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On The Convention Trail (Nerd Con Aug. 26-28, 2016)

4/08/2016

on conv trail 1950_04 ed_cartier_gnomepresscalendar

I’ll be at Nerd Con in Escondido August 26 to 28, participating in panels devoted to classic 1980s animated shows and featuring such illuminaries (hey, did I work on that show?) as Flint Dille, voice actors Michael Bell (Duke, Firefly, Swoop, Sideswipe, Plastic Man, and Grouchy, Handy, and Lazy Smurf among others) and Gregg Berger (Grimlock, Skyfire, Long Haul, Outback, Spirit, plus tons more).

SEE YOU THERE!

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Greg, Nerd Con organizer Joe Troutman, Michael, & yrs trly

 

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I Blather On (Yet Again)

20/07/2016

Josh Hadley invited me to talk about adapting the classic pulps into modern media over at Radiodrome.  My part kicks in at the 25 minute mark.

Norman Saunders - Reprint-of-August-1936

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I Luvz Me Some GHOSTBUSTERS 2016

16/07/2016

This is how you do a remake![1]  Keep the core idea and story, keep the elements and tone people like, but feel free to go afield from that so long as you stay in the same ballpark.

Ghostbusters (2016; directed by Paul Feig, written by Katie Dippold & Feig, based on the 1984 film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) does that perfectly, adapting and expanding upon the original by reinterpreting it for the 21st century and reflecting a female cast.[2]

The new all-female Ghostbusters are not simply the original characters in drag: 
They are unique and interesting on their own account, their relationship is not that of three college chums + an employee but rather a series of overlapping relationships and histories that finally jells into a single compact team.  Kristin Wilg as Erin Gilbert is former BFF with Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates; the friendship broke up over Gilbert’s desire to pursue “serious” science instead of paranormal investigations.  Yates is now friends / co-researcher with Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann, a hyperkinetic engineer whom my younger granddaughter describes as “the best because she’s funny, she builds things, and she’s flexible.”  And to this mix Leslie Jones as MTA employee Patty Tolan who first comes to the Ghostbusters as a client and pretty much invites herself into the club; her encyclopedic and photographic memory of New York history and geography make her a vital addition to the team and while her character may lack to formal education the others possess she is certainly their equal in the brains department.

Oh, yeah, these ladies are all smart.  Very smart.  That’s what makes this film so delightful:  The female characters are characters who are female, not stereotypes being forced into an old story.  They come across as fresh and original while still maintaining the flavor of the 1984 film.

In fact, the only real dummy in the film is their beefcake receptionist, Kevin (played by Chris Hemsworth) who is one of the stupidest yet most endearing characters ever in movies.   He, too, plays a vital part in the construction of the film, albeit not the one you might expect.

The basic plot is still the same: 
Ghostbusters, after being drummed out of academia, start a business that nobody takes seriously until they finally catch a ghost; then as business booms the government tries to regulate them out of existence only to find itself hopeless outgunned by a massive supernatural invasions and forced to rely on the team to save the day.

The script construction is great, you get everything you want in a Ghostbusters movie only not in the way you expect it, including cameos galore featuring the original cast.

Highly recommended.

ghostbusters-2016-cast-proton-packs-images

[1]  Not a reboot, a remake.  A reboot drastically alters something about the theme / tone/ intent of the original  Reboots done well are good, but too often they are just a new creative team pissing on material to mark it as their.

[2]  There’s been a lot of hate directed at this film by MRAs suffering terminal butthurt from the fact the four main characters are female as opposed to the four male protagonists of the first film.  Congratulations, guys; now you know how women feel when they see men starring in 88%.  Ghostbusters ’16 is aware of that animosity and comments on it directly more than once in the course of the film, and almost always to dismiss it as unimportant to Just Doing Their Jobs.  Brava, Ghostbusters ’16!

 

 

 

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Compare And Contrast: New VOLTRON vs RWBY

23/06/2016

This is gonna be a short one because despite many people lauding the new Voltron series on Netflix, I just couldn’t get into it.

Five minutes in and my interest failed to engage. Technically proficient, good character and mecha design, but man, the dialog and plotting were just gears slipping. Not a fresh idea in the bunch and all hammered home with sledgehammer intensity.

CnC VvR voltron3

I watched the first two scenes, skipped ahead about 20 minutes, watched some more, tried the opening of the next episode, said fuggedaboutit.

Not saying it’s bad, not saying you can’t enjoy it.
Just saying for me it failed to grab my attention.

Conversely, RWBY sparked my interest immediately despite a lengthy deadly dull narrated opening and clearly derivative anime tropes.

Perhaps that’s why it attracted my attention:
When you start a faux-anime story with rip-offs homages of Alex and his droogs raiding what looks like a candy or bubble bath shop, well, you’ve got my attention enough to want to see what happens next.

And when one of the pseudo-droogs points his sword a young female customer in a red riding hood and she looks at him innocently and asks, “Are you threatening me?” we all know what’s going to happen next, the question is how well and with how much panache?

And sunnuvagun, they pull it off. Frankly the video-game quality animation is far from perfect, but the character designs are fun and the character interactions and dialog keep the more familiar parts of the show from working against it.

CnC VvR 4 RWBY

RWBY is available online but Netflix has edited all of the first season into a single feature length story. It’s episodic but fast moving.

Comparing the two shows — even as briefly as I did with Voltron — sparked some critical thinking regarding media for kids then and now, and what quality of writing is to be found among them.

And to do that I’m going to need to invoke Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, and John Wayne…but that will require another post.

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Seriously, 2016, Stop It. Just…Stop.

21/04/2016

FU2016 prince-side-view

FU2016 david bowie

FU2016 Haggard

FU2016 blowfly-studio-1970-billboard-650

FU2016 Dale-Griffin-Mott-the-Hoople

FU2016 dan hicks

FU2016 george martin

FU2016 glenn-frey-old-1453160905

FU2016 Jimmie Van Zant 2 BWs

FU2016 kantner-700x602

FU2016 keith-emerson-lake-palmer-portrait-bw-billboard-650

FU2016 maurice white

FU2016 vanity

This is only a small portion of the large number of talented people we have already lost this year — musicians, composers, songwriters, creators — but I thought 13 would be an appropriate sample.  

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R. Crumb On How To Improve Your Drawing Ability

14/04/2016

R Crumb009

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Groucho Marx by Joost Swarte

28/03/2016

Groucho Marx by Joost Swarte

wot it sez

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The Continuing Collapse Of The Comic Strip

3/01/2016

a.k.a. “Another One Bites The Dust”, in this case being Terry & Patty Laban’s Edge City strip, which just finished a 15 year run in far too typical a manner:  A good strip, well drawn, well written, a core base of fans & readers, but never enough to break mainstream consciousness and, in the end, not nearly enough to justify the syndicator keeping them on.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 1

Last November, as some of you may recall, Dinette Set went under without so much as an official nod from either artist or syndicator.

And Maria’s Day, a once delightful daily strip also found at GoComics.com has been reduced to Sunday-only single panel gags.

And several other strips are missing the occasional daily post; in a world where fewer and fewer newspapers carry fewer and fewer strips, these features are often found only online, and the blessing / curse of online media is that one doesn’t have to consume it on the creator/s schedule.

I mean, c’mon, folks, that’s what
binge watching on Hulu or Netflix
is all about, am I right?

The classic one-to-four panel daily comic strip is an artifact of the past, and even while new ones are being tried out, the sad truth is there is no real place for them.

Their offspring, the webcomic, may survive, but to do so it will probably have to evolve, both in terms of content and presentation.

While cartoons have been around since before Gutenberg, and had certainly been appearing in print as long as there were people making prints of anything, they certainly flowered during the heyday of printed media in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Comic strips were published (along with other regular features) with the intent of enticing casual readers back again and again to a daily newspaper.

While they certainly included younger kids in their audience, truth be told they had adult readers from the gitgo.

At their high water mark (roughly late 1920s to mid-1960s) they were essential cultural touchstones:  Regardless of who you were or where you lived, everybody was familiar with the comic strips that defined their culture (i.e., specific time and place in world history).

Foreign readers may have had an entirely different batch of strips[1] but nonetheless they had strips that defined their lives for them.

And regardless of whether the strips were gag-a-day, soap operas, adventures, or fantasy, something about them linked you to other people in your community / culture.

Even to this day, long after they have ceased to appear in print on a regular basis, certain comics strips still inform the national discourse:  “That crazy Buck Rogers stuff”, “Well, blow me down!”, “It was a dark and stormy night…”, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

They were an odd form of niche marketing:  There was seemingly a comic strip for every specific taste and interest and audience[2] and if one was willing to look, ample places for them to appear.

But nothing remains static and the days when the bulk of America gleaned its cultural clues through daily newspapers has long since passed.

And while many are fond of the format of the old comic strips, there’s really no compelling reason to stick with that format in today’s media world.[3]

Today’s webcomics don’t set the terms of the cultural debates, they only reinforce our pre-existing prejudices and biases, “prejudices and biases” here not necessarily referring to anything negative but rather the presumptions we live with in our daily lives.

We follow webcomics because they agree with our points of view, we do not turn to them to see what other people are thinking.

There’s no real innovation on the
remaining comics page anymore.

There are a large number of very well done strips, but there’s no real breakthrough the way Calvin And Hobbes broke through, or even the original run of Bloom County.[4]

I read Peanuts Begins and get more out of it than any contemporary strip (and I do enjoy a number of contemporary strips).

As the writer Jack Enyart once observed, the best work in any medium is done at the very start and the very end of that medium’s dominance; the former breaking boundaries with new ideas, the latter distilling those ideas down to their perfect core.

We are enjoying the long wake of the comic strip; we will not see its like again.

But nobody really wants to
close the bar and go home…

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 2

[1]  Tho not necessarily; a lot of American strips found loyal audiences in some truly oddball places, such as the Nordic countries really glomming onto The Phantom.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 3

[2]  As a young boy, I followed Dondi religiously; the stories of a young Italian-American refugee trying to find his place in America resonated with me as my own mother was an Italian who met my American father during WWII.  Dondi is not held in very high esteem by most comic strip fans / historians, but it made a difference to me, dammit!

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 4

[3]  Indeed, a strong argument can and has been made for more experimentation, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 5

[4]  Bloom County is back with new material online, and I read it, but it’s more for nostalgia than any real enjoyment. 

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 6

Edge City © Terry and Patty Laban

 

 

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Spoilericious THE FORCE AWAKENS Review / Speculation

21/12/2015

The Force Awakens is the first
cringe-free Star Wars movie
since The Empire Strikes Back.

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SEMI-SPOILER
“The Force awakens” can mean
“the Force itself wakes up” or
“the Force wakes up others.”

SPOILERICIOUS AFTER THE JUMP

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B-Western Round-Up

15/12/2015

Western Classics 50 Films

Like many others in my generation, I grew up watching old B-Westerns on TV.  Hopalong Cassidy was my favorite, narrowly beating out the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers (though I loved them as well).

When a friend informed me he’d purchased Classic Westerns: 50 Films, I felt I had to give it a try, too.  What follows are the films as I viewed them in the order they play on the DVDs.  Although I’m calling this a B-Western Round-up, there are some Italian Westerns and a few Hollywood A-Westerns than fell into public domain included as well.

The round-up starts after the jump.

(Will I do this next year with other megapacks?  Maybe, I dunno…)

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