Friday, August 26, 2016

The Real Faux & Hünd

When The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released in 1996, it was heralded as a new trailblazing path for Disney movies in moving beyond mere Fairy Tales.  But Disney had apparently forgotten that they'd done adaptations of more serious works in the past before.  Ranging from Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad, to the first five minutes of The Jungle Book that was faithful to its source material, before becoming the Baloo show.

And then there's The Fox & The Hound, probably one of the most depressing movies ever made.

Though, if you've been browsing clickbait links, you may have come across a factoid that the book was Miles more soul-crushing.  The story changed from a parable about how our roles in society determine our motives, to a fable about childhood friends from opposite sides becoming unintentional enemies.

Finding a dead tree version can be considered costly, since it hasn't been reprinted since its publication.
Fortunately, there's an electronic version available, so it isn't completely lost to the ages.  (Too bad I can't stand the platforms, since their scrolling pages give me a headache)  The majority of the following is lifted almost verbatim from the TVtropes Literature page, with minor revisions.

Ironically enough, the book's theme more closely resembled the atmosphere surrounding the Animation studio in producing the cartoon film.  As one of the final projects completed by the remaining fabled Nine Old Men, the movie was plagued with a troubled production history.  There were numerous conflicts of interest between the old guard and the new generation on how to best do background details, and refusal to use the latest technology under budget restrictions.

The result was Don Bluth becoming discouraged over the 'stagnant' Disney, moved out with a dozen other animators to found his own company... which specialized on lengthy chase scenes and nonsensical plots.  Still, for all his faults, he was the closest thing Disney had to a legitimate rival for a very long time.
Tim Burton was reportedly so traumatized over being unable to draw a fox properly ("my drawings all looked like roadkill") that he didn't return to the company for almost a decade.

Tim Burton literally went insane trying and failing to replicate the Disney style. Highlights from his tenure include locking himself in his closet, biting people who came near his desk and wandering the halls after having his wisdom teeth pulled and letting his mouth bleed all over the floor. His time at Disney didn't last much longer.

While there is a hound named Copper and a fox named Tod, that's pretty much where the similarities end. For starters, the two never meet or spend much time in childhood to form a lasting fraught relationship that's doomed from the start.  Instead, the titular fox is raised by a hunter (not the same one who killed his parents) who's also raising a terrier puppy.  To prepare his pets for the outside world, he runs a simple experiment on them by rigging up a plate of food to deliver a shock if touched. The terrier takes several shocks to get the idea, and completely forgets the plate's unpleasantness in a few months. Tod gets shocked ONCE and never goes near it again.  A trait of learning things quickly, which is essential for survival.

Another difference is the portrayal of the animals' mindset, which is closer to Patrick Süskind's Perfume.  From their point of view, their major import of information comes from their overwhelming sense of smell, rather than sight.  Copper's eyesight is so bad that he seems to consider clear colour vision to be a Bizarre Human Sense.

Also, Tod's repertoire of hunting skills and evasive maneuvers are made up of various tricks that worked once and are repeated verbatim - he doesn't question WHY something works, he just knows that it DOES.

Copper knows that "human beings had strange powers that no dog could understand", such as the ability to miraculously scent trails where he cannot (which was more likely following footprints and broken branches). The formal foxhunters are even more bizarre and inscrutable. Tod is probably the character least awed by humans, and even then they still do things he finds inexplicable from time to time.

Untrained curs are dumb - trained hounds can smell right through most fox tricks.

The author, Daniel Mannix, spent over a year studying foxes, which included watching them in the wild, interviewing hunters and even keeping a pair of red foxes in his home. He was also extremely well-versed in how scent tracking works. It shows.

One of the few rare instances that a scene is actually taken from the book.  But there were several minor differences involved.  For starters, after Tod played a dangerous game of Chicken with an upcoming train, Chief pretty much died after this gambit.  While this was the motivation behind the hunter beginning a life-long vendetta against the fox who'd killed his beloved dog, Copper's reaction was markedly different.  Copper was actually GLAD that Chief was killed, since his mentor picked up scents by luck, rather than in a methodical way Copper did.

Another major difference is that Book Tod pretty much hates being domesticated, and as soon as he approaches puberty, he leaves his foster home to join the wild, where he learns new survival skills the hard way - trial & error.

Tod decides being a mated fox might not be so bad after his first mate helps him kill a pheasant and later proves that a hunting pair is a lot more successful than a lone fox.

There were actually two Vixens who attracted Tod's attention.  The first one was lost to a rival fox Tod fought over.  Tod wouldn't find a suitable replacement to make babies with until later.

Foxes of course do not have language (In Japan, they make a 'Kon' noise), so fox parents cannot simply tell their offspring that winter is coming and that it would be a good idea to learn hunting skills in summer. Tod cannot communicate to his family that the hunter is using a rabbit-scream call as bait.

The second vixen Tod mated with picked a birthing den that had a single tunnel leading to a single burrow. Unlike the care-free Tod in the movie, Book Tod was more paranoid..  Having spent his short time as a wild pup in a generations-old fox den with multiple entrances and burrows, thinks the new home's a death trap. He's right.  The casualty report - his vixen is caught in a bear trap, and of the two litters who were outright killed, only one pup survived, and presumably lived off-screen.

There WAS a Bear attack in the book, but it happened earlier, practically near the beginning, and it was Chief who saved the day, by attacking... the bear's groin area.  Obviously, that couldn't be shown in a children's movie, so they resorted to having him fall off a log.

Most British fox hunts last for an average of 17 minutes.  The last chapter, which details the lengthy cat-and-mouse chase between the Fox & the Hound lasted... a day and a half, covering 150 miles.  This was based on a real hunt, with a Fox named Baldy, and a half-breed bloodhound named Boston.  At the end of that hunt, both animals literally chased themselves to death, dropping dead from exhaustion.  Book Copper fared better - he survived.

...only to have his fate sealed for him shortly after.  Once Tod is killed, more through second-hand status ailments than cathartic release, the hunter has no other purpose left in life.  With most of his property gone in the process, the hunter is forcibly ferried into a nursing home that doesn't allow dogs, so to avoid abandoning his faithful friend who's stuck through him thick and thin, he's forced to shoot Copper before entering.  Cheerful, huh?

The worst part was that Copper was so blissfully unaware of what the hunter had planned for him that he kept wagging his tail.  Once shot, the hunter hanged Tod's lifeless pelt on his wall, to remember him always.

To make up for that amount of Funky Winkerbean level of funkness, here's a child's drawing of the two titular characters in happier times.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pmurt, The Anti-Trump

Chapter 34: Prescription
by Moore Urasawa

(Setting: the interior of a hospital wing.  A balding detective in a trench coat knocks on the door of an office)

Detective Flinch: Dr. Tenma?
(The door opens, revealing a world-weary brunette in a laboratory coat)
Doctor Tenma: Mister Flinch?  You made an appointment, right?
Flinch: Yes.  I was hoping we could speak confidentially.
Tenma: My office is always open.  (Leads Flinch inside, closes door)
Flinch: Lately, we've had rumours that the vigilante known as Code Name "P" is planning to take advantage of the ensuing confusion regarding the upcoming election.
Tenma: (Looks a little lost)  Unless it has to do with something medical, I'm not quite sure how I can help.
Flinch: There is.  You have access to a certain illegal drug in your possession.  A controlled substance, under article C2oh25-N3O, I believe.
Tenma: (Blank look)  What are you talking about??
Flinch: There's no use hiding it.  We've known about your operation for quite some time.
Tenma: (Looks warily at the door, seeking an escape route)
Flinch: Don't worry.  I'm not seeking a conviction.  I'm semi-retired, so officially, I'm not here.  I'm far more interested in a controlled substance that I used to partake.
Tenma: You??  I find that hard to believe.
Flinch: (Inhales, exhales deeply into his hands) It's not exactly something I'm proud of.  You see, I used to be a much more high-profile detective, helping solve some of the most baffling cases.
Tenma: Baffling cases?... You don't mean to say that... you were L?

Flinch: No, I wasn't THAT good.  (Chuckles)  No, but I took some mental-boosting pills that increased my productivity.  Unfortunately, they had the side effect of cutting off my relationships.  I became too grossly invested in my work.  My wife left me, my colleagues could no longer tolerate my presence.  My arrogance began to overwhelm getting further cases assigned my direction.  Eventually, I weaned off the pills, but my reputation was never the same afterwards.
Tenma: (Confused) So, why come to me then?  Why take these pills at all?
Flinch: In order to get into "P"'s mentality, I need to indulge deeply into the deepest darkest recesses of my mind.  And my ability lately has been sorely lacking.  I've always been three steps short of him, never quite catching up.  I don't like resorting to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Tenma: (Picks pills from behind secret compartment)  This 'P' threat, it's pretty big, huh?  (Hands pills over)
Flinch: You have no idea.  (Contemplates pills in his hand)
Tenma:  You know, it's not too late.  You can still back out if you want to.
Flinch:  (Shakes head) I know I'm reaching.  Frankly speaking, I'm scared about what getting into his state of mind entails.  (Swallows pills)  But I'm more scared about what 'P' might do more.
Tenma: (Points towards door, hand on doorknob) Should I leave, or...?
Flinch: Stay.  I need somebody to keep watch over me.  I have no idea how I'll react, having been off for so long.  My relapse should -
(The detective stops short, his eyes bulging out.  He puts his hands on his head and starts convulsing, his whole body shaking wildly, alarming the doctor.  After several seconds of erratic movement, the seizures stop)
Tenma: (Tentatively moves within the drug-induced detective's line of sight)  ...Inspector Lynch?

(Detective Lynch removes his hands from his head in a relaxed manner, revealing the face of a smiling confident man with a cool lean predator-hungry look with razor-sharp eagle eyes constantly seeking justice)
Detective Lynch: "I am 'P'."

(The screen becomes warped and corrupted)
*Static plays*
(The Horizontal and Vertical warble)

(The face of a man wearing a smiling Pikachu mask appears on the screen)

P: Hello.  Sorry to interrupt during a pivotal moment, but I felt it was time I had a few choice words to say.
This speech is not aimed at the general populace, but at the higher rankings of so-called men in charge.

At this current rate, your party is collapsing faster than I could possibly hope to implement.

Really, you have only yourselves to blame.

You've openly supported a man who for all intents and purposes, was a reprehensible human being.  All the proof was there for everyone with a lick of common sense to see.

The only reason you started backing him up was because he gained the popular vote with the same poisonous methodology you've used over the years to appeal to your voting base.  The problem with using such a technique for so long - somebody was bound to corrupt and override the formula down to its most basic elements for maximum impact.

And what has he done since?

Furthermore, his default first response to any perceived threat is to go straight to the nukes.  And ALSO thinks that more countries should have nuclear weapons.

ANY other politician would long have apologized for their misgivings, hoped he'd be forgiven for their slights and move on.  Not him.  When met with anything resembling resistance - not even defiance - he digs in his heels and further digging in his roots for the hills he's willing to die on.  For all your hopes that he'd change his tune once sworn in as candidate, he decided to stick to the formula he knows best, since it worked this far.
This is a man who openly admits to refuse to change.

All these warning signals should have scared you off.  It didn't.  Experience should've shown you that unscrupulous businessmen make lousy politicians.  Your last Presidential Candidate should have shown you that.  It didn't.  Maybe now, you'd learn your lesson, but experience has taught me not to rely on wishful thinking.

Your ceiling of quality, once so high and lofty has fallen so low that it now more closely resembles a cellar floor.  And yet, you continue to follow behind him, while openly resisting any serious backing.  Which is it? You can't have it both ways forever.  Sooner or later, you're going to have to make a decision.

The ONE politician who made no move to endorse him, and appealed others to "vote their conscience" was booed off the stage for displaying disloyalty within the party.  Strange that voting our conscience is considered reprehensible.  At what point does despicable actions become acceptable behavior?

This is what comes out of letting your greed dictate your political terms.  We're at the point where a corporation is considered to be a person, but people are considered property.  You've made emotional arguments that have nothing to do with policy, and scared your voters beyond reasonable margins using anti-intellectual stances.  Annoying know-it-alls were just getting in the way with their factoids.  Well, here's one for you:

I have heard grumblings of the overwhelming dissatisfaction of the incompetence of the authorities in being unable to apprehend me, on the basis that "I'm only ONE man!"  Well, let me turn that back on you.  You only had to stop ONE man from rising as high into power as he did.  What's YOUR excuse?

And now, back to our regular feature, currently in progress.

(Brief flicker of snowy static)

(Interior of the Doctor's office is a shambles)

Flinch: (Looks around, confused.  Is surprised to find himself naked)  What happened?  I didn't hurt you, did I?
Tenma: (Shaking) No, you just did some bizarre pantomime actions, roleplaying multiple theoretical scenarios using my office supplies, before stopping and writing something down before collapsing.
Flinch: What'd I write?
Tenma: (Tentatively hands piece of paper over)
Flinch: (Reads page)

Page: It's already too late.  "P" doesn't need to do anything at this point.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Hazards of Driving

I've never been one to fully embrace the trial of enduring a driving lesson, even though having a driver's license would make things easier to sign up for, as an added proof of who I say I really am.  (Because there are all kinds of frauds out there who'd like to impersonate me, without any of the emotional baggage I entail)

To me, a car is less the feeling of rebelliousness freedom, and more a golden albatross you're anchored to.  There's the cost of having to fill up the gas tank on a regular basis, keeping the tires inflated, the windshield wipers fluid working.  And on top of all that, there's the ever-persistent threat of your car suddenly experiencing system existence failure right in the middle of traffic.

Ah yes, traffic.  Home of the highway, constant stop signs and the source of road rage, where the slightest distraction is the only thing from reducing your high-tech vehicle into a twisted steel death trap.  If your body hasn't been fully damaged beyond repair in your metal coffin, you'll be lucky(?) enough to only scrape by with some amputated limbs, brain damage, and ruptured internal organs.  Not to mention the act of having to pay attention to every single functioning aspect of the car, memorizing what each gear does, and keeping a watchful eye on daredevil jaywalkers.  There's simply too many things for me to keep track of.

That's why I prefer to go the route of public transportation.  Let THEM deal with the worries, while I doze away to the comfortable vibrations in the back.  Not that riding the bus is that great a deal.  The latest designs are nowhere as comfortable as the old models (50 seats reduced to 30), seats with no place to rest your head, too many windows that allow sunlight to glare through, and a limited number of comfortable spots that are quickly filled up.  Not to mention the threat of missing your stop through inattention or not ringing the bell properly enough.  And the pressure to keep a vigilant eye on making sure your bus doesn't pass you by when you're not paying attention.  And the fares keep rising all the time, with no end in sight.

I'd also opt for being picked up by someone who knows how to drive, but waiting around for them to come is just as nervewracking as waiting for the bus, since people don't operate by a timesheet system.  But that's them breaks I guess.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics Funnies

Of all the holiday-centric themes, the Olympics rank among the scarcest in terms of coverage.

Since Olympics only happen every four years, it's less of an annual marker, so it doesn't normally weigh in on Cartoonists' minds, unless they make a conscious effort to tie in their characters to coincide with the event.  Not to mention the Winter Olympics, which happen in between the Summer Olympics, giving people from colder climates (Canadians & Russians) equal footing.

Since ancient times, people worldwide would compete in various events to see which one of them would be the best shining example of being the best in their fields.

If there were any national events that happened to take place before the Greek tradition was revived in the late 18th Century, no records of them exist.

In Hagar's case, his Olympic event apparently consists of a triathon involving carrying two barrels of beer on a hurdle course, toasting a hundred times in a row, pillaging a castle, swinging across a moat (Moat Monster optional) and breaking through a wooden finish sign, because why make it easy at the end?

To ensure that everyone gets their fair share, the Olympics have branched out into various fields, from the handicapped, to the Deaf.  If any others are included in the future, they'll be so that no one (country) is truly left out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

License Request - The Comic History of BD

When it comes to going through in-depth history about comics, such books tend to be filled with long lengthy essay-length journals full of investigative analysis of comic's evolution throughout the ages.  Unless you've had some familiarity with the subject material and massive plot spoiler summaries already laid out for you, or you've lived throughout the times when these comics were being printed, you're very likely to be glazing your eyes over the text, preferring to skip over to the pictures, of which there are massively few to appreciate.  Not to mention that when pictures are available, the whole story isn't included, which removes much of the context in question.  And for the most part, comic histories tend to overwhelmingly focus on Superhero comics rather than other works that would be more receptive to a general audience whose tastes run in a different direction.

With very rare exceptions, such as Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey's The Comic Book History of Comics, going through information about an extremely visual art form can be an outright slog.  Now, we've got another worthy contender to add to the surprisingly small pond: Nervé Bourhis' le petit livre de la Bande Dessinée.  Or, as I affectionately (and appropriately) reChristian it, The Comic History of BD.

While there's some perfunctory attention to cave drawings and Rodolphe Töpffer, the vast majority of the book covers comic's growing trend near the end of the 18th Century all the way up to 2014.  The book highlights many comics and when they first started, along with notable cartoonist's births and deaths.  Furthermore, the sheer range of comics noted throughout each year is massively varied, covering not just BD, but also Newspaper comics, American comics and various Mangas.  It also notices when comics have been adapted to other mediums, such as movies and television shows, when comic magazines make radical decisions, and when cartoonists join up or leave various companies.

Another selling point is that various comic covers are redesigned by multiple (European) cartoonists who put their own unique spin on some of the most famous comics ever printed.  Not unlike the retired Covered comic blog.

No matter what your interest is, whether it's Superhero comics, Newspaper comics, Manga, or European comics, chances are high that there'll be something of interest to attract your eye on a history page.  And by extension, you may also find other intriguing tidbits of information you might not have noticed otherwise.

Of course, this mainly covers the three major exports of comics, North America, France and Japan.  Any references to other countries that didn't immediately gain massive commercial appeal or licenses years later are forgotten or left out.  This book mainly covers the major attention-grabbing comic stories that gripped the nation.

The only minus is that some covers may be somewhat radically different or obscure compared to what North American readers are familiar with.  Unless you were already acquainted with the wild drawings of Gotlib, you wouldn't know that this cover would be a "before", with Issac Newton & Co...

...and the cover below shows what happens "after" .

Also, the European market can sometimes change things more to their liking, which may be considered surprising.  The cover for the first Calvin & Hobbes collection was closer to a BD format with the front cover not being hand-painted by Watterson himself, but a blow-up of a single representative panel instead.

I mentioned before how some Newspaper comic collections in book form would be chopped up to meet a bookstore's shelf space requirments.  In France, Newspaper comics were rearranged in a typical BD format, four strips a page, and a vertical arrangement of normally horizontal Sunday strips.  The more experimentative comics would be rotated sideways.  To further add to the madness, in this format, a typical BD collection would only collect half the material in a regular North American comic 128-page collection.

Sometimes a redrawn comic can be close enough to the source material, while in others, they can be radically different, while still displaying the spirit of the original.

In other instances, figuring out the inside joke to a cover shouldn't be that large a hurdle.  A simple search request or familiarity with the art style should be all the clues you need.

Most likely, this license request is little more than a pipe dream.  Translating the vast amount of text would be an uphill challenge, and some parodic covers might have to be redrawn or rechosen to further reflect American interests.

The irony is, while other books with comic essays will have delightful drawings to cover up the lack of art inside, that's not the case here.  For a book that's chock-filled with nothing but multiple unique cartoonish and realistic drawings, it has possibly, the most banal cover in existence.  It looks more like a Classical Music Record cover than a book.

EDIT - turns out that there's some sound effects, punch explosions and exclamation marks that are just barely visible if you hold the cover up to the light at a certain angle.  And the author/artists have also done collaborative works focusing on the music industry.