Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Action: The Story of a Violent Comic

Posted in Comics, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 21, 2013 by Aaron

This book – published in a single edition in 1990 – cropped up on eBay a couple of weeks ago and at $50 I snapped it up. I’ve been waiting for it to appear for a few years now. Like almost any book it’s available from dealers, but it’s quite sought after and consequently quite expensive. Of the six or so I could locate online just now they range from about $120 to just over $200.

So what is it and why is it important to me??

whizzerLike almost every young boy, I loved comics. However, growing up in New Zealand we had more of a ‘global’ choice as to what was available as opposed to the US where American comics dominate. I remember when I was very young – perhaps 5 or 6 – digging through boxes of comics my younger brother Kane and I were given by our much older cousin (I guess he was about 16 or 18 at the time. John was his name and he died of lung cancer at the age of about 25..). British titles like Valiant, Buster and Whizzer and Chips were in the box as I recall.  That container was in the bottom of my wardrobe and I used to sit in there in the half-dark poring over these comics at times (why in that fashion, I don’t know..).  While I enjoyed that activity, I don’t recall actually reading them and I seem to remember that the comics themselves didn’t hold much interest for me aside from the fact that there were so many and so there was always something new to see.

Our grandmother – ‘Nana’ as we called her – started buying a brand new comic called Action for us in early 1976.  I would have been 7 years old at the time, my brother 5, and this was a weekly ritual that was to last for another six years or so in one form or another.  Action was a revelation.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but looking back I can see that it changed (or probably more accurately – primed) my lifelong reading and media consumption habits from a recreational perspective.  Action was as far from Whizzer and Chips as it was possible to get and suddenly comics were something I loved to read.  The stories were hard-hitting, gritty and extremely violent in story and art.  Of course I didn’t think of or see them in that way back then, but that’s what appealed to me.  My favorite story was Hook Jaw, a rogue shark that ate everyone on a weekly basis.

Hook JawOne vivid memory I have regarding the comic is describing the story Hook Jaw to my best friend’s family.  My best friend at that time was Andrew Clausen and we used to knock around together almost every weekend.  Actually it was he who taught me how to ride a bicycle.  Anyway, I think this must have been the first time I stayed overnight at his house because I remember we ate dinner with his full family (which was an unusual event as I recall) and I was a bit shy as I didn’t know his three older sisters – Christina, Tracey and Alex.  Somehow I got to talking about this new great comic I was getting and trying to describe Hook Jaw.  Providing an example, I finished up describing this picture here on the left.  Now, I distinctly remember a couple of things about this event.  First, how, as I proceeded to describe this in detail, everyone stopped eating and all attention became very well focused on me, and second, his sisters found it amusing when I described the unfortunate victim’s trousers coming down in the act of him being savaged.  I’m not sure what kind of impression I made that evening.

As you get older, you tend to recall your youth and things you enjoyed back then more and more.  At least I do.  Hence my interest in Golden Age SF and the comic 2000AD (which I’ll touch upon later..), and Action. This book – Action: The Story of a Violent Comic – reveals much that I was blissfully unaware of as a tender 7 year old.  In New Zealand we were half a world away from the controversy this publication unleashed and the *ahem* ‘action’ that led to it’s demise.  Looking at it now, I’m not entirely sure that I’d be comfortable letting a seven year old read this, and I can understand the objections to it’s stories and their delivery.  But as is pointed out in the text below, I really think that it helped form how I think about good and bad and the ambiguity with which these ‘roles’ are portrayed at times – both in entertainment and real life.  Anyway, at the time it just kind of disappeared and was replaced by a weekly installment of 2000AD (which I enjoyed more in any case).  This fantastic book by Martin Barker, Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, takes a close look at the origin, evolution, and ultimate defanging and fall of this treasured memory from my younger days.  It really is fascinating reading even if you aren’t familiar with Action, as it provides great insight into the cultural impact that comics can have.  The bulk of the book is made up of partial stories and lost/censored pages to illustrated the comic’s style and the changes that were forced upon it towards the end.  Do appreciate and enjoy the editorial content below, punctuated with a couple of choice Hook Jaw images culled from the digital versions of the comic I have.
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Well, the now boring post-evisceration version of Action disappeared (subsumed by Battle magazine to become Battle Action, which actually was a darn good comic itself) and was replaced by 2000AD which was a far more subtle and smarter publication. We existed on a diet of Battle Action and 2000AD, and then Starlord (until it was merged with 2000AD) and then Tornado (which 2000AD also swallowed) until in the early ’80s we kind of outgrew the weekly ritual and I felt that 2000AD was losing the entertaining edge it had for me.  I still love and really enjoy those early issues of 2000AD which is why I collect them.  I might write about that sometime.  However, I’m very grateful for Action.  It had a profound impact on me as a person and provided the fertile soil that 2000AD was able to take root in.

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History, Ideas and Dreams, in Science Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 27, 2013 by Aaron

PictorialBecause of Mr David A Kyle’s association with Gnome Press, I took a bit of an interest in his subsequent activities in books and publishing.  Two items of real interest to me were a couple of unusual books he put out in the mid ’70s – A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams61hEg6z0SELI picked up the Pictorial History a couple of years ago, and have been hunting for a decent copy of the latter.  Proudly, a couple of days ago I snared a signed copy of SF Ideas and Dreams.  These are oversize books packed with illustrations and content.  I’ll do a pictorial feature and comment a little more on these two when the recent purchase arrives.  In the meantime, click each image to check out reviews.  Enjoy.

T-shirts…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 15, 2013 by Aaron

I discovered a great little place here in Seoul where one can get t-shirts printed.  Well, I didn’t actually discover it so much as was told about it by a friend.  Anyway, it’s a great little place.  You can choose from their selection of good quality shirts, sweatshirts and such-like, or take in your own and get whatever you like printed on them.  I got several done and I’ll be going back to get some more.  Why I’m talking about this, and I wanted to mention it here is that I scanned and adorned a shirt with the cover art of Pattern for Conquest.  I must say, I am impressed with the results – both the shirts and the printing are of excellent quality.

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I’m definitely going to get some more done.

Q: Where the Hell have I been??

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2012 by Aaron

A: Right here, in front of my computer.

But… obviously not posting.  There’s been a helluva lot going on the collecting front though.  Time to catch up on that and a few other things.  I’ve been threatening for a while now – time to come good.  Items to address in no particular order.

  • The Seedling Stars: Review and Close Up
  • Minions of the Moon: Close Up
  • Kindle Paperwhite aquisition
  • Gene Wolfe signed first edition collection expansion
  • Tshirts
  • Gnome Press additions
  • Other Matters

Dunno what I’ll post on first, but to my hardcore readers (I use the plural with poetic license..), these things will follow soon.

Drag myself to the keyboard…

Posted in Gene Wolfe, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2012 by Aaron

This seems to be the cycle: Post a few times, then sleep for a couple of months.  Repeat.
It’s been about ten weeks since the last post and quite a bit has happened in that time.  Well, some stuff has happened.  Got hold of a few more books and things, bought a new (old) camera, got myself a pet, busted up with the girlfriend…. and started reading again.  A couple of topics there aren’t really relevant to this blog, but hey, they are interesting and give me something to post about.  Lets address things one at a time.

Camera
When a first got into photography as an adolescent, it was with my father’s camera.  An Asahi Pentax H2 he bought as a 13 year old in 1959.  That particular model was known as both the Honeywell Pentax S2 and H2 in North America, I believe.  I really love that camera and I still have and use it occasionally.  A few years ago, I got into the history of Pentax cameras from around that time (late 50s – very early 60s), and there is a sub-culture that exists around the collection of Pentax cameras and lenses of that vintage.  They were technically groundbreaking cameras then, and still are one of the most aesthetically beautiful camera designs EVER.  I’ve had at one point or another every model from that time, the Original or AP model from 1957, the ‘K’ model from 1958-59 and of course Dad’s H2 which was the next model along in ’59.  Subsequently were the H3/S3, then the H1/S1, H1a/S1a and the H3v/SV up until the legendary Spotmatic series came out in ’64, though these later models are not considered truly collectable yet.  The H2/S2 is still reasonably common as it was manufactured in greater numbers than the other ’50s models, still, a mint working example with the brown leather case will fetch somewhere around a hundred dollars, or maybe a little more.  Of both the AP and K, around 19 – 20 000 units respectively were manufactured.  Nice examples of these with the leather case will cost you upwards of $250 (UPDATE 2012/09/18: A nice K model without leather case just went for $305 on eBay).  Both the AP and K that I had disappeared into eBay to fund my Gnome Press addiction.  Remember I said I’ve had every model from that time?  Not true.  I neglected to mention there is a model that sits between the AP and the K.  It’s the Asahi Pentax S.  Produced in ’58-’59 concurrently with the K, this is to Asahi Pentax collecting what I, Robot is to Gnome Press.  There are no clear records for volumes of any of these camera models, but the estimates for units of the ‘S’ produced range from slightly less than 5000 down to only 3000.  They are as rare as hen’s teeth, massively prized by collectors, and I picked one up in an auction in New Zealand.

Pet
I got a pet snake.  I’m from New Zealand as you may know, and we have one attribute that we share with very few other countries in the world.  We have no snakes.  Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and New Zealand are the only major landmasses that have no snakes.  Actually, Ireland does have snakes now (pets and zoos), but they have no native population of snakes.  Anyway, there are absolutely no snakes in NZ, not even in zoos.  Of course the odd few make their way over in shipping containers, but they are quickly disposed of, and I guess the odd one has been smuggled in.  A guy I used to work with about 20 years ago, his brother apparently brought one back from Australia in some pool furniture made from PVC tubing.  I don’t know what became of that.  As a person from New Zealand though, actually seeing a snake in the flesh (let alone having one) is a unique experience.  She’s a ball (or royal) python – python regius.  Her name is Chichi and she’s about six months old and as long as my arm.  She’s quite tame and I can pick her up and handle her no problem.  She eats frozen mice and rats (I thaw and warm them slightly before feeding her of course..) and will grow to about four feet long eventually.  She’s wonderful.

Girlfriend
We broke up about a week ago.  A shame.

Gnome Press and Book Stuff
It’s been ongoing.  What was the last report on that??  Ah, right.  I picked up The Porcelain Magician and it appeared in my 75% report.  The only other GP items I have picked up since then are Lewis Padgett’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow & The Fairy Chessmen, a much nicer copy of Minions of the Moon (no spine fading!! Yay!!) which hasn’t arrived yet, and a Gnome Press Fall 1953 Science Fiction Book Catalog which has also to arrive.  An interesting item that last, photos when it arrives.  It’s been sluggish on the GP front, but my Gene Wolfe signed first edition collection has expanded considerably.  I’ve picked up the collections Plan[e]t Engineering, Endangered Species and (not here yet) Innocents Aboard, the novels Pandora by Holly Hollander and Nightside the Long Sun and Lake of the Long Sun (which when added to Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun completes The Book of the Long Sun series for me).  I also picked up one of Gene Wolfe’s  limited chapbooks containing the short story Christmas Inn.  What’s a chapbook I hear you inquire??  See here.  What makes me very happy though is the acquisition of the complete The Book of the New Sun.  This is Mr Wolfe’s most famous and popular work and it’s my all-time favorite piece of writing.  All four books are in fine condition and have identical signed loose pages laid in.  The Shadow of the Torturer is below by way of example.

Reading
I’m reading again!!  Started on The Seedling Stars by James Blish.  Here’s hoping I actually finish this one!!

The Starchild Skull

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 3, 2012 by Aaron

Several years ago, I stumbled over a mystery on the Internet.  I stumble over many mysteries here and there as I take a passing interest in odd or unusual things and alternative explanations to accepted theories.  Most of these things are, of course, interesting, and not to be taken too seriously.  However, occasionally the odd thing that initially seems to fly in the face on convention stacks up to scrutiny and presents a real and credible challenge to established point of view.  I used to be a manufacturing engineer and have a very practical problem solving approach.  Rather than just accept all the facts that fit and ignore those which don’t, I prefer to focus on what can’t be explained and look for that issue(s) to be addressed satisfactorily.  Some things demand to be addressed rather than dismissed out of hand or swept under the carpet without serious investigation.

One of my pet interests and one which I follow very carefully is the Electric Universe.  There are so many things out there in astronomy, cosmology and planetary science that when we look at them really closely and objectively, defy conventional explanation.  The myriad features of ‘impact’ crater morphology is just one of many, many fantastic and extremely compelling examples in this field.  I noticed some news on the NASA website a couple of days ago that ‘hidden portals’ have been discovered between the earth and the sun.  Surprise, surprise, they are electrical in nature.  If you have been taking notice over the last ten years or so, you will have noted that the role of electricity in the universe is becoming more recognized and acknowledged by the establishment.  I wrote a bit about the Electric Universe theory here.

Anyway…  that’s not what I’m talking about here.  Since about 2001/2002 I’ve been following with a great deal of interest the saga of the Starchild Skull.  How I first happened upon this I don’t recall, but I do remember thinking something like “Wow, that doesn’t look human.”  I looked a little more into this and found there was some guy called Lloyd Pye trying to establish exactly what this thing might be.  To cut a long story short, the road that Lloyd has traveled to get to the bottom of this has been long and difficult.  In the process, there has been a lot learned about this skull and the mystery is getting closer to being solved and no less unusual.

Because of Lloyd’s background and the angle he comes at this from, he kind of alienates (pun intended) the establishment.  Lloyd postulated from the outset that this was the skull of an alien.  Not something that would engender trust or participation from most medical professionals or scientists, and indeed this has proven to be the case.  However, the recognition or involvement by most experts doesn’t change what this skull is.  The fact is that a few scientists and credible medical experts have, and are examining this thing and the closer it is examined the closer we seem to be getting to something truly extraordinary.

Just let me back off a bit here and give my personal view on this.  As I said, my immediate reaction as I recall was that I didn’t think this thing looked human.  That’s not to say it isn’t, but aside from the general structure – everything appeared to be in the right place to at least resemble something human – the overall feel I got from looking at the skull said something else.  Not scientific at all by any stretch of the imagination, but what I’m saying here is that you know that feeling you get when something just doesn’t look or feel right??  I had that.  And I imagine that this gut reaction is what most people have when looking at it for the first time.  If Lloyd’s anecdotes from the early days of his quest are true, this is borne out by the medical professionals that wouldn’t even touch the thing and wanted him out of the office when it was presented to be examined.

Whether the skull is from an ‘alien’ or not shouldn’t be the focus.  The focus should be on what this thing actually IS.  Regardless of what anyone thinks or Lloyd’s take on it, the overall reaction from medical science has been both dismissive and deafening in it’s silence.  If it is just human as is assumed, then the combination of physical differences presented in this way should have doctors, experts and scientists all over this thing trying to get their names in lights for exposing something truly unique to medicine.  Shouldn’t it?  Or is this just a quirky or ho-hum kind of case.  It certainly doesn’t look ho-hum to me.  It looks serious.

It’s looking even more serious now that solid DNA evidence is coming to light.  It might prove to be human though based on the evolving DNA situation, that seems unlikely.  But if it does, then great – at least we will have an answer.  Below is a video summarizing several aspects of the skull from both the physical and current DNA perspectives.  On Lloyd’s YouTube channel and on www.starchildproject.com there is much more detailed information on the history of the research and the various aspects of the skull’s many unique elements.  If you watch this video as a starting point, I’m sure you’ll agree that whatever the hell this thing really is, it’s absolutely extraordinary.

After thinking on what I’ve written here, I just want to add a few follow-up thoughts as if you’re like me the very next thing you’ll do is look for the other side of the coin.  There is a lot of misguided opinion and disinformation out there regarding the Starchild Skull.  Lloyd deals with it all very effectively in the information he presents, but unfortunately many people don’t do their due diligence on this subject before offering their view, or believe the opinion of those that have never actually seen the skull let alone examined it carefully.  If you can’t be bothered availing yourself of everything Lloyd presents then here are a few things I want to add here.

1. ‘Starchild’ is a misnomer.  It’s a label unfortunately picked up when research began 12 or 13 years ago.  At that time it was assumed to be a child, but since proven not so through it’s dental condition.  The ‘star’ part has also unfairly prejudiced opinion and has been very unfortunate from the credibility perspective.

2. People on discussion boards and in blog articles claim it to be cradleboarded or hydrocephalic or suffering from progeria or any number of physical deformations and/or genetic disorders.  These people have not actually examined the skull.  All of these conditions have been discounted.  Again, do your own research before arriving at a conclusion.  Forming your opinion based on that of people like these, rather than those that have spent time physically examining the skull is irresponsible.

3. People on discussion boards and in blog articles often claim that Lloyd is in it for the money.  He’s using the skull’s fame (or infamy, however you want to look at it) to make an easy living and scam the gullible out of money.  I can assure you he’s not, but even if he was, that still doesn’t change the nature of what he holds.  People use this as a smokescreen to cloud the issue.  I prefer to stick with the facts.  It IS a real bone skull.  It IS incredibly unusual and it DOES deserve a full scientific explanation, whatever that may be.

4. One popular question is that if it really is that unusual, why aren’t experts clamoring to be involved?  A great question.  Lloyd has been like a bulldog on this thing for a long time, he been consistent and persistent with his research and efforts.  He hasn’t backed down in the face of ridicule, personal attacks and personal hardship.  All the while, the evidence has been growing steadily.  Now, I’ll ask the first question in a different way; if this thing has such a simple, mundane explanation, why haven’t the ‘experts’ been queuing up to disprove, debunk and discredit?  In fact the skull is available to be examined by ANY scientist.  It’s open to those who might wish to conclusively disprove, debunk and discredit by proper objective examination or DNA testing or whatever.  The fact is none have been willing to step up and do so.  Why??

Something is for sure, one way or another, the Starchild Skull will prove to be an amazing artifact.

The Grey Magician with a Porcelain Beard??

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 29, 2012 by Aaron

Picked up another couple of titles over the past couple of days.  The Porcelain Magician by Frank Owen and Brian Aldiss’ Greybeard.  The acquisition of The Porcelain Magician is significant as it brings my GP collection up to the 75% mark.  Expect a Progress Report when it arrives.  Greybeard is just another Aldiss first edition to add to the library.