I casually came across this while trying to dig up a release date on *Nijigahara Holograph (no dice there… yet). It’s mostly comprised of dudes who haven’t seen a razor in six months and their cats. I’m kind of disappointed there’s not one shot of a guy reading a book on the jon. James Kolchalka, I’m looking at you.
Fantagraphic’s output has gotten better as of late. Honestly, outside of Peanuts reprints and the oversize floppies they did with Coconino Press, they were in a real rut. I’m still trying to erase Percy Bloom out of my head.
I have Black Lung checked out of the library but haven’t read it yet. It looks great. I’m looking forward to Ed Piskor’s new hip hop book.
I can’t believe I’m typing this but Picturebox is putting out a book I’d like to own, **So Long, Silver Screen by Blutch.
So … some movie folks I know are no-shit making a movie called Bong of the Living Dead.
The group is collectively known as Backward Slate. There’s a Kickstarter, and some storyboards:
This week there’s a Bong of the Living Dead Q&A in Columbus Alive.
It’s a really strong character piece that people will identify with, not just for the love of zombies — everyone wants zombies to take over deep down — but also the likable characters.
That’s right, you know people who know people who made Sad Kermit.
***This post has minor spoilers for a show you’re probably never going to watch.***
My wife and I were both tired and a bit hungover, and our daughter was off with her grandparents. So it was the perfect time to start watching “Once Upon A Time” on Netflix.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched the whole first season and four episodes of the current season. I’m not going to try to tell you it’s a great show, but it’s entertaining enough. And it’s really interesting how they try to bring genre fiction to a mass audience.
First, the background: The show starts as the Evil Queen busts up the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming, promising a curse that will destroy fairyland and take away everyone’s happily-ever-afters. Rumpelstiltskin tells Snow White & Prince Charming their only hope is to send their infant daughter through a portal in a wardrobe, and when she’s 28 she’ll return to break the Curse.
So far, so good.
The curse hits, and all the storybook characters are sent to a small town called Storybrooke, Maine. They have no memory of their past lives, and the Evil Queen is now Mayor Regina Mills. The daughter (Emma) is working as a bail bonds-person in Boston, but she’s found by *her* son Henry, who she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Her son has somehow been adopted by Mayor Regina.
So what happens is you have small-town, low-stakes drama intercut with scenes of high adventure from the fairy land. In the real world, Emma and the Mayor butt heads over their son and municipal politics. Snow White and Prince Charming try to find each other, but the Curse made sure Charming was married to someone else.
The show sets itself some structural problems from the beginning.
1. It’s never sure how evil the villains are. Mayor Regina switches from scheming small-town politician to Evil Queen to decent (if overbearing) mother several times during the season, depending on what the writers need that week. Mayor Mills is more of a soap-opera villain, who lives in the community and has shifting alliances, rather than a sci-fi-style Big Bad who must be defeated.
2. The “real world” drama doesn’t quite stand on its own. Prince Charming is basically deciding whether to cheat on his wife with Snow White. Mayor Regina has a point about being Henry’s mother. The drama gets its deeper meaning in the fairytale flashbacks, but on its own it seems unearned.
3. The whole first season is basically “the heroes figure out the problem.” In a standalone piece of fiction, that’s the boring part in Act IV.
The show has a couple of things going for it.
1. Like I say, it’s interesting to see a mass-audience take on the fantasy genre. The fairy tale characters use normal vernacular, except on special occasions. If you’re used to the full Tolkein, it probably feels watered down.
2. But they do play it more-or-less straight. The Evil Queen sure is evil, and True Love’s Kiss really is the greatest magic of all. The show attempts to update fairy tales (Snow White becomes a bandit queen), but it isn’t interested in deconstructing them. You know how I hate that.
3. At the same time, the villains aren’t totally evil. Both the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin get origin stories that show how they turned bad, and they both have paths to redemption they can choose to take. They’re trying to update the fairy tale, rather than subvert it.
4. I’m not going to say you have to be a better actor to pull off genre work, but it’s definitely a specialized skill set.
The performances are pretty good. Lana Parilla is great as the Evil Queen (I’ve been a fan of hers since Swingtown) although she struggles as the writers whip her character around. Jennifer Morrison is probably the weak link as Emma, although her character has to tread water for a long time. Josh Dallas plays Prince Charming as a noble, romantic hero that you could still have a beer with. And Ginnifer Goodwin? What else can I say about Ginnifer Goodwin?
The standout here is Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin. He plays Rumpelstiltskin with three parts Big Bad, two parts trickster god, one part Jim Carrey and one part leprechaun. His dark imp is grounded by his intense performance as Mr. Gold, his “real world” alter ego. If you see only one episode, make it a Rumpelstiltskin showcase like “The Price of Gold” or “Skin Deep.”
We’re four episodes into Season 2, and so far it’s been on an upswing. The curse is broken, the fairytale characters remember who they are, and the plot is moving. Prince Charming is now a hero, rather than a guy who’s cheating on his wife, and Emma and Snow White are swashbuckling across the fairy land. They’ve brought in Captain Hook and the Evil Queen’s mother as bigger Big Bads.
I think they’re moving more into fantasy territory, rather than a genre piece lashed to a small-town drama. As a genre fan, I think it’s a good move.
I’m not going to tell you it’s a great show, but if you have a hole in your Netflix queue (and you’re tired and hungover), you could do worse.
Ohmigosh … what if Disney just rebooted Star Wars, the way Paramount did with Star Trek or Warners does with Batman?
For some reason, the thought of rebooting Star Wars offends me more than rebooting those other franchises, which is weird because I’m a bigger fan of Star Trek & Batman than Star Wars. I guess I’m used to new versions of Batman and Star Trek coming out periodically.
In the meantime, enjoy this clip from the 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars series. That’s basically the last time I enjoyed new Star Wars content (I’m making no statements on the quality of new Star Wars stuff; I just stopped following it after Episode 3.)
Pajiba.com has an essay out complaining about “darkness,” “grittiness” and “realism” being used as shortcuts for “moral complexity.”
They give a shout out to the comix industry, but they spend more time tracing the phenomenon in other media. So maybe we can let Alan Moore off the hook a little bit — perhaps it was just in the air?
It took me several pages to figure out what’s different about Shadow No. 7: First-person narration.
Nothing kills mystery like first-person narration.
Shadow 7 starts out with the Shadow temporarily losing his poorly defined powers, and failing to stop a mugging.
He travels to the Mysterious Orient, where he confronts the man who killed his old masters. And, as he puts it, it “bites me in the ass.”
The story continues into Shadow No. 8, where he follows gets into some random adventures in prewar Europe. He’s possibly looking for the killers of a pair of scientists, but the Shadow himself doesn’t even know. As he says, “I have little idea what I expect to find. I’m simply following a trail of bread crumbs fate has tossed haphazardly over its shoulder.”
As part of his new status as an “agent of fate,” he’s collecting clues left by fate, like some kind of two-gun Sam Beckett.
I know how I feel about it. It’s so wrong, I can’t even tell you.
I can see and appreciate what writer Victor Gischler is attempting to do: He’s trying to turn the Shadow into a character, with hopes, fears, an origin and motivation. As he says at the end of No. 7, “There can be no Shadow without a man to cast it.”
I realize I’m violating the laws of fiction, Stan Lee, Scriptwriting 101 and all that Save the Cat jazz, but the Shadow is not a character. He’s a mysterious avenger of crime, who operates under his own motives, whose methods are obscure, and whose origins are known only to him. He can suffer setbacks, or make mistakes, but he never fails. He’s the Master. He is the grim avenger Bruce Wayne pretends to be. He knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
The Shadow is so not a character, that his original pulp writer, Walter Gibson would typically include a “proxy hero” so the audience would have someone to relate to while the Shadow was being mysterious. In Gerard Jones’ excellent Shadow Strikes series from the 1990s,the focus was typically on the supporting cast and the Depression-era milieu in which the Shadow operated. He’s just not a character.
(OK, the Shadow was a little bit a character in the radio series and the Alec Baldwin movie. But not much, and he never had a first-person narration. Nothing kills mystery like first-person narration.)
I’m not trying to say that Shadow 7-8 are bad comics. From a straight quality standpoint, they’re pretty good. If they starred Batman or the Green Hornet, I’d be a fan.
But to me, there is no man. There’s just the Shadow.
I was two weeks late picking up my copy of Batman No. 13, and I don’t keep up on the comix news that much. Thus I was a little dismayed to see the die-cut cover.
“I hear that’s selling for $20 bucks on eBay,” said the lady behind the counter.
I smiled and nodded, but inside I thought, “Cripes, are we doing this again?”
I read the comic on the bus ride home. It’s well-constructed, and I’m on record as a fan of Scott Snyder’s. But the whole Joker-with-face-cut off is just a little too “Se7en” for me, and I am a little short on cash.
So I put it on eBay.
It was on eBay for a week, with a reserve price of $10. No takers. Part of me is sad it didn’t sell, but part of me is a little relieved.
The Shadow No. 6, the finale of Garth Ennis’ run, starts in the second-most metal way possible:
Then the Shadow humiliates a CIA man, blows up half an army, and routs the enemy. Then it ends in the No. 1 most metal way possible.
But I can’t help but be a little disappointed in this. The Shadow uses his ability to “see fate” (which Ennis just gave him) to predict that Kondo will be in the wrong place at the wrong time, five years in the future. The Shadow I know would never let a villain run that long. There are basically three fitting ends to a Shadow villain:
- Killed in collapse of headquarters/explosion of machinery.
- Driven to madness, falls of a cliff/building.
- Under the Master’s guns.
This is a nerd curse: The need to define things not just as “good” or “bad,” but “right” or “wrong.” Overall, I’m going to give the Garth Ennis run a solid B.
Shadow No. 6 is followed up by Shadow Annual No. 1, which is possibly the most disappointing Shadow comic book story done in the last 40 years. The Master faces down three children, possessed by an ancient evil, who have mind-control and pyrokinetic powers.
The writer again uses the “see fate” power, with the Shadow referring to himself as an “agent of fate.” The “see fate” power is a pretty radical departure for the Shadow, and takes him way out of his wheelhouse. The Shadow has always had an element of the supernatural, but it’s always more of a “one step beyond” variety. The concept doesn’t hold up under this level of practical magic.
The next issue blurb says the Shadow’s power fails him while stopping a mugging, and he travels to the Far East to reconnect with his old masters. “As always, the Shadow faces danger … but he must also look within himself.”
I haven’t read it, so it might be phenomenal. But it’s certainly the worst-sounding idea for a Shadow story since the Archie Comics Shadow series. Sigh.
A few months ago, someone asked if I was going to pick up the Dr. Who/Star Trek crossover, going on now from IDW. And I answered them with the geekiest thing I could possibly say:
“Not my Doctor … and not my Trek.”
Call me when Kirk meets David Tennant … or, better yet, Jon Pertwee.
Seriously, I want to throw myself into a locker and take my lunch money right now.
I’ve just finished an amazing dream sequence for the upcoming graphic novel Persia Blues, written by Dara and drawn by yours truly. This is how I did it. (Not really a tutorial exactly but more of a show and tell)
First i looked at the script and i did my breakdowns and thumbnails.
Now I’ll show you all the pencils compared to the inks. These pages are done in the “here” part of the story, which is the fantasy world. So I’m using inks, inkwash, markers, and pencils.
I used a real photo of a persian rug for the rug in panel 2, tweaking it in Photoshop and dropping it in as a texture. Same thing with the stars in Minoo’s hair.
This is a double page spread. Added my standard cloud background and some spots for the White Demon. And some stars. but actually very little photoshop on this one. You may notice a few changes from the pencil stage to the finished art. Particularly with the warrior figure on the far right. i just wasn’t happy with the figure. So i fixed it. I’m happy with the results.
I drew the crowd scene on a different piece of paper and just added it in when I was done. Also used my standard cloud background. (Years ago I drew a full sheet of clouds in pencil and I was so happy with it and unable to replicate it that i just keep using it over and over again as a background.
Anyway that’s it. I’m lovong this project. All feedback is appreciated.
And y’all check out our kickstarter project Dara’s working on it as we speak.
Oh and as a side note here is my cloud background. made it back in 2004 or 2005 for some unfinished project or another. I call it “stormy weather”. Now that you know about you will see it in my work ALL the time.
This is more of a comment than a post, but I needed a post, so here we are. On the last thread, we’re debating what allows a genre film to succeed, even despite major plot holes. Dara brought up the Fifth Element:
The Fifth Element is a good example of what I’m talking about. It’s by no means a “great” movie, and certainly not a deep science fiction story, but what sets it apart is its bombastic Moebius-designed look and feel, its soundtrack, its tongue-in-cheek presentation style, and other small touches (I particularly liked the casting of, let’s just say “not Hollywood attractive” character actors in all the roles save for Milla Jovovich). If that same movie was made in a more “standard” Hollywood model, you’d get an utterly forgettable by-the-numbers flick like Independence day.
I think this gets close to explaining that X-factor. The Fifth Element definitely has “quality,” in the sense that someone thought it through, clearly gave a shit about the small details, and made some interesting choices.
One of the knocks against genre films is that their fans that don’t particularly care if they’re “good.” This stereotype is not limited to sci-fi/comix fans. Rom-com fans just like rom-coms, and they’ll sit through any ol’ piece of Kate Hudson-Jennifer Aniston-Katherine Heigl dreck just to get the fix.
But one of the things sci-fi/comix movies have is “ideas.” A sci-fi movie should “make you think.” Not in the sense that Color Purple makes you think about racism and sexuality, but in the sense of “wouldn’t it be cool if – ?”
OK, that didn’t get me very close to the X-factor. But, hopefully it gives us “something to think about.”
I saw Looper the other day, and I liked it. Good action, nice (but unobtrusive) world-building, solid performances, and enough of the weird to keep it interesting. There’s one casting choice in there that makes so much sense I can’t believe no one thought of it before now.
It’s got some major-league plot holes, and the premise has some big flaws, and I’m pretty sure it contradicts itself big-time at the end. Maybe someone smarter than me can explain the mechanics of that ending, considering the rules they set up at the beginning.
Almost every geek movie I’ve seen this year has had the same issues — especially the good ones. The internet has spent more time trying to decipher Prometheus that it has talking about it, and Dark Knight has some serious issues, too. I think Avengers succeeds primarily because it manages not to fall down and vomit on itself.
And yet … I report enjoying Dark Knight, Prometheus and Looper. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
So here’s my question: How many flaws can a movie have before they reduce your enjoyment? How much nonsense are you willing to tolerate to see your favorite characters? Has a lifetime of reading comics made you come to expect a certain amount of slapdash storytelling?
In each of those three cases, the movie had an X-factor that carried me past the flaws. Prometheus has a sense of grandeur, a sense of probing the big issues, and some amazing production values. Ditto for Dark Knight. Looper succeeds through the strength of its lead performances, its world-building, and the ability to show me something I haven’t quite seen before.
So I’m happy, but not satisfied. I want my geek movies (particularly my sci-fi) to show me something new, and do it with a baseline level of internal consistency.
Can’t anybody here play this game? Or do I just have to watch John Carter again?