Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Mountain Road

A small American demolition crew is tasked to withdraw along a mountain road in China, and if they can, slow the advancing Japanese Army. Major Baldwin is in his first field command, and he's determined that they will slow the Japanese. He's also pressed into escorting the wife (Lisa Lu) of a deceased Chinese general to safety.

Baldwin says near the end that he let the power he was given, the power of command, go to his head. Which doesn't seem accurate. There's some grumbling from his men about bothering with the delaying actions, but it never turns into a Mutiny on the Bounty situation.

What does seem to be the issue is that Baldwin does not understand China, which doesn't stop him from judging it. He mentions to Madame Hung at one point that he doesn't understand the brutality in China. I was left thinking about how, when the road was blocked by an old man whose truck full of cotton had broken down, Baldwin told the man they'd push his truck up the hill, and then pushed it into the ravine instead. Or the people who were blocked from escaping when Baldwin and his men blew a bridge, or dropped a bluff in the road. His men got a good laugh at all those angry peasants.

But when someone bushwhacks some of his men and kills them, then it's time for revenge. I guess you could argue that Baldwin deciding he needs to take time for this (and blows up an innocent village in the process), instead of finishing his withdrawal, is him letting the power of command go to his head. His men didn't need much convincing, though. But it still feels like it comes down to Baldwin not understanding the country he's in, or what the people there are dealing with. The majority of the people are desperate, and some of them resort to violence. But Baldwin just lumps them all together as some faceless mass that should be grateful he's working to "save" them, when he isn't really doing that at all.

The movie goes in a couple of directions I didn't expect, avoids a few things I expected it to do. They start to tease a romance between Baldwin and Madame Hung, but his actions and contempt for the Chinese actually cause problems and wreck it before it gets off the ground. Which makes perfect sense to me, but there are a lot of movies where guys do incredibly shitty stuff, and women are written to basically shrug it off.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sketchtober Update - Yes, This Is The Last One

Like I said last time, the XBox 360 was the point where I started to get worn out.  It's probably reflected in the drawings. If the PS2 drawings went the best of any console, the 360's were. . . less successful.

Day 31, The Saboteur. This part of the drawing - Sean calmly lighting a cigarette - went very well. There was supposed to be this whole chaotic tableau behind him, or overturned Nazi trucks and watchtowers, stuff burning, dead Nazis. The aftermath of Sean's efforts. But I didn't seem to have the energy to make it turn out well, so eventually I just erased it all and this is what we're left with.

In a re-do, I'd probably have the explosions be happening in the background, and have Sean closer than he should be so I didn't have to draw as much stuff. A few shockwaves, some smoke and flame, part of a truck rising in the air, a section of Nazi being consumed by the explosion. Gotta learn to work smarter.

Day 32, Dishonored. Pretty straightforward idea: Show Corvo using the Blink technique to repeatedly advance towards the viewer, starting from the top of the water tower. Unfortunately, that meant drawing a lot of buildings, and incorporating proper perspective. Not my forte, as you can see in some of the windows. I'm wondering if I should have drawn something to show the little flashes are meant to be connected, Corvo zipping from one spot to the next. I thought that would clutter things up, but as it is, I'm not sure it's clear what I was going for.

Ambition outstripping skill again. Or I just needed more time to plan it out, redesign it. I think it's a cool idea, just didn't carry it off.

Day 33, Tales of Vesperia. I really struggled to come up with an idea for this one, but I remembered Zagi, who encounters Yuri early in the game and becomes obsessed with killing him, to Yuri's annoyance.

I wanted to try and open things up more in my facial expressions. My style as a whole is, "fussy" is the word that comes to mind. A lot of small, light lines, which I think works OK for quiet emotions, peaceful looks, but is lacking when you want someone to be enraged or look kind of crazy. If I could draw in a style similar to Skottie Young's I'd be friggin' ecstatic. But normally when I try to do that, I think it makes the faces look weird. So I tried to go against that with Zagi, at least. I think he certainly looks nuts, if maybe not crazy angry, necessarily. Still, I'm a little encouraged.

Day 35, Alice: Madness Returns. Singularity was Day 34, total disaster, so it gets skipped. Alice has a Dodge move, where she turns into a cloud of butterflies. Like Blink with Dishonored, it's probably my favorite thing in this game. So having her Dodge an attack an move to a position of advantage seemed a natural idea.

Probably should have drawn some scenery, a floor at least, but my energy was pretty low by this point. I was ready to just be done. Trying to get the pommel of her weapon right for that angle took several tries, but yeah, I'm pretty satisfied.

Lack of energy was the biggest issue this last set. Even when I had a good idea, I didn't feel I was bringing my best effort to it. Like, crap, I don't want to draw all these buildings/wreckage/dead Nazis. Anyway, that's that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


A screwball comedy where Elwood (Jimmy Stewart) has an invisible fairy friend named Harvey, that he says is a 6-foot tall white rabbit. His sister and niece are trying to have him committed since his behavior unnerves all the high-society folks they're trying to schmooze. The initial attempt backfires, and the rest of the film is everyone trying to track Stewart down and get him back in the sanitarium.

I expected the movie was going to play coy about whether Harvey was real or not, but that's not the case. It maybe explains how someone who is as pleasant and friendly as Elwood can seem so oblivious to the discomfort he causes in other people. Although that would raise the question of how responsible Elwood is for their discomfort. He isn't doing it deliberately, he's trying to be friendly, but for a lot of people it doesn't work that way.

Stewart plays the calm center as everyone else runs around frantically. Much of the time he ambles into or out of a scene of chaos like he's doing a guest spot from some other movie. He'll stand around for a while, chat pleasantly, be as helpful as can be. Then, he just walks away while everyone gets distracted by sexual tension between Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly, or Elwood's sister freaking out at the sight of Mr. Wilson, the sanitarium attendant.

There isn't a character I'd describe as consistently funny, but there are a few laughs, and other parts that made me smile.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Not Much To Love In February

There wasn't much new in the solicits for February I was interested it. Unless I try that Mata Hari mini-series from Dark Horse. Not my usual fare when it comes to comics, but it might be worth a try.

The Empowered comic drawn by Carla Speed McNeil will be in a skip month, as is Copperhead. Atomic Robo: Spectre of Tomorrow is wrapping up, and promises Robo teaming up with his oldest foe. Is that Helsingard, or the ghost of Thomas Edison? Or Doctor Dinosaur, who of course time traveled here from over 65 million years ago and was definitely not created in a lab by someone who got too excited by Jurassic Park.

DC is still doing Doomsday Clock, and this Metal thing. Hard pass. There's a bunch of crossover one-shots between DC titles and the books from the Young Animal line, including a Cave Carson/Swamp Thing crossover I might buy. Michael Avon Oeming isn't drawing it, so I don't know. There's a Mera mini-series, which isn't for me, but I know there are some folks who have been enjoying her in Aquaman recently, so hopefully they'll like this.

DC's also releasing collections of Planetary, maybe I should check those out. Warren Ellis is pretty hit or miss for me, though, and I don't know if the villain being Evil Fantastic Four is something I'm up for.

Over at Marvel, Squirrel Girl is still trying to get into space, or maybe she's made it. Gwenpool might be nearing the end of the line. Ms. Marvel the character is still MIA, and Deadpool is still trying to kill a bunch of people before someone croaks him. All this fuss because he killed Phil Coulson (although I still think Coulson isn't actually dead). Movie Loki killed Phil Coulson and Thor seems to have gotten over that. They not only brought Jean Grey back, they immediately gave her a team book and put her in charge of it. I'm curious where Marvel is getting this conviction there was a groundswell of support for having multiple Jean Greys running around. Although with multiple Hawkeyes, Spider-folk, Wolverines, Hulks, I guess they might as well.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

God, the Devil, and Bob 1.13 - Bob Gets Involved

Plot: Bob comes home to Donna rehearsing for Arsenic and Old Lace, and finds Andy's lnchbox in the trash with a profanity written across. Bob is outraged, and decides to take action against this appalling behavior. But yelling at the school (literally, he stands in the parking lot and shouts at an empty building) after hours accomplishes nothing. God's suggestion to look within whistles in and out. The Devil gets Bob to call into a radio show he's hosting, as a way to unite Bob with other like-minded imbeciles.

The group's initial attempt to keep rap music away from children runs up against the fact CDs are expensive (oh, that dates this episode). But here's the Devil again, presenting himself as a classy evil, willing to donate a check for 50 grand. Bob spends it on night vision goggles, and then his group set their sights on Donna's play. Which forces the actors to try and stage the play secretly, only for the Devil to tip off Bob's group. And just when the theater seems ready to erupt in violence, Kevin Bacon arrives to defuse the situation with dancing.

None of which solves the problem of the word scrawled on Andy's lunchbox, now also painted in big letters on the backyard fence.

Quote of the Episode: Smeck - 'What if Bob restores order and morality to Detroit?'

Smeck Smacks: 5 (32 overall).

Other: The arrival of Kevin Bacon (and subsequent quick departure) is random, but I at least enjoyed the secret of why he would continually show up to ruin the Devil's plans.

Also, Bob tries to intimidate God in the men's room at the bar to learn who wrote on Andy's lunchbox. Which takes a certain amount of chutzpah, considering God's track record towards people who defy him. Along those same lines, Bob trying to justify his taking that check from the Devil. Calling God an idealist, while describing himself as a realist, a consensus builder.

God did use the airbag to punch him, though. A week after he used a table to do the same thing. He's real fond of that plausible deniability stuff.

Although Bob was surprisingly serious about this, in his clumsy, misguided way. Even when Donna told him he was no longer invited to the cast party, and they got a keg. I thought for sure missing out on beer would get him to reconsider, but no. A man's quest to protect his son from anyone's swearing other than his own supersedes alcoholism.

Bob's pal Barry wants the schools to stop educating kids so they can't take his and Bob's jobs. Instead, the kids will do all the crappy work, and then they can stop the immigrants. Sounds like Barry's got a future in the Republican Party.

Not a strong episode to end on, but there you have it. When I started this rewatch, it had been long enough since I'd watched the show that I figured I'd enjoy one or two episodes - "The Devil's Birthday" most likely - and the rest would be a disaster. But it turned out to be more enjoyable than that. The subplots are weak, often with no resolution or one that's tossed in at some point. They come off as strictly filler, which suggests the A plot is too weak to carry the episode. But there are almost always a few decent gags or lines in each episode, so that's not too bad.

After 5+ years and 7 different shows, I'm going to take a break from the episode rundowns. Come back next Sunday to learn what's going to be taking over!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Food And Awkward Conversation For Everyone


Calvin: C'mon man. None of that, OK? This is a relaxed, subdued atmosphere.

Pollock: Since when?

Calvin: Quiet you.

Narrator: Sorry. Calvin and the others have gathered around the table to eat, drink, and probably threaten each other.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Thank you. And thanks to Pollock for this wonderful ham.

Pollock: Why thank you, it's grown in a lab from proteins convinced to behave like the flesh of a pig.

CAP: *pushes plate away* That description made it much less appetizing.

Deadpool: [Ham on Thanksgiving is blasphemy.] *takes the ham off the panda's plate*

Calvin: Damn right.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: But those pizza rolls you guys are scarfing down are fine.

Calvin: Of course. Pizza rolls belong to no holiday.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *mock apologetic* Oh, of course. I'm sorry for doubting you.

Calvin: In the spirit of the season, I. . . am too stuffed to take offense. Did you have nay trouble finding a parking space?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *nervously* No, not really.

CAP: Were you able to park in the space properly?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Mostly.

Calvin: We know you smashed one of the garage doors.

CAP: *looks up from a bowl of soup* It was hard to miss.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Sorry.

Calvin: *shrugs* My mom's moving in a month, what does she care?

Deadpool: [Also, it made a good place to store my weapons.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: What do you mean? *looks out the window at the driveway* Wade, what the hell? He stabbed his swords into the body of my car!

*Everyone looks at Deadpool*

Deadpool: [In my defense, I thought it was a piece of lawn art at the time.]

Pollock: I'm glad I arranged to be picked up later. I can't afford any more expenses on the travel budget. Also I can drink more. *pours wine into a Big Gulp cup*

Deadpool: [Can I get a ride with you? Ooper doesn't exist this far out in the sticks.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Hey, I'm the one who's going to need a ride here!

Deadpool: [I have more booze! Good stuff, not the cheap vodka mixed with anti-freeze I shared with these guys.]

CAP: You notice none of us were drinking it, right?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: It's in an old bottle of detergent you painted red and black.

Deadpool: [And drew three X's on it! Gives it that old timey charm we moonshiners know our customers crave!]

Calvin: I figured it was some kind of lewd joke.

CAP: Yeah, me too.

Pollock: I take it as a given anything Deadpool does doubles as a lewd joke.

Deadpool: [I never joke about Sweet Lady Alcohol.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Gimme that quality booze!

Deadpool: *clutches bottle* [No way! This is what keeps me warm now that I'm all alone and hated!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: You stabbed my car, gimme the bottle!

Deadpool: [You ran me over back in the spring!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: That was just a drawing Calvin did! It didn't actually happen!

Calvin: I dunno, continuity on this blog is a tricky thing. There are all kinds of things I'm counting or planning you guys haven't seen.

CAP: Really?

Pollock: Oh, wonderful. More disasters lurking in my future.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: . . . No one made you help HYDRA!

Deadpool: [They had some good ideas until all the killing and fear!]

Calvin: No politics at the Blogsgiving table!

CAP: *exasperated* Wade, just share the damn booze!

Calvin: We'll give you an entire pie, and this bag of corn chips if you give her the alcohol.

Pollock: *sighs* I'll even throw in this pineapple pudding to expedite matters.

Calvin: Pineapple pudding? What the hell?

Deadpool: [OK, fine! Take away the last thing in this world I have!] *hands over booze*

CAP: Aw Wade. It isn't the last thing.

Calvin: Sure, you still have friends here. We understand you didn't mean to help HYDRA.

Deadpool: [Really?]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *finishes big swig* Sure! It was still stupid, though. *passes out*

CAP: She's right. Also, a lightweight.

Pollock: Absolutely, on both counts.

Calvin: But you should still hurry up and kill Cable. Then everyone will love you again.

CAP: Calvin, don't encourage him to commit murders! Not even of Cable!

Deadpool: [No, no, he's right. I'll have to get back to work soon. But first. . .] *grabs the bottle back*

Pollock: Where is the silent, sullen girl?

Calvin: I couldn't get ahold of Cassanee.

CAP: I hope nothing is wrong.

Pollock: *swirls wine, side-eyes Calvin with a raised eyebrow* Is this one of those developments you aren't sharing?

Calvin: Maybe. Or it might be one of those development I don't know anything about.

Pollock: How would that work?

Calvin: I only know some of what Actual Calvin knows, but I don't know what I don't know.

Deadpool: [It's like the disconnect between Mark Millar's hand and his brain.]

Calvin: There you go, spreading that rumor about Mark Millar having a brain. Hey! What are people thankful for?

Pollock: *leaps to feet, shouts triumphantly* I have my company back! And we sustained a record-low number of work days lost to random assaults from pandas or idiots in spandex!

CAP: I'm thankful for food, and my friends. And I'm graduating!

Calvin: I don't have to come up with another name for you now, do I?

CAP: Please don't. You're terrible at names.

Calvin: Heyyyy. . . yeah, you're right.

Deadpool: [BOOZE!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *snores*

Calvin: Hmm, well nothing particularly bad happened to me this year. That's pretty swell.

CAP: That's pretty lame. Give thanks for something actually good!

Calvin: *shrugs* Work has been OK?

CAP: *shakes head*

Calvin: Oh, like food and friends are so original.

CAP: Hey, I included my graduation from junior high!

Calvin: Junior high graduation? That doesn't count.

Pollock: He's right, that barely qualifies as an event.

Deadpool: [Don't let them get you down. I remember my junior high graduation. It was a wonderful scene.]

CAP: Really?

Deadpool: [Maybe? Or I'm remembering being escorted away from someone else's junior high graduation.]

CAP: *flatly* Thanks, Wade.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *drowsily* So who is giving me a ride home?

Deadpool: [I only stabbed the body of the car. It probably still runs.]

Pollock: I believe she was referring to her intoxication.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *jabs finger at Pollock* Bingo.

Deadpool: [You need a driver for your car, I need a car.]

Calvin: If only there was a solution.

Deadpool: [I've got it! I'll take your car, and you can get a cab when you sleep it off!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Booooooo.

CAP: Try again, Wade.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Friendly Persuasion

Gary Cooper plays the patriarch of a Quaker family during the Civil War. So the question is raised about whether the Quakers will fight for the Union, or even to defend their own homes and farms in the Confederate Army makes it to them. Cooper doesn't believe he'll fight, his son Josh (played by Anthony Perkins), isn't so sure whether he should fight or not.

All of that is interesting ground, but the film spends most of the time on other, more lighthearted subplots. Cooper has an ongoing competition with his neighbor Sam, where they race to reach their respective churches each Sunday. His youngest son is terrorized by the family goose. His daughter Mattie has a burgeoning relationship with Sam's son Gard, who is an officer in the Union Army (his being a soldier isn't the issue, just the issue of whether those two are observing the proprieties at all times). And there's some tug-of-war between Cooper and his wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire), though it's mostly good-natured.

If Gard didn't occasionally return from the front with updates, you'd forget the Civil War was supposed to be happening at all. Which is nice for illustrating how abruptly war can disrupt the lives of people who want nothing to do with it. But it means that when the choice of whether to fight or not is upon them, it's almost a surprise. "Oh yeah, that was a thing the movie was going to deal with eventually."

That said, the film does present a wide range of responses to the question of when. Fight, run, stick to their farm, but don't resist. It's fairly even-handed. The only one the film judges harshly is the elder who loudly proclaimed in church he would never resort to violence, and changes his tune mighty quick once his farm gets burned and expects everyone else to fall in line with him. For the others, things may not always work out well, but their decisions are respected.

I still think there's a tonal clash between the two sides of the film, but I think the movie does both sides well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An Old Man's Heart Has Something Left To Give

I should have figured this out an issue earlier, but the solution to Deadpool needing to kill Cable finally occurred to me. It's the Older Man Cable, the one waiting by the phone in case his younger self calls. He's at the end of his run, and if Wade kills him, then he has killed Cable, right? It gives him a heart to present to Stryfe, so maybe Stryfe will drop his guard long enough for the current version of Cable to get the drop on him.

As an aside, I think Stryfe made a mistake choosing Cable as the first target. Give Wade the other targets first, leave his husband until the end as a kicker. Given Wade's mental state right now, Styfe probably could have gotten him to kill people he didn't know without too much trouble. After all, Wade didn't object to the idea of killing people, but the idea of killing Cable, specifically.

That assumes Stryfe ever had more than one person he wanted Wade to kill. He might have said he had four because if he said one, Wade immediately assumes it's Cable and get his hackles up. Or he just thought that whole, "I gave you four lives, so you take four for me," was too good to pass up. I'm not sure where a clone of the son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey got such a dramatic streak.

I do want to see Deadpool meet the older Cable. I'm curious how an older, more mellow Cable would regard his and Wade's relationship looking back over its entirety. If he has regrets for how he handled things (he should). If he hates Wade, pities him, misses him.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in the Shipping department of a company that makes bathroom fixtures. He's eager, friendly, awkward, and has a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton) in Accounting. Jerry also hears voices coming from his cat, Mr. Whiskers, and his dog, Bosco. Because Jerry isn't taking his court-ordered meds. And then Jerry kills Fiona (accidentally?), and things go downhill rapidly.

The Voices is directed by Marjane Satrapi, who wrote Persepolis (and directed the film based on it). Netflix described it as a "dark comedy". I didn't laugh a lot, but I can see it, the arguments with the pets, the wide difference between how Jerry perceives his home life and how everyone else would see it (including Jerry in the brief intervals where he actually takes his pills).

In Tucker and Dale versus Evil, the movie takes all those cliches you see in horror movies about murderous rednecks, and offers these explanations that show in this case it's just misunderstandings. That guy was going to use his favorite ax as a topic of conversation, but he has social anxiety so he just stood there breathing heavy. The Voices does this in reverse, where most of the film is from Jerry's unmedicated perspective, and things seem mostly under control. When he takes his medications, or his coworker Lisa (Anna Kendrick) comes to visit, suddenly you see the apartment is a disaster. Jerry hasn't cleaned up the mess from disposing of the body. The lighting in the apartment is sickly and pale, like the air is so thick with stench and decay it absorbs light. The movie shifts to a horror film look.

Reynolds takes that goofball charm he has most of the time, and dials up the awkwardness of it, so that he appears as someone who just doesn't grasp how to interact with people. In theory, maybe he knows how it works, but the nuances elude him. Of course, then I feel bad for Jerry, but he's killing people, and should I feel bad for him, and on and on. Fiona, Lisa, and Allison (Ella Smith), a trio of friends in Accounting, don't get a ton of screen time, but they form a fairly believable group of work friends. Lisa likes Jerry, the other two are trying to be supportive friends who think Jerry is mostly OK, but aren't quite sure what to make of some of the things he says. You can see them running the math in their heads on whether this guy is safe or not.

The very end was bizarre, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'd probably just leave it at the point the pets say their good-byes.

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.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

God, the Devil, and Bob 1.11 - Bob's Father

Plot: Bob's father is near death, but it hasn't softened him any. Which means Bob's attempt to settle unresolved issues does not go well. Bob gets frustrated, tells his father to go to Hell, and storms out. Then his father dies (after mimicking the EKG flatlining as Bob turned away). Bob asks God to bring him back, and God declines.

Back home, Bob is depressed and seeks out the Devil, hoping to be allowed to speak with his father's soul in Hell. As it turns out, his father didn't end up in Hell, though Bob does run into Che Guevara, twice. Confronted with the idea God allowed his asshole of a father into heaven, Bob declares morality to be irrelevant and embraces chaos. Disobeying traffic laws, stealing a sports car and leading the police on a merry chase, mooning nuns. He ends up in his favorite bar, where God is waiting. They chat, and God makes a somewhat questionable analogy to explain Bob's father's actions, before giving Bob a chance to speak with his father one last time.

There's also a sporadic subplot about Megan finding a dog in the park, fighting with her mother about whether she gets to keep it, and then struggling to make it mind her. It exists mostly so they can make a joke where Megan (as she details her frustrations) unwittingly describes exactly how Donna feels in dealing with Megan.

Plot: Che - 'Has Communism triumphed?' Bob - 'No, it's failed all over the world! There's a chihuahua doing an impression of you in a Taco Bell commercial!' Che - 'I live on!' 

Smeck Smacks: 2 (24 overall). Devil dropped a couple organs on him. I got the numbers on this screwed up like two episodes in, and I'm not sure whether I've straightened things out.

Other: The quote was the second time Bob encountered Che, when he was too pissed to lie. The first time, he told him that Communism had indeed triumphed. Che seemed pretty pumped either way, but I imagine after however many years of shoveling whatever he was shoveling into those furnaces, any news about the living world might have been welcome.

The Devil invented those difficult to open bags of airline peanuts. Also, he made up Purgatory. And "the light" you aren't supposed to go into is God's porch light. Which he now has to leave on all the time, and it attracts moths. Heaven has moths? I don't know. Bob's dad says the bars in Heaven are always open and you never have to go to the bathroom. So who knows what's up there.

I need to watch that episode of King of the Hill where Cotton dies, see if he was shittier to Hank than Tom Allman was to Bob here. It'd be close, but I don't think Cotton faked flatlining, and Bob didn't have Donna there to have his back (as I recall, Peggy told Cotton to hurry up and drop dead, which the old fucker deserved).

The service is a miserable affair, because the pastor giving the eulogy can't even get Tom's name right. That's the worst, get some schmuck up there doesn't know a damn thing about the person they're speaking of. That happened with one of my great uncles, my grandmother was so angry about it.

So, God's explanation about Tom is this image of a series of fathers in a line, each one passing a punch down to their sons. The idea is to pass down a softer punch, and supposedly Tom did that. I'm not super-impressed with an explanation for abusive parents that itself involves violence. It's still a punch, at least until you reach the point the father doesn't strike his child. God does acknowledge that Bob is right to be angry, though he also says it's his job, not Bob's, to forgive Tom. Which doesn't seem terribly relevant at first glance; whether God forgives Tom Allman or not doesn't resolve anything for Bob. But God does say it isn't Bob's job to forgive. Which means he isn't required to. He can choose to forgive if he wants, or not. His call. God, presumably has to forgive, in spite of Tom's actions.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sketchtober Update - Across the Finish Line

The project is complete. The last two were delayed, because I was at my dad's last weekend, so nothing got done. But I caught back up Sunday/Monday. Hooray!

We're still catching up with these posts, as I'm only up to the original XBox games today. A couple of them actually turned out really well, in that I'm genuinely pleased with the results. Some of the others, not so much. Angles and perspective seem to be an issue. Well, lots of things are issues, but those were the ones that reared their heads most this time around.

The weekend I was supposed to start these, I spent that miserable Saturday with Alex at Oktoberfest, so I had to cram Thief: Deadly Shadows and Phantom Dust in on Sunday. Except I couldn't come up with a good idea for Phantom Dust, so it ended up as a generic picture of the main character. It didn't turn out badly, other than I had a little trouble with all the pointless straps on his jacket, but it's kind of dull, so I'm not posting it. I'd rather post the interesting failure like this one.

There's an episode of Samurai Jack where he fights a ninja who blends perfectly into shadows. Jack ultimately wraps himself in white, and they fight in the ruins of this building, moving between shadows and rays of light, only one visible at any given time, the other suggested by the arc of their blade, or the other's reaction. That show was always really good at that stylistic stuff.

I wanted to do something similar, suggest Garrett's presence as a shadow flitting at the edges of the light sources, and show him moving through a house to his goal. I didn't commit to it enough, I think. I needed to draw each picture a lot bigger, zoom in more on the person with the light source, and then draw just a bit of Garrett in the background (his green artificial eye seems like it would be useful, but I'm not sure how to do that with black-and-white art). I still love the concept, but the execution is lacking. Another one of those ideas I need to revisit at some point when I'm not putting myself on an artificial deadline.

Beyond Good & Evil's (Day 23) another pretty basic idea, but it turned out well. Obviously I didn't draw all the stone in the wall around the entryway, but I drew enough to suggest the others, which is something I'm trying to get better at, as a way to counter the fact I hate having to draw stuff like all the bricks in a wall. The critical part of me feels I didn't capture her face properly. Maybe she should look less happy, but I was going for her feeling confident? Still nice feeling to be drawing something and actually feel positively about as I'm going along. Usually it starts well, but then there's a lot of erasing, and "I can't figure out how to draw that, how can I work around it?"

Max Payne (Day 24) took a while to come up with an idea. I didn't want to draw his back as he ran into a hail or gunfire. I also didn't want to do one of him running towards us (and a hail of gunfire), or leaping through the air firing two guns while going "ahhh". You can find all sorts of screenshots of that online; I'd just be drawing the screenshot. I have sketchbooks full of pictures that demonstrate I can draw somebody's else drawing (sometimes). So, a picture of Max downing some painkillers right before he charges into a hail of gunfire.

The perspective on the hallway is probably no good. It feels like the exit door should be smaller. Also, I should have drawn in at least a few stains on the wall, or wallpaper tears, or something. I was picturing this as part of Max's assault on that crappy hotel fairly early in the game.

The Crimson Skies (Day 25) picture drove me batty. OK, see the small plane in the lower left? Originally, that's where I was going to draw the plane now at the top of the page screaming down from above to attack the airship. Except something about the plane being lower on the page, even as it was supposed to be above the airship, was screwing me up. I couldn't figure the angle on the wings relative to the fuselage, while keeping the nose at the proper angle to the airship. I tried looking through some of the war comics from my dad's collection, hoping to pick up some clues from Joe Kubert drawing Enemy Ace, but nothing matched what I was trying to get at.

Even with where I ended up placing that plane, the angles still aren't entirely correct. The nose is aimed out too far, like the plane is diving on the other plane, rather than the airship. Which could work; the plane could be part of the airship's group, trying to protect it but I was picturing the planes as being a team working together. Also, I should have drawn the airship with its tail still partially in the clouds. Or not drawing the cloud vapor trailing off the fins. It looks like it's really booking it, which wasn't the effect I was going for. Still, the airship turned out better than I thought it would when I started.

Those last three were the start of a weeklong stretch where things seemed to be going well. Not spectacularly, but the ideas I had were mostly coming together. I'll get to the Playstation 2 next time.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

A story of a young man who was a shepherd in Spain, who dreams of the Pyramids. A king approaches him one day, and tells him those dreams are his Personal Legend, and he needs to pursue it. And so the boy does. Sells his sheep, buys a ticket to cross the sea. Experiences many setbacks, though in time he wouldn't see them that way. They're just steps on the journey, tests to be passed. Personal Legends aren't achieved easily.

He meets many people, some who have achieved their Personal Legend, others trying to do so, and others who have abandoned it. Holding it out as some dream they know they'll never pursue is somehow better. Because they're afraid to lose what they have.

There's a lot of talk of connecting with the Soul of the World, of being able to listen to what the universe is telling you, and then trusting in one's own judgment. But Coelho's writing is strong enough that it avoids feeling like you're being subjected to a string of morals or Very Important Messages. The characters have a certain flow to their dialogue, almost poetic or lyrical, that makes what they say seem natural. It doesn't seem out of place. And it works within the story. The things the boy learns as he goes along are all part of the Personal Legend. They feed into it, shape it, pay off down the line. So it works.

There's a point where the boy considers not going forward with the trip, because he worries about giving up all his sheep. And then he realizes that it isn't as though he'll forget how to be a shepherd. If the trip doesn't pan out, he can probably find a way to become a shepherd again. It's there as a fallback, but it shouldn't serve as a leash. That's something I want to keep in mind for later. I've worried that my current job is taking me away from what I really want to be doing. But I know there are ways to get to the career I want, and when I'm ready, I can still do that. The dream isn't lost for good. Not yet.

'The wind approached the boy and touched his face. It knew of the boy's talk with the desert, because the winds know everything. They blow across the world without a birthplace, and with no place to die.'

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

What I Bought 11/2/2017 - Part 2

I've been on the road since yesterday morning, and will be until sometime tomorrow evening. That goodness for being able to set these things up ahead of time. Today, it's one of those Marvel Legacy one-shots.

Power Pack #63, by Devin Grayson (writer), Marika Cresta (artist), Chris O'Halloran (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I thought that was that reject from Age of Apocalypse, the Sugar Man or whatever his name was. One of those creepy scientist types, second-rate Arnim Zola. But no.

Katie Power tried to write about one of her experiences for a story at school, but tried to modify the story to remove the more fantastic elements, rendering it unintelligible to her teacher. Once she understands she can go as weird as she wants, she tells the teacher the real story of a villain called the Boogeyman possessing her oldest brother Alex, and the rest of the kids trying to stop him. At the end, her teacher suggests Katie should contact Alex, since it's clear he's important to her, and we're reminded Alex has been off with Reed, Sue, and the other smart kids ever since Secret Wars ended.

That's it. If the idea is the story is meant to make us want to see more of the characters (as the back page of the comic suggests), this doesn't seem like a great effort. We know Katie is in school, and Alex is far away. That's it. We don't have any idea what's happening with Jack or Julie, if the kids are still living with their parents, where they're living, if any of them are still fighting crime, none of that. I remember Julie joining Avengers Academy sometime after Fear Itself, but no idea beyond that. Presumably you'd want a Power Pack book to involve the entire quartet, so giving us some idea what the entire group is up to might have been a good idea.

There are a few panels, as the teacher reads Katie's initial story, where we see how she's picturing based off what's written, versus how Katie is remembering it. The colors are more vivid on Katie's side, and we get a better look at the character's face. The panic or anger is clear. In the teacher's version, the characters are often either turned away from us, or the faces are more indistinct. Katie's held back so much, she hasn't conveyed any of the sensation of the experience. The fight scene between the possessed Alex and the rest of the team is pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but a solid job showing off the kids' powers. Although, could Jack use his cloud form as a soft cushion? I figured he'd be too dispersed, the person would just pass through. Maybe he has that much control.

If it were part of a larger story, or a breather issue in a longer arc, it would be OK. But as a one-shot, designed to intrigue a potential audience, I don't think it works.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Alien Arrival

This was kind of an odd film. Set after a war between two sides has mostly been settled, it focuses on a soldier named Kye who winds up stranded on a peculiar world. He was supposed to acquire some information off a ship for the leader of the losing side, info which would enable them to save Kye's father. But he winds up stuck on this weird rock, and then he dies. And then he comes back to life, except now he turns into a giant bug if he gets stressed. He's stuck there three years adjusting, his company the computer on his shuttle. And then everyone shows up at the same time.

There's kind of a lot the movie is trying for, I'm not sure how well it succeeds. There was a person on the ship Kye caused to crash, a young biologist that Kye just so happened to serve as a guard for back in earlier days. She gets to assure us Kye was a Good Person once, and not this angry, cynical wreck. I mean, sure he's trying to save his dad, but he's endangering other people, so that's a bad way of protecting, I guess. She gets to insist he can be that kind protector, then seemingly die tragically so he can break for a while and further this whole plot about him being resurrected again and again. Then he can spend time in solitude, and try to decide who he wants to be, metamorphosis in spirit.

Right at the end, the movie throws in a twist about the nature of the planet (or moon, really, it's a satellite of a planet). And with that (plus one other surprise), Kye gets a chance to put this change to use, if he wants to. He gets to decide what he wants to be, and he had multiple chances to work it out. There is another person on the planet, also in the resurrection cycle, but he seems to always be in giant bug phase. But we only got a brief glimpse of what he was thinking, so there's never much explanation for why he's different from Kye. Can he not control his fear, or does he not want to? Are we supposed to buy that there's just something intrinsically different about Kye, and that's why it plays differently?

Monday, November 06, 2017

What I Bought 11/2/2017 - Part 1

As it turned out, there were three books I wanted out last week, instead of two. Both books had a part where I think they went for humor, but they hadn't counted on the irritating stuff in my personal life souring my outlook on the perils of living near other people.

Giant Days #32, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming (inker), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - This month, Esther is forced to confront her fear of commitment, and must make actual decisions. Or she's stuck in some 32 hour long game of Risk.

The girls' apartment is kind of a crap shack, and the lease is up for renewal. However, Esther's boss at the comic store has a friend who is moving out because he's too depressed over his divorce (and he is destroyed, the expressions Sarin gives him are so sad it's almost heartbreaking, but also hilarious). Esther is ecstatic at her find, but Susan has decided to try living with McGraw (who is tired of Dean Thompson), and Ingrid has issued Daisy the ultimatum: Move in with her in this barely standing warehouse, or they're through. Daisy, haunted by heartbroken Mika, caves. Which leaves Esther with a lovely place to move, and no roommates. Except, perhaps Ed, who is also through with Dean and lost McGraw.

The forward momentum on this book continues to impress. Just last issue the girl's seemed to resolve their differences, and now they're scattering across town. At least it's reluctant, they aren't pissed at each other or anything. It's McGraw's fault. He had to go and jinx that truce he helped negotiate by quoting Neville Chamberlain. Never, ever, hold up a piece of paper and declare, 'Peace in our time.'

I was strangely moved by their landlord's sad reaction to the news the girls would not be renewing the lease. Maybe I was supposed to laugh, but my tendency to reflect wistfully on past adventures produced a different reaction. I wonder if Sandy will somehow remain a recurring character, or if this is truly the end of his ride.

Sarin, Fleming, and Cogar's art continues to sell a lot of the humor, even if this issue had a lot of characters being sad. But they looked sad in lots of different ways. Wistful, or teary-eyed, or Mika with a frown so large it threatens to fall off his face. Esther's nightmare, or the things one has to deal with if Dean Thompson is a roommate. Coming in the living room to that guy lounging on the couch in a short robe would be a deal-breaker for me. The book continues to come through for me.

Atomic Robo: The Spectre of Tomorrow #1, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer, designer) - Uh-oh, things floating in bubbles in dark labs. That's never good.

Tesladyne has set up shop in the New Mexico desert, but are running into problems with their contractors, and their neighbors. Well, neighbor, Richard Branson, who declares Robo has violated a number of community association bylaws and is therefore barred from any further work. I would suggest Robo see if he can kick Branson in the junk hard enough to launch him through the ceiling of his stupid spaceport. However, I am currently being harassed by my downstairs neighbor, who complains I walk too loudly and she's trying to get me to move. Which ain't happening, I was here first, she can fuck right off, but end result is, I'm in no mood for Richard Branson's bullshit interfering in the plot advancement.

Anyway, Robo is tinkering with some little A.I. bots in his lab. Fischer is trying to do something with a piece of that glowy rock from Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, which is troubling. And when Phil gives a lecture about the safety aspects of implanting reactors into people, someone stands up, then begins speaking in binary. Probably not good.

Phil met an old Tesladyne employee at those talks, Dr. Julie Walker, and tried to pitch her on coming back. She said no, because she wanted to focus on the real work, rather than putting out fires. She said she'd rather chase funding and grants, than deal with dinosaur attacks. What in the actual fuck?! Maybe it loses some appeal after the third or fourth one.

Clark gave the little robots Robo's working a pleasant pink color. I notice their design is somewhat similar to the one Robo had initially in Ring of Fire, before they were able to build him a more functional body. I don't know if that's deliberate. Wegener doesn't get to draw much weird stuff yet, but he gives a good sense of the in-progress, bare bones state of Tesladyne. And I like using Foley, back from a mission, as a way to introduce us to that state. Even if Foley notes not much has changed since she was last there, it brings us up to speed on the new status quo. Good work there by the team.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

God, the Devil, and Bob 1.10 - There's Too Much Sex on Television

Plot: Bob just wants to enjoy the scantily-clad ladies trying to sell beer on his new 60-inch TV, but God's got an assignment: Do something about all this sex on TV. God's not against sex, but he wants it to be a healthy expression of positive emotions or some crap. I was writing something down during that part. Bob, lacking any better ideas, decides to write a letter to the networks. The Devil magically adds some aphrodisiac to Donna's coffee, but once she and Bob are upstairs, the Devil whispers things to her about how Bob doesn't really care about her, and no sexy time tonight. Bob returns to the letter, and what was previously a relatively calm request, turns into a rant about the myth of "easily available sex" TV peddles, accompanied with threats of violence against the readers.

As you might expect, this fails to produce results, nor does it satisfy God. So Bob flies to Hollywood to try and meet with the execs. Where the Devil has Sarah Michelle Gellar (the actress isn't named directly, but she's voicing the character) waiting to try and seduce Bob in exchange for career help and eesh, that's not great. Fortunately for everyone Killjoy God shows up in Bob's motel room and Bob shoves her out the door. Then he tells God he should have done a better job creating Bob if he expected better results. Fair point.

Back in Detroit, Bob notices there's going to be a news report about gratuitous sex on a 6 p.m., and wonders if perhaps the omniscient being wasn't on to something. Bob tries to sub in a copy of Heidi from his home video collection, but it turns out he taped over it when Donna temporarily lost her mind and let him videotape them having sex on his birthday. Which successfully gets much of the city to turn off their TVs, so they can engage in wholesome activities like listening to one of them play the piano.

Quote of the Episode: Devil - 'If you take sex off TV, it will just go on the Internet. Then only wealthy people will get it. Porno only for the rich? Is that what you want Bob?'

Smeck Smacks: 2 (22 overall).

Other: The perhaps one saving grace with the whole thing with That Actress trying to seduce Bob is that the Devil seems terrified of her when she gets furious. Which makes it seem somewhat less like him preying on her desire for a big career, and more like she's trying to use his desperation to her advantage. That's the best I got.

This show gives the impression it is incredibly easy to break into studio lots and TV stations. Bob gets into the studio by just climbing over a fence and then simply outruns the security guard to reach the network execs. Who are sacrificing a goat to some idol for their fall lineup. He seemingly just walks into the TV broadcast booth and subs out their expose tape for the Heidi one. No questions asked.

The reactions of Mike, Barry, and Barry's date Louise in the bar as they see the tape broadcast are pretty good. 

There was a subplot about Megan wanting to go to a Hole concert, and Donna making a list of requirements she had to meet. By the time Megan met them, Donna was near death, and was seemingly not going to uphold her end of the bargain. She did though, but after she drops them off at the concert in a near-daze, it kind of peters out. Mostly there to fill space, I guess, rather than connect thematically.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Sketchtober Update - Not Quite

So October is over, but Sketchtober staggers on. I'm down to the last few days, the XBox 360 games. Recently, I've noticed I've been liking my concepts initially, but then I run out of steam on them quickly. Part of it comes easily, and then the rest is a struggle, if I even get it all the way there. I might just be getting tired of the amount of free time this is eating up each night in general. I can't really read or play a video game or do anything else while I'm sketching. I could solve that problem by being better at drawing.

This time around, Gamecube stuff, Days 16-20. Not one of the better stretches. A couple of them turned out miserably - in one of those cases, my inability to draw people throwing stuff reared its head again. The other three, we'll look at below.

Day 17, Metroid Prime. There isn't a point during the battle with Ridley where you can scale the ceiling to drops bombs on him. Mostly because you fight him in a big open area with no ceiling. Still, I had other pictures where I thought I was too beholden to the specifics of the game in question - see Kirby's Adventure - so I decided not to let that restrain me here.

All of which sounds better than admitting it was just a lot easier to draw Samus in her Spider Ball form than as a person in a suit of armor (armor falling under the category of mechanical stuff as something I don't draw well). Ridley's missing the connective tissue or energy that forms his wings, because if he could fly, climbing the ceiling wouldn't be as advantageous for Samus, would it?

Overall, not too displeased with this one. Got lazy on drawing the walls of the cave, though, which is typical. I rarely have the patience for that sort of background detail work.

Day 18, TimeSplitters 2. I struggled most of the day with what to draw for this one, before opting to focus on the random nature of its multiplayer. The variety of different characters available to play, the varied locales and weapons. Thus, a monkey firing a rocket launcher at a robot, while a third character ambushes the monkey. It's not a spectacular picture, but it turned out better than I thought it would when I started. The Spanish Mission level is one of my favorite multiplayer settings, along with the abandoned hospital.

There's a guy outlined in the doorway in the upper right corner, with what's meant to be the light reflecting off a scope. One of those times drawing things larger would have been advisable. Originally, he was going to be a dark shadow against a bright opening, but I was drawing all the other doors and windows as being dark, so I decided to go the other direction, have him be a white form standing in a dark doorway. Plus, the character I was thinking of was a gunman who dressed all in white, anyway, so it fit.

Day 19, Super Smash Bros. Melee. One I definitely drew too small, probably because I got too ambitious again. The original idea was just going to be Starfox fighting Giga-Bowser. I was going to draw an immense Giga-Bowser, with Fox darting about raining high-speed punches ineffectually. Think that cover for the "But Bork Can Hurt You!" story from the old Brave & the Bold, since that's what I was picturing. But once I started, I got the idea of a team effort, really sell the threat level. So maybe closer to the Justice League vs. Starro cover? It really needed to be bigger for that, but Giga-Bowser felt like such a daunting thing to draw I reverted to my default, tiny sketch mode. Also, he probably shouldn't be that much larger than all of them. Donkey Kong should at least come up to the knee. Eh, maybe he grabbed a Super Mushroom.

I would love it if that game would just let you fight Giga-Bowser whenever you wanted. Not as part of an event match where you fight him, Ganondorf and Mewtwo. And not at the end of a run through Adventure mode, if you can beat it fast enough on a sufficiently high difficulty level. Just pick him as an opponent the way you can any character, and go at it.

Next time, whenever that is, maybe next Friday, the XBox games. Which I was actually pretty happy with, overall. Even the one that didn't go well, I liked part of.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Fighting Games Are A Mixed Bag, Always

I bought Super DragonBall Z for the PS2 a long time back. At whatever point I was buying tons of games for the PS2, 2010? I only played it sporadically until the last few months. I think I picked it up because it played somewhat differently from the Budokai games, and because it had Chichi as an option for a playable character, which is not typical.

So it's a fighting game - surprise - but more old-school. I think it may have originally been an arcade game they ported to consoles. It feels like something some friends would pump a bunch of quarters into. Virtua Fighter, Tekken, that kind of thing. The fighting is a lot of special moves that involve moving the joystick this way, then that way, then hit some buttons. Rotate joystick quarter turn from bottom to the right, then one-eighth of a turn from bottom to the right, then hit the light attack button and viola! Some sort of super move. I forget which one that is, maybe the Destructo Disc. I could see myself trying repeatedly, unsuccessfully, to pull off that move.

That's the issue, of course. I've never been any good at those sort of fighting games. Even if I can remember the sequence - or hit pause and look it up, which is handy - I probably can't calm myself down and do things deliberately enough to pull it off, except by total fluke.

On the low difficulty levels, it isn't strictly necessary. You can win a fair amount of fights against the CPU without super moves. One shoulder button does a flying charge that ends with a light attack, and another ends the charge with a heavy attack. Difference between the two is the heavy attack sends your opponent flying backwards, leaving them unable to attack for a few moments, the light attack leaves them right there where you can immediately segue into some sort of combo. I opt for the heavy attack, because I'm trying to drive them into a wall, where they'll be stunned and I can use a throw combo. Sometimes it works, sometimes they just keep blocking. The charges use up bars on your Action gauge, which needs time to recharge, so it isn't something you can do indefinitely.

There's a sort-of story mode, that involves fighting a bunch of other characters on your way to facing Cell and saving the world. But it isn't as though the game spends any time explaining why you might be fighting some of these characters, especially the ones who would be your friends. There's no specific order, other than Cell's the last boss. There's also a Survivor mode, where you keep fighting opponents, but your health doesn't automatically replenish between fights. However, after each fight you win, there is a roulette where you can try to choose between various bonuses, one of which is to regain a percentage of your health (somewhere between 20% and 100%). Or a defense boost, or more experience.

The experience and leveling up idea is one of the cleverer bits. When you level up, you can add a skill to your character. Might be an extra bar for the Action gauge, or to unlock a special attack, or the ability to make non-homing attacks home in on enemies. But the skills are presented as a kind of chart or tree, and so selecting one skill may send you down a path that precludes you from getting another one later. And typically when you level up, you're picking from two or three skills. The nice thing is, if you collect all the Dragon Balls (which you can do in story mode or Survivor mode), one of the options for your wish to is essentially reset back to the start, but with all that experience you earned available again. So if you don't like the set of abilities you have with Vegeta, you can try again. Mix and match. The game also lets you create character cards, up to 30 as part of this process. So you could have multiple Vegetas, and try different approaches to building each of them up. Which is kind of cool, even if I'm too limited of a player to take full advantage.

So there are a couple of nice features to the game, but the actual fighting is not my favorite.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

What I Bought 10/31/2017

The two books left over from last month. The return of Copperhead, and me giving that Ragman mini-series a whirl. Not the best possible pairing, but better than nuthin'.

Ragman #1, by Ray Fawkes (writer), Inaki Miranda (artist), Eva De La Cruz (colorist), Josh Reed (letterer) - I don't know if I'd call it a great cover - little too grey - but March drawing the moment right before the grenade explodes is pretty cool.

In this new version of Ragman's origin, Rory Regan was a soldier, part of a squad that decided to try and ransack an old tomb. That was a mistake, and now Rory is back in the States, the only survivor, with scattered memories of what happened. When he opens a box with a few things left over from it, a bunch of rags cover him and carry him out over the city, where he finds some odd creature attacking a person. His suit absorbs the creature, and he learns all the members of his squad are within the suit as well, and they seem to know more about what he is than he does, and about the creatures that are after him.

The way Miranda draws the suit, it looks very similar to the symbionts like Venom or Carnage. The sending rags out like tendrils to help him move across the city is not unusual from what I've seen of some of the earlier series he had. But the cape and hood the costume's traditionally had are gone, so one of the more distinctive elements is missing. There is a glowing symbol in the center of the chest, a feature shared by the two enemies that appear at the end of the issue. I'm guessing each is some sort of letter of word in ancient Hebrew, maybe it's a mistake to assume they're maintaining Rory's Jewish heritage.

So I don't know where Fawkes plans to go with this. What the nature of the threat Rory's up against is, what it's going to tell us about him. Rory seems to have been the explosives expert on the squad, but also the one the others kind of protected. It was because one of his charges didn't work they couldn't escape (or so it appears), so I don't know if this is going to be part of some larger thing about survivor's guilt, or him trying to prove he can stand alone when he has a suit that would let him draw on the strength of others. Could be any of that, or none of it. Hard to tell at this point.

Copperhead #15, by Jay Faerber (writer), Drew Moss (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), Thomas Mauer (letterer) - Well I hope those dragon things can eat metal, or they're circling that thing for no good reason.

Clara had a fight with Clay and his lady friend. It's not clear how it turned out, other than everybody did some bleeding. Interim Mayor Boo is left with a bunch of bigwigs yelling at him and no law enforcement. So Ford steps into that role, dragging the local schoolteacher along with him (who is colored blue on one page, and purple the next, the art is really inconsistent this issue). And Mr. Hickory and some of his associates have something brewing down in the mine.

The issue ends on a big reveal, which I suppose shouldn't have been much of a surprise. The book has been hinting about something not being totally kosher about Clare and Zeke being there. I had been thinking it would turn out Clara had been Clay's partner, and the best they could manage for witness protection was as a sheriff. Which is overly complicated, but I dunno, it seemed like the sort of surprise I thought Faerber would try.

The art is not Moss' best work. It varies quite a bit from panel-to-panel. On one page he goes much more basic than normal for one panel of Ishmael and Boo talking, then shifts back to a more detailed style right after. It's enough of a shift I thought someone else had taken over art duties for a moment. There's one panel of Zeke where his upper body is twice as tall as his legs, which looks really strange. There are a couple of panels of Mr. Hickory where body parts just look entirely out of proportion to each other. On the plus side, some of the aliens he draws look suitably weird. But I really feel like the art is starting to drag this book down.