10/31/2012

Kerry Callen animates Jack Kirby



Go to: May Contain Content by Kerry Callen to see these Fantastic Four panels in motion (via Mark Kardwell)

10/30/2012

Super Endorsements for 2012




Go to: Every Day is Like Wednesday by J. Caleb Mozzocco

I probably should also mention Joss Whedon's backhanded endorsement of Mitt Romney, since it's been making the rounds on all the comics blogs. Better brush up on your parkour, just in case.

10/28/2012

Komikon 2012

The Philippine comic industry's largest flea market held its annual Fall event yesterday. I didn't plan to attend, but was able to drop by during the morning rush. I didn't stay long, didn't purchase much, or take many photos, So I don't have much to say. Komikon was held at the Bayanihan Center again, and I noticed some changes to the event this year. Here are a few hasty observations:

Komikon has always had problems facilitating smooth foot traffic, even in the Bayanihan Center. The exhibitor tables are placed too close together. This year, they tried to alleviate some of this by exiling some of their exhibitors to the smaller conference rooms, namely the Indie Tiangge (Indie Comics) and Komiks Kalye (Artists Alley) sections. And the event still felt like it was at capacity.

I still don't see the point of Komiks Kalye, other than to sell pricey sketches. See my comments from last year.

Seriously, every nook and cranny of the building was being used for something. A whole bunch of local booksellers were crowded in the lobby, just outside the entrance to the main hall, next to the food vendors. I felt pretty bad for them.

Then there was a makeshift studio set up for attendees to pose as if they're characters on a comic book cover. Apparently there was some contest organized between the convention and the photo studio. Not sure about the point of that either.

They skimped on printing an event guidebook this year, or I didn't receive one. I did notice that they were handing out an official tote bag, free to the first one hundred attendees. 100 PHP for everyone else. No way was I paying for that.

The one thing I regret not buying was the Kate Beaton book. What can I say? Poverty sucks.

On to the photos. I saw the usual mixture of familiar faces and ambitious newcomers hawking their minis and graphic novels. I was unable to label the exhibitors for this year. But if you're one of the people pictured below, drop me a line and I'll identify you in this post.



















Webcomic: His Face All Red


10/24/2012

The best time to be alive


Go to: SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

My favorite character of this cartoon

Undeveloped pictures are full of potential



I miss film sometimes. Lately, I've been missing it more.

10/21/2012

10/15/2012

Womanthology: Space #1, Happy! #1, A Fine and Private Place #1

Womanthology: Space #1

by Bonnie Burton, Sandy King Carpenter, Alison Ross, Stephanie Hans, Ming Doyle, Stacie Ponder, Jessica Hickman, Rachel Deering, Tanja Wooten, Stephanie Hans, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellarie, Stacie Ponder

Anthology projects tend to be a mixed bag, and this is especially true when the contributors have a small page count to work with. Sophomore outing Womanthology: Space is no exception. Most of the five stories featured don't quite succeed in mastering this most stringent of comic formats.

The opening story "Waiting for Mr. Roboto" by Bonnie Burton and Jessica Hickman is pretty disappointing. An overlong gag about an alien waitress working at a space diner run by robots, hoping to be swept off her feet by a handsome scoundrel. The lackasaisical pacing doesn't quite bring the punchline home, and Hickman's artwork is more stiff than cute.

Similar issues are found in "Dead Again," by Sandy King Carpenter and Tanja Wooten. A gothic horror set in a derelict space station. The tale of a man haunted by the ghost of the woman he loves is supposed to pack emotional punch, but struggles to tell a fuller story while working against the limited page count. It does have some lovely panels drawn in a rough style by Wooden.

"Scaling Heaven" by Alison Ross and Stephanie Hans resolves the issue by telling what could be described as the opening to a longer political saga. Portraying a new Space Race between China and the United States to place the first woman on the moon, the story focuses on the parallel preparations of the two women protagonists as a microcosm of the larger geopolitical conflict. But more than that, the imagery and speech patterns nostalgically evokes the spirit of exploration found in the old Space Race.

The anthology finishes with a pair of two-pagers.The first of them, "The Adventures of Princess Plutonia" by Ming Doyle, is an inversion of the classic space opera trope in which the handsome hero rescues the alien princess. The familiar subject is complimented by the retro-stylings of Doyle's art and Jordie Bellaire's colors. This pared down story can be thought of as the Sunday edition of an ongoing newspaper cartoon strip.

The same could be said of "Space Girls" by Stacie Ponder. A homage/parody of Star Trek and similar shows, the story has barely begun before it cuts off. Cuter than this comic's opening act, but still a somewhat weak bookend to the anthology.

Happy! #1

by Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson, Richard P. Clark, Simon Bowland, Michael Allred

Grant Morrison's latest project Happy! could be described as crime fiction meets fantasy. It could be compared to concurrent series Fatale, but the latter's fantasy elements are closer to classic horror, while those of the former come from children's television. Nicholas Sax is a former police detective turned mob hitman. And he's reviled on both sides of the law. The story opens with two mob members sent out to eliminate Sax. Sax survives, but now he's wanted by both the cops and the mob for in formation he doesn't actually have. He evades capture with the help of a small talking, flying blue cartoon unicorn invisible to everyone but him. Is he hallucinating, like the hero of Joe the Barbarian?

This is a strange comic, not just for its premise. The crime elements are a departure from Morrison's more well known work with sci-fi and capes. His portrayal of the criminal underworld is harsh with its attendant violence and non-stop swearing. Sax is a completely unsympathetic character. So it's odd to have him suddenly communicating with an adorable cartoon animal like he's starring in an edgier version of a Disney Studios movie. It's hard to say if the eventual payoff will be worth the story. But it's interesting to see that this is territory Morrison chose to explore when working on creator-owned comics.

(I admit that I was also thrown by the comic using the same title to the Naoki Urasawa manga)

A Fine and Private Place #1

by Peter Gillis, Eduardo Francisco, Priscilla Tramontano, Shawn Lee
Original story by Peter S. Beagle

A general rule of thumb of mine is that comic book adaptations of novels will invariably be compromised from having to translate the original prose into the medium's word/image mix. I haven't read the original A Fine and Private Place novel. But this nonetheless seems to be a fairly streamlined and smooth adaptation of the source material. The prose that does survive in comic book form is still the main draw.  Eduardo Francisco's art is straightforward and doesn't get n the way of the story. But I'm not sure if it's enough of a draw to recommend it over the novel.

The comic is dominated by dialogue. Jonathan Rebeck is a man who secretly squats in a cemetery mausoleum. He normally shuns human contact, but somehow can communicate with the cemetery's ravens and the ghosts of the recently deceased. The comic's centerpiece is a conversation between him and a dead young man who was poisoned by his wife, which is interrupted by a widow visiting her husband's grave. Rebneck makes for an intriguing individual, willing to listen to anyone despite his unusual living circumstances. The comic book version strangely resembles Jack Kirby. If the reader enjoys quiet introspection about existential questions, this comic is worth the read. But it probably will be most appreciated by fans of the original work.

10/09/2012

Bad Television: Doomsday Preppers



Welcoming The Apocalypse


I've been following National Geographic's new TV series Doomsday Preppers, in which each episode is divided into 15 minute segments profiling a different prepper household. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure. I know next to nothing about this subculture, but I'm going to assume that the people the series highlights are at the far end of the prepper spectrum. It's one thing to prepare for the occasional natural disaster, home invasion, or extended period of unemployment. But as the title states, these people are waiting for the end of the world.

And for almost everyone of them, it's a question of when, not if, the world will end. Every segment begins with the subjects stating the particular scenario they're prepping for, which naturally comes across as myopic. The likelihood of the various scenarios range from "possible but unlikely" to near-impossible to "hard to be sure without more data" to "you're paranoid and need help". But the thing about obsessing about the apocalypse is that you might end up looking forward to it. Or at least looking forward to thriving from it. There's more than a hint of glee in many of the interviewees as they envision themselves and their (mainly nuclear) families safely tucked away while the rest of society goes to hell in a handbasket. And for some of them, this may be more than a figure of speech. While the series remains coy about discussing their political views and religious beliefs, it's easy enough to infer a subtext. Most of the preppers are Caucasians who think that social collapse is inevitable, whatever their preferred catalyst: EMP pulse, thermonuclear war, supervolcano, global pandemic, hyperinflation. It all leads to the same thing, and they want to be counted among the chosen few, not just another benighted "victim". Not surprisingly for this "us vs. them" mode of thinking, a lot of preppers are armed to the teeth and trained in hand-to-hand combat. It's almost like they're chomping at the bit for the day when they can unload hot lead on someone for merely stepping on their lawn. The machismo can mask an irrational dread for an America that has lost its way but which could be fixed in the coming purge.* One married couple practices navigating their home in the dark and accessing their hidden caches of firearms like some TV SWAT team. The wife is so proud of her stockpiles of gourmet food that she boasts she'll be the only one who'll be needing to shed a few pounds in the post-Apocalyptic world. Another man accidentally blows off his thumb with his gun during a training exercise with his two boys in the desert. Good thing the camera crew was there that day, or he'd still be missing his entire digit. Another household wants to turn their two docile pet German Shepherds into attack dogs. They watch a demonstration of a real attack dog let loose on a simulated attacker, who's unfortunately cast as African American.**

The show does hint that the prepper community might be a bit more varied than the usual parade of white male, rugged individualist, anti-government, antisocial, trigger-happy paramilitary types.** One suburban housewife seems to have taken her neat-freak tendencies up a notch as she gets set for a global pandemic. She cajoles her unwilling family into routine emergency drills and distributes medical kits to her neighbors. On one such housecall, She terrifies an elderly couple who've probably never even heard of a pandemic. Unlike most of the preppers on the show, she plans to stay where she is to help her community rather than evacuate to a more secure location.

In another segment, a New England resident optimistically foresees the collapse of society leading to a return to a more agrarian way of life. She eschews violence in favor of communitarianism. "…our security comes not from stockpiling weapons but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each others’ backs.” A like-minded neighbor of hers concurs, stating that if anyone actually threatens him, he will feed them and charm them, and if necessary, poison them. Uh, right. Good luck with that.****

Ignoring the exultant doomsaying, there's a lot of individual ingenuity at work. Everything from the proper stockpiling of food, alternative fuels and modes of transportation, building a secure and comfortable bunker, proper quarantine protocols, protection from radiation, to the proper way to grow crops and raise animals. Before watching the show, it never occurred to me that seeds could come in handy as a useful barter item. At the end of each segment, the show's off-camera "experts" assess the prepper's achievements and point out where there is room for improvement. I'm not qualified to judge the practicality of any of these efforts, but I get the impression that they're being measured against some ultimate version of the prepper's chosen doomsday scenario. These experts are always quick to point out when the interviewee has less than two years worth of food and water, or no proper "bug out" plan. This sage advice is ultimately undermined when the program's voice-over narrator admits to the audience (but not to the preppers' faces) of the extremely low probability of the envisioned events ever happening.*****

Like a lot of shows of this type (e.g. The Colony) Doomsday Preppers is basically there to enable their subjects' end-of-the-world fantasies. It's an addictive but exploitative format. And for all I know, partially staged to enhance its entertainment value. What I can say is that the series portrays the preppers having given up on society to the point where most are willing to hole up in an underground bunker for years if necessary. I can't help but suspect that if the collapse of civilization were to actually take place, most of them would eventually be driven batty or worse by their self-imposed isolation. Assuming that it's technically feasible, I'd rather take my chance with these guys.

And what's the point in revealing to the TV audience that they might even possess hidden supplies of food and weapons?
____
* Update 2012/12/12 - It's telling of their collective viewpoint that while many of the preppers believed in some form of socio-economic collapse preceded by government failure, almost no one was worried about realistic climate change scenarios.

** Update 2012/12/05 - The only African American prepper (or nonwhite prepper) shown so far is a New York City fireman, whose fear of a possible eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano may, or may not be, related to the traumatic experiences of 9/11.

*** Update 2012/10/23 -  The creepiest example yet is the Héctor Elizondo lookalike who's trained his personal commando-style squad made up of impressionable teenagers. Does he recruit them from orphanages, or are they supposed to abandon their respective families when the time comes?

**** Update 2012/10/22 - In a recent episode, one woman is shown prepping not so much for the end of civilization, but for the day the Federal Government declares martial law. This is a typical fantasy of the far-right. But unlike those who head for the hills, she preps on the side while living like a normal single person in an urban setting, all the while studying towards a business degree. Judging from the facial expressions of the members of her study group when she first reveals, and then attempts to recruit into her efforts, they were largely unaware of the true extent of her prepping.

And there's the married hippie couple who've converted an abandoned intercontinental ballistic missile silo into the most spacious and coziest (not to mention nuclear strike impregnable) home, complete with a jacuzzi. Meanwhile, a real estate developer is turning his silo into underground luxury condos, to be sold to preppers who want to live out the apocalypse in style.

***** Update 2012/12/05 - To be honest, a lot of Nat Geo's programming likes to employ this cheap shot in order to play it both ways. First they titillate you, then they chastise you for buying into the message they just used on you.

10/04/2012

Black Lagoon Vol. 7


It's been awhile since I read the last volume of Black Lagoon, which ended with a bang. Killer maid Roberta had just arrived in Roanapur, giving everyone fits. Then another maid shows up and starts a firefight at the Lagoon Traders favorite bar. This volume concludes the battle in typical over-the-top fashion i.e. the bar is razed to the ground yet again. The Columbians show up, and it becomes a contest about who can wield the bigger gun. Guess who wins? But once the fight ends, the story gets bogged down with massive amounts of exposition. Part of it is to fill in necessary background information, and the other part is to outline how everyone else is struggling to figure out what to do next.

This is Rei Hiroe's most ambitious story arc to date. And this volume is pretty much about assembling the pieces involved. Every crime organization starts to debate amongst themselves and with each other on how to proceed. Garcia Lovelace and his servant Fabiola (the second kick-butt maid) have come to town to retrieve Roberta, who has gone rogue. And we learn that Roberta intends to start a bloodbath that will involve the American Special Forces. That has everyone worried. Will Roanapur still be a haven for thieves once they get involved? Will there even be a city left standing after this is all over? And guess who among the Black Lagoon crew has to stick his neck out to help Garcia?


Since the majority of the players seem to be constantly engaged in a pissing contest, the clipped tough-guy talk can get pretty monotonous, as well as sometimes hard to follow. Some of this dialogue can go on for a bit too long, so it's actually a relief when the scene breaks to show a flashback of Roberta torturing her way through the story before arriving at Roanapur. Her quest is slowly driving her towards insanity. But the emotional centerpiece as always is between Rock and Revy. While the two are still at odds over the former's altruistic behavior, there'a been a gradual shift in their partnership. Revy's body language suggests that she's a bit more tentative, while Rock has adopted a slightly tougher exterior. The climax is when he describes himself as a bullet, while Revy is the gun needed to realize his deadly potential. This crass metaphor feels rather odd coming out of Rock's mouth.

In the end this is a lot of slow buildup with no accompanying relief. So I look forward to some more mayhem and violence in the next volume. In other words, I want Fabiola, Revy and Roberta to blow stuff up.

10/01/2012

Webcomic: What Characters in the Alphabet Originally Repersented




Go to: The Rumpus, by Jason Novak (via Lauren Davis)

Cover Illustration: Ms. 40th Anniversary


Go to: Ms. Magazine, by Michael and Laura Allred (via Kevin Melrose)

I've always felt a little ambivalent towards Ms. Magazine's original cover portrayal of Wonder Woman as a rampaging fifty-foot giantess, and this tribute doesn't completely assuage those feelings (for example, why is she trying so hard to crush the women in the foreground?). But I've liked Allred's retro interpretation of her since MACand of the DC universe in Solo. It's clearly got more in common with the Lynda Carter version of the character than the New 52 Wondy currently being drawn by Cliff Chiang, which I also like.

Webcomic: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong


Go to: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Manananggal


Go to: what things do, by Michael DeForge (via Tom Spurgeon)