Monday, November 20, 2017

Sketchtober Recap - Still Working Through These

Not really an update at this point, since the project was finished a couple weeks ago. Of all the consoles, the Playstation 2's selections went the best overall. All the pictures went well. Combined with the last three days of the XBox selections, it was a good stretch there. Which is funny since about halfway through the PS2 was when I realized I had a week to go still and got briefly demoralized (which may have shown up more in the XBox 360 pictures).

Day 26 was Persona 3, which I'd classify as successful, but kind of basic. Day 27 was Ico, where I am really grateful that most of the enemies are creatures made of shadows. Only having to draw in outlines can be a real time-saver. You don't normally have to protect Yorda while she opens sealed doors, but I wanted her to get to do something in the picture, so that was pretty much the option. Also tried to draw her using the Ditko fingers as part of it, for the hell of it.

Day 28, DragonBall Z Budokai 3. You're goddamn right I drew Krillin standing on a mountain of KO'd jackasses. Having a chance to make those fights go the way I want them to is a big part of the fun of these licensed fighting games. Yes, that's Recoome's big, ugly butt in the middle of the picture. They probably aren't arranged properly to make a good pile, unless you assume there are other characters in the back somewhere. So you should absolutely do that. I guess I should have drawn Cell's entire body instead of just his head, but I was getting tired by that point. And Cell can suck eggs, anyway.

The idea for the picture came from a full-page splash Pete Woods did in Robin #85, Tim standing triumphantly atop all the villains he's overcome. Obviously there have been lots of versions of that idea, but that's the one I specifically had in mind. I'll post that scan one of these days, because I really enjoy it (and it's kind of cool considering the Joker is telling the story).

Day 29, Sky Odyssey. I picked the most frustrating part of the game to draw. The level where your engine catches on fire right as you emerge from a cave and you have to land on the river below and then float your plane to a dock. Died so many times on that level. But the engine bursting into flames just as the river flowing out of the cave drops off a waterfall makes for a heck of an image. And it's the part that sticks out most in my mind, other than giving the planes garish color schemes and designing symbols for them, which don't translate well.

Day 30, God Hand. I wanted to try drawing a character throwing a ton of punches, super-fast. The after-image thing you see in Flash or Spider-Man comics, or a lot of shonen manga. Simple as that. And Tiger Joe has a fairly look to use as a villain, although he should be taller here. His leg is raised because he was about to unleash one of his irritating flurries of kicks, but Gene caught him with a barrage of punches first. Not because he needed a pee break, although you couldn't rule out something like that in this game.

If I did it over, my goal would be "more". More fists, more impacts. Fill the space between them with arms and fists, cover Tiger Joe with impacts. The increase on arms and fists to draw would be offset by less of Tiger Joe to draw, so it's like getting more for nothing!

One last quintet left to cover, and then we're done with this exercise in humiliation. Unless I decide to do it again next year!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

God, the Devil, and Bob 1.12 - God's Girlfriend

Plot: The Allman family is on their annual vacation to a lakeside resort. Andy's excited to swim out to the floating dock in the middle, while Megan's excited about the boys present (but not about wearing sunscreen to Donna's regret).

Unfortunately for Bob, God has shown up, and unfortunately for Him, his ex, Sarah, is there, too. God ditched her in Paris, and so things are awkward. The Devil is behind it, of course, hoping to cause mischief in Heaven while God's distracted. He's heading up there to grab some souls. But no Richard Nixon! Heaven involves a lot of paperwork, though.

And so there are two opposing, incompetent forces trying to get involved in God and Sarah's eventual, tentative rekindling. On the one side, Smeck is trying to nudge them together on the Devil's behalf. On the other, Bob is trying to break them up, because if God's busy with Sarah, who will Bob pray to for stuff? I assumed his bookie, or Donna's family, but apparently there are no other options.

Quote of the Episode: Bob - 'What kind of a god raids another man's hospitality bar? Those Cokes are 3 bucks each.' God - 'I know, I'm a wrathful God.'

Smeck Smacks: 3 (27 overall).

Other: Andy did make it out to the raft. And Megan did get sunburned. The Devil only managed to get the paperwork for one soul completed, and you can guess who they tried to foist on him.

The idea of Nixon being in Heaven was the most surprising thing in this episode, at least until the Devil mentioned he had already refused Nixon the first time around, because he ruins everything for everyone else down in Hell.

Well, maybe the idea of Heaven being such a stickler for paperwork. I'd always figured a more laissez-faire approach once people were in. I guess the relaxed atmosphere is thanks to the hard work of the many angels behind the scenes.

God took relationship advice from an episode of Mr. Ed. I've seen less qualified people touted as experts on things.

Ultimately, God's married to the job, so those two crazy kids agreed to go their separate ways. To the extent that's possible with one-half of the couple being an omniscient being. He just loves everyone too much to delete their voicemails and focus on just one person. Which I notice doesn't stop him from showing up to ultimately ruin Bob's life with stupid tests.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What I Bought 11/9/2017 - Part 2

I'm really enjoying the slapfight between Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell. Where Jones is trying to block Goodell's contract extension because Goodell suspended Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliot. Essentially a big hissy fit from some shitbag old man, but Goodell is also an incompetent dolt who is bad at his job and in no way deserves the huge salary he receives. Best case scenario is the two of them wind up killing each other, like a couple of bucks who get their antlers locked and starve to death.

Ms. Marvel #24, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Diego Olortegui (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Only Batman can get away with absurdly long capes. And maybe Spawn. But mostly just Batman.

Kamala and the Red Dagger continue to talk on top of the train while they try to come up with a plan of action. Kamala's doing most of the work, but the media is entirely taken with the new hero on the block. Which leads Kamala to decide to take a break once the crisis is averted. Kamala, don't go wandering off into the Pennsylvania wilderness. Matt Murdock tried that once and ran into Gorgon and Karnak. Which, OK, not out of the ordinary for you, but also Ultron. And Mephisto! You don't want that.

So this is the point where the endless grind of superheroing is getting to her? I don't know exactly how long she's been at it. Long enough to have friends go evil, or just go away. Long enough for people to grow to resent her, or just take her for granted. And the problems keep coming. A little time away could do some good.

Olortegui has drawing Kamala using her powers down, the casual stretching of one limb while the others remain normal length, or the flattening out trick. His work with facial expressions also impresses, helping the book shift from the relaxed tone it has most of the time, even if Kamala's working through some internal conflict, to the moments of terror when something has to get done.

Although I kept having an disconnect watching them chatting casually. I understand why - most of the time there's no immediate danger, and also nothing they can do to stop the train - but it was still unusual. In theory the passengers will be in trouble at some point. I'm used to characters just constantly trying solutions until something works or they're completely exhausted (that's how I am a lot of the times). Probably would have been a useless, even counterproductive approach here. And I enjoyed both a challenge that gives the heroes some time to think things through, and also just the novelty of the problem being a runaway train.

It's nice to not be reading about friggin' HYDRA.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26, by a whole lot of people. Look, I'll list them if I actually discuss the story in question.

There's some in-story explanation about Doreen getting friends to make this for a library-saving fundraiser or something, but boiled down it's a bunch of short comics from different artists. Jim Davis did a bunch of Garfield gags, but with Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Carla Speed McNeil had one about Loki that reads from front to back or vice versa. Fits whichever thing perspective you have on him. Nicely done.

I was not enthused with this. These are always such a mixed bag, and so I end up like maybe 5 pages out of the whole comic. I did enjoy the Ryan North/Tom Fowler with Brain Drain. That silent pause where he waits for us to confirm we are brains trapped in human bodies. The one Nancy made from the photo Peter Parker took for Spider-Man had a couple of good lines in there. The second strip in particular.

Then there's the Wolverine comic by Ryan North and Anders Nilsen, which bugs the hell out of me. Logan finds a damaged Sentinel. It tells him its picking up broadcasts of an alien invasion, which the Avengers can't stop (which Logan confirms with a radio he has). The Sentinel can't function independently, but says Logan could pilot it from inside, and they could save the day. Oh, and it swears it has eliminated all "kill mutants" programming during its downtime. When Logan proves reluctant to trust it, the Sentinel plays the, "I guess we see who the real racist is," card.

Sentinels have tried to kill Wolverine and his friends dozens of times. This Sentinel admits that it crashed there damaged after it tried unsuccessfully to kill X-Men. So this idea Logan is somehow the bad guy because he is unwilling to consider the possibility this Sentinel has genuinely changed is bullshit. If you're deathly allergic to bees, and your friend insists none of their bees ever sting, so go ahead and reach inside the hive and get some delicious honeycomb, are you a jerk because you decline? It may hurt your friend's feelings, but it can kill you if they're wrong.

That left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Running Wild (2006)

I watched Running Wild because it looked like a Korean buddy cop movie, like Lethal Weapon, maybe. And it is, though they aren't buddies for very long (and the film isn't trying for any humor). Oh Jin-woo (Ji-tae Yu) is a straight-laced, dogged, by the book prosecutor, rather than a cop. Jang Do-young (Sang-woo Kwon) is a raggedy looking homicide cop who runs around like a maniac 60% of the time and beats up suspects constantly.

Both are, in their own way, dedicated to stopping crime, and this has, in its own way, kind of ruined their lives. Or maybe their jobs just demonstrate how their personalities ruin their lives. The two ended up working together against Yu Kang-jin, a crimelord Oh busted for tax evasion three years ago, who is no free and is doing a full court press to present himself as a reformed, charitable man (who will seek elected office). Oh is trying to bring down the entire organization, and link Kang-jin to the murder of another crime boss who went missing three years ago. Jang is after one of Kang-jin's killers, who killed his half-brother. Oh brings Jang on as much to keep him under control but gradually becomes more comfortable with Jang's methods as Kang-jin's influence continually throws up roadblocks in the investigation.

The movie is about 140 minutes long; it could probably cut 15-20. In the last half-hour there's a real sense the film is dragging its feet about getting to the conclusion, mostly to wallow in how badly things have gone for the protagonists. But the film has been showing us their lives weren't going well before this for a long time. The tendency for Jang to flip out and start smacking things and screaming about how they can take his badge at the drop of a hat undercuts some scenes later on. The guy responds to every setback, including his lighter not working, with a violent act. So him throwing a fit at a loved one's funeral doesn't carry much weight. Once Oh stops wearing a tie and stops shaving, that carries some weight because of how under control he's been in the face of setbacks up to the point.

Also, Jang's outbursts look almost ridiculous at times, a guy trying to damage something who has no idea how. If it was meant to convey his powerlessness in the situation, that he's ultimately flailing helplessly, it works, but it felt more like it was supposed to demonstrate what a loose cannon he is.

I don't want to just bag on the movie. I enjoyed parts of it. There are a couple of fights Jang gets into I really enjoyed. Especially the one at a driving range, where he just keeps going, aimed right at the one guy he wants, and all the goons keep bringing him up short. It told you everything you needed to know about him. Ji-tae Yu and Sang-woo Kwon have some decent chemistry. Oh admires Jang's persistence, but is stuck trying to keep him from ruining everything. Jang thinks Oh is wasting his time, but has just enough hope this will work that he honestly tries to help the best he can. Byung-ho Son, who plays Kang-jin, has this pleasant demeanor, even when he's not in the public eye. The guy who knows how the game will end because he's marked the cards. He doesn't need to get angry.

I like the camerawork most when it's just steady. It's less distracting when you're trying to read subtitles, or at least I don't feel like I'm missing as much. There's one sequence where the film uses that Hitchcock Zoom (from Vertigo), and then a minute later, does a shot where the camera rushes out a window and zooms to the ground where there's a dead body. Both things feel entirely out of place in the film, and ultimately distracting. There's a brief scene where Oh and Jang follow different trails to a night club and chat while they watch their target. I liked the lighting in that one.

There's a trend among the characters to a certain style of clothing and hair as things go bad. Jang is in it, Oh moves in that direction eventually, there's a former bodyguard who looks even shabbier than Jang. Seems correlated to people who have thrown away something of value, and they've fallen apart without it.

The movie could have been better with some tweaking, but it had some strong points.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What I Bought 11/9/2017 - Part 1

There were no comics out this week I was interested in. Here's a couple of books from last week I was interested in. There were five comics from Marvel last week I wanted, I found four of them so far. Only two or three other books for the remaining weeks of the month.

Despicable Deadpool #289, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - How is Cable missing at that range? Wade at least has the excuse he's missing an arm (and holding his gun sideways). Cable's aim must rival an Uzi-toting bad guy from an '80s movie.

Deadpool confesses to Cable surprisingly quickly, so the two try going back to kill Stryfe right after he gave Wade the cure for the plague weapon Madcap used. Stryfe anticipated this and unleashes dinosaurs. Cable anticipated that and has a neurotoxin ready. So Stryfe unleashes a bunch of vampires, who bite the dinosaurs, who then bite Deadpool. Before the vampire dinosaurs can spread, the military decides they're sick of leaving everything to the Avengers and nuke the city. Before his death, Cable opens a time portal and warns Wade and Cable not to try ambushing Stryfe like that.

So the entire issue is to explain why they don't just solve the problem with time travel. I feel that could have been solved by Cable simply handwaving some explanation for why it wouldn't work. Wouldn't have needed 20 pages for that, unless Bendis was writing it. I do kind of like Cable and Stryfe essentially being a couple of kids playing together. Each one comes up with some bullshit counter to whatever the other imagines. Even so, my enthusiasm for this arc is dropping fast.

Koblish tries a version of the end three-way faceoff from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Just doesn't work as well without music. Also, he doesn't move the camera view in, or intersperse any panels of fingers on triggers. Points for effort I guess. On the other hand, he's very good at drawing a hideously ugly Wade, and he shows a good attention to detail. Wade's left arm being smaller than the right because it's still regenerating, the bullet holes in the back of Wade's mask where someone shot him earlier. And I think he tries to make his art style more similar to Matteo Lolli's on the page showing Stryfe giving the cure to Wade (which Lolli drew originally). His lines are a little smoother and thinner than normal. And four wide panels stacked on top of each other is a page layout Lolli uses pretty frequently.

Still waiting for Cable to get killed, though.

Unbelievable Gwenpool #22, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Irene Strychalski (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Gwen, you're supposed to write on the back of the postcard, not the front.

Vincent the Doombot brings Gwen to some underground castle so she can try to kill Doom away from Vincent's community. Doom has engineered all this and drops her in a cell. Which pushes Gwen to learn she can now move backwards in time through the gutters, so she escapes and confronts Doom, who is chatting mostly pleasantly with Vincent. Gwen realizes she's dealing with a Doom trying to reform, but is so desperate to be an Avenger, she pulls a stupid. Her powers somehow release an earlier (later?) version of Classic-Talking, Evil Doom from within Current Good Doom. Hastings really just wanted to write a Doom who talks like Dr. Doom, didn't he?

So Gwen really hasn't learned anything? She's still doing dumb, morally questionable things in an effort to "matter". Before she was trying to be important enough to not be killed off, now she's allegedly trying to be a hero, but it boils down to the same thing: She's recklessly endangering the lives of everyone around her because she never stops to think about what she's doing. Probably because she doesn't want to.

Which is fine! I was curious how her newfound commitment to not becoming a villain would play out, and here's the beginning of the answer. Having seen a future outcome she didn't like doesn't mean she'd become aware of all her weaknesses. And it isn't as though wanting things a particular way is unique to her, or comic book fans. Nostalgia's still a thing.

I think of the non-Guruhiru art teams on this book, Strychalski/Rosenberg are my favorite. There's nothing flashy in their style, but they can handle actions scenes or humor pretty well, which are the major components of this book. The castle has that imposing look to it where you could believe what Vincent said about it having many previous users. And I liked the panel where we see how Doom perceives Gwen stepping between the panels, where part of her has simply vanished. Just as a way to show how odd that might appear even to someone like Doom, who has seen (and done) some shit over the years.

Rosenberg's colors never get too dark, which keeps things easy to follow, but also keeps the book feeling more light. This story could be pretty dire, Gwen either dumping people into some empty void for all eternity, or her and a lot of other people getting killed because she brought back DOOM. But the book probably won't go that route, and so it stays brighter.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Absolutely Anything

Where aliens randomly select shy, unmotivated schoolteacher Neil (Simon Pegg) to receive the power to make anything happen as a test of whether the species is ready to enter galactic civilization, or be destroyed. Neil has no idea that's why he has the power, and much attempted hilarity ensues as he tries using it in different ways, only to be tripped up by its literal nature.

This is tied up with Neil pining after his downstairs neighbor Catherine (Kate Beckinsale), who seemingly every guy in the movie wants to sleep with, and they're all trying to abuse their power to make it happen, or not taking "No" for an answer. Her boss offering a better office. Rob Riggle playing a crazy Air Force colonel who flew to England to stalk her. Neil, who tries to be funny, and tries to be considerate looks pretty good in comparison, but he does end up trying to use his powers on her.

Most of the humor is broad, Riggle's character being a crazy buffoon, Neil's dog (voiced by Robin Williams) being given the power of speech so he can loudly shout out his love for Neil through a locked door while Neil tries to explain things to Catherine. Most of it didn't really work for me. I've never found Rob Riggle funny. I might just not be the audience for it.

The end, where Catherine seems to decide to trust Neil awfully quickly, when she'd been rightfully concerned about whether he was mucking with her free will earlier*, that bothered me. All through the film we see these guys trying find that right combination to "make" her love them, despite her being clear she isn't interested. Neil can forgo all that, just make her be interested, but he says the powers are gone, and she agrees to have dinner with him. I guess the argument is Neil had always just needed to be honest with her about his feelings, he didn't need power or whatever, because he seemed like a decent guy. And with the powers gone, she figures he's still that guy. Seemed dodgy to me.

There are a couple of bits that worked. Neil's attempt to actually use the powers to make the world a better place - "No more wars for any reason, ever" doesn't work as you'd expect. Neil's attempt to hide his friend Ray from the coworker Neil has made "worship" Ray. And I was oddly intrigued when his dog insists that dogs let people rub their bellies because people like doing it, while Neil insists they do it because dogs like it.

Which probably says something about how engaged I was, I got distracted by that. Also by the fact that, for all he dreams of receiving awards and acclaim for a novel he's trying to write, he doesn't use the power to make his novel be finished and be great. No telling how that would turn out, but that hadn't stopped him any other time he wished for something.

I think I was expecting a different ratio of comedy to drama (more about Neil struggling with how to best use the powers, and looking to his dog for guidance, for good or ill), and it's definitely not that. Also, I wasn't expecting a romantic comedy, which isn't a genre I seem to be fond of? Those aren't the movie's problems, but I don't think it really succeeds at what it was trying to either.

* The powers only work when he gestures a certain way as he says something, so he does that and nothing happens as proof. But he could have wished to have control that didn't require that. Although if he was smart enough for that, he would have thought to wish for the knowledge of why he had the powers.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Weekend Jaunt to KC

Saturday, Alex and I drove out to KC for the Kansas City Comic Con. That went pretty well. I had worried it was going to be another disaster weekend. The track record for when Alex and I make plans is pretty lousy. But no, Saturday went very smoothly all around.

Alex was excited at the prospect of meeting Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. He did get to meet Mewes, and it went really well from what he said. Alex paid to get a picture taken with him on his phone, and they ended up taking, I believe, 23 photos. Most of the time it seems like you're lucky if they'll give you a do-over if your eyes are closed on the first. I think Kevin Smith was showing up about the time we left, but I imagine that line would have been long.

I tried to convince Alex to buy some of the art he saw he liked, but he kept insisting he still needed to buy frames for all the other art he's bought he hasn't put up yet. I told him to get a portfolio to keep them in until then, which is what I do, but he hasn't yet. So he didn't buy any art. I bought 6 or 7 pieces from a few different artists. No commissions, just prints. I didn't expect we'd be there long enough to go through my decision process*, and we weren't.

I've never really been a big fan of Ghost Rider as a character. In theory, sure, cool concept, but it's never gotten me to buy his titles for any extended period of time. But damn does he make for a cool visual on prints. I own at least 5 or 6 different prints of various Ghost Riders.

Oddly, not many of the artists I bought from included any kind of card. Which is too bad because it means I can't remember what most of their names are. One issue I have with the program the folks behind the con put together is the map of all the booths is absurdly small. The booklet is 5.5 x 8.5 inches. The map is one-half of one page, the other half being part of the listing of names. Which means I can barely read any of the booth numbers on the map. Good luck trying to remember which booth it was.

That bummer aside, it was a good. The KC Convention Center is a nice venue for my needs: Big, well-lit, lots of space in the aisles. You could easily stop at a booth and look things over and not get jostled by people walking past you. I didn't feel any of that usually creeping strain from being around lots of other people, although having Alex along probably helped. I would have liked to have a little more time to look around - I didn't even get to any of the vendors selling back issues - but it was probably better to not spend all my money.

* Find artist whose style I like, and whose commission rate is within my price range. Then figure out what to get them to draw. Then awkwardly try to engage them in conversation and arrange the transaction. Then wait. You need a lot of time for all that.