Sidney Sime, Forgotten Master

Posted by: on May 31, 2011 | 10 Comments

Looks like I’m gonna get another infusion of money for Rex Mundi – hooray for me. The first thing I did, of course, was buy a bunch of expensive and out-of-print art books.

The best purchase, by far, was a copy of a 1978 book devoted to Sidney Sime, one of the original, if not the original, fantasy illustrator(s). The introduction by Ray Bradbury was worth the price all by itself, and I can’t believe I finally have detailed, printed copies of Sime’s art. Until now, all I had was low quality scans gleaned off of the Web.

It’s a tragedy Sime has been forgotten so utterly. His illustrations for Lord Dunsany’s and William Hope Hodgson’s stories are every bit as good as the stories themselves; works of art in their own right.

Here’s Sime’s map of his “Land of Dreams”:

The "Land of Dreams", by Sidney Sime

I’m sort of a nut for fantasy maps; I’d never seen this one in enough detail to make out the place names until today. One of the things I love about Sime – Dunsany, too – is his/their sense of humor. They don’t take their worlds so deadly-gloomy seriously, the way some (cough!)Tolkien!(/cough!) creators do.

The image above links to a high resolution .tiff file, suitable for printing – and do print it out, Dear Reader, it’s worth the ink. Right-click the image and choose “Save link as…” to download. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, a .jpg is right here.

As far as I know, this is the only high-resolution image of this map floating around the Web. Of course, the brittle binding of the book I just paid a ridiculous sum of money for snapped as soon as I laid it flat for the scan. It’s my little sacrifice to the world, I guess.

Oh, yeah – Queen Sonja #17 is out tomorrow; buy a copy or three if you happen to pop into your local comic shop!

Twenty Years, John Bellairs

Posted by: on Mar 8, 2011 | One Comment

Twenty years ago this very day, one of my favorite writers passed on to the great hereafter. Why John Bellairs isn’t more widely appreciated perplexes me, especially now that “young adult fantasy” novels are so much the rage. I always got the feeling Bellairs wrote himself into his books; he was Lewis Barnavelt, Johnny Dixon and Anthony Monday. Or maybe it’s just that I identified with his characters so much. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only person in the world who was chubby and shy and weird.

I tracked down “The Face in the Frost”, his first novel, a few months ago. It’s for “adults”, but it has all the spookly-ookly charm of his better known books, which always have great titles, like “The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn” and “The Dark Secret of Weatherend”. And the stories always live up to the hype. A great place to start is his first real success, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls”. After reading it you’ll think “No one could be better than Lewis Barnavelt”, but Johnny Dixon and Anthony Monday will win you over, I promise.

Bellairs was also my introduction to the illustrations of Edward Gorey. Gorey and Bellairs are one of those perfect combinations, like thunder and lightning, or peanut butter and jelly. Gorey’s legend has only grown after his death, while Bellairs, for some reason, has faded a bit. It’s maddeningly hard to find editions of Bellairs’ books with Gorey’s illustrations; it’s hard to find Bellaris’ books at all. I love Gorey’s original books as much as anyone else, I just there were a wider appreciation of his Bellairs illustrations. If ever a publisher did a comprehensive edition of Bellairs’s writing with Gorey’s illustrations, I’d gladly buy ten copies of the complete set.

There’s a very loving Wikipedia entry on Bellairs, which led me to a wonderful Web site devoted to him, and a comprehensive entry on the morbid-in-the-best-way possible It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who loves John Bellairs so much. Rest in peace, John.

Space Cabbie 2.0

Posted by: on Jan 25, 2011 | 4 Comments

I love board games. I fell in with a group of like-minded souls soon after moving to the patchouli-infested paradise that is Northampton, MA. It’s weird to be among people who are already “into” board games; I don’t have to explain it to them. In fact, they explain things to me.

Among them is David Lartigue, who has a very funny blog and an interesting take on the Great Star Wars Controversy. He asked me for a sketch of Space Cabbie, a lesser-known Silver Age DC character. I re-imagined The Cabbie for a hip, new alterna-teen audience. Because that’s what comic book writers do.

In the name of full disclosure, I used a lightbox.

Doing the sketch reminded me of a friend from my old gym in Queens, Sim. He’s a Sikh, and an aircraft mechanic at LaGuardia. Built like a Sherman Tank, the sort of chap you’d want to be next to in a foxhole. Hope you’re well, Sim.

Joe Jusko

Posted by: on Dec 1, 2010 | 10 Comments

My tailbone got whacked pretty bad a few days ago during a session of submission grappling. I stumbled across Joe Jusko’s front cover for Warlord of Mars #5 whilst dickering around online today, and it took my mind off the pain for a few minutes.

It’s a tribute to the Saturday Evening Post, of course, but I really love the modern details – the shoes of the kid in the foreground, the cut of his jeans, even his hair. This cover reminds me that everything I love about American culture is still very much with us. Edgar Rice Burroughs is still with us, and it’s such an incredible honor to be able to share his Mars novels with the world in the adaptation I’m doing with Dynamite.

All Joe’s covers for Warlord of Mars are absolute treasures. They make me feel like I’m ten years old again, secretly reading beat-up old copies of Heavy Metal. Art like this is why I got into science fiction and fantasy in the first place.

If #5 doesn’t sell a million copies and Joe doesn’t win two dozen Eisners, I’ll be very upset.

Atget Lives

Posted by: on Oct 4, 2010 | 5 Comments

41 Rue Broca, 1912. Photo: Eugène Atget.

Eugène Atget is one of the best things I discovered through Rex Mundi. I first encountered him many moons ago, poking around The Strand bookstore in New York City for reference photos of Paris for EricJ. I pulled out a battered collection of Atget’s work, and the image on the front cover was better than perfect; it was my first window into the world of Rex Mundi.

Atget took photos of Paris in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were tearing down the dark, cramped, medieval and riot-prone town at that time to re-make it into the city everyone knows, the city of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Of course, something is always lost in “progress”. That’s what Atget captured. He’d go out very early in the morning and take pictures of the old neighborhoods before the steam shovels ground them up. Do a search for him and you might even recognize some backgrounds from Rex Mundi. And remnants of the old city still exist – there’s a piece in the New York Times today showcasing some of surviving places where Atget took photos.

Most of the photos in the “le Journal de la Liberté” newspapers of Rex Mundi are Atget’s. Amazingly, there’s a comic book store on the very street of one of the photos I used, at the end of Book One, chapter five. The store is called Arkham Comics, and Rex Mundi was their featured title of the week this week. Arkham’s a little down from the picture, seven Rue Broca.

Merci beacoup, mon amis d’Arkham. One of these days I’ll make it back to Paris and stop in for a little guerrilla visit.

And I must give a shout out to the mysterious comte St. Germain, who told me about Arkham. The comte has a terrific French language pop culture blog. Check it out, whether or not you read French.