Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Atlas Update 1.5

While we were up along the North Shore of Lake Superior for our five-year anniversary, we spent a few pleasant hours in Duluth.  We took a walk along Superior and discovered a nice antique/rock shop called Fragments of History, split a yummy lake trout appetizer with some local beer at the Dubh Linn Irish Pub, and spent a couple of hours digging through the comics-bins at two of the local comic shops.  Dragon Port Games was having a twenty-five-cent sale in their backroom and we were able to scrounge-up a few issues of Magnus (mostly the Valiant version) and some other things that we seemed to have missed the first-time around like the Warren Ellis-scripted and very subversively odd Doktor Sleepless.  Dragon Port Games was advertising their upcoming RPG Auction, which might be fun.  We have a bunch of older RPG-stuff we're interested in unloading, like a first-edition boxed-set of Striker miniatures rules for Traveler, as well as a few other tid-bits.  It was a nice shop, very roomy and spacious and well set-up for running miniatures games, which they do regularly and often.  The other Comics Shop was called Collector's Connection, and it was also very nice, clean and well-lit...not at all like some such establishments.  The staff were friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable...and able to handle obnoxious kids better than most school bus drivers.  We were able to find a nice copy of Wulf: The Barbarian (Atlas Comics), and some back issues of Dynamite's Buck Rogers and Project Superpowers which looks fantastic, but then how do you go wrong with Alex Ross doing the covers and re-design of these older, obscure public domain super heroes?

Speaking of Wulf The Barbarian of old Atlas Comics fame, apparently Wulf is going to be the third Atlas character to get re-imagined/revised/re-booted from Ardden Entertainment.  CBR has an updated article on Atlas at the New York Comic Con, and their plans for Phoenix from which I quote:
"We're rebooting it," Deneen said of the series inspired by the original Atlas title. "It's the same central premise where this guy is abducted by aliens, experimented on and then finds out their plot. The story is what happens from there. We're not changing that premise, but we take it to the next level. 35 years later we've seen a lot of these movies and comics – 'Independence Day' and 'War of the Worlds' and any number of alien comics since the original 'Phoenix.' So how do we take the original concept and twist it? We've added things we feel have never been done before. It's a new twist on the abducted by aliens and on the run story that Jim and I are really excited about."
Nicely done.  In 75 words or less Mr. Deneen manages to put most reservations about how they're approaching this character to rest and sparks a bit of much-needed interest at the same time.  As I said previously, the older version of Phoenix is a real train-wreck of a title that was in dire need of a re-boot before it appeared the first-time.  We're looking forward to finally seeing the 12-page Zero-Issue, perhaps sometime this coming weekend.  I still think that Jack Hawksmoor of Stormwatch / The Authority was/is about as great a re-boot of the core premise of the Phoenix, that of the alien abduction and cyber/nano-modification of their bodies, but of course, Phoenix wasn't ever made into The God of Cities.  He was more like an astronaut suffering PTSD with issues surrounding the source of his powers...and some nasty benefactors who wanted to destroy humanity.  That part could be really played around with quite a bit, and it is encouraging that they're sticking to that aspect of the character.  What he needs is a sidekick like R. Lee Ermery: a drill sargeant type to cut down the emo-detours into mamby-pamby land.

It is interesting that when I first heard about the re-launch of Phoenix and Grim Ghost, that it was emphatically stated that this was not a re-launch of Atlas, just a testing of the waters to see if these two characters would still have any traction in the marketplace.  Well, now it's a full-fledged relaunch, of sorts.  Again, CBR has an article on the Relaunch of Atlas, which they're characterizing as a Come Back.  Newsarama also has a rather nice in-depth interview with Brendan Deneen and Jason Goodman of Ardden Entertainment that clears the air and sets things straight fairly clearly. 

Like Mr. Goodman says:
“We have 28 titles and hundreds of characters imagined by some of the greatest minds in the industry," Goodman said in the release. "They will now find a new life in comics, television, and movies. We are thrilled to finally bring these great characters back for the world to enjoy."
Scoop, a free newsletter for collectors, offers a whole bunch of Atlas material that is well worth checking out.

It's a nice blend of nostalgia and marketability, untapped commercial potential and a bucket-load of fun, weird and vaguely familiar characters that could migrate into other media, say video/console games or movies.  Having worked with J. M. DeMatteis to revive and re-imagine Phoenix, Grim Ghost and Wulf, the new and improved Atlas (in partnership with Ardden Entertainment) is in a fairly interesting position regarding the legacy IP of the former Atlas Comics.  They did a wonderful job with Flash Gordon, they brought back Casper and the Spectrals, and it sounds like they have a real plan for how best to revive the Atlas universe.  Too bad DeMatteis has left Ardden Entertainment.  Hopefully this won't kill the momentum, but one has to wonder about 'different visions of how to proceed.'  Maybe they argued over doing Planet of the Vampires versus the Destructor next.  Whatever.  That's between them.  I'm curious how Wulf will do, and what, if anything, will be coming next.  I know that I don't get a vote, but I'm also not the only one who is clammering for a Planet of the Vampires re-boot, even if I don't get to write it.

Once we pick-up our copies of the Phoenix and Grim Ghost Zero-Issues from our local comics shop (we're not planning on going back to Duluth for a while), we'll post a review.

If you are at all interested in the older, deader Atlas Comics, then you really ought to download the Atlas/Seaboard Downunder pdf by Daniel Best.  Very interesting reading, for someone who is into old, obscure, once-defunct comicsbook publishing companies and all that sort of thing.

There is also a Message Board/Forum over at the Atlas Archives site if you want to dig into the facts, rumors or weirdness surrounding either the old or the new version of Atlas Comics.

Hmmm...old obscure comicbooks.  Characters relegated to the dustbin of pop culture, remaindered and buried amongst the dross and debris of the cheap-bins and known only to a few stalwart aficionados of the strange, the unusual, the mostly forgotten...

The stories and history surrounding the older, deader Atlas Comics is perfect fodder for a Lovecraftian occult conspiracy horror tale in their own right, either in fiction or in a game sceanrio.  The opportunity to blur the edges and bring the versimilitude up a few notches is also very appealing, so using the old Atlas as a springboard of inspiration, it's not hard to see how to develop some fun and unique plots, hooks or a whole campaign based off of a fictional doppleganger of the defunct Atlas.  Imagine, if you will, a comic book company started as an act of vengeance, one that makes a big splash and burns out in less than two years.  Then the whispering begins.  Strange tales of bizarre rites, secret wisdom encoded or encrypted into some of the issues of certain titles, possibly a set of macabre clues to some mystery, weird prophecies, even whole missing issues written entirely in constructed languages similar to Shaver's Mantong or Stanislaw Szukalski's Protong...but such things as these are for another post, when the stars are right and we have time to go down the ConLang Rabbithole a bit more in-depth.  For the moment, consider the implications of Cthulhoid Comics, not in terms of content, but in terms of the production of such things, the creation of comic book representations of cultic images and grimoiric passages to corrupt the youth of the world in ways that even Ed Gein's comic-hating lawyer couldn't have imagined...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Useful Resources: More Mapping Links

Holly Lisle offers a ton of workshops, tutorials and tips on all aspects of writing, including her Worldbuilding methods and her method of developing a fictional world via map making.  Her main site is an amazing treasure house of useful resources, good advice and some just plain fun stuff.  Very highly recommended.

Strange Maps is a blog that displays and examines and analyzes ... well ... uh ... strange maps.  Yeah.  Just what the name says.  Some of the maps are really thought provoking.  If you're at all interested in cartography and maps...this is a blog worth checking out.

 The Map Room is a gateway into a lot of very strange and wonderful things, such as maps of Kamandi's world, or subway systems for places that don't exist, and so on.  The main site has links to hundreds of blogs dedicated or devoted to all things map-related.  It was by clicking through this site that I discovered a site that provided a handy guide to a lot of Historical Celestial Atlases available out on the World Wide Web.

The Theban Mapping Project allows you to explore the entire archaeological zone of the ancient Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Zoom in to see individual architectural details of temples and palaces as well as the topography of the area. Mouse over sites to get additional information about them.  This site has a database of over 2,000 images that you can examine, over 250 detailed maps and models, and 65 narrated virtual tours--including a 3D recreation of tomb KV 14.  Plus there's an atlas of the Theban Necropolis.  Very cool stuff.  Looking through this site's maps has forever changed how I approach mapping-out certain styles of tombs...especially amongst the various deliberately-forgotten cryptoria and unregistered necropoli to be found along the banks of certain of the River Gate Networks...

The Cartographer's Guild is an online community created by (and for) map makers and map aficionados. It's a place where every aspect of cartography can be exhibited, examined, and discussed in the forums by practicing professional designers, artists, and enthusiasts alike. It's a wonderful place to discover tutorials on various aspects of map-making, to see what other map-makers are doing, and to show off your own work when you're ready.  The Guild is a great resource for anyone interested in designing or finding someone to possibly design a map for them or their game.  Highly recommended.

Actual Lost Cities are very interesting places to examine and explore, even virtually.  The Shunya website has a lot of very nice photos of a variety of real world 'Lost Cities' as well as a range of articles on all sorts of topics...some of which might prove interesting or useful for those engaged in some good old fashioned worldbuilding.  The page for Ahmedabad, (Gujarat, India) has a number of photos that have inspired a whole section of the First Tier of Devukarsha...

 The 1748 Nolli Map of Rome is now available as a dynamic, interactive, online tool. You have direct, personal access to this amazing map of deep historical significance, so why not go click around the thing a bit and see what you can find lurking within the nooks and crannies of the Eternal City...the amount of detail is truly humbling.  It's an intriguing blend of ancient and modern approaches, combining the original etched maps of Giambattista Nolli with satellite photography to develop an interactive map that sets a standard for mapping-out a large-scale city.  What can contemporary map-makers do with this approach, this sort of technology, in creating the maps of fictional spaces and mythic cities?  Very inspiring.
And just so you don't think that we're only interested in digital mapping, here's a link to The Hand Drawn Map Association site, where they feature, you guessed it; hand-drawn maps.  There's also the Play Generated Map and Document Archive Project to consider.  Who knew that all those hastily scrawled maps used in games back in the day were aesthetic objects from a revolutionary period of experimental  efforts aimed at communicating shared imaginative spaces?  Cool.

More to follow...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mars Needs ... Cartographers

In the course of building-up the maps for the Great Rift, the various Basins and Abyssal Gorges, the Etched Plateau, High Tombs of Yuddoth and so forth for Riskail, I've been searching for some decent references to work with, especially for the way that craters actually form, and the manner in which canyons erode into shape.  One rather useful source for this purpose has been the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment of the University of Arizona in conjunction with NASA and the JPL.  These very nice people have made a selection of 15 pages filled with 236 pictures taken by the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter which you can find at their site.

They also provide an array of Digital Terrain Models that might prove useful as well, down the road, if not immediately.  If you work in 3D then these might be of more use to you.  We've only just acquired Bryce in order to dip our toes into the 3D end of things...which means more tutorials to go through.  yay.  No guarantees when we'll start producing anything 3D-ish for the blogs.  You will be seeing some new stuff in a very different style/technique fairly soon however.  But more on that when it's time to show, not just tell.

In the meantime, the Ares Valles Cataract is particularly striking and very, very Riskail, so finding this site has been a real treat and oh so very helpful.  The Descent of the Phoenix Lander is also really cool. 

Ten Handy Planetary Photo Resource Links

But wait, there's more: Solar Voyager is a very nice website devoted to Space Art and there are some very talented artists showing off their work on that site--the tutorials are also a nice resource.  NovaCelestia is another, related site devoted to high quality space art that we definitely recommend to anyone interested in this sort of thing.  And of course, we have to mention Digital Blasphemy, one of the absolute best of the best space art sites out there, bar none.  Yeah, we could probably assemble another set of ten or twelve space art sites for you, but we're still recovering from a nasty bout with a fever that just wouldn't go away, so this will have to do for now.  Maybe we'll come back and flesh things out a bit more, later.

We're seriously considering setting up a recurring feature for Useful Resources...let us know what you think.