Apparently, I’m on a Disney kick lately. Any way, the pictures taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz of celebrities as Disney characters from http://likes.com/celebs/celebs-as-real-life-disney-characters are stunningly composed, and really tickled my fancy and floated my boat. Enjoy.
With the impending release of the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, we thought it would be fun to interview Emil Johansson about his fansite LOTRproject and his recent collaboration with me to create Six Degrees of Sauron.
Henry: It is no exaggeration to characterize you as a Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fanatic. What is it about those books that so appeals to you?
Emil: I think The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were the first books I read that really stimulated my imagination. There is such a vast world in Tolkien’s book, it almost seems real, but there’s still enough left out to make it mysterious. I also guess I was somewhat a daydreamer when I was a child, and I always imagined being part of some adventure.
Henry: I started reading The Lord of the Rings in fifth grade, and never looked back. You host the LOTRproject Tolkien fansite. Please tell us about that.
Emil: LOTRproject is a personal project that allows me to design interactive projects for exploring Middle-earth. I could say it is what I have always wanted to do. The site started out as only a family tree of characters from Tolkien’s work. Since then it has grown to become something much larger. The main mission of the project is to encourage people to explore Middle-earth.
Henry: As Elrond tells Aragorn, “Be who you were born to be!” Emil is being modest when he says “ONLY a family tree of characters from Tolkien’s work.”
Your latest LOTRproject effort is called Six Degrees of Sauron. How did that come about and what is it?
Emil: Trick question: it was you who first suggested the idea. I had just been working on analyzing networks between characters in The Lord of the Rings, and it seemed like a nice challenge to make it work. Six Degrees of Sauron is like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon meets Middle-earth. You can enter any two characters from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Silmarillion, and the application displays the string of connections showing how they are connected.
It has been a very rewarding collaboration between the two of us and the result is far better than I imagined. I think collaborative projects are something I will do a lot more of in the future.
Henry: Emil’s right – I am awesome. Seriously though, aside from Six Degrees of Sauron, what are some other features of LOTRproject?
Emil: There is the core of the site, the family tree. There is also a interactive map of Middle-earth, geospatial timelines of the history of Middle-earth, and some statistics. The statistics were derived from the family tree and gave some fascinating numbers on average lifespan of Hobbits, Dwarves and Men. Average lifespan of a Hobbit is 96.8 士 2.4 years with a confidence level of 95% and a standard deviation of 10.6 years. I also created a page which allows you to see the frequency of character mentions in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.
Henry: LOTRproject also features fun infographics, such as a flowchart for figuring out which dwarf in The Hobbit you are viewing based on his facial hair.
By movie-making necessity, the cinematic versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit differ in some ways from the written works. How do you feel about that?
Emil: My opinion is that they have the freedom to make an adaption the way he wants, to a certain extent. I should say there are a lot of things I really like about the movies, and I certainly enjoy watching them. However, the rearranged timeline in The Hobbit movies compared to the book is something I am not too happy about. Also, I can’t understand why they came up with the idea that the Witch-king had been buried. After the fall of Angmar, he fled, and when Eärnur wanted to pursue him, Glorfindel made his famous prophecy, “He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.” That prophecy is quite important, even in the movies.
Henry: “I am no man!” Lady Eowyn declares as she kicks Witch-king butt.
By virtue of your LOTRproject activities, you’ve met like-minded people from all over the world. Can you tell us about some of them?
Emil: I have been very fortunate to meet a lot excellent people from the Tolkien community. There really are all kinds of people and that is the beauty of it. Henry is one great example, of course, and getting to know him opened the door to the Six Degrees of Sauron project. I’ve also been able to meet the wonderful artist Ted Naismith, who I have been a huge fan of for many years.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to present my project at HobbitCon in Germany where I also got to meet some of the actors from The Hobbit movie. LOTRproject has in many ways opened a whole new world to me.
Henry: I’ve attended several San Diego Comic-Con’s, so I’ve been lucky enough to see Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), and Sir Richard Taylor (head of Weta) in person. Goblin art from my book Nimpentoad was a finalist in a Warner Bros. online art contest judged by Sir Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, and John Howe.
What are some of your favorite quotes from the books and scenes from the movie?
Emil: I have one I quite like, which is present in both The Lord of the Rings films and, of course, the books. It is of Gandalf and Frodo talking about Sméagol:
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.” ― Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Before they were superheroes, they were supercute kids. Artwork by Alberto Varanda (http://www.alvaranda.com/). First posted by Rebecca Pahle and the wonderful folks at The Mary Sue – http://www.themarysue.com/little-kid-superheroes/
Little Batman will sneak into your heart.
“C’mon, kitty, I’ll show you what to do,” said Little Catwoman.
When little Hulk gets angry, he busts out of his diaper. Yikes!
This little Robin isn’t much of a mouser. Perhaps it’s the full diaper…
Even little Spiderman had a way with the ladies.
Love little Superman’s untied shoes. Not a problem – he can fly!
Little Thor’s philosophy: when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Little Wolverine cleans up bad guys AND litter.
Little Wonder Woman jumping rope with her lasso of truth is the cutest image of all. Honest!
From the geniuses at Cake Wrecks – http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2013/11/23/sunday-sweets-who-loves-ya.html
(By Nerdache Cakes)
Much as I adore Tigger, I’m kinda bummed I can’t make a “Doctor POOH” joke here. But that’s ok; Piglet in a homemade Dalek costume MORE than makes up for it.
And speaking of Daleks:
(By Stacked Cakes)
The ‘net is full of so many fantastic TARDIS cakes, it’s hard to narrow down the best ones.
Actually, I take that back; this one wasn’t hard to narrow down at all:
(By Leigh Henderson of theyrecoming.com)
This cake (yes, it’s cake!) is fitted with mirrors and lights to make it actually look bigger on the inside.
Here’s a peek inside the window:
Time for a cookie break!
(Sub’d by Christina C. and made by Cookie Cowgirl)
Daleks in party hats. YESSS.
And who’s the cutest widdle alien fat particle of all time?
(Found here, baker unknown)
(No, not YOU you. I mean the adipose. Um. Awkwarrrd.)
As a Classic Who girl, these guys were always my favorite villains:
Still can’t get over how cute she managed to make a Cyberman look, though. I seriously want that cake in doll form!
And now for something a little steamy:
If you think about it, Steampunk and Doctor Who really are a match made in the heavens, am I right?
And while we’re talking TARDISes TARDI TARDIS cakes, I love the galaxy airbrushing on this one:
(Made by Claudia’s Cakery)
It takes a lot to fool me with cake these days, but this next one did. I *still* have a hard time believing it’s not a wooden model:
(Sub’d by Kristy G. and found here)
Even if you’ve only watched Doctor Who since the reboot, I bet you still have a soft spot for Tom Baker:
(Sub’d by Emily G. and made by Border City Cakes)
It’s all about the scarf, right? And the crazy hair.
(I’m, uh, glad the baker went with the scarf, though. o.0)
And another excellent contribution from the original show:
(By Imaginative Icing)
Sometimes you see a fan-built K-9 rolling around at conventions, and I so want one.
Even though I grew up on the show, I’m ashamed to admit I have a LOT of catching up to do with the new episodes. (Too many were making me cry!) I will catch up, though – I WILL.
Anyway, if you’re in the same boat – or if you’ve never seen ANY episodes and just want to know what all the fuss is about, then at least watch the episode “Blink.” It’s quite possibly the best episode of any sci-fi show EVER, and stands alone just fine.
Plus, after you watch that, you’ll know why everyone else is about to flinch away from their screens in terror:
(By the cake girl)
Ok, one more, just so we can end on a less petrifying [smirk] note:
(By Michelle Sugar Art)
Woohoo! It’s a WHO-bilation!
(In my mind Doctor Seuss & the Doctor are friends, so that totally works.)
We all have our favorite children’s books. And many of them feature imagined worlds with their own languages, cultures, and geography. Did you know that some character and place names from science fiction and fantasy children’s literature have made their way into astronomy?
One of Saturn’s moons is Titan. And those wacky, kidlit-lovin’ astronomers have named some of the features of Titan after fictitious places created by fantasy and science fiction literature titans J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert. The full list can be viewed at the USGS website, but here are some tasty samples:
Angmar Montes (Mountain)
“Angmar was founded in T.A. 1300 in the far north of the Misty Mountains by the evil Lord of the Ringwraiths, who became known as the “Witch-king of Angmar”. Since the Witch-king was a servant of the Dark Lord Sauron, it is presumed that Angmar’s wars against the successor kingdoms of Arnor were done at Sauron’s bidding to destroy an important ally of Gondor. It may also be presumed that wars against Arnor were an attempt to find the One Ring, as Isildur was going to Arnor to make the Ring an heirloom of the kingdom when he was killed.”
Arrakis Planitia (Impact basin)
“Arrakis — informally known as Dune — is a fictional desert planet featured in the Dune series of novels by Frank Herbert. Herbert’s first novel in the series, 1965’s Dune, is popularly considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. In Dune, the planet is the home of the Fremen, and subsequently is the Imperial Capital of the Atreides Empire.”
“Arrakis … Dune … wasteland of the Empire, and the most valuable planet in the universe. Because it is here — and only here — where spice is found. The spice. Without it there is no commerce in the Empire, there is no civilization. Arrakis … Dune … home of the spice, greatest of treasure in the universe. And he who controls it, controls our destiny.”
Arwen Colles (Hill)
“Arwen was the youngest child of Elrond and Celebrían. Her name Ar-wen means ‘noble maiden’. She bore the sobriquet “Evenstar” (or Evening Star), as the most beautiful of the last generation of High Elves in Middle-earth.
As told in “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen”, Aragorn in his twentieth year met Arwen for the first time in Rivendell, where he lived under Elrond’s protection. Arwen, then over 2700 years old, had recently returned to her father’s home after living for a while with her grandmother Lady Galadriel in Lórien. Aragorn fell in love with Arwen at first sight. Some thirty years later, the two were reunited in Lórien. Arwen reciprocated Aragorn’s love, and on the mound of Cerin Amroth they committed themselves to marry one another.”
Bilbo Colles (Hill)
“In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit in comfortable middle age at 50 years old, was hired in spite of himself as a “burglar” by the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves led by their king Thorin Oakenshield on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. The adventure took Bilbo and the companions through the wilderness, to the elf haven of Rivendell, across the Misty Mountains and the black forest of Mirkwood, to Lake-town in the middle of Long Lake, and eventually to the Mountain itself. Here, after the dragon was killed and the Mountain reclaimed, the Battle of Five Armies took place.
In his journey, Bilbo encountered other fantastic creatures, including trolls, elves, giant spiders, a man who can change shape into a bear, goblins, eagles, wolves and a slimy, murderous creature named Gollum. Underground, near Gollum’s lair, Bilbo accidentally found a magic ring of invisibility, which he used to escape from Gollum.”
Chusuk Planitia (Impact basin)
“In Dune, Chusuk is the “fourth planet of Theta Shalish; the so-called ‘Music Planet’ noted for the quality of its musical instruments.” The Appendix of Dune mentions “the Navachristianity of Chusuk.”
Doom Mons (Mountain)
“Mount Doom is a fictional volcano in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium. It is located in the heart of the black land of Mordor and close to Barad-dûr. Alternative names, in Tolkien’s invented language of Sindarin, include Orodruin (“fiery mountain”) and Amon Amarth (“mountain of fate”). The Sammath Naur (“Chambers of Fire”), made by Sauron in the Second Age, is a structure located deep within the mountain’s molten core. It was here Sauron forged the One Ring during the Second Age.
The mountain represents the endpoint of Frodo Baggins’ quest to destroy the Ring which is recounted in The Lord of the Rings. The chasm is the site where the One Ring was originally forged by the Dark Lord Sauron and the only place it can be destroyed.”
Echoriath Montes (Mountain)
“A mountain range in the north of Beleriand, also called the Encircling Mountains. The Echoriath formed a natural circle of rock, enclosing the valley later called Tumladen, within which lay the Elven city of Gondolin. A hidden ravine provided the only access through the Echoriath — a way guarded by seven gates. Fingolfin, a High King of the Noldor, was buried in the Echoriath north of Gondolin, having been taken there by the eagle Thorondor after he was slain in his duel with Morgoth. Glorfindel was also buried in this place.”
Erebor Mons (Mountain)
“In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium, the Lonely Mountain (Sindarin Erebor) is a mountain in the north of Rhovanion. It is the source of the Celduin River, and the location of the Kingdom Under the Mountain. The town of Dale lies in a vale on its southern slopes.
Erebor became the home of the Folk of Durin, a clan of Dwarves known as the Longbeards, after they were driven from their ancestral home of Khazad-dûm. In the latter days of the Third Age, this Kingdom Under the Mountain held one of the largest dwarvish treasure hoards in Middle-earth.”
Faramir Colles (Hill)
“Faramir is the younger brother of Boromir of the Fellowship of the Ring and second son of Denethor II, the Steward of the realm of Gondor. The relationships between the three men are revealed over the course of the book and are elaborated in the appendices.
Faramir first enters the narrative in person in The Two Towers, where, upon meeting Frodo Baggins, he is presented with a temptation to take possession of the One Ring. In The Return of the King, he led the forces of Gondor during the War of the Ring, coming near to death, and eventually succeeded his father as the Steward and won the love of Éowyn of Rohan.”
Misty Montes (Mountain)
“In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth, the Misty Mountains (also known by its Sindarin name of Hithaeglir—misspelled as Hithaiglin on the original Lord of the Rings map—and as the Mountains of Mist) is a mountain range, running for 795 miles from north to south, between Eriador and the valley of the Great River, Anduin, and from Mount Gundabad in the far north to Methedras in the south.
The northernmost peak of the Misty Mountains was Mount Gundabad, where according to legend Durin awoke, though it was later an abode of Orcs. The greatest Dwarven realm in Middle-earth, Khazad-dûm, was located at the midpoint of the Misty Mountains. The three peaks that were part of Khazad-dûm were Caradhras (Redhorn), Celebdil (Silvertine) and Fanuidhol (Cloudyhead). Inside Celebdil, the Dwarves built the Endless Stair, from the foundations of the mountain to the top of it. The southernmost peak of the Misty Mountains was Methedras (Last Peak).”
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.
Nothing starts your day like meeting a zombie from the Plants vs. Zombies game my boys enjoy playing.
For us older folks, it was a real treat to meet Peter Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn”.
Here are my co-authors with comic artist Ken Meyer, Jr.
Here are my co-authors with Katie Cook, who writes “My Little Pony” for IDW Publishing, and has also done licensed illustration work for DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
Proving again that timing is everything, we just happened to wander in front of the Badali Jewelry booth, when our friend Cliff Broadway from TheOneRing.net was conducting a Lord of the Rings trivia quiz. Have I mentioned that I am a Lord of the Rings Rainman? It will then come as no surprise that we won the quiz, and left laden with terrific Tolkien booty, much as Bilbo ended his Hobbit adventure riding a pony burdened with treasure. As a bonus, we got to meet the Rice sisters, who write and star in the weekly Happy Hobbit video that is shown on TheOneRing.net.
In the foreground, my co-author Harrison. In the background, the smoking hot Evangeline Lilly, who will be appearing in the upcoming (second) Hobbit movie. We also saw Sir Richard Taylor, who heads up Weta, the company that makes props for Peter Jackson’s movies.
Here my co-authors pose with the largest Domokun I’ve ever seen.
An enormous Azog the Orc in front of the Weta booth was not nearly as welcoming as Domokun…
At the IDW Publishing booth, we spoke with several comic book illustrators. As it turned out, fate smiled upon us again. We have a friend Sohaib Awan, who writes the comic JINNRISE. His illustrator, Andrew Huerta, was there and graciously offered to sketch Nimpentoad !
Here is the wonderful end result he knocked out in no time flat.
Ken Meyer, Jr. has been doing art of one kind or another since he was a kid. He started drawing by tracing comic books using carbon paper (ask your grandpa). He became interested in more realistic comics, and then in illustration and painting. He has done some short Marvel comics pieces, but most of his comic work was done for smaller publishers like Caliber and Revolutionary. Today, the lion’s share of his art is painting.
Ken has graciously to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. In the photograph, he is the one on the left…
For what age audience do you illustrate comics?
It has varied. The Marvel comics I’ve done are for all ages, while the Caliber work was more mature (but still able to be read by all ages). I have done a lot of horror art and some horror themed stories, so I guess the audience would depend on how much they could handle!
Henry: Challenge accepted!
Tell us about your latest work.
Lately, my work has been either doing altered Magic cards (Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game, and people send me the cards I have done to paint new images on them, making them more collectible), illustration for various uses, or portraits and other types of art. I also do “sketch covers,” which are actual comics with totally white covers (aside from the logo). They are made that way so fans can get their favorite artist to do drawings on the covers. I have done several Avengers (the movie character versions), and Walking Dead covers, with more to come.
Henry: Note to self: order one of these from Ken.
What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?
It depends on the job, to some degree. In comics, the most fun part is the initial layouts/thumbnails, where I am working out the composition of the page, what the best viewpoint for any given panel would be, etc. Considering I tend to use a lot of photos and models for reference, the most challenging part is probably getting people together and shooting the actual photos. If I am doing the strip completely out of my head, the most challenging part is probably doing any given viewpoint (worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, etc.) correctly. Oh, and horses.
Henry: Note to self: do NOT ask Ken to paint the Riders of Rohan.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned?
To be honest, the most powerful lesson I learned is that it is very hard to actually make a living as a comic artist. You have to put a lot of work and time into comics, and the pay is not usually proportional to all that work (which is why a lot of people go into other fields such as animation or games). If you are in comics, most likely you are in it because you really love the genre.
What’s been a memorable experience that you’ve had?
I really love music, and several times, when I knew I was going to a concert by someone I really liked, I would do a painting ahead of time and take it to the show to try to meet the musician. It worked several times, and I met some of my favorites (Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn, Loudon Wainwright, Tori Amos and several others). Those were memorable for me!
Henry: And memorable for them too. That is certainly a unique way to get their attention. Well played, sir.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic or graphic novel illustrators?
The most crucial advice, and the advice you almost always hear, is just draw draw draw. Keep drawing, practice all the time, draw everything (not everything is skin tight-clad superheroes), and then draw a lot more. I had a professor who was an incredible draftsman, and he said the only reason he would be considered a better artist than us is that he had gotten a lot more terrible drawings out of the way. Of course, it helps to look at your favorite artists. See how they handle problems, the way they compose a panel and page, etc. Copy them for awhile, eventually you will come into your own style. Look at books and online sources. Draw from life. Just draw.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
Henry: It does seem to come with the territory. 🙂
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?
Does painting with a chicken on your head count?
Henry: Yes. Yes it does. Best. Answer. Ever.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
It would be the superpower to mimic all other superpowers. If there is a void of superpowers, then perhaps the good old standby, flight. If I am feeling altruistic that day, then it would be the power to manufacture any amount of food out of thin air.
Henry: Good for you for thinking of others!
If you could have three illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
Oooooh, tough one! I will say Alphonse Mucha (to talk about his big Slav epic mural series), Bob Peak (an illustrator popular in the 70’s mostly, who did magazine illustration, movie posters, etc), and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz (who started in comics as a clone of then very popular realistic comic artist Neal Adams, but went to to become one of the best multimedia artists ever, and is still creating amazing work today).
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
When I was young, I was a huge fantasy/heroic fiction fan, and read stuff like The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Conan, etc, non-stop. So, you are talking about a lot of imaginary creatures to choose from! I guess I will say the Sirens…you might drown, but you would have fun doing it.
Henry: Always the ladies’ man, eh?
What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
I have several activities that siphon good working time away from the desk, unfortunately. I play tennis frequently, for example. I read a fair amount (but have become selective, choosing authors I have already read a lot of, such as Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, etc.), plus tons of music magazines. I would say “listen to music,” but I do that all the time anyway. I probably watch too much TV (shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Stewart/Colbert/Maher, and like to see as many films as I can as well. So, you can see the easel has to do its share of fighting for attention!
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“There was no shortage of art created, and no amount of time wasted!”
Where can readers find your work?
If you want to search in the comic book stores (which nowadays, means going online), I have a graphic novel called “Gustave, PI.” I have a few Marvel stories in comics, such as Open Space number 4, Marvel Portraits of Universe 1, and Midnight Sons Unlimited 4. Caliber comics I have done include about seven issues (and about 11 covers): Kilroy is Here, stories in the anthology Negative Burn, and many covers. I also have many covers for Revolutionary Comics (music- and sports-related). You can search out the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendars I put together between 2005 and 2009 (as well as her tour book for the “Dew Drop Inn” tour). I have a ton of work in various White Wolf game books, mostly for the lines of Vampire the Masquerade, Demon, Wraith, etc. I have also done a lot of cards for their Vampire the Eternal Struggle series (originally known as Jyhad). The game Magic the Gathering has card art by me, mostly in the Arabian Nights and Ice Age expansions. You can, of course, always go to my website if you have a few weeks to waste (there is a lot there, but I will be revamping it soon), or other websites that have my work for sale, such as Fine Art America. I also have a DeviantArt page.
Ken will be at San Diego Comic-Con in Artist Alley table II-6.
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.