Monday, May 30, 2011

My Son the Teenager

Ever since the list of 25 Teen comics that tried to topple Archie from their throne, I'd been wanting to do a post about the 18th entry, Seymour My Son. When I first read it, it was the longest comic story I’d ever read without any chapter breaks. It was also my first foray into seeing an unreliable narrator, so I had to constantly rethink what was being said versus what was actually happening. To make things more confusing, sometimes the narrator would tell the truth, so I was never entirely sure where to stand. It was a good exercise in reading between the lines.

It wouldn't be an Archie ripoff without a few familiar character archetypes. Here's Mr. Weatherbee's stand-in:

Some real fair-weather friends he's got there. Pay attention to that bubblegum-popper - he'll be showing up later on.

And here's our Professor Flutesnoot substitute; an Einstein-lookalike.

Well, that was certainly an interesting look at an Archie-type Archetype, however brief it was -

Wait, we're not done yet? There's more??

Imagine my surprise when after reaching a natural stopping point that there was more story to come. It was like reading the last few pages of a novel, and finding some extra chapters carefully hidden inside the cover flap. That kind of mechanism would make it tricky to hide from people who enjoy flipping to the back to find out the ending, or figure out how many pages the book is.

Poor Pop Tate's replacement doesn't even have much of a role here, other than to toss Seymour out for the crime of doing nothing more than reckless dancing, even though he's clearly no different than everybody else there.

It can't be easy having a son like Seymour around, since he's got Jughead's appetite combined with Archie's clumsiness, and none of the finer qualities that either is known for. Especially since the Father's got Mr. Lodge's hair, and none of the fiances to afford his son's outrageously expensive habits. One can only imagine Hiram Lodge's level of frustration if his daughter's boyfriend and moocher were the same person. Somewhere out there must be an unsung hero with Jughead's intellect and Archie's... uh... whatever makes Archie so popular with girls in the first place. Let's say charisma.

Surely somebody with Archie's sex appeal and Jughead's smarts without any physical laziness would be a great character that'd make everybody swoon. But for now, we'll have to deal with this guy.

This is the scene that's shown on the cover. It's also noteable that apart from the cover, these are the only words that Seymour says in the entire comic. "Oo's itty putty-tat is oo?"

Real pearls of wisdom, this boy.

Well, he's getting ready for bed now. This day can't possibly go on any longer can it?

Apparently it can. However, we're almost done.

"Almost." being the operative key word here. Don't worry - we're down the home stretch now. Promise.

This is the only time the Father has "dialogue" in the entire comic - apart from yelling at Seymour to come back, everything else was told in narration boxes.

After this, it's clear that the Father's not as young as he used to be, which ties in nicely with the last line. In the words of Christopher Butcher on the release of the last volume of Lone Wolf & Cub: THEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEND.

There was only one issue of this ever printed, since as an Archie ripoff, it didn't fall that far from the tree. There was a follow-up issue, which wasn't as strong, since there was no more rhyming, and when Seymour talked, he sounded just like Archie. If you're going to expand your formula, have the foresight to make personality changes, not just superficial ones. At least they tried; though they'd have more success with lesser known titles such as Wilbur, Bingo, Sabrina and Josie. Part of the difficulty in writing this is that, apart from Seymour, none of the other characters are named, which must make scriptwriting difficult. For anyone interested in what the second issue was like, you can find several scans here, as well as some interesting history. Did you know that Seymour was supposed to be Jewish??

He certainly doesn't look the part.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Totally Boss Room

In light of cartoonists coincidentally telling the same joke, I thought it prudent to make a comparision between Tuesday's Brawl in the Family Zelda comic with a sprite comic that told almost the exact same joke.

This kind of unanswered question is second only to unique creatures that only appear once, without their sprite being recoloured. What happens to their species once they've been wiped out? And apart from completists and animal rights activists, does anybody care?

But first, some setup with this comic, which was titled Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber.

And now for the comic I thought of, which is suitably called: What Do They Do In Those Little Rooms, Anyway?

One theory is that they're trying to find a suitable threatening (if cool) pose that'll intimidate whoever walks through those doors. Another is that the bosses are training themselves so they'll be more prepared to face against the Blue Bomber. This would explain the sudden spike in difficulty in later Megaman games.

All scans taken from the defunct webcomic Megaman X: ZeroHour. The site is so diminished that not even Webarchive can find much left in its remains. Your best bet is finding either somebody who saved everything beforehand, or contacting the creator Todd Robbins and asking him yourself. (Until I get permission from the author, you'll have to do some homework first)

EDIT - H-work assignment's just been canceled. Feel free to contact Todd Robbins at this address:

At first, I wanted to send these scans to Matthew, artist of Brawl in the Family, but apart from the store, there wasn't any other email address. I didn't feel like using an ordering system to send what would've been regarded a private joke that could've been deleted because of an attachment from an unknown sender. So I decided to post about it and let a wider audience decide for themselves. If there's one thing I like, it's making people laugh, and I don't like the idea of a joke going around unseen.

Philosophical technological question - if a joke is posted via email, and no one sees it, is it still funny?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Adult Calvin

It’s no great secret that the unsuspecting webcomic Pants are Overrated has gotten a great boost in viewership once their tribute to Calvin & Hobbes went viral. Calvin & Hobbes has remained a cultural favorite, even over 15 years after Bill Watterson’s retirement. The strip’s 10-year run is closer to 8 1/3 if you count all the sabbaticals taken, but even so, the amount of influence the man has continued to inspire is amazing. Especially so, considering he hasn’t produced any new material of the characters since then. So other artist’s interpretation of the characters however slight, are always welcome, even if some of them make people upset.

I used to have dreams where there’d be official scrapbooks of unseen Calvin drafts. There were also dreams where there were Calvin strips that had gone on as usual, like they’d never stopped in the first place. And just like Watterson who always woke up in a cold sweat when finding a store full of Pogo books he’d never seen, I always woke up disappointed that these unpublished books never existed to start with. Apart from a Van Gogh-like painting of a Cul-de-Sac character, Watterson’s stayed off the media spotlight for a long time, unofficial second-hand biography notwithstanding.

With so many people who’ve grown up reading the strip, the desire to see continuing adventures of the imaginative duo is extremely strong among fans who wanted to see more. So they’ve taken the liberty of casting their imagination into the pool, hoping their attempts will bear fruit. The closest to an adult version of Calvin would be Frazz, but even he pales in comparison to his successor. (Then again, few would be able to match that lofty hurdle) Not many people have come close to emulating Watterson’s creative outlet, though that still hasn't stopped devoted fans from trying. So with all these tributes to the legendary strip floating around, I decided to try my hand at creating the kind of future version of Calvin that would be worthy of Watterson’s vision. There’s plenty of C&H Fanfiction stories, but I’m wary about reading any of them, because I don’t want my memories of the comic to be sullied by someone not adequately suited to the task. If anybody’s gone to the trouble of reading them, feel free to send some worthy recommendations.

Calvin: "Okay kiddo, (claps hands) time for bed!"
Bacon: What, already?! It’s not even dark out! And it’s really annoying calling me kiddo!
Calvin: "Well, I’ve forgotten. What’s your name again?"
Bacon: It’s Bacon! But for today, you can call me Lydia.
Calvin: "Well ‘Lydia’, no matter how much you change your name, address and social security number, it’s still not going to change the fact that your sleep habits have been disturbed from your nocturnal nature, the deprived existence which makes you -"
Bacon: Daddy, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.
Calvin: "Was I using big words again? Well sorry you’re not urbane enough to appreciate the sophistication of a man as erudite as -"
Bacon: You can talk gobbledygook all you want. I’m gonna get a dictionary.
Calvin: "Oh no you don’t. I know all the bed-delaying tactics, since I invented most of them. You’re gonna have to work harder than that if you want to stay up later."
Bacon: I want a baby brother!
Calvin: "Well, that’s a new one."
Bacon: I want a baby that I can hold and hug and squeeze and yell at and spank and blame and feed and squish and stretch and bounce.
Calvin: "Let’s compromise. I’ll give you something I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Somebody who’ll let you do all those things and more. You get to bed, and I’ll produce what’ll be your next best friend."
Bacon: This isn’t a trick is it? You’re not going to lure me to bed, then strap me under the covers so I won’t escape?
Calvin: "This is a one-shot deal. If you’re not changed into your jammies by the time I count to ten, the deal is null and -"
Bacon: I’m ready!
Calvin: (After hearing the echo bounding off his daughter’s room, Calvin checks his wrist where a watch mysteriously appears, then disappears when he’s no longer looking) "That’s a new record. Too bad I can only use this once." (Calvin pulls down a box he’d kept hidden on the upper shelf in a closet) "Well buddy, looks like you’ve got your latest victim to play with."

(Calvin enters Bacon’s room with his hands behind his back)
Calvin: "I’d like to introduce you to an animal I went to great lengths and trials to capture. After multiple failures, I lucked out when something got snared with a tuna fish sandwich. Can you guess what that animal was?"
Bacon: A tuna fish sandwich eater.
Calvin: "It was also orange with black stripes. Put all that together - orange, black stripes, eats tuna - what kind of animal is that?"
Bacon: (Furrows her brow in concentration) A tiger shark?
Calvin: (Shrugs) "Close enough. He’s certainly mean enough to eat a shark with one swipe of its mighty paws. His roar is loud enough to be heard two continents away. And his braggadocio knows no bounds. I give you... Hobbes!" (Produces a stuffed tiger that, even though is slightly beat-up and stitched, is still in good condition)
Bacon: (hesitantly looks over the tiger for awhile) What’s so great about this thing?
Calvin: (looks flustered) "What’s so - we had all kinds of adventures! Adventures that the FBI, CIA, NASA, ASPCA and the National Noodle Association continue to vehemently deny to this day. In addition, he’s the greatest math tutor you could ask for. All you have to do is ignore every piece of advice he gives you. It took me three years of remedial classes before I figured it out. He was also one of the founding members of the G.R.O.S.S. club, which stands for Get Rid of Slimy... uh... Surls."
Bacon: What’s a surl?
Calvin: "You don’t need to worry about them anymore, because we got rid of all of them."
Bacon: He’s that good?
Calvin: "Of course! His appetite knows no limits. I saw him calmly stare down an Allosaur just to see if he could. Why, if given the chance, I’d have him by my side once again!"
Bacon: (For one brief moment, it suddenly looks like it could leap up and gobble her up in one bite without a second thought. Bacon hands Hobbes back) Then you sleep with him.
Calvin: "You don’t understand - it’s not to make me feel better, it’s to make you feel better. Just his presence alone was enough to comfort me. I don’t need him anymore, but you do."
So, if you spent so much time with this tiger, why did you guys grow apart?
Calvin: "Your mother made some very convincing arguments, which resulted in me spending less and less time with Hobbes, who with his intelligent capability couldn’t find a compelling enough comeback. Even though he liked her a lot..."

What kind of arguments were these?
Calvin: "I’d explain, but it’s kind of gross."
Bacon: Ooh! Do tell! (Gets on her belly, resting her elbows on her head, her eyes wide open in anticipation)
Calvin: "I think you misunderstood. It’s not the brains-sucked-out-of-your-nose kind of gross, it’s more like the lovey-dovey kind of gross."
Bacon: (Disappointed look of revulsion) Oh well then, never mind.
Calvin: "Look, why don’t you keep Hobbes next to you while I tell you about the Nauseous Nocture? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind some company while I tell about the lurking fear he never knew existed."
(Bacon dubiously looks at the stuffed tiger, which doesn’t seem so threatening compared to the imaginative creatures her Daddy was capable of spurting out with relative unease. Looking closer, she can feel the tiger trying in vain to get away from hearing the latest scarefest, each new story somehow worse than the last) Well, alright...

(While shutting the door on his way out, trying not to disturb his sleeping daughter whose tiny arms are wrapped around his tiger, who’s furtively looking around the room for threats that’re surely lurking under the bed, Calvin runs into Susie Derkins [she kept her maiden name] standing in a doorframe where she was watching the entire conversation take place)
Susie: I was a little worried you were going to tell her some stories not suitable for a general audience.
Calvin: "Hey, those horror comics had me staying up all night for a week and I wound up just fine."
Susie: That’s debatable. What was all that business about being scared of monsters? I thought your pet tiger was practically fearless.
Calvin: "Oh, he has no trouble with dealing with small furry creatures. I know from first-hand experience that he liked to pounce on a little kid everyday, usually resulting in a tornado of violence, rending flesh from bone. Miraculously, the kid survived to tell the tale. It’s bigger animals he’s more reluctant to take on."
Susie: (Playfully slaps her silly hubby) And you let our daughter alone in the presence of a wild animal??
Calvin: "Hey, he can’t be any more dangerous than all those monsters I was talking about."
Susie: Actually, what I was thinking about earlier was telling her about the birds & the bees.
Calvin: "Well, I wasn’t going to wait 9 months to make another baby. That would’ve been the perfect excuse for her. She’s hard enough to deal with while awake, especially since slipping Thorazine in her meals is against the law."
Susie: I meant your embarrassing history. We’re going to have to confront her sooner or later about those Furry fans who drew plenty of slash pairings with you and your favorite toy.
Calvin: (Indignant) "Those drawings were ALL widely inaccurate! My penis is WAY bigger than that!"
Susie: (Snorts, rolls eyes) In your dreams...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Few Words Before The End

Shortly after posting my attempt at putting vocabulary words in a sentence, I started thinking about how I would go about rearranging the words now that I have a better grasp on the English language. There were two rules in using the words that limited my ability to use them properly. 1. I had to use the word in a sentence that would convey what it meant, without it being a dictionary explanation. 2. I was allowed to modify the word’s suffix as long as the singular meaning remained unchanged.

At the time, I had no imagination for altering the words, since their formation was as firm as gibraltar. I was too intimidated to consider looking up alternate descriptive terms, which was why “the town was apathy”.

However, while compiling all the words together, I figured that the 25 words alone weren’t enough, and added a few more vocabulary words to flesh out my description. The following shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone deciphering any of Calvin’s long-winded speeches:

The sinister fakirs gave an oppressive foreshadowing of unspeakable perils on the placid village full of apathetic people who gave the frivolous prognosticators a condoling attitude, due to their furtive and dubious nature; but their confidence faltered and turned to resignation when they were caught in a torrent of burly simians with rubicund noses; whose amiable nature belied the mutilated damage done to their precious antimacassar in a bibulous state of avariciousness; and the stealthy fusillade resulted in the loss of their precious talisman.

Speaking of dire predictions, I wouldn’t put too much stock over Harold Camping’s announcement that due to some careful reading between the lines of the bible, the world will end at 12:00 Eastern Standard time. Sounds more like he wanted to get a jump on the Mayans a year early, especially after dismissing their end times at 2012 to be nothing more than a fairy tale. Considering their track record, the Mayans probably have more credibility than Harold Camping.

When I was caught up in the hype over the Y2K bug (which I keep calling the Yuk-2 bug) for months, I was worried that my bank account would suddenly be wiped out of its funds, and everything I’d worked to scrape together over the years would be lost. The reassurances I got that my paper documents would provide proof gave me no comfort. I could’ve been accused of forgery even though I had no such capability of doing such a thing.

I wasn’t able to let my guard down until 2001 passed (just in case), since that was the real 2000, and the computers might've not registered the true date until then. After being hyped up for months without end, both before and after, I have no sympathy for anybody who’ll allow themselves to swallow these doomsday prophets’ forecasts of doom without any proof to back them up. At least with Yuk-2, the doomsday scenario sounded plausible.

To anyone who’s still worried about a sudden zombie apocalypse popping up out of nowhere, I only have this to say, The world’s been ending since yesterday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Old Memories

In a strange fit of irony, just as I was doing my blog entry about lost comic websites, my parents were in the process of tossing out boxes of old schoolwork and artwork that hadn’t been seen in years. They were carrying the momentum from the major clean-up of Bubby’s apartment and wanted to clear several shelves to create more room. My mother said, “I don’t want to become a museum for old stuff that we’ll never see”. She didn’t even bother to look at what she was throwing out, because she said that she did enough of that when sorting thorugh Bubby’s documents, and didn’t want to repeat the process at home. I wasn’t able to convince her to save the majority of my sister’s doodles (most of which were dogs reminiscent of the Wolf tribe in Disney’s Jungle Book), though our silly comic sketches were left alone. I can only imagine my sister’s reaction to the sudden loss of hundreds of drawings done over the course of her life.

I was fortunate enough to sneak off my old homework assignments out of the recycling bin. The number of paper files was so large that even though our bin was almost as tall as me, we could only stuff half of everything inside. If it hadn’t been raining, more of the documents would’ve been lost. My mother might not have felt nostalgic about these old notebooks, but I did. They’re an invaluable window into my state of mind while I was growing up. When I look at a piece of paper with my shoddy handwriting on them, I can recall with certainty exactly what I was thinking of at the time. One particular short poem I wrote down captures my confusion at understanding how my parents could continue to accept my presence while simultaneously being exasperated by my actions.

Do you love me,
Or do you not?

You told me once,

But I forgot.

This is something I’m still struggling to understand. Love is not exactly a form of desire, nor is it longing for something that's not there. The closest comparison I can make is that it something you have a devoted interest in to the exclusion of all else. However, that doesn’t quite describe it either - that's closer to obsessiveness than anything else. It’s slightly easier to define what love ISN’T rather than what it IS: “The opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is indifference.” In the Cathy strip below, I had no idea whether her mother would like her gift or not, since she hadn't opened it yet, and it might've not been what she was expecting. I had to be taught that she would've been perfectly happy with whatever her daughter gave her.

However, I knew that my mother wouldn’t appreciate me bringing back more pieces of papers taking up space. To make room, I dumped most of the homework assignments I no longer needed. Stuff dealing with obsolete chemistry experiments, geography maps and math quizzes were the first to go. No need to look back on problems I already knew the answers to. The English assignments I kept, since those required some more brainwork than usual, and it was amusing to see my early attempts at writing.

Ever since Grade school, I’d always had trouble trying to write a good story. I was more concerned in making silly jokes than acute descriptions of my surroundings. The closest to a consistent outlet was thinking up creative recipes for nonexistent foods, usually involving a combination of made-up ingredients; taste be damned. A very early example of my reluctance to write in a daily journal entry had the following: “I do not lied to do mie writing” (misspellings are intentional) This was followed up with a written reply from my teacher who answered: “You have write even if you don’t like it!

In some other instances, it’s badly amusing at how lousy my writing skills were back then. I just hastily wrote down the answers as quickly as possible so I could get them out of the way without much forethought. I had a lot of trouble trying to decipher the teacher’s questions, and my written statements were never clear enough. It never occurred to me to write up an essay that would be to the teacher’s preferences. Even today, I still have trouble sucking up to the boss. With all the countless revisions that were constantly done to my essays, is it any wonder why I was reluctant to do any writing in the first place?

In a homework assignment in using vocabulary words from The Monkey’s Paw, I was more concerned with fitting as many words in a single sentence than I was on whether they made any sense or not:

1. The perils of the once placidly torrent caused the avaricious and apathy town to become mutilated.
2. The burly simian never faltered when he furtively stole the talisman off the antimacassar, but felt oppressive when he found out it was stealthy.
3. The amiable fakirs had rubicund noses, and when one dubiously said it was too cold up here, the rest nodded in resignation.
4. A condoling bibulous made a fusillade foreshadowing which was probably frivolous to a policeman, who was sinister and locked him up.

Another instance was my first High School English assignment where I was instructed to write a one-page essay about my most embarrassing moment in life. I jokingly used multiple adjectives in a single sentence of the English teacher assigning the class to write an essay on our most embarrassing moment. While the teacher accepted the project with good humour, my parents weren’t satisfied with the results, and forced me to rewrite it properly.

Truth was, I couldn’t think of anything that I considered personally embarrassing. So as a compromise, I decided to choose a topic that most people seemed to get uncomfortable around - the subject of sex. I wrote about a documentary on a 3-2-1 Contact special that concentrated on sex, while trying to appear squeamish when my sister asked personal questions. Of course, none of it was true. When I handed in my revised draft, the teacher commended me for bravely writing on such a difficult topic. If only he had known...

Even though this was my first unanticipated foray into creative writing, I still had a difficult time thinking up story ideas. For most of my English classes, I heavily borrowed elements from Saturday Morning Cartoons and rhyming children’s books, confident that the teachers wouldn’t make the connection, since they wouldn’t bother with childish things. Only one other orally deaf student who attended the same classes as me, figured out where I was stealing my story ideas from. However, she never reported me to any authority figures and I never got reprimanded. I should’ve felt safe, but I felt slightly lousy for coasting on without producing anything of actual worth.

My problem with writing a story was that I was constantly stumbling over the story structure of Introduction, Rising action, Climax, Falling action and DĂ©nouement. With such a rigid formula, I couldn't figure out how to fill in the gaps. The books that were assigned to me didn't help clear up the confusion up either. It wasn’t until I started reading Manga that story outlines suddenly became clear to me. This was especially obvious in tournament arcs, where the multiple rising actions, climaxes, and falling actions would be repeated for every competitor, until the match was finally over. As long as I could predetermine the final outcome, everything else that happened in between could be made up on the fly. This was a far cry from the S-hero comics I’d been reading where plots and subplots could change by the seat of your pants. Sure it made for exciting reading, but it also left an incomprehensible mess where I couldn’t distinguish good stories from bad.

Since then, I haven’t been able to stop seeing story potential in everything. If I'm given a subject, any subject, I’ll find a way to make it interesting. Humour is still my forte, though I won’t shrink from other theater conventions if necessary.

Truth be told, it’s not that difficult to tell a good story. All you need to do is put a character in a situation, then take the most interesting route possible. What IS difficult is putting all your ideas in the right combination that’ll keep your audience interested. Especially if you're trying not to tell the same story that's been told dozens of times by better storytellers than you. It's like that line from the Garfield episode where he was animating his personal cartoon; "Drawing isn't that hard - it's just a bunch of lines together." The trick is finding the correct combination of lines, otherwise we're just looking at a bunch of squiggles, or really bad abstract art.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Webcomics History

It seems like everybody who's a fan has their own website devoted to their favorite vanishing interests. Some devote time to popular 80's toys. Others spend time on old-school children's books. A few lament the lack of Sunday comics included in comic collections.

However, shortly after Bill Blackbeard's death, it's recently come into question another area of comics I hadn’t considered - the webcomic. If there ever was a more updated description of throwaway entertainment, they would be it. Even though we’re entering a new paradigm with save files, some images remain lost to history, or get outright deleted. At the time when the internet was starting out, we all thought that everything would be remembered... FOREVER. Why would anyone want to go to the trouble of saving webpages when their memory would be almost impossible to erase entirely? Who would be so anal rententive to save tons of images that would've been available for free(!), and seen whenever they wanted on dial-up speed?

Turns out that saving comics as Jpg, Jpeg, Gif, Pdf, or Png files can make the difference on the quality of the image. These few people who bothered to save such files may turn out to be the reclusive saviors of early webcomic history. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find surviving and relevant comics that're still active around the time the internet was becoming widespread among the general public. Bad news for any site that was hosted on Geocites. Even that savior of past sites, Webarchive, isn't entirely faultless, since there may be multiple images and links that might be missing from memory. If anyone wants the original material, they'd have better luck getting them from the source. That is, if the original artist hasn't become completely embarassed by their previous early work, and gone to the trouble to erase everything they've done, even if it's become a cult hit online.

In the early 2000’s, I saw various sprite webcomics that took obvious influences from Bob & George and 8-bit Theater, with multiple references to author avatars, idiot protagonists and liking ice cream. Yet apart from the Grandaddy founders, the bulk of influenced strips have practically vanished from history. Thankfully, after months of begging David Anez to post zipped files of his fancomics, he finally did so after he finished his impressive 7-year run. Other webcomics aren't as lucky to become archived in the first place. One particular memorable project combined Hamlet & The Slayers together, but is only available on Webarchive. At 232 pages, the ambitious (if goofy) comic sadly remains incomplete.

One thing that I liked about some of these comics was that when they were first released, they had a cute title, similar to the mini description on top of old newspaper comics. (Nowadays, they might have mouseover text) However, those titles were later forgotten and left out, much to my dismay. Some of these titles were saved in a notepad document, but it wasn't quite the same as seeing them on the webpage. I tried saving these images with the text included in the image name, but it's not exactly perfect, because the title could either be too long (over 200 characters) and would be unable to include the "?" symbol for some questioning titles. It'd be impossible to have the whole title for the first 8-bit Theater comic with these restrictions.

That’s not even taking into consideration strips that’ve been changed, or redrawn due to personal preference. There was an alternative “talkier” version of the 282nd episode of Secret of Mana Theater that’s no longer up. It’s fine, since it was originally good enough for the emotional impact alone, but there could be some curious people who’d want to see the wordier version. It was also around that point that the author had written herself into a corner, and had no idea where to go from there. (It’d been on a 3-year hiatus with sporadic updates due to the creator having health complications)

And that’s not even taking Newgrounds Flash animations in account…

Then there's imageboards such as 4chan that introduce whatever new memes that happen to pop up in the course of an afternoon. Tracking down the origin of these Demotivators, LOLcats and other parodies would be equivalent to doing a historical backlog of every fad that ever existed. It would be a monumental undertaking. Further compounding the factor is that these boards don't stay online for very long. With the exception of a few constantly updating themes, such as Rule 63 of Watchmen characters, very little is constantly saved. When there are boards with intresting concepts, they may get archived, but only the last four years or so. Sometimes the text may be remembered, but the pictures aren't always saved. As a consequence, we're only left with half the equation.

One of the most popular image themes was the personification of the Squirrel (nicknamed Hazel) from Disney's Sword in the Stone. Just as Wart (Arthur) was turned into a squirrel, slashers were wondering what the outcome would've been like if Merlin had gone to the trouble to turn the squirrel into a human. Even now, there are still people who've regretted not saving the story of Human Hazel, even though they found it incredibly sad.

At least these people got a chance to read the Hazel story. I missed my chance at saving some new randomized Garfields I never saw. There were multiple contributions on a page, but I had to go to work, figuring that I'd save those when I got home. When I browsed the page again with a faster internet connection, they were gone. I only managed to save under 10 comics that I thought were worth keeping.

Just as there are images with a very short shelf life, some webcomics had a very short lifespan. Even accounting for the aborted ones, how would you even try to compile a comprehensive collection that would easily fit each comic into one convenient package? The answer is – you can’t. They were designed free of restrictions, editorial mandate, and formulaic rigidity. Thus, there would be no overall similarity between them. The only consistent factor would be fitting everything onto the computer screen. The question then becomes; how many comics can we fit into a single CD/DVD that the audience would be willing to look at?

These are all areas that’ll require certain computer skills from hackers, who’d have to delve deep into the author’s archaic databases to find their written history in order to find that slim piece of code that’d go by almost unnoticed. Good luck guys!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where's Garfield?

I just checked the Garfield minus Garfield site recently, and noticed that it hasn't been updated in two months. It's possible that the administrator, Dan Walsh eventually got tired of maintaining the same "joke" and airbrushing Garfield out of the picture. That's a shame, since there were still plenty of worthy strips that could be mined for endless potential.

Thankfully, the Square Root of Minus Garfield site still has more variety, which I'm a consistent contributor of. (I'm still waiting for them to post the middle part of my Garfield Manga, which they only showed the first and last parts)

It probably doesn't mean anything, but around the same time that G-G started petering out, we were introduced to the first strip of 3eanuts which has an almost similar concept with a very similar layout to the Garfield parody site. The fact that the Peanuts strips are reduced to three panels doesn't help either.

EDIT - and just after I posted this entry, G-G updated their site the day I mentioned their hiatus. I thought about waiting another day before reporting on their sabbatical, but wanted to report two months to the day they weren't producing new stuff. Shows how prematurely reporting on news can backfire on you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cooking Time

Last month, I posted some Sunday comics that reused their illustrations. At the time, I wanted something that would take my mind off doing random blog updates without too much forethought. The ironic thing is, there were several comic news announcements that I wanted to comment on, and as a result, April turned out to be one of busiest months I've ever done.

Part of the reason I was hoping to divert my mental workload was so I could focus on a group presentation. Normally, I prefer to do such projects alone, but this time, I was assigned with a partner. Even though we lived fairly close to each other, it was still a monumental task to find workable hours when we could get together. It also didn't make things any easier when our suggested cooking theme was passed over for an Anime theme in the belief that it would be easier. However, even this turned out to be false. We couldn't agree over which Anime we wanted to cover. Finally, we decided to divide it separately - my partner would do the biography of Yagami Light from Death Note, while I would explain the military strategy from the first two episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. If there ever was an Anime worthy of being shown on HBO, Legend of Galactic Heroes would be it.

However, while I'm fairly proud of my Anime presentation, I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get a chance to do our original theme, which was going to be cooking. I thought it'd be interesting to show the originality of various cooking concepts. If you think about it, cooking is basicallly an area of experimentation, a mixture of various blends of spices, foods and temperature to create something totally new. With slight variation, the simple addition or removal of an essential ingredient can either make or create the very food you're making. Like Calvin with cow's udders, I have no idea how people managed to figure out the simple combination of different substances like say, eggs and flour, into something worth eating.

Given that today's cooking output is more suited to the quick-n-fast method of microwaving fast food TV dinners, cooking can be considered something of a lost art. It can take up to 3 hours to cook a beef stew to a slow boil, making sure the vegetables are absorbed by every inch of skin for maximum softness. This is not a recommended method for impatient hungry people, which is why fast-food restaurants are so popular.

Other than Iron Chef, cooking isn't generally thought of being exciting. Most people's cooking philosophies are more likely to follow Duffy's mindset.

I wanted to go into a history of creativity that lead to cooking breakthroughs. The stories behind the sandwich and potato chips are interesting enough in themselves, but I was wondering if there were any other foods that might've had similar backgrounds.

For potato chips, there was a customer at a restaurant who was grumbling about the thickness of the potato "chips" being served. He complained that they were too thick for his taste, and not salty enough. The cook, being fed up with the customer, sarcastically sliced the potatoes so thinly that they resembled paper, and added enough salt to choke a horse. After serving them, the cook was surprised to find the customer was pleased with the results, and the rest is history.

I even had the perfect person to use for an interview - the caterer for my sister's wedding. She was notorious for never quite creating the same recipe twice. She considered herself an artist, so each new foodstuff she made wasn't confined to simple factory-style output, but original creations she would be proud of. The only problem was when she made some stuff that tasted really good, and couldn't recreate it upon demand because she had no idea how she made it in the first place. As a result, her customers have learned to quickly snatch up anything she cooks after tasting her samples, because they have no idea when she'll hit lightning with a bottle again. It certainly makes shopping there interesting.

Part of the reason for her unusual dynamic may be because she's dyslexic, and doesn't like reading much. I found that a shame, because I thought she really would've liked Feifer's third story in The Long Chalkboard, since it described her perfectly. She's constantly improvising on her recipes, never quite sticking to a tried and true formula, but whatever she thinks will work.

"That was the best batch ever," friends would say. "What did you do?"
"Oh, I couldn't find any of something, so I had to use something else, but I forget what it was," she would say.
Some people thought she was being coy, but she was not. Judy was not that interested in chili per se; she was interested in giving it to people.

"Judy, did you put cornflakes in that chili you brought over last night?" her friends said to her. "Something in there looked sort of cornflakey."
"Oh, dear," she said. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, honey -- it was incredible. Well, you're a riot, that's what you are."

Unfortunately, when we first went to interview her, we ran into trouble almost immediately. The smell of spices inside her small one-floor room played havoc with my nose. However, I was willing to push away my discomfort for the sake of the project. Also, it was raining, but even though I hate getting wet, at least the light outside her window wouldn't distract me more than usual. Things could've gone swimmingly from there had our camera battery not died suddenly. With no alternate recording devices around, our potential questions dried up. I could've asked for my Dad's camera for backup, but he's notoriously finicky about strangers using his tools without permission. As someone who gets panicky whenever someone violates the sanctum of privacy that's my room, I can certainly relate.

In addition, I also hoped my partner would use various examples using clips from Yakitate! Japan, I lent him my sister's copy of the first volume, and he gave me assurance that he would torrent the Anime. However, due to personal problems, he never got around to doing either. Part of it was that he only liked to read comics on the bus, and he preferred to drive. I egged him on, encouraging him to find excuses to go downtown just so he could read any good Mangas I lent him. Unfortunately, he seemed reluctant to do so, and laughed at my bombastic suggestion. I suffer from a similar symptom to my partner - I can only read novels on the bus, since I find the vibrations to be soothing, and it keeps my mind off how boring the text is.

The last element I hoped to use was references to the legendary 50's chef, Julia Child. I rented the book and movie, Julie & Julia, about two American women in different times with very similar goals. I thought their story would be inspirational, even though they had creative differences.

I have no idea what our project would've been like if we'd taken this path more seriously, but it's fun to speculate.