Comic Review: Rumble

•June 30, 2015 • 1 Comment

Rumble

Writer: John Arcudi

Artist: James Harren

Publisher: Image Comics

This series started being published towards the end of 2012.

Continue reading ‘Comic Review: Rumble’

We need more “It’s not you. It’s me.” In some cases.

•June 9, 2015 • 2 Comments

A day does not go by that I turn my head, follow a hyperlink, open a tweet, read a blog, see a facebook post where someone starts moaning/bitching/gloating about the over-sexualization of fictional characters.

Today seems to be Joshua Rivera’s turn, from Business Insider.

http://www.businessinsider.com/justice-league-bruce-timm-2015-6

He posted an article about the new Bruce Timm project, “Justice League: God and Monsters”

He states that “Batman (…) is hunting down Harley Quinn, who is more demented (and scantily clad) than ever before.
Mhhh,.. OK….

Then he adds… “Why is she barely wearing anything? This is so weird.”

Again, this is an obvious case of “eyes of the beholder”

It also could be viewed as the reflection of a segment of the population trying to proselytize their puritanical left-over culture, imposing its bias on the rest of us.

Why do I say this?
The character is nuts. She just murdered 5 people, kidnapped 1, and made a fake family with corpses, and you, Joshua, are wondering why she is “scantly clad”???

I prefer to think that this is just bait journalism, something business insider uses to a fault. You know, like those stupid posts in Facebook where the title says “He didn’t know about till no. Did you???” and no more info, so its baiting you to click on the link to read the story on their website.

If I turn on Duck Tales, or Dora the Explorer and I see a character wearing a garter belt and “fuckmehard” heels I may question why. That’s a perfect instance to ask why, Josua!!
When I see an adult themed show, whether its True Blood or Batman Unlimited, and see a boob, or a butt cheek, I may wonder if this fits my moral view, and whether I want to watch the show, but IT IS AN ADULT CHARACTER, WRITTEN BY AN ADULT CREATOR, DEALING WITH ADULT THEMES.

Why then is Harley wearing a garter belt??? Really???  Not how come she can swing that huge hammer so swiftly or what motivated to kill a whole family and stage them????
So this….

and this…

raises more questions that this

  or this     ???

In most cases the character doesn’t have to explain much about his/her actions.

And we, as an audience, are in much of a position to ask why.
You see… it’s not them. Its you!

In this instance, Harley is a goner, demented, looneybin, bonkers, etc…

Her pathology may drive her to revel in baser instincts. As such, she may enjoy murder, mayhem and sex.

Why, oh why, are you focusing on her wardrobe, when she is keeping heads wrapped in plastic in a freezer?????

 

My word… I think we are truly fucked!!!

DON’T Become a bad Fiction-Writer (Movies)

•May 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The other day I got to see two movies back to back, that made me loose brain cells in troves.

I decided to use them as examples of BAD Fiction Writing. (BFW…hey! I come up with my own acronym!)

The first movie is

Eve of Destruction

And the technical notes:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2315896/?ref_=nv_sr_1

OK. Why is this bad fiction writing?

First of all the whole premise is “You crazy science people shouldn’t be playing god!!”

Lame, boring and pretty much impossible to improve upon since Mary W. Shelley wrote The Modern Prometheus  back in 1818.

But the real problem is not writing of choosing a over-abused topic, is writing about it using cliche’s.

The tone the writers of this miniseries chose to take is:

“Weird scientists are doing things beyond their control; greedy boss pushes them to take risks; throw in lots of mumbo jumbo jergon that doesn’t make sense, so the viewer will feel that those science-folk are pretty smart; and then create a bunch of special effects and have the science-folk attribute them to science”

Because they wrote this whole script using the term “science” just like an evangelist preacher would use “religion”

Line after line my brain was dying. So much that I managed to work on other projects while I left the movie on the background, just so I could, from time to time, shake my head and go “Who the fuck writes this shit?”

The quotes referencing science like a religion, a discipline, or a philosophy are so frequent you can make a drinking game out of this movie and get wasted in the first 1/2 hour.

At one point, after the crisis unveils, the singularity even acquires an evil sound effect, like the voice demons get assigned in horror movies when they take over a body. I mean, the singularity doesn’t talk (If it did, it should ask to be taken out of this turd of a movie) but the sound effects are just like the growling of satan’s butthole announcing a spout of diarrhea.

This is what you get when you try to make a soap opera mixed with scientific subject and have pens for hire write this stuff.

Even though I don’t want to ribb on Richard Beattie, the writer, when you look at his credits, the guy writes a lot of this lowbrow stuff. So again…

SPOILER ALERT you may want to read as to not watch this movie:

At the end, the bad executive flies off to Dubay because they have been building another machine like the one the caused the problem, the blue collar worker fixes the power line with a cherry picker and a screwdriver, and the science guys say:

“If the experiment blew up because or capacitors ingested the flux acelerator quantum particle thingimagic needed power….then we could reverse it….by overloading the jetengine particle quantum flux matrix venting gundam mazinger rely that orbit the nibiru state of flux.”

“But someone has to start it manually!!”

“NO! You will die of radiation!!!!”
“I have to do it! Tell my daughter i lover her!!!”
“I will stay here till the end”

FUUUCK… I just lost 15 more braincell recreating the final scene, and now my head feels like I sucked on a slurpee too fast!!!!

Seriusly, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie either as a drinking game, or as a learning experience.
Just don’t pay for it. DO not give your money to bad movies. Is like rewarding them. Get it by any means that doesn’t put money on the producer’s coffers. Otherwise they will continue making bad movies.

And if you watch it, and think: “This is not so bad…i liked it.” Congratulations! You are part of the problem of BFW!!!!

 

Continue reading ‘DON’T Become a bad Fiction-Writer (Movies)’

Focus on the Artist: Neal Adams

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Neal Adams (Image from Wikipedia)

It’s been a long time coming, and I haven’t written a commentary on Artists in a while, so what better way than getting back on the saddle than choosing Master Neal Adams.

First thing first: The hard data, and you can get most of the facts in wikipedia, DOB etc…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Adams

I will try to focus on my impressions on how relevant his achievements are as a whole, and why you, the reader, should care about his life and body of work.

Although most of you know Neal as the most influential illustrator of Batman in the 70’s and a great force behind his revival, and lately his work on Batman Odyssey, Mr. Adams is a complex figure worth studying and that brings great rewards to those who get to know him, both in person or whether knowing him only by his work.

Neal Adams is a poor man’s DaVinci. He may have not been famous for his war-machines, sculptures and for mastering different arts, but like the master from the renaissance, he has mad a huge impact in the world of comics not only for his art, but for his social involvement.

Going over many of his interview, Neal explains how he grew up relatively poor in New York City, and how he had been bitten by the art bug, the one that made him study art-books on his own time, and practice drawing, practice practice and practice, in the back of newspapers, in butcher’s paper wrappings, in flyers and leaflets, and any surface where he could practice.

Whether Neal Adams was born with talent for drawing or not that is irrelevant, because he is now shy about letting you know the amount of work he put into getting good.

That is partially the amazing story behind this artist. His perseverance, and his panache for calling a spade a spade.

He worked at his craft from a very young age, and before he turned 21 he was knocking at the door of DC studios, where he was told that the comic book market was imploding, and artists had no where to go.

He went on to do Archie comics, with Bat Masterson and Howard Nostrand, mainly doing backgrounds and exposure work. He then took work in advertising, while keeping an eye on the comic strip business.

Among his inspiration with illustrators, Neal Adams lists Bob Peak, Bernie Fuchs and Al Parker, and he worked at at developing an amazing illustration portfolio. And while exploring new techniques as a marketing artist, he explored a ton of techniques, some involving tracing with the intent of rendering the most realistic work possible.

Neal was offered a chance to return to comics on very comfortable terms when he was given the newspaper strip Ben Casey. He stayed on it for 3 1/2 years of considerable success.

Comics historian Maurice Horn said the strip “did not shrink from tackling controversial problems, such as heroin addiction, illegitimate pregnancy, and attempted suicide. These were usually treated in soap opera fashion … but there was also a touch of toughness to the proceedings, well rendered by Adams in a forceful, direct style that exuded realism and tension and accorded well with the overall tone of the strip”

Neal Adams stated: “We ended the strip under mutual agreement. I wasn’t happy working on the strip nor was I happy giving up a third of the money to [the TV series’ producer, Bing Crosby Productions. The strip I should have been making twelve hundred [dollars] a week from was making me three hundred to three-fifty a week. On top of that, I was not able to express myself artistically when I wanted to.”

Then there is the incident of his portfolio being stolen while looking for work amongst different agencies, and feeling like 8 months of work went down the drain.

Adams got back into the comic field by working for Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror-comics magazines. Adams debuted there as penciler and inker of writer Goodwin’s eight-page anthological story “Curse of the Vampire” in Creepy #14 (April 1967).

He was offered a comic in DC taking setting in the Vietnam war, which he vehemently opposed, and he passed the offer onto Joe Kubert, who made history on his own merits in the belic front.

Then there is the story of how he was turned down for Batman by then editor Julius Schwartz, but got approached by fellow DC editor Murray Boltinoff for drawing Batman team-up title The Brave and the Bold. Although Boltinoff gave him a brief assigned doing  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis  and The Adventures of Bob Hope, two licensed titles starring fictional versions of the TV, film and nightclub comedians.

He then spent sometime doing some amazing covers for Superman, Batman, etc… and had a breakthrough moment with Deadman.

Comics writer and columnist Steve Grant wrote in 2009:

“Jim Steranko at Marvel and Neal Adams were the most prominent new artists of the late ’60s to enter a field that had been relatively hostile to new artists … and breaths of modernism, referencing advertising art and pop art as much as comics.”

And then came history. Neal Adams started working for Marvel WHILE working for DC! And got to keep his real name!!!!
In 1969 he also began penciled several issues of the mutant-superhero team title X-Men and one story for a horror anthology title.

While doing work for The Brave and the Bold he got approached by Julius Schwartz asking him why all this letters where pouring in asking DC why the REAL batman could only be found in The Brave and the Bold?

This got Adams his chance to remake Batman’s history with his run together with Dennis O’Neil, and introduced Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul to the mithos.

He continue to brake ground with his run on Green Lantern, when he did the first NON COMIC-CODE approve issue in recent memory by running a cautionary tale on drug addiction.

Also, he championed creator’s rights and retributions. He was the starter of the trend of getting the original artwork returned to the artist, instead of doing like Marvel (and DC) where doing of giving the originals as tips to the delivery boys.

In 1978, Adams helped form the Comics Creators Guild, which over three dozen comic-book writers and artists joined.

Also, the whole ordeal of how Neal Adams was able to assist Superman creators Siegel and Shuster is totally worth reading:

http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2013/6/10/superman-saving-his-jewish-creators#.VRr9xOHtwnI=

 

And heroic efforts to give their due to the Kirby estate

http://www.blastr.com/2012/01/guy_who_fought_for_superm.php

 What is so noteworthy about Neal Adams?

Every artist should aspire to have a career as prolific and varied, dabbling on so many styles as Neal Adams.

From an artistic perspective, Neal brought the famed Photo Realistic style into fashion. Everybody back in the 70’s wanted to imitate Neal.

He made the characters act and express. Some even say his characters over-act.

Check out this wonderful illustration below.

Photographic realism? Check!

Amazing shadows?  Check!

Amazing angles?  Check

Expressive muscle definition? Check!

Over the top facial Expressions? Check!!!

Finally well drawn hands? Check!!!

He also took the trend of picking up a sunken title and infusing it with new life.

He did it with the Brave and the Bold (although it was not failing, sales went through the roof), he created a new canon for The Batman, he took Uncanny X-Men and made it great again.

Neal Adams is an amazing stylist. His latest fooray in the comic world brought us Batman:Odyssey, and critics in general labeled as a beautiful mess.
I had to concur with the most common complaint from the audience, that it was almost impossible to read till the end.

But the art was still amazing.

Neal Adams is above all a story teller. In person, if you get near him on a meet and greet, he will easily start chatting and telling you stories, as long as you know what to ask. He is an incredibly intelligent man (remember that comparison I made with Da-Vinci?) and well versed in a myriad of subjects.

Keep in mind he can be sarcastic. Sarcasm is natures way of letting smart people deal with annoying dumb people, without offending them directly, so he has to use it. I’ve always enjoyed sitting and listening in a panel where he is either hosting or invited, and I always leave having learned a bit more about the inner workings of the industry.

But, as many great storytellers, that doesn’t mean he gets to translate his passion into a marketable product. Neal Adams does wonders when he illustrates the stories of savvy scribes, but when he is left to his own devices to tell his own stories…well… Batman:Odyssey happens.

I caught him stating publicly a couple of times that comic book artists are by nature of their craft storytellers, and he assumes that skill is directly ported over to writing. After all, most of us learn to write very early on. Its drawing well that is hard!! So if you draw well, you must write amazingly well!!!

Similarly happened with his publishing company Continuity.

It was a dream come true if you wanted to read a ton of comics drawn in the style of Neal. Most alumni/collaborators at Continuity drew in a strong imitation style to Neal Adams.

But also, most of the stories were a bit lacking. Its hard to find the titles now, like Bucky O’Hare written by Larry Hama, Megalith, Samuree or Ms. Mystic, just to mention a few.

Samuree was a great action/cheesecake comic

 

Sadly, most titles did not make it past the 9th issue, partially because of of the comic book market imploding, partially because back in the 1990’s the market was not ready to have another house compete with the Big Two.

Neal Adams has become a strong defender of the Expanding Earth theory, and as far as theories goes, I don’t see why it should cause such a big stir like it does. I haven’t positioned myself on it, but it doesn’t shake my world one way or another, like some people seem to be bothered by it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ0JTdHIsX8

Lately you can find Neal Adams hitting the comic con circuit. His displays are usually well placed and flashy, but his prices are also pretty steep. I assume the man is building his nest egg, and getting ready to take it slow, so he is trying to cash it in as much as he can, but some of his signed prints will set you back a pretty penny.

I’ve seen him in his booth on shows done in the south of the US, and I’ve never seen his booths as full of people as I would’ve expected. But I assume that’s better for business. Less people who pay more money.

I assume this focus on profit came from those ASSMUNCHERS who go to cons to get signed items just to sell them on e-bay. They are really a bane to the comic fandom world. It must be really upsetting for so many artists to sign things out of the goodness of their hearts just to turn around and see it on e-bay going for what amounts to a small mortgage!!

I’ve always contended that most e-bay hawks are fairly easy to spot: They tend to be very aggressive, very demanding, and very annoying. They are manipulators who are after a quick buck, after all.

Anyway, hit youtube and check out the interviews of Neal Adams, and you won’t be sorry. A trove of info. We should be glad to have him around, since so many of the old masters are fading in recent decades.

Of course, he has a website where you can follow Neal, keep up with his comic con appearances, and buy his prints.

http://www.nealadams.com/

But the real question I posit is… Neal, when are you going to realize that most of us would LOOOOVE to read a graphic novel (drawn by you, of course) of your life and experiences????
I would suggest you get together with a writer to make sure Batman: Oddisey doesn’t happen again, or at least an editor to give you pointers on how to make sure that much coveted, much wanted graphic novel reaches fruition and becomes an icon every comic book lover keeps as the authoritative work on Neal Adams!

Parents: Make your kids read comics!

•March 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In the last couple of months I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of lots of kids in my immediate surroundings.

These kids ranged in ages between 2 and 10, and they were a riot and a hoot.

The main thing that got to me was the clear distinction of attitudes between the kids that belonged to parents who were invested in reading and the ones who spend more time with TV on tablets.

KIDS.5f5v1

Here are the things I need to make you aware of, things I concluded after this hands on experience:

  • Children shouldn’t watch more than 1 hour a day of TV. I’ll make an exception to this: If you live with parents that are illiterate and the sum of culture you may obtain from TV surpasses the amount of culture and life lessons your parents can give you…then please, have those kids watch a lot of TV, preferably PBS programs.
  • Not watching TV goes hand in hand with spending interactive time with them, preferably doing enjoyable learning activities.
  • Children spending time on tablets receive a similar negative effect as watching TV. It is not as bad but almost.
  • Children have to spend time with different types of personalities to learn people skills. Not just dad and mom. Preferably other kids, and even better from other cultures and backgrounds.

I enjoyed witnessing a very young toddler getting into the habit of having her parent read comics to her, while a friend of the same age  had the TV on all the time and the parents kept pushing her towards tv shows and nikelodeon.

The first child enjoys comics, and loves pictures. Now 6 months into reading to her, she grabs comics on her own and makes up stories and reads to herself. You can find her in the living room while the TV is glaring in the background and she doesn’t even care, and she is making up stories and “reading” to herself, exercising her imagination. She actually makes comparative analogies in her surroundings because she has her horizons expanded wide open… she knows different races, and understands the concepts of different languages, and understands that the graphic narrative flows from left to right and from top to bottom.

She understands anger, consequences, violence, laughter and a bunch of other emotions based on how it reflects on others.

The second kid is showing signs of not being able to stayed focused on a task for too long. The first kid likes to complete her tasks to her liking. The second child is able to move much faster and has stronger body coordination, though. But seems to keep repeating the same task, and I am afraid she doesn’t process the concept that “not by repeating the same task you will change the result”.

KIDS.5v621

Reading, even if it is just comics (as opposed to big-boy-books) is showing secondary positive results:

She understands things like the driving mechanics of a car, from reading a comic;

she understands reactions of animals from the comics;

she understands planes and their interiors from comics, same goes for airports; the list goes on.

she understands different causes for conflict and understands need for conflict resolution.

The point being that reading to your kid teaches them focus. And reading them comics gives them an incentive to understand the values of stories. Also, you can’t drop a stack of comic books and expect her to start reading. It is a process, and the parents/mentors are an intrinsic and important part of it.

I also want to share another realization:

Leaving the kid with a tablet (Be it an iPad, or Android device) is less harmful to their intellectual stimulation than TV. But not by much. So you should avoid it.

BOTTOM LINE: Your kids are mostly a blank slate. There are exceptions to these rules: It is said that Mozart was playing like a virtuoso by age 6, but it is not stated how much his father pushed him to start playing, maybe he abused the poor kid into that profession. Maybe your kid is more like a William James Sidis (If you don’t know who that is, google it, and you will be amazed) and autodidact by nature, but most of us are not like that genius, and we sure can use guidance.

You have to be there for your kid. It is an ethical contract you engaged when you created a new life. You will put yourself in second place, and will support and assist this new life to move forth.

Now, given the small selection of comics for toddlers out there, I had to scour lots of LCBS till I found appropriate titles.

I am not necessarily going solely for the kiddie stuff.

Tiny Titans
Writer: Franco & Art Baltazar
Artist: Art Baltazar
Publisher: DC
Really awesome series, with emphasis in both genres, boys and girls, with the rare quality of being toddler/kiddie friendly and adult fun.

Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
Adapted by Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel

Playful and kid approacheable. May not be so enjoyable as the previous title for adults, but still bearable.

 

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!
Writer: Mike Kunkel, Art Baltazar, Franco, Others
Artists: Mike Kunkel, Mike Norton, Others
Publisher: DC
He’s pretty much the best character for kids, because he is one. It is also one of those titles that is enjoyable for adults, so… don’t hesitate!

 

Batman: Li’l Gotham
Writers: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC

I noticed that toddlers sometimes have a hard time staying with title.

Batman ‘66
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Jonathan Case, Others
Publisher: DC

This one may not be also too suitable for toddlers at time, although certainly for young kids.

Adventure Time
Writer: Ryan North, Others
Artists: Braden Lamb, Others
Publisher: Boom! Studios

All around winner, awesome exercise in imagination for children’s of all ages

 

Teen Titans GO!

Publisher: DC

Another great title even for the more younger ones.

Disney Comics

Another group you can never go wrong with. I stay away because of ethical reasons; I disagree with lots of the Disney ethics and business decisions.

Comic Review: Hawkeye The best “floppy” I’ve read in a very long time

•December 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My dear friends, as you know by now I have quite a gripe against publishers using “Floppies” to serialize TPB or graphic novels.

For those of you who don’t know it, my gripe rises from the lack of a “Direct to Graphic Album” market, and this tendency to make Floppies to eventually release Graphic Novels, just

Also, unknown to most of you, I have a large box of comics that I read slowly (at a rate of maybe 3-5 per weekend). That box is filled with floppies bought at different trips and different weeks.

In it I recently found a comic that it had shown promised, and got me excited to read about, but since it was in the box, I kinda forgot about it.

zwg6kz[1]Hawkeye

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: David Aja

Publisher: Marvel Comics

This series started being published towards the end of 2012.

I found two issues in my box, so I must’ve had them since early 2013.

The following day after reading them I stopped by my local comic book store, and then started searching for other stores that carried back issues, because this one didn’t. Eventually I found one that had all of them and brought them home with me (making a considerable dent on my budget for the comics of that month)

 

This series is an instant classic, because it takes common sense conventions used in the production and sale of Floppies, and polishes all of them with a finesse rare in today’s publishing world.

For example, a lot of these stories are self contained. Some arches end in the same issue (Floppy). No more 10 or 20 issue archs, or graphic novels broken down in 20 page installments. Some stories do reach 2 issues, but usually that’s about it.

Also, characters (good guys, bad guys, supporting cast) are recurring, and come back from time to time. So stories may be one or two issues long, but you get the sense they happen in a universe that is familiar and you can relate to.

There is a synergy between the writer and the artist, that is very infrequent. It sort of reminds me of the amazing teams of the bronze age, like Wolfman and Colan with the Tomb Of Dracula.

The main reason why you should pay attention to this issue, Issue 11, is because it explodes.

David Aja is working with Matt Fraction since the beginning of the series, and by now, they have been publishing this comic for a year.

David Aja’s style can remind you of Eduardo Risso, in the sense that both are masterful craftsmen of the art of graphic storytelling. Both fill the page with effective storyboards, and both have deceptively simplistic styles that are the result of years of hard work simplifying sketching styles, working out innovative ways of simplifying complex inking processes.

These are old school artists, not so much in age, but in ethics. They belong to school of though that artists should leave thier imprint in books a long stretch, and while Risso has lots of works, everyone still admires, wonders and marvels at how he pull off the epic saga of 100 bullets.

David Aja is following on his steps with Hawkeye, and the first year ends with this epic episode.

So, onto the details.

What is so epic about this Hawkeye issue 11?

Is told by the dog Lucky.

And the cynics among you may say: “So? We3 was about dogs. And so is now Red Rover…”

Well, Hawkman issue 11 has the dog work with the artists laying out the page, and narrating the story.

David Aja dares to face complexity of panels with an innovative way of composing the layouts. In the background of the page, some reference to the physical settings that relates to the panels laid on top.

The use of linked buttons, emulating connectors on a relationship-diagram, gives also a high tech look and feel to the graphic design of the page.

The writer has done his homework.

He knows that dogs have memories, and they can separate a large amount of scents and that gets reflected on the page of the comic.

Also, in the pages that follow, the reader gets a complete year-in-review, and in small snippets of memory from the Lucky the dog, we get to review the action in a different perspective.

It is this marriage between graphical simplicity and complex page layout that shines by itself and makes this floppy such a classic.

The final pages area about how we choose our alliances, how it is OK to change friends from time to time, and above all, to seek freedom, for within freedom we open the doors to different opportunities and we allow destiny to act upon us.

There hasn’t been in recent memory a “Floppie” of this quality, so under-rated that has flown under the radar of most reviewers and critics, including yours truly.

I hope one day I will get it signed, because it really restored my faith on floppies.

After more than 10 years of having given up on them.

 

In my critic’s rating I give Hawkeye #11 by David Aja and Matt Fraction

stars.10

10 Stars out of 10

 

Facebook forces me to compromise

•November 28, 2014 • 1 Comment

On a follow up on my previous post, Facebook sent me an update, and their main problem was me using a pseudonym, ComicWatcher.
So I had to allow them to use my real name, Gerald Dean.
Since I have so many contacts, and I keep so many links to people, I gave in.
More to come… the story is not over.

 
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