Review—Neil Gaiman, Cakes, and Writhing

Gaiman was the reason I always had purple baggy-eyes in elementary and middle school. The simplicity of his writings, the interweaving of mythology, monsters, and modernity, and the cruel world behind-the-magic offered my child-self something gripping, something utterly fantastic and appalling to explore late in the night. His writing still does—today—in my late twenties. Personally, my favorite work by Neil Gaiman is The Ocean at the End of the Lane (and not only because Fiction Beer Company has a citrus wheat beer inspired by the novel). I have a theory about literature (I’m allowed a few theories, being an English teacher) that great works must inspire the moral imagination, even if the wisdoms aren’t the sort we want to hear. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the title clues us in—Harper Lee wants us to understand that it’s a “sin to kill a mockingbird” for they “don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” The book indicts an American culture which regularly commits this sacrilege against its disadvantaged and minorities. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, behind an incredible narrative about magic and outsiders, there is an abundance of dark truths about adulthood—its deceptive ontology of control, its routine mindlessness. Gaiman reminds us “Adults follow paths. Children explore;” “Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside;” and—in the most incredible line I’ve read in literature, something that explains the opus of Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft better than they did themselves—that what marks adulthood is not some maturity or inner growth, but the awareness of how fragile the surface of our lives are, the recognition that reality is “a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

Some art captions for Magic The Gathering

Art by Jason Chan. / Dark cool colors draw attention to a beautiful solar eclipse and the silhouette of a crouching vampire. The card creates the sensation of size and seclusion. / A nighthawk is a nocturnal bird that feasts on flying insects. The bird has similar white bands on its wings to the vampire’s ritualistic face paint. / The card also references Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” Note the similarity between the vampire shaman and Hopper’s bartender.

Art by Brad Rigney. / An overlapping rider and distant fog creates epic depth. The axis moves the eye to the brutish face with quick trips to admire the Greek’s heroic energy. Photorealism makes the giant’s presence more dangerous. / The giant refers to Hekatonkheires, or hundred-handed giants. His disembodied arms and marble color allude to limbless Greek statues. / Sleek golden armor conflicts with the giant’s Oriental braids, jewelry, and nearly-nude body. A well-constructed culture clash.

Art by Adam Paquette. / Nice complementary blues, browns, and some purple. Cropping hints at the whale’s immensity. The ships’ overlap creates scale. Note the whale’s size is increased further when the viewer notices the 2nd schooner. / The mechanics complete the card’s theme. The whale swallows you, and you only escape from the ‘belly of the beast’ after the creature has died. / Refers to Herman Mellville’s “Moby Dick,” and the Biblical story of Jonah. For some infotainment, google Leviathan melvilleiis.

Art by Chase Stone. / A sculpted female body that lacks human detail creates an eerie and forlorn sense of loss. The artist has carefully retained her sexual energy while she transforms into a tree. However, her sylvan companions would suggest that this too will disappear. There is danger here related to the perils of the lotus eaters. / A caryatid is Greek pillar sculpted into a female figure. 

Art by Richard Wright. / A canvas of hazy mountains create scale. The spines are cool and separate the wurms visually. / Having the wurm rise destructively over the city might be influenced by riftworms in Gears of War. The wurm anatomy seems inspired by Ridley Scott’s alien with its pharyngeal jaw and toothy tongue. / ‘Worldspine’ is vertebrae made from the earth. This creature makes its habitat in deeper regions of the planet. 

Art by Ryan Pancoast. / The card’s mechanic is very flavorful. The golem has been immobile through ‘the ages’ but will become a terrible adversary if provoked. / To add scale, the golem jaunts over a heavy forested canopy. The tilted perspective disadvantages the viewer and increases the golem’s physical might. / Its outfit is a fantasy-variant of Egyptian war dress and linen head covers, evoking lost empire. The swords might be inspired by Soul Caliber. 

Comic Con 2010

As I watched from afar, Gandalf stood before the entrance to Comic-Con, stuck his staff defiantly into the ground, and shouted “Thou Shalt Not Past!” The on-coming nerds passed him anyway and he dropped his head crestfallen. Later, a Jedi shouted “Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!” before being consumed by mobs of bag-toting zombies.

“Oh heinous dodecahedron gods,” a geek exclaimed. “We’re at Comic-Con.”

Comic-Con indeed. How awesome art thou Comic-Con? Awesomer than your Mom, doth Comic-Con reply. Never have I seen so many nerds, mega-nerds, hunchbacks and nerds. To describe it as nerd mecca doesn’t do it justice. Nerdvana? The Nerdiverse? Anyone who’s anybody to anyone to anything in geekistory was accounted for this sunny San Diego weekend… even the dead guys. It was nerdageddon.

To spoil some spoilers: Joss Wheldon’s directing The Avengers (woot!), Mark Ruffalo is Hulk, and they’re still letting M. Night Shyamalan make movies…? Plus Tron 2Die Hard 5 (with Willis), Brad Pitt in World War Z, another Haunted Mansion and another Resident Evil (meh…), Cowboys & Aliens (which I’ve been anticipating 4-forevs) and The Walking Dead as a TV Show are all in our immediate drooling future.

I wanted to visit the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World showcase, but my comic companion, dressed as Gideon from Scott Pilgrim and flirting with all the purple-haired chicks with hammers, insisted I read the damn books first. Then I ran into Matthew Fox and Daniel Dae Kim from LOST, and the entire cast of FRINGE, and the creators of The Venture Bro’s (including Patrick “Brock Samson” Warburton), and didn’t mind missing out.

But the worst part “Highlight of the Convention!” was a Webcomics Lightning Round, during which Scott Kurtz (PvP), Robert Khoo (the third guy from Penny Arcade; yes, there’s a third guy), and Brad Guigar (Evil, Inc) discussed furries. I mean Webcomics. Webcomics. The Q&A focused on creative and business aspects in Webcomic design. Amidst the awesomeness, some bearded ass in Sith robes made an off-hand comment during the sesh that the crowd was only there for a subsequent LOST panel, which Scott Kurtz turned into a world of hurt for the poor Sith bastard.

Kurtz: Jack dies in the bamboo field by the freaking dog!

Stupid Darth Asshole: Yeah, but uh… my question is-

Kurtz: By the way, the Dharma Initiative? Completely FUCKING irrelevant.

Afterwards, I picked up How to Make Webcomic, had all the authors sign it (suhweet), and split. Comic-Con was MANacular, my weekend was great, and – oh, whoa, whooooa, before I sign off, I need to mention one last little diddy: Tessa Stone’s Hanna is Not a Boy’s Name. I found her paranormal comedy (what she calls “sugarcoated horror”) right before Comic-Con, was deeply entertained, then ran into her in the Webcomic Artists’ section. Let’s just say she’s totally awesome.