Friday, December 23, 2005

Another True Story

true story

What I like about this one is the way it plays with the structure of the gag-strip format. The first panel takes the part of the punchline here, followed by the setup. Once you reach the end you have to double back (mentally) for completion of the central theme (why is the dog acting this way?). If you remove the first panel the rest makes no sense.

And it's true... Tico does hate the snow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It all goes with life's yin and yang, I guess...

true story

If it's gotta be a joke, at least make it a bad one...

it's kind of like a joke

Apparently it's hard for me to make comics in the three or four panel format without trying to tell a joke. That's not what I want to do with these - tell jokes, I mean. If I can't lick the inclination I may have to abandon the format for these sketch-comic thingies.
This one sure feels like a joke, even though it doesn't make a whole lot of sense as one. I was going for the depiction of the sudden realization that the entire world may not be familiar with some things you may take for granted (or something like that). Yeah, I know... real profound (har har). Not sure if it all comes across but the whole thing is depicted pretty much as it happened.
A small victory.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Babies, Babies, Everywhere!!

So, in honor of Cat Garza's new baby girl I thought I'd put up some new pictures of my own little bundle of joy. You know, kind of give Cat an idea of what he has to look forward to.

(Okay, okay... So I'm just proud of my lttle girl and I want to show her off. Is that so wrong?)


Thank you Walmart Picture Studio.

Baby!!! It feeds itself!!!

She'll have none of that spoonfed-by-mommy-and-daddy nonsense. Such an independant minded child.

Note also the fancy new photo in the "profile" of the blog. Not my best posing (perhaps if i had known of the photo op in advance) but one of my favorite pictures nonetheless.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Go on. Ask me how I liked the movie...

if you were here you would see a comic right now

I'm not what you'd call a big fan of Gus Van Sant. Not that I have anything against his films, it's just that I haven't seen that many of them. Like the rest of middle-America, I watched Good Will Hunting (and it's "sequel", Finding Forrester). And also like the rest of middle-America, I tried to ignore all the hubbub over his shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. I've still never seen that film (the Van Sant version) nor have I ever seen My Own Private Idaho. So you see I'm no expert on his work.

What I do know is Nirvana and the circumstances surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain. In high school I was pretty obsessed. I devoured anything Cobain related in the media. I remember pouring over Tom Grant's early internet posts on his investigation into Cobain's death (Grant was a private investigator that Courtney Love hired to find Cobain when he "escaped" from rehab). It's kind of sickening to think back on it, all that wasted time. But anyway, yeah, I'm pretty familiar with all of that.

The film seems pretty accurate in that regard. Of course there's a disclaimer in the credits (this film, while inspired by the death of Curt Cobain, is a work of fiction...) but all the elements I'm aware of are accounted for and events seem to match up with what is known about Cobain's suicide. From rock-star ennui and the pressures of fame to details of chronology (Tom Grant completely missed finding Kurt in his search of the Cobain household. He later turned up dead in the one room Grant didn't search.) Despite the name changes, all of the details are in the movie. I don't know where they shot it but the greenhouse (or gardening shed) where Blake (the Cobain character) finds his end is almost too eerily (visually) similar to the shed where the real Kurt Cobain spent his last night. The final scene, the discovery of the body, is staged so remarkably well it matches up almost exactly with the well-known photos of the scene of Curt's death.

Michael Pitt, who plays Blake(/Cobain) does a fairly convincing caricature. The mannerisms are pretty good and the Cobain slouch is in effect. With his dirty hair all in his face he could almost pass as Cobain. Pitt also provides a passable possible embryonic Nirvana song in his A Long Hard Journey From Death to Birth. and there's a dischordant, Sonic Youth-y (Thurston Moore serves as "musical consultant") tape-loop collage experiment in the middle of the film (which ended up scaring Sophie, poor baby).

The cinematography and the editing are the real stars of the film, though. The photography has a rough-edged kind of beauty to it (not eye-pleasing but somehow right). Much of the focus is on the setting. Lots of wide-angled distance shots and stationary trailing shots following the action (20 seconds on only the bushes). The scenery is anything but pastoral ("I don't get it," remarked Rachelle, "It's not even pretty"). But it fits the decidedly unsentimental portrayal of events.

A lot of reviews called the pacing "meditative" ("boring." says Rachelle). It's a long, slow slide to the ending. It's not really the kind of movie you follow along but you have to let it wash over you. Comparisons have been made to the other recent minimalist works of Van Sant, such as Elephant (which I also have not seen).

Even from a only a layman's perspective, I can appreciate the understated filmmaking. What struck me is the fine use of the combination of elements unique to the film medium. Visuals were important, and of course sound. While specific verbalization (the realm of prose) is obviously and adamantly unimportant. Most of the dialogue is mumbled or obscured (except a nice little allegory the P.I. tells regarding a vaudeville stage magician and the details of his mysterious death - you can hear that one all right). The dialogue is unimportant. It's the sound of it that's key. Only in film does this work. The forced ugliness of both visual and audio in concert tell the story much more effectively (and viscerally) than description or verbosity ever could.

So did I like the movie? I don't know. I guess i did as much as a movie like this can be "liked."

But, like the man said... like the man said...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mind in the (Infinite) Gutter

gaze not into the abyss

Phil Sandifier entered the Webcomics Examiner fold in this latest issue with a take on James Kochalka's popular American Elf series called American Elf and The Infinite Gutter. I'm pretty new to American Elf (I just started reading it when it came up in discussion for the Artistic History of Webcomics also in this issue of the Examiner) but Phil seems to confirm my initial impression of the feel of the strip, and he explains it in a clever way to boot with his description of the infinite gutter effect.

I like the idea of the infinite gutter, especially as pertains to webcomics . Let me clumsily summarize: Form and display (design) of a given comic strip affect the reading experience in many ways. When a webcomic displays each installment on it's own page (rather than in the Manley-backed stacking method) then a temporal gulf is created between each strip. The space between one day's installment and the next, Sandifier argues, is effectively infinite. This infinite gulf can act just as a gutter does between panels. What Scott McCloud calls closure (remind me to share my thoughts on "closure" sometime) occurs here. This is the infinite gutter.

Now, McClouds idea of closure rests on the use of juxtaposition. If two successive moments are placed next to one another spatially then they are comics. Closure is your mind filling in the blanks between the two panels. So if it ain't juxtaposed it ain't comics, right? Well, I'm not so sure. This dependance on spatial relationship has not been sitting well with me lately.

Take the example of Ethan Persoff's The Recovery of Charlie Pickle. Like much of Persoff's work,Charlie pickle is presented on a page-by-page basis. Each page of Charlieis a single panel. Unlike American Elf there is no spatial juxtaposition on any given page. The images are clearly in a deliberate sequence and closure does occur, albeit between pages instead of in the gutters - the infinite gutter. The temporal gulf is smaller than in Elf, where the gap bridges an entire day instead of mere moments, but the principal is the same.

Charlie Pickle is precisely the kind of example Scott McCloud argues against in Reinventing Comics. Remove the aspect of juxtaposition, McCloud argues, and then it's not comics. But I think this clearly is not the case in Charlie Pickle and other one-panel-at-a-time webcomics.

I love panel-to-panel interplay. I love design and the effects design can have on multiple panel layouts. But I think dependance on spatial relationships between panels does not necessarily make or break "comics." Mr. Sandifier's idea of the infinite gutter only adds fire to this belief.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen... are you ready for some DISCERNING CRITICISM?!?

alt tags are for people who know what to do with them

A new issue of The Webcomics Examiner is up.
I get a kick out of every new issue (although I don't know if it's that much of a kick).

My own participation in this issue consists of a small part in the round table and throwing in my two cents behind the scenes of the "best of 2005" list. I also wrote a review for this issue but Joe decided to hold it back for the big format change.

Anyway, the press release:

ecember 05, 2005-- The Best Webcomics of 2005 are
featured in the special end-of-year issue of The
Webcomics Examiner. The editorial advisory board
surveyed the field and debated to come up with a list
of the most noteworthy series and completed works.
Says editor Joe Zabel, "Everyone has their own opinion
about which comics are best; but we hope our listing
efforts will stimulate discussion and attract new
readers to a very fine group of cartoonists."

The Webcomics Examiner is a monthly forum of reviews,
interviews, and critical articles evaluating
webcomics as a fine art. The free-access website is at

This issue also features Part 2 of an editorial
roundtable on The Artistic History of Webcomics, with
T Campbell, Shaenon Garrity, William G., Phil Kahn,
Bob Stevenson, Eric Burns, Wednesday White, A. G.
Hopkins, Rob Balder, Tim Godek, Zabel, Alexander and
Brandy Danner. Chronicling the webcomics medium's
creative evolution, the discussion includes profiles
of Cat Garza, Tristan Farnon, Demian5, Patrick Farley,
Broken Saints, Justine Shaw, James Kochalka, Roger
Langridge, Jim Zubkavich and many more.

Also this issue:

--Webcomics pioneer Tracy White discusses her
innovative approach to webcomics in an interview
conducted by Zabel.

--Philip Sandifer probes the secret life of James
Kochalka's legendary autobiographical comic American

--Tristan Farnon's Leisure Town is analyzed by Zabel.

The cover artist this issue is David Hellman, of A
Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible fame.

So go. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

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