Hesling
20,000 Leagues under the Sea
Wild Wild West (movie)
Atlantis (Disney movie)
Treasure Planet
Last Exile
Secret of Blue Water

Short Film:
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Gentleman's Duel

Final Fantasy (Almost all of them)
Edge of Twilight
Crimson Skies
American Magee's Alice
Wild arms

Wait, you loved some of those movies, games, etc? Well, there is plenty more out there. There are steampunk groups in major cities, conventions, and much more. Are you ready to go hardcore?

Loving the Steampunk,
J.R. West