Friday, June 29, 2012

Optical Allusions

Back when comic characters having large eyes meant having ping-pong sized bug-eyed expressions instead of Manga doe-eyed childish appeal, precautions had to be made to ensure that no other tiny "dots" be seen within the interior of the eye, lest it cause confusion. A slight printing error could cause the unintended result of having two eyes, each looking in a different direction. In the sixth panel of the Broom Hilda comic, Broomie is simultaneously looking at Gaylord and Irwin at the same time. This feat can only be accomplished by similarly affected historical figures, such as Liu Ch'ung from Ripley's Believe it or Not!

Another example would be Marvin here, where he's reacting both in shock to being found escaping, and looking at the headlight from a backwards glance. While I know that's the most logical choice, I prefer to think that he's doing a miniature version of cartoon characters looking everywhere at once during a hazardous situation. At times when I'm stressed, I find it difficult to keep my eyes still, because they're constantly darting all over the place, looking for something to focus on.

I'd hoped to find another example, but I was unable to do so. Seems that finding these kinds of mistakes are just as rare as the symptoms they come from. So I'll expand on to another field of visual optics. Sometimes when I look at a cartoon panel, I'll have some difficulty finding the face. This isn't a form of Prosopagnosia where every face looks the same, but somewhere along similar lines when I'm not exactly sure where the face begins and ends.

As a kid, I used to have extremely vivid daydreams that felt as real as a movie screen. These would last several seconds and only faded away when the image I was thinking of superimposed itself against the background or foreground I was currently looking at. I receive this familiar sensation when I stare at these unfamiliar faces. Here, the front cover looks like a large potato-head guy anticipating using a gun on a nerdy bird picking flowers. It wasn't until I took a zoomed back that I saw where I was mistaken.

Having been accustomed to Herman's breaking the rules by constantly showing his characters from behind (a cardinal sin in cover philosophy, where the main characters are always facing the audience), I thought that Captain Miaou's hat was his face and nose. His clenched fist, the belt on his chest, raising the gun and facing his intended target all led me to believe he was looking back instead of forwards. His lack of facial features and my lack of awareness of the character designs also threw me off. I'm sure that until you took another look, you fell to the same trap.

When faced with something unfamiliar, I use the closest possible reference and follow up from there in the hopes that it'll match. In the back cover of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, there was a creature that looked like one of the birds from the second Gantz mission. It sure looks a lot like a toucan doesn't it?

However, when I cracked open the fat tome, I eventually came across the page where the one-eyed Gnomelet originated, and found out that I'd mistaken where his mouth started. The colouring of the hat looked like a beak, and the stubby arms and legs were almost unnoticeable.

There are all kinds of instances where I'll see a second face that was unintended by the artist, and wind up being like one of those upside-down double faces, only more closer to the illusion of seeing a rabbit and a duck at the same time. The absolute worst are the ones where there are extreme close-ups, making it almost impossible to tell what I'm looking at. Has this ever happened to anybody else?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Herman's Most Common Name

For a single-panel strip titled Herman, you'd expect that there be numerous references to the man himself, since he's the titular character. Strangely enough, his name was mentioned more often in the early strips, and when he was called, it tended to happen while he was off-screen or his face was obscured.

It's somewhat of an ironic thing that you were more likely to see names other than Herman mentioned in the strip. There was a recent archive of comics shown referencing the Parkers, though they're only a fraction compared to the other names that regularly pop up.

A quick survey through my personal collection showed some names that goes as follows: One-shot names include Herbert, Dave, Ron, Frank and Wagstaff. Some slightly more common names would include Joyce, Miller, Mildred, Muriel and Williams. More frequently used names would include Wilson, Lily and Harry.

This occurred to me when I noticed a certain name, Mildew, started showing up quite frequently. Mildew is such an an usual name that it garnered my attention. In fact, Herman could've been retitled Mildew, and no one could've telled the difference. (Of course by then, Mildew would have to be renamed Herman. Go figure)

There seems to be a kind of pattern to the usage of Mildew. usually accompanied with his ineptitude at the workplace. I haven't checked to see if there's a similar theme with the other names as well, though it's certainly possible.

This Mildew Sunday comic below is also the most frequently reprinted, shown in the newest Herman Classics books, 2nd volume page 45 and 5th volume page 175 respectively. Just another reason to have a more comprehensive collection.

I also prefer the discolouration of the boss' face here, since it gives the sensation of his robotic nature showing through.

At first I thought that Mildew was the most commonly used name, but a tally showed that there was another name that outpaced the previous results by two. The winner for the most used name other than Herman and Mildew is... Ralph.

Yeah, that doesn't sound quite as impressive as it should be, right? I think a book even that said that Ralph was basically a dog's name. Maybe sticking with Herman wasn't such a bad choice after all. It's certainly has more resonance than Ziggy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Orbit Project

Earlier this week, I got a proposal from a commentor who offered to scan his personal collection of Orbit dailies that he'd clipped out in his childhood. I suggested that he post his weekday comics on his site, and I post the Sunday comics on my site. He readily agreed, and has just recently founded his Orbit Project here.

This is a joint operation between two modest Orbit fans who're hoping to increase the size of our current collections. This is the kind of thing I'd been reaching and hoping for - to contact and communicate with other newspaper comic fans who have fond memories of the comics they read in their childhood, and collaborate together to create a more comprehensive collection. If there are any Orbit fans out there who'd like to contribute, be our guest.

Now if there could only be something similarly done to Graves Inc...

As of now, there's only a select few comics on the main page, along with some fan art, a promotional contest ad, and three comics found via an online newspaper microfiche archive with the highlighted search results paintbucketed out. If we could figure out how to access their backlog, we could exponentially expand our collection further, since the Sunday comic continues off from where my last Orbit comic ran out.

EDIT - there are now the first two months of dailies on the site now. The dailies really help fill in some of the holes from the Sunday comics.

I'll be posting a few more scans that haven't been seen, along with the ones that have already been posted before so they'll appear in chronological order. But I'd like to pace out the remaining Orbit comics in conjunction with my other perceived future topics so this site doesn't remain Orbit-centered. On the plus side, once I run out of Orbits, there's still plenty of Duffy comics by the same cartoonist that I haven't shown yet. I'm sure you can guess what I'm aiming at for here...

The deteriorating condition of Dr. Valvelock's ship would become a reoccurring theme, very similar to Spaceman Spiff's constant crashing down upon alien planets. It could be said that it might be safer for Chakotay to pilot the ship himself.

Another feature I liked about Orbit were the various aliens that would appear briefly.

This is one of the rare Orbit comics I have where the throwaway title panel isn't included. One the one hand, the use of extra space helps focus on the above and below panels, making it more dramatic than usual. On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea as to what it could've been named. Pretty much every Sunday Orbit comic had a condensed two-three word summary that would perfectly tie in and fit whatever was going on. Any takers?

For all the visual imagination shown, it should be pointed out that Orbit was very much a children's comic, as these two strips show.

If there are any potential undiscovered Orbit fans out there who'd like to contribute, feel free to do so. And if you're one of the few who's looked back on this strip with rose-coloured glasses, don't feel ashamed. We've all had our little interests with childish things that we've later outgrown. Even now, you're probably wondering why today's children enjoy the stuff they watch and read when yesterday's stuff was clearly better.

Okay, I have to admit a certain fondness to 80's Saturday Morning Cartoons, such as Gargoyles, The Real Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Garfield & Friends, Alf Tales, Gummi Bears, Muppet Babies, Tiny Toon Adventures and all kinds of weird shows that would never get past the production board today. It's children's lack of knowledge of these legendary shows that makes us lament for the "good old days". Things would be simplified if they were rerun on cable channels, but who has the time and money, as well as the rights?

(End rant mode)

Go out there and find some Orbit comics and send them here! Contact

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lone Wolf & Smiles

When you think of Ogami Itto of Lone Wolf & Cub fame, you don’t normally think of him as a smiling man. You’re more likely to think of him as an always ultra-serious eternally frowning Ronin doing the odd assassination if the mission and money are right. Unlike Golgo 13 who’ll accept any job no matter if it’s morally right or wrong, Itto has some scruples of his own, and won’t accept a job that conflicts with his morals, even though he walks the path of Meifumado. (Though it should be pointed out that he hardly turned any of them down, but then again, those were the ones we were aware of. The jobs he refused probably wouldn’t have been as action-paced or interesting)

But in an example of early instalment weirdness, there are occasional examples where the stoic exiled executioner is - horror of horrors - smiling. This isn’t quite on the level of a creepy Batman smile, or a smug Jack Baur Power Hour Glower, but more along the levels of an overly cocky Han Solo smile, where he already knows beforehand what the outcome is going to be, and how the game’s going to be played. This would be quickly tossed aside for a man solely devoted to revenge and getting his funds by helping others get their revenge. A cocky attitude wouldn’t seem appropriate for someone who’d been framed for his crimes.

In fact, apart from these brief examples, only his son Daigoro fills the role of lighthearted grins with his innocent carefree childlike playful nature contrasted amongst death on the battlefield. The only other time that Itto manages to smile again happens in the penultimate book when he’s having one last celebration among the villagers before setting off into his last fight against the straggling remains of the Yagyu clan.

On a related tangent, I happened to find the image of the lone Samurai whose face looked familiar in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Manga. He showed up in the 25th volume, "A Day like Any Other".

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sundays with Michel's Friend René from "la Brunoise"

The following were found in a French cookbook filled with comics from Canadian cartoonists, such as Michel Rabagliati of Paul's Adventures. I can't recall the title, but wouldn't mind if more informative instruction booklets were as entertaining. Heavens knows that Japan has dozens of books that deal with similar subject material in the same way. I just copied the most humourous comic.

The Michelin star is an actual award that's only granted to the highest quality restaurants. Michael Ross himself has been in a local competition with a rival chef to see who could produce the better food.

Half-cooked salmon dumplings, shredded fennel, spicy vinaigrette.

(I'm including the descriptive details of the attempted meals above just in case the cursive is too difficult to read.)

My father is an overachieving amateur chef in that he enjoys making fancy meals from time to time to break from the tedium of having the same thing all the time. Usually these take form of vegetable soups that are nothing like the stuff I can get at the store, and are hardly to my liking, because they're natural instead of processed, and I can't enjoy them in the same way the rest of my family does. I'm much more used to the kind of everyday stuff I eat all the time, and don't have the sensitive taste buds to enjoy the fragrances of various flavours coming together.

But when he deals with meat products, I don't mind, even if they're saturated with multiple vegetables, because I can at least understand fleshy foodstuff. One such example is when he creates fish for dinner, in a pot full of vegetables and potatoes. On another level, I also enjoy eating raw fish, and enjoy the trouble he goes through to skin his personal choices and remove the bones so they'll make for easy swallowing. For a while, he also made his personal sweet salmon, which was soaked in sugar overnight, then cut into small portions that would last for days. Sadly, this was abandoned when my dad felt that the labour was proving to be too much work for the desired results. It could also be that the stock of fish needed to create the product was becoming harder to find. Too bad he didn't decide to take a page from the father here, who takes matters in his own hands with an underhanded method obviously inspired by the Triplets of Belleville.

That was something that bothered me about that movie. The homeless old ladies were so poor they could hardly afford food, but they could afford to buy a healthy supply of grenades to throw into the pond so they could have fish whenever they wanted. I suppose that was some subtle commentary about how bullets come in easy supply in the U.S., but food is scarce. Put two and two together, and you have a potential setup for cannibalism in the streets. No wonder zombies are so popular - they're a step away from reality.

Guinea fowl breast, poached and fried, buttered Savoie cabbage, glazed Jerusalem artichokes, Bois Boudran sauce.

A few months ago, my father was given some duck that was shot on a hunting expedition by a Tennis friend of his. Only, the bird meat sat in the freezer for ages until my dad finally worked up the energy to do some research on how to prepare it. That's the thing about my father - it takes him practically forever to get him started in any project, even for ones that he likes. He has his own way of pacing things, and prefers to take things "Slow and careful" so no mistakes get made. (Though the way he says sounds like 'sloooooooow and caaaarefuuuuul')

His cautious approach may make for desirous results, but his approach drives me up the wall whenever I want anything done. In such cases, I find it easier to just get the job done myself rather than wait for his turn. My father is not like the wacky sitcom dad who always screws things up when trying to fix anything. He's the responsible get-to neighbor guy who likes taking his time to enjoy the little things. No wonder he drives me nuts!

Vanilla panna cotta, basil syrup, passion fruit pulp.

While I'm generally resistant to trying anything new, I have no such qualms when it comes to creating tasty deserts. I enjoy making banana cakes when our current bunch gets a little too black to put on my cereal. If I'm feeling creative, I'll use the same recipe to create banana cookies instead. I've done the same for substituting the banana cake recipe for blueberry cake instead.

While I might not be able to understand the appeal of vegetables, I can at least understand junk food well. Anything that excites the taste buds and triggers the pleasure portions of the brain is easy to appreciate. The only hard part is cleaning everything up afterwards. That's the only thing I don't like.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Broom Hilda's Little Poems

You can tell a lot about a cartoonist's creativity by how they manage to incorporate clever rhymes in a brief narrative context. This one is probably the shortest with a satisfying end result.

The early rhymes were extremely modest at first, but then became more elaborate later on.

For some reason, these rhymes were always called "Pomes" for some reason. I thought this might be some kind of intentional misspelling or cultural thing, like calling a creek a 'crick', but some slight research (i.e. the first Google results) shows that this is a variation of poetry that focuses on variations of lyrics, tone and pitch in word usage.

For years, I thought that when Broom Hilda was "rinsing her shorts", there was a faucet at the deep end of the pool. Upon closer investigation, it's actually a fish with a clothespin over its nose. Those must be some pretty ripe undies if they can offend an aquatic animal's sensibilities.

This comic has a severe colouring error in the 3rd panel, where Irwin is scaring an old lady. He should be decked out all in white, not looking like Grimace with a beanie.

Normally, this wouldn't be considered newsworthy, since B.C. used to have comics devoted to Wily's poems, but those were always consistently static images of the water-phobic peg-leg coach sitting on a hill sketching onto a slab. Broom Hilda comics were different because no two backgrounds or character positions were alike. Then in 1989, Russell Myers had a sudden burst of inspiration that led to a large amount of rhyming stanzas to appear. As far as I know, this creative output has never quite been replicated since then.

What struck me about them was that they were so different from their usual setup / punchline routine. The end result wasn't always funny, and seemed more personal than anything.

This one in particular, where Broomie talks to her internal organs about her declining health could also be considered a natural ending for the strip if the creator ever croaked, and didn't bother to pass the comic on to his next-of-kin.

Joyce Kilmer this ain't, but it's still pretty catchy.

After this diet one, no other "Pomes" appeared for the next year when my paper dropped Broom Hilda and Outland in favour of Archie comics. A loss that was never quite regained, because they were renovated their Sunday comics page to fit a traditional newspaper page instead of their innovative pamphlets instead. The removal of the children's cover pages was also an influence, and the reduced size of multiple comics and trying to split the colour Sunday comics into Saturday and Sunday editions meant that some of them had to go.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recommended Webcomic: Goblins

There's been a recent request for one of the most ambitious fantasy webcomics available, Goblins, asking their fans to give contributions to their comic via Youtube videos. However, since I'm notoriously shy (and don't know how to upload a video), I'm opting for the alternate option, which is giving a glowing endorsement for the webcomic, even though it won't give me any bonus points in Thunt's (Tarol Hunt's penname) direction.

Recently, Goblins was a regular contender for a TopWebComics popularity contest, that managed to beat out Order of the Stick (the other long-form fantasy webcomic) and was only narrowly defeated by Gunnerkrigg Court. Now, any comic that manages to go runner-up to a "Female Harry Potterverse" is well worthy of a second look, and I'll tell you why.

The comic updates twice a week on Tuesdays / Fridays, though it's more accurate to say that because of certain production delays, it actually updates on Wednesdays / Saturdays. On occasions when the main Goblins story isn't ready, there's informative temporary extras, such as the previous owners of the Axe of Prissan that are only available for a brief period of time before they're taken off the main page. These mini-stories are apparently collected in the e-book collections.

As pointed out on the first page, the series undergoes a significant shift in art evolution before becoming more elaborate and lush today. The early pages are still available in their rough form, even though they've been 'prettified' up in their book releases.

So what is Goblins about? Well, you know how pretty much every RPG has a warm-up level full of easy weak monsters to beat for practice before moving on to the harder levels coming up? Well, this particular Goblin village is the camp of random encounters who've spent their entire lives around defending a poorly guarded treasure chest containing treasure. While it's pointed out that they could make better use of the treasure inside the chest, rather than just mindlessly guarding it, this is actually just a prelude to gradually breaking out of their preconcieved notions of their limited roles.

After a large battle where their tribe suffers a stunning defeat by a min-maxing barbarian, an armoured dwarf and a trio of Drows, the remaining survivors figure that it would probably be better if they took adventuring levels themselves so their species wouldn't have to suffer and die out from beginning adventurers. The characters have every opportunity to retreat into easy cliches, but they don't go into quick shortcut territory. There are instances where characters sound real, and wind up surprising you with the rationality of their decisions, even as they're going into the deep end of a screaming match against somebody they disagree with.

However, their appeals into adventuring hits a snag early on when one of their teammates splits up for personal reasons, and they have to go after him. Even though they're now classed as adventurers, they're still monsters in the eyes of the human population, which leads to certain unfortunate implications. I don't want to reveal too much (I'll leave the joy of discovery up to you), but the end result of the winding path of that voyage leads to a large fight that felt like a distillation of the Ennis Lobby arc. It wasn't exactly inspired by that, but it had the same level of destructive intensity I felt when reading it. Now that's an impressive feat - to emulate One Piece without displaying any overt influence from the Manga itself.

That's another thing about Goblins - there's so much thought and imagination packed into these stories that only becomes evident upon rereading. In particular, a certain prophecy mentioned early on only begins to reveal certain relevancy until MUCH later. Fortunately, the author has the patience to wait however long he wants before these elements come to light. One particular example was a rusty sword and girly armour that Thunt had been waiting seven years to introduce. If the author had such anticipation in presenting
there must be some hidden reservoir of power in them.

While I mentioned the RPG element early on, Goblins actually plays closer to Dungeons & Dragons style of roleplaying, which explains some of the oddity when some of the Player Characters make references to actually being other people in real life. This plot element seems to have been phased out along with 'Herbert', the sadistic gamemaster who either introduces impossible opponents or overly-easy quests. So the amount of worldbuilding remains fascinating, even as it wallows into text-heavy expositions. As of now, there are three Big Bads involved, each with their own agendas, and remain completely unaware of the other's presence or plans.

The story remains a compelling read even though they haven't gone back to the main party for over a year by now, and focused on two other sidestories by secondary characters instead.  The worst part is that the main party's been left hanging on a cliffhanger that probably won't get resolved until one of the other sidestories concludes. And considering how long these stories have been going on, it looks like they won't be coming to a natural ending anytime soon. The pain of anticipation is lessened by the strength of the strong writing and art. It doesn't hurt that the Goblins look like a cross between Mogwai and Gremlins. Oh yes, and it's done by a fellow Canadian too.

While the amount of early humour is drowned out by the drama that happens shortly after, the comic has retained its roots by occasionally delving back into laughworthy territory that remains funny long after you're familiar with the punchline.

On the other side of mini-arcs is a sponsor comic where a lone thrill-seeking adventurer Goblin named Tempts Fate goes through a gamut of preordained obstacles in order to meet the goal. All that's needed for him to succeed is for donations to meet the allotted goal of money invested. And so far, Temps Fate has YET to meet his demise in any of his missions. My personal favorite is the fifth mission where he has to go through a dungeon trawl which ends with two 'unpassable' doors.

As much incentive as these extra funds allow, the author doesn't take much joy in taking submissions. He teeters between the thin line of wanting to provide entertainment for his fans, and needing enough income to live comfortably. In fact, Thunt felt bad about taking money from his readers just so he could have someplace to live.

Just a slight warning that the latest Temps Fate arc where he goes to hell doesn't seem to be archived correctly, and is sprinkled through the main story at random intervals. New readers would be advised to familiarize themselves with Temps' adventures just in case they blaze through the first three books and beyond, though it's safe to say that at that point, they'd be allowed a reprieve of a breather.