Archive for February, 2010

new bill watterson interview

bill watterson at deskBill Watterson, seen here in this horrendously outdated file photo, has given his first interview in 20 years.

I’m not sure what to say, except I’m thankful 1) the reporter asked thoughtful questions and didn’t waste everybody’s time, and 2) Old Bill is still among the living.

We know we won’t get any new Calvin and Hobbes comics. I’m fine with that. What I do wish is for Bill Watterson to continue drawing comics or writing or painting, and to find some way to publish. He is obviously still as sharp and witty as ever. I miss hearing his artistic voice.

More later. For now, bask in the moustachioed glow of Bill Watterson.

vigil the ante

Back in high school, I read a lot of comics. My first love was comic strips. After a while I tested the waters of comic books. They were fascinating. They charged ahead on 24 pages of glossy paper in full color. Yet, I was ultimately let down by superhero comics. They couldn’t seem to do what the best comic strips did: tell a succinct and witty story. Page after page of splash panels, action scenes that were at times hard to follow, spandex costumes that revealed muscles I had never heard of before. There was not much in superhero comics that a skinny redhead with glasses and braces could identify with.

One thing superhero comics did give me was Vigil the Ante. Vigil was a parody of all the comic books I was reading at the time. He was also a parody of the movies I’d recently seen, the TV shows I watched, the books I was assigned at school. He took the information I was ingesting at a steady rate and rearranged it into something I could enjoy.

He was also deeply indebted to Homer Simpson.

Vigil was part man, part ant, with a helmet, antennae, squinting eyes, a huge nose and a nifty spandex outfit. His shoes were shaped like two diamonds (I think that was because I didn’t like the way every superhero had super-smooth footwear, but maybe I just liked the odd design). Vigil stood for everything good and weird. He was my kind of guy. vigil-the-ante
Vigil, like all the best superheroes, had a sidekick. His sidekick had no name, a little joke about how he did all the hard work while Vigil took all the credit. “Friend” wore a costume as bulky and inefficient as possible. His huge goggles didn’t fit his head. A coat-hanger had somehow become lodged upside-down in his shirt. He wore a bow tie. There was a smiley face on his shirt, not unlike a giant bulls-eye. He had no pants, just underwear. He adopted the same footwear as Vigil, my only concession to a team costume.

The one advantage he had was the ability to fly. Vigil used him as his personal taxi. Friend couldn’t catch a break.vigil-and-friend

I recently uncovered my last, and most fully realized, Vigil the Ante story. Clocking in at 21 pages plus cover, it was my attempt to tell a comic strip story in a comic book format. Plenty of jokes, lots of small panels, as packed with story as I could make it. I used a brush to ink it, as I was attempting to follow closely in Bill Watterson’s footsteps.

Reading it now, 13 years later, I realize how little my storytelling goals have changed. I also notice how much the dialogue sounds like conversations I’ve had with my brother. This all follows my theory that our sense of humor crystallizes in middle school and doesn’t change for the rest of our lives.

Tomorrow I will post Vigil the Ante and Friends in its entirety. I look forward to sharing it with the entire planet for the first time.

vigil the ante and friends #1

Don’t let the #1 mislead you. This was actually my third or fourth full-length Vigil the Ante story. I numbered them all 1 so they would be collector’s items.

I present, in it’s entirety, my last Vigil the Ante comic book. Completed in 1996, published worldwide now for the first time.vigil-cover vigil-1 vigil-2 vigil-3 vigil-4 vigil-5 vigil-6 vigil-7 vigil-8 vigil-9 vigil-10 vigil-11 vigil-12 vigil-13 vigil-14 vigil-15 vigil-16 vigil-17 vigil-18 vigil-19 vigil-20 vigil-21

f-f-f-f-friday robots

friday-robots-2-5-10-2 friday-robots-2-5-10-3 friday-robots-2-5-10

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beautiful rage

king-kong_01The thing I like best about King Kong is his unadulterated rage. When he beats his chest, it is the purest emotion in all of cinema. It is this rage that puts Kong above a mere technical feat: the special effects serve the character. King Kong becomes real. He fights that dinosaur not out of social obligation but from a primeval rage that flows through his primate heart. He breaks free from his shackles and climbs the Empire State Building partly for love, but mostly because he is royally ticked off (pun intended). And who could blame him?

My point is, King Kong was a huge hit not because of the cutting-edge technology that brought him to life, but because he was a true Hollywood icon. Put Kong up there beside Hannibal Lecter, Jack Torrence, and Alan Rickman in Die Hard as indelible performances in movie history. Kong deserves to stand beside (and tower over) the most revered movie nemeses of all time.

I finally got to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. Sitting in the very front row, my first thought as the landscape of Pandora flew across the screen was “if I throw up, I will make sure to do it on my brother’s lap.” Fortunately for him, I did not experience motion sickness from the 3D experience. I just sat back and enjoyed the spectacle.

The Haitians didn’t make a deal with the devil. James Cameron did. Think about it: the Haitians get to be slaves, then impoverished free people, then get hit by a huge natural disaster they were completely unprepared for. James Cameron, on the other hand, directs the biggest grossing movie of all time, then directs the biggest grossing movie of all time. This guy doesn’t pull a Lovely Bones: he keeps making the biggest success of all time, over and over.

Avatar has been so successful not because of its plot. The story is what my grandmother would have called “a space western.” Cowboys and Indians, the industrial machine versus the Noble Savage. We also get to find out what James Cameron did these past ten years. He watched CNN while eating his cereal in the morning, then wrote what he had just seen in the afternoon. A story can hardly be called allegory when you have a line like “fight terror with terror” and a corporation that behaves exactly like certain American corporations in certain mineral-rich countries halfway around the planet.

But what the heck. Nobody ever accused James “BIG EXPLOSION” Cameron of being too subtle. Or, as the saying goes, “I’m not stupid and you’re not exactly subtle.” Avatar succeeds on spectacle and in creating a world rich in detail: the forest-moon of Pandora.

The protagonist of the film is certainly not Sam Worthington’s grizzled Marine, Corporal Jake Sully. Nor is it Sigourney Weaver; although she does put in a truly noteworthy performance as chain-smoking research scientist Dr. Grace Augustine, who is hell-bent on educating the Na’vi (those giant blue cat-people) and converting them to Christianity. The film’s protagonist is not Alan Rickman, nor is it the Ewoks. It is the prettiest cat lady of them all, Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana, also a new resident of my List).

It is Neytiri who ultimately carries the film. Neytiri is the movie’s King Kong – a creature only completely realized onscreen, a technological marvel who also happens to have as much character as any of the humans acting beside her. Unlike past computer-generated characters, Neytiri is beyond the point of mere intellectual curiosity. Maybe it was just me, but when she hissed at that robot near the end of the film while trapped underneath a Pandorian saber-toothed tiger, all thoughts of the animation that went into creating her flew right out the proverbial window. I was there, rooting for that cat lady.

I enjoyed Avatar. Sure, it wasn’t exactly 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of coupling groundbreaking special effects with incredible story. But I do find myself thinking back on it days after I saw it. In today’s world, with so many stories competing to grab and hold your attention, I find that remarkable. There are many movies I could barely recall for you, and some others I wish I couldn’t, but I reckon Avatar will never be among them.4198676709_c59db8b534_b