August 8, 2020

Revisiting Zack Snyder's DC Universe

 In preparation of Zack Snyder's version of Justice Leauge actually (finally?) coming into being, I wanted to re-visit the first two entries of the DC universe ahead of time - which are also his movies - Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman (or I'll sometimes refer to it by it's subtitle, Dawn of Justice).

Before starting this post, however, I want to express this: I both love films, and comic books. Sometimes, finding that 'happy medium' between the two can be tricky.

The other is, I'm essentially a "DC". (remember that parody video that spoofed the 'Are You an Apple or a PC' commercial titled 'Are You a Marvel or a DC?') I've always, overall, liked DC more of the two - better stories in the comics, better animated material. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is unquestionably good when it came to the realm of live action content. With a few minor exceptions, from 2008 with Iron Man to 2019's Avengers: Endgame, we've had stellar performances (by way of excellent casting) and some overall consistently great films that tied in with one another - perhaps, in some cases, too much so. I understand that's a "cinematic universe", however at times I've felt 'this movie should be good on its own, and not depend on the fact that another movie is going to come out.' We got our dreams fulfilled when 2012's Avengers actually came to be. Then, with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, that was the icing on the cake - having everyone appear.

OK, with that out of the way, let's first examine.....

Man of Steel Movie Poster

Man of Steel. Superman was the first major superhero, debuting as far back as 1938. The character has been through a lot since then. Most people know Superman as Christopher Reeve. He was a great Superman, and that was a very good movie....for its time. However great the casting and performances were, the Reeve films were camp-fests on par with Adam West as Batman, and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman (hey, there's a Justice League right there....). Some of my say "that's blasphemy!" or "crazy!". But it's true. In the comics, does Superman ever spin to drill through the ground? Not that I ever saw. In the comics, does he ever fly around the Earth fast enough to 'rewind' time? Don't remember. Also, let's not forget the 'plastic S' that he throws randomly in Superman II (I forget if that's also in the Donner version). My point is, none of those are what his powers are. And, to me - as a comic book fan - those movies suffered because of that.

Superman needed to be more serious - not TOO serious, but MORE serious. I mean, until Man of Steel, live-action Superman has never thrown a punch that I can think of.

I wouldn't consider myself a Zack Snyder "fan", though I'd seen a few of his movies. 300 was a near-perfect adaptation of the graphic novel (the original artwork could essentially be storyboards), and Watchmen was pretty decent overall. When Snyder was announced as being the director of Man of Steel, I thought "....interesting! Not the greatest track record, but we'll see! His style would certainly fit." And it did. It really did.

So the movie itself is a Superman origin story, as well as the one that 'launches' a cinematic universe (DC's "version" of Iron Man from 2008, in other words). We get to see the fate of Krypton by way of a prologue sequence, then it jumps to adult Superman, with flashbacks to moments from his past (kind of like in Batman Begins). Also, having Zod as the main villain ties everything up, story-wise. I'd never considered the fact of how well having General Zod as THE villain in the same movie we get to see the Krypton sequences actually works. And while he's Superman's arch-nemesis, I'm glad we didn't Lex Luthor right away. We had Gene Hackman. We had Kevin Spacey. Let's give Lex a rest for a little bit, shall we? 

The film had the ingredients of being great. However, there are a few elements holding it back from masterpiece level. Namely, it was a bit TOO dark. Some of the Superman stories are dark, or have dark elements, but more 'light' would've been good. Actually, if Man of Steel were made with the same tone and mood as the Joss Whedon-finished version of Justice League, it would've been a bit better.

The other issue, is the use of CGI, and how much destruction there is.

I get that this film is very CGI heavy (how else can you show Superman's powers and his true strength in a convincing way?). The only issues with the CGI (and, possibly, the destruction level) is how EASILY things can get moved around. I've always thought that Smallville was the perfect way in live action to demonstrate how much effort it would take to life something, even if you had super powers.

As to the destruction - well, what do you think would REALLY happen if Superman got into a brawl with another super-powered being? That being said, I found the fight scenes give them too MUCH power, and/or buildings being a little TOO fragile.

Then, there's the controversy of how Superman ended the threat of Zod. I was surprised, as one of the main 'rules' of DC heroes is that they don't kill. Here, it goes more like "Superman doesn't kill....unless he has no other choice." That being said, they could've come up with a few other ways on how to end the threat of Zod.

Overall, I enjoyed Man of Steel. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece like Nolan's Batman Trilogy, or some of the MCU movies, but it was still good. I was glad to finally see Superman punch someone, and fight someone, like he does in the comics. A very solid 7 - 7.5 / 10 movie.

Next up, I'm going to examine....

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Poster

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as it's full title is. We get introduced to this cinematic universe's version of Batman! I gotta say, Ben Affleck 2.0 (the comeback version that has done such great work like The Town and Argo) was perfectly suited as both Bruce Wayne, and as Batman. I'm say saying this, because I'm a lover of both film and comics; and everything to do with Batman in this film feels like a comic book. Nolan opted to show us how hero COULD exist in real life, this version of Batman takes it one step a little further and 'balances' comic book accuracy with how something appears on film. Not that Nolan's wasn't "Comic book accurate", though he strove to make it as "real" as he could. 

As with Man of Steel, there are a few issues with this film.

I will say that this film was a little too dark - but not to the extent that Man of Steel was a little too dark "for Superman." Given with what influences they took from the comics, the "extra" darkness makes sense, stylistically. It is still slightly jarring that our first look at this version of Batman has him at his worst. As in lowest, rock-bottom. Had we gotten a Zack Snyder solo Batman film BEFORE this, it may have made a bit more sense because of that. The film's opening sequence gives a very interesting 'alternate' point of view from the Superman vs Zod fight at the end of Man of Steel. His actions have consequences, and due to his power, may not be well-received.

In Defense of 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

The biggest issue (there's one or two more to go into after this point) is this: Batman v Superman should have been TWO movies: Batman v Superman, which is about what leads to Superman and Batman fighting each other, and then you'd have Dawn of Justice which would be your 'lead-in' to a Justice League movie. Like Spider-Man 3, they tried to do a bit too much in one movie.

Have the first portion of the story be solely about what leads to Superman and Batman fighting each other, and WHY. That should've been done by how these characters feel towards one another, and nothing else. It may even be possible to do this without having Lex Luthor at all in the same film that has them fighting each other. THEY should be each other's villains for this film.

Zack Snyder Posts “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Ultimate Edition  Poster – Superman Homepage

Now, for Dawn of Justice. THIS is the film where you would fit all the material consisting of having Wonder Woman show up, hinting at other heroes, as well as Lex Luthor being a Doctor Frankenstein type role - sure, the doctor may be to be to blame, though what HAPPENS is due to the monster's actions. All that should've been left out and saved for a future film. Ideally, I'd like to seen it go as such: Man of Steel, solo Batman movie, Batman v Superman, Dawn of Justice, then Justice League.

The other issue I had with this film, was the angle and direction they took with Lex. He's a little TOO off the rails, and at times a bit over the top. Something closer to what Michael Rosenbaum did with Lex on Smallville would've been MUCH better.

As a way to segway out of Batman v Superman and to conclude my thoughts on the film, I've got one more thing to say. As someone who likes film, I know that an alternate/different VERSION of a film can improve on it, or even save it. The two best examples I can think of that showcases this is the director's cut of Ben Affleck's Daredevil movie, and the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven. Both of those have been drastically changed and edited from what was intended, to what the cinemas got. The theatrical versions were NOT good. Sure, The Lord of the Rings extended trilogy is magnificent compared to the theatrical edits; though IF there wasn't an extended trilogy, the theatrical edits are STILL really good movies.

So that's how an alternate version can save, or improve on a film. However, much like the extended Hobbit trilogy, the ultimate edition of Batman v Superman is not a "re-edit." it's an "extension." That means, the problems (and bad scenes) that those movies had are still there, though the extra content offers more context.

Now, with my thoughts on alternate versions of movies still fresh in mind, we finally move onto.....

Justice League Movie Poster

Zack Snyder's Justice League. The Justice League that actually released wasn't put together nor finished (in post production, that is) by Zack Snyder. He had to step away, due to his daughter's death. Joss Whedon was brought on to help finish up the film and take it from "footage that we filmed" to "coming next week at your cinema." He might've also taken it even further, by re-shooting parts(most) of it. I didn't follow the films' development too closely, so I'm a little unfamiliar with the finer details. However, he drastically changed the film from what Snyder had intended to the point where it was a totally different movie. Online, fans have been asking (either serious or joking, depending on context) for "them" to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut .

I'm glad that all those involved have LISTENED and are giving the fans what they wanted - the "Snyder Cut." As you can see from the poster above, it'll be debuting on HBO Max in 2021 (Crave, if you're Canadian, and however else you get HBO content if you live elsewhere.). If a physical edition will some day exist is still unclear (well, not known) at this point.

So I'm willing to give Zack Snyder's DC Universe another shot when HIS version of Justice League arrives. I also believe that if one marathons through Man of Steel, the ultimate (forget the theatrical edit even exists) edition of Batman v Superman, and Zack Snyder's Justice League, there will be an incredibly rich cohesiveness across all three.

And now to close....

Yes, I am willing to give the DC Universe another shot, but how about MOST people?? Do they care? It's unfortunate that DC has had a bad streak - the theatrical edit of Batman v Superman being terrible, as well as Lex being a bit....much ("The Red Capes are coming.....The Red Capes are coming!"), the fact that Suicide Squad transformed at least once during production, and that the Joker was utterly ruined and underused, and concluding in the poor reception of the Joss Whedon-finished Justice League.

Which is a shame - as a comic book fan, I WANT these films to be good. However, it just didn't happen. It is probably too late to maintain DC's and Snyder's original vision of the cinematic universe, however, hopefully, from the wreckage a gem will emerge in the form of Zack Synder's Justice Legue.

We'll see if enough people care by then.

August 4, 2020

The Chronicles of Narnia 15th Anniversary Request

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On December 9 of this year, the first Narnia film turns 15. To celebrate the occasion, I have a request for Disney.

For limited time, Disney put out a 4-disc edition extended edition on DVD, very similar to The Lord of the Rings extended editions. However, this only got released on DVD. For the 15th anniversary celebration, I think it would be great if Disney re-issued it on blu-ray, 4K blu-ray, and on Disney+. This would be a great time to revisit this set, though in HD & 4K. After all, DVDs don't look good on an HD screen, and even less so on a 4K one.

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For Disney+, the special features could go under the "extras" section, as well as the ability to choose between the theatrical edition or the extended edition of the film.

The official product description reads:

"Journey into the world of Narnia and share with your loved ones the most magical 4-disc DVD masterpiece ever! Venture deeper into a beloved fantasy world with this extended four-disc collection that presents the original motion picture featuring new and expanded scenes, enhanced special effects, and an extended climactic battle scene added by director Andrew Adamson. Experience hours of extensive bonus material including an exclusive world-premiere, feature-length film about C.S. Lewis, the creative mind behind Narnia. Enjoy a vivid and in-depth companion guidebook. Plus, visualize the complete production process -- from green screen to big screen -- with an additional state-of-the-art special feature."

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The contents of the extended edition are:

DISC 1:

- Extended edition of the film
- Director's introduction
- Bloopers
- Narnia Fun Facts
- Kids commentary & director commentary
- Pop-up text commentary

DISC 2:

- Featurette: "Chronicles of a Director"
- Featurette: "The Children's Magical Journey"
- Featurettes: "Evolution of an Epic"
- Featurette: "Creatures of the World" -
- Interactive Map: "Explore Narnia"
- Interactive Timeline: "Legends in Time"

DISC 3:

- Documentary: "C. S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia"

DISC 4:

- Documentary: "Visualizing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience"
- Featurette: "Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle"
- Galleries: "Art of Narnia"

Whether or not Disney heeds my request, I'll be streaming the film on December 9 in celebration of its anniversary, as well as listen to the soundtrack later on that day.

July 22, 2020

Unfinished Tales 40th Anniversary Illustrated Limited Edition Revealed






The artwork for the Unfinished Tales 40th Anniversary Illustrated Slipcased Collector's Edition has *finally* been revealed!

From the looks of things:

- Ted Nasmith's 'The Blue Wizards Journeying East' is being used for the illustrated slipcase
- John Howe's Black Rider (rear of the standard edition dustjacket) is used on the cover of the book
- Chances are, Alan Lee's new illustration of the Numenorean ship will be used as a (foldout?) frontispiece. (Typically, whatever image the dustjacket of the standard edition uses is replicated as a frontispiece with its corresponding slipcasd collector's edition.)

Remember, this is a UK edition, so you're best off ordering off Blackwell's, Waterstones, or The Book Depository.

ISBN: 9780008387969

"Sumptuous, 40th anniversary collector’s edition of this collection of tales which takes readers further into the stories told in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, featuring 18 full-colour paintings depicting scenes from the First, Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth, and housed in a matching illustrated slipcase.

Unfinished Tales is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and provides those who have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with a whole collection of background and new stories.

The book concentrates on the realm of Middle-earth and comprises such elements as The Quest of Erebor, Gandalf’s lively account of how it was that he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End; the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand; and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan.

Unfinished Tales also contains the only story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about such matters as the Five Wizards, the Palantíri and the legend of Amroth. The tales were edited by Christopher Tolkien, who provides a short commentary on each story, helping the reader to fill in the gaps and put each story into the context of the rest of his father’s writings.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, this new edition features 18 stunning paintings from critically acclaimed Tolkien artists, Alan Lee, John Howe & Ted Nasmith, which reveal the three Ages of Middle-earth like never before. This special collector’s edition is printed on superior quality paper, features a unique special binding and ribbon marker and is housed in a custom-made, fully illustrated slipcase."

And more info:

"
Featuring 18 stunning paintings and five pencil drawings from critically acclaimed Tolkien artists, Alan Lee, John Howe & Ted Nasmith, it celebrates the three Ages of Middle-earth like never before. This clothbound collector’s edition is printed in two colours on heavyweight acid-free paper, with a ribbon marker, and is housed in a custom-made, fully illustrated slipcase. It also includes not one but two removable foldout posters printed in full colour that are exclusive to this special edition. Limited to a worldwide first printing of just 4,000 copies, this will be an item to treasure and one which does full justice to J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical text so masterfully edited by his son, Christopher."

June 18, 2020

Unfinished Tales 40th Anniversary Illustrated Edition Cover Reveal

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At long last, HarperCollins has revealed the cover art for the upcoming 40th anniversary illustrated edition of Unfinished Tales.

As you can see from the above image, it'll 'match', design and measurement-wise with The Great Tales books (The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin) and the forthcoming new editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (as 3 books).

There will be a slipcased collector's edition as well, though no image for that one yet.





I was hoping that the above image ("The Blue Wizards Journeying East" from Ted Nasmith) would be used for the cover, going by the fact that it will be used for the 2021 Calendar. I still like the Alan Lee cover art, though I guess I got my hopes too high.

Expect this edition to come out October of this year. US fans, yes, you'll be getting it as well, though from Houghton Mifflin.

Here's the info for the standard edition. I'll provide it again on publication day, as the next post relating to this will be for the slipcased collector's edition. The publication day post will feature info for both formats, as well as a last-call for the calendar. The calendars aren't usually hard to come by - if you order them fast. I think there's only one print run. 

ISBN: 9780008387952

"To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the first ever illustrated edition of this collection of tales which takes readers further into the stories told in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, featuring 18 full-colour paintings depicting scenes from the First, Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth.

Unfinished Tales is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and provides those who have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with a whole collection of background and new stories.

The book concentrates on the realm of Middle-earth and comprises such elements as The Quest of Erebor, Gandalf’s lively account of how it was that he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End; the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand; and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan.

Unfinished Tales also contains the only story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about such matters as the Five Wizards, the Palantíri and the legend of Amroth. The tales were edited by Christopher Tolkien, who provides a short commentary on each story, helping the reader to fill in the gaps and put each story into the context of the rest of his father’s writings.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, this new edition features 18 stunning paintings from critically acclaimed Tolkien artists, Alan Lee, John Howe & Ted Nasmith, which reveal the three Ages of Middle-earth like never before."

Here is also an extract from the official J.R.R. Tolkien facebook page about Christopher Tolkien and the role he played in his father's legacy:

"The working relationship between father and son was lifelong and unique. An editor since he was 5 years old, catching inconsistencies in his father’s bedtime tales, Christopher was promised by his father tuppence for every mistake he noticed in The Hobbit; as a young man he was typing up manuscripts and drawing maps of Middle-earth, and around the time Christopher was commissioned an officer in the RAF in 1945, Tolkien was already calling his son ‘my chief critic and collaborator’.

For Christopher’s entire life, his father’s legendarium had been an essential part of his world. He himself said: ‘As strange as it may seem, I grew up in the world he created. For me, the cities of The Silmarillion are more real than Babylon.’ And as Tolkien realized that he would not personally be able to bring his life’s work to a publishable conclusion he and Christopher discussed in close detail how this might eventually be achieved. Christopher diligently followed his father’s wishes and The Silmarillion was published in 1977, just four years after his father’s death. It was an international bestseller, selling more than one million copies in the UK alone.

Having retired as Fellow and Tutor at Oxford in the same field of medieval English and philology as his father, Christopher would now dedicate his time to sharing his father’s work with the world, and this meant sorting through 70 boxes of disordered papers and manuscripts which he had taken with him as he and his family began a new life in France. Contained within these boxes was a tangled treasure-house of notes, drafts, alternative versions of tales and much besides that had been seen by J.R.R. Tolkien alone.

Unpacking these boxes was a voyage of discovery that would reconnect Christopher with his father, and it was a connection that would ultimately absorb him for the rest of his life. But his first, most important task was to present to a growing and more discerning audience further tales that would expand their appreciation and enjoyment of Middle-earth. Unlike The Silmarillion, here Christopher had sole responsibility for which stories would be included, which version of their numerous drafts would be favoured and how much editorial intrusion would be allowed in order to achieve a publishable text – equally significantly, here for the first time Christopher would allow his own voice to be heard alongside his father’s as he gave readers a privileged insight into the complex editorial process, while at the same time revealing fascinating historical and explanatory notes that J.R.R. Tolkien had made when writing the stories. For anyone who had lost themselves in the tales of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this new collection – modestly titled Unfinished Tales – was a precious gift indeed, and one that could only have been made possible thanks to the tireless dedication and talent of Christopher Tolkien.

Christopher would continue his quiet, scholarly endeavours for the next four decades, producing many further volumes that have enriched our understanding of Middle-earth, from his monumental 12-volume History through to the three books that would be the capstone to his literary achievement: The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin.

As well, unique in his capacities as a scholar in both Middle-earth and the academic field he shared with his father, he also produced editions of J.R.R Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth works: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún and The Fall of Arthur.

It is impossible not to feel the weight of the legacy Christopher Tolkien has borne. He never wrote any Middle-earth stories of his own – just editing The Silmarillion gave him nightmares of his father’s disapproval. However, he was in 2016 awarded the prestigious Bodley Medal by the University of Oxford in recognition of his ‘outstanding contribution to the world of literature, culture, science and communication’. And with the publication of this new edition of Unfinished Tales we have an opportunity to re-enter the unique world of Middle-earth and marvel anew at the literary brilliance of both Tolkiens, father and son."

March 18, 2020

"Order of the Phoenix" House Editions Coming



The House Editions of Order of the Phoenix, 5 out of 7 in the Harry Potter series, will be published on June 11. As was tradition before, the houses are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. The hardbacks will have a block dustjacket, while the paperbacks will be coloured according to house. I got officially sorted into Slytherin, so my post is in regards to the hardback Slytherin edition. Here is the official synopsis:

"Let the magic of J.K. Rowling's classic Harry Potter series transport you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Slytherin House Edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its pride, ambition and cunning. Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts is packed with more great Slytherin moments and characters, including Harry's eventful Occlumency lessons with Severus Snape and the inauspicious arrival of Professor Dolores Umbridge .

Each Slytherin House Edition features vibrant sprayed edges and intricate silver foiling. The Order's iconic phoenix symbol rises from the flames at the very centre of the front cover, framed by stunning iconography of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the historic Black family residence. In addition to a bespoke introduction, the book also includes new illustrations by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Levi Pinfold, including an imposing portrait of Slytherin alumna Dolores Umbridge. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, 'Better be SLYTHERIN!'"

Expect the House editions of Half-Blood Prince (house coloured hardback dustjackets, black paperbacks) to come out approximately six months after Order of the Phoenix); and Deathly Hallows (black hardback dustjackets, house coloured paperbacks) to come out approximately six months after Half-Blood Prince. That is, if, of course, the pattern holds.

March 4, 2020

"Unfinished Tales" Illustrated Edition + 2021 Calendar Ordering Info



Very recently, it was announced that there would be a forthcoming illustrated edition of Unfinished Tales, as well who the artists would be for the 2021 Tolkien Calendar. It was assumed - and it turned out to be true - that the calendar will be based on the forthcoming edition.

Here in one spot are ordering links for the upcoming releases, as this information has come out over time. I will update with cover art, etc, once revealed. I'd be willing to bet that the image I've used for this post ("The Blue Wizards Journeying East" by Ted Nasmith) will be the cover of the standard edition, and possibly appear as a frontispiece in the deluxe edition.

- Unfinished Tales illustrated edition (standard hardback) : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0008387958/?coliid=I2XHCI1JCKVYK5&colid=2H2WN2XWM72NV&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
- Unfinished Tales illustrated edition (deluxe edition) : https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9780008387969
- 2021 Tolkien Calendar : https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9780008387747

I give special mention Blackwell's, as Tolkien himself was a frequent customer there, and he and Basil were neighbours! Prices may go down closer to publication date (possibly when the cover images are released).

Here is the official Tolkien facebook page's announcement:

It was 40 years ago that Unfinished Tales was first published, taking readers on an enchanted journey deeper into Middle-earth, from the First Age of The Silmarillion, the Second Age of Númenor and the rise of Sauron, to the Third Age of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Contained within are magical tales by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by his son, Christopher, that expand the world of these beloved books.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, we are hugely excited to announce that Unfinished Tales is for the very first time going to be illustrated, by not one but three of the finest Tolkien artists in the world. John Howe, Alan Lee & Ted Nasmith will each be contributing brand new paintings that depict the Three Ages of Middle-earth in glorious colour. This new edition will be published in October 2020 and will feature 18 full-colour paintings together with a stunning brand-new dustjacket. There will also be a special collector’s edition housed in a fully illustrated slipcase.
If you can’t wait until October, this year’s official Tolkien Calendar will showcase a gallery of new and classic paintings from Ted, John and Alan depicting scenes from Unfinished Tales, and will be published in September.

March 3, 2020

2021 Tolkien Calendar Details



The details of the 2021 Tolkien Calendar have been revealed! I had a feeling it would be centered around the upcoming illustrated edition of Unfinished Tales. The cover, 'The Blue Wizards Journeying East' by Ted Nasmith, was previously seen as the cover for a paperback in 2010. Slight speculation: I believe that the image used as the calendar's cover will also be the image used for the cover of the illustrated edition of Unfinished Tales. Oh and for the deluxe, it would appear as the frontispiece.


"The official Tolkien calendar, this year containing twelve stunning paintings inspired by the stories collected in UNFINISHED TALES by J.R.R. Tolkien. Three of the world’s finest Tolkien artists present the Three Ages of Middle-earth in breathtaking glory.
The official Tolkien calendar has become an established publishing event, eagerly anticipated by Tolkien fans the world over. Previous Tolkien calendars have become much sought after collector’s items, and this year’s will doubtless be an essential purchase for Middle-earth fans everywhere, as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of UNFINISHED TALES.

To commemorate this special occasion three of the world’s finest Tolkien artists – Ted Nasmith, John Howe, and Alan Lee – have each contributed four full-colour artworks to the Calendar. To accompany each painting, every month features complementary pencil drawings or sketches selected by the artists which are exclusive to this calendar.

In this unique artistic combination, Alan, John and Ted present scenes from the First Age of THE SILMARILLION, the Second Age of Númenor and the fall of Sauron, and the Third Age of THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which take the reader deeper into the world of Middle-earth than ever before."

ISBN is 9780008387747, so be sure to order it off of Amazon UK or Blackwell's.

February 29, 2020

Unfinished Tales Illustrated Editions Coming




It has been revealed that there will be a new, illustrated, edition of Unfinished Tales.

It will feature artwork by Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee and John Howe. As of this post, I am unsure if they will be new illustrations, or a compilation of their existing material.

I'm guessing the size dimensions will be the 'standard' size; and not over-sized like The Lord of the Rings 60th anniversary illustrated edition or Jemima Catlin's illustrated Hobbit (reg or deluxe).

The info below follows. Also, remember that these are UK editions, and as such, should be ordered off Amazon UK, Blackwell's or Waterstones for example:

Illustrated Hardback (Standard Edition)

Published: Oct. 1
ISBN: 9780008387952

Illustrated Hardback (Special Slipcased Deluxe Edition)

Published: Oct. 1
ISBN: 9780008387969

Once more info is revealed (cover art, synopsis reflecting these editions, and possibly size dimensions) I'll relay the info here.

Two parting thoughts:

1) it can be assumed that the 2021 Tolkien Calendar will have artwork based off these new editions

2) While this edition won't be illustrated, the cover image could change reflecting the style of the new editions. As of now, it says "Image Coming Soon" : https://www.tolkien.co.uk/products/unfinished-tales-j-r-r-tolkien-9780261102163/ .

More info coming soon, once I know more...

(image used in this post is "The Blue Wizards Journeying East" by Ted Nasmith, and was used as the cover image for the paperback edition of Unfinished Tales in 2010. It was copied directly from his website to this post.)

February 19, 2020

Sir Gawain Deluxe Edition Unveiled


The details of the forthcoming deluxe edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (which also includes Pearl and Sir Orfeo) have been revealed.

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Publication date: April 20
ISBN: 9780008393625

"This elegant deluxe slipcased edition of three medieval English poems, translated by Tolkien for the modern-day reader and containing romance, tragedy, love, sex and honour, features a beautifully decorated text and includes as a bonus the complete text of Tolkien’s acclaimed lecture on Sir Gawain.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl are two poems by an unknown author written in about 1400. Sir Gawain is a romance, a fairy-tale for adults, full of life and colour; but it is also much more than this, being at the same time a powerful moral tale which examines religious and social values.
Pearl is apparently an elegy on the death of a child, a poem pervaded with a sense of great personal loss: but, like Gawain it is also a sophisticated and moving debate on much less tangible matters.
Sir Orfeo is a slighter romance, belonging to an earlier and different tradition. It was a special favourite of Tolkien’s.

The three translations represent the complete rhyme and alliterative schemes of the originals, and are uniquely accompanied in this special deluxe slipcased edition with the complete text of Tolkien’s acclaimed 1953 W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture that he delivered on Sir Gawain."

Updated Info on the Forthcoming The Hobbit + The Lord of the Rings Illustrated Editions

I had previously reported that HarperCollins will be (re)publishing Alan Lee's illustrated editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In this post, I'll provide the cover art, ISBN info (key to ordering those exact copies) and the official product description. Remember that these are UK editions - the US won't be getting them. Buy from Amazon UK, Blackwell's, Waterstones, etc using the ISBN's to ensure you get them. 

THE HOBBIT

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ISBN: 9780008376116
Publication date: May 14

"A great modern classic and the prelude to The Lord of the Rings.

Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, almost dead and dark, with scarcely a snore more than a whiff of unseen steam, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance!

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a band of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by a wealth of beautiful watercolour paintings and delicate pencil drawings from Alan Lee."

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

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ISBN: 9780008376123
Publication date: May 14

"The Fellowship of the Ring is the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by nineteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

THE TWO TOWERS

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ISBN: 9780008376130
Publication date: May 14

"The Two Towers is the second part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Frodo and the Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in the battle with an evil spirit in the Mines of Moria; and at the Falls of Rauros, Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape the rest of the company were attacked by Orcs.

Now they continue their journey alone down the great River Anduin – alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.
The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by sixteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

THE RETURN OF THE KING

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ISBN: 9780008376147
Publication date: May 14

"The Return of the King is the third part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

The Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures as the quest continues. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and took part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by orcs, escaped into Fangorn Forest and there encountered the Ents.

Gandalf returned, miraculously, and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo progressed towards Mordor to destroy the Ring, accompanied by Sméagol–Gollum, still obsessed by his ‘preciouss’. After a battle with the giant spider, Shelob, Sam left his master for dead; but Frodo is still alive – in the hands of the orcs. And all the time the armies of the Dark Lord are massing.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by fifteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

Boxed set:

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ISBN: 9780008376109
Publication date: May 14

"Boxed gift set of Tolkien’s classic masterpieces, fully illustrated throughout in watercolour by the acclaimed and award-winning artist, Alan Lee, Conceptual Designer on Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT films.

Since they were first published, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been two books people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, these works of sweeping fantasy have touched the hearts of young and old alike. Between them, nearly 150 million copies have been sold around the world. And no editions have proved more popular than the two that were illustrated by award-winning artist, Alan Lee – the Centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings and the 60th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

Now, the new hardback editions of these beautifully illustrated works have been collected together into one boxed set of four books. Readers will be able to follow the complete story of the Hobbits and their part in the quest for the Ring – beginning with Bilbo’s fateful visit from Gandalf and culminating in the dramatic climax between Frodo and Gollum atop Mount Doom – while also enjoying over seventy full-page colour paintings and numerous illustrations which accompany this epic tale."

Thoughts:

These look to be quite lovely! I always thought that a one-book illustrated edition of The Lord  of the Rings to be utterly stupid - how do the publishers expect readers to read the book? It's too impractical! A one-book edition of The Lord of the Rings without illustrations is cumbersome as it is! With illustrations, 3 books makes much more sense.

The covers of The Lord of the Rings books is exactly the same as the 1992 illustrated hardbacks by Alan Lee. The Hobbit, meanwhile, always showed Alan Lee's Smaug on the cover. I wish that the covers of these, were also the same images used previously for the illustrated editions: Smaug for The Hobbit, Dwarrowdelf for The Fellowship of the Ring, Orthanc for The Two Towers and Minas Tirith for The Return of the King.

These also look to match Alan Lee's Great Tales hardbacks (The Children of Hurin , Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin). Because of this (and the size dimensions), these will not be 'oversized' hardbacks, but rather standard hardback size. Also, I have a feeling that it will be a 'mix' of paper type - standard for text and any pencil sketches, with photo-paper ('plates') used for the illustrations. Speaking of illustrations, I'm also curious if The Fellowship of the Ring illustrated frontispiece illustration of the Nazgul will appear as a three-page foldout sheet, the way it did for the 60th anniversary illustrated one-book edition. And, to go further, could we also expect foldout maps? The Children of Hurin and The Fall of Gondolin had them - but not Beren and Luthien for some stupid reason.

These questions will be answered in time once these books are published and we've had a chance to look at them.

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...but what about The Silmarillion?

The Silmarillion was illustrated by Ted Nasmith, rather than by Alan Lee. In 1998, the original edition appeared with 18 illustrations Then, in 2004, a second edition appeared with about 50 illustrations - I think the exact number was 48. There was also a paperback edition in 2008 which had some, but not all, the illustrations - 16 in total. But, why I mention The Silmarillion is this - there's no new 'matching' edition to go with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! The oversized edition from 2004 is still in print/back in print, though due to the size dimensions; it won't 'match' with the new editions The Hobbit and Th Lord of the Rings.

Another thing to think of, if there was a matching edition of The Silmarillion which one would it be? These editions of The Lord of the Rings appear to be quite similar to the original ones from 1992. Would The Silmarillion be similar to the 1998 edition ('Maglor Casts a Silmaril into the Sea' as the cover, and has 18 illustrations), the 2004 edition ('White Ships to Valinor' as the cover, 48 illustrations) or the 2008 paperback ('Ships of the Faithful' as the cover, 16 illustrations)? One final thing to bear in mind is this - the editions from 1998 and 2008 featured a mix of paper (regular for text, photo style for the illustrations), while the 2004 edition was printed entirely on photo paper (like the 2002 illustrated editions of The Lord of the Rings); thus allowing the capability to include more images.