Archive for July, 2008

Comic Con 2008 Day 3: Con-clusion!

July 28, 2008
Today is a bittersweet day.

Here we are, returned to OG’s abode, after three great days of the Comic Con International, and a day of rest.  (See?  We are acknowleding that we didn’t get around to posting on Sunday, despite our assurance that we would.  Sorry.  We stink.)  It is good to be back, and, yet, a little sad that the Con is over.

We can’t complain, though.  With the exception of two panels we wanted to see on the first day, we managed to get into everything we really wanted to get into.  And, missing those first two panels was completely out of our control, thanks to the traffic jam we mentioned previously.

We were smart with our time and scheduling, we opted for only three days of Con (avoiding excessive physical and mental exhaustion), we wisely prepared sandwiches, snacks and beverages for each day ahead of time, and we simply could not have done better.

We nailed it.  We mastered the Con.

So, what of Saturday at the Con? 

EG started out the day at the Spirituality in Comics panel while OG entered the floor in a valiant attempt to procure souvenirs for his family.  The panel was lively and interesting, discussing the increased number of spiritual themes in modern comics.  It was a smaller panel, but it allowed a more intimate level of discussion. 

(A quick note here – all too often, the smaller panels of the Con, focusing on a singular theme or creator, are overlooked.  In our experience, though, these can be some of the most fun and informative meetings you can find.  You could probably fill your entire schedule with these types of panels and have a very fulfilling Con experience!)

After meeting back up, the next program was a favorite of ours – Quick Draw!  The Quick Draw panel is always fun.  Sergio Aragones (of Groo and Mad Magazine fame), Scott Shaw (artist of Bongo Comics, Hanna Barbera, and much more), and Mike Peters (creator of Mother Goose and Grimm) “compete” against one another in drawing tasks (like, “The Incredible Hulk as the President of the United States”), all for the entertainment of the viewing crowd.  It is an amazing display of creativity and talent to watch these cartoonists quickly draw some of the funniest things you’ll ever see.  Sergio Aragones is always the highlight of this panel, and this year was no different.  Just a great way to spend an hour or so at the Con.

We then made our way to the DC: A Guide to Your Universe panel.  The best thing about this panel?  Actual announcements!  That’s right – not merely dodging questions, but announcing big news.  EG was thrilled to hear that DC would be bringing the Archie super heroes (you might know them as The Mighty Crusaders) into current continuity, since he still has some of those action figures from his childhood.  Another great announcement was that the Milestone characters would be returning to the DCU proper.  Milestone was a far-too-short-lived imprint with DC comics in the early 90’s.  Perhaps the most successful aspect of the line was Static, which actually became a cartoon called Static Shock.

We also learned that in an upcoming arc in the Superman books, the people of Kandor decide to make Earth their New Krypton, and that something called “The Battle for the Cowl” will be taking place in the Batman books following Batman: R.I.P.

Oh, and it seems that every hero that has ever died is up for grabs for the Black Lanterns in the upcoming “Darkest Night” storyline in the Green Lantern books.

Following that panel, we stayed in the same room for the Grant Morrison and Gerard Way: Born Under a Black Sun panel.  This crowd was different from the others throughout the day.  How so?  Why, it seemed to have a much higher quotient of teenage girls in it.  Seems that Gerard Way, creator of The Umbrella Academy comic is also Gerard Way of the group My Chemical Romance.  (By the way – OG knew this, but EG did not.  Yet another example of how modern society has just passed EG by.)  The description of the panel claimed it would change our lives.

It lied.

It was a fine enough panel, though.  Maybe a little self-important, and it seemed most of the folks in the room had never actually read a comic book.  In fact, the first question from the audience was a guy who said, “Um, yeah, Gerard, I’m a huge fan, but I’ve never read your comic.  What is it about?”

(Note – At that moment, OG had to physically restrain EG from running up and thumping the twerp on the head for coming to something called a “comic” con for entirely the wrong reasons.)

Upon the glorious conclusion of that panel, we went to the Marvel: Secret Invasion panel.  It was delightful to hear Joe Quesada, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel comics, ask the audience to not even bother asking about movies, since they had nothing to do with the movie aspects of Marvel.  That’s right, folks – the panel was REALLY going to be about comics.  Sadly, like most of the Marvel panels for the weekend, most of the questions were answered with a standard, “We can’t talk about that just yet.  Keep reading!”

The last panel of the day for us was Marvel: The Ultimate Universe Must Die!  While we don’t regularly pick up anything from the Ultimate Marvel Universe (OG picks up the occassional Ultimate Fantastic Four trade, and EG is picking up the Ultimate Spider-Man trades), curiousity got us in the door.  While there, Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost, publicly turned in his last script for the six issue mini-series of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, which began in December 2005 (only the first two issues have been published thus far).  Basically, it was a barely disguised declaration of, “Hey, any further delays – not MY  fault.”

With the end of the programming day, we made our way to the topper for our wonderful trip to San Diego – seeing a live performance by the Rifftrax crew at the Balboa Theatre, as they tore up a color print of the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space.  If you aren’t familiar with Rifftrax, think Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  In fact, all of those involved with Rifftrax are alums of MST3K.  Prior to the show, Rifftrax versions of theatrical pre-feature entertainment ran, giving fake trivia information and questions.  The best two, in our humble opinion, were:

“Did you know:  Ahmed Best, voice of Jar Jar Binks, died penniless and alone.”

“Did you know:  The CEO of Ticketmaster sleeps on a giant pile of money and drinks the tears of orphans.”

As for the show itself, it was amazing.  We really hadn’t realized how much we missed MST3K, and having piles of new material was amazing.  It was just great to laugh until it hurt.

And, then… it was finished.  We made our way to the Steve Austin-mobile and headed out, tired but completely satisfied with a great Con experience.

There you have it, folks.  Now, on to what most of you probably really stopped here for – the pics!

The official Batman and Wonder Woman of the DC Booth.  You see that Batman costume?  Tell me why they cant try a costume like that in the movies!  It looks great!  Oh, yeah, sure, it offers zero protection against... well, anything, but... cmon!

The official Batman and Wonder Woman of the DC Booth. You see that Batman costume? Tell me why they can't try a costume like that in the movies! It looks great! Oh, yeah, sure, it offers zero protection against... well, anything, but... c'mon!

 

Okay, yeah, sure, there is a woman dressed like Catwoman in this picture, but we really want you all to notice the guy in the kilt behind her.  Outside of Scotland, youll not find more kilts than you do at the Con.  Know what, guys?  Never gonna happen.  We dont care how comfortable you claim these to be, it will never be widely accepted in modern America for a man to walk around in a skirt.

Okay, yeah, sure, there is a woman dressed like Catwoman in this picture, but we really want you all to notice the guy in the kilt behind her. Outside of Scotland, you'll not find more kilts than you do at the Con. Know what, guys? Never gonna happen. We don't care how comfortable you claim these to be, it will never be widely accepted in modern America for a man to walk around in a skirt.

 

Uh... you think she just did that to her head for the sake of the costume?

Uh... you think she just did that to her head for the sake of the costume?

 

You know what?  This costume was just amazingly great, so we wanted everyone to see it.

You know what? This costume was just amazingly great, so we wanted everyone to see it.

 

Little Orphan Annie is Arrowhead Girl!

Little Orphan Annie is Arrowhead Girl!

 

Cobra Commander performing a scene from Hamlet, while the Baroness looks on in boredom.

Cobra Commander performing a scene from Hamlet, while the Baroness looks on in boredom.

 

Yep, killed me three groping fanboys so far.  Its like shooting fish in a barrel here.

"Yep, killed me three groping fanboys so far. It's like shooting fish in a barrel here."

While the male members of Cobra are issued standard uniforms, the females are issued spandex uniforms.  Why?  Because thats the way Cobra Commander wants it.

While the male members of Cobra are issued standard uniforms, the females are issued spandex uniforms. Why? Because that's the way Cobra Commander wants it.

 

... and she stared off into the distance, contemplating why a chicken sandwich should cost $8.00 at the Con.

"... and she stared off into the distance, contemplating why a chicken sandwich should cost $8.00 at the Con."

 

C is for cookie, thats good enough for me, C is for cookie, thats good enough for me, C is for cookie, thats good enough for me, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie starts with C!

C is for cookie, that's good enough for me, C is for cookie, that's good enough for me, C is for cookie, that's good enough for me, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie starts with C!

 

Tin foil Orion helmet?  $2.79.  Spandex pants?  $17.99.  Ipod for a Motherbox?  $249.99.  Being called Forbush Man all day long?  Priceless.

Tin foil Orion helmet? $2.79. Spandex pants? $17.99. Ipod for a Motherbox? $249.99. Being called Forbush Man all day long? Priceless.

 

Plastic Man decides to creep out the rest of the Justice League by showing them his idea of gender bending.

Plastic Man decides to creep out the rest of the Justice League by showing them his idea of "gender bending."

The streets are extended gutters, and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.  Did you know I have my very own 6 action figure, perfectly in scale to most of your childrens action figures?

"The streets are extended gutters, and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. Did you know I have my very own 6" action figure, perfectly in scale to most of your children's action figures?"

That’s all folks!

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Comic Con 2008 Day 2: Con-Gorilla!

July 25, 2008

Welcome faithful reader(s?)  EG thought it was important that we blog tonight and for this I hate him.  My body hurts.  I have the stink of other geeks upon my person.  And, the destroyed remnants of a Burger King Triple Stack and a couple of their Taco bombs just laid waste to my lower intestine.

But, EG tells me that the peoples they demands the updates. 

So, here you go. 

With the continued growth of ComiCon and the hope-dashingly long lines for nearly every panel (I’m looking at you “Ghost Hunters.”  Seriously?  Ghost Hunters was at capacity?  Really?  Did actual ghosts appear at the panel?  Were they captured before a live audience and then given corporeal form only to feast on the souls of the innocent leaving an ectoplasmic residue in it’s wake?  Perhaps that’s what I sat in.) we only managed to get to handful of panels.

Oh, but what glorious panels (except for that Batman one with the corpse of Jerry Robinson) they were!

Here’s what ended up in along with both of our brief reflections on each followed by a few photos that’ll make you feel like you were actually there with impaired vision…

WARNER BROS. THE WATCHMEN PANEL (In which the director, cast and co-creator of the Graphic Novel presented new footage, some expanded from the recent trailer):

EG’s Thoughts:  Despite my still lingering misgivings about the project I can’t deny that the footage is impressive and that the makers of the film really do have a love for the project and the best intentions.  I still can’t see it being able to adequately translate the work from the sequential page to celluloid but we’ll see.

OG’s Thoughts:  While there’s not much in the world that’s worth a three hour wait in line behind the world’s biggest “Drew Carey Show” fan (not EG), this came pretty darn close.  Unlike most of these big Hollywood panels, the cast were unusually well spoken and knowledgeble of the source material.  (The scars from Sarah Michelle Gellar’s heat-vision blasts of disdain from six years back still burn.)  The footage knocked me out of my sweat-soaked socks and I’m just as excited about this movie as I was when we saw our first glimpse of “Superman Returns.”  Sadly, I think we all know how that turned out.

DC: BATMAN: NO REST FOR THE DARK KNIGHT (Starring writer’s Paul Dini, Brian Azzarello and Grant Morrison and Joker creator and aforementioned corpse Jerry Robinson): 

EG’s Thoughts:  I regularly buy both Batman and Detective Comics.  I’m enamored with both of the writers of those books (Dini & Morrison).  So, you’d think I would’ve been thrilled with this panel.  Unfortunately, there was no new information given, the writer’s seemed generally unaware of what each other was doing and most of the talk seemed to be rife with spoilers from “The Dark Knight” (which we won’t actually be seeing finally until Sunday!!!).  All and all, it was a generally disappointing panel that not even the lilting brogue of Grant Morrison could redeem.

OG’s Thoughts:  I second all that and would only add that it would have been nice if some of the questions asked of the creators were about the actual comics they create.  This panel sucked.

EG Adds:  And I desperately would have liked to have seen an actual fist-fight between Dini and Morrison who certainly seemed not to respect one and other very much.  (Despite lip-service to the contrary.)

ADULT SWIM: VENTURE BROS. & ROBOT CHICKEN:

EG’s Thoughts:  We have been to these panels before and they are consistently fun and entertaining and this year was no different.

OG’s Thoughts:  These two shows are the only programs in the Adult Swim line-up that don’t seem to be cobbled together from non-sequiters and bong resin.  And, while this panel has always been fun in the past, the creators have always seemed a little too-cool for school and kind of annoyed to be there. (Aqua Teen Hunger Force being the primary offender)  So, I really dug this year because these guys seemed to geniunely like interacting with the fans and were enthusiastic about what they had coming up.  

EG Adds:  The only down side – NO FREE SWAG!!!  Say you want you want about the Aqua Teen guys, those green Mooninite socks were awesome!

And, finally…

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 20th ANNIVERSARY REUNION (Patton Oswalt hosts the entire cast and writing team of this landmark in geek programming):

EG’s Thoughts:  If we had only managed to get to this panel for the entire Con I still would walk away satisfied.  As a long-time fan and member of the “Information Club” I was delighted to see both the clips and the cast united on this historic occasion.  I only wish that they had been able to announce a new re-launch of the series to heal my aching heart of the loss their cancellation brought.

OG’s Thoughts:  Really, probably one of the best things I’ve witnessed our 5 Con-going years.  Only that sad, miserable part of myself was disappointed that the Riff Trax people didn’t go to fisticuffs with the Cinematic Titanic people.  But, that’s a small part of me.  Mostly, I was happy to see them all together celebrating their excellent work.

Tom Servo, from MST3K.

Tom Servo, from MST3K.

     

Crow T. Robot, from MST3K.

Crow T. Robot, from MST3K.

 

Seems Emil Hirsch, following the failure of the recent Speed Racer film, has fallen on hard times.

Seems Emil Hirsch, following the failure of the recent Speed Racer film, has fallen on hard times.

Any guy willing to come to a hot, crowded Con, dressed in a furry Scooby Doo costume just to promote his comedy act and website deserves the link.  Here you go - Andre Meadows!

Any guy willing to come to a hot, crowded Con, dressed in a furry Scooby Doo costume just to promote his comedy act and website deserves the link. Here you go - Andre Meadows!

 

Okay, seriously - maybe the best Two Face costume weve ever seen.

Okay, seriously - maybe the best Two Face costume we've ever seen.

 

Is there anything I can type here that wont make me seem like a total perv?  No?  Okay, nevermind then.

Is there anything I can type here that won't make me seem like a total perv? No? Okay, nevermind then.

Alright, that’s it for Friday.  Due to an expected late night on Saturday, look for Saturday’s update on Sunday after we return to Los Angeles!

Comic Con 2008 Day 1: Con You Feel The Love Tonight?

July 24, 2008
Alrighty, folks, EG and OG here in glorious San Diego (or at a hotel near enough that didn’t cost an arm and leg to stay at).  It has been an epic journey this day.

Our much anticipated day of adolescent frivolity began at 5 in the a.m., after a delightful four, I repeat, four hours of sleep.  You may ask, Why so little sleep?  I’d love to say there was a good reason, but it was due, mostly, to watching the slammin’ dance moves of Optimus Prime courtesy of YouTube.  Sadly, we aren’t kidding.  Here is the proof:

Yeah, it doesn’t take much to amuse us, but if you’ve read this blog before, you know that already.

Anyway, we got up, got ready and were on the road just after 6 a.m., making the two hour trek to San Diego.  Or, what should have been a two hour trek.

Unfortunately, due to a horrible accident (in which nobody was seriously injured), our trip lasted over six hours.  Mostly in bumper to bumper traffic.

As  such, we got a very late start at the Con, missed a few panels, and didn’t get nearly as many pictures as we had hoped.  Nevertheless, we share with you what we did get today.  Please to enjoy:

The first costume we saw - a promising start for the Con!

The first costume we saw - a promising start for the Con!

 

Moments after this picture was taken, this woman was descended upon by a fleet of creepy, drooling fanboys.

Moments after this picture was taken, this woman was descended upon by a fleet of creepy, drooling fanboys.

 

Spider-Man teaches a young Hellboy how to bust a move, a la Spider-Man 3.

Spider-Man teaches a young Hellboy how to bust a move, a la Spider-Man 3.

 

Seems to us that Psycho Pirate could probably take this Black Adam.
Seems to us that Psycho Pirate could probably take this Black Adam.

 

The Odinson doth yea verily use Herbal Essences!

The Odinson doth yea verily use Herbal Essences!

Alright, folks, its late, we’re tired, see you tomorrow!

Con-ward Bound!

July 21, 2008

Photobucket

Well, folks, as mentioned briefly in a previous posting, your delightful hosts will be heading out this week to partake in Geek Mecca, aka, the International Comic Con.

Yes, EG and OG, like hundreds of thousands of other geeks, will put down our D&D sourcebooks and Klingon dictionaries, make our way through the labyrinth of 7 foot stacks of comics and trades, venture forth out of our basements (The Light! The Light! It burns!!!), and travel forth unto San Diego, all for the chance to scowl at Dan Didio and Joe Quesada in person!

Now, depending on our hotel’s wireless capabilities, we will be trying to post a bit each day about our adventures while at the largest gathering of stereotypes in the world. So, be sure to check in, and with any luck, you can revel in all the nerdy goodness vicariously through us!!!

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION: DUNE by FRANK HERBERT

July 15, 2008

Howdy there, folks, and welcome once again to the Book Club Discussion. 

Today, we look at Dune by Frank Herbert.  As always, this will be a SPOILERIFIC look at the novel, so if you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read this!!!  If you have read the novel, feel free to add your thoughts by commenting at the bottom.  Now, prepare yourselves…

SYNOPSIS:
In the far distant future, humanity has spread throughout the universe. Planets are ruled by various Houses, held together under the ruler of an Emperor. 

Among the Houses are the Harkonnens (a despicable group that rule by deception, oppression, and force) under Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and the Atreides (a group of true nobility and just ways) led by Duke Leto. As you might guess, there is no love lost between the two Houses.

Unfortunately for Leto and his people, the Emperor sees Leto as a threat to his power, and he hatches a plan with the Harkonnens

Leto is instructed by the Emperor to leave his planet and take control of Arrakis, a desert planet that is nearly unlivable. Arrakis has one resource, though, that is precious – Spice Melange. The Spice is mined in the sands of the desert. Ingesting the spice allows one the ability to see possible paths into the future. And, it is very addictive. As such, it is highly valuable and much sought after. 

By taking Leto from his home planet and moving him to the unfamiliar and inhospitable wasteland that is Arrakis, his enemies hope to make an opportunity to destroy him and his house. The Emperor eliminates a threat to his power, and the Harkonnens eliminate a rival House.

Though Leto senses the trap, he is obligated to follow through. Along with his military force, he is joined by his concubine, Jessica, a Bene Gesserit (an religious order of women who serve as advisers, being somewhat prescient and able to control the actions of others verbally), and their son, Paul.

Unbeknownst to anyone save the Bene Gesserit, breeding has been manipulated to bring forth a prophesied leader, the Kwisatz Haderach, a male trained in the ways of the Bene Gesserit. Jessica believes that Paul is that leader.

The Atreides move to Arrakis and take control of the planet. On arriving, Leto is introduced to the “natives” of the planet, a group called the Fremen. Through constant exposure to the Spice, the Fremen’s eyes are blue on blue, with no whites. While the Harkonnens saw the Fremen as merely uncivilized desert dwellers, Leto sees them as the key to Arrakis – a force of people that have learned the ways of the desert planet and adapted.

Before long, the House of Atreides is attacked from within. The action ignites accusations of betrayal, causing an atmosphere of mistrust to form. Unknown to any is that the betrayer is actually Dr. Yueh, a trusted confidant to the family. His betrayal, though, is not so simple – he loves the Atreides and hates the Harkonnen. As we learn later, his reasoning for the betrayal is actually an attempt to destroy the Baron Vladimir.

Essentially, Yueh delivers the Duke into the hands of the Baron, while the forces of the Harkonnen (along with the disguised forces of the Emperor, the Sardaukar) attack and scatter the Atreides forces.

Paul and his mother manage to escape, thanks to Dr. Yueh, and eventually take refuge with the Fremen, thanks in no small part to their fighting abilities, which the Fremen refer to as the “weirding”.

Paul thrives in the new environment, to the point that the Fremen begin to wonder if he is actually the Lisan alGaib (or Voice from the Outer World), the Mahdi (Messiah) that will transform Arrakis into a paradise. Paul takes on his Fremen name of Paul Muad’Dib (a mouse native to Arrakis) and quickly is seen as a great leader. His mother, Jessica, takes on the role of the Reverend Mother to the Fremen.

Years pass and under the leadership of Paul Muad’Dib, the Fremen grow stronger, until the moment comes when Paul Muad’Dib decides the time has come to retake his rightful position of Duke of the House of Atriedes, ruler of the planet of Arrakis.

An all encompassing, well planned out attack is made and Paul Muad’Dib and the Fremen are victorious. In a final blow to the Emperor, Paul threatens to destroy all of the Spice on the planet, a move that not only secures his position as Duke and ruler, but also leads to a marriage to the Emporer’s daughter, making him next in line to ascend to the throne.

DISCUSSION:

OG: Well, this one’s a whopper; and, not just because it’s a big book with lots of them pesky words to read, but more so because of all of the even peskier ideas Herbert packs into it. Huge, important ideas and themes piled on top of the already massive amounts of plot, intrigue, character development and world, nay, universe building he shoves between the covers.

EG:  It is quite the layered novel.

OG:  Indeed.  So, where to begin discussing this thing? I had a lot of trouble deciding until I remembered reading this 1979 quote by Frank Herbert in which he said:

“The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes.”

I read this quote directly after finishing the book and it really opened up my understanding of what I had just been through. After some more digging around, I then located where Herbert expanded on this thought in his essay “Dune Genesis” (found here: http://www.dunenovels.com/news/genesis.html) in which he basically lays out the short story of how and why he came to write this series in the first place. Here’s a couple more choice quotes from there that give you the flavor, but I’d recommend anyone who read this book to read the whole essay when they have the time…

“…superheroes are disastrous for humankind. Even if we find a real hero (whatever-or whoever-that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.” 

And…

“Don’t give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero’s facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero.”

I think the reason I want to start off here and why this idea resonates with me so much is that as I read “Dune” I read it under the penumbra of all the other stories out there about heroes rising to their rightful place as savior of their people/land/world/universe. I mean, you can’t get through this book without thinking that Herbert is riffing on the thousands year old tradition of the “heroes journey.” Even if one hasn’t read any Joseph Campbell, they’ve at least seen “Star Wars” and can probably fill in the major beats the story hits along the way. (Heck, EG, didn’t you, like me, think at many point, “Man, George Lucas totally read Dune before he wrote a word of Star Wars and just ripped it off all over the place!” I can just hear his thoughts, “Hmm, two moons, huh? I’ll just make it two suns and nobody’ll notice.”)

EG:  Um… actually, Star Wars didn’t come to MY mind… but the different view of the heroic journey did.  But, please, go on.

OG:  I suppose my hatred of the prequels (and Indy IV, to boot) have got me looking for other things to accuse George Lucas of.  Maybe plagiarism isn’t one of them.  Anyway, that said, reading the above quotes and getting into Herbert’s motivations here, made me realize that though he was using the basic skeleton or formula of the heroes journey, unlike Star Wars, he was using it as a means of, if not tearing it down (at least not in the first book), then definitely scrutinizing it and calling it into question.

On the one hand, you read about the horrors of the Harkonnen rule over Arakkis and the scheming of the Emperor within that, and you recognize that the Fremen and the rest of the universe absolutely need a savior to come. A Kwisatz Haderach or Lisan alGaib has to rise to stop this great evil and bring peace and tranquility to the world. But, while that’s true, rarely in these types of stories do we reckon with the flip side of that. And, Dune magnificently explores that side of things. This person is a human being. This man (well, child really), Paul Muad’Dib has loves and hates and flaws and all those things that great power and authority can only eventually tarnish and inflate.

And, as he journey’s along to find his place of power, the inner struggle that he goes through, the conflict with his mother over her place in that journey, and the feeling of inescapable doom and anxiety that outlines his prescience is what separates this story from the rest.

So, I’ve just kicked us off with a big, fat mouthful. What do you think about this EG? Did you finish this book thinking that the day had been saved and all was right with the world, which is how I initially put it down before more thought and more insight from the author. Or, did you, ever wiser than I, flip the last page and say, “Yeah, things are okay now, but there’s a dark moon on the rise?”

EG:  Actually, the flashing visions of the future that Paul could see did clue me in.  You said the word “inescapable.”  That is what really turns the heroic journey on its ear.  Paul, through his own prescience, quite literally “sees” the problems with him assuming the role of the Kwisatz Haderach and the Lisan alGaib, and yet, despite that knowledge, he finds himself locked into that path.  He was bred for it, he was trained for it, and even with his own misgivings, at each turn he finds himself falling into or even embracing those positions.  His reluctance in thought helps give us a nice reminder that despite outward appearances, things are probably not going to be coming up roses later on down the path.  It is really quite a contradiction, because through Paul’s eyes, we see that what he’s doing is leading up to, among other things, a holy war, and Paul, in thought, is desperate to prevent that, yet instead of avoiding the decisions that will lead to that, he runs toward them.  In theory, Paul could have joined the Fremen and then merely lived out his life among them, with his wife, Chani, and their children.  In actuality, though, the person we come to know as Paul really would not, possibly could not, take that passive route. 

OG: Okay, so putting all that high-falutin‘ talk about heroes journeys and the greater themes of Dune aside, what did you think of the book just as a reader? Were you entertained? Did it make you want to read more?

EG: I enjoyed the book, overall.  It was very slow going at first, but after a time, I was able to really get into the story.  Knowing that the book was set up from the outset to be a trilogy, I knew that there was going to be a lot of groundwork laid that would only really come into play in later books… which is something I found that I had to remind myself of on several occasions.  What I mean is, toward the end of the book, I’d think, “Nothing was done with _____?  Why did they bring it in at all?  Oh.  Yeah.  Trilogy.”

OG: Well, as you already know, I already read the second book, “Dune Messiah” immediately after finishing this one. So, I guess that’s as good an indication as any about how much I enjoyed “Dune” purely as a reader. And, I must say, it’s quite a contrast to how I was feeling early in the book. I am often quite disoriented when thrown head-first into a universe with no warning. I appreciate the author’s intention in doing that and admire it from a storytelling standpoint, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I often want to be talked down to at the start of a book. It’s sad, but true. I’m often too lazy to do the work that’s required for keeping up with this kind of writing. The text from Princess Irulan’s writings and the usage of words, alien languages, and concepts that aren’t immediately explained made me a bit foggy in the first chapters and I struggled to find my footing.

EG:  Oh, let me interject here!  I ABSOLUTELY understand what you are saying!  The start of this book reminded me a lot of something my father said after he read Frank E. Peretti’s This Present Darkness.  I had read and enjoyed the book, so I loaned it to him, lo those many years ago.  After he read it, I asked what he thought, and he said, “Well, it was okay.  I don’t know why the angels had to have bizarre names, though.  TalGuiloArmoth?  Why couldn’t they just have normal names?  In the Bible, the angels had names like Michael and Gabrielle.”  I don’t think I fully appreciated that statement until Dune.  Slogging through those first pages… my mind kept searching for anything familiar, which was a bit of a distraction.  It was a huge relief once I got to “Paul” and “Jessica.”

OG:  Amen to that, brother.  So, once I did find that footing and had a sense of this universe and it’s history, then I was off to the races and ripping the pages aside as fast as I could. Though it was definitely a challenging read and one where I wasn’t always clear on what was happening, I still would call this book a page-turner.

EG: I don’t know that I’d go quite that far.  I probably didn’t get that feeling until maybe the last 100 pages of the book or so – once Paul was prepping to ride the maker.  At that point, the action seemed to shift gears for me.  You asked, earlier, if I would be interested in reading more of the Dune novels in the future, and, yeah, I will, but not right away.  Some time away will do me good.

I did find what I consider to be two glaring shortcomings in the book, aspects that I don’t see being resolved to my satisfaction in future books.  You, having read the second book though, can correct me if I’m wrong.

First, the death of Paul’s son, Leto.  For me, it registered almost zero impact.  Leto was an entirely off camera character – we, as readers, never met him, never saw any interaction between him and his father, and then his death was something we only heard about.  Mind you, not that I wanted a gripping tale of how the Harkonnens came in and killed a child, but I did need something to give the character a little substance.  Especially since Paul is so in control of his emotions, saving his grief for another time on repeated occasions.  The whole thing was dealt with in a way that completely disconnected me, and so I didn’t “feel” the death.

OG:  I’m with you there.  Come to think of it, I can’t imagine what kept Herbert from including more of Paul’s family life.  It’s not like he was afraid of making the book too long.  It’s down right strange, now that you mention it.  The final showdown is what so much of the book builds towards and since nothing short of the fate of the universe is hanging in the balance, the added weight that that death brought to it and Paul’s decisions couldn’t have been overdone.  Definitely a missed opportunity.

EG:  The second shortcoming I’d note is the upstaging of Thufir Hawat.  Baron Vladimir Harkonnen came up with the plan to enlist Thufir Hawat as his own Mentat, despite the fact that Thufir was loyal to the House of Atreides.  The Baron cultivated the deception in Thufir’s mind that the betrayer of the House of Atreides was none other than Jessica, Concubine to Leto, Mother to Paul, and Bene Gesserit witch.  Thufir accepts the position of Mentat for Vladimir, with the idea that one day he could finally gain his vengeance on her.  For what seemed like hundreds of pages, I waited, wondering, is he going to kill her, forcing Paul to kill him?  Is he going to find out too late that it was all a Harkonnen trick and be driven mad by his actions?  I waited and waited, anticipating this moment…

…and when the moment came, Thufir Hawat wasn’t even in the room.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure he was even on the planet, yet.  What happens instead of the confrontation I was looking forward to is the reintroduction of Gurney Halleck, who has taken a position aboard a smuggler’s ship, and felt the same way about Jessica that Thufir Hawat did.  The scene comes where Gurney takes Jessica and threatens her life in front of Paul, who explains the truth to him, and Gurney is so grieved at his own actions that he offers his life to both of them.  They forgive him, and the story moves forward.  At that point, I thought, “That whole scene should have been with Thufir Hawat instead.”  At the very least, I thought that having that scene occur really took the wind out of the sails of a forthcoming scene of confrontation that did include Thufir Hawat.  But, then, it didn’t matter, because at the end of the book, again, off screen, someone had explained the truth to Thufir Hawat and that was that.  It was very anticlimactic to me.

 OG:  Well, just as I’m starting to think of this book as this perfect, smooth block of marbled cheese, aged to perfection, you blast a couple significant holes through it and suddenly I’m dealing with plain ole’ Swiss!   Well, I shouldn’t overdo it.  I still adore Dune, but this second shortcoming you’ve noted is a pretty big stumble plot-wise.  I think I did have the thought in the back of my head that Hawat would be a bigger player at the end.  I think that’s a seed that Herbert planted early on and sort of lost track of as he lost the plot.  Then, when it became more expedient to bring Gurney back into things in the last act, I think he transferred that motivation to him.  Ultimately, while a misstep, I think it doesn’t undo the drama completely.  I mean, what that plot development led to, for me, was the most emotionally satisfying moment in the book – where Jessica fully realizes the damage that the Bene Gesserit meddling has done to Paulas and her part in it.  It was the closest that Jessica and Paul came to healing between them and I really felt the impact of that, despite the fact that it should have been Hawat holding a knife to her throat.  

Regardless, I’m quite willing to forgive those two incidents of narrative sloppiness.  Dune has greatness to burn in it’s pages which, for me, cover a multitude of sins.  So, I’m gonna do it.  I’m giving this book a full 5 Running Steves, EG.  How about you?

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EG:  Wow, you sure do like to throw around those Running Steves, don’t ya?  

OG:  Sure do!  As long as Steve Austin has nothing to do with the book, that is.

EG:  Well, for me, Dune really does land somewhere between 3 1/2 Running Steves and 4 Running Steves.  The two major shortcomings are gonna cost this one.  I’m giving it 3 1/2 Running Steves.

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OG:  Well, that’s just something you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life!!!!  Well, I guess that about does it.  Honestly, there’s a lot more I thought I’d get to in this discussion, but it being mid-July already and my fingers being tired, I think we should cut this puppy down.  If I get the energy up, I might bring up a couple more points in the comments section.  That is, unless that section is so flooded by our many readers that I can’t get a word in edge-wise.  Tee-hee.

Oh, and speaking of July, we’ve made no announcement of the book of the month because there isn’t one.  This is turning out to be a pretty busy Summer in anticipation of EG and OG’s great hajj to the San Diego International Comic Con!  

So, look forward to the next book in August.  Max Brooks’ “WORLD WAR Z.”