Showing posts with label Marvin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvin. Show all posts

Friday, June 29, 2012

Optical Allusions

Back when comic characters having large eyes meant having ping-pong sized bug-eyed expressions instead of Manga doe-eyed childish appeal, precautions had to be made to ensure that no other tiny "dots" be seen within the interior of the eye, lest it cause confusion. A slight printing error could cause the unintended result of having two eyes, each looking in a different direction. In the sixth panel of the Broom Hilda comic, Broomie is simultaneously looking at Gaylord and Irwin at the same time. This feat can only be accomplished by similarly affected historical figures, such as Liu Ch'ung from Ripley's Believe it or Not!

Another example would be Marvin here, where he's reacting both in shock to being found escaping, and looking at the headlight from a backwards glance. While I know that's the most logical choice, I prefer to think that he's doing a miniture version of cartoon characters looking everywhere at once during a hazardrous situation. At times when I'm stressed, I find it dificult to keep my eyes still, because they're constantly darting all over the place, looking for something to focus on.

I'd hoped to find another example, but I was unable to do so. Seems that finding these kinds of mistakes are just as rare as the symptoms they come from. So I'll expand on to another field of visual optics. Sometimes when I look at a cartoon panel, I'll have some difficulty finding the face. This isn't a form of Prosopagnosia where every face looks the same, but somewhere along similar lines when I'm not exactly sure where the face begins and ends.

As a kid, I used to have extremely vivid daydreams that felt as real as a movie screen. These would last several seconds and only faded away when the image I was thinking of superimposed itself against the background or foreground I was currently looking at. I recieve this familiar sensation when I stare at these unfamiliar faces. Here, the front cover looks like a large potato-head guy anticipating using a gun on a nerdy bird picking flowers. It wasn't until I took a zoomed back that I saw where I was mistaken.

Having been accustomed to Herman's breaking the rules by constantly showing his characters from behind (a cardinal sin in cover philosophy, where the main characters are always facing the audience), I thought that Captain Miaou's hat was his face and nose. His clenched fist, the belt on his chest, raising the gun and facing his intended target all led me to believe he was looking back instead of forwards. His lack of facial features and my lack of awareness of the character designs also threw me off. I'm sure that until you took another look, you fell to the same trap.

When faced with something unfamiliar, I use the closest possible reference and follow up from there in the hopes that it'll match. In the back cover of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, there was a creature that looked like one of the birds from the second Gantz mission. It sure looks a lot like a toucan doesn't it?

However, when I cracked open the fat tome, I eventually came across the page where the one-eyed Gnomelet originated, and found out that I'd mistaken where his mouth started. The colouring of the hat looked like a beak, and the stubby arms and legs were almost unnoticeable.

There are all kinds of instances where I'll see a second face that was unintended by the artist, and wind up being like one of those upside-down double faces, only more closer to the illusion of seeing a rabbit and a duck at the same time. The absolute worst are the ones where there are extreme close-ups, making it almost impossible to tell what I'm looking at. Has this ever happened to anybody else?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Single Comic Commentaries

On Archie Marrying Valerie:

On the Super Bowl:

On the Watchmen prequels:

On the Presidential campaign:

On Hipsters:

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Before Tom Armstrong became better known for creating a baby comic, he made his first debut with a collaboration with Tom Batiuk. (Yes, THAT Tom Batiuk. Apparently, there are things in cartoonists' pasts that are more interesting than the strips they create) However, since I know practically nothing about John Darling and don't have any scans of him, we'll have to settle for the baby.

Marvin was also the first instance I ever got of a comic being further condensed. While most comics are normally shown without the title page and throwaway panel, my newspaper outdid themselves by removing several panels that weren't necessary.

In other cases where the other panels were mandatory to the punchline, they were squished together. As far as I know, no other strip suffered as much as Marvin did, but it was one of these things that help spurn the additive/reductive element of comics.

There's been some speculation that Marvin was inspired by Garfield, since it shares some striking similarities -both feature a small destructive creature that eats a lot and only communicates by thinking. Since Marvin was debuted around the time that Garfield started to take off, it's not unreasonable. The difference is that one is a baby, and the other is a cat. For some people, there's not much difference, save that babies eventually grow up, unless they're cartoon babies.

Now there's a scary thought for you - babies' faces frozen in the shape of famous dictators. I have to admit that when I saw Marvin's face in the last panel there, I thought he was impersonating Frankenstein. I wasn't very immersed in politics, let alone American politics. I didn't even know we had a Prime Minister until Brian Mulrooney got caught up in multiple scandals. At the time, I thought he was a nice guy. (I was young!)

The Garfield comparision is even more pronounced when you take Cousin Megan in consideration. She's clearly the closest thing to competition that Marvin has. From these few examples, we get the sense she's clearly more ambitious than her cutesy outlook implies.

However, a cursuary check on TvTropes showed that she hadn't shown up again in years, and was only briefly mentioned in a recent strip.

There was some controversy when Marvin started changing, not just in his character design, but also when he started expressing actual human speech and interacting with his parents without resorting to baby talk. In addition, he started standing up and walking as opposed to crawling around. But there was a strip that showed he was capable of this much earlier.

For those curious where the title image of Marvin running in his baby stroller comes from, this strip looks like a good originator as any.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Slctv Cnsrshp

A recent remixed Garfield comic had all the vowels removed. It was very reminiscent of a previous strip I submitted where I erased all the letters containing Garfield's name. (Embarassingly enough, my submitted version missed two L's that I'd overlooked, and an L the administrator didn't notice either) As with anything relevant, I was reminded of a similar comic strip:

This kind of thing is not unlike the Torah, which dispenses with all hints of vowels completely, making interpreting their texts immensely difficult, unless you're already versed in the Hebrew language. With only the shape of the words, and not the vowel notations, you're heavily pressed upon recall for which sounds go where. This is made even trickier if you're not fully versed in the language. However, this kind of thing is more useful for me elsewhere. I've had plenty of practice putting together bits and pieces of missing words, thanks to some defective Close Captioning.

When I was still watching TV with an antenna (postively antique - I didn't get cable until the turn of the century) care had to be made so that the angle of the reciever would have good reception for the majority of the channels. Otherwise, it would be impossible for me to understand what was happening, since the captioning would be a complete mess, the picture would prove useless, and audio was no help. Even if the reception turned out to be perfect, there was still the threat of the VCR tape itself becoming corrupted from overuse. I found that I could prolong the tape's use by taping over later hours that hadn't been used yet, and taping over random intervals instead of pinpoint hour times. This made rewinding to past shows an immense chore, but was worth it to prevent having even a single sentence left out.

And even then, that wasn't a guarantee. Sometimes, the show itself would have wonky captioning where the words would hardly show up at all, or they'd come at slow write-as-you-hear intervals similar to the news channels. What would make this even more irritating would be shows where the captioning was inconsistent, but the commercials were perfectly okay. There's a sponsor who knows where their priorities lie.

Very often, missing little snippets of dialogue or conversation is a great hinderance in jumping into a conversation. Too often, I'm confused about the nature of the dialogue. I have no idea what these people are talking about, their rapid-fire pace makes it extremely difficult for me to find a lull or break to jump in; and very often, these people won't always be facing me when they talk, so I can't read their lips from the side. It's equivalent to watching two different TV shows on two televisions from across the room, and only getting bits and pieces of what's going on. The ping-pong nature of the dialogue means that I'm constantly playing catch-up in trying to decipher their latest words, and only catching the last snippets of their words. And this problem is multiplied if it's taking place in a noisy environment, like a party, and other people decide to join the mix. As such, any attempts to intervene without help is a losing cause. This is why it's extremely necessary for me to have an oral interpreter present for group gatherings, since any attempt to engage otherwise would only end in confusion.

However, it's not enough that people face me and speak s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly in a preferably quiet environment. I also need some natural gestures to help guide me through the conversation and have certain key words highlighted. A lot of words look invisible on the lips, and sound too similar to each other. Emphasizing the first letter of each important word is a big help, but also using hand gestures to animate and illustrate verbs that might otherwise be difficult to understand. For example, somebody said that they were something that I thought was either "Shaft her", or "Chapter". But by holding an invisible steering wheel and turning slightly, I understood what he was saying was "Chauffeur". It's these little movements that help me better understand what's being said. Alternately, they could simplify it by substituting "driver" instead.

Indeed, with Close Captioning, a lot of sentences were trimmed down or reduced to cut down on speed-reading time. (Because people watch TV to relax, not to do H-work) There were a lot of subtleties on Sesame Street that I missed because not everything that was said was shown. And trying to read a Muppet's lips is no help either. It's equivalent to reading Old-school Anime character's mouths.

Because I relied on the decoder so much, I became so attuned to its use that I resented shows that I wanted to watch, but couldn't, because they weren't close captioned or subtitled. So it was a complete surprise when a movie was shown on the big screen at my school, and I asked if captioning was possible, because maybe everybody else might also want to know what was going on. I found out that day that people normally prefer to see movies without annoying black bars at the bottom of the screen obscuring the action. It was a real eye-opener for me, but it left me feeling very much out of the loop, because I still couldn't tell what was really going on without reference.

Another area I have difficulty in are words that sound completely different from how I think they're pronounced. For the longest time, I thought anxiety was pronounced Anhk-I-Eh-Tee, instead of Ang-Zy-Eh-Tee. Likewise, I pronounced Epilogue as Eh-Pile-Oh-Goo, instead of Eh-Pill-Log. It's not the kind of word that comes up often in casual conversation.

While not being able to watch as much TV as I can because not everything is close-captioned or subtitled is a great deterrent at keeping me off my duff, it still feels like a disservice because I'm left out of some mainstream entertainment the rest of the world enjoys in my absence. One instance was where a Facebook friend recommended the British series Are You Being Served? Upon his recommendation, I started watching a transcript on Youtube with transcribed audio, but the results were laughably awful. At the 0:50 mark, the following dialogue is "spoken":

"Insurance against African nations. The seller was better look the other way pedophile made."

When in actuality, what was really said was,

"I'm sure it's against staff regulations. Still, I'm always prepared to look the other way."

Part of the reason it's so lousy is because it's transcribed by Google, which takes the most commonly heard sounds, and chooses the top searches, rather than deciphering them properly. As a result, since it's interpreted by a computer rather than a human, all we get is babblespeak. So far, Youtube captioning is still in its infancy, though I've been told that early captioning on TV was also a mess before it became more widespread nowadays.

As long as we're on the subject of captioning, I might as well mention another pet peeve of mine - DVDs where the main movie/show is captioned/subtitled, but the special features are left alone. It's like the companies don't even bother to give special attention to the hard-of-hearing since "they wouldn't be interested". Well, we'll never know if they're not transcribed, will we? It's the rare features that go out of their way to make sure everyone is included, and those ones I am grateful for, even if the special features are nothing more than self-congratulatory interviews of the cast members.

At least they're not as bad as DVDs that just flat out refuse to caption any of their shows. What makes this more painful is if any of these shows were Close Captioned on TV, but aren't captioned on the DVD itself. I can't enjoy the David Suchet version of Poriot, Degrassi the Next Generation, and a bunch of other shows I foolishly thought would be available later. The greatest recent offender is FlashPoint, which had captioning for the first season DVD (special features included!) but was completely absent in the second season DVD. I have to catch the second season on reruns so I can catch up on what's happened.

Another annoying feature of Close Captioning is when the text is several seconds below the spoken lines. It's like having the sound be out-of-sync with the actor's lips, and it reduces my enjoyment of the show. The worst offenders are channels where the captioning is not two or three seconds behind, but are 10 seconds behind the pace. This means that I have to memorize the actor's movements beforehand, and then cheorograph them with the words later. This usually isn't too bad when there's only two characters on the screen, but it play havoc on my memory when there's a brisk back-and-forth conversation between three or more people, with no clue to who's speaking next. This is also another feature of interpreting - I'm usually always two or three seconds below the conversation, and usually have to act quickly to play catch-up if I want to contribute to the conversation. If I wait too long to say my piece, I'll lose my turn during the heat of the moment.

This is why comics is my medium of choice. The only inheirent danger of not understanding what anybody's saying can be attributed to ink smushed across the page, word balloons improperly placed, the artist's failure to get the writer's script across, or lousy panel layout. But at least the lines are there to be seen, and reread at our leisure. If I want to know what somebody's said, I need them to retrace their words, and chances are they'll never quite capture the naturality of their first time.

For as much as people complain about comics not being able to compete with movies, they should be concentrating on what comics can do that movies can't. Until these annoying setbacks in enjoying DVDs is resolved, comics will be my drug.

Addendum - I have no idea if Blue-Ray resolved this problem, but I have no desire to get one, when DVD works just as well, and I can stop the DVD and resume from my last playspot.