"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Welcome Back, Bodie Troll!



Too busy! Too crowded, I said as my eyes bumped and tumbled from the title down the cover. Stripes. Suckers. Fur. Feathers. The cover overflows with a monstrous hoard, oddly vibrant yet pastel. My eyes remained unable to lock onto anything…until I reached the bottom right corner. There I saw a damsel fleeing the chaos above and behind. On her shoulder, shaking his fists defiantly at the charging throng, a lovable creature named Bodie Troll. The moment I saw these two, whom I remembered from previous adventures, the whole panel came into focus and I was giggling with delight.

Artist Jay P. Fosgitt’s cover to Bodie Troll: Fuzzy Memories! Issue 1 showcases the escapade readers will find inside. The title character heads off a new adventure, getting into trouble in his quest to be seen as a fearsome troll. He may have the black eyes of a shark but his body has all the ferocity of a lap dog. The harder he tries to scare, the more endearing he becomes. In this issue, Bodie places a bet he has what it takes to be a true predator, capturing and eating live prey. If he loses the bet, he loses his hair. And as Fosgitt’s drawing makes clear, Bodie would not look handsome bald, let alone scary.

This is fantasy storytelling, a little bit Lord of the Rings, a little bit Popeye. Frankly, Bodie Troll has every right to be stale and belabored. Especially given this is not Bodie’s debut. Yet the adoration Fosgitt has for his characters, the care he takes to make every page a visual feast, infuses the story with freshness and vibrancy. I had as much fun reading this Bodie Troll adventure as I did the original series.

There is playful, goofy dialogue and loads of physical comedy. The creatural ensemble is naturally comedic, only becoming more so as the adventure escalates. There is also an exciting, and frankly gorgeous, new character: Hokum. She is bald and beautiful and…purple. And she has it in for Bodie and all troll-kind. I mentioned playful and funny. Did I also mention action-packed?

I would not describe myself as a hardcore comic book fan, though I’ve spent plenty of time and money flirting with becoming one. When I come to this genre, it is for diversion and for tales like I loved as a young and na├»ve boy. Bodie Troll tickles these fancies masterfully. I also think Fosgitt demonstrates real storytelling prowess. He nimbly mingles themes and plot points in a fun and compelling way that lead to big payoffs in the final panels. The casual reader likely won’t feel beat over the head. The in-depth reader will be rewarded with subtle references and nifty connections.

Bodie Troll: Fuzzy Memories! gets off to a swashbuckling start with Issue 1. I highly recommend it for the fun and charm saturating every page. The issue also comes with stylistically contrasting takes on Bodie Troll via artful pinups from Kyle Latino, Nathan Pride, and Bruce Gerlach. This issue will be available beginning May 6, 2015 from Red 5 Comics.

DISCLAIMER: As a fellow writer, I am personally acquainted with Mr. Fosgitt and was given a complementary advance copy for the purpose of providing this review. How nice then that the above rave is wholly sincere!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

'The Star Wars': A Long Writing Process Ago

The Star WarsThe Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I apprenticed at a professional theatre company, I had the chance to observe script development. I watched other writers take their scripts through succeeding drafts. One character might disappear. Other characters might be combined. Lines spoken by one person in an earlier draft might be spoken by someone else in the next. It was sometimes frustrating when the writer changed something you liked, but the creative process remained intriguing.

The Star Wars is based on a rough draft screenplay by George Lucas which later evolved into Star Wars. I snatched a copy off a display of newly acquired graphic novels at my public library. This resulted in a highly enjoyable Saturday impulse read. Like my experiences with play development, I was struck by this comic book’s collection of familiar characters, settings, and dialogue—familiar, but often quite different.

I am giving this graphic novel a 3-star review based on story quality, but as a fan experience it was easily a 4-star excursion. Keeping in mind this is an adaptation of a screenplay, not a strict rendering presumably, I am not sure at whom my criticism is best directed. The story seems choppy, often jargon-laden for jargon’s sake. Yet the drama remains well-focused around the fate of Princess Leia. Some panels come with little or no context, feeling aggressively abrupt. Perhaps the roughness of Lucas’s draft was aggravated by the intentionally blocky nature of comic book storytelling?

Parts of the story feel underdeveloped or poorly supported--in particular, the love story between Annikin and Leia, who in this version are not related…hopefully (early draft indeed). Part of what made the romance element of Star Wars the movie work is it played mostly on swashbuckling sexual tension and schoolboy crush. We didn’t see full-on romance in the first outing. Things were allowed to simmer with entertaining results. Here the characters go from telltale antagonism to Romeo and Juliet melodrama in the blink of an eye. Not plausible, and exacerbated by Lucas’s rough attempts at lyrical dialogue (which we know from the film prequels can make it into a final draft).

Still, driven by the tension of a looming Death Star, The Star Wars makes for high energy space opera. It feels more violent and less funny than the finished cinematic product. Yet, as the fantastic cover art by Nick Runge portrays, this earlier draft contains the richness of Lucas’s vision, even if it lacks the charm infused by the movie’s cast and designers. I recommend The Star Wars for fellow fans of that galaxy far, far away.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Salient Pessimism 6

I made my bed this morning--a strangely satisfying task.

Doing so reminds me how futility can wrap itself in elegance.