Saturday, December 26, 2015

French CROC Ads

Possible homage to Magritte's "Treachery of Images".
(Go ahead, look it up)
In addition to going through old newspapers, I've also been looking through online archives of CROC Magazine.  As mentioned before, CROC was the Quebec equivalent of National Lampoon or MAD, and used to run Red Ketchup.  (Still holding out hope for an official English release or scanlation)
The December subscription page staring panels of Santa along the border, grouped together.
It seems somewhat contradictory of me to be posting more advertisements on Boxing Day, where stores are intent on removing their stock and I'm fixated on dredging up ancient history, making relevance of no-longer available products somewhat redundant.
Product Placement at its most basic.
In an age where pop-up ads are considered vastly annoying, and most customer's preference is waiting for the trade or DVD, nostalgia for time-wasting advertisements can be seen as somewhat baffling.  The majority of ads whose only purpose is to induce an earworm imprint in your mind are the most loathed, and therefore, most in desire to forget.  But the rare few clever ads that aspire for something more that stretch the boundaries of a typical 30-second sales pitch are the ones that remain in our minds long after they've been discontinued.

One of these was an ad for Wallobee Jack, an obscure point-and-click computer game series.  Despite the Tiny Tunes influential design, the actual animated gameplay dialogue is startlingly limited to the lips.  While it's the same principle used for Japanese Novel games, it somehow winds up being more distracting.  See for yourself...

If there's a fault, its that the puzzles are rather easy, and are cut between lengthy cut scenes that look unskippable.  I've never been able to understand how people can play dialogue-heavy games with no available text, especially if you're dealing with sensitive material relating to clues, and need to refresh your memory without having to replay the scene again to understand what was said; which is why I prefer games that at least have their text on the screen.

There's been comparative food studies that show that candy and meat advertisers outpace advertisements for health food by hundreds of times.  This may be the only instance of an anthropomorphic broccoli stick in an ad, and it's miserable at not being as fun as a Jos Louis cake bar.

Every year in Montreal, there's a Just for Laughs comedy festival where comedians gather to display their stand-up skits and sketches.  And every year, I wind up disappointed with their mostly unfunny results.  Their only saving grace is Victor, the "Laughing Devil" mascot, who like the animated Pink Panther, is much more appealing than the source material.

Victor was created by the late Vittorio Fiorucci, an ad designer whose works were featured on multiple posters and several Time magazine covers.  The self-caricatured mascot will probably remain his most memorable legacy, outstripping his other projects, which seems somewhat fitting.  His obituary had all kinds of interesting anecdotes, starting off with coming to this country in anticipation of selling stories.  His only obstacle - he couldn't speak (let alone write) English or French, so he resorted to drawing, and by chance, wound up doing advertising work.  That suited him just fine, since "Posters, are after all, short novels of art.", so in a strange roundabout way, he wound up telling stories after all.

Victor is so ubiquitous as an icon that he was even part of an anti-drug platform that even found its way on public transportation posters.

It would take me years to figure out that the pink creature with a straw wasn't sucking things up its mouth, but up its nose.  The crow thingie is probably Crack or Speed, and I've just figured out that the yellow slimy thing is likely alcoholic beer.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Little Bit of Everything

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I've been busier than usual lately, and I'd been having trouble pining down specific topics I'd want to talk about.  I've got some rough guidelines drafted out, but feel that they could use more reworking, and I'm self-imposing myself by not wanting to use the same subject material twice in a post, which is why my topics are so erratic.

commenter asked if I could show the Full Monty comic of The Simpsons, and since there's been no other requests, I'm willing to oblige.  Here's the full-page version.

Since there's a lot of shrinkage involved, I've split the posters into two halves.  You may want to avert your eyes from the center.

When I heard the news that respected Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, was going to branch out in S-hero comics, with her title Angel CatBird, it reminded me of this.  I've posted this comic before, but I think it bears repeating.

While the notion of her planned genre isn't exactly my kind of thing, the way she described the format leaves me with less confidence.  Just having your hero spout animal-based puns alone isn't going to be enough.  That obsessive panel relevance might've worked for Watchmen, but it was also distracting as hell.  At first, I thought she was branching out into exploitable fields, not unlike Celebrities releasing unsuccessful children's books, until I did some research, and found out that she was a rabid reader and producer of comics herself.

I certainly couldn't comment on her writing ability, since I've never been able to get past the first page of any of her nerves-inducing novels.  But I'd hope that she'd be able to tie her theme to more than just cat & bird sanctuaries.

When Bloom County branched out into Sunday-only comics in the vein of Outland and Opus, they were a far cry from the legendary strip run of the original.  So when Berkley Breathed said he was coming back to the strip for a third revival, I wasn't very optimistic.  Turns out that what missing magic formula for the snarky up-to-date commentary were the daily strips (with occasional Sundays) that gave the comic the biting nature it'd been lacking.  It probably helps that he doesn't have to stick to a specific schedule, or ironclad number of dailies and Sundays, and just presents them in any order he chooses.

The latest comics have been commenting on the latest Star Wars movie (of which I have no preference, and even less interest) and this little ditty came up:
I figured it'd only be a matter of time before somebody made the obvious editing choice, and was surprised to see it hadn't been attempted yet.  The hardest part is filling in the blank centering around Jon's arm.  I'm sure that somebody out there would be able to do a better photoshopping job, but this'll have to do for now.
Zippy the Pinhead is one of the most obtuse mainstream underground comics (other than Odd Bodkins) that's somehow found its way onto the newspaper funny pages.  In the early 2000s, when Japanese comics began outpacing American comics in terms of popularity, and outlets started devoting pseudo-Manga in hopes of leeching attention away from newcomers, it was a revelation (and confirmation) that the once underground obsession had finally pierced the public consciousness.
Nowadays, with the near-ubiquitousness of Japanese media, any mention of Otaku culture is somehow less impressive.  Back then, fans would scour pages for any mention of their favorite hobby.  These days, why bother?
The Wizard of Id has very few reoccurring characters, but few are as obscure as the monstrosity known as Abra Cadaver.
Abra Cadaver is basically a Frankenstein-creature that the Wizard seems to be on good terms with, and bears no relation to the Powerpuff Girls villain.  It certainly seems to be a popular name for a mangling of the famous magical incantation.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Newspaper Comic Ads

Newspaper carrying comics have been a customer staple ever since the dawn of the 20th Century, save for those that only contain wordy articles, and appeal to the intellectual few who don't need to rely on pictures for their daily input of information.  They fall on the respectable field of journalism who don't want to rely on advertisers dictating terms for which articles are worthy of being printed or not.

So it's somewhat surprising that usage of comics for ads isn't utilized more.  There was a short-lived run of YTV comics that would've fit right in TV Guide. This kind of thing would be expected in regular comic books, but even there, usage is sporadic.
Probably (hopefully) not the same Michael Jackson you're thinking of.
For the most part, they're fairly functionary, in setting up a conflict in the lack of a need, and a quick-fix solution in the way of a reliable source where retail outlets are sold.
If you're using plagiarized pop art to sell your merchandise instead of hanging them on your wall,
is it considered high or low art?
For years, I braved my way through shows without close-captioning by making up my own dialogue from what I imagined was going on, with small clues gleamed from surrounding elements, situations and gestures here and there.  If I'd actually known what the Hanna-Barbara characters were actually saying, I would've lost all interest in limited stilted animation.  If this level of dialogue is typical of an episode, it's no wonder that Anime's been looked down as children's entertainment for so long.

Some ads look like were basically retreads of the 30-second commercials that were aired and then quickly forgotten.  They probably still exist somewhere in some obscure videotape or Youtube account.

One of the greatest surprises was finding a Mr. Peanut comic that looks like Robert Crumb drew it.

For those not in the know, Lowney are a kind of peanut butter chocolate, not unlike Reese's Pieces.  Their more recognized brand are those lumps with the cherry inside.  It should be mentioned that they're Canadian as well.  If there's a fault with the first ad, it's in the second panel, which has a caption just below some written text that's continued on the caption on the next panel.  Chances are, most readers wanting to ignore the boring picture, feeling it redundant, would read the narrative as "I've been writing to them for over a year... upside Down!"  Obviously, any company that would pay attention to such an unusual letter would want to ignore such madness, right?

And yes, this was an actual item, though its presentation could've used some work.  It's coffee colouring and small opening makes it look rather unappealing for all but the brand-faithful and nostalgia-induced.

Things get downright disturbing with the 3rd ad with the limerick-like introduction of a girl whose personality is as unhinged as her jaw.

Going further with Canadian chocolates is the series of Eat-More bars, which all seem to follow some kind of Western theme.

For some reason, some of them remind me of MAD's Scenes we'd like to See, where a bunch of charming underdog Cowboys are struggling to hold out against a horde of invading Indians find themselves overwhelmed in the face of a cavalry that never comes.

It's certainly an unusual sentiment, given that ads are all about making you feel better about yourself, and less about selling products that carry the whiff of failure.  But that's always been more of a Canadian mentality than an American one - doing the best we can against incredible odds, and wind up losing in the end.  Terry Fox is revered, even though he barely reached the 1/3rd mark in his marathon.  Dieppe was our greatest failure that was a prelude to the D-Day invasion on Normandy Beach.

On another vein of the creative scale are Oh Henry! ads in the form of parodic Believe it or Not! factoids.  All of them feature an oversized Candy Bar, which was how they were portrayed on TV, not unlike the Three Musketeers candy bar comics later on.

*Citation needed.
Somewhere along the way, comic ads became less specialized, and became little more than formulary pieces just giving the bare bones of their product.  "Here's this impressive item!  Here're legitimate reasons to get it!!  Now, go buy it!!!"

For me, the low end of the scale was when I saw this revamped Popsicle Pete ad that has all the subtlety of a PSA (or Captain Planet) comic.  There's practically no similarity to his former incarnation (which may or may not be a bad thing) and really, no one was crying out for another redundant S-hero team whose cliched team is composed of The Hero, The Girl, and The Other Guy.  It has all the basic drama and resolution of a typical Hostess Fruit Pies comic, only with less memorable script and art.  I'm embarrassed to even look at it.  Feel free to avert your eyes - you won't be missing much.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Giving Akira some Colour

Akira is one of the most ambitious gateway Animes despite being fairly incomprehensible without being familiar with the source material.  It's been described as the Watchmen of Psychic Manga, which, like the Alan Moore work, only wound up further influencing Mangas for years to come.  For a long time, I was disappointed with Banana Fish lifting so many elements (Biker wars, balding rival, bald powerful man, coverups, mysterious drug) as well as backgrounds (warehouse & sewers), but later had to contend that it was telling a dramatically different story than the Sci-fi epic.
It's no wonder the teacher's surprised -
Kaneda's interrupting before Yamagata's got a chance to complete his sentence.
Every generation seems to want to rediscover this Manga once it falls out of circulation.  Marvel got the ball rolling under their alternative Epic license which radically colourized the lush drawings and slimmed down the speech balloons to more expectant American tastes, all claustrophobic and scrunched up.
Such a task required having clean copies of the original art, otherwise they would've had to redraw the illustrations behind the extra-large speech balloons, which took up the majority of the panels.  Such a practice would be considered heretic and practically unthinkable today, not only in terms of effort, but also in practicality and risking the ire of pissing off purists who'd insist on authenticity.  (Surprisingly enough, the flipped pages hasn't raised much ire)  But this was back when comic fans were even more notoriously finicky on subject material, and wouldn't even consider looking at a comic unless it was available in colour.  That said, Marvel's recolouring by Steve Oliff  co. was a remarkable accomplishment, paving the way for today's colourists to do the majority of their colouring via computer rather than by hand.  Apart from a few minor mistakes here and there (having one eye redder than the other), they still did an amazing effort.
In both instances, somebody's head is being covered up by celebratory dialogue.
Then once the license fell through, Dark Horse picked up the pieces, relying parts of it on the English script, and part of it on the French publication, which is why there's some unusual sound effects sprinkled here and there.  Sales were quite brisk... for awhile, then it fell out of print again.  The third volume was the most popularly outsold one, since it was basically the best in terms of escalating rising action, with multiple parties finding themselves at see-sawing advantageous positions.  Then when interest was surging again, Kodansha picked up the bill once it reverted back to their property.

The school is ruled by sadistic teachers who spend more time beating up and arguing with their students than
actually trying to teach them lessons that'll make them beneficial (
hah!) members of society.
Considering that the entirety of the school is made up of biker gangs,
there's not much room for intellectual stimulation there.
Other than these nitpicks, some long-time fans still vastly prefer the Marvel version over the faithful rereleases.  Part of this has to do with some passages done by Jo Duffy's script.
"...something illegitimate!"
I read somewhere on a now-defunct Manga blog that there was going to be an attempt to compare the two versions of Crying Freeman (a realisticly-drawn pornographic Mary Stu) between Viz and Dark Horse, but it was either abandoned or never attempted.  I hoped someone else would pick up the slack, since there was no way I was going to bother buying another copy of a story I already had, and didn't really like in the first place.  Apparently, Ryuji the Blade's dialogue was drastically toned down in the Viz version, and that's all I know.

Here's another subtle change.  Most of Yamagata's amusing mispronunciations stayed pretty much the same in both versions, save for the above, which becomes more obvious by Marvel's mandate.  In the official version, there's no allusion to Mutants, which was pretty much the standard definition of anything relating to X-men.  Kaneda's ignorant reaction is understandable, since psychic S-heroes were severely limited due to their overpoweredness, while in Manga, psychics were as common as dirt.  It's not too surprising they would be considered more familiar there than in American comics.
At first, the Colonel seems to be starting the Doctor's sentence from across the building.
In the second instance, the parallel dialogue is better displayed.
As with any fandom, opinion is relentlessly divided between which version is the superior one.  Some will find no fault between one woman named Kay and the other named Kei.  For the Anime, some will point to the voices being more authentic.  Others will prefer the older script.  Not being able to hear the difference, I can only say that I prefer the version that at least had comprehensible dialogue.
Flunkies failing to meet their superior's orders is a common theme running throughout this Manga.
We should at least have some kind of Schadenfreude from their experience.
By chance, I managed to find and keep a captioned Streamline version of Akira.  Years later, when I saw the DVD available at the library, I took it out, figuring the subtitles would be more faithful.  Instead, what I got was a rushed translation job that made an already impenetrable movie even more baffling.  The amoeba comparison metaphor was so incomprehensible I couldn't even understand what the hell they were talking about.
The Colour version involving puns (this was a boat crashing into the canal)
was probably considered a little too punny.
When Akira unleashed his terrifying power, the second half of the Manga deals with the characters coping with a dystopian world, which means they fit right in.  In one instance, the Colonel is cornered by some renegade soldiers, one of whom spouts some lines of poetic license:
Once we shoot you, how you'll cry! / You'll suffer so! / And then you'll die! / You can't escape! / Don't even try!
I don't want to break the spine of my already preciously fragile copy to scan a few identical words, so you'll have to settle for text reproduction.
Don't you scoff at me, old fart! / It's a serious threat, phrased as serious art!
You may fire at will!  Go on now, start...
But then, complications arise when one of the intended shooters winds up being a familiar face from earlier in the volume:
What is he to you?
Your old boss? / Is that true?
Then killing him should bring you fun.
Stop your stalling! Fire your gun!
As with any situation where one party has another at an overwhelming advantage with firearms, it can take ages before any side starts firing.  Five pages after cutting away elsewhere, the situation still hasn't been resolved.
Don't make a superior officer lose patience with you!
In his first appearance, Joker, leader of the Clowns had dental hygiene that were an orthopedist's nightmare.
Only after he showed up again in the fifth book by being relevant again in supplying weapons and transportation, did his teeth suddenly became uniform and squeaky clean.  This sudden change made him a honourary member of the cast (even as he was still regulated to a side character), as well as making it easier for Katsuhiro Otomo to draw him surrounded by heavily detailed buildings.  (Though he still found some compelling reason to deck him out in various facial tattoos)  One minor background difference can be seen below.
Behind one panel holding state-of-the-art weapons is a poster with cute art.
Behind the other is a dire warning for anyone lingering around to keep their mitts off.