Monday, January 29, 2018

Mort Man Walking

Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, Hi & Lois, and multiple other innovative comics with his imitable doodles, just died.  Though you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd passed on years ago, given the sheer redundancy of the newspaper page, and the desire to see newer comics that pushed the boundaries of experimentation. 

In addition to his impressive factory output, he also put effort in preserving cartoon history at a time when such childish entertainment was still seen as disposable.  (Not to be confused with the Cartoon Museum in London which collects British comics)

He also coined nonsensical-sounding names for the ubiquitous symbolic visual shortcuts inherent of comics, such as sound effects, flop sweat, and cursing, which he called Quimps, Plewds, And Grawlixes, which never really caught on with the later generation for some reason.

His comics were known for being problematic with portrayal of women, which Mort Walker casually brushed off, saying that he was constantly constrained by newspaper censors who'd cover up his lovely ladies using black markers.

The Army in particular didn't take their casual mocking lightly, which only made Beetle Bailey more popular.  The more the authorities decried it, the more the lower ranked private personal identified with it.

Which just goes to show you that the more you try to stop people from seeing something, they resist all attempts to do so.  Though sometimes they succeed, which is why censors of 'good taste' keep trying.

Oh yes, there was also the occasional crossover with Hi & Lois, which didn't exactly reach the heights of crossover appeal achieved in Sam's Strip, which was years ahead of its time.

Ironically enough, for someone who went to such lengths to preserve lost arts, Mort Walker didn't do much to produce material that would last throughout the ages, going for the quick and easy commercial stuff that would be easily marketable anywhere.  The few times that he did go out of the way to make commentary were remarkable in being unremarkable, being sandwiched between so many instances of mediocrity.

New characters would be routinely introduced throughout the years to reflect changing times, but they were just as ephemeral and insubstantial as any other.  The lack of ongoing stories made it easy to jump in, but the limited character interaction between multiple parties played havoc with your memory thanks to a continuous stagnation of the status quo.

You could jump in any random Mort Walker comic within the last 50 years, and feel like you hadn't missed anything of substance.  That in itself is his greatest strength and weakness.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Disney's Christmas Comics

It's a month after the fact, and probably a little too early (I saw Easter candy being sold before Valentine's chocolate), but there was a collection from IDW of the numerous Disney Christmas Newspaper Comic specials that'd been sporadically released throughout the years.

In fact, the book was originally released on October of last year.  But I didn't get a chance to see it on the shelves until recently.  Though you'd never know about it, since the search function for finding Disney comics is notoriously lousy on their webpage, which is more devoted to showing single issues than the more profitable collections.

It may be borne out of nostalgia, since IDW also released their collection of Sunday Disney Movies, some of which I've shown on my blog, like Black Hole, Condorman and The Fox & The Hound.
But I like to think I might've had some influence in their decision to license long-forgotten properties, having shown the incomplete arc of Peter Pan.  Now, you can find out whether the Lost Boys managed to save Christmas or not!  (Spoiler - they probably do)

I was debating over whether I should mention the news or not, since at the time, I wasn't sure if they were going to include the later comics that showed up after the sudden dry-up in 1987, where no new Christmas comics appeared until 1992, when the Disney Empire radically reinvented their Animated movie base.

If none showed up, I would've felt justified showing the missing comics here.  However, a quick skim at the back showed that they had the very comics I was intending to show, which, while annoying, saved me the trouble of having to scan them myself.

It may seem like a no-brainer now, but it's hard to imagine a time when Disney was ever in financial trouble, and in danger of being bought out by other companies, rather than the other way around.  In fact, things were so bad that the Animation department was seriously considered being disbanded by Michael Eisner(!), who thought they could coast on on the success of the classic Animated movies they already had, until the success of The Little Mermaid showed there was still a profit to be made from newer movies.

Even if the celebration of said holidays make no sense for their time periods.

Strangely enough, the last Christmas story in 1997 was The Little Mermaid, rather than Hercules, or even Toy Story, which would've been a natural fit.  I suppose it was their way of making up for not investing in the founder that kickstarted their Princess line.  That, and show off some hot Mermaid naval-gazing.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Another Defunct Scanlation Site

Years ago, I gave tribute to OneManga, who was THE go-to site for seeing multiple Mangas without having to go to the trouble of downloading multiple chapters at a time to see whether these teaser images were worth reading in the long term or not.  At the time, OneManga’s sudden departure was bemoaned and decried over losing such a valued collection of scanlations gathered together all in one convenient spot.
The farewell letter, captured here for posterity.
(Open in another tag for legibility)
Since then, multiple copycat sites have popped up, which I’ll decline to mention.  (Do you own research!  You probably already know where you’re going to get your next fix from anyways!)  One of the most prominent was Bato.  What made them noteworthy was not only their rapid rate of updates, but also for their giving notice to the numerous translation teams that were responsible for making such reading possible in the first place.  This made tracking down the numerous titles these people were in charge of much easier, and prevented plenty of stepping on other projects that were already being worked on.  If a project had been abandoned mid-stream, another team could reasonably pick up where they left off if enough time passed until then.

By far, the most prolific scanlator was the LHtranslation team, which would routinely give multiple titles of the now burdeningly popular Isekai genre.  For those of you not in the know, Isekai is where someone (usually a high-school student) finds themselves suddenly reincarnated or summoned to a Magical Medieval RPG realm where they’re bestowed with game-breaking powers, usually via dying.  In fact, so many of these protagonists have reached this Fantasy land from traffic accidents through a common denominator, Truck-kun.  Ever since Astro Boy, Japan’s traffic accidents have been registered to be safety hazards, with the added benefit of creating genocides in other worlds.  Take heart, random punk from Death Note!  You may have died for arbitrary reasons, but you were probably reincarnated as a God-tier character in another world, so it worked out well for you in the end!

As is the case with any dying craft, the last few hours of Bato were suddenly filled with multiple Mangas making one last chance to fan the potential flames of hope, that the embers might suddenly reignite.  This was especially prominent since the site remained up past beyond its Jan. 18th deadline, prompting uploaders to post as much as they could.

And then the image servers expired, making their contributions essentially worthless.  All that appears are the bolded letters CDN LAX, and even changing the image server using the gear option doesn’t help.  So it’s now official.  Bato is dead, and the shell will be gone by the 25th.  Until then, desperate addicts & hopers (like me) will keep checking back in the vain chance that it might make a miraculous comeback.  But short of someone acquiring the domain name without much hassle, it doesn’t look too likely.

Just before the impressive amount of Mangas finally went offline, I took a look, keeping an eye out for certain titles that caught my eye:

Dr. Prisoner - A Hanibal Lecter type psychopath with Black Jack levels of surgery.
That's a rat he's operating on there.
Virtus - If one sadistic prisoner isn’t enough for you, then how about a whole prison instead?  All the convicts of this manly prison have been warped across time and space to fight in a Roman Colosseum because reasons of coolness.
Believe it or not, the guy in the lower right panel is a pacifist.
Detective Xeno and the Seven Locked Murder Rooms - An amnesiac genius who intuitively knows multiple facts and trivial minutiae, but knows nothing about his past or how he came to be is enough of a cliche at this point that it deserves its own genre.  The first chapter has said main jerk genius figure out how someone accomplished an impossible murder on a - wait for it - baseball pitcher mound.  You can always count on Japan to have their implausible stories on familiar settings within photographicable sight.  He manages to figure out how the crime was accomplished, makes friends with the assassin out to kill him (not the murderer, someone else entirely), and meets his Moriarty... who promptly dies by someone else's hand.  And this is the first chapter!

The World of Moral Reversal  - A quasi-Isekai, where a girl winds up hospitalized instead of killed, but when she wakes up, the gender values for boys and girls have been switched, where girls openly lust after hot guys behind their backs.  As such, expect plenty of examples of unflattering poses from a Female Gaze.

Dungeon Nursery - Another Isekai where a typical businessman is left to fend for himself, and his only weapon is to summon weak monsters that he’s supposed to help level up... but his monsters are weaker than he is.  In fact, the businessman who has NO fighting ability is able to beat up a Goblin that his low-level summon can’t.

Goblin is Very Strong - Take the premise of One Punch Man, and apply it to a typical low-level schulb.  The above could also apply to Helk, a Comedy Fantasy where a buff He-Man character is in a contest for the right to become the new Demon King.  It was remarked for its incredibly fast scanlation, back when it was virtually an unknown.  It started out fairly humourous, but then became tragic with all the sob backstory coming out into play, and the continuous transformation of the Last Boss who kept changing form, names, motivations and Men behind the Curtains that finally finishing it was a cathartic event.
Happier times.
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic - Yet another Isekai, only, the High Schooler’s been summoned with two other Upperclassmen and is found to have an unnaturally high ability for healing, which is an absolute must in a world that needs to deal with its wounded, so he has to undergo intense training to not just ensure that he survive, but that he’s physically fit enough to endure whatever threats out there are willing to hurt him.  After all, the first rule when dealing with Mob Rushes is “Take out the Healer First.

I Went to School to Be a Swordswoman, but My Magical Aptitude Is 9999!?  - Another overly long Fantasy title where the concept is spelled out on the tin.  A Girl sets out to become the best Swordswoman the world’s ever seen, only to find out to her horror that her natural aptitude lies not in beating plowshares, but in Magical ability.  Ironically enough, there was a similar Manga, I Said Make My Abilities Average, where the titular character wanted to appear normal, but her Magical ability was too high.  The difference was that the former was much more interesting than the latter, which presented the burden of genius and pressure to adhere to a talent that they’re not particularly interested in.

I’m a Slime - Satirical comic Anime News Nina had a strip that predicted that given the rate of Cute Superdeformed Girls being taken care of their Father figures, there’d be an Eventual progression where they’d become little more than Moe Blobs.  Well, this Webcomic has a literal Moe Blob.  But she's so cute you won't even notice, though you may need insulin later.

Kengan Asura - You know the insane Martial Arts Manga that is Grappler Baki?  Take that premise, and dial it from 11 to 12.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bleaching Cerebus

One of the things that occurs when you read multiple comics at a time, and obsess over certain series, you begin to notice certain similarities between them that would be considered glaringly obvious if anyone noticed.  The problem comes when the problematic fandoms that could understand such revelations are miles apart, leaving any possibility of crossover as being obtuse in-jokes at best.

One of the worst things of indulging in obscure cult hits is getting heavily invested in headcannons  that the rest of the world is largely ignorant about, being totally obsessed with whatever popular media outlet is currently happening.  I had no one to share my viewpoints with (at least not online), without potentially alienating anyone about just what I found so compelling, and going into comprehensive backlog of exposition which is not my forte.

Despite the fact that there’s very little cross-over appeal, I noticed certain similarities between Cerebus and Bleach:
  • Both series started out rough but strong, then lost their appeal around the 2/3 mark.
  • Both series had their chapter titles displayed in innovative ways (particularly during Church & State).
  • Both series were in Black & White, and written by an author with Misogynist qualities.

Okay, so there's not that much similarity, but once I got started, I couldn't stop, especially since I was underwhelmed at the lackluster Bleach arc, and started thinking up ways it could be made more interesting.

Of course, given the sheer intimidation factor that is Cerebus, only a handful of people who'd get all the references would understand what the hell I was talking about.  There's no other medium that Cerebus is capable of working in, and adapting the Magnum Opus is an exercise in madness.  Though, if one were to theoretically try, it would be to combine the first and 2nd books at the same time.  Have the events of High Society be offset with flashbacks to Cerebus' time as a Barbarian Mercenary.

I started getting invested in Cerebus around the same time that Bleach was winding down.  Both long-running series are beloved more for their first two-thirds rather than their last third which for the latter, many felt spoiled the series’ reputation as a whole.

Around that time, Captain Aizen was involved with a convoluted plan to breach the gates of Heaven (or what counts as the higher plane ruling Soul Society)  In a similar way, Cerebus was described as being three failed attempts to approach Heaven.  So it didn’t take much imagination to imagine what the ensuing conflict of Cerebus and Aizen would’ve been like, since they were so wonderfully unorthodox, since the majority of Bleach’s Bankais were more or less an impressive show of power one-upmanship.

On the other side of the spectrum, Cerebus was extremely influential, but almost forgotten.  Though the Telephone book collections' relevance is starting to gain some recognition in light of a certain American politician who shall remain nameless (ol’ whatsisname)

The fanfic I had in mind was where Aizen would've finally breached the gates of Heaven... only to find out that their gatekeeper is apathetic, greedy, immoral, and just plain confounding.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Beating a Path to The Fridge Door

As promised, here's the first three months worth of The Fridge Door, back when it was just starting out in its relative normalcy.

The whole page was shaped like a refrigerator, with the top half being the freezer, and the remainder the main fridge, which would contain multiple various things, ranging from rhymes, stories, stupid jokes and children's drawings.

For the sake of completeness, I included the majority of the children's submissions in the early pages, just to get an idea of what the contributions were like.  In later installments, I just concentrate on the Raccoon.

Occasionally, when the paper remembered to, it would include its inner contents on the front of its subpage.

Here, we get our first introduction to Noodles' bowl of Noodles, which only hints at the weirdness yet to come.

Very rarely, Noodles would speak out to the contributors who made an effort.

At this point, Noodles is still relatively unremarkable.  That would all change when a surprise visitor would make an appearance.