Archive for the ‘comics’ Category

Gullible comic

Monday, August 8th, 2011

[Comic comic 5, words by E. Stephen Mack, art by Jim Woodring via Microsoft Comic Chat 2.5. Text: 'And so that's why the moon landing was faked.' 'Daniel, you are so freakin' gullible. Your picture is under gullible in the dictionary. You believe every piece of crap you read.' 'That's not true!!!' 'Give me a minute!' Screenshot of wiktionary with gullible follows, with a picture of the first character.]

(Click to enlarge)

The Letter V

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Sorry, every other letter in the alphabet, you’re fired. The letter V has completely dominated popular culture.

Vvvv vvv vv, V vvvvv, vvv vvvv vvvvvv vv’vv vvvv vv vvv vv “v.”

[Collage of images involving the letter V from popular culture, including V, True Blood, V for Vendetta, others]
(Click to enlarge)

In the collage, roughly from left to right:

  1. Supermodel Anne V (Sports Illustrated photo), wearing a v-neck bathing suit, from her 5-year SI run.
  2. Actress Morena Baccarin as Anna in the new “V” series on ABC.
  3. The energy drink V.
  4. XKCD illustrating Valentine’s Day (V Day). (Notice that the bottom half of a heart forms a V.)
  5. The band Live’s album V.
  6. V logos for Virgin brands as well as the TV series “V” look similar.
  7. The annual music festival in the UK.
  8. The victory gesture with 2 fingers; Churchill (his arm, at least) and Nixon are demonstrating here. Nixon is really demonstrating three Vs.
  9. The graphic novel V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore, drawn by David Lloyd, which later became a movie.
  10. In the HBO series “True Blood,” adapted from the Charlaine Harris novels, vampires are known as “Vs,” and their blood is a drug known as “V” (reminiscent of “X” for ecstasy).
  11. Visitors, visitors, everywhere. In addition to the current “V” series (where the Visitors are called “Vs”), there was the original two-part 1983 miniseries, a three-part 1984 miniseries, a short-lived 1984 TV series, and various novels and comics.
  12. Thomas Pynchon’s first novel, V.
  13. The V subway train, familiar in orange to residents of New York.
  14. The Gibson Flying V, made famous by Lonnie Mack and Jimi Hendrix.
  15. V Day (or V-J Day), and the world’s most famous photograph of a kiss in Times Square.

And there are probably a dozen more I could have included if I had thought of them.

With-apologies-to-South-Park comic

Monday, April 13th, 2009

[Comic comic 4, words by E. Stephen Mack, art by Jim Woodring via Microsoft Comic Chat 2.5. Text: 'Hey, do you like fish sticks? Do you like to put them in your mouth?' 'Nah.' 'They're breaded and kind of gross.' '...' 'I guess you're not a gay fish then.' 'I like fish balls though.' -- comic related to South Park's fishsticks/gay fish joke]

Thoughts on the Watchmen movie

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Twenty-two years ago, in the last half of 1986, I was an undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley, and probably spent more time thinking about comic books than I did thinking about my computer science classes.

A guy named Frank Miller was working on Batman Year One and Elektra Assassin. A guy named John Byrne had just restarted Superman at #1. The most popular comic book was X-Men, then written by Chris Claremont. And a guy named Alan Moore started a twelve-part series called The Watchmen, with art by Dave Gibbons.

We had the Internet back then, but this was before the Web and Twitter and Facebook. When we wanted to talk about something, there were discussion groups called Usenet, and the newsgroup for discussing comic books was called net.comics at the time.

Well, when The Watchmen started, we talked about little else. Thousands of posts, with speculations and discussions and arguments. Waiting up to a month for each new issue to arrive was torture, and we filled the gap with micro-analysis of every panel. (I see the same kind of scrutiny applied to Lost today.)

A few half-complete archives of that old newsgroup still exist (like this one), and it’s strange to read my earnest twenty-two year old arguments after issue 5 came out where I tried to refute speculation about who the evil mastermind was behind the murder mystery. I was dead wrong.

At the time, a popular topic was who should play each character in the movie. Fan discussions of movie casting are always unrealistic, pitting box office draws against each other, and piling up dozens of famous actors in even the most minor roles. But even back then we thought it would be a great movie. Never mind that Alan Moore hated movies and didn’t want his series to be filmed. Never mind that it was impossible to capture the twists and turns of those twelve issues in a reasonable movie length. Never mind that the central difference between the world of The Watchmen versus our world — the existence of the omnipotent blue naked guy called Dr. Manhattan — could never be convincingly portrayed on-screen.

Back in 1997, I remember a friend of mine, Dan, an editor at Sybex books, gave me a copy of the early Sam Hamm script, which I thought was largely a travesty. After hearing about the endless reboots and changes in director, I was convinced no one would ever make this film.

Well, I saw it this evening. Zack Snyder did many things right. The casting choices for Nite Owl, Rorschach, Silk Spectre and Ozymandias are superb. I think Richard Roeper has a rule of thumb that says in an ensemble cast of unknowns, the one actor with a recognizable name is probably the weakest link — and that’s the case here. Billy Crudup is a good actor, but even he can’t make Dr. Manhattan believable, and his soft delivery is the biggest distraction in the film.

I didn’t think I’d ever see a Watchmen movie. I didn’t expect even half of critics to get it. The comic remains one of my favorite things ever written, a dense and thoughtful work. So how can any movie deliver on the expectations? How can any movie succeed in translating this work from page to screen? No movie can. Nothing can do it justice.

The tiny details, like the muzak version of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” during a key scene, the dense set dressing of historical objects such as newspapers and photos, the recap montage at the beginning set to Dylan, the changed but still fitting ending — all of these things show that the creators wanted to create a faithful movie version of the comic.

I have to say that I enjoyed myself a great deal, and the parts that work in this movie are far more memorable than the elements that don’t work.

Twenty-two years ago I thought more, wrote more, read more about this comic than practically any other work of fiction of any kind, before or since. Ultimately I have to say I loved this movie, for coming so close. Close enough.

If it had been up to me, I’d have released it in parts, so that modern audiences would have to squirm and wait for the story to be finished, just like we did twenty-two years ago.

Now I know what was stolen

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Today I finished unpacking the last of the boxes from our PODS, and the PODS driver came to take the PODS away. (“PODS” is a cute acronym, but it’s a bit weird to use a word that ends in S as a singular: “My PODS is…”) Anyway, our driveway is clear for the first time since March.

And, as I put away books and crafting supplies, unpacked board games and sorted through office materials, it hit me now what hadn’t hit me before: They stole my comic books.

I wrote earlier (back in October) about a close call where we thwarted some would-be thieves taking stuff from our PODS. Back then, I thought all they had taken was some minor electronics. My Nintendo 64 was found, so really the only electronic stuff they took was an old boom box (not even worth $5) and an old analog video camera and tripod (probably worth $40). But I hadn’t noticed then what I noticed now: My five or six long boxes of bagged comic books are all missing.

Now, a lot of it was junk. I admit that. Superhero comics are very dopey, and even when I was actively collecting and reading comics (about 18 years ago is when I stopped), I didn’t really care for a lot of what I bought. Avengers. X-Men. Thor. Some of the more independent stuff, like Concrete or Nexus, was slightly less dopey. And some stuff, like Alan Moore’s work on The Watchmen , Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta and Miracleman, or the Frank Miller Daredevil runs or his various Batman treatments (like The Dark Knight Returns or Batman: Year One), was only a tiny bit dopey.

I’m not 100% sure of the value. One of my projects was supposed to be cataloging and selling the comics (keeping only the best), but I never got around to it. On the one hand, I’m sort of relieved I don’t have to find a space for the comics and I don’t have to do that project. (And my aching back is thankful I didn’t have to lift them again.) But there’s definitely a monetary value — probably $2,000 or so. (Hey moms, never throw out your kids’ comics, okay? Ebay them instead.) But more than that is the nostalgia. And even more than that is the realization that some of those series, like say Somerset Holmes or Tales from the Beanworld (which captivated Richard Stallman when he rented my room in Berkeley from me one summer), or The Whisper, or The Badger, are never going to be reprinted and are probably impossible to replace.

I didn’t feel violated in October. I shrugged it off. Part of me is still relieved. But now that I can’t do it, the number one thing I want is to just be a kid again and curl up in the corner and read some comics. Damn you thieves!

“Yukon Barbie” comic

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

[Comic strip about two characters discussing Sarah Palin and sexism, words by Zeigen; generated with Microsoft Chat 2.5, incorporating art from Jim Woodring]

(Click to enlarge to the point where you can, you know, actually read it.)

On Friday, my reaction to McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin as VP was both surprise and respect. Previous to that, I felt like the McCain campaign really was doing very little right (off-base attack ads, ridiculous press events like this one, poor policy briefings, alienating the media).

To suddenly make an unexpected choice, and to time the announcement so perfectly right after Obama’s keynote — to me, his campaign suddenly seemed to be competitive, and I felt the next ten weeks would be a lot more interesting. I did feel that the choice of so inexperienced a politician would ultimately work against McCain, but as a strategic move it was an attention-grabber, supporting McCain’s image as a maverick.

If you’re a Democrat like me, there’s plenty not to like about Palin’s positions. But the media and blog coverage of her has really sickened me. I’m tired of misogynistic, hateful and inappropriate discussions. I do not care to read about her children or her family at all, and the arguments about exposing her “hypocrisy” through these issues are baseless since the actions of her children are not her actions. Real issues only, please.

The story I’m interested in is her actual work as a corruption-buster versus charges of corruption and pork barrel politics against her. But that’s buried by this nonsense about her daughter. Obama had it right: Family is off-limits.

Personal question comic

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Comic comic 2, words by E. Stephen Mack, art by Jim Woodring via Microsoft Comic Chat 2.5. Text: 'Hey Mary, can I ask you a personal question?' 'Sure!' 'Do you go to church?' 'Yes -- but I'm not religious about it.'

Comic comic

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Comic comic 1, words by E. Stephen Mack, art by Jim Woodring via Microsoft Comic Chat 2.5. Text: 'When I was a kid, I told my dad I wanted to be a stand-up comic.'  'What did he tell you?'  'Sit down.'

My new favorite comic

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats, recently unearthed kitty-hobos comics from the early 20th century, is sublimely brilliant.

Could this be the origin of the LOLCatz meme?

Mmm, Calvin & Hobbes

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

In the gift exchange between my various siblings, my sister-in-law Erin drew my name and it turns out she got me the Calvin and Hobbes complete collection. I was very excited. And these are three very imposing, thick, hard-bound volumes, weighing together about 30 pounds I’d say. That’s a brick of Calvin & Hobbes for ya.

I cracked open the first volume yesterday and right away fell in love all over again. I have never loved a comic strip more than Cavlin & Hobbes, and it holds up really well (timeless, really).

Of course, as a Californian, I can’t really relate to the many strips he has about snow and bad weather. But I grew up in England (until I was 12 and we moved out to Cally) and so I experienced my share of snow as a youngling.

What really impresses me about Bill Watterson is that he never sold out. No Calvin animated figures. No Hobbes plushies. Not even any t-shirts. Just the strips themselves, that was the only thing he’d agree to sell.

Thanks Erin!