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James Nicoll is an Evil, Evil, Man
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
From: jdnicoll@panix.com (James Nicoll)
Organization: PANIX -- Public Access Networks Corp.
Date: 1 Apr 2004 16:56:41 -0500
Subject: John Byrne's _Amber_

John Byrne's _Amber_
Based on an idea inspired by a comment Roger Zelazny once made
Writer: John Byrne
Artist: John Bryne

Apparently when Roger Zelazny wrote his will, he was quite
specific that no prequels, sequels or retroactive continuity for
the Amber texts should be written. He apparently neglected to mention
graphic adaptation at all and the Estate has taken this to mean he
would have appproved, given the chance. Adapting important works like
Amber obviously demands a special talent and so the Estate selected
John Byrne, famous for his hundred issue run on Superman [1] and for
later works such as _Lab Rats_, which set industry records for sales.
His devotion to the very highest standards in comic book art are the
subject of lengthy conversations on the internet and his determination
to see that his standards are met can be seen in e.g. the She-Hulk
Leg Hair Controversy.

In his introduction, Byrne explains that he is a long time
Amber fan and that he intends to treat the material with utmost respect,
which in this case seems to mean getting of elements Byrne feels
undermined the true story of Amber. Because of certain clauses in
his contract, he couldn't use the methods used in Superman and simply
pitch all the ideas he though were outmoded or stupid but the ingenious
Byrne handled this by compressing the 10 volume Amber storyline to
three panels on the first page, after which he jumps right into the
story proper, which begins with Corwin waking up in a mental insitution
after a lengthy coma. Yes, true believers, it was all a dream!

Byrne then introduces the storyline he feels Zelazny would
have written, if he'd been a better writer. Corwin's fantasies are
based in his deep seated conflicts with his family. Many people
would have hesitated to do twelve issues on family therapy but Byrne
is an extraordinary writer. Many people might criticize the use of
rubber stamps for faces (one male, one female) but as Byrne explains
in the lengthy footnotes, this is to indicate how all people share
the same innermost nature. As well, the fact that about 80% of the
the panels are the same shot of six people sitting around a coffee
table should not be taken as laziness but indicates (as does the
title Amber) of how difficult change can be. Also, it's a special
tribute to Dave Sim, unless Sim sues, in which case it wasn't.

I must single out for special notice the touching way in which
Byrne handling the delicate subject of alternate sexualities. Several
times Corwin makes such insightful comments as "WHy is my sister
fench kissing her room mate? Could they be l-Good Lord! Choke! That
bird flew into my living room window!", "Gosh, my sister _is_ a
carpet-mu--Good lord! Choke! My watch is running slow!" or "I never
imagined a relative of mine could wear sensible sh--Good Lord! Choke!
I've been distracted by that sparky object!" Take that, Will and Grace!
As Byrne points out, all of the letters of "lesbian", "homosexual"
and "closet" appear in this collection, although not always on the same
page. Would that other writers were so bold!

I think this is easily the equal of other Byrne works and
will provide buyers with the same consistent level of enjoyment
that we have come to expect from Byrne.


James Nicoll

1: Admittedly, not 100 in base ten.

--
"Thousands of people will be exposed to Shakespeare who normally wouldn't. Now
everyone will be able to enjoy 'Hamlet'. That's the way it should be." "But
don't you see? Don't you understand what you are doing?" "Oh, yeah. I'm
destroying Shakespeare's snob appeal." "You _fiend_." [Lenny and Cowboy Wally]

  • 1
The scary thing is that it's reasonably believable.

Very like both Nicoll (one of my favorites sources of good quotes) and Byrne (who, while I am fond of his work, should never, ever be allowed to play with other peoples' characters). Nicely on-target...

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