Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday Eye Candy: Dime Detective Magazine, October 1944

Dime Detective Oct 1944

You just have to love this cover! A detective pulp that manages to get a giant octopus onto the cover… total class. I mean, if it had been a horror pulp, a sci-fi pulp or even one of the 60’s “Men’s Adventure” style magazine that would no big surprise, but to get a “sea monster” onto the cover of a crime pulp that really takes some doing!


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Friday Eye Candy: Industry Wins by Michael Lee-Graham


 This pair of painting by Michael Lee-Graham caught my eye the other day while I was searching for some steampunk style landscape paintings. Now as it goes neither of the them is actually steampunk. However, the is no denying the sheer power that Michael has managed to instil in these paintings.

Created with quite a limited palette, they capture the feel of an industrial landscape, choking with smog, pollution and over production.


To see some of Michael Lee-Grahams work have a look at his Deviant Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Conan The Barbarian TV Spot and various posters etc...

I missed these when they came out. So just to fill in the gaps!

TV Spot





Conan The Barbarian Movie Posters







There is also a second motion poster, but I haven't worked out how to insert it into the page, so you can see it over at the excellent (if unofficial) Conan: The Movie Blog.

Finally, if you have a fairly fast connection, a visit to the official website is certainly worthwhile.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Book Review: Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green

Anno Frankenstein

I really thought that Jonathan Green couldn’t possibly top his last two Pax Britannia novels, Blood Royal which took the steampunk down a gothic horror path and then Dark Side which combined a Noir detective story with H.G. Wells First Men on the Moon. However, Anno Frankenstein takes us to a whole new level.

Green likes to take this series in different directions, touching various familiar genres with each new book. With Anno Frankenstein he takes us full speed into classic Weird World War II. The steampunk aspects are pushed into the background. They are still there, the tanks are steam powered and there is a flying machine that uses Cavorite to help it get off the ground, but the general feel of this book is that of a 1960s World War Two movie that has somehow gotten mixed up with a selection of classic Hammer Horror monsters. We have a vampire, a werewolf, Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde and a whole corps of Frankenstein’s monsters all mixed in with Winston Churchill, stiff upper lipped British secret agents, evil SS and Gestapo bad guys, oh and a team of perky young burlesque dancers who are actually a British infiltration team working behind enemy lines.

Anno Frankenstein takes place around 50 years before Ulysses Quicksilver’s previous adventures, during the “Second Great War”. The first half of the book follows the daring adventures of Ulysses’ father Hercules Quicksilver as he attempts to bring down a Nazi plot to create a whole corps of Prometheans (Frankenstein’s monsters), making his way across Europe and into Germany where he has to break into Castle Frankenstein (it is explained why it is in Germany, and not as Mary Shelley wrote it, in Switzerland). At this point we are reunited with Ulysses Quicksilver, who followed the bad guy from the last book, Daniel Dashwood, through his time machine and back into 1943. We end up with a couple of huge fights with Nazis, Prometheans, vampires, werewolves and everyone else ripping into each other as they attempt to stop the new Nazi super weapon laying waste to the British Automaton forces lined up at the frontline at Amiens.

The tension that builds over the length of the novel leads wonderfully through to the big finale, even with Green’s small injections of humour, references to Star Trek, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man and Quantum Leap all stick in my mind, without ruining the pace at all.

As a wargamer who is just starting to get into the steampunk gaming genre there is plenty here to inspire! Airships and (without spoiling it) other flying machines, the German Jotun class steam tank and heavy “AT-ST” like walkers. The British forces lined up at Amiens with their land-battleships, tamed pterosaurs, ten thousand strong automaton army and the general riding into battle on a steam-elephant.

Iron Mammoth Design Logo - At the mention of a steam elephant I could help but put in my business logo could I! Yes it's a mammoth and not an elephant, but you get the point.... Thanks go to Colin McNeil for the logo by the way.

I think I can safely say this book has finally inspired me to seriously get back into figure sculpting. It has given me so many ideas for steampunk style figures and no-one else makes them yet, so I guess I am going to have to do it myself, after all, there are many excellent characters in the Pax Britannia stories, they really need to be realised as miniatures…

Anyway, back to Anno Frankenstein. If you’re picky about your steampunk, you may find it moves to far out of the genre for you, but if you want a rollicking good adventure and you like the Weird War genre, you are going to love this book!

I hope Green returns to the Weird War setting for some of his future Quicksilver stories, he is clearly right at home writing in this genre. If he doesn’t want to tie Ulysses down to the Weird War setting, a spin off series with Hercules Quicksilver or the Monstrous Regiment (i.e. the burlesque dancing infiltration squad) would suit me down to the ground.

Jonathan, if you read this post, please hurry up with the next book, you’ve left so many teaser threads left open from recent books that I really can’t wait too long...

Anyway in the mean time, now that I have caught up with Green’s Pax Britannia books I am going to read Al Ewing’s two entries into the series. So look out for my reviews of El Sombre and Gods of Manhattan over the next few weeks.

Friday Eye Candy: Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel

SteamPunk_Octopus_by_raybender

I have just finished reading Jonathan Green’s new novel Anno Frankenstein (see my next blog post) and so I am in a real Steampunk kind of a mood…

This painting Steampunk Octopus by Alex Broeckel really fits the bill, pure steampunk, epic scale and plenty of action!

Some of Alex’s other work outside of the steampunk genre is also excellent. Here are a few examples…

arsenal_explorer_by_raybender-d32f8hoStrange_Island_by_raybenderunfinished_base_by_raybender-d37s13jWelcome_home_by_raybender

For more work by Alex Broeckel have a look at his Deviant Art Gallery or his website at www.alexbroeckel.com.


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Review: Game of Thrones and Camelot –The Rise of Mature Fantasy on TV…

I have been watching the new HBO adaption of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones (GoT) over the past seven or eight weeks and last Saturday evening I watched the first episode of Camelot.

Game of ThronesCamelot

Both very different series with their own unique feel, and to a certain extent scale as well. However, they both share common ground in being the first serious attempts to bring fantasy (or, in my mind, more accurately Sword and Sorcery) to an adult audience. Certainly we have seen other attempts, with shows like Legend of the Seeker, which unfortunately fell somewhat short of it’s initial success (although I must admit I do have a certain urge to pick up the two seasons on DVD and see if it improved after I stopped watching it half way through season one).

Legend-of-the-seeker-posterLayout 1

Getting back to Game of Thrones and Camelot, so far (I have only seen the first double episode of Camelot), Game of Thrones seems to be standing up much better. The plot works well and the strong visual elements and language (both violence and sexual in nature), seem to fit better with it all. In Camelot, certainly as far as the sex and language go, they feel tacked on, unnecessary and somewhat superfluous (although I must admit I had no objections to Eva Green disrobing at the end of the episode).

Eva GreenCamelot-Eva-Green-2eva-green-7

I should state at this point that I have not read George R.R. Martin’s books, and haven’t read any “epic fantasy” novels in over 20 years – I have read and re-read all of David Gemmell’s books, but they are not what I would consider “epic” fantasy. I also dip into my Robert E. Howard collection fairly regularly, but again not “epic” fantasy. I think you get the point, I am not a fan of epic fantasy, what finally killed the genre for me was reading The Mallorian by David Eddings, a complete re-hash of his previous series, The Belgariad. Other than Gemmell and REH, I don’t read any fantasy and very little sword and sorcery any more. However, when it comes to TV and film one has to take ones genre shots where-ever one can get them, so my viewing habits are a little more broad. As far as my inclinations go towards Camelot, I have always loved the Arthurian legends and will generally watch any adaptions of them that come along. For many years John Boorman’s Excalibur was in my top three favourite movies (although a recent watching did show up quite a few flaws that I hadn’t spotted before), I also have the Sam Neill Merlin DVDs and have been watching the less than startling BBC Merlin TV show. I even quite liked the movie King Arthur, which was basically only ruined by the subtitle “The Untold True Story”!

John Boorman's ExcaliburMerlin

King ArthurBBC Merlin

So now you know where I stand as a viewer approaching Game of Thrones and Camelot. Game of Thrones is developing into a well rounded and strongly paced series.  The cast is excellent, the acting and dialogue not too OTT, the design is wonderful and the whole look of the show is fairly sumptuous. Comparisons are bound to be made with the Lord of The Rings movies and I am sure that the success of that LOTR movies heavily influenced the funding and green-lighting of this show, however to my mind, Game of Thrones (and Camelot) bares much more comparison to HBOs previous series Rome. The influences’ seem quite obvious. Taken at a surface level both Rome, Game of Thrones, and now Camelot have much in common, political intrigue, some extremely dirty and violent fights and fairly strong sexual content.

Game of Thrones Trailer

The cast of Game of Thrones seems to have hit the mark pretty much right across the board. Sean Bean (who in recent years seems to have landed more roles as the villain than the hero) fills the role of Ned Stark with troubled dignity and carries off the turmoil that an honest and noble lord feels when asked to negotiate his way through court politics and intrigue. Other cast members, including Lena Headley, Mark Addy, Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa all fulfil their roles with straight forward elegance and feeling. It is possible to empathise with all of the characters at one point or another, even the series major antagonists.

Game of Thrones - Sean Bean as Ned StarkLena Headley in Game of ThronesGame of Thrones - Mark AddyGame of Thrones - Emilia Clarke in one of her more exposed scenes!Game of Thrones - Jason MomoaGame of Thrones

The violence in GoT is at time brutal, but it is all in keeping with the nature of civil war, and indeed medieval warfare in general. The sex also seems to fit, it is a part of the way of life within the world created by Martin (at least I assume it features in the books as well). As far as “fantasy” elements go, in GoT they are quite thin on the ground, at least in the episodes that have aired in the UK so far. There have been a few sightings of the White Walkers, half wraith / half yeti like beings that will probably have more screen time in later episodes. There are some dragon eggs and skulls dotted around, that could simply be taken as sculptures and ornaments. As far as I can tell there has been only one use of magic. All of this, I am sure, helps keep an audience who possibly doesn’t like “fantasy”, just about hanging on to the show.

Camelot has not caught my affection quite as much as GoT yet! I am left fairly unhappy by the casting. Joseph Fiennes portrayal of Merlin is certainly a different take on the character than has been seen before, which is not necessarily a bad thing, however he comes over as very cold and without many charismatic traits. For a character that is so central to the story this does not attract me to the show.

CamelotCamelot - Joseph Fiennes as Merlin

Jamie Campbell Bower’s King Arthur, so far has also not particularly clicked with me, although that may change as his character matures and he develops his kingly persona.

Jamie Campbell Bower in CamelotArthur pulls the sword from the stone!

To be honest the three characters that really worked for me in this opening episode were Eva Green’s Morgan, James Purefoy’s King Lot and Sean Pertwee’s Sir Ector. Bit of a spoiler here, as two of them don’t survive the end of this episode it doesn’t bode to well for the rest of the series. Eva Green as Morgan, is supremely evil, communing with some dark spirits (only seen so far as shadows in the mist). James Purefoy manages to inject quite a likeable character into King Lot, who generally should have been seen as a nasty piece of work. Sean Pertwee as the noble knight Sir Ector was clearly destined to die early on, well it is Sean Pertwee, when do his characters ever survive to the end of a movie (it is pretty much a drinking game now – at what point in the show will Sean Pertwee’s character die)!

Arthur and MorganCamelot - Eva Green as MorganJames Purefoy as King LotCamelot - Morgan and King Lot, Eva Green and James PurefoySean Pertwee out acts Jamie Campbell Bower

 

In the final battle of the show when King Lot faces off against Sir Ector, in a scene that was clearly paying homage to John Boorman’s Excalibur, the impaled Sir Ector pulls himself along King Lot’s spear and so is able to stab King Lot with his dagger. A dramatic scene made all the more poignant by the deaths of two of the best characters in the episode.

Excalibur - Final Battle - Arthur Mordred Percival 1981

It is probably a little unfair to compare Camelot’s opening shot against Game of Thrones with it’s fully developed story arc that seems to be approaching some sort of conclusion, and I must say that I will be sticking with Camelot for the time being. However, it is only due to it’s being one of the few fantasy shows on TV at the moment. If it doesn’t catch my interest soon I will probably drop it!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Monday Eye Candy: The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs

This has to be one of the most understated book cover illustrations I have seen. It certainly represents a scene from the the story, but unlike most more modern cover art, it doesn't overplay it or enhance the scene.

I quite like the “Flash Gordon” like way that the lead character has been portrayed here, also the subtle colour scheme is refreshing compared to many book cover painting.

The book itself is certainly worth a read as it combines Burroughs familiar Sword and Planet style with a Post Apocalyptic future story.


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Book Review: Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter

infernal

I usually have two books on the go at any one time, one I read at home, and the other while commuting. I try to keep them in different genres where possible, but as I am reading five of the Pax Britannia steampunk books (by Jonathan Green and Al Ewing) in a row, it has led to a clash. So before I can move on to a none steampunk book, here is my review of Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter.

Jeter, has made something of a name for himself by writing sequels to other people’s books; or in the case of Blade Runner, three sequels to the movie, rather than the original book. At least that is how I have become aware of him, both by his Blade Runner books, and by Morlock Nights, Jeter’s sequel to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.

He has also written several franchise novels (for Star Wars, Star Trek and Marvel comics), as well as his own stand-alone books.

What makes his two steampunk novels (Infernal Devices and Morlock Nights) most intriguing, is not actually particularly related to either book, it is more the fact that Jeter was the person who coined the term STEAMPUNK.

Getting back to Infernal Devices itself, the book is mainly set in Victorian London and then at several locations around the British Isles, it is written in a very “Victorian style”, the language has the feel of having been written in the late 19th century, which is of course a good thing for this type of novel. It does however make the book slightly harder to read and also makes the characters somewhat less sympathetic, so it is difficult to be attracted to follow any of them.

The central character is a son of a watchmaker, who now runs his late fathers shop. It soon becomes apparent that his father was far more than a simple watchmaker and could create clockwork machines of incredible power, and that his scientific nature was far more in control of his creations than his moral or responsible mind should have allowed.

Without giving anything away, the watchmaker’s son, George, is soon carried along in an ever more complex plot with twists and turns that he can never predict. This, for me was one of the weaker points of the book, as you never felt that George was in control, and yet he had plenty of opportunities, especially in the first half of the book, to avoid being tied into the plot. He could have investigated much of it without blindly walking into deeper and deeper trouble. Also the central, and possibly world destroying plot has no real justification, beyond the ravings of the mad man at the centre of it. I cannot see how all of the people involved would possibly want to go through with it, for so little reason!

So, the plot is flawed in many ways, however, Infernal Devices does have some redeeming points, the world that Jeter creates is colourful and populated with fascinating characters. Some of the “infernal devices” are wonderfully weird, and should have been used in much more depth and to far greater effect, it would probably have made for a much more interesting book. As it is though, the reader is left feeling that this book as far too many instances of deux ex machina and not enough plot to use them all in.

Too be totally honest, the thing I enjoyed most about this book is the wonderful cover art by John Coulthart.

The review copy I received from Angry Robot Books was combined with Jeter’s other steampunk book, Morlock Nights, I will get around to reading that book later in the year, and to be quite honest I really hope that it has more about it than Infernal Devices.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Monday Eye Candy: Science Fiction Stories, February 1959

Science Fiction Stories - February 1959

Firstly I must apologise for dropping the ball on Friday, there was no Eye Candy post as I was both quite busy and fairly exhausted.

Anyway, on with the show, today we have Science Fiction Stories from 1959. This wins my award for most absurd cover ( at least until I find something even worse). We all accept the ridiculous skin tight space suits and bubble helmets from that period, after all they do show off the space babes figures so very well, however these two don’t even bother with gloves!

Then we have the raft, cannon, propulsion system, flag flapping in the wind and well… you get my point. Still, something about the painting is really quite attractive, the style of painting and colours are vivid and remind me of children's  books from the 1940’s and 50’s, where this kind of lack of reality would have been much more acceptable.


Monday Eye Candy is Pulp themed, offering beautiful artwork to inspire and amuse!

Wednesday Eye Candy is sculptural, offering some of my favourite figure sculpts and models!

Friday Eye Candy features painting and visual images that capture the imagination and offer inspiration!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Book Review: Dark Side by Jonathan Green

Dark Side by Jonathan Green

This is the second in my recent series of Pax Britannia reviews marking the recent publication of Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green.

Dark Side expands on the short novella, Vanishing Point, that finished off Green’s second Pax Britannia novel, Leviathan Rising. Although, after saying that, the scope and all round scale of Dark Side in in a completely different league to Vanishing Point.

With Green’s usual flair for pulling in all of the related Steampunk tropes (I hate to keep using that word, but it is better than saying clich├ęs), he has once again picked a subject and injected it with the usual dose of steam powered high jinx, “Wellsian” Victorian Science Fiction, James Bond style espionage, and good old fashioned high adventure.

The plot initially revolves around a murder investigation, but it soon escalates into a full blown conspiracy. It is very difficult to go too far into it without giving away several of the important turning pint of the story. Lets just say it features a good deal of action on the moon, a typical trio of Bond type villains, the introduction of H.G. Well’s Selenites and the development of the Nazi war effort against the British Empire (I must admit that I didn’t notice the swastika on the cover until about half way through, but once you have seen it you can’t miss  it).

One of the joys of Green’s Pax Britannia books is his development of some of the supporting cast of characters, in particular in this book I was taken by the Billie, the street “urchin” cab driver, who’s cab happens to be a steam powered ex-military war droid!

Also the development of the lunar colonies worked very well, even considering the amount of pollution that steam driven vehicles and factories must have created within the atmosphere domes. After all, practicality never really plays a strong part in steampunk novels. That brings me to the one point that I couldn’t quite accept, the murder that Ulysses investigates involves a man falling from a high window, and I am sure that it would be perfectly possible to die by falling so far, even on the moon, however, their is not one mention of the 1/6th gravity, and surely that should have made some difference…

As with Green’s other books in the series, he finishes it off with a short novella, Proteus Unbound. even though this was a short adventure of Quicksilver, it felt like a full blown novel. Clearly Green is now using these shorter pieces to really fill out his world and Quicksilver’s time-line. The usual elements are all there and as is becoming familiar, Green brings back some of the characters that we have previously encounter in one of his other books. This story also sets up a future novel, and leaves a few unanswered questions. A good read, but nothing particularly new.

All in all, another excellent read and I highly recommend it.

I started reading Anno Frankenstein last night, expect the review of that one in a week or two…

Wednesday Eye Candy: Sand Castle by Sue McGraw

087512c6351fb3795d00d1a932195830

I have always found it difficult to understand the mentality of sand sculptors, don’t get me wrong, some do some absolutely stunning work, it is simply the total temporariness of the art that I cannot get around.

To put so much effort into something that will only survive as long as the sand remains wet (and not too wet, at that) is beyond me.

Still, there is no denying that this castle looks wonderful. It would make a wonderful centre piece for a fantasy wargame! That is, until you see the scale of it…

Sand_Castle_3_by_Suzuko42Sand_Castle_5_by_Suzuko42Sand_Castle_by_Suzuko42

Hard to believe that they are purely made from sand and water.

For more work by Sue McGraw, check out her Deviant Art gallery, or website at www.sandissue.com.

Here is one of Sue McGraw’s other sand sculptures that I quite like.

Pete_the_Pirate_by_Suzuko42

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