Thursday, July 29, 2010


When I was a kid, one of the comics I used to defend my reading habits was Thor. I thought the mythic overtones, coupled with the faux-Shakespearean High English lent the book sufficient legitimacy that, as Thor might say, none would dare question its veracity!
At San Diego Comic-Con this year, they ran a trailer for the upcoming THOR film. Naturally (and I suspect possibly deliberately) it leaked out afterward.
As embedding appears to be disabled, please use the live link above for as long as it lasts!

In hindsight, as much fun as the Lee/Kirby Thor was, it really wasn't all that well-written. There was a sameness to the soap opera aspects, but Kirby's art was at its peak on this book, at least for me.

In the last couple years, the writing took a turn for the better under the auspices of J. Micheal Straczynski (who is no longer on the book, having jumped ship to DC, at least for now). His take on Thor reintroduced the book's majesty, while retaining its wit. Usually, when a writer is "witty" on a comic, it's at the expense of the characters. Not so here. JMS is capable of balancing humor and respect for his subject matter. That's great. Snark is nearly worthless. If you dont' respect the subject you're writing about, how can you expect that your readers will?

As for the trailer, Thor's look is based on the JMS storyline. It works. I have a minor problem with the early shots of Asgard. These are Norse gods. Their  home should look like it's carved of cold stone (as it does later on after Loki assumes power), not gleaming polished CG metal.
I shy away from many superhero comics to film adaptations these days. I'm not seeing Iron Man II until it hits Netflix. And as much as I like M. Night's work, the clips my friends showed me from The Last Airbender were quite painful.
But this looks promising.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Melismatics and SES 1

I've learned from past experience that if I don't post these ASAP, they might go away.
Here's the video from this year's SES Session I. I had absolutely no involvement in the production this year, but the work was largely done by the session students, and I had the lot of them in my class, so I take a measure of pride in their accomplishments anyway.

The TRON theme is consistent with the 80s feel of the tune (at least to me), and works fairly well. Melismatics are a fun local band, not really my speed, but I'd see them if the opportunity arose again.
AS for SES, I have mixed feelings this year. While it always rejuvenates me, this year was also exhausting, more so than some past years. There are some internal changes in the program that cause me concern. I won't elaborate out of professionalism. But I do need to think about what these changes mean, and I picked up a nasty bug right after the animation show of SES II, that kind of soured me on the overall experience.
However, I did get to do some innovative teaching, including giving an assignment I'd never given before that yielded some great results.
Very satisfied with that.
And the enthusiasm of the students, much like the Shawn concert, reminds me of possibility when I need such reminders most.
I'm going to mull this all over a while. I have until March to decide if I'm doing it again in 2011. If I do, it will be my 12th year working SES, and with multiple sessions starting 6 years ago, my 18th and 19th SES sessions.
At 30- 50 students per session, that's a LOT of kids!
And they wonder why I don't remember all their names....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shawn Phillips, July 26, 2010

I will write more on this tomorrow. The post will be expanded, but I wanted to get it out there that tonight's Shawn Phillips concert was amazing!
Here's me and Shawn, courtesy of my cheesy cel phone.

More details about this fantastic evening tomorrow!
Well, as Martha and the Muffins once sang, let me tell you, it's tomorrow and I never know what tomorrow will bring!
Shawn details:
Show started promptly at 7:30 as is Shawn's way. He made his entrance from the top floor of the 2-story stage setup and walked down the prop spiral stairs, which was big fun!
Shawn's playing with a band for most of this tour. I'd rather see him solo, but this band was a good complement to him. Talented players who knew when to step in and most importantly, when to hold back. Passion and restraint are such a difficult combination!
Here's some rehearsal footage with the band from earlier in the day.

The show was one long set, a little under two hours.
While Shawn was in voice and on for the night, and the material included stuff not performed publicly for more than 30 years, I was most struck by the philosophical and moral content of Shawn's works.
He spoke of the three things he tries to include in his writing:
Anger is an awareness of what's wrong and a willingness to try to do something about it.
Wonder is a continual appreciation of the beauty in beads of water on leaves, an awareness of the delicacy and endurance of nature, of life.
Technique is balancing the two.
I've never heard it put quite that way before.
As often happens during a Shawn concert, I marvel at what the man has survived. Last night he told us about his 1976 accident, when his long hair got tangled in the propeller of an outboard motor. He was in critical care for three months and spent another four in recovery. The doctors were afraid he had brain damage and would never be able to write or compose again.
Much of the evening was about craft and possibility.  When I'm honored/confronted by the work of a creator of Shawn's caliber, I find myself torn between feelings of tremendous inadequacy and aspirations to immense possibility.
The evening was archived, which gives me hope that there may be a DVD in our future! (addendum: learned that there will be no DVD of this one).
I'll let one of my favorite Shawn songs close. This is from the MN Zoo performance two years ago, the best Shawn Phillips show I've ever seen. I encourage you to buy the DVD!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Original Art Sundays #51: A Private Myth, p. 15

At least I think it's p. 15. I'll go back and recount during the week.
Although the page is not complete, I'm posting it anyway. I left this one as pencils rather than do inks on it- my inks are not what they might be at times, though I have done some good ink work over the years.
I need to add a tier of panels and dialogue along the top and a word balloon associated with the main image.
I'm rather happy with this one. I may elect to leave more pages as pencil if they turn out this well.
I think that, even without the text, you can get a pretty clear sense of what's going on in this page.
Next week: more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It was 41 years ago today...

...that man first walked on the moon.
Thanks to the timely reminder on Colleen Doran's blog, this did not elude me.
I recall sitting in awe in front of my Grandma's B & W TV console, my family around me. My mother, grandmother, brothers and sisters and I sat in awe.
My grandma quietly remarked that this was something Golden (my grandfather who had passed a few weeks earlier) always wanted to see.
Like Kennedy's death, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hands Across America and the Fall of the Towers, an event that touched us all.
There will always be the cynics and conspiracy theorists contending it didn't happen.
They just refuse to believe in human possibility.

I'm also reminded of one of my favorite comics of last year, Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?
The events are chronicled therein as well. (I'll amend this post with apropos scans tomorrow pages now ready to post!).

As we fight to treat each other decently in an increasingly indecent world, let us pause and recognize our capacities.
"Reach for the Moon" is no longer a euphemism.
Perhaps we can make the phrase "human decency" a reality as well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Original Art Sundays # 50: Tranny Towers, p. 1

The next page of A Private Myth is proving much more challenging than I anticipated, especially since it's a relatively simple page. But it's a very emotional page, and that's bogging me down a tad.
But as the work is important to me (and I already have too many pages that I don't see as up to standard), and as it will be part of the fall faculty show at MCAD, I have elected to post a Tranny Towers page in lieu of newer work.
Looking at these now, I find the proportions a bit troublesome, but am much happier with them now than I was at the time. It also allows me to get my head back into the place I was at artistically at that time, and work on overcoming the block I've developed about backgrounds since doing these. While the backgrounds on these aren't spectacular, they work with the pages, especially as the narrative evolves, and I need to get back to that.
This is the first Tranny Towers strip, as originally presented in Lavender magazine in 1994-95.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Original Art Sundays # 49: Tranny Towers wraparound cover

In 1995, I prepared a very small and not very professional print run of a Tranny Towers comic book.
Tranny Towers was my strip devoted to a community of transgendered funny animals. It ran in Lavender magazine for about a year and half, 36 strips. Some of the characters showed up in political strips for TransSisters and TNT News.
The character Athena served as the basis for my on-and-off transgendered graphic novel, TranScending.
This comic was not intended for sale, though I did sell one copy to an interested party. It was produced as part of a submission packet for a Xeric Foundation grant. Needless to say, I didn't win the grant, or there would be a lot more of them around!
Finding my only remaining copy a couple days ago, I thought I'd post the work here on weeks when there's no new page of A Private Myth.
Here's the wraparound cover. I just colored it yesterday and today. Pleasantly surprised at the results, considering how little I use Photoshop lately!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Things happen when you wear Eleganza... horrible things....

I've tried to explain the phenomenon of Eleganza to people to no avail.
They advertised in magazines like Hit Parader, a mag that published the words to hits of the day and articles on the bands. This would be late 1960s.
To a naive kid in rural North Minnesota, this was taken verbatim as an accurate version of hip fashion. This is one of their tamer ads.

The whole black/white thing didn't even dawn on me. I just thought this was the way cool, self-assured people dressed.
Another company advertising in those mags offered fake mustaches, sideburns and goatees.
Stay classy, guys.
Come on, it was the 60s and we were kids. Like Roseanne said, everybody was smoking pot and there was a war on and things were just more fun.
To exonerate Eleganza, here's a promo shot of my favorite band, Gentle Giant, from the late 70s:

We all make fashion mistakes. As Nicholas Cage's character noted in the great Coppola film Peggy Sue Got Married, what's the point of being a teenager if you can't dress wierd?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Original Art Sundays # 48: A Movie for America

I love this country.
Any place else, I wouldn't stand a chance!
America, the home of bratwurst (oops, that's Germany), fries (sorry, that's France or England, depending on how they're cut) and pizza (sorry, that's Italy).
So what have we given the world?
Jazz, movies, nuclear power (for good and bad), Walt Disney, man on the moon, and a singular form of democracy (again, for good and bad).
So much great music: Aaron Copland, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Laurie Anderson, Mingus, Phillip Glass, the Doors....
Some of my favorite musicians are purely American: Mark O'Connor, Paul Simon, Mike Nesmith, Shawn Phillips....
And it's a beautiful country, full of joy, anger and surprise!
To celebrate July 4, I've taken some photos of my US travels for the last few years and combined them with a couple fast, loose guitar pieces.
Art for America, anyone?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Okay, let's talk about the Wonder Woman costume

After all, everyone else seems to be doing it.
Quite honestly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. We all know this won't be permanent. It's going to be like the Sekowsky/O'Neill stuff in the 60s and the Loebs/ Deodato "space pirates" costume in the 90s. It will revert at the end of the storyline.
Let's review Wonder Woman costumes through the ages.
The original:

The first revamp, very early in the run:

The 1960s "Emma Peel" look:

The 1982 look, with W's replacing the double eagle for marketing purposes:

The aforementioned "space pirate" outfit, worn during an Sf storyline, just before she lost the title to Artemis:

The borderline porn, high-thigh Deodato version:

The most current version of the classic:

Finally, the new one:

As we can see, to quote Galactica, this has happened before and it will happen again.

And there are more changes, more subtle ones, not documented here.

So I'm not too worried about the costume.
What people seem to be overlooking is that there's a story that goes along with this. And it's a pretty good story.
In a nutshell, as I posted on Huff yesterday, it's a prelude to the new narrative. One of the reasons she has a different outfit is that Themiscarya, her Amazon home, has been not just destroyed but wiped out of the timeline. So she's fighting, she doesn't know why she's fighting, who she's fighting or who she really is. The guides who have trained her are trying to give her the tools to restore her home and family, and bring the rest of the world back from a bleak machinist,soulless post-apocalypse. And that's in a dozen pages.
J. Michael Strazcynski is one of the best writers in comics. His current work on Brave and the Bold made my top 10 comics of 2009. He also wrote the TV series Babylon 5 and Jeremiah, and is working on a film with Ron Howard.
So if you like the new costume, great. I don't mind it, from a strategic standpoint- it seems like more pragmatic fighting gear than the old one, but I can only think of one male superhero whose chest is exposed in any way.

If her "new look" isn't to your taste, take heart. I'm sure it will be every bit as permanent as Superman's death.
As an afterthought, here's a drawing I did ages ago of Troia, the more mature Wonder Girl from the Teen Titans run. Always loved that star-field costume...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Adventure of the Bass of Doom

I'm not a big Metallica fan. And I revere the talent of Jaco Pastorius.
So the final answer to the mystery of Jaco's long lost bass, called The Bass of Doom by acolytes, was a surprise to me.
Seems Metallica's Robert Trujillo is also a Jaco devotee, and has been working unceasingly and generously to solve this puzzle and do right by Jaco's family along the way.
It's easy to pigeonhole people. This guy plays bass in a metal band, therefore he's nothing but a shallow party rocker type.  Just because it's harder for me to see craft and devotion, let alone scope, in the works of artists I don't follow doesn't mean those qualities are lacking.
A different kind of myopia on my part.
Big thanks to Robert Trujillo. There may be something in your music I've neglected. Based on your actions, I will give your work another chance.
Meanwhile, here's a nice taste of Jaco to make everyone's day!

There now. Doesn't that feel better?