Tietäjän kirous Review

This is one of those full disclosure things. The guys behind this graphic novel are Guild members. They might not be very active, but still. Viljami has even written for the blog once, actually about the process of writing this very comic book under the microscope here. I and Lauri also had a very small role in the process (and are both mentioned in the acknowledgement) giving our comments on a version of the work about a year ago.

With that in mind, I’ll try to be objective, but obviously there’s a chance I’m not. Okay, lets get to the meat of the subject.

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PasCon 2015

Last weekend it was Lauri’s and Sarianna’s (Lauri’s wife) fifth anniversary. For the Guild, that’s just another excuse to play games. (Hopefully Sarianna was aware of this plan.) Since this was pretty close to our usual annual event, PasCon, this sort of became it. (And hopefully, the guests outside of the Guild weren’t too bothered about what they had to witness.)

Since quite a few of the writers on this were there as well (well, everyone except Ville), we decided to join forces and make a common report. So, this might be a bit long. Hang on, there’s bound to be some good parts in there somewhere.

— Aki

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Geek Services in Utrecht

Couple of weeks ago I was in Utrecht for the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix, which is the highest level open tournament in the game. As usual, I regard these more like excuses to visit certain cities, so why not stay a full week at the former capital of the Kingdom of Holland.

One of the points of interests in the city for me personally, was Oudegracht (the Old Canal), as for some peculiar reason, there are seven shops dedicated to all things geeky (although, I seem to have missed one).

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Some notes on script-writing comics

For a long time I’ve been wanting to contribute to Guilds blog. I had thought of writing comics reviews, but being a lazy guy, it’s been mañana so far.. But then Aki asked me to write something about script-writing comics and I was tempted to take the challenge. Having just finished with my third script for a comic book I am still learning my ways in this art and I think it is now useful for me to write down some of the thoughts or principles that I’ve gathered..

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RPGs and What We Can Learn from ‘Understanding Comics’

I recently read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. Its a very early take on comics (although as its from 1993, this tells us more about how comics are or were regarded as unimportant than anything else) presented as a nonfiction comic. This form is actually great as the repeated visuals are much better way of bringing back concepts than just referencing them. It seems quite highly regarded by other comic artists and writers.

One of the major themes of the book is what the artist can leave to the imagination. For example: Two disparate pictures will force us to make the leap between them. But there’s more.

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Lintu Mustasiipi

Lintu Mustasiipi – August von Essenin seikkailut is a 103 page graphic novel by Jukka-Petteri Eronen (the artist) & Viljami Vaskonen (the author) released earlier this month.

Full disclosure: They are members of the Guild. Obviously, I’ll try to be objective, but these are people I know, and you should know that. There isn’t an English version, so I don’t really know why I’m writing this in English, but I already began and being as lazy as I am, I’m not going back and changing the language. And no, despite Ville writing about a graphic novel from someone he knows, this isn’t blog isn’t going to turn into an ad for our friends. I’m writing this partly as a favor for friends (although they didn’t ask), but also as a public service. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think there would be someone out there, who might benefit from knowing about this book.

But onto the subject.

Our hero is a German fighter pilot from WWI, who is fed up with how things are. His attitudes are tolerated, even though he is very open about them, due to his skills and probably just due to the lack of pilots overall. He uses a new, overly enthuastic pilot to fake his own death and escape east where he lives a nomadic life of adventure. There he involved in local matters first forcibly and then voluntarily, as his help is needed.

Sounds more romantic then how its actually depicted, but there is definitely a sense of romanticism, but more about the simple life than the adventure. There’s also a certain amount realism, but not too much.

Now, first, if you are want a lot of dog fights, this is not for you. There’s one in the beginning and after that von Essen’s skills are just a device to get him into certain situations. Mostly he’s on foot.

If you want historical adventure in this era, why not? It features political turmoil in Germany, as well as the short-lived Transcaucasian Republic. It seems to be mostly about defying the powerful and the status quo. Our hero, August von Essen seems to have a morality of his own in a world, where class defines a person. He has left behind his noble roots in favor of roaming the world with other drifters, but doesn’t hold anyones status against them.

Why shouldn’t you get this book?

If you are looking just for airwar fiction, this is not for you. The mystery advertised by the publisher isn’t really a draw either. The sideplot happening back in Germany seems superfluous (although an inside source – Viljami – says they are planning a sequel, so this might be important in the future). Being cheap, I wouldn’t pay the asking price, if it wasn’t by a friend. There are some plot twists which seem unmotivated and abrupt. Minor problems with the lettering: The German double s letter (ß) looks distractingly like a ‘B’. This last one probably shouldn’t influence your decision very much, though.

Why you should get this book?

First, its a good alternative to mainstream comics. It has a very distinguishable art style, which works well with the story. The story moves in a brisk pace and takes you places you don’t normally see in fiction, despite being quite interesting. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, it seems pretty well researched and doesn’t seem to take liberties. The action is interesting and keeps moving. The main character seems real, as well, as he isn’t a superhuman, but has to rely on intellect and friends. The print run is small (not that I know big these usually are), so you should get one before its gone.

Overall, I fall on the plus-side, although – as I said – I’m cheap and I’d wait for it to go down in price, but than again, the print run is quite small, so it might not be available at a lowered price at any point, unless its a hit, but I wouldn’t count on that due to probable lack of publicity. Hobbyists will probably be aware of it, but I doubt too many people outside of those circles will find it.

Lintu Mustasiipi on Arktinen Banaani.

Comic book review: Perkeros


In May 1967, Jimi Hendrix held a concert in Helsinki. It only lasted for half an hour, but it made a lasting impression on the Finnish music scene – so much so that a lot of folks who weren’t there claim to have been. Hasse Walli, a renowned Finnish guitarist, later said that the budding guitarists who actually attended the concert divided into two camps: those who quit instantly, and those who began training furiously to be as good as Hendrix was.

Now, I’m no comic book artist, but I’d say that JP Ahonen’s art in Perkeros is the graphic equivalent of Jimi Hendrix. It’s only in Finnish for now, but I’m hoping that someone translates it soon to other languages – thus this blog post, so I can do my part.

Perkeros, which saw the light of day just recently, is a comic book by JP Ahonen and KP Alare; Ahonen is the illustrator but they’ve both written it. It’s about a guy called Akseli, who has his own avant-garde heavy metal band, whose other members are a regular-lish girl playing the keyboards, an old hippie guy on the bass and a real, live, honest-to-Black-Sabbath bear pounding the drums like nobody’s business. The comic book mostly follows Akseli in his efforts to make the band a success, to make sense out of his relationship and of his life altogether. There are also some occult elements afoot, although the general tone of the book is very light-hearted.

The story is good. It might even be great: I dug the characters, the dialogue, the music references, the occult elements, the whole shebang. But it’s kind of hard to talk about it because, as I said before, visually the comic book is fucking Jimi Hendrix. You can take a look at the previews here and here, but the samples really don’t convey how beautifully it all flows from page to page. It might even be really superfluous to separate the visuals and the story, because they support and riff off of each other.

The visuals aren’t there (only) to brag, but they’re carefully constructed to follow and emphasise the story. The story is mostly presented in the traditional square-panel form, but Ahonen really knows when to break it. The best examples are the concert scenes where the graphics and colours go six kinds of nuts, and it really feels like someone pulls off an amazing solo that takes you someplace else. Only you’re not hearing it, you’re seeing it on the pages of a comic book. The comic is not only about the story and the characters, but the power of music, and it’s really stupefying how it’s possible to convey the power of music in a silent medium.

Visually Perkeros reminds me of lots of masters of comic books. Bill Watterson for the wild page layouts; Don Rosa and Uderzo for the love of background details; Dave Gibbons for the layouts and the mastery of geometry; and the sucky band at the beginning feels very much like when Stinky got his own band Peter Bagge’s work. But it’s still distinctively Ahonen’s own style, and he is equally at home with rigid geometrical compositions as with zany cartoony slapstick.

It also feels like Ahonen very much knows what Scott McCloud is talking about the art form in Understanding Comics (to be fair, it’s been too long since I read it); but he is far beyond theory and Perkeros feels nothing like a master’s thesis whose purpose is to show what the author is capable of. Ahonen knows his art form, and what it can convey, and how it can support the story and the themes visually. The drawings and the colours aren’t simply illustrations for the story – they’re an integral part of the work of art. They express something the words alone can’t.

I know this isn’t much of a critique, more like a rave review whose purpose is to promote the comic, bring Ahonen & Alare money, and make it available in other languages. I’ll save more critical observations for subsequent readings and more erudite critics. I’m not entirely sure that all of the occult elements towards the end were thematically necessary, but they make for some killer art. I’ll have to see about their place in the whole when I read it again.

(Full disclosure: I know the artist, not very closely, tough, but I’m not trying to get into his pants. I expected good stuff, but the reason I’m writing a rave review is because Perkeros exceeded my expectations in every way.)