Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weird Romance - My Boyfriend is a Bear

I'm generally not a big fan of Romances, since they tend to be rather formulaic and follow a certain predictable pattern.  Sure, there are some exceptions, but it takes some serious breaking conventions to garner my interest.  So, it was a welcome surprise when I stumbled upon this little gem of a comic.

While reading this thing, I was grinning like a maniac throughout, which should be the desired result of a mismatched crack pairing, partly because the interactions between the two were so funny.  But mostly because I was thinking of a certain Great Canadian Novel I only had a rudimentary knowledge of.

Obviously, this comic is less than a faithful adaption of the Canadian bestseller, and more of a metaphor that could easily apply to any romance that falls outside of societal norms.

To me, it's not so much the awkward approach that speaks to me, but the struggle the two of them put in trying to make a less than compatible connection between two very different worlds work.  "If love was easy, it wouldn't be so hard."  Also, this setup avoids the relentless will they/won't they approach that's such a binary equation that oftentimes results in the former being a foregone conclusion.

Rather, it's the relationship between two... I hesitate to use the term "people", since it's obviously interspecies romance, but it's obvious the two care deeply about each other.  I enjoy seeing their challenge in trying to make a fraught relationship work.

Every other man she's gone out with has only wound up being terrible boyfriends with her, so trying something new with a wild animal is a refreshing change of pace for her.  After spending so much time with the Bear, Nora learns his general moods from the various sounds he makes.

In addition to being rather handy around the house (despite his bulky clumsiness), and getting into the occasional amicable fight with the cat, the Bear goes out of his way to get a job in the workforce, very much like the children's book, The Bear who Wanted to be a Bear.  Even if she didn't know about it, I appreciated seeing another Bear-related shoutout.

And, much like that titular bear, the Bear has to go off to hibernate for the winter.  Nora knows this inevitability is going to happen, and braces herself for the brief parting that will result.  When he leaves, concerned parties who were worried about her unhealthy fixation with the Bear come out of the woodwork and make their critical voices more unsubtly heard.

So, after days of agonizing uncertainty, (that's the Bear dozing away in the bottom panels there), Nora goes to the cave to see the Bear's illicit activities for herself.  It goes as well as you'd expect:

Even though she's reassured despite her suspicions, there's still no outright guarantee that the Bear will go back to Nora once winter is over.

While some people may squick out over the suggestive aspect of Bestiality, it's no more different to me than the platonic love between people and animals in works such as Guru-guru Pon-chan, Princess Tutu, and Sir Rodney and his Horse.  Though the latter could become problematic if he started dressing his steed in lingerie.

Given its original premise, it should come as no surprise that it's already been optioned to be made into a movie by Legendary Pictures.  Chances are, it won't be as amusing or heartbreaking as the pictures provide, but we could use some variety around here that's not of the Vampire Boyfriend kind.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Pet Peeves - Distracting Covers

They say the mark of a good comic is how invisible the results are.  What readers oftentimes don't notice is the hundreds of man-hours put into improving the craft so that all the effects - drawing, inking, sound effects, borders, paneling, character design, dialogue, fonts and dozens of factors that add up into a collaborative effort that brings everything together into a single product that flows and seams effortlessly.  But there's another inconspicious factor that affects me that not many others would otherwise notice.

Recently, I took out a children’s book titled White as Milk, Red as Blood, the Forgotten Fairy Tales of Franz Xaver von Schonwerth.  It was potentially interesting, but I had tremendous difficulty reading more than a few pages at a time.  It wasn’t because of the contents, or the typeset, but something else that intruded greatly on my concentration that most other people wouldn’t be bothered by:

The cover had noticeable ridges that I continuously felt while reading that kept me from enjoying the book.

This isn’t the only book that I’ve had trouble with.

Sarah Anderson is one of the most popular minimalist webcartoonists online, and has printed a bevy of books collecting some of her memeable stuff.  Yet I’ve never been able to read an official copy because her covers of her sweater are incredibly scratchy.  And the spaces between don't help matters much.  The only way I was able to read her stuff in dead tree form was because the library copy laminated the cover, making it more palatable to my liking.

Maus is one of my favorite comics, and one I consistently reread despite (or because) of the depressing subject material.  Mainly because it's such remarkable cartooning craft done right, and as this link points out, is done in such a way that the layout of the page puts all the elements together in a way that makes everything appear seamless.  (Even if some people think otherwise)  So when I saw a hardcover omnibus on sale, I didn't hesitate at the chance to pick it up.  I should've lingered a little longer, for if I had, I might've noticed that the spine was particularly scratchy, like carrying grainy cotton.

Recently, there were two other books I read that I had to brave overcoming my distaste for the feel of the cover so I could consume the contents.  The first one was Petrograd, a speculative history of the British Government's involvement in the assassination of Rasputin.  It was only the letterhead that felt rough, - the pictures on the opposite side were smooth - and suffered the same problems as the Maus cover, only larger.  Since it was a bulky tome, most of my concentration was focused on the spine.  Fortunately, it was a fairly quick read, so I didn’t have to suffer too much.

The other book was Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World, and like the factoid comics in the vein of Paradox Press's Big Book series, is utterly fascinating.  It's also on similar ground of their unreleased Big Book of Wild Women, only drawn by a single artist, which allows for greater consistency.

Some preview samples which can be seen on The Lily, for as long as they’re available.

It’s not just covers that can be a major turn-off, but the pages as well.  I’m simply unable to read a novel if the edges of a paper book aren’t uniform.  There are some books where the edges are jagged to resemble the medieval theme of warped pages.  I’ve actually had to turn down several books that looked potentially promising because I couldn’t flip the pages properly.  I normally thumb my way by bending the book, and when the pages jut out, it feels extremely uncomfortable, and drastically slows down my reading time.

One novel cover that I found bothersome was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  Rather ironic, since it dealt with an autistic protagonist with sensory issues.  At least in that case, I could remove the cover, since it bothered me so much, but I might not have that luxury with some other books.  And there were some library books that protected their books with plastic wrapping that overextended their dimensions and made it harder for me to feel comfortable holding it in my hands.

When the pages are uneven like that, it makes it incredibly easy to accidentally skip a page ahead, and mistakenly read further ahead than you meant to.

Another aspect of books that I find particularly cumbersome - cover flaps.  These are notoriously common in softcover BD volumes, and can make flipping through pages difficult due to their flimsy nature.  Unlike regular hardcovers, opening to the first page has them flying away in the breeze, flapping apart without a handlehold to control them.  And of course, hardcovers are more expensive.  They are particulary noticeable in the English versions of Dorohedoro and 20th Century Boys.

The 15th cover of Dorohedoro had the erroneous printing error of having a cut right on the edge of the cover flap, which was extremely noticeable when holding the pages open.  And it turned out that ALL copies were similarly affected.  The closest I got to a replacement was finding a bookstore that had one that was cut only halfway up, and making a trade there.
A close representation of the rip, with a white line showing where the cutoff point was,
around the knee.
Unlike the other features of books mentioned here, I at least have some control over these.  I compensate by taping down these corners so they won’t fly off the handle as I start off or near the end.  It helps that there isn’t any additional art hidden underneath them, which makes taping the edges down easier.

I suppose that might be why people seem to be preferring the electronic version of literature, despite missing out on the tactile sensation of books.  They have some kind of control over their media, and can increase the text size, find key words by using search options, and instantly go to specific pages with a single click.  Still, I'll stick with what I'm used to.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Pre-Jellybean Comics

In the 1990s, the Archie company underwent a wide range of experimentation with their normally static publishing line, pushing into new and weird realms that would be considered borderline commonplace nowadays.  One of the unexpected paths taken was the addition of a baby into Jughead’s family, not unlike Elly undergoing sudden pregnancy in For Better or For Worse.  They say that when a franchise is flagging and desperate for bursts of creativity, they stave off that by adding a baby to the mix.
A big brother, not a father, in case anyone was wondering.
The storyline started in the 46th issue of Archie's Pal Jughead, and reached its conclusion in the 50th issue with some follow-up comics in between.  The addition of Forsythia, aka Jellybean was sure to bring all kinds of new and exciting storylines... for about five issues.
One of the items on my bucket list is to prowl the hallway of the maternity ward during a storm,
and when asked for the gender of the child, respond in sync with a flash of lightning,
So far, Jellybean’s remained a elusive presence, barely remembered, and was a recent addition to the live-action Riverdale show, which I have little to no interest in.  While that little footnote would remain a bit of barely memorable history, it also branched out to the Archie newspaper comic as well.

The first six strips from the week of May 10-15 are the earliest instances of pre-baby comics I could find, and I thought they would end there as quickly as they came.  But looking through further dates showed more comics based on the pregnancy.  They were really devoting themselves to this.

However, around June, the newspaper these comics were found in had large holes in their online collection, and I didn't have the time or sources to find alternatives.  Any that I've missed will have to be left to the dustbin of history.

Even at this late stage, they were still allowing audiences with the illusion of choice in the result.  And after the baby was finally born, they weren't quite yet finished milking the cow, even as the potential was dry upon delivery.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tumblr Bumbler

In a move that played contrary to the purpose of the Internet, Tumblr just recently decided to ban all trace amounts of pornography from its site, since it’s Adult Label warning was proving to be as effective as those R ratings for movies and games.

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity.

The real reason for this unpopular move was to ban child pornography, but this scorched Earth approach affects not only harmless sites, but also has an impact on LGBT users looking for a new home for creative expression, sex workers expressing their kinks, and women who, believe it or not, make up a significant part of the Tumblr audience.  Turns out Porn isn’t just for guys!  Who knew?

The really distressing part that’s been pointed out (and I’ve been rightfully ignorant of) is that while child pornography gets the whack-a-mole treatment, there’s a frightening amount of Nazi propaganda material out there that hasn’t been drastically cut down on.  How difficult can it possibly be to trim out sites devoted to hateful stuff?

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been anxiously poring through multiple Tumblr sites saving as much material as humanly possible, taking well-needed breaks in between.  The reason for this was because the images that were being flagged included inconspicious pictures such as Unicorns, boot cleaners and raw chicken.
To double the irony, they've also restricted images of any critique on Tumblr's porn restrictions.

One of the longest-running Tumblr sites, EscherGirls, which is FULL of wonky female anatomy (and lessons on how to properly correct and display said anatomy) would be ripe for deletion. Ami Angelwings who’d been running the site for over seven years was horrified at the prospect of losing so much work.  Fortunately, there was the option of converting everything over to Wordpress, and she reserved the domain name of, just in case.  The Tumblr site is still available, but who know how long that’ll last.

I scoured the majority of Archie Out of Context, since there are many many instances of panels that could be potentially considered NSFW.  I also found several notable panels elsewhere not part of their lineup that could easily fit under their list of restrictions.

This social media platform had the benefit of cross-culture contribution - if there was something that was noticed on another normally obscure site, it would be shared, bringing wider recognition to other artists who would’ve been otherwise ignored.

One of the admirable features of Tumblr was that their Archive option, displaying all the frontal images all at once.  The only downside of this was that it only showed the first image, and didn’t note which post had more than one, or the accompanying text that came with them.  Also, depending on the number of updates, the thumbnailed images could overwhelm the site, leading to a slowdown of the site, making it impossible to see everything at once.

I was never part of Tumblr’s platform, but if I was, there was something I intended to contribute, but never did.  While I was doing volunteer work at a library, helping them with their move, weeding books and putting material back on the shelves, I noticed that there were quite a lot of books with naked breasts on them.  For something that put themselves on a pedestal of integrity, books weren’t afraid to pander to the lowest common denominator.  And with Tumblr’s latest restrictions, anything I put there would be immediately flagged.

In order to qualify, there would be several restrictions:

  • No Romance Novels - any bodice rippers would be out.
  • No Pornographic material - these would have to be works that didn’t focus solely on erotic content.
  • Actual nipples - just showing lots of cleavage wouldn’t be enough.
  • Foreign content was allowed - books in other countries were more lenient in unashamedly showing breasts whenever possible.  A French publication actually had a cover taken from a Hentai comic of a woman in bondage to a chair with copious fluids all over her.  (The inside was all text)
  • No cartoon collections - Playboy-like comics would be too easy, and I was looking for lushly or playfully-drawn covers where the insides were just reams of words and no pictures.

However, I could only find a smattering of covers that met my standards, and didn’t know how to accept contributions from other people who could’ve added to my small collection.  I could've made a Facebook page, but it turns out that Facebook is likewise going to go towards a similar restriction of pornography.

My site would’ve been called Literary Boobs.
This is the most SFW cover I can put on my site without alerting any warnings.
The above image is just a collection of shapes that happens to resemble a human form.  However, there's no guarantee it'll pass the smell test since one of the images that triggered Tumblr's safety labels happened to be... Garfield.  Apparently, robots can't tell the difference between the fat cat's round eyes and a pair of breasts.  Must be why the fat cat's been so popular for so long.  (Also applies to the Simpsons)
Just LOOK at that seductive form!  Oh yeah, baby...
Since the announcement was made, there was a protest notice made by multiple outspoken Tumblr users that made its round in its dying days:
In response to the NSFW ban being enacted by Tumblr Staff, on December 17th 2018 I propose that we all log off of our Tumblr accounts for 24 hours. 

The lack of respect and communication between staff and users is stark. Users have been begging staff to delete the porn bot outbreak, which has plagued the website for well over a year. The porn bots oftentimes send people asks and messages, trying to get them to go to a website full of viruses. They also spam advertisements on others posts.  

Users have also begged that Tumblr ban neo-nazis, child porn, and pedophiles, all which run rampant on the site. The site/app got so bad that it was taken off the app store.

However, instead of answering the users, Tumblr has instead taken the liberty to ban all NSFW content, regardless of age. But users have already run into issues of their SFW content being marked as sensitive and being flagged as NSFW, not allowing them to share their work.

Not only does this discriminate again content creators, but it also discriminates against sex workers. Disgustingly, the ban will be enacted on December 17 which is also International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

This ban is disgusting, and while I (and plenty of others) welcome porn bots and child porn being banned, the Tumblr filtration system is broken. It tags artistic work’s nipples as NSFW (when it is art), it tags SFW art as NSFW (when it is not), and does not stop the porn bots, neo-nazis and dozens of other issues.

This ban is discriminatory. This ban is ineffective. This ban is unacceptable. 

To protest, log off of your Tumblr account for the entirety of November 17th. Log off at 12 am EST or 9PM PST and stay off for 24 hours. Don’t post. Don’t log on. Don’t even visit the website. Don’t give them that sweet ad revenue. 

Tumblr’s stock has already taken a hard hit. Let’s make it tank. Maybe then they will listen to the users. 

Reblog to signal boost! We must force change.

The effects may be being felt already.  There are signs that Tumblr might be going down the same path as LiveJournal, when it likewise purged a wide swath of its members without warning.  Until steps are taken to reclaim the wider implications and restore its natural state as a porn-friendly site like everywhere else, the fate of Tumblr is ultimately up in the air.  If this is the hill they're willing to die on, well, that's their prerogative.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Guys and Gals

I've been rather remiss in posting new blog entries, partially because of real-life issues infringing on my free time, partially because of web-browsing to relieve some of the stress of said real-life issues, and partially because of writing future chapters of my WebNovel.  But the main instigator is the annoying Google protection device that forces me to identify myself just as I'm zooming in on a page that suddenly blanks out.

Having to constantly affirm my identity as NOT A ROBOT is extremely annoying.  But I still persevere, because there are some comic stories I recall that I want to see again.  And I recently found one of them.

Up until then, I had no idea that Guy was an actual name, and was a generic all around term.  It would be like being associated with John Smith.

Just like being one of the Girls.  After all, every Tom Dick and Harry is named Sally.

Isn't that just like a woman?  Taking someone else's cultural identity and rightfully claiming it as their own?  Pick your own term!  So we can complain about it later!