Five Thousand...

With this evening's update I have posted 5,000 individual strips here at schlockmercenary.com, one per day since June 12th of 2000. 

Okay, that's not entirely accurate. A computer handled the posting. Still, 5,000 strips in 5,000 days. Not bad, automated process! Not bad at all. Also, I'm kind of pleased with my own hand in the matter, and I mustn't fail to recognize Travis Walton's hand in things. He's been doing the coloring since October 17th of 2009, so February 18th's strip is #1585 for him (not including the ones he's re-colored for the print editions.)

If you would like to celebrate, you could do that by introducing a friend to Schlock Mercenary. The two of you could then enjoy shared jokes! I do not see a down side to this. I shall celebrate by beginning work on Schlock Mercenary Book 15. 

Robocop

The new Robocop movie delivers a different set of goods than I expected it to. I was expecting a cyborg action movie in the spirit of the original, with a slightly more sophisticated bit of social commentary. What I got was a strong drama about being human, set against some heavy-handed political commentary, with some really lame action scenes mixing things up a bit. 

I guess my own expectations regarding robotics unfairly colored my opinion of the robot soldiers and the cyborg cop. After seeing quadcopters fly in formation, I expect a robot soldier to fire its weapons in discriminating, super-accurate bursts rather than lead-washing the landscape while the target bobs and weaves out of the way. That part was pretty disappointing.

But Robocop the man, the husband and father, he was tragically beautiful. His relationships were a blend of cautionary tale and human triumph, and this was sold in no small part by a supporting cast of A-listers -- Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and especially Gary Oldman -- along with some lesser-known names who stood up just fine in that august company.

There was a bit of scenery chewing from Jackson and Oldman, but not so much that it detracted from the show. The disappointing parts of the movie were the parts that I actually came to see -- Robocop running around being a super-powered police officer. He felt sloppy and clumsy. But I cared about what happened to the characters, which is an unusual state of mind for me as I sit through a February-release action movie.

Robocop currently sits at #3 for me this year, squarely in the middle. It comes nowhere near the Threshold of Awesome, and in spite of the disappointing action scenes, it clears the Threshold of Disappointment on the strength of the drama. 

Find Me at RadCon 6B

I'm at RadCon 6B in Pasco, Washington this weekend. My schedule is light, and I don't have a table I need to man, so the odds are pretty good you'll find me working (drawing, scripting, writing, whatever) somewhere in the hotel, especially on Friday. My Twitter feed is probably your best bet for locating me off-track.

On-track, here's my schedule:

Friday:

  • 4:30pm - Fan Suite - Picture This: various artists (myself included) will draw things. I'm not entirely sure what the format is, but I'll have my markers handy.

Saturday:

  • 12:30pm - 2205 - Women in Comics, with Roberta Gregory and Elizabeth Guizetti. A hot-button topic if ever there was one!
  • 1:45pm - Bronze Suite - All Howard for an Hour. This sounds positively INTERMINABLE, but I'm sure we can make the best of it. Especially if you bring questions for me.
  • 4:00pm - Harvest - Art Jam! with Roberta Gregory, Meg Sturgeon, Greg James,  L. James, and Alton Lawson. 
  • 5:30pm - 2203 - Dull, Realistic Characters, with Keffy Kehrli
  • 7:00pm - 2207 - Yoda Was Wrong, with Dameon Willich and Kamila Miller. (Hint: There is "try." There is always "try.")

Sunday

  • 10:00am - Fan Suite - Crowdfunding, with Sara Quinn, Ron Leota, and Dameon Willich

As I said above, I don't have a table at the show, but my merchandise is being carried by Adventures Underground, in Suite 2121 in the Dealer's Annex. The new Maxim 1 Badge Wallets, the Maxim 34 Mousepads, and of course the books will all be available.

The art show will have lots and lots of my stuff on display, and Sandra tells me these things are priced to move. My experience with convention art shows is that even if my stuff goes to auction, it'll close for around half what it would sell for on eBay (smaller bidding crowd, after all.)

The Martian

I picked up The Martian on the strength of Annalee Newitz's review of it on io9, and realized after reading the excerpt that the author, Andy Weir, was a webcartoonist at one point (Casey & Andy, back to haunt him!), and also happened to be an old friend of Sandra's. 

Look, I'm not in the habit of reading books just because they were written by an ex-webtooning friend-of-a-friend , even if the "of-a-friend" friend is my best friend ever. I'm in the habit of reading books that I think I'll like, and based on the excerpt I was pretty sure I'd like this one.

Holy crap.

The Martian is, bar none, the best hard science fiction I've ever read. I don't know what Andy Weir's background is, or who helped him with some of this research, but every bit of science in this book with which I had passing familiarity passed with flying colors. The pieces I wasn't sure about? Well, Andy sold me on them. The potentially boring bits (exploring the chemistry of hydrazine, for instance, which isn't at all boring if you have a sense of the energies involved, but I digress) were covered entertainingly, and on the few occasions where I decided to skim I only skimmed for a couple of paragraphs because I could tell a bad thing was going to happen and oh crap I'm so tense and...

Holy crap.

Folks, this is hard science fiction, and it's a thriller, and it's brilliant. 

What's it about? Man gets stranded on Mars, lost and left for dead in an emergency mission-abort event. Based on the mission specs, he can probably survive for six months. The next landing isn't for years, and it's 3,000 kilometers away besides.

I plowed through it yesterday, and while the book has some flaws and shortcomings (the first POV-shift from the 1st-person journal format was jarring, and could have been telegraphed better, but I DON'T CARE) none of them are show-stoppers. 

It released this week. I'd love to see Andy's career take off, and I have no doubt that this is the right launch vehicle for it (pun unavoidable.) Buying the book this week is the best way for you to support a new author, and if you like hard science fiction (note: Schlock Mercenary isn't really hard science fiction, though I'm tickled that some of you call it that) The Martian by Andy Weir delivers the goods. 

The Monuments Men

I'm not a fine artist. Many, many of my classes were held in the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus, however, so I do have some fine-artsy leanings, and that means that The Monuments Men, a story of art experts going to Europe in the final years of World War II in order to rescue as much fine art and architecture as possible, was bound to appeal to me.

Which it did. I really enjoyed it.

It was not an exciting action happy fun boom movie, though. It had a more sedate pace, and even the scenes with fighting in them were kind of leisurely, at least by the standards set by my usual fare. Will you enjoy it? I have no idea. 

I also have no idea whether it was true to the source material, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel, let alone true to the historical facts in the matter, but I'll say this much -- this did not feel like an action movie representation of 20th-century warfare and espionage. It felt like real people being heroic, terrified, miserable, and courageous in various combinations. I'm sure some of the pacing was Hollywood Artifice, especially at the end, but there was very little in the way of running gunfight.

Some reviewers have complained about the film's tendency to ramble. I kind of liked it. I can spot the enforcement of formula a long way off, and The Monuments Men didn't do that. Oh, there were callbacks and payoffs and running gags and so forth, but they seemed pretty natural, and I had a great time.

Is it worth seeing at the local dodecaplex? I hesitate to tell you how to spend your time and money, but I believe this is at the very least worth renting when that option becomes available. In my own personal scale The Monuments Men doesn't crack the Threshold of Awesome, but it also did not disappoint. It's my #2 for the year as of this writing.

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