Sunday, March 19, 2017

BLOODSPORT AND SPECTACLE

From Dictionary.com noun
1.  anything presented to the sight or view, especially something of a striking or impressive kind: The stars make a fine spectacle tonight.

2. a public show or display, especially on a large scale:
The coronation was a lavish spectacle.


From the depths of human history humans have watched spectacle for entertainment.  From gladiatorial battles, with death as a resolution.  Humans were fed to lions, bears, and other wild creatures.  And the audiences of such roared their approval.  Christians, Pagans, Muslims, Jews were made to die for various audiences.   Death was the end result of the episode of entertainment.




Humans captured wild animals, and would chain them to a stake.  Bear bating, Dog bating, human bating, all occurred.  To the roar of appreciation from the audience.  Compassion for the fallen was not a common trait.  Those entertained by spectacle, desired to watch violence for their own pleasure.


Bare knuckle fighting, bull fights and more existed into the modern era.  Violence entertains, blood is a bonus. 

Boxing thrived as a sport, with rules of engagement that limited damage to the participants.  But boxing has fallen in interest, in favor of the Mixed Martial Arts world.  The origins of MMA included very few rules, and many injuries.  It was the bloodsport that boxing would not, couldn't become.


And now, modern culture practices spectacle, through virtual reality, video games.  It watches violent events such as MMA or movies about violent events, without conscience.

Mostly, now, we watch other people live, and the more odd, violent, ugly, bloody, the better.  Reality television has become the provider of the drug of intimacy, where one needs no relationship or knowledge, but can enjoy the secret, private, spectacle of others.



In popular culture we can experience the spectacle, bloodsport that feeds our need for violence, or the pornographic false intimacy of porn, of reality television, and watching various news stories that show human event in the darkest most exploitative light in existence.

We also play and watch soldiers in war.  We have sent off our youth in battle continuously since 2001.  We've brought up a generation who has never known any form of peace.  Sadly, the cost of such entertainment is death.

We have poured out the vintage of youth, we have been addicted to bloodsport, and violence, and the world we live in is experiencing entropy.

God save us from ourselves.




Stories of Serious Heroes


The wave of movies based upon super heroes has been good for comic books, in many ways.  The source material for these movies, the books have for decades been more serious than the general public understood or believed.  Some of the reason that the comic books were not taken as seriously as the medium was, was that in the beginning comics were aimed at kids, both in terms of tone, and price point and target audience.  The comic book industry boomed at various points, but in particular during World War II and the Korean conflict.  The reason for the boom wasn't sales to children, it was US servicemen and women who had time, and money, when not in action.  But these were also considered throw away material.  10 cent paper magazines didn't fare well for long term collection, when in a bunker, or foxhole, or ship bay.  Along with the temporary nature of small paper magazines in war zones, the general trend was to share among friends.


While comics became more serious in the years beyond the war years, the comic book industry at various times suffered a lack of sales, loss of publishers, and contraction.  But during the 1960s the industry experienced rebirth.  However, it became less diverse in genres, and more focused upon super heroes as the genre and subject matter.  Some people do not read super hero comics, and prefer spies, romance, horror and more.  But the industry focused upon the sales they had, rather than support less saleworthy books.


As stories of super heroes are the most fantastic of genres, many people suggested that super hero comics were not serious, were not "art", and were not doing anything new. 

The arrival of serious stories in the comic book industry had roots in new artists and new writers using the previously established heroes and reimagining them.  Also, comics moved from kids comics, DC Comics and Marvel Comics and underground comix, to a wide proliferation of new publishers, and a new form of the market, called the direct market.  This led to an explosion of intelligent, different, and more adult works. 


It is certainly true that the comics published during the 1980s were either modern and intelligent, or artifacts of a previous era, childlike, amateurish, or out of step with the general market it had targeted. 

In the present there are many comics than people can pick up that are miles and miles away from the silly, quaint, childish books that existed before the 1980s.  The industry faced accusations of offering children adult content.  And there were arguments within the industry, trying to secure an area for the modern creative voice, among the industry that still wanted the sales from children. 


But children, in the 80s up to the present, have a vast number of other entertainment sources that can be more interactive, stood up to repeat viewings, or play, that occupied the niche comics formerly had.  Some critics think super heroes automatically placed comics, in general, in the ghetto of dismissive attitudes towards the medium, belief that comics remained for children, and that adult orientated stories using super heroes were wrongly aimed.

The truth, however, is that comic books are a medium, and just like television, radio, film, animation, there is no overarching judge to keep work from readers.  It follows that if a product is for sale, whoever buys it becomes the audience.  IF super heroes are childlike, foolish, unbelievable, they would appeal to children.  But the average reader is not a child, so that viewpoint becomes nullified.

What super heroes are, and can become, is stories.  They are stories using heroes in costume just as the people of the past used myth and legends as entertainment.  They are often written as allegories for modern problems, and can be seen as a means by which to explore issues. 

Whether the issue in the comic book story is the question of what is a hero, or who will defend the country or people, or how much trust do our heroes deserve, the stories can all be told in layered, intelligent work, that provides both entertainment and provocation of reflection.


The comic images shown here are to give offerings of serious super hero stories, that will be worth reading and gaining a respect for the works that treat themselves as being worthy of serious thought.

They can all be found upon Amazon, Ebay, or a local comics store.

COMIC BOOK STORE LOCATOR



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bernie Wrightson

BIO of Bernie Wrightson

The world of art, comic books, and horror mourn the loss of a talented creative force, Bernie Wrightson.   There is no reason to write more than his name, and to add many images.  He was a sought after talent, and was especially famous for his Swamp Thing creation with Len Wein, and his work regarding Mary Shelley's  Frankenstein.

Rest in peace brilliant artist.  Bernie Wrightson (October 27, 1948- March 19, 2017)

All images are copyright Bernard Wrightson estate, and copyright owners.  There is no assumption of ownership by this author.



 





Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quest In Show




The 1980s saw a swarm of small independent comic book companies. Many of them only lasted a year or two; some achieved an iconic status due to one or two innovative flagship titles; and a few are still going today. One aspect that many of these companies had in common was that many of them bought licenses to adapt popular TV series as comic books. The quality of these books varied with the talent the companies were able to bring to them. In some cases, the popularity of a licensed title might be the only thing keeping a struggling company afloat; but even in the case of a fairly well-established independent with decent-selling original titles in its stable, a popular licensed title added prestige and readers to the company.

For much of the '80s, Comico was one of the notable Independents. It came to prominence publishing original comics such as Mark Wagner's MAGE and GRENDEL and Bill Willingham's ELEMENTALS. Over the course of its run, Comico published licensed versions of the anime series ROBOTECH and STAR BLAZERS; but my favorite title from that company would have to be their version of JONNY QUEST.

JONNY QUEST was created by comics artist Doug Wildey, who started off drawing western comics for Atlas Comics, the successor to Timely Comics which later still became Marvel. He drew for a number of adventure anthology comics and for a time did a newspaper comic strip based on THE SAINT and a little ghosting for STEVE CANYON. He came to Hollywood to work briefly under Alex Toth on SPACE ANGEL, a semi-animated TV show legendary for superimposing actual footage of moving lips over static images of the characters to make it look like the characters were speaking. While in Hollywood, he visited Hanna-Barbara Studios looking for work. At the time, Joe Barbara was interested in developing a cartoon based on “Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy”, a radio adventure drama, and hired Wildey to work on it.

As it turned out, Joe was unable to get the rights to adapt Jack Armstrong, so he had Wildey re-work the material into an original character. Wildey used magazines such as “Popular Science”, “Popular Mechanics” and “Science Digest” as inspiration to give the technology used in the series a sense of being futuristic, but just around the corner. He also drew on classic movies featuring adventurous kids, and the comic strip TERRY AND THE PIRATES by one of his major artistic influences Milton Caniff. At Joe Barbara's request, he also stirred in a bit of James Bond; “Doctor No” had recently appeared in theaters, and spy stories were hot.

Jonny Quest, of course, was an adventurous boy who traveled the world with his father, a brilliant scientist along with his best friend and adopted brother Hadji, an ex-secret agent who acts as a bodyguard for Dr. Quest and his family, and Jonny's yappy dog Bandit. (Doug Wildey originally wanted to give Jonny a pet monkey, but Hanna-Barbara insisted on a more traditional pet drawn in a cartoony style). The series was full of exotic locations, exciting action and had one of the best opening themes of any cartoon ever. (“Tank!”, the opening theme music from the anime series COWBOY BEBOP is a close second, but I give the JQ theme an edge because it has a pterodactyl).

The animation on JONNY QUEST was extremely limited; not as bad as the animation from SPACE ANGEL, but you can still see every shortcut they used if you look for them. But the base character design, rendered with strong inks by Wildey, was so strong that the look carried the deficiencies in animation.

The artwork was something of a liability. Wildey drew in a realistic style and wanted the series to be as realistic as possible; but there were very few animators in Hollywood at that time who could draw like that. Wildey had to do much of the key animation himself. This made the show expensive to produce and it only ran for twenty-six episodes; but it had a long life in syndication.

The show was produced for an evening time slot rather than a Saturday Morning one. H-B had success running THE FLINTSTONES as an evening show, essentially a sitcom aimed at a grown up audience; and JQ was also aimed at the same audience that would enjoy a Bond movie or an adventure novel. There was a lot of action, and a fair amount of violence; although the show avoided explicit blood and gore, bad guys often met brutal and highly ironic fates. This became a problem in the '70s when people became more concerned with Violence in Children's Television and well-meaning watchdogs put us on the slippery slope to THE GET-ALONG GANG.

The Comico adaptation came about twenty years after the show went off the air, but they did it right. Doug Wildey was involved with the comic, doing promotional artwork for it and writing a story and doing the art for the first issue. He also wrote and illustrated a three-part limited series adapting three of his favorite episodes in his lush, painterly style.

The rest of the series was written by William Messner-Loebs, a writer who previous created and drew JOURNEY: THE ADVENTURES OF WOLVERINE MacALLISTAIR for Aardvark-Vanaheim, a quirky series set in frontier Michigan during the early 19th Century.. Messner-Loebs wrote 31 issues of JONNY QUEST and went on to write respectable runs on THE FLASH and WONDER WOMAN. For about title's first year, several different artists worked on the book, including Wendi Pini, Adam Kubert, Dan Speigel and others, before it settled down to the regular artistic team of Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley.

The series did a good job of capturing the spirit of adventure from the original series. Messner-Loebs built on some of the characters, giving Dr. Benton Quest more of a personality beyond the Serious Scientist, and exploring Race Bannon's background.

One interesting thing the comic established was that Race is not only a bodyguard, he also doubles as a tutor for the boys. Since he is primarily trained as a secret agent and not an educator, that means that much of the time he's only a few pages ahead of the boys in the lessons he's teaching them.

One of the interesting characters added to Team Quest's supporting cast is Kathy Martin, a social worker who shows up in issue #7 to demand to know why Jonny and Hadji haven't been in school, only to get swept up in one of the Quest's adventures. She becomes a recurring character and something of a romantic interest for Dr. Quest.

Some of the notable stories include #2, “Enter Race Bannon”, in which we get the story of how Race Bannon is first assigned to bodyguard the Quest family, at a time when Dr. Quest's wife is dying in a hospital. We get some lovely glimpses in flashback of Dr. Quest's romance with her that are sad but sweet. The scene in which Dr. Quest talks to the grieving Jonny about his mother and her passing is sensitive and I think true to the character.

Mrs. Quest appears again in #15, “The Sins of Zin”, another flashback story about Dr, Quest's first meeting with the sinister Dr. Zin when he and his wife are attending a science conference. The friendly verbal fencing between Zin and Mama Quest, the only one in the story who recognizes that Zin is more than he seems, shows that she may not be a brilliant scientist like her husband, but she has plenty of smarts herself.

Issue #5, “Jade, Incorporated”, brought back fan favorite Jezebel Jade, the bad girl from Race's past, in a tale of exotic intrigue reminiscent of TERRY AND THE PIRATES, and which paved the way for a later JEZEBEL JADE limited series.

Issues #23-24 are fun homage to The Prisoner of Zenda, in which Dr. Quest must impersonate the look-alike prince of a Ruritanian nation.

Bandit takes the spotlight in #25, “Butch”, as the dog gets separated from Jonny and wanders about a city alone.

Some of the stories were better than others. Issue #16, “Plague”, about a weird epidemic of lycanthropy, was I think supposed to be a parable about hysteria over the AIDS epidemic, but just seemed ham-handed to me. #22, “Vantage Point”, was an interesting idea: Dr. Quest agrees to participate in an experiment where a camera will record what goes on in his compound for a week; and hilarity ensues. The story is seen entirely from the camera's point of view, which is an interesting idea from the storytelling end, but is visually boring.


Overall, though, Comico's JONNY QUEST was a good series that more than did justice to the cartoon on which it was based.

Monday, March 13, 2017

ALADDIN 3477 NEWS!



CELLDWELLER PROVIDING MUSIC FOR THE ALADDIN 3477 MOVIE!

MACOMB TOWNSHIP, MI-- Kaleidoscope Koi Entertainment has just announced Celldweller, the internationally renowned artist/producer Klayton, as the featured music artist for the upcoming Aladdin 3477 movie. The live-action feature film is based on the classic Arabian Nights tale, set 1,500 years in the future and is written and directed by notorious artist Matt Busch. Unlike Disney's recently announced Aladdin live-action musical directed by Guy Ritchie, this epic sci-fi adventure is said to look like Star Wars and set throughout Asia. 

Celldweller (as well as Scandroid and Circle of Dust) is one of three highly regarded music outfits by multi-instrumentalist Klayton. His music can be heard in feature films and movie trailers such as DeadpoolJohn Wick and the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight and video games such as Killer Instinct and Dead Rising. No stranger to sci-fi, Klayton also runs Outland, a futuristic clothing line, and has even produced a cyberpunk novel titled Blackstar. Five Celldweller tracks, including "First Person Shooter""Empyrean" and "Frozen (Celldweller vs. Blue Stahli)" have been licensed by Kaleidoscope Koi for use in Aladdin 3477

In addition to the tracks, Director Matt Busch is utilizing several products from Klayton's Refractor Audio company to create music cues for the film. The sample-based instrument Transport and Producer Pack Sonix allow Busch to create new music with Klayton's signature sound. Busch comments, "While Klayton may not be creating the score for this film, this is easily the next best thing."

This isn't the first time Busch and Klayton have collaborated. In 2015, Busch illustrated the cover of “The Traveller,” based on the critically acclaimed Celldweller album “End of an Empire.”  A year prior, Klayton produced a three-part video tour of Busch's home studios as part of his online Cellevision series on YouTube. More recently, Klayton has just released a new music video under the Scandroid moniker for "Eden" which was filmed on one of the futuristic Hong Kong sets for Aladdin 3477.

Blue Stahli, a music artist on Klayton's FiXT music label has already filmed a cameo for Aladdin 3477, and it's expected that Klayton will make an appearance as well. Busch teases, "It's not a big part, but the scene we have planned for Klayton is awesome. Celldweller fans will love this movie. It's a pulse-pounding adventure, and his cutting-edge Celldweller sound is all over it." Aladdin 3477 stars Erik Steele and Christi Perovski, is produced by Lin Zy and will wrap filming in early 2018.

You can find out more about Aladdin 3477 at the official site: www.Aladdin3477.com

Find out more about Klayton and his music projects at: Klayton.info

See the Scandroid "Eden" music video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmot2uUKtz8

See Aladdin 3477 cast and crew at the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cawb8Z2vWZ0

See Klayton tour Matt Busch's studio on Cellevision here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdo-4HXznNw
 
 





Monday, March 6, 2017

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Humor is distinctly personal, you laugh, I might not...

I used to read a shit ton of comics per month for review purposes.  I was blessed to receive review copies, I had a local comic shop that gave me copies in exchange for writing on their website, and a variety of creative talents sent me works for review.

I got accused of reviewing everything positively and it was an apt accusation.  However, I tried not to spotlight the works I didn't like, and tried to offer these books per month as a recommendations rather than purely reviews.  I tended to enjoy the independents more than the big publishers, but by genre there were very few comics I didn't want to read or review...  except for humor comics. 

It is not to say I hate humor.  I am not an emo who hates to laugh.  I often don't find the humor of the comics called comedy or humorous.   That isn't to say they were bad comics.  It isn't that the comics were going above my head.  I just didn't find them funny.

So, I stopped reading any comics with the purpose of reviewing if they were primarily humorous in content.  And again it isn't that I thought the comics were poorly done.  It is because one person's humor is another person's annoyance.  Some people like the Three Stooges, and others the Marx Brothers.  (I like both, just saying.) But some people think Pauly Shore was funny... while others know he is a boring bag of shit.  I think comedy/humor is deeply personally appreciated by the unique experiences and life viewpoint of the reader.  My son and I have over time watched many stand up comedians on youtube.  We usually find ourselves laughing simultaneously.  But when I watch the same with my wife, we generally have no simultaneous laughs.  In fact, one or the other of us generally leaves after a while thinking the comedian is boring, or simply bad. 

My point of the previous paragraphs is to explain why I had trouble reviewing comedy in comics form.  But there are many comics that were intentionally made humorous that I loved. 

As this is not a review, I am not going to go into why I liked each of the comics presented below.  But I do think I should say, I love the work of Matt Feazell.  Antboy and Cynicalman are brilliantly funny.  I love them, and find them to be the exact recipe for fun.