Monday, September 26, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Frank Frollo drew for Funny Picture Stories #11 (Nov 1938) one of the most economical comic book action sequences I've ever read.
Probably in the interest of filling space Frollo decompressed the action so far that often a pivotal panel has all the typical excitement one would expect from an Indiana Jones-type adventurer occurring off page and is merely implied. Many of the characters don't react to what should be a frightening or anxious moment and are depicted either staring at objects, gesturing or not reacting at all.
The lion threatening one of the characters is about a half mile away, something that doesn't really inspire tension and even the captions in the word balloons are spaced out, making it appear that everyone speaks while interjecting extended pauses.
While hero Jack Strand contemplating an open gate for an unknown time prior to climbing over an uncompleted crowd barrier is amusing, the most glaring example of economical artistry or script not matching the finished product is the hilarious scene where the enraged lion leaps from the arena and rushes into the crowd of spectators. Not that you'd know it from reading the story.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Really. If I never see another movie like The Tree of Life it will be too soon. There are chick-flicks, and then there is this weepy, dull, Kodak moment-filled shallow miasma of an idealized Americana gone wrong only because people are just sad all the damn time that sucked the will to live from my body.
Wife liked it, though.
Say what you will about the MS OS, but it worked well enough to detect bugs in other operating systems not connected to mine and shut down for safety reasons.
Ironic that only science could repair her problem.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Recently a comic book shop proprietor made a bit of a kerfuffle in the claim that DC Comics was blasphemous in depicting Superman, who was hit in the back with a bursting tank shell, taking a deity's name in vain. Hilariously, the guy declared he was boycotting the DC Comics title.
In reading the new Action Comics #1, I myself didn't take the "GD" uttered by Superman as blasphemous. Firstly, something is blasphemous only if you are negatively invoking something that exists. Since magic doesn't exist, Grant Morrison and DC Comics were not doing anything in vain except for rebooting the DCU. Dramatically, it was most obviously a grunt. Admittedly, Superman often swore in comic books in a trend going back decades. In nearly every appearance he can be read taking the name of his personal lord and savior in vain whenever he expressed a "Merciful Rao" when surprised or injured. I notice that no one ever seemed to have a problem with it. Not too many Sun God followers out there read comic books, I guess.
Most ridiculous is a person who sells and presumably reads comic books getting all huffy about a supposed negative biblical reference. Comic books are nothing if not the kind of fantasy material typically frowned upon by the devout. Comics are full of examples of naughty ideas god-botherers hate such as magic, science, civil rights, witches, demons, talking animals, people that fly and false idols. It's like a pornographer being offended by genitalia.
Indeed, the big cross-over event from Marvel of the last several months is a story of the Creator returning to Earth during the end times. Spoiler: It isn't Jesus and his dad who shows up. Did this comic book guy previously voice any problem with the heresy of an entire line of books featuring an Asgardian pantheon? Probably not but all things being equal, he should have. Focusing on Action Comics #1 while ignoring all the other examples of "blasphemy" seems hypocritical and smells of a publicity stunt. But ranting online about Marvel being heretical likely would have resulted in a forum ban and not being taken seriously enough to have the local news drive up to the store with a camera.
But personal affronts aside Free Speech is allowed in this country. Along with saying what you ant in various formats one is also free not to pay any attention to it. Even if DC intended to blaspheme, then so what? It is fiction. It is also a word (among others) almost anyone would say if hit hard in the back. It isn't like they included a racial slur or anything. For instance what would a real person say if slammed hard enough from behind to break the skin? I'm willing to show anyone who cares to find out. FYI, clicking on this NSFW Superman link is not compulsory. If easily offended, don't click. If stupid, have someone else stop you from clicking. You are free to ignore it: Reaction #1 (Sept 2011).
But where the Action Comics #1 panel was a non-event there is something far more upsetting in many other DC Comic titles lately. If there is anything in comic books to circle the wagons for then it is the threat to modern civilization contained within this panel depicting Batman:
HRM is clearly a DC Comics typesetting contraction for Human Resources Management. Take it from one who has been there, HRM is one of the leading causes of corporate economic failure in our times. If businesses fail then so does America and then the world. HRM embodies a decay beyond the spiritual and including the term in comic books must be some kind of evil agenda to poison the minds of children and 50 year old men.
HRM positions are typically staffed by those who have nowhere to go, are on their way down and are too stupid to sign up for Welfare. HR Managers often hire the wrong people and the best employees are usually terminated from a company without cause. Outrageous policies are implemented like Health Care plans being offered to part time employees. Casual Fridays are stilled called Casual Fridays but business attire is mandatory, no jeans allowed. I don't know why HRM is being promoted by the boys upstairs at DC Comics but it shows up in just about every title featuring Batman. "Business Blasphemy" is rampant at that company, much like how anti-christian themes are prevalent at Marvel. It seems counter-productive. Probably involved is a similar inverted thinking where religious fundamentalists exclusively recruit the crazy to publicize their cause. Kind of a two steps forwards, two steps back kind of approach to proselytizing.
Who knows what ultimate goal DC has in mind for their staffing requirements? But their anti-employee agenda goes against all intuitive processes in effectively training newly hired personnel. All I know is until DC reverses their position on Human Resources Management and apologizes I'm boycotting all the New 52 titles featuring members of the Bat Family.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 09, 2011
Not that you'd know it from the national news media but yesterday San Diego suffered a major and nearly unprecedented power outage that lasted about 12 hours.
At about 3:30 p.m. the electricity failed due to some event in Arizona. The grocery store where I worked went into power-saving mode, which means the back-up generator can run the registers and some other systems for a time, but not for very long. Apparently, the contingencies some nationwide companies have in place for regions of extreme weather that have frequent and extended power outages are not distributed or adapted to the franchises in the relative paradise of Southern California. Historically for businesses outages in San Diego rarely last more than a few hours. This time though we lost untold thousands of dollars worth of product. Some stores are reporting up to $70,000 in spoiled product. Fingers are pointing at the heads that are expected to roll but this wasn't a disaster that began and ended at the store-level. Little or no local contingencies for extended power outages, few refrigerated trucks, limited and seemingly random ice and dry ice deliveries, many back up generators that were limited to support only registers and some lighting and not the refrigerated cases and freezers is a problem that started at and can only be fixed from a higher level.
Once the power went out we shut the doors, only letting customers out and none were allowed entry. This was for safety, mostly. The store was dark and we couldn't have people stumbling around and possibly getting hurt.
Initially, we did let in a mother and her newborn infant so she could get some baby formula and a bottle. We escorted her with us carrying flashlights. Being in panic mode from the power being out she forgot her payment card, didn't have cash and the ATM's were inoperative anyways so we just let her have the items. If she pays us back great, if not we are not worried about it. Babies gotta eat. Of course, when we let the mother and newborn inside another person outside threw a tantrum about being excluded. She wanted in so we let her grab a few things.
A bit later while we were prepping the store another person arrived and went all "Trigger Effect" on the person watching the front doors, claiming an emergency. He was pretty out of line about it and in interest of keeping peace the guy was allowed inside. I don't know what type of emergency is handled with the tortilla chips and strawberries he purchased but it is an odd world sometimes so who knows what his situation was. When I was notified of his behavior I made sure I checked this person out at a register. I dropped a few suggestions that in the future, he should behave better and that I would understand if he wanted to shop elsewhere from now on. FYI: You don't threaten people, not any I am responsible for and basically if I am anywhere in the vicinity. I won't stand for it. Threats will usually get you two things: At my place of work at minimum a banning and maybe a trip to the slammer. I've worked too many places where workplace violence is a reality to let things like that slide and hope the person doesn't get the "Big Headache" and return with a weapon or flip out and attack.
EMERGENCY TIP: Always check the International aisles of the store when panic/emergency shopping. Often people don't think outside their usual frames of reference and when the hardware aisle is cleaned out of regular emergency supplies the International foods section will usually still carry a good supply of veladoras (those prayer candles with religious icons on them) and Shabbat candles.
After the customers were out of the store all the employees pitched in and went to work covering all the cold items. Open chill cases are great for shopping but lousy for keeping things cold. If the power was restored in a few hours then everything would be alright (with the exception of the ice cream). Once we were all done with that we opened the store again. Taking advantage of the emergency lighting in the aisles, sunlight through the windows and using flashlights propped up on the checkstands we were able to remain open until later in the evening when it just became too dark for customer safety and we were unwilling to sell the remaining refrigerated items.
With a few exceptions the customers pretty much remained calm and didn't act out. No one mentioned terrorism without it clearly being a light-hearted jest. I heard more people suggesting that the Grocery Workers Union was responsible for the event than al Qaeda. I did observe one couple taking advantage of the chaos by walking out the door without paying for a bunch of stuff (among the loot was a bouquet of flowers. Not even the edible ones, just a pretty arrangement!), but over all thievery was at a minimum. I guess there will always be people who take advantage. Those kind of people would rifle through wallets and pull rings off of fingers at the scene of a disastrous jet crash so stealing munchies and a flower arrangement during a power outage probably won't cause them to lose any sleep. The truth was if anyone without access to funds (like the mother with the newborn) discreetly asked us (so others wouldn't jump on the idea) we probably would have just let them grab whatever they needed at no cost. I wasn't mad, mostly I was just disappointed.
Once the store was closed for the day I drove home. By then the streets and highways were clear. My neighborhood was still without power and the house was hot, hot, hot. I don't live in the kind of area where windows and doors can remain open unguarded so even though it was cooler and tolerable outside I just went to bed. The first I was aware the power was restored was at about 3:00 a.m. when the air conditioner kicked on and woke me up with a blast of sweet, cool oxygen.
What sold the most at the grocery store during the power outage? Ice, water and booze. All three items are obvious, at least for our regional climate. Whatever fear-mongering or distortions might be reported on later I didn't observe anyone really scared, just mostly unprepared. After everyone dumped ice in their respective fridges to prevent spoilage then it was Big Fun Party Time! Nearly every order had alcohol in it. And 13 hours without power? I wonder what kind of baby boom we can expect in the San Diego area 9 months from now.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Human rights tale in the ironic-ending style common to comic books of the era. Hopefully the end of the story made some sort of impression on young readers. From Spellbound #20 (March 1954).
Click to embiggen like a noble soul.
Monday, September 05, 2011
My birthday is this week and in celebration my lovely wife purchased for me an iPad. I'm not crazy about (a) the price and (b) the DRM but she received a substantial employee discount from her work that brought the tablet down to a reasonable price. I have to admit the tablet is a lot of fun. I don't have the kind of job where I will use it for work so it will primarily be a source for entertainment though it does have some useful tools available. The tablet is easier to carry around than a laptop and larger than a phone so it is in my "Goldilocks Zone" for personal devices. That is, it is just right.
The moment I opened the box I was determined to personalize my iPad before I looked for nifty applications and games. Being a comic book aficionado there is little better a source to declare your comic book geek cred than by displaying art created Jack "King" Kirby. The late artist and conceptualizer Jack Kirby is famous his work on Captain America, the ground-breaking run on Fantastic Four with Marvel Comics and his Fourth World space opera saga for DC Comics. Jack Kirby routinely drew over-the-top, rule-smashing spectacle that sometimes was not appreciated in his day. But even during those periods when some companies and readers didn't always support Jack Kirby's output he always had fans who never let him or his employers forget just how much they appreciated him.
There are few creators in the comic book field past and present that could get away with the artistic stunts Jack Kirby routinely excelled at. Those that try and succeed usually emulate Kirby's unique line style or layouts. Other than unique characters and landscapes Kirby also drew fantastic, impossible and arcane machines that in one story operate by magic and others via super-science, though Kirby often made no distinction between the two, particularly when it came to his depictions of the Asgardian gods in Marvel's Thor series.
Jack Kirby drew for the floppy. In his day the trade paperback consisting of many collected stories was rare and as a concept was underutilized. Kirby didn't generally create art that would serve a purpose much beyond that month's entertainment in what was then considered a disposable format, the comic book. Much of today's comic book art is created with multiple forms of formats in mind for immediate use specifically designed to fully exploit other forms of media. As a marketing tool, an entire industry exists just to supply fans with the extra art and prose outside of the regular periodicals to fulfill their needs. One of the most popular and easiest image types to be found are those created as background pictures for phones and computer monitors, commonly known as "wallpaper". There exists plenty of comic book covers and pages created by Kirby that would serve as a good background image to express my appreciation of the King but a die hard fan such as myself wants something unique.
I had something definite in mind for iPad wallpaper but I couldn't find anything suitable outside scans of Kirby panels. The closest I came to what I wanted was some fan art in the Kirby style. Cool images to be sure but not precisely what I was looking for. What I really wanted for my iPad wallpaper was the ultimate Kirby gadget: The Control Box, the emotion-controlling weapon wielded by the 1960s Fantastic Four villain the Psycho-Man. In the Marvel comic books the Psycho-Man is a despot from another universe who uses the emotions of fear, doubt and hate as weapons to terrify and manipulate human beings, torturing them until they become subjugated to his will. The Psycho-Man has been an semi-recurring character in various Marvel series since 1967.
Looking around the web I found only a few fan-made Kirby-inspired images of the "Mother Box" device designed for the cellphone. The Mother Box is a sentient and benevolent computerized nanny that guides and assists both the good and evil New Gods of Jack Kirby's Fourth World series. Examples of the Mother Box for the phone can be found here and here and here.
My searches for a suitable image of the Psycho-Man's Control Box met with negative results so I decided to create one of my own. My photoshop skills are nearly non-existent but I thought I'd try to create my own Control Box anyway. Initially, I tried to emulate a comic book style of the Control Box but quickly discarded that in favor of a more realistic depiction.
Firstly, I chose a minimalist metallic wallpaper for the background. That gave the surface of the Control Box a texture that made it seem more real, as if it was cut and shaped out of some alien sheet metal in a hidden lab by some insane, cursing alien who muttered to himself, swearing dire retribution on all those who wronged him. Because you just know the young BEM who grew up to become the Psycho-Man got beat up everyday for his lunch credits at Microverse Junior High. After that I created the FEAR, DOUBT and HATE status screens, throwing in some drop shadows to make them appear 3-D. For the control switches I used a standard power button image. I chose a green light for the button because there was enough red adjacent to it.
I then embossed a couple of over-lapping trapezoid shapes on the left side, cut out some sections and added some more generic control buttons. I created a couple of textured surfaces for the right and left sides to add depth. Of course the Control Box would not have that special Kirby touch without some gratuitous zig-zag lines running across the surface. This was for me the most difficult part of creating the Control Box. Initially, I intended to make some curvy lines but the simplistic line art distracted from the other more photo-realistic parts of the Control Box. I considered a more 3-D effect by inserting a wave-style bike rack into the image but again, I didn't like how it fit into the overall style.
Then I considered using standard circuit boards. Reversing the image of a circuit board would make any text on the surfaces appear sufficiently alien so the English words and numbers wouldn't be too distracting. I kind of liked the idea of Psycho-Man building a prototype Control Box showing exposed circuitry. But none of the ones I found online or had in the garage I scanned worked for me. I wasn't enthused about making a jagged or wavy circuit board myself as my PS skills would have made it obvious I shaped the image by deleting sections defined with a polygonal lasso tool.
I was kind of stuck with what to do to finish off the Control Box. It just would not do not to include the ultimate in stylized Kirbyism. Then I had the idea of using an image of a flexible printed circuit. Cutting and pasting the image of a length of FCB across the surface of the Control Box gave me that special Kirbyesque zig-zag of actual circuitry and I really liked the end result. So I loaded the Control Box image into my iPad and I couldn't be more pleased with how it looks. I've decided to share it with any other fans to put onto their phones or tablets if they want. So take a gander. Here is my re-imagining of the Psycho-Man's Control Box, created by Sleestak after Jack Kirby. Hope you dig it.
Click picture for all sizes including Hi-Res, suitable for framing
Sunday, September 04, 2011
The character of "Racist" Bannon in the 1964 animated Johnny Quest adventure series was quickly re-imagined when he didn't scale well with focus groups.
See the original Johnny Quest title sequence here and the fantastic stop-motion homage here.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
This simple drawing on a chopstick wrapper is a fine example of beautiful art under everyone's noses that is ignored or overlooked. Who could look at this bird taking flight, expressing such joy at quitting the Earth by sheer force of will and remain annoyed or angered or sad? And now, I share it with you. The world is a better place for it. You're welcome.
Regretfully, the artist that gave so much to the world will probably never be known.
From a local Asian eatery San Diego, 9-3-11.