Monday, June 30, 2008

Brilliant (or Mad) Steampunk Idea

Pocket watches are awesome and very steampunk, but these days nobody wears pocket watches any more. So how do we recreate the look without being unnecessarily anachronistic (assuming we don't want to be unnecessarily anachronistic)? I'll tell you: someone has to design headphones for mp3 players that look like pocketwatch chains.

It's a goldmine, I tell you!

With the possible hurdle of pocket watches not usually being stuck into people's ears. Okay, so the idea still needs some work. But there's definite promise here...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Diablo III

So I was going to blog some more about makers vs. writers, or maybe about whether anyone is lurking my blog, or about the next few stories in the Steampunk anthology (they're all good so far), or maybe the possibility that I might be playing a Steampunk game of Mutants & Masterminds soon.

As it turns out, this will all have to wait (or rather, it will all have to be summarized in the preceding paragraph, and possibly expanded on later). Because, you see, Blizzard has announced Diablo III.

If you have not checked out their site yet, you should go there now. NOW.

I played a crapload of Diablo with my brothers back in junior high and high school. I remember many an afternoon when homework and chores had to be put off because we had died and dropped our items in some godforsaken corner of the dungeon, and we couldn't quit or we'd lose al our loot. Usually, spitters were involved.

Then Diablo II came out, which was like Diablo, except better in almost every possible way. Okay, so there was less emphasis on dungeon exploring, but it still rocked. In many, many ways, it was much more playable than its predecessor. And then the expansion came along, with new levels, characters (though I was never a big fan of the Assassin or Druid), and best of all, an improved resolution.

So you should all check out the new game. If you like video games, you'll like Diablo III.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hats Off to the Makers

They may be all style and no substance, and all that other matter I groused about on Tuesday, but Steampunk certainly wouldn't look as cool without them. For those of you who don't subscribe to Brass Goggles (and why don't you?), I hereby pass on the art of Sam Van Olffen:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bollocks to the Makers

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: In my original post, I had forgotten who had written the introduction, and tried to keep it vague by using the pronoun "they" for the author. This ended up making it sound like the VanderMeers had written the introduction. Jeff VanderMeer won't stand for such rubbish, and corrected me in a most gracious manner, pointing out that the introduction was penned by Jess Nevins.

ANOTHER NOTE: That means that the publisher of the book I was writing about commented on my blog. How cool is that?

THE ORIGINAL NOTE: I should point out that the following represents my own views, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Ann or Jeff VanderMeer, Jess Nevins, or anyone else involved with the Steampunk anthology.

I recently read the introduction to the VanderMeers' Steampunk anthology, and I must say, it's rather gotten my blood up. At the moment I forget the exact words Jess Nevins used, but they described the current Steampunk movement, which they call the second generation, as a cliche and a fashion trend. This really struck me, as I quite like Steampunk fashion, but they explained that Steampunk was originally a way for people to make a statement about our culture and our time. It was a way to raise an outcry against society, to put the -punk into Steampunk, to show how really we're just modern-day Victorians who all too often believe that money is the measure of a man, progress should benefit the rich and be built on the backs of the poor, and that other cultures and viewpoints are strange, alien, and best when forcibly "civilized."

This sort of Steampunk was created by the writers: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and others. As storytellers, they were interested in the ideas behind Steampunk. They used Steampunk to spread a message and make a statement. Like the best science fiction, they used a fictional setting to say what could not be said in a realistic one. By transporting our problems to another place, they threw those problems into sharp relief.

The new generation of Steampunk is created by artists. It's about a look, a fashion and a trend. This is the Steampunk that is exemplified by the Makers: Vladislaus Dantes and Datamancer and their kind. It exists not on the written page but in Deviantart and forums and livejournal, with people squeezing themselves into dresses and putting on goggles and boots to show themselves off and prove to everyone how Steampunk they are.

I think it's obvious whose side I'm on. I never realized it, but I miss the message behind Steampunk. I really like the Steampunk aesthetic, don't get me wrong, and I am full of admiration and jealousy when it comes to the works of the great Steampunk artists and crafters. But I do think that we have lost something. The style has overwhelmed the substance, and Steampunk is the poorer for it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Steampunk Arrived

My copy of the Steampunk anthology arrived today! Now, to read through it super-fast so I can be the first person to review it on Brass Goggles!
That's a kitten with a monocle and a top hat, in case you can't tell.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Latest Hellboy TPB, and It's Not Good News.

EDIT: please also see my retraction of this statement

So it turns out that the latest Hellboy trade paperback (TPB), Darkness Calls, has been out for a month, and I had no idea. Then I noticed the artist: Duncan Fegredo.




For those of you wondering what the big deal is, let me spell it out for you: I love Hellboy. Not like, love. It's my favorite comic book series of all time, and, as far as I'm concerned, it can do no wrong. It features a demon and some monsters from folklore fighting other demons and monsters from folklore, with generous dollops of Lovecraft and steampunk-ish Nazi superscience thrown in for good measure. I own every Hellboy trade. I've lent them out to friends. I've bought them for friends. The art, the folklore, the characters, and the storytelling all combine to make a series that's head and shoulders above anything else in the graphic novel format. It all comes down to Mike Mignola's use of blank, black spaces, both literally in his art and metaphorically in his storytelling. Mignola's minimalistic art evokes the dark spaces of Lovecraft and Nietzsche. I especially love his gorgeously gothic sculptures and manuscripts. Nobody does darkness like Mike Mignola.

Okay, so Mike didn't write or illustrate Hellboy: Weird Tales, a series of stories featuring Hellboy and nominally set in the Hellboy universe, but produced by a variety of authors and artists. No worries; I just didn't read it (I've looked into it, and wasn't thrilled with what I saw, but I let it go). And he consulted on, but didn't do the art for, the BPRD series. No worries there, either. I bought them all and learned to accept Guy Davis's art for what it is: he can't draw people worth a damn, and he insists on giving Johann noodle arms that pretty much ruin the character for me, but his monsters are stunning and imaginative.

My biggest gripe with BPRD, other than Mike's lack of involvement in it, was that it reads like a superhero story. The characters fight monsters to try to prevent the end of the world, but the folklore elements fades into the background as the heroes tend to go up against the same sorts of bad guys again and again. One of the great things about the "real" Hellboy stories was that they always featured something new. Hellboy would find himself in the middle of a folktale, and he would have to see it through to the end. There was no grand, overarching scheme, other than the general Right Hand of Doom, apocalyptic stuff that would be sprinkled on without dominating the plot.

So I learned to live with BPRD, and even like it. Like I said, Guy Davis does some great monsters, and the collection of bizarre items and relics in The Universal Machine really made me happy. Just so long as Mignola was still doing the regular Hellboy series. Sure, there was a huge wait between Conqueror Worm and Strange Places, but it was worth it. Another long wait between Strange Places and Troll Witch? A bit painful, but no worries. Again, it was worth it, and again Mignola was on top of his game. True, Troll Witch brought in a guest artist for a pointless dream sequence in which Hellboy has a dream in which he stands in for Makoma in Makoma's story. It was one of the laziest bits of storytelling I've ever seen in Hellboy, but hey, the rest of the stories were original and drawn by Mignola, so I was happy.

So I thought I had things figured out. Other people would be working on Weird Tales and BPRD, while Mike continued plugging away on Hellboy. He would move slowly, as was his right, but it was his baby. And now this.

And now this.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The webcomics they kill get up and kill...

There must be no room left in webcomic hell, because dead webcomics are walking the earth!

Just recently, I posted about Joe and Monkey returning to life. Well, now I've got even more amazing news. Gone with the Blastwave, which has described itself as "Going for the slowest-updating webcomic award," has a brand-new comic!

I've gotten used to thinking about Gone with the Blastwave as a noble failed experiment in webcomic design. The art is fantastic, and the idea behind the comic is very simple and generic, but the author kept getting sidetracked and never committed to an update schedule. For these reasons, I never seriously expected it to return, and I must say that I am extremely pleasantly surprised now that it has. Of course, there's no guarantee that this will last, but I'm just happy to see that it's not as dead as I had thought.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

50 Rumors About D&D 4th Edition

If you haven't seen this yet, here it is in all its glory. You may say it's obsolete now that 4th Edition has officially been released, but I say this video will always and forever bring the funny like only CreativeJuices7 can.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avatar: Hilarious, Fun, and... Steampunk?

Most of you already know how I feel about Avatar: the Last Airbender. It's well-written, has good voice acting (any any lapses are easily forgiven when you remember that most of the voice actors really are kids), well animated, and has good action. The dramatic parts work. The plot stays fresh, and doesn't try to change a winning formula. I like every single major character. I often spend entire episodes with a dopey grin on my face when watching this show.

But is it steampunk?

Well, no. The technology is mostly medieval swords-and-sorcery type stuff, and the setting is pseudo-Asian. But wait... what's this?!

In Season Three, the Fire Nation gets zeppelins (not really a spoiler, but still cool). Now, while this hardly makes Avatar a Steampunk show, it does mean that it has more zeppelins than Last Exile did. And Last Exile is supposed to be Steampunk.

Can you have Steampunk without zeppelins? Of course. But why would you want to?

On an unrelated note, I have found the karmic opposite of Avatar. A show as wonderful as Avatar must have something out there that's equally horrible, to balance the universe. It's a homemade roleplaying game called FATAL. Whereas Avatar is well-written, fun, and just generally well made, FATAL is a steaming pile of festering... something. It's indescribable. Just as "fun" can hardly describe Avatar, there is no word in the English language to describe how very not good FATAL is. This review tries to do so. It goes on and on, but fails in the end. I'm convinced that the reviewers spent so much time on the review to try to get as much out of having forced their brains to endure the abomination that is FATAL.

Don't waste your life reading the review. Just trust me: FATAL is a horrible waste of everything. Spend the time you would have devoted to curiously reading the review watching Avatar instead. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Joe and Monkey is BACK!

Joe and Monkey, one of my favorite web comics of all time, is back! They've been on hiatus since forever, but today they just posted a new comic. The comic is sort of like Calvin and Hobbes, if Calvin had been a slacker delivery guy and Hobbes had been a sarcastic monkey. Head on over to check it out! I must warn you: it's Dangerous When Awesome.