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.