Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Cowboys (1972)

I watched this on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature last night while Amy was at Bible study. It's a good one.

The story, which I somehow had missed even when I read the synopsis a while back, concerns Johny Wayne's character needing to take a herd of cattle to market, but lacking any hands to help him. On the advice of a friend, he looks into a local school and decides to hire a bunch of kids to help him (age 15 and under).

The acting of the kids ranges from good to pretty good. Thankfully, none of them are annoying. There are a couple of really good scenes, too, like when Wayne lays into the stuttering kid to try and get him to stop. The kid is so genuinely hurt, frustrated and angry that I'd swear that scene were real. I felt the emotions very acutely.

Bruce Dern's style of acting was unique and effective. He played the villain with a certain degree of charm and cowardice. His way of naturally delivering the dialogue and his effortless, "not-acting" facial expressions sell his character well. I don't think I've seen him in any other movies, so I don't know if that's his standard style or not.

Also great was Roscoe Lee Brown. I don't think I've seen him in anything else, but he's a wonderful actor. His character was full of authority and wisdom in a gentle and fatherly way.

John Wayne was John Wayne, but he has a good character here.

John Williams provided the score, and it was a little overbearing at times (as the scores to older westerns can be). There's a scene at the end where the kids are actually shooting it out with the bad guys, and the music gets all up-beat and adventurous. I can sort of understand that, hey, it's kids who are shooting it out and winning, but given the events that had just preceded the shoot-out (spoilers: the violent death of John Wayne, the near-hanging of Roscoe Brown), it seemed a bit too light-hearted.

Overall, a unique entry into John Wayne's catalogue, and a fitting movie to have at the end of his career.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comic artists and me

Amy took these photos at Comic Con last summer. These should have gone up as companions to this post. These are some of the artists who drew cowboy monkeys in my sketchbook.

The now-famous eef!

Val, in a rare smiley moment.

Frank Cho

OMAGAW it's Stan Sakai looking at my work!!!!1

Rob Schrab is a friendly guy. His girlfriend looks on from the background.

Doug TenNapel draws the dirtiest monkey of the bunch.

Steve Purcell is a very generous guy. I mean, I did buy all his stuff, but still, he spent like 10 minutes on my sketch.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Clutch ranked

This post is dedicated to Ian, Matt, and my Beloved (Amy loooooves being called that).

Clutch Albums That I Own (From Best to Not As Awesome But Still Rad):
Blast Tyrant - Man, this is such an awesome album. It starts blowing your face off from the very first song, and never lets up the whole album. Good gravy, the guitars, the drums, and the singing are all incredible.

Pure Rock Fury - If it were any other band, I'd ridicule the title for not delivering. But Clutch delivers, to your doorstep with signature required, a kick to the goji berries. Of rock. Yes, I can craft a fantastic metaphor, and thank you for noticing.

Robot Hive/Exodus - Not quite as all-around great as the previous two (a couple weaker songs are present), but just listen to Burning Beard! By gum, 'tis awesome.

From Beale Street to Oblivion - Their latest. Not as all-around awesome as the previous three, but still some good bluesy-rocky-metallic stuff. I'm disappointed, overall, because the songs kind of melt together, leaving no particular stand-outs to my ears.

Thanks for listening, none of you. I wish I had any friends who were into Clutch or PC games, because I have to burden Amy with all the stuff that I love but no one else does.

I hate candy canes

I don't hate the idea of candy canes, I just don't like the candy. Does anyone? Is there a soul out there today over the age of 10 who eats a candy cane for any reason other than boredom or obligation? It's not good candy. It's just sweetness with some peppermint. There's nothing to them. They make your lips all sticky. When you're a kid you eat them because, hey, it's candy, even if it isn't good candy. It's sweet, and you get to eat it outside of designated dessert times. But now I throw away every candy cane I receive.

This may have more to do with my personality than the reality of the candy cane, though. I'm not a big candy guy anymore, period. I like most candy in bar form, I like chocolate, peanut butter, and any combination thereof, but I won't eat Jolly Ranchers, jelly beans, Lifesavers, etc. I do make exception for gummy stuff. Anytime I eat any of those sorts of candies, I just feel my teeth rotting. Same with soda, though I do still drink it from time to time.

So is it me? Or are candy canes really just a tradition that everyone tolerates because of its association with Christmas?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hockey game with the Prices

Amy and I went with Ric and Jeri Price to a Kings game on Thursday and had a ton of fun. Ric got tickets through work for some great seats, and they invited us to go along. Very generous of them. It was in the middle section, slightly to the left of the center line. We had a great view of the action.

I've only been to one other hockey game in my life, and that was on a GYRAD freshman year with a bunch of people I didn't know. We had nosebleed seats and it wasn't that great. I don't even remember who won or my date's name. Thursday night was better in every respect.

Ric is a huge Kings fan, so it was really fun sitting with someone who is enthusiastic about both the sport and the team. Jeri, too, is a fan (I think she had to become one when she married Ric), and knows a ton about the team and the season. They watch or attend every game, I think.

The Kings have been really bad lately, so it was awesome seeing them beat Buffalo 8-2. It was a fun game to watch. There was a fight in the first period, some good checks throughout, and some really nice shots and plays.

During one of the breaks between periods, we were all hanging out in the lobby area stretching our legs. A woman walked right by our group, and she looked familiar. Ric noticed her, too, and over the noise of the area, I heard him say "...The Office..." to Jeri. She looked like Jan from The Office, we both thought. Sure enough, when she came back our way, it was Melora Hardin! My wife, displaying some heretofore unknown brass for this sort of situation, followed her, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, "Hi, I love your show!" "Oh! Thanks!" Jan replied. Turns out she was sitting just a few rows over from us. We all went and sat down, marveling at Amy's celebrity-courage, and then decided we should ask to get a picture with her once the game was over. Alas, the Kings were so far ahead that Jan and her three friends left midway through the third period, so we never got our chance. Jeri was quick enough to snap a picture of her as she was leaving, though, so we have proof.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Jonah Hex artist - Giuseppe Camuncoli

There's an interview over at Newsarama with an Italian artist named Giuseppe Camuncoli about his work for Jonah Hex. I'm pleased to say that his art is to my tastes. He draws accurate guns (see this page) and everything else is pleasing as well. I hope the story is good. From those preview pages, it looks weird. But, that's Jonah for you.

Recent movies - Ratatouille, Rescue Dawn

Ratatouille (2007) - I read Nobody's insightful review before finally getting around to this one, so with those ideas in mind, I enjoyed it. It's not as outright entertaining as The Incredibles, but it's a good story. I probably won't buy it, though.

Rescue Dawn (2007) - Very engaging. Well told. Unfortunately, it appears that Herzog played fast and loose with some of the facts. Some of the changes are fine and understandable, but changing Jeremy Davies character (who was apparently a fine guy in real life) into a crazy coward is not cool. I want to check out Herzog's documentary on the subject now, to see if the differences were noted there. He does mention, in one of the featurettes on Rescue Dawn, that he found out after filming that Gene was a better man than they thought, and that Herzog would have changed it had he known. So at least he honestly acknowledges that Gene's family strongly disagrees with his take.

One other annoyance: the way Davies plays Gene, a generic "crazy nervous guy" performance. It felt predictable and lazy. I don't think Davies is a bad actor, but I think he chose a "go-to" performance for Gene. It annoyed me any time he was on-screen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Recent movies - The Thing, Bad Day at Black Rock, and Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

The Thing (1982) - This is a pretty good horror film. I had seen the first 20 minutes years ago at a Halloween party (in early high school, actually), and we turned it off because it wasn't quite what everyone was in the mood for. If I remember right, I may have been the only guy there. I don't think the girls like the dog transformation scene. I didn't either, at the time.

Everything works really well in The Thing. The way the story opens, with this feeling of mystery and rising dread, is really effective. It would have been cool to watch this movie with no idea of the plot before-hand, so that the whole 20-30 minutes before the creature even reveals itself would have been all clueless-yet-freaky anxiety. Even though I spoiled it (sort of) years ago, it still worked for me, fortunately. I'm sure every modern review says this, but the effects hold up really well. They're very well-done creature effects. Gross as all get out and believable. Kurt Russell is great as the lead. I loved the blood-testing scene (and now I get that reference in the South Park episode where Cartman tests everyone for lice).

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) - I took advantage of Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature to check this one out while Amy was out shopping. It's a great movie. I think I've only seen one other Spencer Tracy movie (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?), but wow he's a great actor. The premise concerns Tracy's one-armed character arriving in a tiny town in Arizona for unknown reasons. (I don't know how this town sustains itself, because they don't show anyone other than the 8-12 main characters the whole movie, and they're hostile to visitors, but eh. Actually, it was the same kind of town as the one featured in Cars, so I guess these places must have existed.) Everyone in the town is hostile and wants him to leave right away, also for unknown reasons. They keep trying to provoke Tracy's character, but he won't react. He has some business to attend to, and he just wants to do it and leave, but no one in town co-operates. There are some great pay-offs in the movie. The supporting cast is quite good, too: Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, and Walter Brennan (as Not Stumpy).

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002) - This is a good companion piece to Rising Son (the Christian Hosoi story). Both were gods of the 80s skate scene. Both made millions and bought into the lifestyle. Hosoi got into drugs and was eventually busted and spent several years in jail, where he gave his life to Christ. He's now a youth pastor at a big SoCal church, and he skates and speaks to youth through Stephen Baldwin's Livin' It ministry. (Amy and I got to see him skate a few months ago at an event in Orange County, along with our friend Anthony Carney -- who killed it, by the way.) Gator gave his life to Christ just before going to jail for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl. It creates a tough situation to explain. On the one hand, Hosoi is serving the Lord in a great way and has truly turned his life around. The fruits of his claims are evident in his lifestyle. What do I say about Gator's professed Christianity? He really didn't give his life to the Lord? Or he just really turned his back on Him in the most extreme way possible for a brief time? I don't know. If he really gave his life to the Lord, that should have been manifest in his life. But Christians still sin. But he raped and murdered someone shortly after his professed conversion. I don't know.

The documentary itself is interesting in the same way that Hosoi's is in the beginning. It shows the 80s skate scene in all its glory, with a lot of archival footage and interviews with the skaters involved. There is also some interesting stuff about early skate-related marketing and branding. But it doesn't shy away from telling the story of the horrible and tragic conclusion, which is really hard to watch. There's no hope at the end. No happy ending like Hosoi's story. Mark (Gator) is interviewed from prison throughout, and at the end he doesn't really speak about whether he is still seeking God or not.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Beowulf - 80% on Rotten Tomatoes??

How on earth is Beowulf, the Zemeckis-directed mocap (more like mocrap! Ha!) flick, getting 80% good reviews? It's looked like the stupidest piece of trash since I first heard about it at Comic Con, and each new trailer and poster only makes it worse. But it's getting good reviews! How??

First off, my bias: I hate hate HATE the mocap "animation" style that has been used in The Polar Express, Monster House, and now Beowulf. It is utterly lifeless, and, in the cases of Polar Express and Beowulf, completely unnecessary. Why bother making a CG movie if you're going to make it as "life-like" as possible? We already have a way to do that that works much better, and it's called "live-action." At least Monster House gave their characters a sort-of cartoony appearance to try and justify its CG existence. But Polar Express and Beowulf have digital representations that look exactly like the actors providing the voices! That doesn't make any sense. Why would you not just make a live-action film? On top of that, the "animation" is terrible. The characters are nowhere near as expressive as real people (or good cartoons, for that matter), and it looks awkward, like men and women covered in wax moving around. The same goes for Monster House, which, despite the cartoony designs, still had less life in the animation than an early episode of South Park.

Beowulf is supposed to be in 3D in certain theaters, and the snippets of the reviews I've read indicate that this is the biggest reason to see the movie. But, as cool as Nightmare Before Christmas was in 3D, I have zero desire to see Angelina Jolie's wax sculpture moving around naked with a tail in 3D. That sounds like a compound headache.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

To Live and Die in LA (1985)

I added this to my queue so long ago that I don't even remember how it got there. It must have been a DVD review. Anyhow. When I received the disc, I noted that it was directed by William Freiedkin (of The French Connection, The Exorcist, and The Hunted), so I though, "Hey, it should be all right." It also starred Willem Defoe and William Peterson, with John Turturro in a supporting role, so that sounded good, too.

Well, it opened up with some really bad 80s music, and I wondered if that was a staple of any 80s movie set in a then-contemporary setting. Black Rain (1989, directed by Ridley Scott) had the same problem, so I thought maybe the producers back then just really insisted on gawdawful "cool" music to help sell their movies (in spite of the directors' wishes, I hope). As I continued watching To Live and Die in LA, though, the music never let up! There was hardly a quiet scene to be found. Every single scene opening had some really bad synthesizer blaring wretched generic "dih-dih-dih-dih" stuff. My theory about pushy producers fell apart. The director surely would have had his hand in this. Why, Billy? Why?

Aside from the awful music, there was also a series of really bad cliches that set up the movie. It was so full of bad predictable dialogue and situations that it could almost be played for straight-faced parody. The plot, as it opens, is this: two secret service agents (partners) take down a terrorist after the president. One is clearly older, and the other is the young maverick. After chucking the terrorist off the roof, the old guy even says, "I'm too old for this s---." He says that! That was a joke line not two years later in Lethal Weapon! Maybe in 1985 that wasn't a laughable phrase, I don't know. Can you guess what happened shortly thereafter? Yep, party with the rest of the force, and we find out the older agent is two days away from retirement. "Really?" I asked the TV screen. "Really? You're really using that?" And, not 30 seconds later, we find out that the older agent is investigating "one last thing," and -- wait for it -- he's going alone. "Wow, he's dead," I say to myself. Sure enough, during the investigation minutes later, Willem Defoe shoots him in the face. Smooth moves, old guy. Now "Maverick" is going to go on a vendetta and "the lines between good and bad will be blurred." That's your message? Ehhhh!

At this point I started skipping around the movie. Every scene I skipped to opened with a car pulling in to a new location as the terrible soundtrack continued. I was fortunate enough to find a truly great car chase scene which provided 10 minutes of entertainment. Good job, Friedkin, at least there was that.

The only original thing about the movie that I could find was the way it ended (at least as far as Peterson's maverick was concerned -- Willem Defoe's conclusion was really weird).

Gads, is there anyone out there who can provide a reasonable defense for this movie? I found two favorable reviews here and here, but I don't agree with anything other than their assessment of the car chase. One guy says the soundtrack is awesome right after deriding the 80s soundtrack of Manhunt, which is funny. I guess maybe I'd have to see Manhunt to see if it really is that much worse/different...? He also says that To Live and Die in LA plays on the cliches of the cop movie genre, but from what I saw, it merely employed them.

Oh, and you get to see William Peterson's junk. Thanks. Thanks for that.

I wish I could remember how it got into my queue.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Straight out of a comic book

The Mighty Mice

Doesn't that sound like a recipe for the origins of both super-hero and super-villain? The movie version would open with a montage during the credits of the mice being injected with this new Super Serum, then being tested for their new powers, and would end with one of the mice exhibiting extra aggressive tendencies by killing all the other super mice one night (discovered the next day by the scientists, of course). The camera would zoom in on the Uber-Mouse's eyes which would flash green or red before the camera goes to black, and then open up on a scene where our future hero would be seen beginning an average day of being nerdy and picked on.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Often: the "t" be silent, yo

This is one of those little pet peeves that I don't voice all that often for fear that the person I'm criticizing will come right back and point out a million grammatical errors that I have committed, but I found a site today that validated my belief, so I'm finally going to come out and say it: often is pronounced "offen." This is one of those things I really remember from 3rd grade, for some reason. The teacher made it very clear to us that the "t" was silent. I think my teacher was the only one to ever teach this, though, because everyone else IN THE ENTIRE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD says "off-ten."

Here you go.

Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady) (1975)

Amy and I finished this one over several lunch breaks this last week. It's not exactly a sequel to True Grit, but it features John Wayne's same character, the titular Rooster. (At first I'd typed "the titular one-eyed Rooster," but I really wasn't comfortable with that.)

This one's ok. Not as good as True Grit, despite the presence of Katherine Hepburn. The interplay between Hepburn's Churchy La Femme and John Wayne's John Wayne is cute at times, but not as engaging as I thought it would be. There are some fun bits of dialogue, but there are also a few phrases repeated far too often (like "Save your sermon, preacher lady, you won't change this old dog" x 99 -- we get it, your arc is going to be the two of you adjusting to each other and changing minor behavior flaws. You can stop announcing it).

There isn't really a scene to compete with the awesome rifle-spinning horseback charge from True Grit, unfortunately. Wayne opens up with a Gatling gun a few times, and he yells awesome stuff when he dispatches jerks, but it still lacks enough western action for my tastes.

Strother Martin shows up for a few minutes just to be Strother Martin, I guess, so there's that.

The villain (who is played by the guy who was the sneaky southern congressman in The Hunt for Red October!) is just not very threatening or memorable. He comes off as an hot-headed idiot who should have been shot years ago by his own dumb gang. And he blends in perfectly with his gang -- nothing distinguishes him visually or in terms of personality. Yawn. He doesn't even have a gimmick to set him apart. He's just Guy Number 3 who drew the short straw to be boss for the movie.

There are many better Wayne westerns to spend your time on.

Friday, October 26, 2007

For shame, Phil Noto

I picked up the last Jonah Hex TPB, Guns of Vengeance, and was looking forward to seeing Phil Noto's take on the character and the genre. I'd heard good things about his art, so I expected good things.

Guess what? He joins the ranks of the Ghost Rider guy in the Legion of Guys Who Don't Know What A Person Holding A Gun Looks Like, Which Is Funny Because They Draw Comics and There Are Always Guns In Comics.

I present to you four exhibits that chronicle his atrocities:

Exhibit A
A) Here we have "Attack of the Pistol Grip Double-Barreled Shotgun: Part 2" (click here for part 1), except there is no pistol grip so the guy is basically holding the gun with his index-finger only, hooked through the trigger guard. (A pistol grip on a double-barreled shotgun would look really weird, too. Such a gun has never existed.)
Exhibit B
B) The guy with the shotgun is still holding on to it with his finger (can you imagine shooting it that way?), and now we get to see the weird brown banana Jonah has put in place of his usual revolver. Is that silvery thing hanging out supposed to be the hammer? Disregarding the bewildering geographical placement (sticking out of the grip off to the left), what weird unstable-molecule material is it made out of to be in a shape like that? And, to be nice, I won't even touch the silver bullets, because honestly those are something I would allow as a shortcut for drawing a gun-belt all the time.

Exhibit C
C) Again, holding the gun by the trigger guard. But now Phil's added a single giant hammer to the gun? Disregarding the artistic inconsistency, how does that work? It's got two barrels.

Exhibit D
This panel follows shortly after Exhibit C, and look at how much has changed on the gun in that short time! The barrels got significantly shorter (and the shooter has moved his fore-hand even further up the barrels, which seems like a bad idea), and the stock changed shape. It was sort of ok in panel C, but now it's all kinds of weird.

Well, Phil, I like the rest of your style ok, but come on! Couldn't you have at least picked up one of the previous issues of the comic you're working on to see how a shotgun looks, and how someone holds it?

By the way, I updated my "Western Artists" list to shame Phil Noto and praise Jae Lee.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recent movies - I Love You Again, Serpico, The Simpsons Movie

I Love You Again (1940) - While home in Carlsbad this weekend (celebrating Amy's birthday -- September 15th; Josh's birthday -- October 8th; and my parents' 30th anniversary -- October 15th), my dad had I Love You Again rented from Netflix. He thought it was from the Thin Man series, but as we watched we realized it was actually a standalone Myrna Loy and William Powell flick. It was just as charming as the first Thin Man movie we watched.

It's a screwball comedy. There's a lot of fast dialogue, slap-stick antics, and goofy wooing. The story is I think what is described as "high concept" (is that right? Does that mean an elaborate concept or reality upon which the rest of the movie rests?): Powell's character is a straight-edge nerd at the beginning of the movie, but when he gets clocked on the head he switches over to his real self, a smooth con-man, with no memories of the nerd he was for nine years. He discovers that he has been married to a beautiful woman, but that she has become fed-up with his boring nature and is seeking a divorce. The rest of the movie is Powell trying to con the town and win back his newly-discovered wife. Hilarity ensues.

Serpico (1973) - Al Pacino is very very good. The story is fascinating. The movie begins telling the story with that detached sensibility that a lot of 70s movies seemed to have, where the main character is shown but we never know what's going on in his head or what exactly is driving him to act the way he is. We aren't given much background, and all we know is that he just wants to do police work. We can only guess at his true feelings based on the emotions that we as viewers are experiencing. As we get further along in Serpico's life we are finally privy to more of his thoughts as his emotions can no longer be contained.

It's funny that Serpico came right after The Godfather Part I, because in both his character receives a traumatic facial injury that requires re constructive surgery.

Well, I thought it was funny.

The Simpsons Movie (2007) - Speaking of funny, this wasn't all that. A couple funny moments, but it mostly felt like an episode from the recent seasons. The timing and comedy just aren't there. I laughed a few times, but this is not the same creative team the produced the monorail episode, or the lemon tree episode, or the classic Cape Fear parody. At least it was only two dollars.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Astonishing X-Men

Frak let me borrow some of his Astonishing X-Men issues a while back, and after reading them I immediately added the first hardback collection to my Amazon wishlist. I just got it last week, and I love it. Joss Whedon writes, and John Cassaday handles the art. It's perfect!

I didn't realize until I read the first arc that this is where the storyline for X-Men 3 came from. The whole "mutant cure," Beast's struggle, and Kitty Pryde's importance to the story are all present in the comic.

I have apparently been out-of-the-loop from the X-Men storyline for quite a while now, because I had no idea Jean Grey was dead, that Emma Frost could turn into diamond, or that Colossus had died defeating the Legacy Virus. Or that Xavier had taken off.

Whedon's humor is very present in these books. Once in a while one of the funny comments seems out of place, but I think that's because I was just used to the heavy-handed dialogue from the years I subscribed to X-Men (back in the mid-90s). I think it was Fabian Nicieza back then. With Andy Kubert (meh) handling the art.

I like Whedon's treatment of the characters. There's this great sequence where the X-Men are fighting a giant monster coming out of the ground in Manhattan (the FF show up later and The Thing is all mad that the X-Men are stealing their shtick), and several pages in succession highlight one of the X-Men and their thoughts as they fight. First, Colossus, who is thinking about returning from the dead and his feelings for Kitty, but then chastises himself for not focusing on the fight. Then, Kitty, who is thinking about Peter (Colossus) returning from the dead, her feelings for him, her return to the X-Men, and then also says she should be focused on the fight. Then, it goes to Wolverine. His mind is silent until the final panel, which just says "I like beer." Cracked me up. I'm used to Logan being this deeper, more cerebral character (very talky when Larry Hama was scripting back in the day), and Whedon writes well enough to make him an individual. EVERY character was talky and introspective in older comics; Wolverine just added "darlin'" and "bub" every now and then to separate him from everyone else. Whedon allows for there to be more going on in Logan's head than we know, but, appropriately, we're not always privy to that, nor does Logan talk about it all the time. Logan's a very different character here compared with the movies, and while I wouldn't change anything about Hugh Jackman's take on him, I think Whedon does some great stuff with him in the book.

Cassaday's art is just as awesome as the writing. Look at that hilarious cover up there! I love his redesigns for several of the costumes, Wolverine's in particular. Wolverine actually looks 5 feet tall now, and his "ears" have been appropriately scaled back to make him look more compact, more Wolverine-ish.

Nobody, have you read this series?

Monday, October 15, 2007

New computer, plus Orange Box

I bought a new computer last week. Sort of. I bought a barebones kit, a CPU, and 2 jiggs of RAM, then cannibalized my old (and dead) system to complete it. So now I'm running a 2.4GHz AMD Duo-Core, instead of my 3.2GHz Pentium 4. This new system is much more stable, so far. It runs Half-Life 2 like a champ, which is almost exclusively the reason I upgraded. It's also so I can work on art stuff without worrying about a crash (no comments from the Mengs, please).

I have now played through all of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, most of Portal, and a little bit of Team Fortress 2. They're all pretty rad. I enjoyed Episode 2 quite a bit. Unlike Episode 1, this one really offers a lot of new stuff: new environments, new enemies, new vehicle, new characters, and great continuation of the story-line. And some really epic battles, especially against the Striders at the end. Holy cow.

Portal is tripping me out. If you've seen any of the videos, you know what I mean. For those that don't, here's the gist: you have a portal creating device that lets you place two, well, doorways, basically, on almost any flat surface. The doorways (portals) connect. So, if I'm in a room, and the exit is on top of a tall platform that I cannot reach by foot, I simply create a portal on the ceiling above the tall platform, and then create another portal on the wall next to me. I walk through the portal and am now on top of the platform. The trippy thing is that you can see through the portals. They're not just a weird swirl of sparkles. If you place two portals on opposite sides of a room, you get the infinite-mirror effect. You can also see your own back. If you create a portal on the ceiling directly above a portal on the floor, you can drop through the one on the floor and fall infinitely.

The team that created Portal then applied these ideas to some really inventive puzzles. For example, say there's (again) a really high platform you need to get to, on the opposite side of a chasm, and you can't place a portal anywhere near the platform you need to get to. Well, you could place a portal on the ground at the bottom of the chasm, then place a portal on the wall behind you (that faces the platform across the way). Then, you jump off the cliff and through the portal on the ground, and your momentum flings you through the portal on the wall and waaaaay over to the platform. And that's a basic puzzle.

Team Fortress 2 is really fun so far, but I've only played for about 1/2 an hour. The look is wonderful, though. Highly stylized, and many people have accurately described it as Pixar-ish. Look up the class videos for some funny stuff.

Recent movies - The Thin Man, Double Indemnity, Galipoli, Lake Placid

The Thin Man (1934) - Loved it! I'm probably just going to be repeating the same reasons everyone else gives for loving this series, but I'm new, so bear with me. The couple, Nick and Nora, have such delightful chemistry, and their quirks and mannerisms come off as genuine rather than forced, which really helps the charm of the movie. The murder-mystery part of the story does indeed play second-fiddle to watching these characters do their thing. Nick is like a jovial/drunk Sam Spade. He's still a bad mo' (disarming thugs and dodging bullets), but he never let's it get him down. Nora is really cute. Making faces at her husband, pushing him into danger for her own amusement, insulting his friends. Excellent. It was also funny seeing this in-love couple sleeping in separate beds.

Amy and I will be checking out the rest of the series, no doubt.

Double Indemnity (1944) - Somehow I've managed to avoid seeing any movie with either Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, or Edward G. Robinson up to this point. I like Edward G. Robinson a lot, based on his performance here. Barbara Stanwyck, too, was perfect. Fred MacMurray I'm less jazzed about. Hearing him talk got a bit old after a while. He chose a speaking rhythm and never deviated from it, to the point where I could turn on the sub-titles and mimic his delivery perfectly without hearing him do it first. A bit too much of the "fast talk."

The movie is not happy, but very well put together. They (the murderous couple) really sell you on their plot, so you think, "It's fool proof! They'll get away scot-free!", and then Robinson sells you just the opposite direction, and you realize how much Stanwyck and MacMurray overlooked.

Galipoli (1981) - I added this to my queue ages ago, so when it finally arrived, I couldn't remember why I added it. Then, as it started, I realized it was directed by Peter Weir. I think that was part of it, though the unique WWI-from-the-Australian-perspective probably had something to do with it, too.

**minor spoilers ahead**

Gosh, sad movie. It begins very upbeat and adventurous, celebrating life and friendship, and then ends so tragically. Weir describes it as an anti-war film in the making-of, but, along with Paths of Glory, it seems less anti-war and more anti-trench-war and anti-a-hole-military-commanders. Seriously, how many times did awful pointless "everyone over the the wall to your death for absolutely nothing gained!" moments happen in WWI? In both movies, the hero characters are not against war, but they are against military hubris and pointlessly sending men to their deaths. Weir doesn't address the reasons behind the war much. He seems mostly interested in the fact that it was Australia's first time fighting, and that many of the best and brightest young men never returned.

Lake Placid (1999) - Fun movie! Bear vs. crocodile = awesome. What ever happened to Oliver Platt? He's pretty funny here. And Bill Pullman? Brendan Gleason tries desperately to cover up his accent, but it's hard not to hear it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Resident Evil 4: Wii

Even though I watched Iang play this game on the Gamecube, and Joel took me through some cool parts when he first had it, I had never played it on my own until now. I rented the Wii edition, and I gotta tell ya, it's a great game.

The precise aiming that the Wii offers is an awesome addition (I had played a little bit of the Cube edition, and aiming with an analog stick is only so precise), allowing me to cap mo' suckaz in the face or the leg with perfect ease. I appreciate that the weapon selection offers some antiques (which makes sense if there really was a mysterious arms dealer out in the middle of some European wilderness), and am currently enjoying my high-powered Mauser pistol. I think some sort of old revolver pops up at some point, so there's that, and once you beat the game you get the option to buy a 1928 Thompson (the "Typewriter"). Yes, that is right up my alley, and thank you for noticing.

The only part I don't like so far is dying by chainsaw to the neck. I just reached a point where I have to fight these creepy old country ladies with chainsaws, and there are like five surrounding me, and they keep cutting my head off. With them, there's no one-hit-and-you're-down-some-life-bars, it's instant death. Your head falls off, and even the amazing First Aid Spray doesn't fix it. Watching my character get his head cut off (rather than just falling over and going "Auuuuuuuuuuuuugh") is very disturbing. I need to collect some shotgun ammo and go to town on these ladies so they never cut my head off again. (Now there's a quote for the yearbook!)

If you have a Wii, you wiilly need to check it out. Thanks, folks, I'm here all week!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Guys who do it well: Westerns

Here is my list of Guys Who Succeed at accurately drawing the Western genre*:

- Dominic Vivona - of Gunplay
- Glen Fabry - of the Preacher covers
- Steve Purcell - see his awesome Sam & Max Western print in my house
- Mike Mignola - from all of one picture
- Marcelo Frusin - of Loveless (from what I've seen - haven't read the trades)
- Phil Noto - shamefully moved to "suxxors" on account of having really looked at his Jonah Hex work
- Luke Ross - from the first of the recent Jonah Hex trades
- Steve Dillon - from what I've seen of his Saint of Killers renderings
**edit** OF COURSE! Jae Lee - of The Dark Tower series. Beautiful! Can't believe I forgot him on the first time through. Absolutely accurate, even if it is set in a weird Stephen King setting.

People who get some right, some wrong:

- Doug TenNapel - excellent settings and costumes, but the guns in Iron West are double-action revolvers, and one of the shotguns he draws is a rush-job.
- Eric Powell - again, good costumes and settings, but the guns that the reverse-zombie guy uses are not cowboy guns, they're double-action revolvers.
- Jeff Amano - of The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty. Remember my post on his errors?

People who get some bits embarrassingly wrong:

-Phil Noto - I've posted some examples of his gun-butchery.
-Clayton Crain - The Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears guy. Bad guns.

People who get it all wrong:

I haven't found any of these guys yet. Mark Texeira's work on the Doomtown card set though was pretty bad, though, gun-wise. His guns looked like laser rifles. Apparently, not only did he fail to do any research, he also has never even seen a Western movie.

*For me, that mostly pertains to accurate renderings of the weapons. Clothing I know less about, but I do think that clothing is easier to fake. They had cloth, they had buttons, you can kind of do what you want and it's probably feasible.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Interview with Dominic about Gunplay

While perusing the comic blogs Nobody told me about, I found an interview with our friend Dominic Vivona and the writer of their comic, Jorge Vega.

Lookin' good, guys! You have my Official Stamp of Approval.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stealz my shirtz

Short recap: a friend of mine discovered a shirt at Urban Outfitters in Virginia that was a clear rip-off of a drawing from my website. (Click here for pictures.)

In an unrelated (or is it?) incident, our garage was broken into a few weeks ago. It didn't look like anything was stolen at first. We don't really keep anything valuable in there (some camping supplies, an old suitcase, Amy's crash-pad), so we didn't bother filing a police report at the time. But, when I got an email from a woman who wants to buy one of my shirts, I discovered that my box of shirts was gone! I hadn't noticed it until I went to look for them, and then I knew exactly where they had been in our garage. Who steals shirts? How on earth is that profitable? If I see someone around town with one of my shirts, and I don't know them, I'll know where they got it.

So now I've had a design stolen and put on a shirt, and shirts with my own designs stolen.

Stop teh stealz plz!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Further snobby whining

There is a new Western series coming out, written by Garth Ennis (side note: last time I went to a comic shop, his name was on about a three million books. Is there anything he hasn't written?). The art is by some new guy (new to me, anyway) named Mike Wolfer.

As usual, I was initially excited, and once I found the preview, disappointed. Here's an interview with the artist that contains several preview pages.

There are several things that don't impress me about the art. First off, the guy uses several artistic cheats that I used to use back in high school (when I still attempted to draw super-heroes). He uses side-view profiles (that's not redundant phrasing, is it?) a lot. Enough that it drew my attention to it immediately. I used to do the same thing: either draw the face straight on, or perfectly to the side. Not very dynamic, and it was because I wasn't very good at drawing any other angles of the face. Now, Wolfer does draw some of the faces from a 3/4 perspective, and a few others at more dynamic angles, so apparently he can, but he chooses the flat side perspective way too much and it looks bush-league. Look at the bottom three panels of page nine in that preview: dead-on front shot that looks like your friend in high school drew it, then profile shot of the old guy, then flipped profile shot. Boooooooooooooooring. And boring anatomy and detail in the face.

Also, the main character telling the story looks like a mongoloid in his first few panels. Giant nose, giant chin, and whaddya know, a lot of the other characters have the same features. He's like reverse Rob Liefeld (Liefeld draws his characters with tiny noses, mouths, etc., in case you're not familiar with his tendencies).

In the interview, Wolfer comments on Ennis' art direction:

To his credit, Garth Ennis is very precise in his character descriptions and does an enormous amount of research to insure that his script properly conveys time and place. If you're going to write it, write it right and no matter the artist, Garth isn't going to take any chances that the proper pistol will be drawn, for instance. He'll tell you year, make and model, exactly. It's that kind of attention to detail, that love of his craft, that makes Garth one of the most respected writers in our industry today."

This flies in the face of the horrible made-up weapons I saw in the Ghost Rider series I mentioned (that Ennis penned, if you recall), but Wolfer seems to mean what he says for his own series. The pistols look OK, mostly. Sometimes, though, Wolfer's weaknesses show up in the guns, too. Look here:

Rifle looks good. Pistol falling out of the guy's hand looks good. But check out the monkey-fist holding the gun to the far left of the image. First off, that arm and hand don't look right. Cheater anatomy. I realize it's hard to draw hands at weird angle holding guns, but that doesn't make it right to cheat and draw it in that perspective, because it doesn't look natural. Beyond that, the gun looks weird in several ways. Is it an early double action revolver? The frame near the hammer seems to suggest this. How long is that grip, though? And is it a Bisley frame and grip? I've never seen a double-action with a Bisley grip that had a ring on the butt, but maybe. Even if it was, though, the grip still does not extend far enough away from the frame. It looks like it drops straight down underneath the hammer. It's an awkward drawing that Wolfer didn't bother to correct with proper reference. He claims to have "spent a fortune at Borders and Amazon on Western photo books," so it's a little puzzling why he didn't consult them to see what a hand holding a Colt SAA looks.

Then there's this page:

At first glance, the figure appears to be a giant walking over the land Paul Bunyan style. You really have to study the grass along his feet to figure out that he's supposed to be on the edge of a hill that drops away steeply to reveal a tiny landscape in the distance. It doesn't read well. Then you have the character's foot, which again looks like a cheater drawing (side perspective). From the way the rest of the character is posed, I would have had his foot pointing more towards the bottom corner of the page. Finally, there's the rifle, which was drawn with good reference for the most part. Notice how he's cycling the action of the gun, though? There should be a metal piece extending from the breach of the gun cocking the hammer. Wolfer apparently did not have a reference shot of someone cocking their lever-action, even though he draws the rest of the gun pretty well.

In conclusion, though I appreciate the proliferation of Western comics that is currently going on, I'd really like to see some great artists take on the genre rather than the noobs I keep writing about.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I complain some more about Western comics

I have a new complaint! Yayyyyy!

I have been looking forward to picking up the HC edition of the recent Ghost Rider series, Trail of Tears. The Spirit of Vengeance in the Old West? That's a cool image. I picked up one of the issues during the run, and the art looked pretty good.

That is, until I saw this image:

I don't mind when artists kind of fake a "look" for their props. It's one thing to draw a "sort-of" Winchester that doesn't reference a specific model. It's another to not look at one single picture of a Winchester and instead draw something based on your vaguest childhood recollection of a cowboy rifle. Unfortunately, that is what we see above. Why does his rifle seem to have a pistol grip? Or, if I am being generous, and he is supposed to be moving the lever in mid-cycle, where is the lever?

It's a shame, because his dark hooded Ghost Rider is pretty cool, and from the parts of the book that I've seen, he handles the rest of the stuff well. Alas, for a gun snob like me, I will have none of it.

You can see a couple preview pages here. Check out this pistol:

It looks like a cross between an old single-shot flint-lock pistol (Revolutionary War-era) and a Volcanic Repeater. I don't think that was his intention, though, so Clayton Crain gets an F.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New monkey sketches

Sketched these tonight (while attending a very interesting lecture by John Granger on Harry Potter -- Frankie came too, and we both bought one of his books).

He's got a lot of Hellboy in his design (shorts, pouches, grenades, revolvers -- the goggles even mimic the horns when they're up). It was a lot of fun to draw. I want to draw adventure stories with him now.

Preacher Vol. 4: Ancient History

I was made aware that there is a character in the Preacher series called The Saint of Killers. He gets sent to Hell and is offered the role of the Angel of Death, God's own destructive instrument. He accepts, and has the previous angel's sword made into two divine Colts. The first thing he does is cap the Devil. Sounds awesome, right?

You can read his full back-story here. It's pretty messed up stuff. The universe he lives in is depressing. It's a perverted take on our relationship with God and suffering.

I recently discovered that the entire illustrated back-story of the Saint of Killers is contained in Preacher Vol. 4, so I added the book to my Amazon wish list. The covers were awesome, and I remembered liking what I'd seen of Steve Dillon's artwork in the regular Preacher series (and later on The Punisher). Should have been a sure-thing, but I had the chance to check it out at a Borders before buying it, and unfortunately it's not very good. The artwork is not by Dillon, is just kind of ugly, and (you know me) if they can't be bothered to research and draw a proper pistol, forget it. (You can download a .pdf of the first four pages at this link.)

Well, at least the covers are cool. Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.

I apologize for the poor quality of two of the .jpgs. I got them from Fabry's website, and for some reason he has them all displayed low-quality.

He scales the pistols a bit larger than he should in that last piece, but they're still accurate in every other way. And, honestly, if you were going to exaggerate something for a painting and subject like this, that's the way to go. So maybe it was intentional.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mignola + Western = More, Please

I found this beautiful piece inside a preview for one of the Hellboy prose novels. I have no desire to "read" a Hellboy story, so I make it a point to avoid them, but Mignola still contributes chapter art, and the first story begins with a western tale. It's almost enough to make me buy the book. Almost.

**edit** Bonus awesome Mignola image! Cover from the current Lobster Johnson mini-series.

Biola Alumni Show: 2007 - 2008

The wif and I were both recently tapped for pieces for the ongoing Biola Alumni art show. We had originally missed the deadline back in March for submitting work because we were neck-deep in wedding plans and Biola play stuff, but Barry recently approached us for stuff because they had a few artists drop out at the last minute. So, Amy has some photos in the current show (stuff from her senior show), and I'm going to have some work (hopefully) in the Winter/Spring show. Mine will probably be some pages from the Pooks comic.

There is some cool stuff in the current show (Zack Kleyn's stuff is always very intriguing -- he gave a lecture recently about his studies of the theme of voyeurism in light of the current popular technology trends (blogging, YouTube, Myspace, etc.), so if you're in the area, check it out. It's cool seeing friends and Biola alum who are still serious about making art.

Oh yeah, they're going to be printing a nice book full of alumni art as well, which I hope I will be in.

Final note: any Biola art alumni who aren't submitting stuff for this are gay. Scientifically.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guy Davis draws awesome stuff

Check out this uber-sweet monster Guy Davis drew for Sam Hiti's fight blog! I like this guy's stuff more and more.

Check out this BPRD cast shot, too.

The Learning Curve - Pook Mine

The worst thing about working on this comic is that it takes me forever to draw everything but the monkeys. I can draw you a monkey in 10 seconds, but ask me to draw a mine, a town, the interior of a bar, anything else, and it's gonna take me a long time. I'll go through all my graphic novels that might give me a hint (Bone, Iron West, and Usagi Yojimbo for this book), and try and Google Image Search some reference.

The other thing that is slowing me down is shading. I can draw you fake one-light-source shadows all day, but drawing actual shadows (or, at least, good enough fake shadows) scares me. My characters are very cartoony, but my tendency is to draw everything else a bit more realistic. It makes the characters pop off the backgrounds better. Bone is like this: the Bone cousins are very simple cartoony characters set against these amazingly rendered backgrounds, and it works so beautifully.

A page I had inked back in July was giving me some anxiety because of the shading. It takes place in a mine with a single light source, a lantern. Most artists can get away without doing exact shadows for any stories that take place during the day under normal lighting, but as I finished the panel, I realized an enclosed space with a definite light source needed appropriate shadows.

Here's the panel as it existed originally (though I had already started darkening in the tunnel here):

This is one of the pages I showed to Stan Sakai at the Comic Con, actually. He advised me to make the long black shadows there are appropriate for the lighting of such a scene. That was what made me anxious, because I didn't want to ruin the page. So, I scanned the panel in and started dabbling with it in Photoshop to see how it would look with everything darker.

It didn't look too bad, so I took the plunge and inked them on the page:

I think it turned out all right. I added a lot of texture to the ground and walls as well to continue the darkness. I still have a lot to learn about inking (the lines on the back wall aren't "classy" inking, they just get the job done), but each step makes the next less daunting.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hellboy HCs coming!

According to Dark Horse, Spring 08 will finally see the release of the Hellboy trades in HC.

Also in spring of 2008, Dark Hose will begin releasing Mike Mignola’s Hellboy in hardcover, “Library Editions” similar to the treatment it has given Frank Miller’s Sin City. Each hardcover will collect two trades which will be collected in chronological order. All of the current trades are slated to be collected in this format.

I'm a huge fan of getting HCs of the work I really like, so this is a no-brainer for me. If they are priced like the Sin City Library Editions, Amazon should have them for a good discount.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

3:10 To Yuma (2007)

Finally saw the new 3:10 To Yuma last night.

Overall: good not great. I did see the original first (which I loved, if you recall).

The Good: setting, action, character designs, music.

The use of a snowy background in the final scenes was a beautiful choice. It was almost an alien landscape. The bright white pops up in the background of this dusty brown town so suddenly that it jarred me. The rest of the locations were appropriately beautiful as well, though sometimes the shots of the group could have been a bit wider to better show their location.

The action was pretty good. Good gunfights, though the sound effects could have been a bit better. For the most part, they were better than the canned sound effects of, say, Young Guns or something, but they weren't at the level of Open Range. Mangold went for realistic with his sounds, so he should have aimed for Open Range's heights. He did add a bit of character to the different character's gun sounds, though, and that was cool. The shootouts were pretty well staged, and I desperately want Tanaka or Marushin to make a Schofield now.

Mangold did a good job making each character look distinct. It wasn't just "Western guy 1 with brown hat" and "Western guy 2 with lighter brown hat and dark pants." You had Ben Wade, dressed as a gentleman gunfighter, with bowler and nice-but-dusty suit and sweet-but-irrelevant-to-the-story "Hand of God" Colt S.A.A.; Dan, skinny and scraggly with one leg and plain, droopy, drab clothes, armed with a Sharps rifle (which, even though it is said that he is a crack-shot, is never put to good use); Charlie Prince, bearded and clad in a distinct cream leather jacket, armed with dual Schofields; Byron, aged bounty hunter wielding a sweet looking shortened shotgun (which is a carry-over from the original movie -- the gun, not the character, oddly).

The music was well-done and clearly inspired by Morricone's style. I appreciated that Mangold chose to use this sort of music rather than some sweeping orchestral score.

The Meh: padding the story with extra scenes and characters, shortening the best parts from the 1957 movie.

There were several scenes and characters in the new one not present in the first adaptation. Some were OK (like the scene with the Apache attack) just because they had some cool action, but none of them added much to the story. Adding Dan's kid to the mix didn't do a whole lot for me either. In the original, it was sufficient to show his family's disappointment at his ranch and then leave him to wrestle with that on his own for the rest of the movie. Keeping the kid around the entire time artificially created a tension that wasn't as interesting or dramatic, because it took focus away from Dan and also diluted Dan's decision-making process. (If the kid is right there, there's much more pressure to "do the right thing," and it makes his decision less about him having the courage to do what is right and more about "well, can't look bad in front of the kid.")

This also hurts my favorite aspect of the original movie, the moral conflict between Wade and Dan. It's just not as well-executed in this new one. I really felt for Dan in the original, and you could just see this moral anguish going on in his head the whole time as Wade tortures him in the hotel room. It was some profound stuff, and it comes off as forced and awkward in Mangold's version. Also, it's not as efficient in its storytelling. The 1957 version seemed to center entirely around the waiting in the hotel room, which was the most interesting and provocative part of the story, while the 2007 version treated that scene like any other and just moved through it.

Another (rather odd) negative aspect is Bale's physicality versus Van Heflin's. For whatever reason, Mangold made Bale scrawny, greasy, and weak-looking. You never once thought he could take Crowe in a fight. In the original, Van Heflin is physically bigger than Ford, and this makes his character that much more tragic. It's a minor detail, but it made me sympathize with him more. Here is a man who you can see once had the respect of others, who had control over his own destiny, and who has now lost the respect of his own family and has to beg for money. The physical difference tipping the other direction worked better for the conflict between Ben and Dan.

New 3:10 - fun, satisfies my desire for some Western action, but not the great movie that the old 3:10 is.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

I forgot to write about this one. I saw it originally on Comedy Central one day, and some of the scenes killed me. Paul Rudd's character is freakin' hilarious throughout the whole movie, whether he's begrudgingly picking his tray up off the cafeteria floor or letting a kid drown so he can make out with a loose camp counselor. Or throwing the only witness out of a speeding van miles from the camp.

The movie is a spoof of summer camp movies. It hits all the cliches and takes everything pretty far (including a gay scene that went way further than I wanted it to -- you'll know when it starts, and you can immediately skip it without missing anything), from the "geeky guy
tries to pry hot girl away from jerk," to "desperate guy who is all talk tries to lose virginity before camp ends," to "impending over-the-top doom for the camp," to "the cook is bat-$#!^ insane." And probably hundreds more.

The cast is great: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, that guy from that law show I think (who is hilarious, it turns out) named Chris Meloni, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Joe Lo Truglio (from Superbad, most recently), and Elizabeth Banks (40 Year Old Virgin). Plus other funny people.

The movie has some pretty raunchy moments, but it's also got some really really funny stuff. I don't even remember this coming out. Did it bomb horribly? I would think this would be one of those movies with big college followings. It's very quotable.

B.P.R.D.: The Dead

I have actually been avoiding these BPRD books for a while now, because initially I had been turned off by the lack of Mignola art. I also remember looking through one of the books and not caring for Guy Davis' style. I recently flipped through a BPRD book at a Borders, though, and realized that I've been depriving myself of something I'd actually really enjoy.

I like this book quite a bit. Guy Davis' art has really grown on me. In fact, I think it's great stuff. It serves the story very well. His renditions of Mignola's characters and stories achieve just the right feeling, that of horror mixed with humor mixed with pulp. The writing, too, holds that balance at the same level as the art.

The story concerns the BPRD (which stands for Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense -- it's the team Hellboy used to belong to) moving their headquarters to an abandoned military research facility in Colorado. Once there, they encounter crazy Nazi/ghostly/paranormal weirdness, of course. There are some great moments of humor and horror as the story unfolds. One such moment involves Ben, the new team leader, ordering Roger to put on some pants, then changing his mind when he sees the result of his order. Roger is also mystified throughout by everyone's insistence that he should have a gun. Johann, at one point, find this awesome looking 40's style machine/weapon that he straps to his back to fight an "angel," and the image is one of my favorite illustrations from the book (actually, you can see it on the cover up there).

There is also a secondary story about Abe Sapien's past. It's ok, but it is sort of distracting from the main story. It takes a long time to get where it's going, which is not that climactic once it's there. It feels like it should have been a standalone section in one of Mignola's Hellboy books rather than a back-up in a BPRD book.

I love the new characters Johann and Ben. (Johann is the character on the top center of the cover above; Ben is on the far right on the bottom, though you can't see much of him.) Johann adds more good weirdness and Ben's personality hits off the other characters in interesting ways. I'm looking forward to finding more out about each of them.

Another reviewer mentioned that Roger's personality seems a bit different from his outings in the pages of Hellboy. I agree with that, but I don't think the change is a bad one. It actually adds another layer to the team dynamic, and it's not so far off from Roger's previous depictions so as to be jarring.

I will definitely be picking up more of these books, provided that this creative team is still involved. I'm partial to consistent creative teams, and since from book 3 on the team all Davis, Arcudi, and Mignola, it looks like those will be the ones I collect.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Cowboy Monkeys from Comic Con 2007

Here you go! These are all the cowboy monkey sketches I collected at Comic Con this year, in the order in which I received them.
First is Gabe's (from Penny Arcade). A fine rendition! A good way to start the series.

Next is one of my favorites, illustrated with shaming speed by Sir Eef.

Next is by J. Goldberg, the artist from this book. I think it's a great monkey.

Then comes Val's irrepressably cute anime version:

Frank Cho provided his own alter-ego for this one:

I caught Rob Schrab and got this piece! A bargain at $20.

Then I had my good friend Frak take a crack at it. My only solace is that I can draw better guns than he can.My friend Mike whipped up this little ditty over lunch. As usual, he takes the opportunity to make a respectful tribute to our nation's history.

Then our friend and Comic Con buddy two-years-running Steve followed it up with an insightful take on a modern political issue. (He kept insisting that he sucked at drawing -- good one, Steve!):

Next I handed my sketchbook to Doug:Then, just across the floor from Doug, I asked Steve Purcell if he would oblige. He looked hesitant, and said, "It'll just be a quick one," and then ended up with this:

Then forum friend Sean gave me this! I couldn't believe how many people could draw good cowboy hats. I suck at them.