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"In the information age, you don't teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he'd have a talk show."
"There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third."
"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."
"My advice to people today is as follows: If you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out."
"Think for yourself and question authority."
Peter O'Donnell died on the 3rd of May aged 90. Who's Peter O'Donnell? He's the creator of that sexy feminist secret agent and adventurer who could beat up any man and take down any super villain, yes, Modesty Blaise. When not being a successful romance novelist under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent, O'Donnell was the long time writer of those endless Modesty Blaise newspaper comic serials beginning in 1963 and wrapping it up in 2001 with many papers promptly reprinting it from the beginning.
So far you can pick up 17 adventures as graphic novels with volume 18 due in August and more to follow. And due to the success of the comic strip O'Donnell also penned 11 Modesty Blaise novels & 2 short story collections. The first novel titled, naturally enough, Modesty Blaise was published in '65 and remains in print as a key cult crime/adventure novel.
There have been a number of film and TV adaptations but the one of interest is the messy but entertaining '66 film that captures the wonderful European style of the hedonistic bon vivant. It has Monica Vitti in hot '60s fashions, Dirk Bogarde in snazzy suits and Terence Stamp as Willy Garvin in trendy threads, you can't beat that for styling.
In the latter part of the seventies animator Art Clokey created a lovable little punk named Gumby. He presented this amiable fellow riding a skateboard, playing on a PC, venturing into fictional realities and leading an alternative rock band; thus making him the precursor to the contemporary hacker/thrasher dude.
Gumby, with his pals Pokey, Prickle Minga and Goo, hung around for over thirty years, Art and his wife Ruth producing all of his adventures, literally by hand.
Now Gumby is an iconic legend. And he remains, a dude.
In remembrance of Art Clokey, creator of Gumby
October 12, 1921 - January 8, 2010
About a yearish ago the Street Fighter Tribute art book came out as part of the celebrations of the games 21st anniversay. It was a cool book and a big success.
Since then the same guys have come out with a tribute book for the another game called Darkstalkers. As an art book Darkstalkers Tribute is as cool and groovy as Street Fighter Tribute, even better.
I'm glad I did, but I was still no more enlightened to what Darkstalkers actually was. So I asked.
Alison, what is Darkstalkers?
Darkstalkers started in the 90s, after Street Fighter - both by Capcom- and is a fighting arcade game like Street Fighter with usually the same gameplay, but with demons and typical fictional monsters such as vampires, succubus, anthropomorphic characters and a sasquatch. Other noticable fictional characters that appear in Darkstalkers are Frankenstein and Red Riding Hood (all renamed).
The most notable Darkstalker characters also appear in Capcom Fighting Evolution, all of the 'vs Capcom games, such as Marvel vs Capcom and SNK vs Capcom.
So Darkstalkers is essentially a fighting arcade game with the stereotypical fictional monsters, and then some.
Completely aimed at a different audience with a different background story and mostly revolves around the typical fairy tale story but with just enough twist to give the characters a reason as to why they fight.
Streetfighter audience usually prefers Street Fighter and Darkstalker audience with Darkstalkers. You have people who want to play with characters who are sort of based in the real world, India, Japan, USA and then you have people who want to play with characters that have super powers beyond Hadouken.
Now I have to admit that I had not heard of Darkstalkers before seeing the art books. Street Fighter has a secure place in popular culture and I know it well even though I hardly played it. Where is Darkstalkers in the scheme of things?
Street Fighter has had a few more years to really set itself into the gaming world and it was quickly exported from Japan, whilst Darkstalkers didn't really ground itself as much as Street Fighter.
There's also a lot of confusion to be made around Darkstalkers. The game series isn't very logical at all, it feels more like the spin-off of a series rather than the series itself, with off-shoots here and there.
Darkstalkers is also referred to a different name in Japan all together. Unlike Street Fighter which is still Street Fighter (or Sutoriito Faitaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Darkstalkers original name is Vampire. I personally prefer Darkstalkers.
Though I admit, the makers of Darkstalkers have grounded themselves mainly with the look of the game allowing better fan art and more imaginative creations. With its fantastical themes it opens doors in the classical sense. Really you can't draw Ryu in Transylvanian settings or Guile in a graveyard.
And I just know that Darkstalkers has always and I bet will always be in the shadow of its bigger brother Street Fighter.
Twenty-five years ago two young amateur comic artists created an indy comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was intended as a homage/parody of Frank Miller. At the time Miller was hot as a writer and artist for his noirish reworking of Daredevil, in particular the long running and absorbing Electra saga. This was also the time Miller was establishing his trademark style that he pretty much launched with the breakthrough mini-series Ronin. This was just before Miller's landmark The Dark Knight Returns and so his hotdom was still a simmering pot within the comic community.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird came out with the first issue of TMNT at this time aimed squarely at that comic community and the convention scene in the US. Eastman and Laird hit the right buttons with their Milleresque action poses as done by turtle ninjas, poses capturing a fan sense of a new front that would become mainstream comic imagery a decade or two later.
Script wise they were hitting the right buttons as well, achieving that rare creature that plays on the images, plots and characters of the currently hot scene while achieving its own right to exist as an independent work. Its appropriations were clearly referential and in-jokey in a manner that everyone was meant to share. For instance, in Daredevil, Matt Murdock's martial arts sensei goes by the name of stick, the Ninja Turtles are trained in the ways of Ninjutsu and of the ways of being a spiritual warrior by a old rat called Splinter.
Because TMNT has something groovy going on it didn't take long for a licensing agent to approach Eastman and Laird and turn this indy comic into a toy franchise. From there it quickly evolved into endless cartoon series and toy lines. And as this was now almost entirely a commercial venture the turtles also evolved into mainstream family friendly merchandise marketing tools with trademark catch phrases like "Heroes in a Half-Shell" and "Turtle Power", both created by marketing and jingle writers for the toy ads played during the morning cartoons.
The mainstreaming success of TMNT inevitably led to the movies, but I gotta say, I have a fondness for the first film for which Jim Henson's colleagues, especially director Steve Barron, can be largely thanked. It was darker than expected and character driven, more concerned with the motivations of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Splinter than the fight scenes, pratfalls and inevitable pop soundtrack you expect the industry to demand. On the whole, much more sophisticated than I thought they'd ever dare. Sure, it's dated but it remains a highlight on the Ninja Turtles era.
Still, TMNT is now pretty much a franchise and marketing tool, one that has a respectable novelty of its inherent absurdity. I mean Ninja Turtles with Renaissance artist monikers is cooler than say Action Man or G.I. Joe, don't you think? And so I won't dismiss entirely the more contemporary manifestations of the turtles. The recent animated movie wasn't that bad and there seems to have been always a bit of a spark, no matter how dim, within most animated work with the TMNT stamp on it, but it long ago stopped being anything other than a commercial platform.
Regardless, I'm not begrudging the financial success that came Eastman and Laird's way. And why? Because we can still go back twenty five years and admire two bold comicers and their indy publication having gleeful fun with the stylish pretentiousness of hero comics. And despite all the commercial pancaking and soliciting of the children toy market one can still look to the core of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle empire and see something deep inside that remains pretty cool.
William Gibson's debute novel Neuromancer just turned 25. So why should you care? After all, Neuromancer is not one of the greatest novels in the last quarter of the twentieth century, nor one of the biggest selling or most awarded. Regardless, it has become perhaps the most influential work of literature for the twenty-first century.
Neuromancer's importance is not for its freaky cool futuristic ideas or for its slick yet elegant merging of classic and techno language, but for creating a culturally fertile mindset. When it comes to the way society and technology have come together in a pop cultural sense, there was before Neuromancer and then after.
Sure, it's considered the patron work of cyberpunk (and Gibson its saint), and though I think from a literary sense cyberpunk began and ended with Neuromancer, the cyberpunk movement, despite or because of a unclear interpretation, has morphed into distinct cultural trends that range from street fashions to sound system design, film & TV, cyberspace imaginings to philosophical musings of our techno-destiny and even made big headways into the debate of what is human. And all this with some credit to its slick veneer of dark future noir and badass pretensions that gave birth to black leather trench coats at Goth clubs.
Now if you catch a hint of cynicism in my voice I should point out that Neuromancer is one of my very favourite novels because though Gibson has gone on to be a better writer with works like Pattern Recognition and Spook Country, he has not surpassed the rich, poetic, intellectual, yet entirely visual writing of his first novel.
Neuromancer deserves still to be read as a significant and ever-so-cool work on its own and its extraordinary legacy left to be contemplated on a different occasion.
[I have previously spoken about William Gibson and discussed the documentary No Maps for these Territories which you can check out here]
Astroboy was created by manga legend Osamu Tezuka in 1951 - when World War II was still fresh in memory - as Tetsuwan Atomu or Mighty Atom. Twelve years, and thousands of manga later, Astro became the star of the Japan's first commercial animated television show. Yes, Astroboy is the birth of anime.
The little metal blighter has been around fifty-eight years. Of course, you couldn't tell by looking at him. With a fresh coat of paint he still looks like a mechanical boy of twelve. And in that time he's been in print or on TV somewhere in his, at least, three animated incarnations and even a live TV show made in 1959 a couple of years before the first anime. The live action has the obvious limitations but it still captures enough of that Astro charm.
Adventuring across several generations Astroboy has remained popular. More than popular. He's a multicultural, multigenerational icon of ephemera. Quite regularly I see people wearing an Astroboy t-shirt of some funky design. Who knows how many of these wearers have ever seen the show. It doesn't matter. He's Astroboy. He is because he is.
So what is it now that Astro represents that makes so many use him as an identifier? I think it's because he's the happy zooming rocket boy of a glorious happy future that was a past dream. He is the embodiment of the dream of the flying car and technological luxury for all. He the promise of a fun filled future that would be exciting and entrancing.
But he also, by being a naive little boy who is more than capable of defending himself, represents that attitude that we know better about the realities of the world today but we still have the willing ability to dream. We didn't get our future of flying cars, but we were no more robbed than those who dreamt of wondrous future things in the first place.
Astro is a sympathetic bridge between past, present and future. Today we are the reality biting truth of those long ago dreams that bore little fruit. All the same, we must be grateful that they did try to dream. Astroboy is the good will ambassador to our millennial disappointment. And in this time of war and technological horror - and the religious callousness that controls it, on both sides - the need for sweet and well-meaning symbols like Astroboy is more important than ever.
Of course, a smiling, waving Astro can also just look très cute on a t-shirt.
Viva la Astroboy!
Viva la Astroboy t-shirts!
It is the bicentennial of the birth of Edgar Allen Poe. This is being celebrated around the world and especially in his home country of the United States. So, there's no need for me to go on rapturously about the significance of this most ominous of ominous writers. At least, not for too long.
He is easily recognized as one of the founding writers of modern horror, but it is all too often overlooked that he is one of the fathers of detective fiction, the psychological thriller and science fiction. And as a poet he was worthy of being a rock star.
His influence on literature, film, television, theatre, art and culture is immeasurable. He was a pop culture icon before the idea of pop culture was conceived. His inspiration to future generations of artists is inherently
deep and intertwined within so many disciplines that range from doctoral dissertations to children's toys.
Most important to me is not any particularly work or set of works by Poe, but the artistic and narrative mindset that he has established and over more than a century kept entirely and exclusively his. You can pastiche him and tribute him, but the atmosphere of a work of Poe always remains in the ownership of Poe, no matter who put the words down or the images on the screen.
Sure, many people over time did build his reputation. Done so through glorious illustrations by people like Gustave Doré or the series of very successful film adaptations by Roger Corman (even when they weren't always that faithful), the performances of his poems by greats like Vincent Price, Orson Welles and James Earl Jones (yes, I'm referring to that Simpson's episode), volumes of music including the Alan Parsons Project prog-rock album and tribute works like the recent anthology Poe as edited by Ellen Datlow.
But despite all those who did and continue to contribute to his fame and his immortality, if the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe could appear - during a very Poe style séance, I'd like to imagine - to accept an award for his contribution to culture I think Edgar would have every right to say "I have no one else to thank but me, the work is all mine, I did this."
That's enough about Mr Poe. I think to celebrate his birthday it would only be proper to watch a bit of Poe in action. Here's John Astin, best known as Gomez from The Addams Family, which only seems apt, in Poe garb reciting The Raven.
Go on, relax and enjoy