Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is it Catching?


Apologies for not updating my blog earlier than I intended.  There was the after effects of that whole hurricane Sandy thing going on, which resulted in several power failures that kept going on and out on a regular basis.  I understand this is a regular occurrence in certain third-world countries, but the effect left me in a state of perpetual withdrawal, where I was never entirely sure if the power was going to stay on for longer than five minutes this time.  Ironically enough, every time a call was made to the power company to ask how long it would take for the power to come back on, the power would be instantly returned by the time we got through.  By the time we'd finally gotten used to the pattern, and had the number ready on speed-dial, we got news that it wouldn't be back to normal overnight.

The second reason for my delay was that I've been feeling rather sick the last day or so.  Nothing to the extent of my Kawasaki, but still destabilizing nonetheless.  However, despite my wooziness, I was still adamant in trying to do as much activity as possible within the confines of my limits, even if it took more time than necessary to get the job done.  I've never subscribed to the notion that when men get sick, they turn into infantile babies incapable of functioning without a mother figure attending to their every need.  I've got too much of a work ethic to ever allow myself that silly notion.

However, a funny thing happened once I told everyone I had a fever of 101.4 degrees.  (If it'd been 101 degrees Celsius, I'd be in REAL trouble)  All of a sudden, I became a social pariah, my every surface area being a potential health hazard for contagious diseases.  No food could be touched or transferred without sterilized instruments involved.  Feeling like a social leper, I recalled the Peanuts Sunday comic where Charlie Brown was lectured by his sister to wash his hands because he "Touched the Dog".  Snoopy taking offense to that started following Sally around with the intentionable threat of touching her with all the virulent effect of the Bubonic plague.

That's what I felt like, when I'm told not to touch anything.  I like to skirt the issue somewhat by slightly tapping something, then running away, similar to Garfield daring to touch Jon's food.  Fortunately, I'm used to being left alone, since feeling good about being left to my devices and thoughts was the only coping mechanism that kept me sane during High School.  I wouldn't have been able to cope otherwise.

The ironic thing was, for the past few months, I'd been watching the Canadian Science-Fiction show, ReGenesis, about a crack team of microbiologists who help solve baffling diseases throughout the world, though it's mainly situated between Canada and the US.  The head of the team, David Sandström is a rather arrogant figure very much in Dr. Gregory House mode (I'm still regretting that MAD didn't satirize his name as Dr. Peggory Louse), except that unlike the cantankerous doctor, the lead scientist has more respect for his employees and actually appreciates their input.  He just can't tolerate stupidity when it comes from higher authorities and intellectual know-it-alls who think they know better.  If you're going to gain his trust, it must be earned, and he'll fight you every inch of the way.  What I like about this show is that they'll throw up several possible solutions to what the problem could be, only to immediately reject it in favor for a more plausible theory that'll fit the situation better.  Not to mention that until the fourth and last season, analysis of various diseases weren't limited to one program, but were reoccurring on an episode-to-episode format.  Therefore, a virus that was mentioned midway in an episode wouldn't be resolved until the the next episode, when the latest biological puzzle would be introduced in tandem.  It demanded constant viewing from the public, since missing a single show would mean missing out on a lot of stuff going on.

One particular employee who stands out and has David's constant respect is Bob, the Russian analyst who has Asperger's.  However, despite his condition, his Asperger's is extremely subtle.  There was a scene where David and another employee were having dinner, and they were laughing about a kind of private joke between the two of them.  Bob, being clueless, looked momentarily confused, then chuckled, joining in the good humour.  He was laughing, not because he got the joke or found the situation funny, but because it seemed appropriate to do so.  Also, unlike most portrayals of people with Asperger's, Bob has a more human relationship with people, and enjoys their company, even if he doesn't always understand the underlying assumptions.

That, and the Contagion movie, were prime candidates for intelligent discourse of hypochondriac behavior.  At first, I thought they would turn out to be nothing more than Outbreak rip-offs, but the underlying themes, concepts and ideas presented were much more sophisticated and well thought out than I'd expected.  However, I wasn't as affected by the the onscreen effects of the plausible worst-case scenarios.  Like those donation commercials of horrific events happening in malnourished countries, it seemed to be the kind of thing that was outside of my experience, and have no possible relevance to.  There's also the underlying controversy that being hyper-vaccinated could make humanity more successible to outside infections than usual because we're not building up these defenses naturally.  The ironic thing is that people are more afraid of the potential side-effects of these vaccinations when they've resulted in saving more lives than anything.  To say nothing of the MMR vaccine = Autism controversy, which was most likely a cause of the mercury packaging than the triple combination cocktail.

It doesn't help that every year, we keep getting new media accounts of a new strain that's more dangerous than the last one, and further injections have to be made.  After a certain point, the constant scare-mongering begins to lose its allure, because we keep becoming reassured that it'll all work out in the end.  What's not taken into account is what David Sandström said we should be on the lookout for - the last virus - a virus that's so destructive, so infectious, so malicious, that it'll literally destroy every life on Earth.  This is the basis of what VGcats called the most depressing Flash game ever created; One Chance.  In closing, David argued by quoting Albert Einstein that what was needed was not more intellect, but more imagination, since it would be imagination that would give our minds new boundaries to explore and overcome the latest obstacles to come.

EDIT - I originally was going to finish off with a comparison between mercury, the Mad Hatter and autism, but my lack of experience and knowledge in that field left me abandoning that attempt.  (Basically, I chickened out) I hate ending these kinds of posts without a singular summarization to tie everything up together, because it just looks like the ramblings of someone who doesn't know any better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Kawasaki, Myself

There's been a lot of talk lately about the benefits and disadvantages of Medicare in America, and whether it's everything that's cracked up to be.  Complaints about hospital waiting times and being forced to the whims of the government.  However, there was a period in my life that I was seriously sick, and could've died without fast medical help.  My parents have often expressed their gratefulness for a Government policy that, despite it being widely in use nowadays, was decried when it was first implemented and suggested back in the days, even going so far as doctors going on strike in protest in the 60s.  Very much like the current political situation in the States.

This is also a rather long personal account.  More after the cut.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

MetaLiterarics


Shortly after I read the Peanuts 1973-1974 collection, I was suddenly inspired to do a homage based on Good Old Gregor Brown in Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics, where various literary classics were re-interpreted into their closest comic equivalences.  Considering the amount of humor and existential despair in Peanuts comics, it seemed a natural fit for Kafka's absurdist bureaucratic stories conjoined with some of Peanuts' more memorable surreal daily strip runs.


Sadly, that's the only reference that I feel knowledgeable about doing.  If I was more familiar with the contents of the other novels and comics presented in MasterPiece Comics, I would be more confident in producing more works.  Maybe somebody else out there will pick up the slack.

To compensate for the lack of available literary content, here's the opening of Genesis as portrayed by Jean Effel, best known for his depictions of the Garden of Eden in La Creation du Monde.  The fact that Adam and Eve are naturally naked with their privates showing, may explain why he's not better known over here, despite his ligne claire style.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Swinging' Spider-Man


Lately, there's been all kinds of attention paid to Spider-Man's 50th Anniversary, from the Atari ads that were far more entertaining than the actual video game, to the wonkyness of the newspaper strip.  It's the latter that I'll be focusing on with a certain book I picked up that collected some of the early stuff in a colourized cut-up format, and it's just as overdramatically bad as you'd expect.

It's usually the best interests of a starting comic strip to make a strong impression over the competition, even more so if it's a serial format.  So things get started at bat right away with the Daily Bugle inviting DOOM over to make a compelling argument in front of the UN.  I'm sure this won't go wrong at all.  In a way, this kind of feels like a cheat, since DOOM is more of a Fantastic Four villain than Spidey villain, but he did show up in one brief story early in the Dikto run, so I suppose it gets a pass.  That, and Doctor Octopus, Spidey's real definitive archenemy, (Green Goblin's reputation notwithstanding, Doc Oct is closer to Spider-Man's MO in terms of intelligence, scientific accident leading to power and tragedy) makes an appearance in the second story in the book, so it's not a complete loss.

One of the major reasons of enjoying Spider-Man is seeing the always amusing external complaints from Peter's antagonist boss, J. Jonah Jameson.  He's the kind of man you love to hate, (though only from a distance, since being in the same room with him would be beyond endurance) and pretty much the only character who can run his mouth off at every opportunity and yet, for all his verbal barrage, never even gets so much as a punch in the face.  Egg on his face maybe, but never any violent reprisal other than being tossed around and webbed a bit.

Ah, now we get to the main reason DOOM's been called over - so he'll be able to take care of Spider-Man once and for all.  That's kind of like using a heat-seeking missile to take care of a fly, but then, Jameson's never quite been the most rational person when it comes to a certain "public menace" whose only real crime is solving crime while being funny at the same time.

Expecting any reasonable compromise between DOOM and other S-heroes is pretty much a lost cause.  This is a man who claimed diplomatic immunity against Superman, for heaven's sake.  After some more jim-jawing with Jameson, Spidey decides that he's said his piece and jumps out the window to swing away...

...and then immediately, we get a recap of last week's events with entirely new dialogue.  This exchange is then intercut for a week with various people seeing Spider-Man swinging away from the Daily Bugle window, women fainting at seeing a man jump out the window, Mary Jane admitting she's got the hots for Peter Parker, Aunt May wondering who that terrible Spider-Man could be, with a photo of her nephew in the background, and news of Dr. DOOM arriving at the UN.

S-hero comics are basically regarded an action-filled soap opera, which would make them a natural fit alongside those other strips like Mary Worth, Modesty Blaise and the like.  But in a restricted newspaper panel setting, there's not much chance to show action on a day-to-day basis, which is pretty much why everybody is recapping information that happened five seconds ago, lest they forget their goldfish memories.  That must be why DOOM keeps dramatically announcing his name in the first person.

This is the fourth time that Spider-Man's swung away from the same window with a different snappy retort to Jameson's yammering.  (Keep in mind that this is supposed to take within the timeframe of about five seconds)  Repetition is the hallmark of keeping audiences satisfied with a certain level of consistency, but this is ridiculous.  Somehow you get the idea that Stan Lee would be perfectly content to write a never-ending daily strip of the two of them constantly bickering, but sadly, they had to move on with the story.

Naturally, at the airport, there's an accident involving a falling box that leads to a grand misunderstanding between Spider-Man and the police, so Spidey's on the run while DOOM gets treated like royalty.  This was presumably before there would be crowds of protesters vehemently rioting against letting such a dictator enter the country to pitch his sound bite.  That is, if any of said theoretical protesters weren't scared of being taken note of and blacklisted for future petty reprisal payback sometime later in the future.

That could explain why the UN is allowing such a ruthless dictator to come over in the first place.  Unlike the Star Trek universe which is representative of a UN that actually works, reality isn't so generous.  It's not unusual for diplomats and dignitaries to kotow to fanatics demanding the royal carpet treatment, even when their human rights records are reprehensible.  Given that the UN has spokesmen representing dictatorships and repressive regimes, it becomes clear why some democracies are lamented on, while repressive countries get an easier pass.  It's easier to go after countries that are just blowing hot air, than countries where implying that they're not that great could be grounds for violent reprisal.

In Quebec, there were student protests that'd been going on for a whole semester, and a bill that was intended to keep said protests down by notifying the police 8 hours in advance, so they'd be forewarned about such a gathering to reduce conflicts.  This was taken as an attack on democracy, since it's every citizen's right to complain and take to the streets if they want to.  Nevermind that the complaint came from a representative from a more repressive country where any protesters need to make their notifications a month in advance.  Other countries' demonstrators are jailed and shot if they're lucky.  And the bill didn't even get passed anyways.

Great motivational prowess there, Doomie.  You probably would be more convincing if you actually presented a resounding argument that didn't rely on menacing anybody you deem insignificant on par with your intellect, and go around dressed in medieval armor with flowing cape and hood.

Since the UN doesn't want to to be under any one country's thumb, it's no surprise that they wind up turning down DOOM's generous offer.  (They can't even agree on things between their own countries)  Naturally, DOOM doesn't take refusal of his perfectly reasonable offers very well.  And just as DOOM's finished sealing the door, preventing any authorities from breaking in and rescuing the hostages, Spider-Man breaks in through the window to stop the Latvian dictator from doing further damage, and that's a pretty good point to stop here.

It's just a shame that the main Spider-Man comic has been floundering ever since the relationship between Mary Jane and Peter Parker was dissolved in the most abysmal banal way possible, and the less that's spoken of, the better; and it's not really an argument I want to go into right now.  That's more for other people who're devoted to the character than I am.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jughead's Nightmare

It's October, and that means it's time for my annual "Things that traumatized me as a kid", which nobody around here seems to enjoy.  This time, it's a certain Archie issue that I got from a friend of mine who knew that I liked comics, and lent me a few that they didn't want to read anymore.  One of these had this on the cover:

In the 80's it seemed like everybody wanted to emulate Max Headroom somehow.  Square One TV had Fax Headful, Doonesbury had Ron Headrest, and Archie comics had Jug Snaxful.  However, before we can even get 20 minutes into the future of the two-parter inside, we were first faced with this:

The opening scene then shifts to a picnic where Jughead demonstrates his culinary expertise by combining pickles with pepperoni and ice cream.  Naturally, his friends Archie and Betty warn him that such an unusual concoction is prime recipe for nightmares.  Jughead blows off their research claims, and decides to take a little nap before his next meal.  Just as he's dozing off, he's about to take a plunge into that realm known as the rabbit hole.

If the first panel was a teaser for the kind of imagery we could expect to face, then then it certainly failed to convey the level of terror there.  Pop Tate shows up inexplicably wearing a bunny suit, but that's not the most unsettling element there (though some people would certainly find that unsettling on a different level).  What happens next is Pop Tate starts force-feeding Jughead, and holy crap, Pop Tate's expression in the 4th panel there is terrifying.  I've mentioned how I can't stand it when I see comic characters starving, but seeing them being forced into overindulgence is just as stomach-churning, and recalls the image of Donald Duck forcing his nephews to smoke the cigars they'd bought him for his birthday.

Jughead is normally a confident trickster, so to see him lose his cool when he's not in control of his surroundings is somewhat unsettling.  When Jughead's eyes are open, that's a sign that things are REALLY disturbing.  That guy with black hair in the style of Archie's hairdo is Reggie, Jughead's "best friend".  When Jughead retorts saying that Reggie isn't his BFF, Archie is; Reggie asks "Who is this 'Archie?'".  In this reality, Reggie is Jughead's lifelong companion, and Archie doesn't exist.  It soon becomes apparent that he's in a recursive dream where every time he "wakes up", he finds himself worse off than he was before.  The only thing that would make this worse would be if he was in a Slaughterhouse-5 situation where he was constantly shifting between these nightmare scenarios with no hope of release or escape.

When Jughead is next woken up by Betty, he finds himself attending a certain event that some people would later divide some fans apart.  Naturally, Jughead doesn't take this new development very well.  As the old saying goes, one man's heaven is another man's hell.  So how does Jughead get out of this predictament?  He gets the answer, somewhat fittingly, from his subconsciousness.  The only way to escape this anti-lotus eater machine is by using dream logic.  Easily making the transition from Wonderland to Oz, which goes to prove that sometimes the basics are still the best.  It's also somewhat ironic that throughout this story, when he's asleep, Jughead's eyes are open more often than when he's awake.

They soon go to Pop Tate's where Jughead announces that he's taking the pickle off his hamburger, "just in case" to the confusion of everyone there.  Therefore, the moral of the story is; don't be too experimentative with your combination of foods, lest you find yourself in a nightmare of your own making.  (Repeat trips to the bathroom not included)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Colour of Peanuts

I realize that I haven't been updating my blog as much as I intended to, and I'm sorry about that.  I've been preoccupied with various other small projects, including doing some rewriting and scanning of other potential blog topics to be posted in the future.  I'm something of a perfectionist, and baring any sudden revisions that may come to mind, I'd like to jot down as much potential ideas I've got before I'm suitably satisfied with the results.  Another reasonable excuse is that I've got several Garfield ideas that I'm inspired to remix, but am slightly intimidated at the prospect of having to reference all the relevant comics and script, now that the main search engine has disappeared.  (BTW, when did the missing domain number change from 404 to 410?)

That said, I still feel somewhat guilty for not updating my blog within the course of a week, when I had all kinds of ideas rattling in my head; so here's a minor placeholder of something I scanned in the future, but doesn't seem likely that I'll find anything for immediate use anytime soon.  So to belay any fears that I've shuffled off this mortal plane, here's two more Peanuts strips that might've lost some of their potential punchline with the lack of colour in the Fantagraphics collections.

There's not much missing here, save for the semaphoric message at the end.


Now, this one is more visually striking, though nothing is really lost in the transaction.  At least it makes the outfielders look more likely to blend into the background than the black-and-white image would provide.  Or how it would look with just the lines - I haven't had much of a chance to check out the Peanuts albums past the 10th book yet, unlike some people who've noticed some disturbing... irregularities in the later strips.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Socktoberfest


I can't believe we're already at the three-quarters mark of the year already.  I had all kinds of plans that I'd promised to get around doing, that I still haven't even completed the skeleton outline of.  At least I'm consistent in bringing up these Calendar pages up at the beginning of every month.  I probably need a more focused plan outline, or somebody to force me into doing things I don't want to so they'll get done.

The interesting thing about October is that even though Halloween only starts at the end of the month, it's the overall focus of many people's perceptions of what it's all about.  Nevermind the first 30 days, it's the last day of the month that everybody thinks of when talking about October.  All the preparation and planning is just build-up for when that day arrives.  Though nowadays, this holiday which was once in the realm of children is now being taken over by adults who just use it as another excuse to go out and dress up in provocative skimpy outfits, and another excuse for sex.  Or at least that's how some people are complaining about it.

I normally leave out the extra drawing at the bottom, because they're not relevant, and are already available in the early FBOFW collections, but I'll make an exception here, because it thematically fits.

This month is noteworthy for having the most plagiarized strips out of any other month.  There's only so many Halloween jokes you can borrow before you run out of ideas.


This is just another example of how April was another expy for Elizabeth.  The setup is different, but the outcome is the same.

A cardinal rule of handling Halloween candy - don't trust anybody handing the sweet stuff out, and don't trust anybody in the presence of said candy alone.  (Even though there haven't been any documented proof of families poisoning children with anything but sugar)


To make up for John's embarassment at having to wear an emasculating outfit, here's a more tasteful, (yet no less silly) more traditional costume.  Though bunny wabbits - I mean rabbits - are hardly the stuff of nightmares, unless you're Bugs Bunny.

While John's quite famous for dressing up in his traditional rabbit costume (and Elly wearing the pants in her man role), this is a rather funny take on what might've happened at the costume party.  When Lynn Johnson was talking about creating new strips to "fill in the blanks", this was the kind of thing I was expecting, rather than what we actually got.