March 13th, 2011


Lost Projects -- The "Valis" Retrospective

Well, this is the piece that I was most proud of to write for Video Game Trader, and hence, the one I was most disappointed to see vanish into the ether when the editorial focus changed.  It was supposed to be in a few issues ago in a special "video game heroines" issue, but that got changed at the last minute.  The editor said he really liked the piece, though.  It was bumped to run as a feature article in #19, but that was when the revamp hit.  Sonic The Hedgehog got the cover, and this article, as well as other reviews I wrote, went poof.

This is what I sent to the editor.  I was still awaiting any notes or fixes.  I'm not going to bother with the images that I included, since not all of them would have made it into the article anyway.

Since I originally wrote this, Valis X, which I allude to at the end, did in fact get ported onto Windows PC's in Japan, but the game hasn't gone any further than that.  Good thing.  Just learning of its existence was enough to destroy childhood memories, I don't need it to actually import.

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Sound Waves

Sound Waves #7 Is Out!

Oooooooooooo, foreshadowing!

Ah, after the gloom and doom of the last three issues, here's a simpler story more in line with my original vision of the series.  That isn’t to say the issue didn’t give me fits.  It did, just in unusual ways.

The name of Melody's rival was originally Summer.  It seemed like a perfect mermaid name.  Then, I got a shock.  I had gone to see the movie Panyo in the theater.  I sometimes take my art pages with me so I can do something while waiting for the movie to start (I can't always take my computer with because most theaters assume anyone with tech is automatically trying to pirate the movie).  So I'm sitting there while the pre-movie commercials are running (I was drawing the page from Sound Waves #5 where Rhapsody first enters the undersea home), drawing away.  A commercial comes on for Fanta soda and shows the Fanta girls -- I think they're called the Fantinas or something.  There was a contest to find a fourth member of the group to join Melody, Summer, and....

I didn't catch last name because my brain was too busy melting down.  I jerked my head up to the screen in time to catch the name "Summer."  Then I facepalmed.  I put a lot of references in my work (like Rhapsody,in a daze, singing Baloney Sandwich by Brak on Cartoon Planet), and the last thing I wanted was for people to think my mermaid names were a tip of the hat to some dopey soda marketing campaign.  On the way home, I started groping for some other name to give Melody's rival.  The best I could come up with was Felicity.  A while later, I was watching my Olivia Newton-John concert and remembered her character name in Grease was Sandy.  That seemed like another perfect mermaid name, and went with it.

This is one of the few times where I didn’t like working in black and white.  I wanted some way to differentiate the other pod from Melody’s, but I didn’t have many color choices.  All I could really do was darken in the tails.

Popsicles are fun.  And special popsicles are even more fun.  At the start of the issue, Rhapsody was sharing a cooler full of Bomb Pops with Melody.  But as I finished penciling the undersketch for page 1, I nearly had a heart attack.  I am trying to minimize the Rule 34 bullshit as much as I can – this is the reason Rhapsody’s dress gets magically longer and goes over her knees in certain shots and I block the scenes so that no one can be accused of looking up her skirt.  Anime has developed the disturbingly sick trend of fetishizing girls who are underage even by their standards.  The trend is one of the primary reasons I’m not as into anime as much as I used to be.  And Rhapsody sitting there with a popsicle in her mouth was looking waaaaaaaaay too Roman Polanski for my tastes.  I promptly changed the Bomb Pops to regular popsicles so that Rhapsody and Melody are snacking on doubles instead of phallic-looking singles.  Admittedly, that’s kind of a stretch (literally), but at least it doesn’t get the Pedobear Seal Of Approval.

For some inexplicable reason, I like incorporating the phrase "Death from above!" at least once into any project I work on, don’t ask me why.  I thought for sure I would never be able to get it into Sound Waves – I couldn’t imagine any circumstances where it would come up.  But when I decided Sandy was a hyper little mermaid, the character practically wrote herself.  Greeting her old buddy Melody with a flying tackle made perfect sense to me.  Then, I smirked.  I changed the angle of her approach, and "Death from above!" became her introduction.

As I said, Sandy practically jumped to life.  The bit where she’s talking so much, you can’t see it all in the word balloon is a favorite sight gag of mine.  The entire exchange, including Sandy continuing to shake hands after Rhapsody removes hers (while Melody looks aside because she knows it won’t deter her) was a hoot to draw.  Although probably my favorite bit is where Sandy is perched on Rhapsody’s head while Rhapsody does a slow burn.

The bit about timing by remembering a piece of music is actually an old idea and I heard of it long before Hudson Hawk, thank you very much.  My first exposure to the idea was a short story about a music student who used a piece of music to time pitches in a baseball game.

Rhapsody has a tape player because I see plenty of cheap little tape players with a built-in speaker, but not CD players.  I wanted something small enough that it could go in a small cooler and be taken out over the ocean, so a boom box was out.  The make of the tape player, Nakashuma, is a reference to The 12 Gifts Of Christmas by Allan Sherman.  The music of Count Basie seemed a perfect fit.  Basie’s horn section was nearly perfect (the Manhattan Transfer based their vocal arrangements on it).

I loved drawing Marina’s appearance where she’s being courted by a merman.  It just makes me smile.
Kermit And Piggy

Cheap Joke Alert!

The news is showing that, overnight, a sinkhole opened in Milwaukee, WI, and swallowed two cars.

You can tell its not Chicago.  If it was, the shots of the two cars would have fifty people laying around them screaming, "WHIPLASH!"
Peter G

But Will It Play In Peoria?

There's an old Polish proverb that says, "When you resign yourself to fate, your resignation is instantly accepted."

Charlie Sheen seems to be enjoying the new life he has resigned himself to.  Well, sort of.  He has clearly doesn't understand the Internet culture he has been courting with his antics.  He recently hired 24/7 security for his home because one crazed netizen broke onto the grounds.  Sheen should be asking himself the same question I did when it came to promoting Stress Puppy among the furries -- do you REALLY want people like this as your fanbase?  In my case, the answer was, "No."  I'm guessing Sheen hasn't reached that point yet.

The newest twist to the new Charlie Sheen Industries is some sort of live show tour.  The "some sort of" is not me being snarky.  Sheen is starting a live tour, "Charlie Sheen LIVE: My Violent Torpedo of Truth", starting in Detroit on April 2 and hitting the Chicago Theater on April 3.  The descriptor on the Ticketmaster website only says, “Will there be mayhem? Will you ask questions? Will you laugh? Will you scream? Will you know the truth?"  That's it.  It could be Sheen explaining to us how 9/11 was done by the government (no joke, he really believes that and laid out his theory in a radio broadcast) or just saying "Winning!" for five minutes before leaving.  Tickets for the shows sold out in 18 minutes, a record for Ticketmaster.  And yet, no one really knows what the show is going to have or be about.  It's kind of like those "surprise" packages you could order from Johnson Smith.  You paid your money and had no clue what was coming.  Key difference:  Johnson Smith was fun, good stuff.  This is Charlie Sheen we're talking about here.

I would like to point out this "tour" is only two stops.  So far, I'm doing better with comic shows.  Although demand is supposedly so high that he's considering adding other stops.

Every indie band in Chicago is pissed right now.  They've been struggling for recognition, developing their talent, putting on good shows, and this dipshit decides to start a tour in big venues and sells out in 18 minutes.  If you wonder why people say there is no justice in the world, this is part of it.

Huh?  Me?  April 3rd?  Sorry, I have to wash my hair that night.
Peter G

Goddammit, Peter, Can't You Just Write A Simple Answer?!?

I was just starting to write this out as a response to ying_ko_4 about the Supergirl movie, but I saw I was making a bigger point instead of just responding to his post (and, I suspect, I was coming close to going over the limit for response length), so I figured I should put it in its own entry.  Besides, I'm sure there's a few readers wondering what there could possibly be to not only enjoy in the movie, but that I could find enjoyable.

First of all, you have to keep something in mind -- as much as I can appreciate the art of movies, I am not a movie snob.  I can enjoy great acting and directing and enjoy B-movies and exploitation films, too.  Such films can be good.  What's the dividing line?  Passion.  A desire to make something good, even if you don't have the resources.

James Cameron has scored a major hit with Avatar.  And yet, if you listen to him talk in interviews, he refers to movies as "product." No kidding, he used it quite frequently when discussing Titanic and why he made the story choices he did.  The story was made to work, but based on external factors the audience would react to, not how the story and characters and situations shaped it.  I know lots of people loved Avatar, and that's great.  I could only sit there, marveling at how cliche everything happening was, from the whole "great white father coming to save the natives" to the relationships.  Consider that, for all the advanced technology, the humans didn't really have anything all that powerful that couldn't be overcome by the native Na'vi.  The main bad guys were just cliches -- a corporate type just looking to exploit and a war monger military type.  No depth, all you needed to know was you were supposed to boo and hiss at them.  Now, the movie at least kept moving (it's actually amazing how it sort of zips along despite nothing ever really being in doubt and it could have easily lost an hour of running time), but the fact is, it was designed by a committee, a committee of public opinion.

Now, let's take a look at Ed Wood.  God, I loved Ed Wood.  Well, I love the person.  He didn't have the money.  He didn't have the talent (oh GOD he didn't have the talent).  But, like the Tin Woodsman, he had heart.  He genuinely wanted to make something good, even if he didn't ultimately succeed.  A lot of the things he did are just things every other B movie maker did and still does.  I firmly believe that, had he spent a little more time and effort, Plan 9 From Outer Space would have been a perfectly acceptable B movie.  Not great, but certainly acceptable.  It's this difference that makes me enjoy the Corman version of The Fantastic Four with its B movie feel and $1.4 mil budget far more than the mercinary big budget features with Jessica Alba.

So, Supergirl.  What does that have to do with that movie?  Supergirl certainly needed some work.  But for what it was, it was a perfectly acceptable superhero movie.  I sometimes think part of what threw crowds was that the villain was a sorceress.  Only us comic book geeks know that the Super family is weak against magic (this was used to great effect in the Justice League cartoon when Superman fought Captain Marvel).

I think what really makes me enjoy the Supergirl movie is Helen Slater's Supergirl.  Supergirl was a hero.  She screwed up and she went to fix her mistake.  Despite being ill-prepared and massively overpowered by her nemesis, she didn't quit, even braving the dangers of the Phantom Zone to save the day.  Helen Slater is a heroic Supergirl.  By way of contrast, Lauren Vandervoort plays a come-fuck-me-now Supergirl on Smallville.  Slater's take is a character you want to root for, to see her succeed, who doesn't dodge her mistakes and responsibilities, but owns up to them and does the right thing.  Which is something they don't show often enough in the comic.  But I digress.

I can certainly see why people think the Supergirl movie was so bad.  But it's like Phantom Planet for me -- it occupies a soft spot in my heart that, depsite every instinct telling me I shouldn't be wrapped up in it, I watch and enjoy it anyway.  And I have no explanation or rationalization, it's just how it is.

There you go -- probably the only appreciation piece for the Supergirl movie you will ever read.  ;-)