Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pet Peeves - Misaligned Balloons

This is something of a continuation of my previous entry which focused on panels, but this is something of a subsection in itself, and I felt that entry was getting long enough on its own.  This refers to pages where there's someone talking, but the dialogue is focused in the wrong balloon.

In these cases, these kinds of mistakes are most heavily prevalent in Manga, where the text is more vertically based than horizontal.  In most instances, when deciding to place text down, it's done so in a numerical order, left to right, but depending on the composition of the layout, it may not always be obvious, which can lead to unintended results.

As you can see, the sideway panels in the bottom half screwed the composition up somewhat, because it was slightly different from the norm, and seemed almost normal.  Even so, all the extra space should've been something of a clue, since you typically reserve that for the most dramatic keywords.  This is why I always make a note of having the original page on hand when doing my scanlations so I don't wind up screwing things up.

But sometimes, space isn't always an indicator for important passages.  Even minor casual conversations can wind up falling prey to this kind of thing.  An example comes from Dorohedoro where during an exchange between two kidnappers, the guy who's asking the question about the hostage winds up answering it himself.

In another instance, when the Crosseyes gang come across a man whose curse reflects any and all assaults back on the attacker, the blonde guy throwing the knives is Ton, which must be terribly confusing, when everybody else calls him that name elsewhere in other books.

Due to the narrow space for balloons, it's easy to see how the decision to put the text where there would be more room to fit, rather than dividing them up.  On the other end of this spectrum is splitting words to the point where they're impossible to understand.

Another minor instance from Battle Royale that always bugged me is where Sho Tsukiya (the blatantly gay student who was left out of the popularity poll in the English version) checking his watch.  The time is divided into two, instead of the natural manner of 4:54.

So far, the most blatant offender of this sin was for The Legend of Zelda: 4 Swords Manga, which had TWO instances of this very mistake on the same page.

Compared to the earlier scanlation, despite the poor quality, this exchange makes much more sense.

But not all scanlations are considered flawless, and can too fall prey to the same mistakes.  A recent Toriko scanlation wound up being too faithful to its source material, which resulted in confusion, since two of the balloons were closer than the one below.

You'd think this kind of thing would only happen in Manga, but other translated titles can be infected with this symptom just as well.  The wonderfully insane Technopriests is a good example.  After passing one of many testing procedures to judge the hacking ability of potential new entries, Albino is being ferried around on his new friend's shoulders.  Yet the balloon cheering Albo on has only one tail, while the questioning balloon has multiple tails, connoting that they're from multiple voices.

That was a minor example, viable only to the keenest observers, so here's a more overt case.  On a planet where Albino's suffering family is having their madcap adventures of changes to their classes and status quo, usually regulating in one or more members being forced to clean the toilets, they've landed on a barbaric world ruled by a lion-man who makes sport of fighting any potential opposition to his rule and winds up cannibalizing their bodies for food.  This leads to an unintentionally amusing exchange where the ruler, Mongoroy winds up saying his name while biting off a piece of arm meat, while his appreciative audience says YUM! among the cheering crowd.

PROPHET!  CHAMPION!  YUM!  One of these is not like the others.

As long as we're talking about balloons in the wrong place, we might as well talk about another cardinal sin - where words are on the page, but they're not in the right place.  Some comics work off of a text sheet proof that is then later overlayed over the artwork.  And when that proof gets moved around, sometimes, it can lead to amusing instances such as the X-men issue where Wolverine said,

If the page is especially busy, these kinds of slipshod mistakes can be easily found out and complained at length, which can prompt the publisher to do a corrected printing, which based on demand, can cause the previous mistaken printing to rise in potential value.  (This is all deductive reasoning - I take no stock for the validity of these auctions)  Stagger Lee is a great historical retelling of the story behind the origin of a song that, depending on who sung it, was about either a white, or black man.  The black history involved just makes it that more interesting.

For some reason, the man at the top of the stairs in the 3rd panel is making a threat, while the lamp appears to be screaming out in pain.  According to the publisher, the page looked fine in the letterer's proofs, but somehow all the text slipped down and to the left in the print files.  At the time, it was lucky that it happened to a page with so little dialogue.  If it had happened to a page with more dialogue, it's more likely it would have been spotted.

Another instance is where words are bunched together, rather than spaced apart.  This panel from Aria where a soldier responds should've been "Well... OK...", split into two balloons instead of squeezed into one.   This is a good indicator for testing the quality of a release.  If all the text on a balloon is heavily slanted to the left or right, instead of being centered, that's a sure sign of laziness.

Then there are instances where you're lucky if the words manage to fit within the confines of the extra-large balloon.  You can barely make it out, but if you look alongside the roof above the balloon, Shuya Nanahara is trying to say "Don't..." to the classmate pointing a gun at him.  It's a wonder the rest of the text managed to stay legible on the same page.

Sometimes overlapping text can be the result of reusing a pre-existing script that wasn't entirely wiped clean.
Here's the last panel of page 97 from the 8th Dorohedoro volume.

Nothing terribly wrong there, right?  What's there to complain about?  Now, here's the same numbered page for the 9th volume.  If you take a close look at Asu's leg (the wounded skinless guy), you'll see "Epic Poverty Fail" visible there.

As you can see, the placement and decision on where to put your words can make all the difference.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Prehistoric Instruction Manual

I was browsing a second-hand videogame store, looking for cheap entertainment material when I came across two boxes of instruction manuals.  However, they were so disorganized that I could hardly find anything there, and went to the trouble of organizing them into their prospective sections.  (I like organizing things)

Early online manuals just simply replicated the text, with none of the helpful illustrations.  The surprisingly difficult Low-G Man had maps of the boss levels, as well as how to ride several vehicles, which wasn't terribly intuitive, since unlike other side scrollers, you defeated enemies by shooting (freezing) them, and then stabbing them with a spear that only worked vertically from above or below.  Since I borrowed pretty much every game I was interested in (but didn't want to buy) out of a Video Store (back when such things existed), they oftentimes didn't come with the manuals, leaving it up to me to figure out how to play them with brief hints in Nintendo Power.  Today's online archive of V-game instruction manuals is more comprehensive, but they're not as tactile as the real thing.  What surprised me was that there was a 16-page comic in the Bubsy game that gave some background for the twin-headed Woolie boss you face at the end.

There was also a comic for Earthworm Jim, but that was only in an Electric Gaming Monthly mag, or one of its spinoffs.  (The Marvel comic doesn't count)

You probably can't see it, but on the second page where Psy-Crow pulls out his "Bigger Gun" on the alien, the green blob is raising his hands, trying to surrender.

Getting back to the disorganized instruction manuals, I divided them into Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Gameboy, Sega Genesis, X-Box and Playstation consoles piles.  What surprised me was how small the Sega, PS2 and X-Box section were.  But what surprised me was how large the old-school section was.  And I'm not talking about the Nintendo section - I'm talking about the Atari and Intellivision manuals.  Of the drab adventure, sports, learning, puzzle and side-scrolling game manuals, there was one that caught my eye.  Namely, the one based on a comic strip.

I was completely unaware that Johnny Hart outsourced his legendary strip to the early realms of experimental gaming.  There were a lot of generic games with cover art that was more fully detailed than the actual games themselves.  People nowadays have a fond nostalgia for pixelated art, but back before the Japanese made this an art form, practically nobody knew how to fully render sprites to resemble human beings, so all we were left with were splotchy blobs that barely moved around.

In addition, the game was played with a ColecoVision keypad joystick that was similar to Intellivision's which was ranked the 4th-worst controller in history.  Just look at this thing.  Long before the advent of the Wii made handling a remote with ease, the Intellivision's controller was a literal remote control.  With numbers and everything.  With a curly telephone wire connected to the console.

Despite its crude presentation, this game apparently won all kinds of awards back then, which goes to show just how much times have changed.  Chances are if you saw this game first-hand with no prior explanation of what was going on, you'd be completely perplexed by the seemingly nonsensical obstacles throughout the game.  It's only by looking at the helpful illustrations that you get some idea of what you're up against.  I've taken the liberty of rearranging the text to more closely resemble what they're talking about for ease of access.
The title is somewhat misleading, since the main character is actually Thor, inventor of the wheel.

As you've no doubt noticed, the background flows from one edge to the next.  The only wrinkle is at the entrance to the Dinosaur cave, which was continued on the back flap of the instruction manual.

The Cute Chick apparently has quite a pair of lungs, considering that her cries can be heard all the way across the vast expanse of pathway that Thor apparently has to roll across.

 There's no transition of when you reach the exit.  There's no literal light at the end of the tunnel - one moment you're dodging stalactites, the next, you're in broad daylight, with the Cute Chick looking no worse for the wear.  Furthermore, you have the same expression as when you're being carried by the Dooky Bird and jumping over the cliff, which raises unfortunate implications.  This marks the end of the game right here and there - but don't worry - you can just start again from square one - only slightly faster each time.  Thing certainly have progressed considerably in the account of New Game+ that weren't just rehashes of the first game, having Goombas replaced with Buzzy Beetles, or a harder Zelda layout with next-to-impossible puzzles involving warp whistles and invisible walls.

There was a second BC game titled Grog's Revenge, but I wasn't able to find the manual for that one.  From what little I've seen, the character designs are more fully rendered, but you're basically still on a stone wheel, picking up (running over) blue clams to pay Peter's toll to pass the levels, as well as navigating totally dark caves with a flashlight.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pet Peeves: Rearanged panels

This is something I've seen quite often, but has hardly ever been mentioned.  This isn't in the same realm as Perplexing Reprints where there are various panels drastically different from their first printing.  Nor is it in the vein of being confused from the layout of a double-page spread.  This refers to two panels being accidentally switched around so that the comic in question winds up being slightly out of whack.

This has happened more than once, and one of the easiest examples I know of is this early Calvin & Hobbes Sunday comic:

For a long time, I thought this was how it was supposed to go, but other more faithful reprints have had the last two penultimate panels switched around so that Calvin winds up sliding before announcing his mortality verification.  Even now, it's difficult for me to go back to the right version, despite knowing that it's the proper way to go.

This wasn't an isolated incident, since I wound up seeing instances of switched panels everywhere.  I don't have the albums and treasuries in question, but these recreations should be close enough to get my point across.

With these panels out of composition, Garfield winds up acting rather schizophrenic, long before Garfield Minus Garfield relayed that role to Jon.

While the composition of the bodies are more consistent, the overall flow of events is a mess.  Garfield winds up losing his enthusiasm halfway through, only to suddenly regain it near the end, and then lose it completely.  While I can look back and laugh about it now, it bothered to me no end, because it wasn't how the joke was supposed to go.  Knowing comics forwards and backwards isn't quite the same when they're slightly out of alignment.

EDIT - After thinking for awhile, it occurred to me that ironically enough, I got the composition of the rearranged panels wrong.  It was most likely the 3rd and 4th panels, rather than the 4th and 5th ones.  I must've subconsciously chosen this new alignment, solely because it was more pleasing to the eye.

The Peanuts collection Brothers & Sisters: It's all Relative was the worst offender, having not one, not two, but FOUR comics, each with the same mistake.  See if you can figure it out.

For this last one, Charlie Brown is pointing down exactly to the next panel.  These comics only make sense if seen in a strange zig-zag pattern that's at odds with the other comics in the book.

The modern-day equivalent to such reprinting mistakes would be having pages switched around or showing up multiple times in the same book, all of which I've seen in various publications, which for a long time was one of the main arguments against having trade paperbacks of comics, since they would be radically different from their "better" pamphlet format.  Things have considerably improved since then, but mistakes still abounded.

Domu was one of the earliest Mangas I ever saw in French, and I started off with the last third, which was quite a traumatic experience.  It was one of the scariest things I'd ever seen.  There was so much death and destruction involved.  I had absolutely no idea who all these people were, and why they were dying left and right.  At the time, I thought that Cho was a boy who'd aged overnight after facing off the assault from Etsuko's rampage.

The Dark Horse English version helped clear things up, but there were a few pages that bothered me.  In the 3rd issue, the police interview with the press had the pages on opposite sides.  But more than that, I felt that the rearranging of some panels felt slightly off.

If you've read Telophase's essays on Manga page layout (and you should) you'll remember that there was a section on making the eye flow easily rather than forcing your vision to go all the way from left to right, and back again, but in a zig-zag pattern, that unlike the Peanuts comics above, was more intuitive.

Now, here's that same scene of destruction as above.  I couldn't find the same book I saw years ago, and am not going through the trouble of flipping the text, but see how much smoothly it handles.

If that's not enough proof, check out this scene of collateral damage in the mostly silent anti-climax climax, where Etsuko is conducting a final psychic assault that's just barely glimpsed at.

And the slightly modified version:

Not only does the position of the broken chain make more sense, the bent beam is also more consistent.  Somehow, the proofreader for Blade of the Immortal got their wires crossed and forgot to correct a flipped panel.

If I hadn't already known about these comics beforehand, I would've been more upset.  But when it comes to reprinting something that the rest of the world doesn't already know, the result can only lead to further confusion.

Krazy Kat is generally regarded as one of the finest (if inexplicable) comics, and the reprinting project was especially challenging, since there were so few reliable collections available.  So when the first strip of 1933 was presented, it left the impression that there was some hidden underlying message lost on readers not sophisticated or smart enough to figure out.  As a result, no one dared point out that there was something in the sequence of events that didn't make sense, lest they appear foolish, even if it would've allayed some general suspicion.

If it weren't for the generous contribution of a German Krazy Kat fan named Erich Brandmayr, the resulting comic would've gone completely unnoticed.

This wasn't Fantagraphics' only reprinting mistake.  The first album of Popeye the Sailor Man had
Even more annoyingly - the panels in question are numbered, so catching this mistake should've been obvious when putting it together.

At first glance, the two strips in question seem to be perfectly natural, but the lack of recapping right from the start should've been a tip-off.  Since daily comics tended to refresh the reader's memory every day, reminding them of the events of last time.  When placed all together, the result is something that's 50% rehashing, 50% story, and 50% running jokes.

Cerebus and Akira produced serial stories that when their exploits were collected into telephone books,
their narratives flowed so smoothly without disruption, interruption or recapping - making it almost impossible to find the seams in the works.  A trait that still hasn't been matched with recent comics.  (But there's still time)

At the penultimate reveal in Minds, Cerebus' adversary, Cirin, sees an event in Cerebus' childhood that's of great personal importance and interest to her,


To make matters more infuriating, this interruption only makes sense when it shows up in context later on.  All the dramatic build-up that'd been growing then is gone because a copied page was put in the wrong place.  At first, I thought this was an isolated event, but I saw another book in a second-hand comic store, which had the exact same misprint.  I have no idea if this is an aberration or not, since I can't find any mention of it anywhere.  Doubtless, any new readers who came across this misleading passage must've been grossly confused.

This isn't solely limited to just Newspaper strips and comic books though.  MAD Magazine suffers from this same symptom.  Because the dimensions of the magazine don't conform to the typical size of a comic paperback, some panels wind being out of order.  While this is fine for thematic articles such as "A MAD look at..." where which panels you read don't matter, it plays havoc when certain articles are slap-dashed haphazardly.

The article The Facts of Life (& Death) is ruined with the last two panels out of sequence:

Of all the artists, none was treated more slipshod than the legendary Don Martin.

His stories would start out normally enough (or as normal as a Don Martin character gets), and then things start getting weird before the punchline.

So far, the cut-and-pasters (I don't know what the proper technical term is) seem to have the most trouble in trying to tell when a Don Martin character is walking away.

Somewhat fittingly, a Sesame Street parody, Reality Street in a state of reconstruction wound up with this situation, fixing what wasn't broken.  Anybody who's been forced to undergo construction on their street can surely relate.

The one singular exception to all this was a Bloom County comic which was rerun from Berkeley Breathed's early days of B.O. (Before Opus).  Here, it looks like Milo is about to leave before Freida figures out the calculation, only to be prevented from doing so.  Ironically, making the penultimate panel the punchline wound up making it personally funnier than if it were left alone.