Can I afford to wait?

Back in April 2016, I ordered a forthcoming DC Graphic Novel via Amazon. This was the collection of the 1992 ten-issue Justice Society of America series, written by Len Strazewski and pencilled by the late Mike Parobeck. I have the original issues still, but I am always in the market for an upgrade to Graphic Novel.

That was, as I have already said, April 2016. Twice, to date, publication has been set back about six months. Currently, it’s scheduled to appear on 2 January 2018. It hasn’t been postponed yet, and this is the closest we’ve got to an actual date without anything collapsing. Yet.

Of course, there’s still a week to go in which another postponement could be put in place, and you may therefore wonder why I am tempting fate by even opening my mouth about this.

I am doing so because, this week, I have read about another Graphic Novel collection of this ten issue series, except that this one is not only going to be in hardback, but it will also include the earlier eight-issue limited series Justice Society of America title, also written by Len Strazewski and pencilled by a variety of artists, which originally came into being as make-work project for the artists contracted to work on the delayed !mpact (sic) Comics project. For which I have those original issues still, and it would be even more attractive to collect both in one volume.

There’s just one thing. The publication date for this hardback is 1 January 2035.

To purchase this book (which I have placed on pre-order anyway), I would have to live to the age of eighty.

I’m not expecting to get the paperback much before then at this rate.



The publication date for the hardback has been brought forward to 15 May 2018. I have put it on pre-order.

I think I can last that long…

The Lord of the Rings Redux

The shouting has already begun, and it’s going to go on for a long, long time.

My cards are on the table: I have loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since first starting in in 1973, and it has been one of the biggest influences on my reading habits. I have the pretty much complete Tolkien ouevre (this does not include Mr Bliss, The Father Christmas Letters or some of the most recent reconstructions but it does include the entire History of Middle-Earth series in hardback, all First Editions). I saw the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings (first half) the day it came out, despite being on holiday in Wales at the time, I have seen all the Peter Jackson films and I unashamedly like The Hobbit trilogy. And, guess what, last time I looked, not a single page of the book had changed.

No, you can call me a Tolkien fan, and I’m not bothered about what the means to you.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it had secured the rights to do a The Lord of the Rings TV series. It is intended to be ‘multi-season’. And it is not another adaptation of the book: it will tell primarily untold stories from the period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The response has, frankly, not been good. This piece of shit… sorry, whimsy and wit from the egregious Stuart Heritage in the Guardian, not to mention the BTL comments, seems to be typical. Condemnation, right out of the gate, assumptions of malign intent, a conviction that before anyone has done more than sign the contracts it will all be shit: well, I could understand it if we were talking about Heritage’s next thousand articles, but the one thing everyone seems to have overlooked in the rush to heaps coals and execrations on the heads of everyone involved is, it hasn’t happened yet. No scripts have been written, no actors auditioned. The Tolkien estate approves of it.

Ok, I’m a fan. I’m naturally well-disposed to the idea. And as has already been pointed out BTL, the life of Aragorn has got a lot of meat in those barely hinted at appendices.

Some things are obvious: this is nakedly a bid for the Game of Thrones market, and whilst it’s clearly arguable that it may have been better to go for a less familiar ‘property’, The Lord of the Rings is very much the kind of story that could achieve GoT levels of success.

And whilst I’ve never watched GoT, I work alongside loads of people who do, and they seem to be impressed.

So, as I tend to think at moments like this, why don’t we just calm down, wait for the thing to be made, and then kick it’s arse if it’s fucking crap. Because, trust me, that’s what I’m going to do if it is fucking crap. Until then, I have no idea what it’s going to be like. And I’m not rushing to judgement.

I’m surprised that I have to point things like this out to people (no, I’m not. Sigh.)

Amazon huh?

Yesterday, I received an e-mail notification from Amazon that a book I pre-ordered in April 2016 (Year of Yesh, the 22nd annual collection of Patrick McDonnell’s charmingly funny Mutts: the Mutts treasury has been a Xmas tradition for nearly twenty years now) had been despatched to me and was expected to be delivered today.

At 10.16am, today, I received a second e-mail from Amazon about this book, detailing my pre-order profit: I had ordered the book at the advance price of £14.99 but it had been published at £14.97, and thus I had saved 2p.

Exactly 65 minutes later, I received a second e-mail from Amazon about this book. It apologised for delaying the delivery of my book, confirmed Amazon would refund my delivery charges and basically confessed that Amazon had no idea whatsoever when the book would be available.

Complicating things further, when I checked my Amazon Orders, there was no sign of Year of Yesh as either a fulfilled or Open Order.

So I have reordered the book, for the reduced price of £11.60, inclusive of postage and delivery (though even as I was writing this very line, a fourth e-mail arrived, confirming refund of £2.99 delivery charges but still suggesting that my now-vanished original order will be delivered. Sometime.)

I wouldn’t normally mention this except that Year of Yesh was not the only book I have on pre-order from several months ago. Another such was Rick Geary’s latest Casebook of Twentieth Century Murder, The Black Dahlia. For months this has been set for publication in late November 2016 but, with that date almost on us, Amazon e-mailed me to say that they haven’t had the book supplied. Even up to today, Amazon had no idea when it might be shipped to me.

The fact that it’s been available via eBay for at least three weeks already has nothing to do with this.

So, exasperatedly, I have cancelled that order, and bought the book through eBay with free postage, which will cost me £1.80 less overall, though instead of getting the book for Xmas, as was the original idea, I won’t get it until mid-January.

Amazon, huh?

Postscript: 40 minutes after this post, the original order arrives, bang on time. I have immediately requested cancellation of the duplicate. I wish I knew what’s going on.

The Fall Season: The Man in the High Castle

Yes, I know it’s nearly the end of November, and over here in the UK that makes it very late to still keep calling it the Fall, especially after the weather we’ve been putting up with this month. But it’s too early for the Mid-Season shows, so let’s stick with the title and look at a late addition.

The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon show, which means that the whole series, all ten episodes of it, was released, Netflix-fashion, in one fell swoop. But you still can’t watch it any more than one episode at a time and, in Thanksgiving week, when half my weekly American shows have been pre-empted, I have down-loaded the first couple of episodes and just come off the Pilot.

The series is based upon the legendary Philip K. Dick 1962 novel of the same name. I read the novel many years ago. Dick is not among my favourite writers and I remember little of the story save its basic premise: that the Axis powers won World War 2 and occupied America between them. Nor have I been back to remind myself of any other details from the book.

The pilot episode is superb, rich in detail and atmosphere. Wisely, it hasn’t been updated, meaning that the two regimes have been in control of the USA for almost two decades, but that a significant part of the population is old enough the remember defeat, and the world before that. The Nazis occupy all of America east of the Rockies as a Greater Reich, the Japanese hold west of the Rockies as the Japanese Pacific States, and there’s a neutral zone between, a buffer between seeming allies in conquest.

Enter our two main characters (though has one of them as merely ‘recurring’ and a thus far supporting character as the other star. In New York City, Joe Blake, seemingly in honour of a commitment to his (deceased?) father, joins the Resistance and is tasked with driving a truck to Canon City in the Neutral Zone, where someone will contact him – if it’s safe. En route, he checks out what e is secretly transporting: a reel of film.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, in San Francisco, Juliana Crane stumbles inadvertently into the western Resistance when her half-sister Trudy is shot dead on the street, seconds after handing her a bag. The bag contains a reel of film, film that in our world is authentic, well-known newsreel footage about the Allies’ victory, but which in this world can only be fake: or is it?

Juliana watches it over and over, in delight. Her live-in boyfriend, repressed artist Frank Frick (the other ‘star’) knows it comes from some mysterious individual known only as The Man in the High Castle, and that possession of the same is treason. He wants Juliane to turn it in, explain it away, but instead she runs, taking Trudy’s place, heading for a meeting in a Diner in the Neutral Zone. In Canon City.

Much of the pilot is taken up in establishing this situation and moving Joe and Juliana – who come off mainly as cyphers so far – towards their meeting in the episode’s closing minutes: Juliana as damsel-in-distress, robbed of bag and money, unable to pay 2 Marks for her diner meal, Joe the White Knight, a friend-in-need with obvious interest in the fair Juliana’s warm and fair body.

There are two other significant strains started in this episode. In one, we learn that the white-haired Hitler is seriously ill, with six months left to live. There is a power-struggle going on over the succession, but all three candidates plan to begin their term as Fuhrer by bombing the Japanese Pacific States…

And back on the East Coast is the fanatical Resistance-breaker, Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith. To whom, his cover safely established, Joe Blake reports at episode end.

What impresses most about this first episode is the sheer detail, the volume of it. Familiar American scenes have not merely been recreated in their form of 1962 with stunning authenticity, but they have been twisted into the world of the series. New York is littered with swastikas, San Francisco with rising suns, to an extent far too intense to take in at once. Money has not been spared in creating this visual scene, nor in creating a sombre, slightly darkened colour palate that mutes the eye. It feels real: hopelessly, inescapably reel.

I shall be here for the duration.

Two last things on which to comment. I haven’t yet mentioned the seemingly minor role of Japanese Pacific State Trade Minister Mr Nobosuke Tagomi (beautifully and gravely etched by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) who is one of the central characters in the book.

And there was one moment, midway, that had me shuddering: Joe blows out a tyre and needs help from the local law, a war veteran with a swastika armband. As they finish, ash starts to descend from the sky. Don’t worry, the sheriff says, it’s the Hospital. Every Tuesday they haul in the deranged and the old and dispose of them. The mental image goes off like a bomb. But it’s the sheriff’s casual approval, not just acceptance, that scares the bejasus out of you.