Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Arrival rewrite

The Arrival is a beautifully illustrated wordless comic created by Shaun Tan.  The gorgeously done realistic pencil drawings help Tan create a very believable, realistic world. The tiny square panels he uses through out most of the comic feel like snapshots from a film. The story is very clear and even through it is set in a surreal fantasy world, it is a story that we know. It is a story of immigration. The sepia tone adds to the feeling of the piece. It feels old. Like photographs of immigrants from the early 1900’s.
The format for the comic is very clean and simple. The panels are neatly organized and only include information that is necessary to understand the story. I feel this is part of why the comic is so successful even without dialogue. Tan saves his detailed images for his splash pages. Which are works of art.  The comic is also very broken down. All the actions and emotions are shown in several beats. It reads like storyboards for a film.
The comic had a lot of charm and beauty to it, from the interesting animals that cohabit the city, to the wacky clothing and everyday items he invented for the world. Tan created a very complete and engaging universe that. I would love to see it be made into a film, or perhaps just another comic involving it. I think that is a testament to its success, when you leave the audience wanting more of your world.

Persepolis Volume 1

Persepolis was a really interesting graphic novel. Having no knowledge of the Iranian culture before reading it, I found the book it quite fascinating. I can't imagine what it must have been like to live through a war. Reading about it makes me feel like the events of my life are so easy and trivial. Marjane is so strong in the book. she is just a kid in most of the first volume but she is bolder and more firm in her beliefs than most adults I know. I admire her for it. I guess going through a war would make you like that. She had to see a lot of her friends and family die. I was sad about her uncle that she looked up to dieing. He seemed like such a good person. 
I can't imagine at 14 being sent away to another country where you don't even know the language. It must have been one of the hardest decisions her parents ever had to make. It shows just how much they love her. 
I liked the art style a lot. The thick black lines makes it feel more Iranian... whatever that means. It's not cartoony but its not realistic either. I'm not sure how to classify the art style. It reminds me a lot of a comic called Epileptic. It also had a similar thick black line style.
I heard that the movie is done in a similar style, but that they skip over some stuff covered in the book. I think I'll have to watch it sometime and find out for myself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

JTHM and Webcomics

I have been a fan of Johnen Vasquez’s works since I was around 15.  I had read all of the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics around that time, so it was a bit nostalgic to revisit them. The comics are pretty dark. It has sort of a dry dark comedic quality. I don’t think I find it as entertaining as I did when I was younger. It’s still pretty funny. Mostly how matter of fact NNY’s attitude is about the violence he commits.  The art style is very dingy and ugly and it plays in nicely with the subject matter of the comic.
 All of the comics have side comics within them, like Noodle Boy. I like some of them but I never liked Noodle Boy. I didn’t find him funny. I do however love Squee. The Squee book is my favorite in the JTHM series. I love that NNY and Squee have this sort of friendship thing. I’m glad that Johnen Vasquez never had NNY kill squee… that would have made my stop reading the comic.  

I am a big fan of web comics. I have several regulars that I read and I often will come across a new web comic, devour it and move on. My three regular comics that I keep up with are FAMIB, Kagarou, and Paranatural. FAMIB and Kagarou are comics I’ve been following since I was a teenager. Paranatural is a new one that I’ve added to my mix this past year.

FAMIB, which stands for Fire Always Makes it Better, is a dark comic that takes place in an alternate futuristic reality. It follows the journey of a quiet dark boy named Thomas who is somehow linked to a murderous dragon. In the world of the comic, dragons are like any other animal on the planet, but the one that is linked to Thomas is different. It can talk and has the same intelligence as a human. The world that Britt C. H. has created is very complete and it draws you in.

Kagerou is about Kano, who is a psychotic red headed wimp who gets pulled from the normal world into an alternate dimension. Kano is pulled there by the Gods of that world who have chosen him as their savior. Kano is very wimpy and mentally unstable so he doesn’t really make a good savior. He is also possessed by other people who pop up from time to time and cause havok. It’s a very long, and very interesting comic. It sadly doesn’t update to regularly. Sometimes the author will start updating weekly and other times you can go a few months waiting for something new.

Paranatural is a new comic. It’s not very far into the story yet, but I am interested by it. It’s about a kid who moves to a new town and he starts to see ghosts. The art for the comic is just great. The characters expressions are hilarious. I wont say much about the plot since it’s not to far into the story and I don’t want to ruin anything.  It’s a fun read though.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum is done in such a cool and creepy way. In a lot of the panels its hard to tell exactly what I am even looking at. It's dark and dirty and contains muted and super vivid colors simultaneously. I love it, but it makes me uncomfortable at times to read. I haven't really read any of the traditional batman comics, though I know the story from the movies and the TV show. This comic is so much cooler than I had imagined a batman comic to be. The story line helps I think. It's less of action crime fighting and more psychological thriller.
The comic is a work of art. It is so different than what you normally see; in some panels there are photographs, in others thick paint, and others are done in rough pencil. All of this really adds to the feeling of the comic. You feel the madness that lives in the Asylum. It's done in such a way that I find the comic scarier than a horror movie. The comic feels more real than most too. I think this has to do with the use of photographs and realism.
I knew almost instantly that Arkham's kid and wife were going to be murdered by the mad man when they mentioned him. I wish there had been a way to hold that knowledge off a bit. I enjoyed the end. There was no big resolution which I guess fits a story like Batman, since the fight between him and Joker goes on forever. I enjoyed that they ended it on Twoface making a decision to let Batman go.
I'd love to see this made into a movie somehow. It would have to be done in a way that would preserve the intense style. I'm not sure if that's possible, but it would be certainly cool.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fun Home

So I read Fun Home this past week and I have to say it was my favorite things I have read all semester. I couldn't put it down. I was actually almost late for a class because I didn't want to stop reading it! Biographical comics are my favorite genre so that helped peak my interest in it. As soon as I started reading it I felt an instant connection to the family. It is very similar to mine in a lot of ways; how they interact with each other, their constant redecorating, and their booky introverted nature.

I liked how the author/artist did a nonlinear time structure for the comics; it kept it interesting, the constant flipping back and forth from past to future. The art was also really appealing to me. I thought the style worked well with the subject of the book. It was simplified cartoony but not super cartoony and the line quality wasn't perfect, which I liked.

I feel bad for Alison, she has to live the rest of her life thinking that her coming out is what drove her father to kill himself. It seems like an enormous burden. In reality I’m sure there were a million reasons for his suicide.

I was expecting the funeral home to play a larger part in the story, but it was really pretty minor, just another detail of their abnormal life. All the constant literary references in the comic really made me was to go read the books if mentioned.

It was really sad when the comic ended. It’s one of those pieces that you read and it sticks with you for a while.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ghost World

Ghost world was a weird and interesting comic. Having grown up in the 90's I think I can relate to it. It has a familiar feeling. I can also relate to it, having moved away from my home town and leaving my best friend from high school. I guess that is what makes it such a good comic, is the relatability. It can be hard sometimes when you now you have a grow as a person, but you don't want to leave behind someone who might not be ready to enter the next phase of life.
It's funny, the characters were not really likable until close to the end. The main character seemed so mean all the time. I didn't fully understand why the blond girl hung out with her. I did really like how there hobby was watching and analyzing strange people. It made me want to go find a small dinner and do the same. The story had an undertone of sadness throughout the whole thing. The end was definitely bittersweet. It was good that both characters where growing but to do that they had to separate. It was a good ending because it felt real. That's what happens in life, things change, people change, and they move on.
I liked the art style, especially the blue shading. The blue shading was really appealing, and also for some reason to me makes it feel like the 90's. I think that might just be a personal association though. I liked that the artist drew most of the characters as ugly. It added to the "realness" of the comic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Osamu Tezuka's Buddha Vol. 1

Tezuka's Buddha was an interesting read. It was strange but neat to see an Indian story done in a Japanese format. The art style was ok but not my favorite. It feels like the older 80's manga style, like Astroboy. I found it interesting that there was so much nudity in it, but you really don't notice it. Chapra's mother was half naked and Tatta was fully naked throughout the whole story! I wonder if that's how it was during that time in India.
The story definitely made me want to get the other volumes. It was pretty long, but an easy read. I was sad that they killed off Chapra and his Mother at the end but I guess the next volume probably follows Tatta and the baby that was just born. I was waiting the whole book to see how the other story line was going to tie in, but then it didn't yet so now I practically HAVE to read the other volume.
I found it strange how everyone in the story "adopts" each other as major roles in their lives, like mother and father and brother. Like how a few panels after Tatta has his gang of miscreants pee all over Chapra they declare each other to be brothers now. I noticed the characters do that in the movie Barefoot Gen. Perhaps its a Japanese thing?
My favorite part in the book was how the animals were drawn. They were very cute and I liked the idea that everyone was learning that their lives were worth just as much as the animals. I think this is a lesson that a lot of people should learn today.
The manga is not something I would probably pick out for myself at a bookstore to read, but I really ended up enjoying it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese is a great graphic novel about embracing who you are and not trying to change to be like everyone else. It’s a super relatable topic. I think most everyone has felt as some point that they would like to be someone else, especially during adolescence. I can’t imagine the difficulties that come along with being a different ethnicity in a white dominated society, but I can understand the wish to be someone else.
The way the story is presented, with the three separate stories that come together in the end, was brilliantly done. At first I was a little sad that it strayed from the main character Jin so much, but at the end it was all worth it. Its cool how the concept of the book is told in three different ways. The Chin Kee story is very comical, the Jin story is pretty normal and set in our day and age, and the monkey story is done in an old Chinese fable sort of way. I particularly liked how the Chin Kee story had a laugh track like some bad sit-com. I also liked the bit about being a transformer. It was a very clear metaphor for what the main character goes through in the story.
The art style that is used is very nice. I love clean graphic art. I do wish I could have gotten more out of the main story of Jin. I wanted to know more about him and have a few side events go on before the comic ended. I really did enjoy this though. The message was clear and useful and the comic itself was an easy read.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Maus was an amazing graphic novel. Doing a Holocaust story in that format really brings it into reality. At points I felt like weeping. Stories like this really bring to light the depths of human cruelty. I was considering that while reading it, how amazingly cruel humans are. We seem to be the only creature on earth that goes out of our way to torture our own kind.

I can’t fathom how Vladek was able to survive the hell that he went through. He had so much ingenuity and resourcefulness. I found it really interesting how real Vladek was portrayed. Art Spiegelman finds him so annoying in present day times. You would think that when doing a story like this one you would need to cast Vladek as a hero, as to honor him, but Spiegelman makes him so human and that really brings the whole book into reality for the reader.

I found it really interesting that Spiegelman choose to portray everyone as animal people. It serves as a nice way to identify what side everyone is on, while also giving them built in characteristics that we would associate with the animal. Having the Jewish people portrayed as mice and the Germans cats was obviously brilliant. All the animal choices are clever on so many levels.

I found it really depressing that Spiegelman’s mother committed suicide. To have lived through so much only to take your own like seems almost… I feel bad saying this, but, disgraceful. I mean I imagine life afterwards would be very hard to live with the memories, so I could see how she would want to. I was waiting through both books hoping that Spiegelman would eventually find her diaries so we could her her side of the story. I was convinced that book two would be from her perspective; I was sad when it never came. It’s a shame that her story will never be told, but I guess it is lost like so many other people who were in the holocaust.

This book will haunt me for weeks. It just puts in perspective how good I have it in life. It also reminds me how sick and terrible people can be, which makes me want to be the best person I can be to combat this. It was a comic that was definitely worth the read.


Monday, February 6, 2012

A Contract with God and Blankets

A Contract with God by Will Eisner was very well done. It's stories are more dark and gritty than you see in a lot of comics. Every ending had a bitterness to it that left you worse off then before. It reminded me a bit of the movie "Requiem for a Dream"; not really for the plot but more of the downward slopping story arch. I imagine Eisner himself must have been a dark and depressed sort of fellow. This sort of comic really  emphasizes the fact that comics are not just for children. There was nothing in it that would even be acceptable for a child. I think the inking style that Eisner uses really enhances the dark dirty city feeling that goes throughout the whole book. I really loved reading this. It is the type of comic that I am into; real stories filled with tragedy and sadness. I think the story with the little girl and the tenement Super was the most disturbing. I feel bad for the super getting killed, but you really can't feel to bad because he paid a little girl to lift her shirt up.... but you can't feel to bad for the girl either because she was scheming to steal his money. I guess the only real victim in that story ist he super's dog she poisoned... Eisner did a great job setting that up and making both the little girl and the Super unlikeable characters. He does that in all of the stories really. Eisner is a master of his craft.

Blankets, like Contract with God, deals with some darker subject matters, but unlike Contract with God is has a lot of beauty. When I read Blankets if felt really poetic. I really enjoy readying biographies so this comic was great for me. I admire Thompsons candidness about all the bad things that he went through as a kid. It must be hard to have to relive those events and draw them for all the world to see. I looove comics that are inked with a brush, and Thompson handles it so well. This was my second time reading Blankets, but it's such a great comic I could probably read it again. It's beautiful.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jack Cole and Plastic Man

When I first picked up Jack Cole and Plastic Man I was pretty unenthused about having to read it. At first glance it didn’t really look like the sort of comic I would typically read, but after I got through the first story I was really enjoying it! It’s so ridiculous and campy; It reminds me of the old 60’s Batman movie. In the first story the villain is so ridiculous. What type of villain hoards cute kids to extort money out of people! I very much like the art style of this comic. It’s so graphic and appealing and it’s made all the more interesting by how they printed the comic to look like a old original copy (random stains and all). Going from panel to panel feels a little choppy in the comic. A lot is left up to the words to tell you what is happening, which is ok. Its nice that they put these extra pages in this book that talk about the comic. They are pretty interesting to read. I think now that I’ve read it I will have to go get the newer comic that they came out with and watch the TV show too!

I also read one of Carl Bark’s Donald Duck story. I found it really cute and cartoony. It was a lot different then Plastic man. Although it did have some of the silliness that Plastic Man did. I read a story about a horse race between Donald and his nephews, and all through the story Donald is trying to cheat to win the race, but then at the end it turns out the last place person is the winner, which is just a silly way to end it. It was a mild punch line, and I kind of wished it had ended more cleverly. It’s funny, having grown up with Duck Tales, it’s really hard to read a comic about it and not put in the voices from the show.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Little Nemo,Terry and the Pirates, Peanuts, and Calvin and Hobbes

I enjoy Little Nemo a ton. The world that McCay creates is so beautiful and unique. The comic seems to be almost just a way for McCay to show us this world he envisioned. There isn’t that strong of a plot, but it’s ok because the visuals are so fun and appealing. I love the absurdity of the comic. It really feels like a dream. It has those things in it that don’t really make sense but in the moment (like in a dream) you accept it; like how the ice palace was destroyed for money, or how it caught fire! I think the only real character with a personality in this excerpt is Flip. He is mischievous. It’s funny how awkward and not smooth the dialogue is in the comic. People are always saying “Um” and “Oh” and the characters seem to state one thing and the other character sort of repeats it back to them. It’s definitely not what I would consider to be realistic dialogue.
Terry and the Pirates is rather interesting. It’s bit too wordy for my taste, but they throw some pretty funny puns into the long streams of dialogue. It’s like a drama comedy sort of comic. It reminds me a bit of the old “Road to…” movies that stared Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. I think the biggest problem it has is that the large amounts of dialogue distract me from the pictures. 
Peanuts is quite different than Terry and the Pirates. It has very minimal dialogue and has a formulaic style of set ups and punch lines. I really enjoy it a lot. It was interesting to read some Peanuts from the 60’s and then some from the 80’s. You can tell that Charles Schulz has really honed in on what makes a good Peanuts strip. There is a lot less text in the 80’s comics and the punch lines are funnier. Charlie Browns character seems to have changed a lot as far as the drawings go. I kind of think the 60’s Charlie Brown is almost cuter than the iconic Charlie Brown as we know him today. I love how Schulz incorporates adult things into the Peanuts world. The Peanuts characters are always imitating what adults do (like the iconic psychiatrist booth that Lucy sets up) and I think this makes Peanuts into an ageless comic readable for both children and adults.
Calvin and Hobbes has been a love of mine since I was small. The art is so appealing and simple, and the puns are more of the “chuckle to myself” kind of puns rather than the “laugh out loud” kind. It really captures the mind of a kid and the drawings are so animated they come to life. I think my favorite strips are the ones that involve Calvin making snowmen. They are always morbid and hilarious. I could read Calvin and Hobbes all day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Understanding Comics

There were a lot of interesting concepts covered in “Understanding Comics”. I’m not sure how knowing these concepts would help in reading comics but nonetheless I’m glad I know these things.
Probably the most interesting thing for me was when McCloud talked about how he simplified/cartoonified himself for the book to make it not distracting to the viewer. He showed a more fleshed out version of himself in one panel, and my mind immediately started wondering who he was and started focusing on him rather than the text. I think his simple version of himself is very effective, except for one thing that has bugged me throughout the entire book (and in his second book “Making Comics”) is that he doesn’t give himself a neck or any indication of a collar for his shirt. I think adding one in would have been a good choice.

I enjoyed reading his study on the differences in western and eastern comics and how eastern comics go at a slower pace because that’s more how their culture is. I find this in films as well. If you watch any Miyazaki film, such as Ponyo, you will see this. As a Westerner it gets difficult for me to endure these types of stories. I want everything quick. This has always been a problem for me with comics and graphic novels actually; I hurry through them as fast as possible so I can find out what happens.
The book was an OK read, but from what I’ve read of “Making Comics”(a decent portion of it) I think that is a more successful book if you want to understand comics. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Max Ernst

In the first image sort of dancing at a rooster who is standing on a ball. There is a man lying dead in the background. To be honest I can't find any meaning in this image.. Maybe the rooster is this ladies god and she did his bidding and pushed the man in the background down the stairs. She is also offering him a plate of food. In the second image there is a bird man standing over the lady from before. She appears to be dead. Maybe she did not please the bird gods. The rooster from before looks on. His position in the image suggests now that he is not her bird god and this man is now the bird god. He must be a lower deity. The next image shows more bird gods and they are burying the dead worshipper from before. The cascate is nice so maybe she didn't actually displease them like I had initially thought. It seems they have a new worshipper, the naked lady in the background. Oh no in the next image they seem to be sacrificing their new worshipper. She looks pretty casual about it. There is a skull and cross bones on the slab she lays on. Her death seems imminent. There is some more worshippers in the background. In the next image the bird god is really upset. Maybe the other one killed the girl on the floor without the angry birds permission. two small roosters stand around and pretend not to notice the bird god being upset. In the last image there is a man dancing at a lady and one of the bird god looks upon them from a door. I think he is planning to kill them.

The Arrival- Wordless Comics

Writing a comic without words seems like a huge challenge. I have read some before that I had a difficult time following. The Arrival however was done very well and there wasn’t really any point in the story that I did not know what was going on. I think Tan did the format in a very smart way. The comic contains lots of small images explaining every beat of the story. It was very similar to how we in the Computer Animation department do our animatics (moving storyboards). Tan also made very good composition choices. They were simple and clear. I’ve noticed in a lot of comics the artists will jump around from panel to panel. They will switch which side of the panel the characters are on for seemingly no reason and this can be jarring sometimes. The Arrival didn’t have this going on which I think enhanced the easiness of the read. Tan also saved all the complex detailed shots for full-page images, which allows the reader more time to soak in what they are seeing. The world Tan created was incredibly beautiful, and felt very real. I think this was because he drew everyone so realistic yet added all these surreal elements that made it feel like it could be photographs taken from another world. I really loved all the cute animal pets that everyone had. I think that was my favorite part of the whole comic. I would love to see this made into a movie. The world feels so complete; I think it could be done very easily.