Thursday, February 27, 2014

Webcomic Chapter 8 Posted

Chapter 8 (pages 217-242) is now available!

In this chapter, Bunda Akhtar launches the second stage of his coup:  Hunter-Killer Assault Vehicles (HKAVs), like the one pictured above, attack key facilities in Bongolaan's capital, Ratankiri, represented by the map found in Traveller Double Adventure 6: Night of Conquest/Divine Intervention.

I've been using the Star Wars Miniatures throughout this webcomic to represent individual characters.  Now it's time to take a more epic view to illustrate how these events influence the characters' decisions and actions.

For this I used my micro-scale (6mm, 1/285 or 1/300) collection modern and sci-fi armored fighting vehicles.  The modern vehicles are made by GHQ, while the sci-fi ones came from a US distributor of Ground Zero Games.

Meanwhile, the half-a-dozen or so HKAVs in Bunda Akhtar's army are represented by a single Aerial Hunter Killer from the Micro-Machines Terminator 2 Judgement Day Collection#2.  Apparently it's considered very rare among these collectible figures

As to the buildings:  They're another hodgepodge collection from various manufacturers such as, GHQ, Warhammer 40K EpicJr Miniatures and even BattleTech.

For this chapter's soundtrack, I chose Lux Aeterna--Requiem for a Dream, which is apparently a popular song used in computer games.  I just listened to this in it's entirety and I feel it provides a dramatic musical representation of the end of the Galactic Alliance's last planetary government.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Actually this book was written by Ian Doescher, illustrated by Nicolas Delort and published by Quirk Books.  

It's a re-telling of Star Wars, Episode IV A New Hope in Shakespearean iambic pentameter, like this:

On the surface, the idea of merging Shakespeare and sci-fi sounds preposterous, but as the author pointed out in his afterward, both George Lucas (at least for the first three Star Wars movies) and William Shakespeare understood dramatic story structure.  

I found Shakespeare's Star Wars enjoyable and actually easy to read.  I don't know whether it was because I was so familiar with the movie, or that I understand Old English better than I did in high school, when I had to read Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet and Othello. (In writing this review I discovered my daughter had to read these very same plays when she was in high school). 

Nicolas Delort's "woodcut style" illustrations added to the drama...

...for the most part.  Some images were...well...

...a bit too Shakespearean.  

Since this book was written as if it were an actual play, complete with a chorus and soliloquies, a couple of theater groups have actually performed it.

So don't be surprised if you find Star Wars cosplayers (costume players) attending--or even performing--at your community's next Shakespeare-in-the-Park festival.  

Published in July of last year, William Shakespeare's Star Wars is available in various formats through  

At this time, there are 254 reviews of this book, an overwhelming number of them positive (181 x 5-stars and 42 x 4-stars).  Twenty three reviewers thought the work to be so-so, more of a geeky novelty than a serious work of genre fiction.

Eight reviewers (5 x 2-stars and 3 x 1-stars) thought whatever novelty there was in Ian Doescher's debut novel quickly wore off.  Some thought his work was merely cheesy faux-Shakespeare, while one reviewer's complaint was with the formatting of the Kindle edition.

I don't own a Kindle and I can't tell an iambic from a pentameter, so I can't give you any advice in these particular categories.  Overall though, I'll give it a 4-star rating.  "Shakespeare's" Star Wars, is something of a gimmicky novelty, but a clever one that's a quick and pleasurable diversion.  

Some of the less-than-sterling reviewers did make a good point though: This would be a suitable gift for someone who loves, likes, or at least appreciates Star Wars AND Shakespeare.  Otherwise, the book would be a slog for them to read.

For those of you who are Shakespearean Star Wars fans, The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return will soon be available March 18th and July 1st.  

I guess Quirk Books doesn't want to tempt fate and release a pastiche book on Ides of March...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Review: The Reavers, by George MacDonald Fraser

Another silly, zany book by George MacDonald Fraser.  Cut from the same cloth as The Pyrates, this is a story of madcap mayhem along the English-Scottish border in the 16th Century:  The hero teams up with a haughty noble lass, her sultry lady-in-waiting and a notorious highwayman in attempt to thwart a dastardly plot by Spanish agents to usurp the Scottish throne.  

Like The Pyrates, the action and humor were a joy to read, but the author over did it with anachronisms.  So I'm giving this one the same 3-star rating I gave his previous historical farce.  

Despite my mediocre review, I intend to keep this book as a memento.  I bought it last summer when my wife and I attended our first Annual Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering.  So it actually means a lot to me. 

But you don't have to wait for the next Gathering of the Clans to buy The Reavers.  It's available on in a variety of formats and a wide price range, from $0.01 to $91.95 (plus $3.99 for shipping and handling).  

Of the 20 other reviews listed on Amazon, 15 customers gave the book a 4 or 5-star rating.  Just about every reviewer read the Flashman series and are quick to point out--whether they loved it or hated it--this book in no way shape, or form resembles Flashman.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit--The Desolation of Smaug

Well it took over two months, but I finally got to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, with my daughter and her boyfriend.  We arrived at the theater just in time to snag three seats in the back row.  I'm too prone to motion sickness to sit any closer, especially with today's theme park ride special effects.  Fortunately, I didn't need the Dramamine I said I'd need in my review of the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  

I enjoyed this movie as much as I did the first one.  Probably more so because I didn't get as nauseous as I did the last time.  I certainly agree with IMDb's 8.2 stars-out-of-10 rating.  (Or 4 out of 5 stars).  My daughter on the other hand thought the movie was scary and after I alluded to what's to come, she has no interest in seeing the final film.

Keep this in mind if you're thinking of dragging inviting someone to the show who doesn't care for hideous creatures and intense fight scenes.  If they've read the book, this might help; although Peter Jackson and crew certainly amped-up the action and graphic violence compared to the original children's tale

Speaking of the book, The Desolation of Smaug seemed to take even more deviations from the original source material than the first movie did.

Azog continues his pursuit of Thorin and Company, but is recalled to Dol Guldur to raise an orc army.  So he hands off responsibility of the dwarf hunt to Bolg.  Which I just discovered in researching this post, that the producers made him Azog's son, rather than a successor to the Goblin King of the Misty Mountains.

Okay, I can live with that.  

Here's some other deviations--and plot spoilers if you haven't seen the movie or read the book--that I liked, or at least didn't mind:

Including Legolas into the adventure.  He is King Thranduil's son after all, so why not?

The barrel ride out of Mirkwood looked something like this...

...with scores of orcs in hot pursuit.  

But orcs weren't the only ones following Thorin and Company.  Legolas and non-canon character Tauriel chase after the orcs.  

What's more, a love story blooms between the elf woman and Kili.

At first, I thought:  Are you kidding me?!

But as the movie progressed, I thought this sub-plot was sweetly done and very moving towards the end.  I'm not the only one who thinks so either.  The internet's awash with Tauriel & Kili fan art, ranging from serious...

(Image by Noidship) silly:  

(Image by "amoeba-butter")

And sweet...
(Image by Minipraw) steamy: 

(Image by Jeni Hudson

Along with everything else in between and beyond.  

Oh yes, there's even racier images available.  But I don't want to be required to slap a warning label on my blog for adult content.

Okay now, where was I?

Oh, yes.  Back to hideous creatures, fear, death and destruction...

Another scene that was deviated from was Bilbo entering the Smaug's lair in Erebor.  Unlike the book, the dragon is able to sense the true origin of the One Ring, so Bilbo takes it off.  (Prior to this, Bilbo began to suspect the dark power in his fight with the giant spiders in Mirkwood).  Eventually, the dwarves, minus the group attending a wounded Kili in Lake-town, join Bilbo and a battle ensues.  This provokes Smaug to leave the mountain and fly to Lake-town with the intent of destroying it.  This is where the movie ends.

Some cliffhanger, eh?

But if you've read the book, you know what's coming next, so the third movie promises to be a doozy--and a tearjerker.  Despite the fan artists' hope that Tauriel and Kili will live happily ever after (HEA as romance writers abbreviate it), I fear this elf-dwarf love story will end in tragedy.  

So I plan on bringing extra tissues to the next movie.  

Now for those deviations I didn't care about:

I don't remember Lake-town being such a wretched police state in the book.  The town's goon squad's primary job is to keep is to keep tabs on Bard and keep the population in line. So when Bolg leads his company of orcs through town and gets in a fight the few dwarves left behind, along with the two elves, Legolas and Tauriel, no one notices.


And speaking of Bard, I have mixed feelings about how he's portrayed.  He turns on the dwarves when he realizes Thorin is the descendant of Durin and fears the prophecy of doom.  But I know he and his trusty black arrow will come through in the end.

I just hope that no matter how much Peter Jackson and crew have changed Bard's arsenal, I hope they keep this line from the book...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Webcomic Chapter 7 Posted

Breakout from Bongolaan's Chapter 7 (pages 183-216) has been uploaded. 

The Soundtrack Interlude for this subplot of intrigue and possible betrayal is, Whiskey in the Jar by the heavy metal band Metallica.  

I hear this song regularly at one of the gyms I go to and am always intrigued by the lyrics.  Through a bit of on-line research, I discovered Whiskey in the Jar a lot older than metal music.  It's is an Irish folk song about 17th Century Highwayman betrayed by a woman.  After listening to several versions--from the traditional, sung by the Dubliners; to classic rock by Thin Lizzy and the Grateful Dead--I still like Metallica's the best.  

Which is an odd departure for me, because I'm not a heavy metal fan.  Maybe it has something to do with trying to find a style of music that may fit Sei'do Avari's shady nature and conjuring up a possible back story?

And speaking of back story:  Neela,  the Farghul pictured above was never part of the Star Wars Role Playing adventure this story is based on.  A couple things inspired me to concoct this subplot.

First, was coming up with a plausible explanation for Sei'do, the party's scoundrel, to go along with the group's actions as the story unfolds.  The second source of inspiration came from this photo by Tice Lerner:

This picture is one of many from the Masquerade in the Mansion, held at Roberson Center in my hometown of Binghamton, NY on New Year's Eve. In my over-active imagination, the above image of New York City model Sarah Tilyou and photographer Dillon Utter,  has "conspiracy" written all over it.  Not to mention filling in as the Galactic New Year's Eve party in Bongolaan's Presidential Palace.  The real-life images also covers for my lack of non-combatant figures. 

Finally, Sarah's cat mask then led me to choose the Breela figure from my Star Wars Miniatures collection as Sei'do's former associate.  

And just what kind of associate was Neela?

I'm leaving that open to interpretation.

For now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Breakout from Bongolaan Webcomic: The Plot so Far...

Well it's been nearly 11 months since I posted Chapter Six of my webcomic Breakout from Bongolaan.   With the exception of my father-in-law passing away, this year-long binge of "Life getting in the way" has been filled with happy occasions.  However I was left with little time to add to the story in terms of both pictures and narrative.

Now, I'm getting ready to--finally--post Chapter Seven!

For those who've been waiting, I appreciate your patience.

For those of you who've wandered off, I hope I can regain your attention.

The story so far weighs-in at 182 pages.  

Because so much time has lapsed between Chapters Six and Seven, I thought I'd include a synopsis as a refresher.  Although for anyone new to the story, I recommend you read webcomic itself:

It is the last day of the year 129 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin, annotated as Stardate 365-129 ABY).  The citizens of the planet Bongolaan are celebrating the Galactic New Year, along with the election of a new president, Zeveg Bharzi.

However, the former president, Bunda Akhtar, has decided he doesn't like being a former president and is planning a comeback coup.  Despite having only two cohorts of battledroids available, Akhtar is confident he'll succeed, because reinforcements are on the way.

After defeating the Galactic Alliance at the Battle of Caamus, the Imperial fleet overran the Core and Mid Worlds and is now sweeping through the Fringe.  One such Imperial task force is now dropping out of hyperspace and is bearing down on Bongolaan.

Meanwhile, four offworlders have gathered at the Presidential Palace Masquerade Ball and are awaiting the arrival of President Bharzi and his entourage.

Cad So Billes:  A Durosian shuttle pilot for the Jedi Support Corps.  He's spent the past year on Bongolaan flying supplies, equipment and personal to various work sites.

Callithea Lockridge: "Calli" is the shy administrative assistant to the Tarsan Ambassador, Fitzroy Heraud.  She's scheduled to leave Bongolaan the next day and return to her homeworld of Tarsus.

Sei'do Avari:  A man of questionable background and reputation, but appears to have considerable technical skills.  Is suspected by Cad of being up to no good, but has been vouched for by Nance.

Nance Windu:  Claims he's not a Jedi, despite being the Jedi-in-charge of the earthquake recovery effort on Bongolaan for the past year.  Unbeknownst to his companions, Nance is haunted by an evil Force Spirit. 

By the end of Chapter Six, Calli's comlink conversation with her ambassador was disrupted by interference, assumed to originate from an approaching thunderstorm.  Ambassador Heraud, along with the Twi'lek singer Shiri Blen and her Rodian agent Geelo, are currently on the outskirts of the capital city, Ratankiri, with the presidential motorcade, getting ready to lead New Year's Eve Procession to the Presidential Palace. 

In actuality, the communications disruption is the opening phase of Bunda Akhtar's coup.  

It's about to rain on everyone's parade, but first there's some loose ends to tie up...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Celebrating the Seahawks!

I don't follow sports all that much.  I didn't even have a "Sports" label for this blog until today.  But ever since I was first stationed here in Washington State at the beginning of my military career, I've considered myself a fan of all of Seattle's teams.

Just not like any of these guys...

So even though this isn't a sports blog, the Seattle Seahawks victory over the Denver Broncos in last weekend's Superbowl, is impossible for me to ignore.

Especially when 700,000 "12th Man" fans attended yesterday's parade through downtown Seattle and city officials were expecting "only" 200--300,000 to show up.

Folks just didn't attend this historic event--they recorded it for posterity.

While I have little inclination to brave huge crowds and cold weather, I certainly hope for a repeat performance for the upcoming football season.


Starlit Citadel Reviews A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame

Here's another game review by Kaja and Joanna.  This time, they provide a great over-view of Fantasy Flight's Game of Thrones, 2nd Edition. 

I have the Second Edition, but have yet to play it.  I've played the 1st Edition, (minus the expansions which have been incorporated into 2nd Ed) a couple of times. On both occasions I ended up being the Lannisters--because no one else wanted to.  (You fans of the books and/or mini-series can guess why).

Oddly enough though, I won the second session by not directly attacking anyone.

Rather out-of-character for a Lannister, don't you think?

I look forward to trying out GoT's newer edition, regardless of what great, or not-so great house I represent.

Since this is my third posting about Starlit Citadel, I figure now is a good time to provide a link to this Canadian game distributor.