Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shoe’s Army Toolbox

With the sudden influx of protesters in the Middle East and the invasion of Libya, it seems timely to repost some of Shoe’s comics involving Army overspending. Their rationale for spending hundreds of dollars for products that would otherwise cost pennies in comparision probably stems from the philosophy that “if something is that expensive, it must be good quality”. Since I go out of my way to wait for a bargain, or do extensive shopping around before buying something in bulk, I can’t identify with this mindset. I'm more likely to follow Ferengi rule no. 3: "Never pay more for an acquisition than you have to". Of course, since the Army's constantly playing catch-up with their opponents, it’s a never-ending keeping-up-with-the-Jones relationship on the battlefield.

For a family newspaper comic, Shoe was the closest thing to a newspaper article in comic form than anything else. It would go into heavy verbal arguments before ending on a well-intentioned point. I learned how to do pointed debates by studying the strip. Most times, I would just look at the punchline first, then read the strip from the beginning since it was so well-written. However, this wasn’t always a winning formula. Sometimes the material would be too dry for my taste, or I couldn’t comprehend the politics behind the talking beaks. Even now that I’m older, there are times when my eyes are likely to glaze over the political pages in search of something funnier. Even so, I miss the lingering monologues with occasional commentary from the chorus. There's nothing like it in today's comics.

One thing that amazed me was that I read that Jeff MacNelly was a Republican political cartoonist. This surprised me, since so many of his comics had a liberal stance. Then again, he could’ve just been railing against the inanity of asinine decisions. It didn’t hurt that he was well-drawn and funny. The reason most Republican stories don’t succeed where Liberal ones do is that Republicans are more concerned with the message, where Liberals are more concerned about the story. (Anybody remember Liberality for All?) Once the audience identifies with the characters and the trials they’re going through, you can attach whatever moral impetus onto them, as long as it fits their characterization. If you go too far in your leanings and don’t let them use their unique voices, you’re likely to lose your audience to a strawman argument. I don’t mind opposing viewpoints, but they’re more likely to gain brownie points with me if they make compelling arguments rather than one-sided claims that prey on unfounded fears.

When you consider MacNelly’s influence in the cartooning world, you can see why so many artists were inspired and influenced by him. Including one well-known Bill Watterson whose political cartoons were unable to successfully imitate his style, and left that field forever, only to wind up creating one of the most popular comics ever. In addition to his political works and summaries for Dave Barry’s articles, MacNelly also created another comic strip in 1993, Pluggers, a single-panel comic about stupid people’s beliefs. It was also around that time that I noticed that the quality of Shoe wasn’t as strong as it used to be.

While its possible that MacNelly was being stretched too thin, there's several factors to consider. The writing in Pluggers was made was made easier since most of it was from reader’s contributions, so only the illustration had to be done. It was also around the time that MacNelly had a computer assistant who helped divide his colouring chores. Another major incident was the accidental death of his first son in 1996, which was a major psychological blow, and led him to abandon his Pluggers strip a year later. Then things were further compounded with his lymphoma, which like Douglas Adams, took his life too soon. To the man's credit, he continued working right to the bitter end, joining Osamu Tezuka & Jim Henson's ranks.

There are times when I’m sorry that not all of Dave Barry’s books kept the MacNelly drawings in the newspapers. I would be curious to know what he drew for the Sailor Moon article myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smurf Mirrored = Derorrim Frums

Time for another look at some unforgivable mistakes that should've been caught early on with the latest Smurf volume. The biggest and most noteable one in The 100th Smurf is the incident between Vainity Smurf and the Mirrored Smurf. After an accident between a mirror and a lightning bolt (long story), Vainity & Mirrored eventually find themselves at odds sharing the same room with someone copying your every movement, even if they're as handsome as yourself:

I'm sure you've noticed by now, but the thought balloons in the 7th panel are switched, making it look like Vanity is backing into the pot, when it's actually the Mirrored Smurf. The reverse text should be on the Smurf running backwards into the wall. Part of the confusion may stem from the constant back-and-forth dialogue, which rotates whenever the camera focuses from another direction, violating the rule of 180 degrees in the 2nd panel. What makes this particularly glaring is that all the dialogue between the two of them in panels 3-5 were consistent right until the third row. Another Caveat; the backwards dialogue was slightly easier to figure out in the French font, but I suppose in this case, a mirror really does come in handy.

Another early mistake comes from near the end of the titular story, The Smurf & the Egg, about a mysterious magic egg that grants wishes to whoever touches it. The origin of this MacGuffin is never revealed, and near the end, it hatches into a chick. However, the noise of the shell breaking is absent in the third panel, even though there's "sound waves" coming from the general direction. It could be explained away with the lines representing movement, but the same "sound waves" are surrounding the "pop" in the 5th panel. Not to mention I remember there being noise in the French edition.

On the plus side, in The Fake Smurf, we get several lessons on how not to infiltrate and terrorize the Smurf village. The first and most important lesson being: feed your pet before going out onto your spy mission.

The other important factors being:

2. Learn to speak the lingo.
3. Be aware of the ritualistic holidays and traditions.
4. Don't poison the laundry.
5. Make sure your sabotage works.
6. Don't let your false identity slip.
7. Know when to run when you've been ousted.
8. When returning to your true form, don't forget your original size.

Image taken from the sadly-defunct Megaman Zero parody comic.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adam, Come Home

Adam’s now been retitled Adam@Home, but that wasn’t always the case. It used to be just titled Adam in accordance to other single-name strips such as Cathy, Tiger, Henry and the like. As is often the case with legacy comics that’ve gained a popular following, the strip’s kept going on through the efforts of a substitute artist, Rob Harrell, former cartoonist of Big Top, while Brian Basset’s moved on to focus on Red & Rover. (If you’ve never heard of these strips, don’t feel bad - I haven't either)

I hadn’t seen the Adam strip for a long time, and after checking the latest comics, I was dismayed at how lifeless it had become when compared to its earlier beginnings. The characters are now regulated to talking heads, while Adam seems to have taken the profile of Homer Simpson. The character designs are no longer Brian Basset’s, and it suffers in comparision.

While Adam was for the most part, about a stay-at-home dad, there were weeks-long storylines about how the man simply could never catch a break. Whether it was competing with another dad over who could change a diaper faster, or being in a weight-loss contest against other mothers, there was always an 11th hour moment that would render all his carefully planned outcomes moot. Sadly, the collections seem to be very selective in their choices, and there were multiple times where a story would be shown with various strips missing.

When I read on MightyGodKing about outdated 80s movies, I was surprised that in his description of Mr. Mom that he compared it with Adam, saying that Adam wasn’t funny then. I had no idea that it was considered unfunny. To me, all comic strips had a peculiar routine that necessitated thinking in order to “get the joke”. There were oftentimes that I was left completely baffled at the punchline (I’m not alone) and could only understand it if it were explained to me. It wasn’t until years later that I heard my mother laughing at a cartoon that I understood that they were supposed to be funny. Like the MAD fold-ins, I thought the purpose of comic strips was to make a point. (Closer to the realm of political cartoons) I had to master humour in order to understand it.

A lot of the early mechanics of Adam seemed to have been completely abandoned or forgotten. Early on, Adam was a househusband who, while he didn’t quite enjoy the daily routine of keeping house, still rose up to the challenge. Then later, he became rather lazy, trying to find other convenient excuses to NOT do housework, such as letting dirty laundry pile up until there was enough to go through the hassle of doing the job.

Also, some early secondary characters seem to have faded out into the sunset without another word. One of the most consistent supporter characters was Walter, Adam’s next-door neighbour who constantly heckled the man for staying at home with the kids.

Another forgotten star was their pet dog, Kipper, who was a constant mainstay, occasionally popping up every now and then. Eventually, he stopped showing up, which led readers to wonder what happened to him. In a storyline about gerbils in the walls, it was revealed that the dog had died off-screen years ago.

Of all the so-called “nemeses”, none was as effective as the dreaded washing machine that would regularly chew up socks like there was no tomorrow. It was the mechanical equivalent of the kite-eating tree. There were even several strips where the machine ate Adam as well. (Don’t worry, he survived)

There were plenty of new characters introduced and forgotten over the course of the first ten years, but only one new arrival has managed to stay as part of the family. I’m talking about baby Nick. There were several strips where Laura was pregnant for months on end. Eventually, after several months, baby Nick arrived onto the scene, introducing a new wrinkle into Adam’s busy schedule. This was in the early 90's before April showed up in FBOFW. The difference being that April grew up while Nick’s still remained a baby for over 20 years.

It's possible that Lynn Johnson was influence by Brian's addition, since she introduced April a few years later. She's even praised Brian's strip in a foreword to one of the collections, saying that he was a consistently funny man whose drawings were capable of making her laugh. It didn't hurt that his subject material was the kind of stuff she most identified with. She concluded her introduction with, "Here, at long last is someone who really understands me!"

Adam managed to keep its momentum long after Nick's arrival, (no mean feat) with several outlandish plots that would go on for weeks before ending in inevitable disaster. Then somewhere along the way, something changed. The stories became nonexistent, and the singular punchlines more pronounced. The energy and drive that was greatly enjoyable early on seemed to be missing. It's that quality that I miss and am disappointed that it's forgotten in today's lackluster effort. Adam could benefit more by returning to its early roots.

Monday, March 14, 2011

LoveCraft’s Children’s Stories

Lately, its become fashionable to reimagine favorite Children’s books into adult storytales. Starting with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Beastly, and the release of Red Riding Hood last Friday, everybody’s been talking about how they’ve been cashing in the Twilight mythos of a misunderstood cursed handsome man. However, rather than complain that they bastardized a childish concept by making it all dark, I’ll argue that they didn’t make it dark ENOUGH. I haven’t seen the movie myself, but from the commercials, I have a sense of the formulaic plot. Too much of the known traits of RRH comes from the fairy tale, and not the original story where the woodsman didn’t appear. Obviously, this wouldn’t attract audiences who’re more used to endings where the girl gets to stay alive despite the mistakes she made.

People have been rewriting stories for as long as they’ve existed. (And in some cases, editing them so they’ll be more suitable to “modern” tastes) And if a work becomes truly cherished, they’ll eventually branch out into porn versions.* I'm not much of a fan of warped interpretations of fairy tales with darker themes (with the exception of OZ Squad) such as the upcoming movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I’m more of the camp of stories as imagined as written by other authors, where the central theme is similar, but the execution is completely different.

(*Do your own research.)

In my case, I thought what children’s stories would be like if the master of cosmic horror stories, H.P. Lovecraft branched out into that field. Since there’s no evidence he was ever interested in reaching out to a younger audience to foist his phobias onto, there’s only speculation based on the templates of other stories.

Obviously, this wouldn’t be considered helpful messages for children already scared out of their wits in an already messed-up world. Not to mention Lovecraft’s abundance use of antiquated purple prose that less than 1% of the audience would understand. (Be wary of that one percent who does understand**) The great thing is that if he were faced with an editorial mandate to keep his writing under control, very little of the actual text has to be changed to give the interpretation an entirely new meaning.

(**If they use it properly in the form of a sentence, either be very impressed or very nervous.)

Thus, this beloved classical story becomes a tale where every recognizable thing keeps disappearing from view; Goodbye Moon.

Goodbye room

Goodbye moon

Goodbye BsqrTr’a eating the moon

Goodbye light and the red balloon

Goodbye bears Goodbye chairs

Goodbye kittens Goodbye mittens

Goodbye clocks and Goodbye socks

Goodbye little house and Goodbye mouse

Goodbye comb and Goodbye brush

Goodbye nobody Goodbye mush

and Goodbye to the old lady whispering “madness”

Goodbye stars, Goodbye air

Goodbye noises everywhere.

Next on the list would be The Carrot Seed, a story where hard work and preservance eventually pay off in a large reward for all your toils and troubles in the face of doubtful oppression. With a little modification, it can be rewritten as; The Kry’tt Seed.

A little boy planted a Kry’tt seed.

His mother said, “I’m afraid it might come up.”

His father said, “I’m afraid it will come up.”

His brother said, “Please don’t let that seed come up.”

But the boy pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.

But five years later, nothing came up.

And ten years later, nothing came up.

For fifty years, everybody pleaded him not to let it come up.

But for a hundred years, he continued to pull up the weeds and sprinkled the ground with water.

And then, one day, a hundred thirty years later,

A Kry’tt popped up,

Just as the little boy had known it would. (The “boy” has a blissful look on his face as the Kry’tt carries him off in its appendages)

Lastly, a story where your curiosity is finally sated in the humouristic The Chtulhu at the end of the Necronomicon. Starring Loveable Very Old Nyarlathotep.

Helloooo everybodeee!

What a boring page. Wouldn’t you want to read something more interesting?

WHAT DID THAT SAY? You read that right. There IS indeed a Cthulhu at the end of this book. If you’re scared of monsters, Cthulhu will scare you out of your wits. Cthulhu is far beyond your basic concept of monsters.

it’ll do you no good to complain. You were fated to finish this book the moment you touched it and started reading.


In case you don’t understand, you’re too mentally fragile to see what Cthulhu looks like. If you want to venture any further, you must first break this basic barrier.

Congratulations! YOU TURNED ANOTHER PAGE! Because of your insatiable human curiosity, you will never STOP TURNING PAGES!

Let’s try something a little harder this time. This kind of lock will require the most unorthodox cunning in order to open.

All right, all right, alright. Not bad for a beginner. If it were me, I wouldn’t have made such a terrible mess.

This is the last line of defense. Only the most potent minds can break through this mental wall.

Do you know that you are stronger than you think?

The previous pages were just warm-ups for the main event. This is the penultimate page, and Cthulhu is on the next page. Don’t be scared, you’ve proven your worth of seeing Lord Cthulhu in his purest form. Ready? Ready? Ready?

The following image & text have been censored in order to spare your feeble human senses from being overwhelmed by the presence that would reduce you to a gibbering mess. If you want the full effect, get your own copy.

Don’t you feel embarrassed?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yes We Can, Sir!

I'd like to be a little serious here for a moment.

One of my favourite frequent livejournal bloggers is K-box. Despite the fact that he's been banned from multiple sites such as Scansdaily and TheBeat, I continue to follow his site which he updates on an impressive basis multiple times a week, and usually daily. This is made even more impressive when you consider that he's got a day job working for a newspaper. The main reason I visit his site is for the guilty pleasure of seeing the schadenfreude of Spider-Man's numbers going down every month (save those issues with variant covers) after the absymal event of One More Day. (For the uninitiated, you're better off not knowing. For the curious, check elsewhere)

More than that, I'm equally impressed with his stance on morality issues, such as bullying, Gay rights, and Veterans of Pearl Harbor. His hard-nosed worldview is further cemented with the impressive fact that he was in the army for seven years, and didn't let his experience beat him down. Rather, it made him a tougher person willing to fight back against the injustice of an uncaring world. I may not always agree with his opinions or subjects, but I still enjoy seeing his reactions while still maintaining a kind of journalistic integrity.

To me, he's the modern-day Hunter S. Thompson, with his unwavering moral code, his rude behaviour, his appeal for mainstream unattractive women, and his constant fixation against Marvel's editorial mandate. Joe Quesada is his Nixon and One More Day is his Watergate.

So when he brings up a subject that's more serious than his most recent entries, I sit up and take notice:

Calling in the nerd troops for a good cause

Some of you know me, some don't. My name's Paul Pogue, Indianapolis, Indiana, lifelong nerd, father to three-year-old cancer survivor Armand Zefram Pogue.

A couple of years ago, Armand was diagnosed with just about the worst case of cancer imaginable — a stage-four neuroblastoma that put a tumor the size of a cabbage in his stomach and left him with survival odds in the low double digits.

Armand is doing great now, two years later, and is cancer-free. But recently our circle of friends was hit with the cruel hammer of irony. One of my close friends these many years is Sarah Rogers. Last week her 12-year-old daughter Patty was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma — exactly the same kind Armand had, and possibly an even worse case, with a tumor wrapped around her spine and another in her lung.

Right now she's at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, getting the finest care available — as it happens, in one of the very same rooms in which my son spent so many days fighting for his life.

My goal is to help Patty stay a little more sane. If there's one thing my family knows after 240 long days of inpatient treatment, it is that the days can go on endlessly. Armand got lucky — he had a DVD player and later an iPod to while away the days. And for a cancer patient who can barely even sit up, there is nothing better in the world than an iPod.

Unless, of course, it's two years later and the world now has the iPad.

Patty Rogers doesn't have her own computer, and even a laptop would be kind of hard to work with in the hard days ahead when she might be flat on her back for a long time. But an iPad? Perfect.

So I want to help get Patty an iPad ASAP and help her stay just a little bit more sane. But I can't do it alone. I'm putting up $50 to start a fund, and Apple's already agreed to give her a discount. I'd like to ask the nerds of the world to lend a hand — 50 cents, five bucks, ten bucks, anything you can give.

If we go over the limit needed, I'll just throw in an iTunes store card to fill her up. If we go a lot more, I'm handing it straight over to the family for gas, food or whatever they need. Cancer is EXPENSIVE, and not just the medical treatment.

For convenience's sake, we're taking the online donations via PayPal. Send it to and put "For Patty's iPad" or something similar in the header.

One other request: If you have a blog or anyplace online where people listen to what you have to say, please repost this and see if anyone else is up for helping. Think of it as an all-nerd alert!

I know it's asking a lot. But I also know that my family and I wouldn't have made it through the last two horrible years without the enormous support of everyone around us, and I want to do everything I can to help Patty Rogers get the same help.

Want to know more about her? Check out If you have any questions or want more confirmation that this is on the up-and-up, drop me a line at and we'll talk.

Thanks a lot, everyone!

Paul F.P. Pogue
Veteran of the cancer wars

UPDATE - good news everybody! Paul’s just recieved enough donations from everybody generous enough to contribute. Ironically enough, there was a charity in another state that had a fund for providing iPads to sick children, rendering his cry for help moot. At least every little bit counts, and it gave me the impetuous to spread the word and help.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Chninkel Project

As I mentioned earlier, I’d been preoccupied with reading European comics. Actually, let me clarify that - I’ve been reading scanlations of translated French comics. I only recently found a site that allowed me to download several comics that seemed interesting enough for me to consider reading them.

Shortly after downloading them, I got the idea of doing a OneManga site for BDs again. Americans aren’t used to the rhythm and pacing of French comics, which could explain why they’re reluctant to try something they’re not familiar with. Its easier to stick with what you’re used to than waste time and money on something that you might not like. Even so, I’m still amazed at their ignorance of Asterix & Tintin, two of the most basic BD ambassadors. Not knowing those universal icons is like not knowing who Mario or Mickey Mouse are.

However, I didn’t want to set up an European scanlation site without contributing something myself. So I thought I’d take one of Manga-Sketchbook’s translations, Chninkel and put their translated text onto the colourized version. While others might balk at stealing another group’s efforts, I thought it could serve as gateway to interest in translating other European comics. Especially since I found that the colours actually helped emphasize some of the subtleties that otherwise would’ve been lost.

This was clearly a case of putting my eggs before the horse; transferring translated text without asking Manga-Sketchbook’s permission. For my first foray into pseudo-translation, I found it to be a much harder job than usual. While most of the balloons were white, some of the sound effects in the scanned version were left out entirely, or retranslated. Also, I had trouble replicating the background for some of the booming voices. I had to borrow the library copy to find out what was originally said, and also scan a page that was missing. In essence, I improved on Manga-Sketchbook’s translation by adding some text that was lost.

While most Mangas have large blocks of empty text for their speech balloons, European comics have multiple panels, each one about the size of a claustrophobic American comic balloon, which makes translating their text so they’ll fit properly can be a mind-bending task in itself. Either you shrink the text to near-intelligible levels, or try to position the phrasing so the long word will fit neatly in the middle. Another major difference from Manga (apart from the colour) is that BDs are pretty wordy in themselves, and need more than a passing glance before turning the page. You need to linger on each panel before moving on to the next one. Not to mention that like the Japanese, they’re more open with portrayal of casual nudity, slight swearing and black caricatures that’re borderline racist. (Even in children's titles) And like in Japan, there are some words that simply have no English equivalent. Sounds such as “Bobo”, “Hop” and “Bof” could be loosely translated as “Oops”, “I say”, or “Bah.”

It was only after I got about halfway through moving the text that I decided to take a break and read some of the stuff I’d downloaded. After a few albums, I started to get a little irritated at some of these translations. They were in English sure, but the results felt more like they’d been cobbled from Babelfish than an actual emphasis in making a clean unnoticeable translation. Indeed, there were instances where I was so disgusted with their efforts that I decided to re-edit the results myself.

Like Matt Thorn who can’t enjoy Del Rey’s translation of Nodame Cantable because they constantly get the subtle phrasing wrong, so too do I balk at the rough translation of BD projects. I can’t read much French, so the language barrier is a large hurdle for me. The shoddy sentence structure bothers me more than the fact that they’re written in comic sans. (Yes, poor punctuation is a bigger sin than sloppy lettering)

Considering the amount of effort it’s taking for me to transfer the translated text over, I can see why more translations of BDs aren’t easily available. Working on one BD page takes more effort than editing a single Manga page. Part of the problem is that most of the available raw scans are in Dutch, rather than the original French. So we’re left with a translation of a translation, and the overall effect feels very clunky in comparision. Even so, I find some of their efforts to be embarrassingly amateurish.

At first, I thought that the lack of a proper translation was what was keeping the popularity of European comics back. If the results were more poetic and fluid, maybe people would sit up and take notice. (Hence my re-editing other people’s efforts) Here’s the fan translation of the first of Seven Stories of Seven People; Seven Psychopaths; about seven assembled people with the mission to assassinate Adolf Hitler;

Now compare the above with Boom! Studios’ translation by Dan Heching, who gives the charismatic Joshua a bombastic flair of speech. There’s never a moment while seeing the man talk that I wasn’t completely caught up with whatever he was talking about.

However, lousy fan translations may be beside the point - it’s to broadcast attention to a French comic that might’ve been overlooked. If enough interest builds up, companies may take notice, and make an effort to bring these properties over. We should be expanding our knowledge of cult hit BDs that won’t be seen due to lack of knowledge or popularity.

After reading several more translated albums, I figured out why there wasn’t much demand for an European scanlation site. Most of these stories can be rather depressing unless they’re in the humour category. And some of the “humour” tends to be rather unfunny unless it’s particularly well-drawn. Continuously reading multiple stories that end in disaster is not a formula for success from an audience used to escapism.

Some other common deterrents that keep BD from gaining popularity include:

1. Stand-alone storytelling. Each album can be picked up in any order without having to worry about reading the first one, and can be enjoyed out of sequence. What’s made Asterix & Tintin so enjoyable is considered a hindrance in other series.

This may sound paradoxical, but the most common of these kind of stories are one-page gag strips, and their writing may not be as strong as the competition. The general feeling is of “if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all”. Unless they’re able to mix up the formula in later volumes, audiences won’t appreciate reading the same jokes over and over. Yen Press’ efforts at releasing all three albums of Toxic Planet in one volume recieved very little attention. Some comics have run for so long that new volumes keep getting added solely to remind the public that these comics still exist. The worst thing to happen to a beloved creation is obscurity.

2. Conversely, the reverse is also true. While serial stories are a popular mainstay of Manga, it wrecks havoc of expectations with European models. Like Yoshihiro Togashi of Hunter X Hunter fame, European comic artists are given a year to write and draw a story that is first published in serial format, then collected in a hardcover album of 48-62 pages . The ease of flow in album format means that when its serialized, it can look rather choppy since there’s no obvious chapter breaks.

This also means that it’s difficult to pick up an ongoing series if it hasn’t already gotten a reputation with multiple albums. Usually in such cases, going back to the beginning can make new audiences wonder what the big fuss is about, which is why comics such as Thorgal and The BlueCoats have their later books released when their later albums became more polished and less controversial. (Compare the first seven volumes of Yu-Gi-Oh! before becoming obsessed with card games, or Dilbert’s early years before focussing on office humour)

3. Even more disappointing if an author starts out with an ambitious project, then loses interest about halfway through. It’s particularly frustrating because NMB released Isaac the Pirate and Astronauts of the Future as onmibus collections, each book containing two albums each. They were going at a steady state... and then they were simply abandoned with the 5th and 3rd albums respectively.

Another related reason is that a translation project may be tried out at first, then abandoned from lack of interest. Normally, a Manga would easily get a following online after reading the series up to a point, then have the the translation carried out by another team aggravated at not seeing the rest of the story. However, BDs are another story. Many early publishers tried their hand at releasing English versions of popular BDs with minimal results that vanished after a few albums. Even Toren Smith, founder of Dark Horse Manga admitted that European comics were a hard sell anywhere. It’s only recently that Cinebook’s made a serious effort to circumvent their translations.

Too often, translators chose the first English equivalent of a word rather than use synonyms that would fit better. In addition to constantly translating “mais” as “but” when other propositions would work just as well, some of the most constant translation errors include:

Using personal pronouns twice. (Me, I’m...)

Not using contractions properly or at all. It makes the characters sound like Data.

Misunderstanding the use of past tense terms. “If it had been your goal...” instead of “If it was your goal...

Using question or exclamation marks interchangeably. “What do you think you’re doing!” is not a question, and more of a demand.

In other instances, it’s a case of lousy proofreading. Here’s an example from the first album of Hugo, a child adventurer in a fantasy world. On this page, he’s fighting against a knight who’s also a shape-changer.

The composition of the panels can be slightly confusing, since it moves around the pages without a single arrow pointing to the next one. The reader has to figure it out for themselves, and this was printed way back before the style of Manga right/left reading caught on. Even so, there’s a glaring oversight in the middle. If you haven’t noticed it by now, it should read:

Armour: Ha ha... so you want to be clever?
Mouse: And what is an elephant most scared of?

The translator’s job is not only to transcribe the material but also to make sure that the text matches the character talking. Otherwise it just looks like lazy editing. The purpose is to make the transition of a story be as smooth as possible while remaining faithful to the source material. In some cases, the weirdly worded dialogue of these people could be considered faithful to the French language, not English. Here’s another example when Hugo later joins up with some vegetable warriors.

Hospitable, not Hospital! Just because they sound alike is no reason to sit back and relax because spellcheck didn’t catch your little mistake. I’ve passed over buying some books because they were obviously written by people so used to hearing these words they had no idea how they looked when spelt. Common mistakes include not being able to tell the difference between “of”, and “off”, “to” and “too”, "lose" and "loose", "thing" and "think", not to mention the dreaded “there”, “their” and “they’re”.

I’m reminded of the lecture Detective McNulty got from a judge about his written report in The Wire:

Judge: Look here Jimmy, you misspelled culpable, and you’re confusing then and than. T-H-E-N is an adverb used to divide and measure time… “Detective McNulty makes a mess and then he has to clean it up.”
McNulty: Thanks teacher. It’s great that you’re going through every word but…
Judge: Not to be confused with T-H-A-N, which is most commonly used after a comparative adjective or adverb as in, “Rhonda is smarter than Jimmy”. Yeah?

It’s not difficult people!

So far, the most popular outlet for translated French comics is still Heavy Metal magazine. Of course, given that practically every cover has a skimpy-covered babe, its not exactly gender-friendly unless a woman is already hip to the conventions of European comics. This could also be considered as planned targeted marketing. If they didn’t show some skin, European comics would go by almost unnoticed.

If Heavy Metal does have a fault, its that they don’t have collected versions of their short stories spread throughout multiple issues. I’d love to see all the adventures of con men Burton and Cyb, Fernando De Felipe’s Museum, Boucq’s Jungle businessman, as well as the 3-page answers to fantasy questions such as “Why do heroes never die?

So far, there’s already an official European scanlation site; Zampano. The German site only recently started showing their scans in English and French. There’s only six comics available that update one page a day every week. Four of them are by the same author/artist, Boller, and so far it seems promising.

Don Caneloni is a humoristic take of an Italian Godfather threatened with being taken over by a rival Mexican gang.

Endless Sky is an autobiographical series about a Switzerland comic artist hoping to work in the American S-hero business by attending the Joe Kubert school of art. (My favorite next to Don Caneloni)

Aïr is about political rebels in Niger, and so far, the least interesting comic for me.

Bakuba is a collection of short African stories. The first one is extremely difficult to understand, since it deals with a lot of abstract art, but everything after that is easier in comparision.

Tell is a pseudo-S-hero story about a cloned man reducing crime in a totalarian city, which is just what the ruling class want. With its cheesy narrative and dialogue, its not really my kind of thing.

Katastropolis is a police procedure in a future fantasy setting. Not quite Finder, but not that bad either.

It looks like I’ll have to keep my planned online BD website on the backburner since I don’t know beans about designing a webpage in the first place. (Despite all the OneManga clones) If anybody expresses any outrage about my project, I won’t bother uploading my scans of Chninkel in the first place.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Avoid Noid’s Boid Toids. Oi.

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’ve been working on a particularly long essay involving European scanlations. In the meantime, Mike Sterling recently posted an entry about one of my favorite childhood commercial icons that people seem to want to forget; the Noid.

The Noid is kind of a weird character in that he’s on a constant quest to destroy every pizza out of existence, but for some reason, always fails with trying to break Domino’s pizza boxes. Like Wily E. Coyote, every tool the Noid uses backfires on him in a hilarious way. Good thing he never advanced further than lifting up the edge of the box and eating the pizza itself. (Then again, considering the size discrepancy, the Noid could just as well comedically burst his stomach before finishing his first pizza)

While looking up speedrun videos of the Yo! Noid game on Youtube, I was surprised to find out that it was originally based on a game involving a Ninja and his falcon; (Masked Ninja Hanamaru) which explained why the Noid was collecting scrolls with his yo-yo.

Notice the difference?

Like Super Mario World 2, Yo Noid! used another game template to boost its popularity. Unlike SMB2, Domino should’ve used another game to steal their template from, since Ninja Hanamaru was notoriously difficult, and the gameplay was particularly unforgiving. It was only after seeing the Youtube videos that I found out that by randomly jumping and hitting certain areas (like Wonderboy in Monsterland) you can make hidden scrolls appear. This is only compounded by the fact that these levels are timed, so you can’t go willy-nilly hitting everything in sight. And these things have to be hit twice - one to make them appear and again to show their contents. Not to mention that there’s several warp spots that’re invisible to the obvious.

Even with all these faults, I thought it’d be a good time to post some relevant historical information about the origin of this wacky character. These pages were found in an old issue of Animation Magazine. The Wiki page hints at a controversial hostage issue that’s also mentioned here: