Saturday, November 22, 2014
I've read so many pastiches and derived stories from the fount of the classic novel The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells that it suddenly occurred to me that it's been many years since I sat down and carefully read the original.
I have corrected that with a reading of the famous story, this one decorated with the peculiar but atmospheric drawings of the famous illustrator a Edward Gorey.
The story has a resonance which lingers with the reader. The narrator (Wells himself perhaps) is a typical Victorian Englishman with the quiet equanimity that we expect. Consequently the story is told with a calm reserve which oddly magnifies the slowly developing horror. Moments of normalcy, especially at the beginning, counterpoint the oddity of the activity of the newly arrived Martians at the notorious pit.
The manner in which Wells describes the crowds and their rising and falling fascination with the meteor smacks realistically of how we find ourselves consumed with the petty details of daily life and often overlook the significance of the amazing when it literally lands in our midst.
The story of mankind's fall beneath the tread of the Martians is relentless as we shift from our narrator to his identical brother for a glimpse of how London descends into chaos. In this part we get a glimpse of how little Wells thought of his fellow men and how they might react to such bizarre circumstances. It's not a pretty picture as rivers of panicked people clot the roads creating arguably as much tragedy as the invaders themselves.
The demise of the Martians is all too well known so its not for this surprise that anyone would read the story. I was taken by how many times Wells foreshadows the eventual fall of the aliens to Earth bacteria as the story rumbles to its conclusion. Many of the small details had eluded me as I've substituted in my memory adaptations of the original tale for the source itself.
Reading this story again was a hearty return to one of the grand spectacles in modern fiction. And Gorey's pictures capture the weird tone of the events perfectly without intruding on the text itself. Very nice stuff indeed.
More to come.
Friday, November 21, 2014
It's difficult to overstate how important this particular volume of The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells is to me. How I came to have a copy, along with a similar volume of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, is unknown to me, though doubtless my Mom and Dad bought them. But suffice it to say they were game changers.
In a world where books were not necessarily cherished, but in which my own love of books was not squelched, I found these volumes to be immense treasures. I have bought sundry versions of The War of the Worlds over the decades, but none of them mean as much to me as does this very first one.
A later edition of the book feature the same images in different tones, more subdued.
More to come.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
This is a charming paperback collection from the says when the Hulk was Marvel's number one draw because of the memorable TV show. I love this kid-friendly image of the monstrous hero.
I've never seen the second volume before though and was struck by the cover which clearly is intended to evoke the delightful cover by Jim Steranko for King-Size Special Hulk #1.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Several weeks ago I ordered the dvd of the new Godzilla movie from Amazon. At the same time, I broke down and finally got the first two volumes of the Godzilla animated series from the late 70's.
The series is one I remember being above average (despite the annoying presence of Godzooky, the small Godzilla-like comedy relief all cartoon shows of the era seemed to be saddled with). The fact that Doug Wildey was the maestro behind the designs attracted me, as it would any true-blue Jonny Quest fan.
But I was only able to afford the first two volumes, both priced very reasonably. The third volume alas was totally out of reach, with Amazon listing a new one starting at over three hundred and fifty bucks, a boggling and enormous sum for five cartoons of any vintage.
Needless to say I took my lumps and got the first two, figuring I'd allow the Great Godzilla's will to handle the rest.
The Great Godzilla has spoken.
A few days ago, while doing some shopping at the local Dollar Store for my wife (she needed a few holiday containers for some special tea mixture she cobbles together) I saw a display of movies. I always try to give these a glance since you never know what you'll find. This time I found volume three of the Godzilla cartoon show for a whopping four bucks. Needless to say I snapped it up gleefully.
Now with the first full season in hand I can sit down and absorb a cartoon which promises some real pleasures from a time which is sadly farther away than I'd prefer.
But it's all Godzilla!
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Black Dossier came out and I snatched up a copy. I promptly put it away and never got around to reading it. Finally I have and I must say that while I find the 1958 setting of an alternate-universe Britain recovering from the "Big Brother" period and poised on the precipice of space travel enjoyable, and the update on the characters Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain interesting much of this wild yarn is just too bewildering.
Whereas the early volumes of adventures of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" were rich with allusions and literary references, this book is overcome with them, so much so that the story grinds to a halt for me as I just gave up trying to figure it all out.
Here is a look at the Jess Nevins site which attempts to annotate the myriad references in this volume. It's a gigantic job and as I read through it I realized I never had a chance as most of the material was so Brit specific that I never knew of it to begin with, let alone have a chance to recognize it.
On the upside I have read Bulldog Drummond stories recently and that made his appearance much more enjoyable, in fact he's the stand out addition to the saga in this installment, despite his loathsome ethnic opinions.
I cannot exactly recommend The Black Dossier, but I won't say you shouldn't try it either. It's a strange brew indeed.
This second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a much more compelling read than the first. Freed of the need to introduce our cast, this one can leap to the events which motivate their involvement, and as it turns out bring about their destruction.
I'm a big War of the Worlds fan and my re-reading of the TLoEG this time was prompted by the way they blend the classic Wells material in with that of Burroughs, Lewis and others. The Martian threat is a compelling backdrop for all manner of heroics and we see them fully on display in this crackerjack adventure.
The League ends as quickly as it emerged, and that's fitting given the monstrous nature of its membership.
Let me begin by saying I think Alan Moore is overrated.
That doesn't mean I don't find some of his work fascinating and even fun, but the adoration the comics fans have heaped on him over the decades seems wildly out of kilter relative to the work he's produced. That said, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a whopper of a read. Kevin O'Neill's artwork is crazy distinctive and gives this story a cantankerous quality which helps it alternate universe bloom. (I read that Moore wanted Simon Bisley originally for this story -- a huge mistake that.)
It's been many years since I sat down and read TLoEG through, and since then the movie has appeared and I've seen it several times. I'd forgotten how comparatively vicious the comic is relative to the more polished and benign film.
This origin story is a compelling read, offering up glimpses of a literary universe brimming with weirdly familiar characters. The organization of the League is hair-brained and always seemed poorly motivated, but necessary for plot reasons. As we learn on the last page of the last issue, the League was assembled for potentially other reasons.