Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More Comic News Summaries

Following up from my previous post are more stuff ripped from the headlines that reminded me of comics, or if not outright comics, then certain photomanipulations.


Recently in Quebec, there was a woman on trial who inadvertently stopped her car in the middle of the highway, causing a traffic accident of a motorist and his daughter, resulting in the deaths of two people.
The reason she stopped the car in the middle of a highway at night was to stop for - get this - baby ducks.
According to the woman, she was concerned about these ducklings who were wandering at night with no mother, and wanted to take them home with her.  Too bad that she neglected to leave her rear lights on, and left her door open in her attempt at preserving wildlife.

A revamp to the criminal code in 2007 changed the verdict of people charged with criminal intent from doing community service to outright "Go straight to jail", even if they have no criminal past.  The difference was that Emma Czornobaj had no malicious intent.  In any other context, what would have been considered a traffic accident was inflated to a maximum sentence of fourteen years.  It's frankly the first time anything of this scope has ever happened here, and the judge's phrasing of the law to the jury means that a rewrite of the laws may be considered necessary.  Hopefully, she'll get a lenient sentence when her jail term's pronounced in August, barring an appeal.

Tank Man

It's been 25 years since the protest at Tiananmen Square, and since then, the people have had a rash of collective amnesia about the events that took place.  Apparently, everyone was embarrassed about the kinds of things they did, which was totally acceptable at the time, such as ratting out friends or family members who might've been influenced by "outside interests".  If it didn't originate in China, it was deemed a danger to the fabric of society, and had to be squashed down at all costs.  Now that China's gone from a Communist to a Capitalist country, where chances are you're using a product you're that's probably Made in China (yet ironically, they're also the largest exporter of bootlegs)

The definitive symbol of student rebellion is summed up by the image of a lone man standing up to a row of tanks which was actually a cropped version of a whole street of tanks, stretching down several blocks.  Not unlike the collection of zoomed out famous landmarks giving a more impressive sense of scale.

The unknown man who stood single-handedly against this throe of impressive military machinery clutching nothing more than a grocery bag was a hero for the ages, until he was dragged off by well-wishers who didn't want to see him made a greasy smear on the pavement.  But if we zoom in closer, we can make out some significant features that're remarkable in the absence of significance - mainly how plain and blank-looking he is:

Roger Rabbit

As much of a classic Roger Rabbit is, there's been talk of trying to do a sequel (or prequel) to the movie, which would be quite the feat, considering the heights it reached back when animation was considered little more than a dying art form.  Looking back at it, what makes the movie stand out more than the impressive animation techniques, is how strongly the story holds up.  All the plot points and clues and diversions are there, sprinkled about amidst the impressive array of visual jokes.  Even with today's technology, it's difficult to think of a story that would be able to do the film that could do it justice, and not just another cheapquel. While there are familiar noir elements throughout, it's the human element that helps it stand out, and makes it stronger, even as toons are bounding along the scenery.  Something that's sadly forgotten in lackluster ripoffs such as Cool World and Space Jam which relied mostly on their animation to attract audiences. Nowadays, that kind of visual eyecandy is mostly replaced by CGI which is easier to overlay, rather than painstakingly draw animated cels onto every film frame.

Of course, it'd probably be better if the movie was left untouched, since it would sully the reputation of an otherwise flawless experience.  Barring an exceptional script that'd improve upon the original, which was based on a loose homage to Chinatown (both dealing with a dour private detective, a noble femme fatale, and a corrupt judge), there's not much official demand for a licensed property that proved successful once.  Hollywood has a tendency to attempt recapturing lightning in a bottle, leaving either lightning or the bottle out of the equation.

It's been such a long time that Bob Hoskins died before a sequel could be made, and finding a suitable replacement would be an uphill task.  Especially since the reputed British actor was actually driven mad by the presence (or absence) of the cartoon rabbit to the point where he was hallucinating cartoon characters that weren't there.  No wonder he didn't want his facial features present for the Roger Rabbit comics, which replaced his role with the novice detective Rick Flint who, unlike his predecessor, had little to no knowledge of toons, and had to play catch-up in how they acted.  A more successful reiteration of crime prevention and toon logic was between Bonkers D. Bobcat and Lucky "Pickle" Piquel.  The Miranda episodes were lackluster, but it was the interaction between Bonkers and Piquel that were the highlight of the show.

If a Roger Rabbit sequel is attempted, the trick will be to present something that'll draw audiences back to the theaters, and make them stay there.  As attractive as the opening cartoon Something's Cooking was, it was never able to adequately replicate that maniac energy in later installments, which felt increasingly tired, and were attached to movies that audiences weren't primarily interested in.  That, and their repetitive formula of Baby in Trouble was wearing increasingly thin.  There's also the danger of creating a sequel that's as embarrassing as Gary K. Wolf's shameless attempt to cash in on the movie's popularity, completely contradicting the events in his first book.  The only "official" sequel done at the time of the movie's release was the comic The Resurrection of Doom, because of course, you can't have a sequel without a reoccurring villain, even if said villain died of in a fittingly karmic manner.  Disappointingly, rather than reveal the form of the red-eyed toon lurking underneath that rubber mask, Doom simply looked like a wild-eyed cartoonish version of Christopher Lloyd - not that much different from his human form.  As for how he came back, the weasels simply found an animation cel of him and revitalized him.  (The same weasels who died laughing, including the one who was kicked into the Dipmobile - who brought THEM back???)

The one saving grace was Roger's attempt to deal with the realm of limited animation.  If there ever were to be a theoretical sequel, this would be prime material ripe for the picking.  Especially in light of how animators are often told to tone down their animation in order to comply with the studio's recommendations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Forgotten Characters: Garbagemen Abercrombie and Fitch

In honour of National Garbage Day, here's a tribute to the profession what Opus the Penguin called a "Waste-Management Artisan".  There aren't that many garbagemen in the funny pages, Dilbert's guest appearances by the smartest garbageman being a rare exception.  In the early days, Abercrombie and Fitch, were an obvious allusion to the famous clothing store, but are hardly known today.  (Or maybe they've shown up sporadically.  I haven't read Hi & Lois in years)

According to the Best of Hi & Lois book, Ambercrombie was a connoisseur garbageman and extremely fussy about what people threw away, claiming that they weren't sufficient enough to be carried in the confines of his garbage truck.  He only accepted quality garbage, see.  Anything less would be considered an insult to his profession.

Considering the rapidity and speed needed for the profession, going from house to house for blocks on end, you'd wonder how they'd have any time to chat with any of their clients (I hesitate to use the term customer) since they're hardly the only ones who need their curbs cleaned of refuse.  Do other houses get psychoanalyzed to this extent?

While we don't think much about sanitation works (if at all), it's mostly from their doing what amounts to the invisible chore cleaning the house.  No one notices their absence until they go on strike, since dealing hundreds of trash on the curb certainly is quite daunting in more ways than one.  It seems somewhat fitting that after a customary obscure holiday thanking garbagemen for the thankless task of taking away refuse, they'd be more likely to find throwaway cards in the very containers they're carrying out.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Broom Hilda's Flights of Fancy

It's not unusual for cartoon characters, once they grow popular to stop doing their bad habits so as not to influence younger children.  Like so many others, Broom Hilda had a tendency to drink beer and smoke cigars in her early strips.  But sometimes it takes time for other bad habits to completely fade away, especially if they're in the realm of visual slapstick.  One of the things that seems to have been phased out recently is that she was capable of crash landings that would make Launchpad McQuack proud.

Even though she no longer drinks beer onscreen, that's possibly a facade.  It's subtle, but the basic gist that the reason Broom Hilda keeps crashing is because she always does a lot of drinking (partying) before flying home.  There's simply no other way to interpret it.

Also, like any drunk, the problem is always somebody else's fault, never their own.

Douglas Addams described flying as aiming at the ground and missing.  In this Broom Hilda fails spectacularly.

Even her friends attempt at intervention (not actually standing up to her and convincing her she's got a problem - they don't want to be zapped into oblivion) don't amount to much.

You'd think that a broomstick rider with a high record of drunken crashing into mountaintops would be hesitant to ride along with her, but that doesn't turn out to be the case.

Even when she doesn't wind up crashing upon impact (we've never actually seen her land, so like recent sightings of Bigfoot, we'll have to take their existence of safe landings as pure hearsay) they still wind up in unfavorable outcomes.

The curious thing is that despite Gaylord being a bird, and Broomie a witch, there are instances where either are shown to be riding airplanes.  But this could be another instance of writer-selective amnesia, since episodic strips like these don't demand total consistency, which I'll point out later.

When she's not using her face as an airbag, smashing her broomstick to toothpicks, she's falling off her transportation household cleaner.

The above is an aberration, since she doesn't often engage in daredevil tactics without a reliable safety net that knows how to count.  Most often, it comes from not having a firm grip on her handle, or being too careless, which could be chalked up to either drunkenness or old age.  Take your pick.

As can be seen here, Broom Hilda has no resistance for aiming at a pool full of water, which makes the next installment more perplexing:

When I first read this, I had no idea why Broom Hilda was so terrified because there were instances where she took baths without much fuss, so this is something of a CIDU for me.  However, this may be down to personal preference, since Broom Hilda has certain standards of her own:

Of all the soft places to land, this one is probably the worst.  Though in other instances, she's been comparatively lucky:  Comparatively being the key word.

On the rare occasions where she manages to succeed at a soft landing, these incidents rarely turn out to be fortunes of fate, resulting in delayed reaction disasters in the making.

In real life, falling from such a height would rarely turn out to a happy ending.  So on this parting note, here's a favorable outcome for such a dangerous method of going as the Old Crow flies.

Well, happy for one side.  No good deed goes unpunished.

Bonus content - your out-of-context panel for today!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Worthy Sprite Comics

A recent comic article brought up the question of whether there would ever be any groundbreaking sprite comics along the likes of the trailblazers 8-Bit Theater and Bob & George.

While there haven't been any notable sprite comics since the big two, working on two affectionate parodies (Megaman and Final Fantasy I), there were still a large number of amusing sprite comics out there, most of them (still) being available on Bob and George.  My favorite strips being the following:

Bishounenman (The adventures of pretty male robots and the friends and foes they encounter)

Kefka's Comics (Insane comics from a Kefka enthusiasist)

Author Wars (A gathering of multiple sprite comic authors, on a madcap chase after an elusive Golden Moogle in the same vein as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, or Rat Race for modern audiences)

Dr. Lowe's Lab (a Mad Scientist does random experiments.  Hijinks ensues)

Jailhouse Blues (Wily is Jailed yet again, yet manages to build 8 robot masters within the confines of his prison, which Megaman has to fight off after being framed himself)

Oddball Fancomics (Fancomics on par with Bob&George)

Warped Reality (A gathering of Robot Masters at Wily's Base turns into a road trip and... things happen.  Like most sprite comics, it's kinda hard to describe)

Back then, Sprite Comics were subject to heavy derision for blatantly stealing licensed artwork and making what should've been a labourous process, the act of cartooning easy for those who couldn't draw.  All that was needed for an aspiring writer who could simply add text to the sprite without having to show any artistic merit.  Though some like Taco: the Comic and Megaverse would occasionally have handdrawn art in their comics, in a veiled tribute for Bob and George's intention to start out as a drawn comic, though their artistic skills were of higher quality than David's.

Another worthy webcomic that managed to have separate sprite comics and hand-drawn comics would be The Rogue's Gallery, which had various comics, ranging from Author Space and The Fallout Shelter, most of them focusing on the abuse of Cream the Rabbit.  (Stick with the drawn stuff, such as 
All Plots Aside - they're better)

On one hand, this was a more visual form of Fanfiction, which would update regularly to keep their audience engaged, and garner interest.  Furthermore, the appeal of a consistent webcomic was seeing what zany oneupmanship the author would come up with next.  And much like many fanfictions, a lot of early Sprite Comics were terrible.  Some blatantly ripping off what made Bob & George successful without bothering to explore other realms.  Others being a kaleidoscopic mess along the likes of Dogaland Adventures, throwing whatever handy sprites were lying around and fooling with Photoshop all the time.

Finding a well-written well-created sprite comic was pretty much digging into a pile of crap to find that elusive flawed jewel hidden somewhere in the muck.  Also, there were instances of overwriting, filling in more text than would be considered helpful, Captain SNES being the worst offender.  (Almost 1000 strips later, and we're no closer to finding out how the Captain got himself jailed, let alone who he's been narrating the events of his adventures and multiple tangents to)  The only instances where a Sprite Comic would have space to breath would be for dramatic or humouristic effect, and these instances would be far between.  Rereading these often disjointed plot elements striving to come to a thematic conclusion without covering all the plot holes is now something of a chore.  The split screen arc of Bob's invasion in the Month of Destruction was revolutionary for its time, giving two separate storylines simultaneously, but rereading it now gives me a headache.

For the most part, working on a sprite comic was basically having fun with the format, usually taking heavily influenced elements, such as making the main character an idiot, references to ingesting large amounts of sweets or alcohol, and author inserts whenever possible.  People were flexing their creative muscles without really thinking or planning how things would turn out, striving close to the game they were parodying, which was as little more than exercising the form as best as they could comprehend.  In most cases, the few who managed to finish their first major arc wound up carrying that momentum onto their second... which would be where their creative process inevitably stalled.

Playing and enjoying the storylines in Video Games was something significantly different from creating comics based on those games that would veer off in alternate directions.  Once they went down a certain path of a story they didn't create, they found it difficult to add to the process, most of it having been written by someone else.  As the old saying goes, if you want to tell the different between a storyteller and a plagiarist, simply have both of them continue the story.  The one who put the most thought into the story would come up with all kinds of elements that were left out that wouldn't even be considered by others in the first place.

Somewhere along the way, the author simply either ran out of steam or found the process more labour-inducing than fun, and eventually stopped.  Whether from intervention of having to focus on their school lessons or getting scholarly degrees or getting paying jobs, for one reason or another, real life infringing on their creative process was a major contribution.

As a result of inactivity, many sprite comics have been lost to the ages of time.  One particularly impressive Flash animation I remember was a duel between Nate and Mynd, which would have two complete different outcomes depending on which one you chose to fight and win.

Even so, going through sprite comics shouldn't be a deterrent, considering how funny they can be.  The lack of an ending for many of these comics is a sore point, since who would want to read a story without knowing how it all turns out?  A happy exception to this would be Megaman: The Lost Chronicles, which I always think of as SnakeMan's comics, who despite being shown as an author avatar, manages to keep mostly off the sidelines.
What if the postal service was slow?
While there are plenty of webcomics mentioned thereabouts, I'd like to mention some of my favorites that aren't covered on TVtropes.

One of the earliest sprite comics was Odd Quest, which started off with a Final Boss fight against the one creature that's constantly Link's bane:

This was simply supposed to be a prelude, narrated by the hero, now an old man, relating his destiny to his grandchildren who would be the new RPG heroes of the next generation.

Later, like any writer ashamed of their silly first drafts, the author tried to redo the strip from the start, so it would be more serious later down the line, having the Chicken become more of a reoccurring villain, but how could you possibly improve upon that opening?

After a beginning like that, anything extra would just spoiling the taste.  What could you possibly add to that???

While many sprite comics went the way of the dodo, their domain addresses expiring from lack of use, there are still several worthy ones among us.

Neko's House is one of the more uniquely designed webcomics out there, about a ruggedly handsome man surrounded by a harem of bountiful cat-girls.  (I didn't say it was original)  The more attractive element is the ongoing relationship between Meowth and Tailmon (Better known as Gatomon, for reasons specifically spelled out below)   The only negative factor in the website is that there's no easy way to navigate through the multiple comics, each popping up into a new tab window, and some are vertical and some are horizontal, which plays havoc with your screen preferences.  Despite these niggling faults, the writing is sharp and spot on, and the character designs are attractive.

Then there's Xardion Comics, which has a small collection of What-ifs, and two storylines (one sadly incomplete), but its most remarkable feature is Chibifying Robot Masters into Mets.

The closest any sprite comic went to creating an epic recreation of an RPG would be Secret of Mana Theater, which has numerous flash animations (and multiple Easter Eggs) of the beginning of the SNES Mana game, which output slowed down to a crawl when **SPOILER ALERT** it diverged greatly from the main plot, and had the main character killed.

On the lighter side but equally ambitious is Chrono Trigger Rip-Off, a crossover between Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV, based on the Final Fantasy Chronicles Playstation disc.

These were seasoned veterans joining up with Cecil and Co. when they were just getting started.
Since FF4 has a reputation for being one of the hardest of the Final Fantasy series (so hard that they released an easy version, so as not to scare curious players off, unlike some other old-school RPGs out there), so Chrono and Company being there creates all kinds of unintended consequences, such as Tellah dying early and Magus taking over the role of the antagonist from Golbez.

Another notable comic would be Oldskooled, which took place in a bar where 8-bit stars hanged out, not unlike a certain sitcom show that I never saw.  As such, with so many stars around, there's bound to be a certain odd man out who'd be derided for their game because of its unforgiving difficulty and anticlimax boss which, until the 3DS remake, was hardly something of a classic.

Two comics I managed to save that are no longer available but are here for anyone interested can download them by clicking the titles, though chances are there may be a few comics missing, since I only saved the ones I thought were the best and most relevant.

Wily's Lab, was about Dr. Wily abusing one of his employees once too often, and he broke off and formed his own evil association, which wound up being more successful than Wily's.  In drowning his sorrows in defeat, Wily in a drunken binge, somehow managed to craft himself a Megaman Power suit so he could rightfully take back his Taking over the World schtick.

Sonic ARGH was a Sonic the Hedgehog comic gone horribly wrong, with all kinds of perversions going on, ranging from beating Knuckles up to getting involved with the porn industry.  At least it gets points for including the cleverest "cute" name for kneeing someone into the balls:

Another honourable mention I'd like to include is Zero Hour, which like many sprite comics, is no longer available, but this blog entry's getting long enough already.

Perhaps like all once-popular things, this is something that needs to hide away in obscurity until the format reuses itself again.  Until such a hypothetical time comes, here's a handy tutorial for creating sprite comics that still seems relevant today.