Thursday, April 19, 2018

Untapped Image Potential

Some long-running Image comics concluded recently, and while they reached admirable milestones, there's a general sense of dissatisfaction that rests uneasily with me.  Chew had loads of wacky plots and subplots up the wazoo, with copious amounts of amusing background text for those paying close attention.  But there was a frequent tonal dissonance with the format that made it increasingly difficult for me to care.

So many side characters were introduced with the implication that they'd be revisited later on, and then they never were.  They were mainly one-off self-contained playing parts that never really meshed as a whole.  One character, Peter Pilaf, who made sporadic appearances with a vaguely applied description of his Food Powers that was somewhat redundantly shown at the very last issue, when all other future conflicts were already resolved.

But that's not what I'm disappointed by.  The premise of Chew - a man who receives images of memories associated with things he eats - was laden with a very uneven tone.  That could be applied to its episodic format, which was supposed to be a sales pitch for a TV series that was never picked up, because, any attempt to adapt its formula would be a pale imitation of the source material.

In the very last issue, which the author claimed was where the whole series was leading up to, having deliberately sprinkled copious amounts of clues throughout that would only make sense upon rereading, which wasn't made much easier thanks to Mason's (a Rogue Agent) constant long-winded rambling that would be incomprehensible and annoying for those not in the know.  Which would be often.  (Does the man ever like to hear himself talk)  So much had been made of this anti-Chicken conspiracy that any details behind the truth behind the big reveal would wind up being underwhelming.  As such, the ending wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and was somewhat of a letdown.  I won't spoil the exact specifics of what happened, but to explain in context, an earlier scene in the same issue made this statement about Tony:

So, as a final act of defiance, what does Tony Chu do?  He leaps in the air towards his intended target, which I've helpfully censored out to avoid any potential spoilers for those who haven't seen the resulting scene themselves.  Needless to say, the ensuing events the man went through was just to engage a macho "Take That!" against those he felt personally wronged by.  While it may have been the ending the writer intended, it felt too Comic-Booky for my taste.  And by that, I don't mean engaging in wackyness for wackyness sake - the highlight was a Cyborg Chicken (Rooster, actually) - I mean that retribution was all that mattered in the end.

Moving on to Invincible, which ended earlier this year.  I won't go into the specifics of what happened, other than that the writer, Robert Kirkman seemed to be running out of steam and imagination, having devoted his energies to his other series, The Walking Dead, the comic I know of, and the TV series I haven't bothered with.  If there's a particular trait of Kirkman's writing that's particularly annoying, it's his tendency to have his characters expositionalize about themselves rather than have actual conversations.  For someone who prided in going into rather dark corners in his Superhero Universe, there were some paths I was surprised he didn't venture into.

First off, there was Dr. Sinclair who had a perchance of dabbling with dead bodies, making them walking soldiers, and applying the same morally dubious necromantic skills on the Evil Alternate Universe versions of the titular hero.  (A tactic that said hero, later grudgingly agrees with)

It should also be pointed out that the Aliens, the Viltrumites, were largely wiped out by a virulent virus that wiped out 99.99% of their population.  The number of their bodies were so massive that they orbited the planet they were on.

But then, the planet got blown up, and all the corpses got dissipated, so, no more dead bodies to abuse.  Yay?  Though if Mark had the foresight to make use of those bodies back on Earth, that could've been too much of a power imbalance later on.

But that advantage could've come in handy if Kirkman had gone the other route I thought for sure he was going to take.  Early on, Mark's Father was briefly exiled on a planet of Mantis people, whose lifespan was abnormally rapid, and his offspring grew up at an astronomical rate.

A tactic that Grand Regent Thragg later used to build his own growing army.  On his way to Earth.

Now, on Earth, the heroes had been fighting these beings called Flaxans, who existed on another dimensional frame, where time passed in Narina time.  One year there would be equivalent to a few minutes on our side.

I thought that when Thragg made his way to Earth, he would've abused the Flaxan world to exponentially expand his army on a Bell curve of Moore's Law that would become increasingly impossible to counter.  By the time the first wave got through, there'd be a second wave that'd be an already advanced version of the army they'd just fought, with technology and intellect advancing at an unparalleled rate that even Robot would struggle with.

The only way I could see this battle turning the tide would be if the Flaxan side was already infected with the Viltrumite Virus that would prove fatal to anyone who was half-Viltrumite.  Unless Robot already set up that failsafe, even if it meant never returning back there.  If not, then injecting the virus there would be potentially suicidal, since anyone in the Flaxan world who escaped to Earth would wind up infecting Earth as well.  It'd be a suicide mission.

Probably why Kirkman didn't go that route, since it'd be rather depressing.  But I would've liked to see him make the attempt, rather than the (to me) half-hearted result that actually happened.  When your hyped expectations are in the stratosphere, the reality can sometimes wind up being underwhelming.

Having read some of Image's other properties, there's a deliberate adherence to the trade format, which I don't belabor them on - it's what the Comic Industry should be focusing on.  But their Companywide mandate seems to be limiting their writer's ambition to five-six issue monthly formats that centers around arcs designed to fit a certain format.  When you start to notice certain little verbal and visual tics across, it becomes more noticeable.  I couldn't specifically point out what in particular that trait is, just that it's easier to notice when you read multiple trades at once.

Fitting Endings

There were several comic sites that once popular, suddenly dried up in terms of production.  For some reason or other, they were largely abandoned, and sporadically updated.  Ironically enough, when I was gathering material for their lack of updates, they spontaneously updated, as if they knew I was going to complain about their inactivity.  Well, joke's on them!  I'm going to talk about them, whether they want me to or not!

First up is an Archie Out of Context that I Almost submitted.

The only difference between this and mine was, I included the first panel, hence my hesitation.  The removal of the setup is a bigger improvement, since it presents an alluring figure in high heels, as all women who get out of the shower are won't to do.

Garfield Minus Garfield was a major contributing force back in the day, but recent edits have largely dried up.  The latest submission in months is not much different from all that's come before, the edits being easily manageable, and the motivation being just as uninspired by the source material.  That reasoning being that some strips that are background sensitive are trickier to deal with.

If at any time that G-G ever decides to hang up the phone on the parody for good, this entry from November 13, 1980 would be a worthy closer.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

DragonBall Universes

It has been a high time for revamping numerous properties that were once popular years ago with new interpretations of the genre.  Jurassic Park, Jumanji, Star Trek, Star Wars, Pixar Sequels, Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, whether anybody asked for them or not, since it's easier to piggyback on known properties than invest energy on a new project that may not succeed.  And it's no less different overseas.  Naruto, Sailor Moon, Legend of Galactic Heroes, have enjoyed a resurgence that never really went away in the first place.

For now, I'm just gonna focus on DragonBall Super.

I haven't seen the Anime, having been badly burnt by the abysmally slow progress and pacing problems that gave countless jokes to the five-minute rule that was much faster on the pages than actually shown.  Just recently, the Manga has advanced to the Tournament arc between multiple Universes between strongest warriors.

But this is hardly new territory.  Before DragonBall Super, there was the Fanmade DragonBall Multiverse, which had Universes where characters had slightly different outcomes from the main DragonBall we’re familiar with.  Some where the main Villains were victorious.  Others, where the main heroes took different outcomes (Krillin becoming the Turtle Master, all the Namekians combining into one).  All of them competing in a continuous Tournament that’s constantly stalled to give insight on the other Universes, which is drawn by a variety of artists on an inconsistent release schedule, so the style and quality varies wildly.  Also, it’s translated from French, so the language can sound stilted and unnatural at times.

While you’d expect a Fan Comic to deal mainly with Muscle-bound guys aplenty, it keeps itself readable with surprising uncharacteristic acts that don’t feel out of place, and utilizing clever strategy involved for dealing with overpowered opponents.  It's certainly more ambitious than the other Fancomics out there that are little more than rehashes of reused and redrawn panels of the high points of DragonBall, just with Evil Gokus.  In terms of creative bankruptcy, DragonBall AF (After) has two scenes dealing with Pilaf's old gang, being reduced to robbing banks after languishing in obscurity.

At least the second hostage negotiation has a more amusing outcome on the next page.

The lack of enjoyment I get - not even a guilty pleasure - from these uninspired Fancomics (and yes, I'm including DBSuper to the list) can be attributed to multiple faults.  Either they’re extended battle sequences that reuses the original fighting panels and thinly veiled versions of Toriyama’s side characters, or they use extensive narration and dialogue without letting the actions speak for themselves.  While there was the occasional cause for narration boxes, they were sparse in the Toriyama Manga.  In either case, they try to capture the spirit of DragonBall, and constantly fail.

A large part of the enjoyment of the original DragonBall was that you could understand the Manga well, even without having to read the text.  The sheer amount of action and panel-by-panel progression flowed so well you could gleam what was happening without much trouble.  That’s something a large majority of the DragonBall Dojins miss.

But the exception for this would have to be Dragon Garow Lee

Even if you’ve never heard of the guy, you’ve probably seen his work, since he’s best known for doing the DragonBall meets One Punch Man crossover parody that faithfully captured the humour and styles of both properties.

In addition, he also did the Alternate Universe where it was Vegeta who was sent to Earth, following the same path as Goku in the regular DragonBall.  This results in Speedrunning the DragonBall storyline, and having very different but similar outcomes due to Vegeta’s overwhelming personality.

Furthermore, the two of them have entirely different motivations for fighting.  Son Vegeta just makes short work of anyone who annoys him, and finds the early DragonBall enemies too easy for him.  And Saiyan Goku has feelings of inadequacy and overcompensation from being constantly burdened with the stigma of being a lower-class ranking citizen.  So when Saiyan Goku showed up with Nappa, it resulted in a long drawn-out fight between the two Alpha Saiyans that, despite going on longer than feels necessary, nevertheless puts both fighters on an even playing field that felt earned.
Using stances right out of Hajime no Ippo.
Sadly, after a promising start and putting AU Vegeta on the same Bad Father category as Goku for Fatherly neglect, the Space Adventure with AU Freeza was abandoned and will most likely remain unfinished.

There is also an as-yet untranslated 1200-page DragonBall / DragonQuest crossover.  So it’s somewhat surprising that the only work of his that’s been officially licensed is his 3-chapter DragonBall Isekai, where a high school student suddenly finds himself reborn as Yamcha, the weakest fighting human at the very beginning of DragonBall.  But having known what’s going to happen next, strives to train himself using every powerup trick and cheat (as well as actual training) to be able to face against the Saiyans and avoid an untimely death.

Which goes to show that stealing - borrowing characters for creative license use isn't always a bad thing.  But that's just the skeleton for building new interpretations for these characters in new and creative ways.  If you're going to flaunt copyrights, you might as well go all the way.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Weathering The Fridge Door

As promised, here's the weather-relevant portion part of the Fridge Door.

As you can probably guess, there's some unseasonal holiday celebrated, which is to be expected while dealing with a weekly feature over the course of a year.

A familiar-looking comic that was used to advertise a Santa advertisement in an earlier entry.

A rare instance of celebrating Hanukkah when Christmas was still a good twenty days away.

And that takes care of 1988!  Next month, we'll start with the New Years Resolution of 1989!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Marching For Our Lives Comics

March 24th is a Watershed moment in American History.  Years of becoming desensitized to school shootings since Columbine and Fort Hood has made Americans numb to these easily preventable incidents from occurring, even when rapid deaths in Vegas didn't even bother to raise the issue of gun control, because "Now wasn't the right time to talk about such a sensitive issue".  But lately, in this sea of political ineptitude and naked corruption, there's a sea of change coming from people who aren't going to take this any longer - the kids who're being forced to go to these institutions in the first place.

The usage of automatic rapid fire weapons have become so commonplace that after every school shooting, StoneKettle would constantly update his most controversial essay, the Seven Stages of Gun Violence that for a long time, remained unbroken.  His latest article points out the logical fallacy in arming teachers - who's going to teach these educators, how are they going to differentiate between protecting themselves and the actual shooters, and is this really the most conductive use of a learning environment where your children are under constant threat?

At last count, the tally for students marching for change has reached about a Million.  If asked about those figures, Trump would probably say something along the lines of, "I had more people at my Inauguration! The largest in history!!!"  One of the best comic bloggers, Kleefeld, used to find relevant comics surrounding an issue of the day with surprising speed, but since he's taken a brief hiatus, I've decided to pick up on his stead.

Pearls Before Swine decided to tackle the issue a day early, with a poignant message with every parent's worst fears.  Or at least, until these shootings became commonplace.  The phrase, "Have a safe trip!" has become "Come back alive!", even though they both retain the same message, have very different meanings.

Then the next day, I noticed a few comics that registered the message again - Zits, which had been going on autopilot with immature teens and clueless parents, since these are actual teenagers who're unafraid to face the reality that adults don't have to live with.

As is my rule, I don't post anything with a thematic message, unless I can find comics from at least three sources.  Fortunately, the third came in handy with a surprisingly funny take on the issue:

A tip - I generally find Rhymes With Orange comics to be easier to read if I just look at the title in the first panel, then move on to the main comic in the 2nd panel, then look at the mini-comic in the 1st panel again.  It makes more sense in context that way.

There may have been other comics, but I've been unable to find any more than what I've seen.  If there are any I've missed, let me know.

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Bout With Gout

Frequent readers may have noticed a drastic drop of new material on this blog lately.  There are several reasons for that.  First and foremost is that I’ve been exclusively concentrating on my WebNovel, mainly doing drafts of later chapters far off in the distance, while neglecting the script
for my next chapter.  I pay so much attention to the far-term plans, that I lose sight of the short-term consequences.  I also haven't been looking at much old-school Newspaper comics as I used to, which is a prime motivator for these entries.

But the main reason is that starting February, I was overcome with a severe affliction that left me severely paralyzed.  On a Thursday Afternoon, I noticed my foot started hurting when I took it out of my boot.  Up until that point, I’d been feeling a little tired, but it didn’t hurt until then.

On Friday, my foot hurt some more, but I forced myself to put my boots on to finish the remaining work downtown.  I’d planned to do some extra working business elsewhere, but the person who I planned to have drive me there never showed up, and I didn’t feel like making the trek myself, since I was feeling extremely tired due to the pain and lack of sleep, so I went home.

On Saturday, my sister came in the late Afternoon, where I’d stayed home all day to recuperate from my foot.  I showed it to her, which at that point, still appeared normal.  She suggested I take some Advil, but since I didn’t know where that was, I didn’t take any.

On Sunday, I’d planned to return some library books, but the pain in my foot had grown so bad I couldn’t even make it to the end of the driveway.  I figured I wouldn’t be able to make the necessary trek, so I grudgingly made my way back home.  I noticed that I couldn’t fit my foot in my size-specific sandals, and concluded it was swollen.

I told my Sister about my foot, having made the amateur diagnosis of having somehow contracted Gout.  The closest substitute was Ibuprofen, which I took one pill of to see if it’d work.  Then I took another an hour later when the double dose started to kick in, and I could manage to walk around and lift my big toe without wincing too much.

When my sister came later with some medication, I showed her my foot, which had suddenly swollen to an uncomfortable size, and she told me to take a pill around 9:00.  I waited until 10:00 just to be sure.

By this time, even the act of sleeping was becoming an ordeal, because even putting blankets over my foot hurt.  I was reduced to sleeping on top of the covers with my feet dangling over the edge of the bed to reduce the pain.

The next day, a co-worker from work showed up to drive me to the walk-in clinic.  She rode a 4x4 jeep, which made it easy to traverse over the unplowed snowy parts of the city, but getting in and out the high doors was quite the ordeal, even more so with a wounded toe.  Wearing boots let alone shoes was a practical impossibility, since even trying to bend my feet slightly caused pain.  But I was given a protective layer of rubber overshoes, that worked as a kind of slip-on boots.  If I’d known of these, I could’ve gone out by myself... is what I told myself.
Not the exact model, but close enough.
There were multiple movies and Manga where protagonists managed to over come adversary by fighting through the pain.  But the majority of my movement centered over my left toe, which hampered my mobility to a severe degree.

I was expecting a long wait, and my co-worker said she needed to go someplace else in a hurry, so she’d take my number, and come back when it came on her cell.  I wasn’t looking forward to going in and out of her massive truck multiple times.  Fortunately, the Nurse took a quick look at my symptoms, and had me rushed ahead of schedule so I could see the Doctor sooner, which was a big relief for the both of us.

I had no confidence in my power of speech given my state of exhaustion, so I wrote a comprehensive rambling series of events as best as I could recall them, and handed the paper over.  Later, I realized I’d neglected to save a copy for myself for future reference, and asked if I could have it back.  Those notes now make up the bulk of what you’re reading now.

The Doctor was unsure whether I had Gout or a skin condition, so I was given a three-day amount of medication to be taken later.  However, my co-worker was more concerned about getting to her destination first than picking up my meds, so she drove like a maniac to her home to pick up her roommate and drive her to her workplace.  Even with the clock radio being a few minutes fast, she still wound up being late.  (Not my fault!)

The meds I’d gotten was good for three days, at which point, I’d have to either go for refills or make an appointment with my local doctor.  But I was still hoping I wouldn’t have to go that far yet.  After a day or two, the symptoms started to subside somewhat, and I was able to function again, but was still told to take sick days off, which annoyed me despite the sheer amount of reading material I had.  I wanted to return the library books I’d already finished for newer books.

Since most of my writing is motivated when I get up and walk around trying to find the right word that’ll fit the sentence I’m thinking, I was handicapped in this area as well.  Not to mention that if I got ideas while reading a particularly lousy passage in the bathroom, I couldn’t make a mad dash to write my inspirational thoughts down.  I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the book otherwise - all I’d be thinking of was my idea, and it’d interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

It wasn't until a month later that I finally made a long-overdue checkup appointment with my regular doctor who checked my symptoms and correctly concluded that I indeed had Gout, and presribed some additional medication for me to take.  But not before taking my weight that I'd been consciously avoiding for years, not wanting to know how heavy I really was.  Taking off my pants, glasses, wristwatch and hearing aids didn't seem to help matters much.

So what IS Gout?  Gout is basically arthritis of the feet.  It’s a buildup of uric acid that’s best flushed out by drinking excess amount of water.  It’s the same stuff that causes Kidney Stones, so Gout is basically the Kidney Stones of the feet.

My Father had once got Gout ten years ago, but that was during Summer, when wearing multiple layers of protection against the cold wasn't too much of a hassle.  The only thing I knew about Gout was that it was caused by drinking too much.  Since I’m a total teetotaler - I can’t even stand the taste of sugar soda drinks - I thought I was safe.  But apparently, it can be brought about by eating too much, and lack of exercise.

The ironic part was, of the foods to avoid, my Father consumed Mackerel and Herring on a daily basis, which should’ve made him more of a candidate for contracting Gout than me.  According to research, it seems that Gout can be hereditary.

Gout was also a very common ailment among Nobles and Royalty, who had little to do than sit around and eat.  I just recently got my test results back, and in addition to elevated uric acid levels, I apparently also have - get this - a bone spur.  Yes, THAT kind of bone spur!  The infamous medical condition that Trump had five of!  Mine happens to be located in the heel - and it's not even the part that hurts either!  Of all the things I might've had in common with the "Millionaire", that's the one I want to be associated with the least.

I was given a list of various foodstuff I’m supposed to avoid, which seemed easy enough:

  • Anchovies, Sardines - Never touch the stuff.
  • Beef boulion - A little too blocky for my taste.
  • Brain - Since I’m not a Zombie, this isn’t a problem.
  • Gravies - Can’t stand liquid sauce.
  • Heart, Liver, Kidneys - I don’t bother eating stuff I’ve already got.  (See brains above)
  • Scallops - Don’t eat clams that often, if at all.
  • Shrimps - Only have those at work buffets, which is once every six months, and they stopped having buffets this year.
  • Vension - Tried some deer once.  Didn’t care much for it.
  • Veal Sweetbreads - Which are neither sweet, nor bread.
Then there’s the foods I’m supposed to eat less of.
  • Seafood - Crab, Oyster and Lobsters.
  • Soups made of Meat Stock.
  • Asparagus, Cauliflower and Spinach.
  • Mushrooms and Peas.
  • Cereals - Whole-Grains, Oat Flour, Wheat Germ, Bran Germ.
  • Beans & Lentils.
  • Meat and Poultry.
  • Freshwater and Saltwater fish.
Most of these don't affect me much, though I'm annoyed that I won't be able to use Meat Stock for soups, and I tend to enjoy Mushrooms and Peas.  Not to mention cutting down on eating Meat.  In short, the good times are over.

Interestingly enough, of the foods I'm allowed to eat, Strawberries or Cherries are a good cure as well.  That, and losing some weight.  But not to the point of starvation against all else.  I have to eat less in moderation.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Pet Peeves: Incomplete Foreign Reprints

When it comes to reprinting comics, the Foreign comics market seems more willing to accept higher quality attractive formats for their collection than the American market.  Sometimes resulting in omnibus packages that are cheaper and more comprehensive than the English version.  Don Martin is one of the great influential MAD comic artists, his sophisticated sense of weirdness and sound effects that played tribute to the slapstick silent movies of the era.  His style doubtlessly had a great influence on Jim Unger's Herman.  Go ahead, compare the two.  Prove me wrong.

However, for their bargain styles, they're still capable of making silly mistakes, as this translated book of The Completely MAD Don Martin shows.  All samples are from the first volume.

The very first instance shows up on page 100, where the last balloon for the Sculptor is left blank.  It Should read, "And remember!  One more time sleeping on the job... and you’re fired!!"  Only, you know, in French.

The next instance is where a hitchhiker decides to inflate himself up for no good reason.  That reason being that the sign on his suitcase is supposed to say "California or Bust".

In other instances, they were inconsistent or incomplete with the building signs.  The Danger! Construction sign was left in English here, but left out in other panels, and didn't even bother to replace the text.  Something similar happened in an earlier comic at the beach where the Men's restroom sign was cast in New Times Roman font for the first page, but left alone for the second page.

Likewise, the book the nervous guy's reading is "Mafia Tales".

But this is by far the biggest offender.  Pretty much Every Sound Effect, save the last panel is left out or missing.  Here's how it Should look:

Having these comedic masterpieces made available is admirable, but they could stand to use another proofreading.