Archive for November, 2010

From Life to Page to Screen

Monday, November 29th, 2010

If a comic book is based on real life, and a movie is based on that comic book, is it still a comic book movie? Especially when the events depicted only took place a few years ago, and the protagonists are still very much alive and well?

These questions only come up because Bluewater Productions and Hayden 5 Media recently announced that they are preparing a film based on Bluewater’s upcoming adaptation of the life of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, titled “Mark Zuckerberg and the Found.” Which sounds more like a children’s story, a similarity compounded even further by the fact that this film will be animated, though more akin to Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly than any Disney or Dreamworks film.

No release date on the film, but the comic itself has yet to be released—check your local comic shop in late December.

(via Splash Page)

A Little More Conversation

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

A good comic should have the right balance of words and images, working with each other to tell a story. One should not be more important than the other, because otherwise you’ve just written a novel or a picture book, not a comic.

The words have overpowered the images in these ads for Colgate toothpaste, but that doesn’t make them failed comics. The preponderance of text is actually the point of the narrative. Colgate cleans your mouth, which gets rid of your bad breath, which allows you to talk more. And talk and talk and talk. You can talk so much that it overwhelms the comic you’re appearing in! The content of the words in these ads are irrelevant, as they’re being used as a visual element instead. Which is good, because the scans aren’t large enough to read the text anyway.

(via The Ephemerist)

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Smokers are used to seeing the warnings on packs of cigarettes that tell them why they shouldn’t be smoking—smoking causes cancer, smoking causes heart disease, secondhand smoke can be harmful to others, pregnant women shouldn’t smoke—in fact, they’re so used to seeing the messages that there’s no point to the warnings at all. Smokers keep smoking and new members join their ranks every day.

So the US Food and Drug Administration has proposed to up the ante by making the warnings more than just a line of plain text that is easily ignored, adding pictorial warnings to the packs that take up half the visual real estate on the front, even placing them above the brand logo.

Some of the images are pretty graphic, ranging from a set of rotting teeth to pictures of corpses. Many take a softer sell, like a handful of comic-inspired images.

Will these images have any effect on the number or smokers in the United States? Considering that other draconian measures (like no smoking in bars) haven’t had much of an effect, and no one really looks at their cigarette pack anyway, it seems unlikely.

Don’t Try To Cross King Con

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

This past weekend was the second annual King Con, a comic convention held at the Brooklyn Lyceum. While I was unable to attend due to social obligations (and admittedly I forgot the convention was even happening), King Con wasn’t the only event going on that Sunday. As luck would have it, Sunday was also the New York City Marathon, which runs through all five boroughs for as long as it takes to cross the finish line. The Lyceum happened to be right in the path of the marathon, making it a bit difficult for con-goers to get from the subway to their final destination. Bree Rubin and her webcomic Sex, Drugs and June Cleaver did a strip displaying the Frogger-esque crossing that was necessary that day.

The convention was a four-day affair, so at least there were three unobstructed days to cross the street like a normal human being. Still, I hope that most of the attendees managed to enjoy their unexpected exercise.

(via Jimmy’s Juke Joint)

The Company You Keep

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Getting out of jury duty has become such a running joke that it almost feels like a national pastime at this point, but John Backderf (aka “Derf”) still managed to surprise the judge and lawyers—they even dropped their pens—with his response to “Has anyone you know ever been convicted of a crime?”

“I had a close friend in high school who killed 17 people”

By close friend he means infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 men between 1978 and 1991 before he was caught in 1991 and killed 3 years later in prison.

As for John Backderf, he was dismissed from jury service. In addition to getting him out of court, the incident is great publicity for his self-published comic, My Friend Dahmer.

(via The Plain Dealer)

A Not-So-Wee Ad for the Wii

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

When the Nintendo Wii came out, it was marketed as a system for everyone—old people liked it, little kids loved it, and even your mom didn’t mind inviting it to Thanksgiving for a few rounds of bowling and tennis with Wii Sports. But even with this newfound crossover appeal, the execs at Nintendo recognized they still needed to grab that “core audience” of adolescent and young adult males, so what better way than to make their appeal with another medium with a “core audience” of adolescent and young adult males?

Running in various superhero titles throughout late 2006 and early 2007, this comic-style ad features a plucky, blond boy (and his black cat) extolling the immersive nature of the Nintendo Wii. The first page is a little exciting, but the second page becomes more explanatory, talking about storing Miis and downloading games with the Virtual Console and all those other things that seemed pretty exciting at the time and got most of us to buy Wii consoles. They certainly sold a lot.

Because it is two pages of advertising content in a comic format appearing inside an actual comic, the spread had to be labelled as a “special advertising section” in order to avoid consumer confusion. Which makes perfect sense, you know, considering how often writers keep inserting the Wii into stories of their own accord.

(via Kotaku)

I’m a Sprocket Man!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Bicycles are the du jour mode of transportation for the “hip” and environmentally-conscious urbanite, with new bike lanes being constructed across the country and workplaces offering “bike friendly” policies as just a couple of examples, which just outline a greater need for bike safety—there were 630 bicycle-related deaths in 2009, and 51,000 injuries.

Perhaps this would be a good time to take a look at Sprocket Man (no connection to Elton John or William Shatner), a bicycling safety comic presented by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The art is rough, and the style and content definitely betray a late ’70s/early ’80s vibe—for one thing, they refer to “bike ramps” on sidewalks—but the safety info is still sensible for the most part. Follow the traffic laws! Always be aware of your surroundings! Wear your helmet properly even though it makes you look like a dork!

A Story to Wrap Yourself In

Friday, November 5th, 2010

During my senior year of college at NYU, I took a creative writing class. I had developed an interest in writing fiction at some point during undergrad, and I thought that a class would be a good way to put myself on a writing regimen. My output increased considerably because I had to write something for each class, and I also learned a lot of new things about writing fiction. I also had to write a lot of poetry.

Each student had to turn in two short stories over the semester. We had to bring in a copy for every student to read, and then the entire group would critique the story next class. This was nerve-racking if you were the one presenting a story, but it wasn’t too pleasant for those who had to read it, either. Over time I started to notice something about a lot of the stories submitted. Now, the class was a pretty diverse cross-section of young adults from across the United States; kids from California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Georgia, Texas. And yet, despite these far-flung origins, a good number of the stories seemed to be set in the East Village. Young people living in the East Village. It’s as if these students had decided that nothing worth writing about had happened to them until they came to New York for college.

This is the same general impression I get from a lot of indie, small press, and self-published biographical comics. Too many I look at seem to be slice-of-life stories about young people living in the big city; be that city New York, Chicago, Portland, or wherever. Nothing against people from those cities (who might not have other things to draw on), but a story should only be told if there is a story to tell. A good autobiography should be about telling the world interesting or great things, or at least offering a unique perspective on common experiences. To be worthy of an audience, a work must offer something that other works do not.

And that is precisely what Blankets by Craig Thompson has done for me. It’s the ostensibly the story of Thompson’s first love, but it’s so much more than that—it’s about religion, it’s about childhood, it’s about abuse, it’s about being an outcast, it’s about growing up and deciding what you want to be now that you have the power to decide. And it works, not just because of its immense length—the entire softcover volume clocks in at 592 pages—but because Thompson shies away from nothing in his troubled past. He takes all these experiences from childhood and weaves them into a cohesive narrative that not only leads into his romance with Raina, but that also provides context for everything he does. He feels shame about his feelings for Raina. He feels shame about his drawings. He feels shame about his relationship with his brother. Unlike other works which are too happy to pretend that there was nothing before adulthood, or works which treat childhood as a series of perfect moments, Thompson is honest and brutal, and in doing so he shows us how he became the person he is now.

I read the entire work in a day, which might seem impressive because of its length, but Thompson’s art is smooth and flowing and reads quickly. It also helps that many pages have little dialog, and some pieces of art take up full pages. Blankets rolls around in the luxury of page count it has been given. The book is such a quick read, that the end comes way too soon—and it’s such a sudden, disappointing end. The story just stops. We might get these little glimpses into adult life, but that’s not an ending, it’s an epilogue, and after such an emotional ride, it’s greatly unsatisfying.

Blankets
by Craig Thompson
published by Top Shelf Productions (Marietta, 2003)
ISBN 1-891830-43-0

Vegetables, Drawn and Stripped

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Food comics are definitely on the rise—between the popularity of Jon Layman’s and Rob Guillory’s Chew and the upcoming Get Jiro! comic from Anthony Bourdain, foodie and comic fandom are starting to come together—but they’re still lacking a crucial element: actual food. Read all  you want, you won’t be any  less hungry.

Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey are looking to change that. Amanda Cohen is no stranger to the food scene, as the chef and owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. And Ryan Dunlavey is no stranger to comics, particularly of a nonfiction bent, as the creator of Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics. Together, they’re preparing to serve up a delicious dish in the form of a comic—a comic book cookbook.

The book isn’t due until 2012, but you can sample a little taste over at Comics Alliance.

(via Robot 6 and Comics Alliance)

How to Make an 8-Bit World

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

deviantART is host to quite the thriving comics community; you’ll find everything from one-panel cartoons to comic strips to pages from full comics, as well as a plethora of fan art and original art. The art includes pencil sketches, paintings in watercolor and acrylic, photography, and even more modern media such as tablet drawings and computer-generated artwork.

Anyone can create an account and anyone can upload artwork (even written materials), but it’s still easy to be intimidated. Which is why Metal Shadow X has posted this handy guide to making sprite comics. Sprite comics are comics that take the character pixel art from various video games and rearrange them into new situations. A popular example is 8-Bit Theater.

The instructions are simple and contain the occasional typo, but he does his best to illustrate every step of his process, and it doesn’t seem too hard. The comic really only covers placing the characters and creating the dialog bubbles, and doesn’t cover creating the actual panel framework or obtaining the sprites in the first place, but I suppose it’s a start.

Metal Shadow X does venture into actual drawn artwork as well, but it’s very rough and beginner-level, and a lot of it is very NSFW.