Tag Archives: graphic novel

The Curse of Lono, not exactly PC

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson (author) & Ralph Steadman (illustrator)

The Curse of LonoI was lucky enough to find this awesome illustrated book at a garage sale along with a slew of other books and graphic novels, all fifty cents each.  I bought quite a load.  This was years ago and I sold most of them on half.com, but luckily I kept The Curse of Lono.

In what I am assuming is the style of Hunter S. Thompson, this book completely lacks any political correctness.

It comes across as an autobiographical story and at the end there is a photo that backs this up.  But it’s essentially about Thompson and Steadman’s trip to Hawaii to cover the Honolulu Marathon, a journalistic endeavor that is supposed to turn into a vacation.  It ends up being a tortuous adventure; Thompson stays over 6 months because of course he revels in torture.

Most of it takes place on the Big Island and if we take Thompson at his word, it is not the

Artwork by Ralph Steadman from The Curse of Lono
Artwork by Ralph Steadman from The Curse of Lono

kind of place a self-respecting vacationing family would want to visit.  I’ve personally been to that island and while it is true it’s nothing like the green paradise of Oahu, it’s not quite the dangerous hell-hole he makes it out to be.  Or maybe I just haven’t visited the right (or wrong) places.

Thompson’s quirky out of the box writing style, full of stretched metaphors and drug-induced descriptions, is engaging and simply funny.  In fact, drugs and his experiences with them are always creating a colorful scene.  He reminisces about smoking opium in Saigon:

“That is still one of my clearest memories of Saigon – stretching out on the floor with my cheek on the cool white tile and the dreamy soprano babble of Mr. Hee in my ears as he slithered around the room with his long black pipe and his little bunsen burner, constantly refilling the bowl and chanting intensely in a language that known of us knew.”

And the lack of PC doesn’t stop there.  He talks at length about “Japs” and other ethnic groups like there’s no tomorrow.  Of course race is a touchy subject in Hawaii (and perhaps nearly everywhere) so it’s pretty ballsy to even go there.  Maybe back in the 80s it was okay to use the n-word, or maybe not, but he does (out of someone else’s mouth).  I have a feeling HST was quite fearless.

“The Korean community in Hawaii is not ready, yet, for the melting pot.  They are feared by the haoles, despised by the Japs and Chinese, scorned by the Hawaiians and occasionally hunted for sport by gangs of drunken Samoans, who consider them vermin, like wharf rats and stray dogs…”

Wow.  It’s a great read, but must be taken with a grain of salt.  The reason it really has to be read though is so you can see the amazing illustrations by Ralph Steadman and how the whole thing works together, including the accompanying text on the death of Captain Cook by the Hawaiians.

Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman

 

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Wooden spaceships in Saga, the graphic novel

Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, the graphic novelSee my last posts for story line details about this book.  It’s original, to say the least.  Turning the page is just another wonder to behold.

But one thing that I will never forget is how the authors were able to turn a tree into a rocket ship.

One of the characters says “So we’re taking our infant child to outer space.  In something made of wood.”  Her mate says “Don’t judge, dear.  Some of the greatest ships in Wreath’s armada use lumber, makes them almost completely invisible to modern instruments.”

Problem solved!  Heinlein might have agreed.

Turns out, the rocket ship will take suggestions on where it lands, and it has a shower.

The only other tree-rocket ship hybrid I’ve encountered in my reading adventures was in Hyperion, a phenomenally good book science fiction book that I will post about in the future.

In Saga, the rocket ship has a furnace in which it burns pieces of itself to create energy.  At least that is what one character speculates.  It’s a great combination of low and high tech.

Saga rocketship

Art, nudity, and the graphic novel (Saga)

Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, the graphic novelThis graphic novel is about people with wings that originate from a planet called Landfall and people with horns on its moon Wreath, and the war that goes on between them.  The war is “outsourced” to other planets, and each one picks a side, so a galaxy-wide war has been going on for who knows how long.

It’s narrated by a woman who is telling the story of her parents, star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of the war, and she implies early on that they are going to die so we are constantly expecting them to do just that.

The variety of characters include people with horns and wings along with humanoid animals, centaurs, and robots that look human except for television screens for heads.  These are robots that use toilets and have babies, mind you.

Saga, The Stalk
The Stalk from Saga

The originality of this book is extreme, and it’s for reasons like this that graphic novels deserve to be billed as full-on literary and artistic accomplishments, and judged from a non-biased viewpoint even though they have “pictures”. 

Can you get more original than this?  (Image on right.)  You don’t want to see what’s under her skirt.

The copious nudity is oftentimes sexy and even beautiful.  It is art after all and in my view, nothing to be ashamed of or avoided.  The raunchiness on some of the pages of Saga is simply another wonder to behold.  And I have to say, it’s a pretty ballsy move putting a boob on the front cover of Saga, Book Onethe book version (with a suckling baby).  With all the amazing images to pick from, I don’t know if I would have picked that one for the cover, but it is rather sweet.

More about Saga in the next post.

Saga, Book One (graphic novel)

Saga, Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, the graphic novelGraphic novels often have characters that are an intriguing mix of good and bad.  To attract the graphic novel audience, I guess, you have to be edgy, complicated, and often violent.  The three main characters of Saga though, are mostly just good, although they are quite tough and do their share of fighting (well, except the baby).

Saga is dark sci-fi, with spaceships and everything, and it’s oftentimes quite naughty.  Sex and violence, it’s full of both.

The story line involves a forever-long war between two humanoid races.  They use magic and muscle to fight.  The story is told by a woman named Hazel who was born to star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of the war.  She starts the book out:

“I was born on a planet called Cleave, an ancient ball of mud circling a faded old star.

It never had much strategic value, but the place still mattered.  To me anyway.

See, this is where my parents met, but it’s not where they were from.Saga, the graphic novel

They grew up way over here, back where the war began.”

There is an arrow pointing to a large shining spot in a galaxy and she goes on to say this is where her mother is from, Landfall, and its moon is her father’s original home.   (At right, her father and her.)

The endless war between the two eventually got outsourced to other planets and spread across the galaxy.  The “moonies” of Wreath have a wide variety of horns and the people from Landfall have wings.  Apparently there are tons of creative ways to dress people up with horns!

(The ones with wings are not the good guys, contrary to popular assumption.)

More on this in the next post, but for now I will just say, this book is awesome.

 

More detail for Dark Tower fans

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Graphic Novel: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

The graphic novel makes some, mostly minor, changes to the story of The Dark Tower.

The Gunslinger BornWhen Roland is brought into his mother’s chambers by Marten in the graphic novel, she is naked and has that “freshly fucked” look. Then Marten beats her as Roland is still within earshot.

In the novels she is not naked, but is still humiliated and later beaten by Marten.

The storyline is the same though: Marten did that specifically to provoke Roland into challenging Cort early, in order to get his gunslinger title and obtain the guns (at left) so he could kill Marten, thinking he might fail.

It’s simply adding more detail to the story we already know if we have read The Dark Tower series. The Gunslinger Born

But the beauty of the illustrations gives more than just story details, it gives a sense of wonder and romanticism to the land of Gilead (at right).  King did an amazing job on the books, but there is no way to match graphic novels when it comes to literary visualization. 

I will review the later chapters of The Gunslinger Born as the scenes come up in later Dark Tower books.

The Gunslinger Born, Roland comes to life

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Graphic Novel: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

As I pointed out in the last post, the graphic novels based on The Dark Tower go in a more linear fashion than the books. At the beginning we very briefly see the gunslinger chasing the man in black across the desert, but then go directly to the beginning of Roland’s tale. Specifically, how he becomes a gunslinger, and his story thereafter.

The graphic novel gives striking, beautiful, dark illustration to The Dark Tower and fans of the series should absolutely read them. Check them out at the library if you don’t want to pay for them. I look forward to owning them all though (not the individual comics but the hardback graphic novels).

We are introduced to Roland with the same sentence that starts the books:

The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)“The Man in Black fled across the desert. And the gunslinger followed.”

“If the gunslinger looks familiar to you, well, that’s as may be.”

“Echoes of him have been seen in tales spun across many other places, in many other ways.

Just as stories of a great flood, for instance, cut across the consciousness of all mankind, so too does the gunslinger.

He is iconic and legend and your best friend, praise the man Jesus, and your worst enemy.

Your damnation or your salvation, and sometimes not even “or” but “and”, do ya kennit?

The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)The only thing he shares with his quarry is that he is known by many names, if one such as he can be said to be “known” at all.”

Besides Clint Eastwood’s character in the spaghetti Westerns (with a twist of Dirty Harry), the names and images I think of are perhaps John Wayne’s cowboy character, or even going back further, maybe Homer’s Odysseus or Sir Galahad and his quest for the Holy Grail.

It then goes on to describe the smells of his world and you see him and his fellow gunslingers in all their youthful glory.

“There is no more powerful summary of memories than smell.The Gunslinger Born (Marvel Comics)

See the gunslinger now, in his youth, with the shades of young men who have little concept of their mortality. See him…see these…very well.

Smell the heady aroma of the tall grass, and the clean air unbefouled by pollution, and say thankee, sai, for being given a view of the extinct realm of Gilead…”

A beautiful, beautiful book. More to come in the next post.

 

Cort, Roland’s teacher (Dark Tower)

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Book One: The Gunslinger & The Gunslinger Born (graphic novel by Marvel Comics)

(con’t from the last post)

It’s hard to imagine a world in which someone would choose the character “Cort” from this book to be a teacher of young men. It says something about the world they live in and the challenges Cort’s young students will face.

The Gunslinger BornCort (at left, with a young Roland towering over him) is brought to an even more disturbing light in The Gunslinger Born, a graphic novel based on The Dark Tower. The old teacher Cort is a huge bald villainous-looking (and acting) pig of a man, but he is fighting on Roland’s side and he makes significant contributions to any success they may have against John Farson, the man who wants to use old machines (tanks) to destroy Gilead.

The graphic novel series follows a more linear path than the books. Except for a very brief scene at the beginning (Roland beating it across the desert after the man in black), the book starts with the story of how Roland becomes a gunslinger and continues thereafter to tell his tale.

But back to Cort, the teacher. Roland has nearly killed him in the final gunslinger test and minutes later encounters Marten, his true enemy. His friend Cuthbert, after The Gunslinger Bornseeing the interaction, surmises the reason that led Roland to attempt the gunslinger test early: to attain the weapons that would enable him to kill Marten, the man who is doing terrible evil to his mother and father and their world.

Cuthbert is at right, middle of the page, with Roland and his hawk on top, as he plans his victory over Cort.  (Marvel Comics)

Roland, when asked by Cuthbert why he didn’t just kill Marten right then, quotes his old teacher Cort:

“As Cort always said, run without consideration and fall in a hole.”

Roland continually quotes Cort throughout the series, this hateful character who taught Roland to kill. He taught Roland how to live and succeed in this harsh dark world. In a sense, we owe Roland, and who he is, to Cort, the evil teacher, and King doesn’t want to let us forget it.

In The Gunslinger, Cort physically beats his students, but he falls just short of that in the graphic novels. Regardless, the apocalyptic present of Roland’s childhood comes across loud and clear in both books. The end of the world is coming and Roland will be the only one left.

More on The Gunslinger in the next post.