The biblical creation story told as space opera

Lots of myths have been used as fodder for science fiction and fantasy, and some of the more interesting ones turn the gods into cosmic entities, or extensions of our own humanity. Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, for example, imagines a group of posthuman astronauts who take on the personas of the Hindu pantheon. Then there are comics, such as Jack Kirby’s Asgard, a techno-mystical dimension, where magic and technology are indistinguishable (to butcher Asimov’s famous dictum). One story that has not garnered much favor by writers and artists is the biblical creation story. But they are missing out on a vastly strange and cosmic tale, and when combined with Kabbalistic ideas of how the world was created, you have one of the most far-out psychedelic-inflected tales that, if used right, could do wonders for a science fiction/fantasy story.

The problem is, it would take a pretty weird imagination to know what to do with it. The solution is Jesse Moynihan. Moynihan’s day job is as a writer and storyboard artist for Adventure Time, one of the greatest cartoons ever produced (sorry for the hyperbole, but it’s true). In Adventure Time, mythology and pop culture – including some brilliant shout outs to Dungeons & Dragons – are combined into something that is both whimsical and profound. After a few episodes, however, you can begin to see the self-imposed limitations. It is a kid’s show after all. In Moynihans’s own work as a comic writer and artist, his vision is let loose. Read the rest

Aurora Monster Scenes: The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation


They had me at Aurora. Nothing so perfectly captures the secret origin of my imagination than the Aurora line of snap-tite models from the 1970s, especially the Prehistoric Scenes and monster models, with optional glow in dark parts. It was the lurid Monster Scene sets, however, that pried open my weird third eye (along with Creature Double Feature on my local UHF station and Famous Monsters of Filmland). These delightfully ghastly models included: Dr. Deadly, the igor-esque mad scientist; The Victim, a busty young woman whose only purpose is to be abducted and experimented on; Frankenstein, the misnamed monster to do Dr. Deadly’s bidding; Vampirella, the might-as-well-be-naked vampire whose role in all this is ambiguous; Gruesome Goodies, a laboratory of Tesla-like machinery, workbench, lab equipment and the requisite skull; The Pain Parlor, which includes an operating table, a skeleton, and inscrutable “pain” machine; The Pendulum, for slicing the Victim in half; and The Hanging Cage, a room of torture that even has hot coals and a tiny pincer. Later sets would include Dracula and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

I was too young to recognize anything here that might have been exploitive or inappropriate for a kid’s model set. Looking back, it’s hard to believe they were ever allowed on the shelves of a toy store. It’s no surprise then that the development of the toys was one part “Let’s do the craziest things we can think of...” and one part “but let’s not get parents upset.” To this end, Aurora worked out a smart business arrangement with James Warren of Warren Publishing who was an expert on how to market monsters to young people while staying away from controversy. Read the rest

How comic book movies kill the deep, mythic history of comic book characters

My own son will see every superhero movie with me, but no matter how I strategically litter the house with comics, he won’t pick one up.

Cave Evil: a game of brutal necro-demonic dungeon warfare

Imagine a game where Gary Gygax had been possessed by Abdul Alhazred, the fabled author of the Necronomicon. This makes more sense than to believe Cave Evil was crafted by a bunch of game geeks in their basement.

Satan’s Superbowl halftime show

There is still no better vehicle for total domination than the Super Bowl halftime show.

Forbidden Activities for Neglected Children celebrates the wonderful grotesquery of the late 1970s

Here is a snapshot of my room in 1979: A box of Warren horror magazines, with assorted outliers such as Psycho and Scream; a stack of Dungeons & Dragons books, including some of the earlier supplements such as Eldritch Wizardry; a shelf displaying various Aurora monster models; a bookshelf holding any number of supernatural and horror short story anthologies; and my beloved but completely dog-eared copy of A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford. Read the rest

Earth Magic – photography of witches at play and at ritual

There has long been a tension between the witch of legend and the modern day practitioner. The former has its origins mainly in polemical Christian ideas and folktales, where the witch is a consort of the devil, brewing wicked and foul smelling potions in a cast-iron pot, and eating children. Read the rest

Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine

My punk coming of age happened in the early 1980s, and by then the music had morphed into hardcore, with its shaved heads, flannel shirts tied around waists, and a sometimes disheartening snot-nosed machismo. Read the rest

Prog rock: the sound of history's future

In the 1970s, a new wave of bands looked beyond the drugginess of psychedelia to classical music as the true guide. Peter Bebergal explores the occult roots of the prog-rock genre.

A collection of gory and ghastly Creepy and Eerie magazines

It’s impossible to review the Dark Horse Comics collections of Creepy and Eerie without a few fond recollections. In the ’60s and ’70s, my father owned a men’s tailored clothing shop on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was a fine place to hang around as a kid. My dad knew all the other business people in the area and I would spend part of the day visiting nearby stores. It was in Mr. Big’s toy store where I first discovered Aurora models. Their “snap-tite” collection was perfect for the budding model builder, but it was the types of sets that really set my imagination on fire — dinosaurs, Universal Film monsters, and most importantly, the bizarre and sadistic sets that were part of their Monster Scenes line. There was Dr. Deadly and his lab, The Pendulum, and The Hanging Cage. Then there was Vampirella, a fairly X-rated kit, that was really special, because she had her own magazine, Vampirella, which was part of the Warren publications that also included Creepy and Eerie. These magazines became the foundation of my childhood love of fantasy and horror, but somewhere along the way my collection was lost. Rediscovering these magazines in the Dark Horse collections reminds me not only of the ghastly fun these stories were, but just how weird the 1970s really were.

Now up to volume 19 for Creepy (collecting up to issue #93) and volume 16 for Eerie (collecting up to issue #80), Dark Horse has done an outstanding job with these collections, capturing all that was vibrant and exciting of these magazines. Read the rest

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gets it mostly right

Peter Bebergal hasn’t been this impressed with anything bearing the D&D name since he first cracked open the original Player’s Handbook in 1978.

Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Wizards of the Coast’s Problem Child

As Dungeons and Dragons became more rulebound and combat-oriented, some players revived older, more expressive forms of the game. But is the Old School Renaissance itself just more nerd fundamentalism?

Opponents Wanted: forgotten gaming mags find new life on the net

Oh, those glorious gaming magazines! From Ares, to The General, to The Dragon, the original thrill and excitement of pen 'n' paper gaming is there to be experienced at the Internet Archive and other online haunts.

Not for Nothing: My favorite music of 2012

Some of the best music 2012 sounded a lot like the 1970s, replete with analog synths, occult pretensions, powery pop, ambient landscapes, and heavy guitars. 2012 felt like a dark time, and some of the music here reflects that. Yet in all my favorites of the year there is spring of hope, an urging towards creative extremes that insist no matter the shadows, the human capacity for making glorious noise will prevail.

10. Fresh and Onlys: Long Slow Dance

Like a forgotten nugget from 1979, this pop gem with slight garage and psychedelic undertones offers heartbreak you can dance to. Lush, memorable songs are tightened with smart lyrics. Jangly and whimsical in all the right places, it’s music for people who miss the time when pop on the radio actually rocked.

9. Wymond Miles: Earth Has Doors

The guitarist from Fresh and Onlys also released a full length this year -- Under the Pale Moon -- a fine achievement, but this four song EP is like a hermetic secret finally revealed, a beautifully crafted pop ritual. Miles has tapped into the occult consciousness that has grabbed hold of lot of recent underground and experimental rock, but there is something personal here, something that only Miles knows, but that he willing to open the door just a crack. It’s pretty great stuff. Read the rest

Enthralling Books: The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald

A few days before the news of W.G. Sebald’s sudden death in a car accident in 2000, I had decided I was going to send him a letter. I have written about two letters to authors in my life, and I would do it more often if I thought there was way to go about it that didn’t by design come across as fannish and gushing. But the work of Sebald, particularly his 20th century masterpiece The Emigrants, had such a profound affect on me, I felt compelled to let him know.

Word of his death was a blow. Sebald was just starting to get the wider recognition he deserved with the publication of Austerlitz, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. I felt as though something important had been taken from the world, something that was essential to helping us understand what it means to be human beings agents of history, and how history works on us. Read the rest

Mind Blowing Movies: Village of the Giants (1965), by Peter Bebergal

This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Village of the Giants (1965), by Peter Bebergal

[Video Link] My parents were pretty good about indulging my obsession with monster movies. My father would pick me up Famous Monsters Of Filmland when he saw it at the drugstore. Across the street from his clothing shop in Waltham was Mr. Big's, a toy store that stocked all the Aurora models. Being a business neighbor my father got to know "Mr. Big" pretty well, and a few times he sold us the window display version of one of the models, a perfectly painted and glued version given to him by the distributor. Monsters movies were my life. Every Sunday morning I woke early, got the newspaper from the front stoop, opened it up to the middle and dug through the flyers and other loose inserts to where the television guide was nestled. Then I flipped to end to see what the following Saturday's Creature Feature would run. The mid to late 70s was a golden age when the rights to old monster movies must have been dirt-cheap. In the span of a year or so I saw every great Universal, Toho, and Hammer film. But every so often there was a movie that didn't appear in the index of my movie books, whose stills never showed up in the pages of Famous Monsters. Read the rest

RAW Week: "Some of this stuff might be bullshit," by Peter Bebergal

"My function is to raise the possibility, 'Hey, you know, some of this stuff might be bullshit.'" -- Robert Anton Wilson

I like to think of myself as a believing skeptic, someone who relishes in the ideas, the imagery, the arguments, the theories, and the literature of the occult and the paranormal, but accepts little of it as valid in a phenomenal sense. I love that small publishers such as Ouroboros Press and Fulgar Limited put out beautiful magical texts and that many current underground and avant garde musicians incorporate occult ideas into their work. But beyond its power as a method for art and imaging, I recognize much of the occult as woo. On the other hand, I accept that the human imagination is something magical, and very powerful and that we know little about human consciousness except how malleable it really is. It's a precarious position, however, and I often need to remind myself of smarter, more articulate thinkers who shared these views.

So it is with great respect and admiration that I celebrate the life of Robert Anton Wilson during this memorial week by remembering that he was the great believing skeptic, someone for whom the collection and curating of all that is weird was his life's work, who reminded us always to question everything, while recognizing that we should never stop exploring. I sure wish RAW was alive today, especially at a time when there is something like a real Occult Revival going on, from the psychedelic explorers who see 2012 as a great trans formative event, to the huge increase in the membership of organization like the O.T.O. Read the rest