Aug 01 2014

The Good Wife (season 1-4)

Granted, I’ve only seen about half the episodes of any given season as it is something my folk enjoy and I might simply be in the same room when out on Long Island as they watch the show. It is well done and focuses on Alicia, a former lawyer who took a generation off to raise her kids but is now back on the job after some trouble with her politician husband (think Anthony, Elliot, and Bill). The writing, plotting, and acting is pretty strong as Alicia attempts to get back into the swing of work life at a very successful law firm (a little too successful to take a chance with her after so many years off, but whatever, it’s all who you know).

My problems with the show are numerous. Everyone’s beautiful as is natural in the entertainment world and if you ever see a real trail on TV you realize how fake TV dramas’ versions are, but my real issue is that I think just about ever character in the show is an utter scumbag. Everyone is lying and cheating and manipulating while making money I could never dream of, but somehow we are sympathetic to them because we too undergo some of their problems (like failed relationships) and we can like them as they occasionally do pro bono work (as if it wasn’t incredibly self serving).

Jul 31 2014

Bottle Rocket

Man, this page was a pain in the butt to produce. I went back a forth on layout choices, only to arrive at something not terribly different from my initial plan. Then I had to wrap my head around multiple layers in Manga Studio to get the panels to overlap correctly.

This page is meant to have a montage effect as C returns to the crime scene with bright lights to search for clues.

The final layout does better reflect the “searching motif” that you see on other pages. C is often moving between panels, and his cigar smoke typically breaks the panel frame. Here he is literally bursting through the panels as he discovers important evidence.

Although I’m not 100% sold on how well this page works, I am pretty pleased at some of the artwork. One of the challenges that I’ve presented myself with this comic is learning how to draw black on black and still show depth of field. In this page I relied more heavily on cross hatching to indicate background and negative space, thus allowing the light to “shine” on some surfaces. Note C’s jacket in panels 3 and 4: there’s no outline; you understand where it stops because of the negative space created by the cross hatching “behind” it.

Jul 30 2014

Saga (vol. three) – Brian K. Vaughan

Continuing from the first/last two volumes of this title, we continue with our star crossed lovers and their mixed raced baby that everyone seems to want to get their hands on, as the rabidly growing extended family attempts to elude and outwit various bounty hunters and government agents that are so darn annoyed that Marko and Alana have decided to quit their war. As mentioned previously, I enjoy the various cast of characters, the straightforward plot, the not particularly wordy storyline, veiled and not so veiled references to our world, and female characters like look like a supermodels’ dream come true. Very enjoyable. 

Jul 29 2014

Notes for a War Story – Gipi

Gipi tells a make believe story about someone making a movie about those who fought in a war (which Gipi made up for a make believe country) in such as way that it might as well all been true (and is probably based on the Yugoslavian civil war). We follow the lives of a group of kids–and they really are just kids–as a war shatters their lives and leads them into a world of crime and back to war again, which is Gipi’s ways of pointing out that the two are really the same thing. The art is unusual, very sketchy with a splash of ugly color, and not something that I would not normally care for, but then again I normally don’t like war stories where everything is based on something fake to make a statement, yet everything works together so well here that I got sucked in. Oddly, I will also be the first to say that the story is a little slow and boring at times, but, again, that’s what life in war can be: incredibly dangerous one second coupled with periods of mundane nothing. I liked it, and considering you can read it in a very short time, I strongly suggest you do. [Note: My thumb is not actually part of the cover.]

Jul 28 2014

Girl Genius: (Book 8) Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones – Phil & Kaja Foglio

For absolutely no good reason this volume was not written up by me and instead I skipped to book 9. So here it is far after the fact: The heir to the mad scientist family that at various times was loved and feared throughout Europe, has returned to her ancestral home and the (once) all powerful, mechanical castle. Unless she can use her (mad) scientific genius to get the castle to acknowledge her lineage and fix the castle’s defenses, her enemies shall destroy everything. This section of the series (where Agatha is in Mechanicsburg) becomes the longest of the series as the story will continue in this setting for many volumes to come. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends. I do love the story and this one is still great and the setting still exciting and new. 

Jul 27 2014

Studio Time 7-27-14

Kept going back and forth on the design for this one. Still don’t think it’s right, but it’s done.

Initial sketch:

Reconfiguration via Manga Studio:

Re-reconfigured pencils”

Pen inks:

Brush inks:

Jul 27 2014

The Jeselnik Offensive

By the time you read this the show will be entering it’s 3rd season (as I like it so much, I’m sure it will still be on). I’ve always liked Anthony Jeselnik’s stand-up and roasting and glad to see his offensive and straight-faced hilarity in it’s own show.

Jul 26 2014

Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman

A stand in for Neil Gaiman tells the story of going out with friends and the unusual events that come out of what at first seems to be a very dull, mundane evening. Not a bad little tale, although I’m pretty sure I had read it before so, apparently, it didn’t stay with me very long. I do HATE the plot devise of an author writing a story about a character that clearly is the author–what? as an author you don’t have what it takes to come up with a character that isn’t you?! 

Jul 25 2014

Batman Incorporated (vol. 1-2): Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted – Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Ug, more from the “new 52″ to disappoint. What a sloppy comic that introduces us to this idea that the crime fighter, Batman, is using his money and influence to assemble a world wide network of people who work for Batman to solve crime and protect the innocent, only that doesn’t work out very well and the daughter of a villain (and former lover of the Batman) seeks vengeance through the use of the son they had together. Explosions, action, betrayal, pain and suffering, people die, aargh, oh wow, etc., but there are so many characters in this story who I both do not know anything about or care about in the slightest, action that is motivated by stuff I am vaguely told about, and plot that is just F/X on a still page. So, what I’m saying is that while Morrison is considered a god to so many, I find nothing redeeming about this comic as there is really nothing here. “A tale told by an idiot…” 

Jul 24 2014

Dave Attell: Comedy Underground

I’m a huge fan of Dave Attell, which is why I’m so disappointed with this show, which just has him being an MC for live stand-up shows that are half assed at best. It promotes itself as being edgy but if I laughed ten times in about as many shows I’d be shocked.

Jul 23 2014

Batman (vol 1): The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder

Somehow unknown to the world’s smartest man and greatest detective in history, the vigilante, the Batman, a group of people calling themselves the Court of Owls have really run his home city of Gotham for generations. Why? How? And more importantly, why do they decide now is the time to come out and exert their power and make themselves known to the Batman? I have no idea as not much really happens in this comic except that the Batman kind of gets stomped, which I suppose is comic talk for “wow, how tough!” Wow, how about explaining some motivation? The only thing that really interested me was the very brief exposition that the newly orphaned, pre-Batman, Bruce, actually did some detective work to search for the Court of Owls as a kid. That actually sounds like it could have been a fun tale. Instead, we have this with art that makes about four characters all look like Bruce, and a motiveless mystery. So much for the new 52. 

Jul 22 2014

The Exciting Desk Scene

C learns what nitre can do, while M catches up on business.

The eyes are meant to be suggestive of C watching everything—I had considered making them a single panel across the top, but that seemed a bit too forced.

The “X” of the window frame lines up on M, as it will in several scenes, a subtle suggestion that he’s already been caught.

Jul 22 2014

Heck – Zander Cannon

Hector discovers that his house has an entrance to Hell. Naturally, he opens a business wherein he goes to visit damned souls and get information for those they left behind. This story is simply drawn and, in a way, simply told (in that the exposition given in chapter one could have been three graphic novels, it was so flush with interesting material). There were elements I did not like in this tale, for example, Hell is based on Dante’s Catholic version so probably everyone you ever met is going there; and there were elements I thought were missing, for example tons of backstory about Hector’s earlier visits to Hell; yet when it is all said and done, Cannon wants to tell a very specific story about loss, redemption, and false appearances and in that he does a nice job. 

Jul 21 2014

Justified

As I wait for season four I urge you all to check out this television show about a US Marshall who, after killing a mobster in Florida (he claims the murder was “justified”), is sent back home to Kentucky. Here, he picks up his Marshall duties and we learn about his world. The show is funny and gripping as we are introduced to a part of the country I’d like to avoid. We see a cornucopia of racists/nazis involved in drugs and other crimes, various intrigues of criminal groups, and the work the US Marshall organization attempts. Our main character, Raylan, deals with a complicated love-life and an even more complicated family dynamic (his dad is a notorious criminal). My only complaint is that too many of the characters are model attractive (junkie hookers don’t have that type of body or that many teeth and Raylan gets with another one every season)–although it makes a nice contrast for the ones that capture the redneck look. I’m currently waiting for season 6 and this show is still pretty strong.

Jul 20 2014

Studio Time 7-20-14

This week, C looks through a microscope while M reads a business magazine! The action never stops in this comic!

The initial thumbnails started out a bit different from the final piece.

I decided that I wanted to show some contrast between what occupies our two lead characters, which led to this mock up.

Pencils:

Initial pen inks:

Final brush inks:

Jul 20 2014

Ender’s Game

Poorly acted, and a poorly directed/written script for the film version of this book (which was written by a bit of a homophobic nut, so there’s that) makes it so that it just doesn’t work. For a sci/fi movie about a genius kid who is taught command armies so he may fight off a second alien invasion, there is very little in terms of impressive battles, F/X, or much of anything interesting. To make matters worse, if I hadn’t read the book I’m not sure I would follow all that was going on–in terms of what character’s were doing and why. The first hour had at least 15 minutes that could have been cut and I’m thinking that those who know the story might just want to jump to the end 1/3rd. Better still, skip the whole thing. Apparently, while I reviewed the sequel some four years ago, I never did a write up for Orson Scott Card’s original Ender’s Game… sorry. 

Jul 19 2014

Americus – MK Reed

Ok, here’s the pitch: This kid–Neil–is growing up in a crappy little town in middle America. Raised by his divorced mom, he struggles to fit in but his best/only friend (who is gay) is sent off to military school because of their interest in a fantasy series. Now this book series starts a controversy and some of the town folks want to ban it, but reading is like the only thing that keeps Neil sane, so what’s going to happen?! Yes, it does sound like a great pitch and deals with a lot of controversial issues of book banning and the role of libraries, etc., and Neil growing into himself, but the pitch and the actual story are not the same thing and the heavy handed book banning issue, Neil’s outcast status, and the idea that all these young guys are interested in reading a series with a female protagonist (teen girls will read about a boy hero but not the other way around), just isn’t very interestingly written despite the interesting idea. Sorry, it should have been up my alley but wasn’t. 

Jul 18 2014

Nowhere Men

Imagine a world where scientists are revered like rock stars. Scientists Ellis, Grimshaw, Dade, and Strange are the equivalent of the Beatles, not only in their popularity with the public but also in their genius and—ultimately—their inability to remain together.

Interweaving faux advertisements, books, and magazine articles with the comic pages, writer Eric Stephenson shows us how thoroughly this alternative Fab Four have affected the cultural mindset. The story is compelling, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. While I certainly appreciate not having all my plotlines telegraphed, I had the nagging feeling that this could be one of those books that has a great set up but crashes and burns in the third act. Stephenson focuses so heavily on the personalities of the main characters that he leaves little room to show any actual science—I’m not entirely sure what they’ve actually accomplished much less why they rate the “super genius” label. Similarly, although artist Nate Bellegarde does some fine character work, his settings and backgrounds are sparse at best. Where are all the gadgets and, you know, science stuff? How is this world any different from our own? Is it only the choice of pop icon?

Nevertheless, Nowhere Men 1: Fates Worse Than Death is certainly worth a read, and I’m happy to see it alongside the other amazing work Image Comics is pumping out in its (gasp!) third decade. I’ll certainly seek out book two.

Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (w), Nate Bellgarde (a), Jordie Bellaire (c)

Jul 18 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is a very bizarre, oddly filmed, and rather funny movie about a hotel manager who is framed for the murder of his (one of several) octogenarian lover, and the new lobby boy who teams up with him to prove his innocence. There are rarely laugh aloud scenes, but the film is very quirky and rather sweet, which makes me a big fan. 

Jul 17 2014

Wonder Woman

I vaguely remember seeing this animated movie of the Amazon Princess that leaves her mystical home to see the world of men and right some wrongs. Seeing it again reminded me how much I liked it. It’s definitely not for kids considering the massive death toll. There are great scenes like Amazons having their version of storming the beaches of Normandy and fights with the Vietnam memorial in the background, and no one’s done a better version of Hades. Question: If the voice actors are all gorgeous and tough, why can’t you have a live action version? 

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