Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

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It took us a while, but finally it’s here: our first nostalgia post. Digging deep into our pop-cultural pasts, we dredge up things sometimes forgotten, sometimes still living through many inspirations or even outright consecutive reincarnations – but always bearing a significant weight for our early formative geek years. We’ll be trying to introduce some old stuff, review it, and finally trace their significance in the modern pop-culture – we’ll see how it goes, our Two-shots are usually quite unpredictable 🙂

We’ve decided to start with a series which had had an enormous impact on our imagination back in the end of eighties, which had become a yardstick for all later Robin Hood retellings, serious or less serious, shaping the popular imagery of the character, introducing new, mystical elements to the old myths, and which – for all its significance and our nostalgia – we cannot bear to watch anymore…

Ola: First things first, however: the famous BBC series, Robin of Sherwood, had been created by Richard Carpenter for the ITV network. Meticulously researched, ambitious in scope, showing for the first time a fairly accurate image of 12th century outlaws (no tights for anyone!), the series won considerable acclaim and fame at the time. Consisting of three seasons, altogether of 26 one-hour long episodes, it ran in the UK in mid-eighties, and in Poland for the first time in the very late eighties/early nineties – which is when we watched it. Oh, those were the times! 😉

Piotrek: A long time ago indeed. I remember running home from school to watch an episode, and being angry at my parents for taking me for a Winter break trip – because I was going to miss some episodes. They were all played on TV, on fixed schedule, with no repeats and no chance to watch it any other way. Young readers won’t get that 😉

Ola: The series is notable for a change of the male lead – Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first two series, resigned from the role after two seasons, and Jason Connery took the role of the second Robin. As the two were nothing alike, [SPOILER ALERT] the first Robin ended being killed by the evil Sheriff. There was also a plan for a fourth series, but the producer, Goldcrest, resigned due to financial problems – and the whole plot remained mysteriously unresolved, somewhat adding to the series’ legend and cult following.

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Tom King, Mikel Janín, The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Author: Tom King (writer), Mikel Janín (illustrations)

Series: Batman

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

Where do I start? Maybe with the hype concerning Tom King as the new Wunderkid of DC Comics, one of the few authors who allegedly could take the post-Rebirth Batman and put some life into the character nearing its permanent retirement age (80 years next May!). Tom King’s approach was supposed to be ‘cerebral’, his stories realistic and full of suspense. Maybe some of them are – I am not to judge, since I’ve read only the one and I don’t intend reading any other. Because, in short, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a smelly pile of horseshit.

Let’s start with the art, because later on it will be one long rant. Art is mediocre at best, with Riddler inexplicably beefed up and Joker looking like a drawing of himself from some really bad old comics. Batman and Selina look correct if quite generic, and that’s probably the best I can say about them. The main problem I have with Janín‘s art is that it lacks dynamics, and the eyes of the characters seem dead. They make faces, all right, but nothing reaches their eyes. The panels depicting the war don’t really make much impact – they are there, and they show what happened. Maybe I’m spoiled by other artists, I tend to choose my comics carefully knowing there’s a lot of fluff and a lot of trash out there.

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Book Blogger Insider Tag

We’re rather selective about tags, but when Lashaan from the one and only Bookidote blog tagged us with this one (thanks!) we decided it’s interesting enough to participate 🙂

1) Where do you typically write your blog posts?

Ola: At my desk, where my computer usually resides 😉 It’s a very neat wooden desk by a large window, and having my back to everything else helps me to concentrate on the task at hand 🙂

Piotrek: My desk is where my computer resides always, as it’s a desk-top. This desk faces the entire room, becoming a kind of the bridge of the SS MyHome. Sometimes I call it my battlestation, I do some gaming here 😉 I also really need two screens, both at work and here, it’s just so much better than a one-screen setup, for any work with sources. Or just to watch YouTube while I pretend to work…

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2) How long does it generally take you to write a book review?

Ola: Hmm, do we count the preparation time? 😉 I almost never write reviews right after reading a book, so the books usually stays with me for a while before I start writing. But the writing itself takes anywhere from 2 to 6 hours – the Two-shots definitely take more time than single posts, but are so much fun! The Witcher post took probably up to 8 hrs, but it was an exception.

Piotrek: It depends on the amount of research. 4-8 hours usually? I write slower than I used to in the university days, and I work more with number than words, so maintaining a blog is a great exercise, but also a challenge.

3) When did you start your book blog?

February 2015

Long time ago! 😀

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Nostalgia post: Introduction

Ola: A while ago we’ve grandly announced the coming of a new segment to our blog: posts about significant pop-cultural elements of our past. Well, it took us a while indeed, but here we go 😉

Piotrek:  It’s not exactly a pressing matter. We might have been late with some of our Marvel reviews, but there is always time for some nostalgia…

Ola: Nostalgia is a phenomenon of astonishing power and influence, not only economical, though this is what we usually see, but also, maybe even most importantly, cultural. Things we loved as kids we all seem to cherish – and usually we do so in no relation to their real value. They are bound in our past in many various ways, related to our past experiences and emotions, they had an impact on who we are, and they can influence our future decisions and preferences.

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An excursion into non-fiction #2: Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)

Author: Yuval Noah HarariIMG_20181211_210646

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Edition: Vintage Books, Paperback

Pages: 498

Piotrek: Ambitious title for a 500 pages book, ain’t it? This young (born 1976) and charismatic Israeli historian – and his is a professional historian, with his DPhil thesis titled History and I : war and the relations between history and personal identity in Renaissance military memoirs, c.1450-1600. written in Oxford – aims to catch the essence of our history, as a species, in one tome. The result is certainly very successful, since 2011 published in multiple languages and its author became a public intellectual with TED Talks and countless interviews available on Youtube and elsewhere. We are here to judge if the world is right 😉

Ola: Oh well, there’s nothing like a catchy beginning, is there? 😛 But on a more serious note, Harari’s ambitions were huge, and a bit of hubris was, I guess, unavoidable – especially if you want to market a de facto historical book to a wide, mostly lay, public. Harari’s book, however, deserves its hype, for it’s written in a flowing, precise style, and delivers an abundance of catchy, well devised examples to better explain the more abstract concepts.

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Ursula Le Guin, The Other Wind (2001)

One of the high points of the recent Witch Week was a discussion on Ursula Le Guin’s The Other Wind, the final Earthsea book. Inspired beyond our contribution to the comment section there, we decided to post this special two-shot review. Warning – there will be spoilers, there’s no point in avoiding that. This is a short novel, if you liked the previous ones, read it. If not, you will not like it, we promise…

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Prószyński i S-ka published one of the beautiful editions of the Earthsea, with one weak point – lack of illustrations. Saga Press (Gollancz in UK and I have this version) published the ultimate illustrated edition, with great art by Charles Vess.

Piotrek: I love Le Guin and I consider her to be one of the giants of the genre, quite close to Tolkien on my personal Olympus. I was happy to re-read the final book before the Witch Week – originally I wanted to re-read the entire cycle, but I only found time to read Wizard and this. To my astonishment I realised I’ve never read The Other Wind before! Why? It was published in 2001, Polish translation in 2003, after my last re-read of the Earthsea. Between then and now I’ve read a few of the Hainish novels, Malafrena, and some other one-shots and short stories, even her poems, but I somehow missed The Other Wind. It was a great joy to read it now, as I really find it a worthy conclusion of the cycle and a very good read in its own rights. Some of the loose ends come together, some stories end, Le Guin neatly ties up the world we revisit for the last time (in a novel format).

Ola: I’ve read The Other Wind before – but as a much younger person 😉 It defied my expectations then; not that I thought Ged’s retirement to be a punishment, as some of the readers apparently believed, according to Le Guin – but his drastic (to my 15 years younger self, at least) change of role and status – as well as the limited amount of space he took in the book – was a definite surprise. This time I see much more clearly how deftly Le Guin altered his role from the original hero to the wise man and mentor aiding a new hero on his new journey, still keeping Ged within the heroic cycle. The cyclical nature of life is, after all, one of the main themes of the novel.

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Stan Lee (1922 – 2018)

Stan Lee © Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The unstoppable force behind Marvel, the person responsible for putting the “hero” into “superhero”, transforming the erstwhile walking cardboards with ten commandments written on them into human (or godly) beings, full of foibles, insecurities and vices, but at the same time always striving to become better and to do better.

Lee as few others understood the human need for telling stories, for heroes, and for heroic journeys. He was the \co-creator of Spider-Man, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Black Panther, and Ant-Man – as well as many other superhero characters. He was also a tireless advocate of introducing comic superheroes to the wider public, and his efforts brought us the wonderful recent Marvel superhero movie onslaught, irrevocably changing the comics’ place and magnifying their significance in pop-culture.

Piotrek: I’ve re-watched the first Captain America today with my Dad and the usual Stan Lee cameo made me smile. How many more did they manage to prepare? Probably just Captain Marvel and the second Infinity War movie…

Ola: Apparently all 2019 Marvel movies will have Stan Lee cameo. It’s become such a feature of the Marvel movies that it’s difficult to imagine a movie without his appearance 😉 As John Romita put it in one of his interviews,

He’s a con man, but he did deliver.

He was one of the rare giants that transform their chosen field irrevocably – a facilitator, a face, an moving force behind the scenes, an impresario.  He led a full, adventurous life that brought us much joy and inspiration.

Thank you, sir, and farewell!

‘Nuff said.