Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Tolkien and Lucas are two of the great modern storytellers. Both have influenced generations of new storytellers. Their lasting mark on world culture will be remembered by future generations like The Odyssey of Homer is remembered today. Tolkien and Lucas are at once so similar and so incredibly different.
On receiving a screenplay for a proposed movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in the late 1950's by Morton Grady Zimmerman, Tolkien wrote:
"I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about."
Tolkien was adamant about the methodology by which his mythology was created. He spent over ten years organizing the pieces of history and lanquage that gives the Lord of the Rings it's "impression of depth". He was absolutely determined to give his story a life of it's own through a thickly woven tapestry of myth.
Lucas started out just as adamant. During the writing and filming of A New Hope, Lucas was in constant contact with Campbell. He was checking up on his myth, making sure all the pieces fit into Campbell's theory of the Heroes Journey.
So what happened with the Prequels? We have the Silmarillion and the New Trilogy. Tolkien had this to say:
" I am afraid that the presentation will need a lot of work, and I work so slowly. The legends have to be worked over (they were written at different times, some many years ago) and made consistent..."
There is quite a bit more to that quote, but this part speaks to what I feel is the greatest failure of Lucas' Prequels. No consistency. This is in part due to the the fact that Tolkien was working nearly alone on his great work. Where right from the beginning, Lucas allowed many writers to tell many stories about Star Wars. Before the 90's there wasn't a lot of talk of canon. Then all of a sudden authors had to follow a relatively strict set of guidelines, including that almost no one was allowed to even mention what would become Prequel history.
I have spoken about this many times. I am disappointed that so many authors were discredited when the Prequels were released. These stories had laid down the basis of who major characters were and why they acted the way they did. Only to be, in some cases, completely erased, and then replaced with Jar-Jar Binks, Qui- Gon Jinn, and Jango Bango Fett.
Some say Lucas had every right to tell the story the way he wanted to because it is his story. I say I would agree with this, had he not allowed so many others to imbue the myth of Star Wars with their own creativity. When that happened he passed the torch to them, and became one of many who would be an influence to the myth. This may have been his biggest mistake.
Tolkien had the sense of mind, and maybe the neurotic need to complete his myth the way he, and he alone saw fit. Had he been alive to see Peter Jackson's vision of his myth, I believe he would have been disappointed. He probably regretted till the day he died selling the movie rights at all. Tolkien would probably be disappointed in general to see the way that storytelling has progressed since he laid down the first history of the Children of Illuvatar.
Much of today's storytelling uses mythology in a bastardized way. The pieces are all there in many cases, yet only as a surface to cover for the marketing of merchandise.
The relative opposite of this is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Considering this is a post about Tolkien and Lucas I won't get too far off track, but bear with me. Rowling's genius is in the fact that the story ends. As of now there is a supposed 8th book that was written for a charity event, but is not an actual part of the Potter myth. Otherwise it is a contained story, no unnecessary T.V. shows or expanded universe garbage, other than fan fiction. Hopefully it will stay that way. Because Rowling seemed to know that to go beyond, would be to stretch the story too thin.
Which is what exactly has happened to Star Wars. There is no way to keep up with the amount of comics, games, T.V. shows and other spin-offs that are constantly created. So much so that there are people today who don't know that there was an original Star Wars trilogy!
The saddest part about this is that the majority of the creators of these spin-offs do not care about Star Wars, or mythology, or storytelling. It is all about the money. Therein lies the true difference between Tolkien and Lucas.
Tolkien refused the initial screenplay offer from Zimmerman. Why? Because he knew it would destroy the myth he had worked so hard to create. Lucas apparently is the one who "showed no sign of appreciating what it is all about". I hate to say it, but it certainly shows in the Prequels.
How many lightsabers, lunchboxes and t-shirts can we sell with this thing? A lot, and people won't even know that they have been duped into buying all this crap. George should have known better. He should have treated his myth with the same sensitivity as Tolkien and Rowling. Why he didn't is something we fans will probably never understand.
That is why it is up to us. It is why I am so glad to see so many Prequel Rewrites out there. That fact shows that Campbell's belief that myth springs from within is true. We knew that it was wrong and now we are doing our best to put it right.
Hopefully, the rest of the world will see this and start to think with more sensitivity themselves. Probably not, but there will always be rebellion in the empire.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Thanks everyone for continuing to check up on my progress here! Sadly there hasn't been a lot of Star Wars action for me lately. Those of you have kept up on my posts here will know how busy I have been! For those of you who haven't I'll give you a brief update!
I currently work for a company that cares for disabled adults. I work in a home and help take care of four men. When I applied for this job, the idea was that I would be able to make a decent pay and have all the time and energy needed to make my art, my way. For a while this was true, and it was good! I was working overnights and my job was to sleep! I would get out of work in the morning, go straight to my studio space, make art all day with a fresh mind and head back to work around 11 pm.
Then my world was turned upside down. I won't go into the dirty details. I quit during the summer of 2008 to spend three months traveling the United States.
After my adventures I got right back into taking care of the disabled for the same company. Instead of third shift, I chose to work a second shift. The change was immediate, and I rose to the challenge. I had nearly no time to make art. My mind and energy were forcefully diverted.
I did my best. That wasn't enough. The job has continued to drain me physically and mentally. Making art was beginning to become a past time, a hobby rather than a focus. Thankfully, I noticed this and knew that it was not what I wanted.
Early 2010, my aunt Chandra was getting work done on her back tattoo. She was my eye-opener. Flat out she said "Caleb, you could make a lot of money doing tattoos!". I have been making art all my life. I have had a lot of people ask me to draw up tattoos, and many told me I should get into tattooing. Yet, I never seriously considered becoming a tattoo artist.
For the past ten years I have been literally giving my art away. One of my reasons for this was the belief that, up until now, I had not earned the right to put a price tag on my work. I love giving my work away. Literally, hundreds of times I was given the opportunity to make someone's day. Friends and others would come into my studio, they would see a painting and connect with it. I am very grateful for the ability to see when this happens. The only option was to make sure that when I saw that connection the work went home with that person.
The obvious problem with this is that it is very hard to put food in my belly this way! The best benefit is that I have developed a strong following! Tattooing came to me at the time I needed it the most. It is a career defined by making art, that is also a viable way of making money. The main downfall is the high amount of very poor tattoos that many people want.
I am willing to deal with that because I know that there are a great many people out there who want amazing works of art on their body. I want to be the artist that creates that art!
So I am now a part of a great tattoo shop, Mom & Pop Tattoo and Piercing in Fall River, MA. My apprenticeship has been an excellent experience. I am being taught about the fundamentals of tattooing, and I am teaching about the fundamentals of fine art.
You might think that fine art would be the basis of tattooing, but it is not. In fact in my area that is the exact opposite. I am proud to be one of a number of artists working very hard to raise the standards of the fine art of tattooing.
So, what does any of this have to do with Star Wars? I love Star Wars. I hate the prequels. I am willing to do anything that will get me to the end goal of making this comic to bring back the high art of storytelling and mythology.
Right now I have to sacrifice nearly my entire life so that I can make a 180 degree turn around. I need food in my belly and a roof over my head, not to mention for my beautiful wife! This is only attainable through hard work and a willingness to learn!
See you there.
Next week, Tolkien and Lucas.