Archive for August, 2010

Bluewater in Hot Water?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Bluewater Productions, the publisher of biographical comics starring political figures like Barack Obama and pop culture icons like Oprah Winfrey, has found itself in a spot of trouble after attorney Kenneth Feinswog has issued them cease-and-desist letters on behalf of his clients Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. The charge? That they infringe on intellectual property and likeness rights.

Back in the ’90s Feinswog sued Revolutionary Comics over their New Kids on the Block and Mötley Crüe biographical comics but lost on the grounds that like unauthorized biographies in prose form, biographical comics were protected by the first amendment. That’s the reason Feinswog has chosen to go after them on likeness rights. However, Bluewater publisher Darren G. Davis told MTV News:

“We are 100% within our First Amendment rights. [...] We knew our rights on this before we jumped into the biography world. These are 100% biographies on their lives.”

Though I am not myself a lawyer, I did attend a intellectual property panel at New York Comic Con in 2006 and I remember one of the panelists, a lawyer specializing in IP, making that part clear: as long as you create (or license) the images yourself, you can use celebrity images as part of a biography on them. Of course, that might be another issue that comes up, given that Bluewater likes to license art from outside artists, art that may or may not be original in itself, as in the case of this drawing that may have been based on another artist’s photo.

Despite the legal problems, Bluewater is not deterred from publishing more comics in their “FAME” line; they’re doing a comic about the cast of Glee, the Kirsten Stewart comic sold out in one day, and FAME: Lady Gaga is going to a third printing with a new cover, in addition to a sequel on the way.

(via Bleeding Cool)

To the Moon and Back

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Some people, despite all evidence to the contrary, will still believe what they believe. That includes conspiracies, usually involving the government in way, like 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination. Another favorite of conspiracy theorists is the moon landing—forty-one years later, some people maintain that the entire thing was a hoax, filmed on some sound stage in Hollywood.

But as Darryl Cunningham, author of Psychiatric Tales, asserts, these claims are easily refuted. And then he clearly lays it out in comic format, using photography and his unique art style to create a comic that is simple to follow.

One of the things I appreciated was how he indicates who is talking—him or the conspiracy theorists—via the background color of the caption, using a lighter azure for the theorist questions and a darker slate blue for his answers.

The moon landing isn’t Cunningham’s first or only target; you can also read his investigations of homeopathy and Dr. Andrew Wakefield (source of most of the vaccine-autism controversy). All of these are intended as chapters of an ongoing book about science, so there will definitely be more, and most likely will appear in an eventual collection.

I Cast Lightning Bolt

Monday, August 30th, 2010

LARP (also known as “larping”) is a very misunderstood activity; most people don’t even know that it’s an acronym for “Live Action Role Playing,” much less that it’s not a bunch of nerds in bad costumes running around public parks with a tenuous grasp of reality. Well, that it’s not JUST that.

In an attempt to educate, as well as exercise his illustration skills, Nick Edwards put together a LARP guide book that touches on the basics of  larping—genres, costumes, weapons, why people do it, the dangers, and relationship dynamics. The comic doesn’t go into the history of LARP too much, or really argue for it as a legitimate activity, leaving that to a brief infodump on the first page; instead the intended audience is people who are looking to join a LARP game. The most useful part is the “dos and don’ts” section, which clearly and humorously lays out what you should and shouldn’t do in order to make the LARP experience enjoyable to everyone.

However, my favorite section is probably the “dangers” page, because it doesn’t use words to explain, letting the images do all the work in showcasing some of the common problems.

I larped back in high school, and let me just say this: YEP.

Understanding Media Through Comics

Friday, August 27th, 2010

It’s no secret that we live in a media-rich environment, much richer than the world twenty, forty, or seventy years ago. We live in a world where people can store entire libraries in their pocket and have television programs sent to their cell phones. But it doesn’t feel like we’ve done much to teach kids how to deal with this onslaught of information. Oh, we advise them to keep their personal info private and not put anything embarrassing on the Internet lest it come back to haunt them, but in terms of sorting through sources and looking at things with a critical eye… it seems the only difference between then and now is that instead of copying information out of a printed encyclopedia, they’re copying it from Wikipedia.


Media Meltdown by Liam O’Donnell and Mike Deas seeks to change that by introducing the concept of media literacy to kids by putting it in an easy-to-digest form: a graphic novel. For most, the concepts in this book are things they’ll never hear about until college, and that’s only if they major in the right subjects, like communications. But with media forming such an integral and increasing part in our lives, it’s important to have the tools to sort through it all, as this book both illustrates and educates.

The story revolves around a group of kids in a small town—Bounce, Pema, and Jagroop—the latter of which lives on a farm in danger of being sold to a developer. After the barn on Jagroop’s parent’s property nearly burns down, the kids suspect the developer is behind the crime, but can’t find a way to get their message through to anyone who can help them. Via Pema’s older sister Nima’s internship at the local TV station, they learn about all the pitfalls that await any message attempting  to be broadcast—especially when a major advertiser is the aforementioned developer.

The narrative flows from topic to topic seamlessly, talking about the general concept of media literacy, behind the scenes at a TV station, filters, advertising, media consolidation, social media, the components of a film script, and even the types of shots used in a film and how they’re used. The kids are likable, smart but flawed. The book is reminiscent of lots of kids’ chapter book series, though less Hardy Boys and more Baby-Sitters Club, at least in plot structure and characterization. Despite my description though, it should be noted that this is a gender-neutral story, to be enjoyed by both girls and boys. It’s also somewhat age neutral too—even if the protagonists are a bunch of kids, the lessons imparted are made for anyone navigating today’s complicated media landscape, and this would be a welcome addition to any college media studies class.

Part of the book’s plot revolves around the Media Meltdown website, which exists in our world, but mostly as a tool to promote the book and media literacy education. The site includes tools for educators, suggestions for activities, and some online games, including a comic maker that allows visitors to make four-panel strips featuring characters and backgrounds from the book.

Media Meltdown
written by Liam O’Donnell
illustrated by Mike Deas
published by Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, 2009)
ISBN 978-1-55469-065-7

Media Meltdown is the fourth book in the Graphic Guide Adventure series; other installments include:

He Has a PHD at Attending Comic-Con

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Going with the Comic-Con theme one more time, we turn to Jorge Cham and PHD Comics, his thrice-weekly web comic all about life in grad school. Last year, Jorge had the pleasure of attending San Diego Comic-Con for the first time, both as an artist and as a student. To honor this year’s SDCC, Jorge decided to chronicle his experience at last year’s show as a comic.

Through this three part comic, readers get to learn more about Comic-Con, and some of the panels that make up its scheduling block.  For instance, I had no idea that the Comics Arts Conference portion of the con even existed, and I’ve been there twice.  The CAC is meant for students and educators to present lectures and sessions based around comics—comic art, characters, readers and so on.  Of course, it’s open to comic book professionals as well, so that they can share their experiences and stories only they could pass along.

At Comic-Con, Jorge learned that there are plenty of students and educators that attend Comic-Con, not only for the CAC, but also as a way to interact with their peers and to escape college, work, and life for a while. Even as SDCC gets bigger and bigger, it is still a way for comic fans to socialize with friends and strangers that share common interests, and maybe even start some lifelong relationships to be rekindled each year at the next convention.

And yes, even at an academic panel, geeks remain geeks. I mean come on, it’s Nerd Prom! Get your cosplay on and your notebook in hand and take some notes, and make the con your own. If you’re more of an academic, do the academic thing. You like movies? Do movies (don’t stab anybody over a seat, though)! TV, comics, video games? Covered. If you need help figuring out how a convention works for you, take this and the other comics as examples, and roll with it.

Cooking by Comic

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Out of all the available types of how-to manuals, cookbooks are probably the ones that people have the most experience with, but the majority of cookbooks published in the past do not offer step-by-step instructions with photographic accompaniment; instead they are merely pages of recipes with the occasional enticing photo.

As few as photographic cookbooks might be, there are even fewer actual cookbook comics, but a number of people have stepped up to the challenge regardless. Now you can try your hand at a number of recipes, lovingly rendered or photographed to guide the reader through every step of the process.

Lucy Knisley is currently working on Relish, a collection of “stories, histories and recipes of food, all inspired by growing up with a chef for a mom,” due out from First Second in “a couple years.” Until then, you can enjoy her recipes for summer pickles and chai tea syrup.

Other recipe comics include:

And though it’s not a webcomic nor a specific cooking comic, let’s not forget that in volume 2 of Scott Pilgrim by Brian Lee O’Malley, Stephen Stills shows us how to make vegan shepherd’s pie. Daisy Edwards followed this advice, posting the scanned pages from the comic along with her own photos of the process. I once did something similar, using the description posted in volume 14 of xxxHoLiC by CLAMP to make potato-nishigori (read right-to-left):

Finally there’s Cheap Thrills Cuisine, a weekly syndicated strip by Thach Bui and Bill Lombardo. Running since 1993, the strip illustrates recipes as diverse as Cajun roast chicken and Tuscan bean salad, and the archive can be viewed on Comics.com as far back as January 2000.

It Would Be Ironic If This Post Contained Bad Grammar

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Good grammar is a rare and delicate creature on the Internet—hard to find, misunderstood, and readily dismissed by the masses. And should you actually dare to correct someone’s terrible spelling or punctuation, you may end up the one under attack, called “elitist” and in extreme cases, a “grammar nazi.”

You’re far from alone. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal is sick of all the bad grammar out there as well, and he’s found a way to address this pressing issue in a light and informative manner, using comics.

He illustrates when to use i.e. in a sentence, the three common uses of ironyten words you need to stop misspelling, and how to use an apostrophe; this phrase exists merely to demonstrate the proper use of semicolons.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of grammar, The Oatmeal offers a few other informative cartoons for your perusal:

The site is a perfect example of using humor to educate—though, I would think twice before taking his word on why bacon is better than true love.

The American Balancing Act

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

We’re back in an election year, which means it’s time to check in on Sean Tevis, an information architect from Kansas who ran for Kansas State Representative back in 2008 and lost by a handful of votes in his district. Not to be deterred, he kept working throughout 2009 and now he’s back and better than ever—this time running for U.S. Congress, Kansas 2nd District.

He came to fame through a series of xkcd-like comic strips posted on his website, which were highly effective in helping to raise funds for his campaign. This year, he’s not looking for funds for his campaign so much as he is trying to change the way we think about the political system and hopefully restructure it into something that fits our needs.

The idea is to form a “First Nation” that will offer its members benefits, but also ask them to weigh in on issues occasionally. Hopefully this will create consensus and allow people in the United States to make decisions, allowing the country to move forward. Of course, my description is greatly simplifying the issue and not describing it in full, but that’s why Mr. Tevis has created a special comic explaining the whole concept.

I take issue with the name of the group, since “First Nations” (plural) is the collective name given to the aboriginal peoples of Canada (and it’s interesting to note that Tevis’ original concept used the native tribes of the United States as an example) but overall the concept seems sound and it’s worth a look if you’re interested in political change, hate the current polarization of the country, or just find the economic theories of Mancur Olsen dead sexy.

The Clothes, the Lifestyle, the… Comics

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Advertising comics for the most part, tend to be pretty aggressive about the products they push. Whether it’s prominent placement of the product within the storyline, to straight-up name dropping, they don’t tend toward subtlety. A few years ago sportswear brand Perry Ellis hired agency Margeotes Fertitta Powell to do a $15 million campaign that went exactly that route—a series of comics about modern men living and working in the city, albeit well-dressed men. Two batches of comics were produced, the first illustrated by independent comics creator Adrian Tomine (author of Optic Nerve), and the second by illustrator Matthew Woodson.

The comics originally appeared as print ads in a variety of publications, including GQ, Cargo, and Esquire, as well as being posted on PerryEllis.com. The comics are no longer available at the official website, though Woodson has made his batch available to the public as part of his online portfolio.

Comic-Con Comics

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

We’re a few weeks removed from Comic-Con International, but there’s still a few things to talk about. Namely, the reaction to said Comic-Con. I won’t bore you with the wrap-ups you’ve probably read five times already on all the comic news sites. Instead, let’s take a look at some first-hand accounts of what went down at San Diego from behind the booth. Thanks to The Beat, here’s a few strips that give us some unique views from the floor.

The food of San Diego appeared to be a going theme this year, as both Jillian Tamaki, author of Indoor Voice, and Gabrielle Bell, creator of Lucky, were not impressed with their attempts at obtaining Mexican cuisine. From personal experience in San Diego, the Gaslamp District is mostly tourist country. You’re not going to find too many hole-in-the-wall places in the area around the Convention Center, which is traditionally where I’ve found the best Mexican food in every city I have visited. Other than the burrito woes, Jillian goes into her concerns coming into SDCC in her comic.

She was worried it wouldn’t be her crowd, that the noise and volume of attendees would become a major issue for her. Instead, both her and her dude Sam embraced the con with little adjustment necessary. Cosplay won them over, as did the ever-alluring joy of being stopped to have a picture taken of you. Best of all, they even partook in the pitcher full of dice! Okay, they did not buy a pitcher, but they did buy dice.

While Julian chose to go the one page summary route for her Comic-Con wrap-up, Gabrielle Bell’s wrap is still ongoing as of my typing this entry. Three parts have been posted, with Part One acting more as a prologue to Gabrielle’s experience at this particular Comic-Con. Unlike the last time she was there, this time her and her guest were given the royal treatment: comped accommodations at the Hard Rock, $50 per person for food, and passes to the con. Making it their mission to spend all $100 each night, they ate in style, and even got their party on a few times. The personality and humor is ever-present in these strips, and I hope they are eventually collected into either a mini- or full-sized comic at some point. Plus, it helps that the art is very expressive, even in its minimalism.

For a tweet-style we turn to Dylan Meconis, who actually sketched her full week at Comic-Con into one sketchbook. Nothing complicated here, just one panel strips with quick punchlines, probably sketched right after the thought arose or the even occurred. And yes, I do agree that Galactus hats are quite awesome. There are about 20 sketches on Dylan’s Flickr site, ranging from events at panels to being mistaken for your neighbor while behind the booth. They’re a quick read, so I’d recommend just chain-smoking them all when you get the chance.

Finally, we have Keith Knight of K Chronicles, who not only was invited to Comic-Con as a guest, but also ran a few panels and won an Inkpot Award while he was at it! And to complete the food pyramid, experienced the joy of San Diego lobster rolls, Boston-style, thanks to a reader of his. Even from the looks of how he drew this lobster roll, my mouth is now watering. Still, I wonder if he tried any burritos while he was at the con?