2/17/2018

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Graphic Novel Adaptation

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Graphic Novel Adaptation Story Adaptation: Alessandro Ferrari Layout: Simone Buofontino Inks/Clean Up: Igor Chimisso Character Studies: Igor Chimisso Background/Settings: Massimo Rocca, Davide Turotti  Characters: Kawaii Creative Studio Cover: Eric Jones  Star Wars created by George Lucas.
Story Adaptation: Alessandro Ferrari
Layout: Simone Buofontino
Inks/Clean Up: Igor Chimisso
Character Studies: Igor Chimisso
Background/Settings: Massimo Rocca, Davide Turotti
Characters: Kawaii Creative Studio
Cover: Eric Jones

Star Wars created by George Lucas.

IDW Publishing’s graphic novel adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes in at a compact length of under 80 pages. It’s a mostly faithful shot for shot recreation of the 2015 film in comic book form. A few scenes are omitted or their order is occasionally flipped to move things along. No new material is inserted into the film’s story. There is a price to pay for such economy. The comic adds nothing of note to the source material, other than the novelty of seeing it in the hands of an alternative set of artistic sensibilities. And the book’s directive to tone down the violence results in an anemic reading experience. The supposably high stakes (the fate of entire worlds hang in the balance) don’t come across as dire enough to possess any urgency on the page.

For anyone just looking for a printed version of the film to carry around, the half-dozen illustrators listed at the back of the book do a good enough job with the film’s futuristic technology and exotic locales. But everything feels cramped, which is a big problem for a narrative dependent on enchanting the reader with its fantastic setting. Events move briskly without allowing for some breathing room to admire what's taking place. Comics is a medium that manipulates the reader’s sense of time, but this comic’s pacing feels disjointed as it races from scene to scene.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Graphic Novel Adaptation Story Adaptation: Alessandro Ferrari Layout: Simone Buofontino Inks/Clean Up: Igor Chimisso Character Studies: Igor Chimisso Background/Settings: Massimo Rocca, Davide Turotti  Characters: Kawaii Creative Studio Cover: Eric Jones  Star Wars created by George Lucas.

And when some scenes or lines of dialogue are streamlined, this has a negative impact on the story’s character beats. The whole plot is basically a race to find the last jedi Luke Skywalker. But that objective seems to get lost as former stormtrooper Finn and scavenger Rey stumble from place to place. When they finally run into infamous smuggler (or is he a Rebel Alliance hero) Han Solo and copilot Chewbacca, the emotional impact of the meeting is so deeply underplayed that Han seems remarkably unconcerned considering that these two strangers he just met might be holding the key to finding Luke.

But the book isn’t really interested in adult comic book nerds. The pseudo-Disneyfied cartoon designs for the characters indicate IDW is trying to corner a younger demographic for the Star Wars franchise. So key elements like elaborate dogfights with spaceships or whatever implied sexual tension that would launch a thousand ships are put aside for “BEEBEE-ATE” and Rey behaving like the plucky hero. In this respect, she’s an acceptable role model.

2/03/2018

Flying Witch Vol. 1

Flying Witch Vol. 1 By Chihiro Ishizuka Translation: Melissa Tanaka,
By Chihiro Ishizuka
Translation: Melissa Tanaka

On first hearing of its premise, Flying Witch sounded like secondhand Hayao Miyazaki. A teenage witch in training “packs up her belongings (including a black cat familiar) and moves in with her distant cousins in rural Aomori to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch.” But the manga is actually closer to the popular Yotsuba&!, with the lead character Makoto Kowata as the oddball outsider inserted into the lives of a nondescript family. The magic she occasionally demonstrates is mostly played for comedic effect. Every mundane thing is a source of wonder to her. Creator Chihiro Ishizuka even draws in a streamlined style reminiscent of Kiyohiko Azuma.

With a story like this, a lot depends on the lead character. This is where Flying Witch falls short. As mentioned above, Makoto doesn’t perform a lot of magic. She’s actually not supposed to talk about her abilities to the uninitiated. But the irrepressible Makoto immediately babbles to a classmate she only just met. And her one act of flying in this volume occurs when she puts a broom through its paces at the local market. Those particular scenes make an impact early on. But Makoto isn’t eccentric enough a personality to pull it off every time. Her primary character trait is that she easily gets lost. This plays to diminishing returns every time its used. And it doesn’t help that the people around her, especially most of the members of her host family, can be a little blasé about Makoto’s novice witch status.

Thankfully, the story picks up steam later when members of the magical community show up. A creature called the Harbinger of Spring looks like someone who came out of a Miyazaki feature. And a much more experienced witch drops by to demonstrate how to pull off an ancient spell to Makoto.

Flying Witch Vol. 1 By Chihiro Ishizuka Translation: Melissa Tanaka.

It's still not enough to enliven the ordinary setting. Ishizuka is sparing with the use of hyper-detailed backgrounds. The page layouts are pretty boring: rectangular panels composed mostly of talking heads, arranged in two or three tiers. The main characters are very similar in appearance and facial expression. Only Makoto’s ten year old cousin exhibits more varied reactions than the rest of her family. That’s because she’s the only one young enough to be still astonished by the revelation that witches are real, and one of them is now living under the same roof. As far as these opening chapters are concerned, Ishizuka still seems to be working out how to achieve the proper balance between the supernatural and the mundane.

1/24/2018

More NonSense: Election 2016

2016 Electoral Map by Randall Munroe.
Go to: xkcd

Alan Cole loves Randall Munroe's visualisation of the 2016 electoral map.

TCJ has an interview with NBM founder Terry Nantier.

The late Annie Goetzinger profiled by TCJ.

Christopher Priest and his work on Black Panther is profiled by Abraham Riesman.

An unnamed nursing company has accused Stan Lee of repeated sexual harassment; Lee has in turn claimed that he is the victim of a shakedown.

In the latest chapter of DC's deteriorating relationship with Alan Moore, his creation Promethea will be incorporated into the DC Universe. Neither Moore or co-creator J.H. Williams III were consulted:
So, this is without affording me the dignity hearing about it from proper channels. I've not brought this to Alan's attention, doubt he knew, until now. Besides that, I can't in good conscience condone this happening in any form at all.
Lea Hernandez has repeatedly apologised for her work on the defunct Marvel Mangaverse, calling it racist. Lea was the artist for the Mangaverse version of the Punisher. She the urged the publisher to stop reprinting the comics:
Speaking of being a casually racist asshole, I did art for the Marvel Mangaverse Punisher, written by Peter David. It’s racist, and I was uncomfortable when I drew it, but it had been written by Peter, a friend, and approved by an editor.

The main characters, Japanese-Caucasian sisters, were named Hashi Brown and Sosumi Brown. (Update: there’s also a female villain named “Skan Kee Ho.” There was exotification of Asians. I depicted Sosumi, the Punisher, in a sexy kimono alá manga art of “bad” women even as I was careful to dress Hashi in a “schoolgirl” uniform that was mid-thigh length shorts and a jacket, alá Utena. Because I was sick of the sexualization of children, but didn’t grasp that exotification needed to be off the table, too...  
To anyone who was hurt by the racism in Marvel Mangaverse Punisher, of which I was the artist, I offer my deepest apologies. I can’t change the circumstances that led me to be afraid of pushing back, but I am changing how I conduct myself going forward.
I also apologize for taking 17 years to fully comprehend an apology and being accountable for the work was in order... 
Since it’s been reprinted recently, it’s too late to ask Marvel to stop this reprinting Mangaverse Punisher. It’s not to late to ask them to quit reprinting it, though. Marvel, please quit reprinting Mangaverse Punisher. It’s racist.
Apparently, none of the major corporate interests are moving to extend copyrights, despite their imminent expiration as soon as next year.

1/21/2018

Iceland

Iceland  By Yuichi Yokoyama Translation: Ryan Holmberg.
By Yuichi Yokoyama
Translation: Ryan Holmberg

Like audiences of other popular media, comic book readers have been conditioned to expect certain storytelling conventions. This makes reading the manga of Yuichi Yokoyama a unique experience. Yokoyama is an oil painter who exhibited no interest in comics during his youth, whether native or foreign. Yet he’s gone on to create several comics that are gorgeous to look at. At first glance, they contain all the basic vocabulary of the medium: picture panels, word captions, speech balloons, speed lines, etc. But the accompanying genre elements are missing, or at least being suppressed: plot, setting, character development, dramatic conflict, have been drained of their comforting familiarity. Instead, they’re usurped by an uncompromising sensual assault that will leave the reader reeling. Other comic creators have brought their own idiosyncratic design sensibilities to their stories. But Yokoyama’s work feels like an alien lifeform imitating human behaviour.

Take the plot of Iceland. Three strange looking men (at least I think they’re men) show up in the frozen North searching for a fourth individual. They enter a seedy bar to enquire about his whereabouts. Once they find him out back, the four leave town. None of the characters exhibit an inner life. No one offers an explanation for their individual actions. Their speech patterns betray no emotion or personality. They all speak in flat tones. In the end, the reader has no more idea as what just happened in the story. The only thing that indicates any emotional content is an undercurrent of aggression with their interactions, as if every person is sizing up everyone they encounter. The taut atmosphere is a concession to the plot’s pulp influences. Only, there’s no cathartic release in the form of physical violence.

But Yokoyama’s visual aesthetic immediately distinguishes him from more traditional mangaka. Leaning on his fine art background, Yokoyama resorts to modernist figurative abstraction combined with Pop Art typography. His characters look and move as if they were part machine, and wear elaborate patterns on their oddly shaped heads and bodies which obscure recognizable facial features, like a Cubist-inspired squad of extraterrestrial superheroes. This artificiality extends to the unnatural geometry of the icy setting. There’s nothing subtle about Yokoyama’s gaudy structures and bold compositions. And the bombastic nature of the action might vaguely remind Japanese fans of classic manga aimed at young adult males, though filtered through a very different set of artistic sensibilities.

Iceland  By Yuichi Yokoyama Translation: Ryan Holmberg.

The action, as such, is most evident when the trio enters the bar. They detect a loud repeating noise (DODODODO) as they approach the building,. Once inside, they’re immediately overwhelmed with an audiovisual spectacle. A large television monitor dominates one side of the room, playing nonstop military footage: guns blazing, tanks rolling, planes dropping bombs, soldiers shooting with their firearms, explosions booming. None of the patrons are bothered by the commotion. On the contrary, they seem to thrive in it.

Yokoyama’s ability to convey the sensation of sound is most impressive. The onomatopoeia are displayed as bold, mechanically reproduced Japanese text, spread across each panel. They practically block the reader from viewing the rest of the panel. And this goes on for several pages as double page spreads. Even in a purely visual medium, the noise is deafening. And in a story where very little happens, this is weirdly the climactic scene of the story. It’s a relief (if only a temporary one) when the trio finally leaves the bar.

That is what makes Iceland puzzling even as it is energizes. The book is so loud it denies introspection for even the reader. How can one think with all the noise going on? All one can do is immerse themselves in Yokoyama’s audiovisual pleasures.

Iceland  By Yuichi Yokoyama Translation: Ryan Holmberg.

12/31/2017

2017 Comic Reviews and Commentary

Calexit #1, Story: Matteo Pizzolo Art: Amancay Nahuelpan Colors: Tyler Boss Flats: Dee Cunniffe Maps: Richard Nisa Letters: Jim Campbell Flags: Robert Anthony Jr. Assistant: Philip W. Smith II.

Reviews:

Tetris: The Games People Play
Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma
5,000 km Per Second
A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting
Love and Lies Vol. 1
She and Her Cat
A City Inside
Wonder Woman #31
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #0-1
Calexit #1
Solanin
Spy Seal #1
Mister Miracle #1
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #22
Batman/Elmer Fudd Special
Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor Special
Loverboys
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Vol. 1
Wonder Woman Annual #1
Flash #22
Libby's Dad
Flash #21 & Batman #22
Action Comics #977 & Batman #21
Black Cloud #1
Guardians of the Louvre
Superman #19 & Action Comics #976
Man-Thing #1
The Old Guard #1
WildC.A.T.s #1
Spawn #1
Justice League/Power Rangers #1
The Mighty Thor #15
The Unstoppable Wasp #1

Commentary:

More NonSense: Best of 2017, Part 2
More NonSense: Best of 2017
Bright Lights (2016)
More NonSense: Eddie Berganza vs C.B. Cebulski
More NonSense: Cartoon Diversity
More NonSense: SPX 2017 Edition
More NonSense: Jack Kirby Centennial
More NonSense: Comic-Con 2017 Edition
More NonSense: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Edition
More NonSense: The Wonder Woman Film Edition
More Nonsense: Kung fu Kenny Edition
The Circle (2017)
More NonSense: Ghost in the Shell Edition
Arrival (2016)
More Nonsense: Fighting Facism
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Logan (2017)
R.I.P. Jiro Taniguchi (August 14, 1947 – February 11, 2017)
More NonSense: You’re gonna make it after all
More NonSense: March
R.I.P. Tyrus Wong (October 25, 1910 – December 30, 2016)

More NonSense: Best of 2017, Part 2

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, by Kabi Nagata.
The Verge considers them the 10 best comics of 2017.

Ars Technica rates 10 excellent comics that flew under the radar in 2017.

The Beat thinks these are the Best Comics of 2017.

io9 thinks these are the Best and Worst Moments in the Comics of 2017.

PW releases their 2017 Annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll.

The Nib looks back on 2017.

Ken Partille looks back at Ghost World.

C.B. Cebulski offerred an apology about masquerading as Akira Yoshida that many would characterise as a non-apology. Asher Elbein, Charles Pulliam-Moore, Tom Spurgeon, Brian Hibbs offer analysis.

Mark Hamill responds to the fan backlash empowered by his early comments about The Last Jedi. He's also expressed some disagreement with his last minute appearance in The Force Awakens in previous interviews, before walking back his comments.

It's now one year since Carrie Fisher's passing. Here are a compilation of her best interview quotes.

Apparently, some of the audience were confused by a pivotal scene in the movie were everything goes quiet.

The ecumenism of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Here's another one.

RIP Annie Goetzinger (18 August 1951 – 20 December 2017) celebrated French comics creator.

12/23/2017

More NonSense: Best of 2017

Bill Gates: 5 amazing books I read this year.

Bill Gates considers The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui to be one of the his 5 favourite books of 2017.

The AV Club lists their best comics of 2017.

NPR lists the graphic novels they rank among 2017's great reads.

Paste has posted their the 25 Best Comic Books of 2017 and the 10 Best Kids Comics of 2017.

Tor lists the Top Spec-Fic Comics of 2017.

CBC lists the best Canadian comics and graphica of 2017.

Paste ranks every Disney-era Star Wars comic.

i09 has their 15 Best Comics of 2017.

In a ruling which will impact the convention circuit, a jury ruled in favour for Comic-Con International in their trademark dispute with Salt Lake City Comic Con. The argument was whether the phrase "comic con" was a generic term or fell within the SDCC trademark for "comic-con." SDCC however was only awarded $20,000 in damages, well below the $12 million being sought. Heidi MacDonald and Rob Salkowitz have noted that the jury ruled SLCC's infringement to be unintentional despite emails being presented where the SLCC organisers admitted that they were aware that they were infringing SDCC's trademark.

Michael Cavna posted a cartoon tribute to his late father.

Miles Wray on the fall from grace of Dilbert creator Scott Adams.

Joe George on the humanism of Watchmen.

Hillary Chute on the evolution of LGBTQ identity in comics.

Bret Lang reports on the corporate shake-up following the disappointing box office performance of Justice League. Of particular interest to comics is the vague description of DC's Geoff Johns being demoted to a more advisory role, and the tighter integration of DC into the Warner Brothers studio system.
Johns, who reports to DC president Diane Nelson, works in areas such as television (and has written various episodes for DC-inspired shows), publishing, and consumer products, in addition to his contributions to the films. Going forward, his work on the films may evolve, and could be more advisory in nature. 
These people also say that Emmerich is weighing the idea of further integrating DC’s film operations into the studio’s main movie arm. That would entail putting the divisions under the same roof rather than having DC remain in a separate building on the lot, sources say. Marvel, which is owned by Disney, does operate its comic book film division autonomously, but other studios, such as Fox and Sony, produce their superhero films under the studio’s banner.
The aforementioned Emmerich is Warner Bros. Picture Group President Toby Emmerich.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega.
Image via Star Wars

Did anyone notice that a new Star Wars movie is out? I hear it's getting rave reviews.

[Spoiler Alert]

To no one's surprise, The Last Jedi is on the receiving end of some fan backlash, just as with The Force Awakens in 2015. And as with any piece of pop culture with a dedicated fanbase, fans have many opportunities to nitpick at any number of things, however minor: from the existence of new lifeforms, director Rian Johnson's sense of humour, the introduction of new Force abilities, the death of some fan favourite characters, to the dismissal of dearly-held fan theories. A certain portion of fandom is being empowered by Mark Hamill's early comments about the writing of the character he plays, Luke Skywalker.

Hamill's comments are indicative of their sentiments. If The Force Awakens was sometimes criticised for retreading familiar ideas, The Last Jedi noticeably questions most of them, especially the legacy of the Jedi order and the Skywalker family line. J.J. Abrams' film presented fans with a new "Chosen One" in the form of Rey, but Johnson's treatment of Rey roundly rejects the very concept. To those fans, changes like these represents some kind of betrayal of the franchise.

That's a tad overblown. Whatever one thinks of the answers given or if expectations were subverted, the film operates well within the confines of the Star Wars playbook while still finding even more ways to fit in more complex character arcs, deeper world-building, and a more inclusive cast.  Luke might start out a broken man full of self-loathing, but he regains his mojo to completely outclass his former apprentice Kylo Ren. The Jedi order is dead, but finds new life in a new generation represented by Rey. The Republic the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to establish in the original trilogy is in tatters, but the fight against facism goes on.

The Last Jedi is very a middle chapter kind of story. It's meant to ramp up the tension and create new complications. But with time, the more extreme reactions to it will fade, and the film will earn its place in the franchise.

And the scene of Luke drinking green milk out of the teat of an animal was the best.

[End Spoiler]

Sean T. Collins thinks these are The 50 Greatest Star Wars Moments.

Someone has to bring up the Star Wars Holiday Special, so we won't forget what a story that really steps out of the boundaries of "canon" looks like.

Nick Gillard talks about choreographing the three way lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.

Enough with the irrational hatred for midi-chlorians.

Lauren Michele Jackson on how modern animation subverts the minstrel tradition.