Saturday, August 05, 2006

Finding New Comics and Artists- Ben Templesmith

I don’t buy a lot of comic books. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan, but I have limited funds, limited space, limited time, and when it comes right down to it, I’m really picky. My monthly list is pretty small. Probably just a dozen or so titles each month, and the list changes as creators leave books or take on new titles. I am more loyal to writers and creators than I am to titles. My small list means that some weeks I have very little or nothing to buy, some weeks there is nothing on my list and that’s when I’m most likely to buy a DVD or new video game. My small list also means I miss a lot of great talent. But the lean Wednesdays also mean that I’m more likely to discover something new. This week, Ulitimate Spider-Man was the only thing I knew for sure I wanted to buy. But it doesn’t seem right to just spend $ 2.99 in the comic shop, so I started looking around at the indie titles that had come out and Ben Templesmith’s new book, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse from IDW caught my eye.

I had heard of Templesmith. I knew about 30 Days of Night. And he also created Singularity 7 and has done work on Silent Hill and Buffy, but I had missed most of this. As of now though, I’m now a converted fan. When I went to pay for the issue, the LCS guy seemed pretty excited and started chatting me up on Templesmith and pulled a copy of Wormwood issue #0 for me as well as his thin but lush artbook Tommyrot. Looking through the dark images I was reminded of Bill Sienkiewicz's crazy line work as well as Ashley Woods' coloring and style. Just a wonderfully unconventional comics style that’s right up my alley. The LCS guy told me he owned a signed limited print of one of the pieces in the book. Lucky guy.

So after getting home and reading both issues, it turns out Templesmith can write too. The artbook left me expecting a twisted and dark horror story. Twisted is right, but Wormwood has a great deadpan sense of humor that totally caught me off guard. The horror in the book is always checked by the comedy. The gore and the macabre don’t bother Wormwood (or the reader) at all. He’s already dead, so what’s he got to worry about? In one scene, when his robotic drinking buddy Mr. Pendulum (who can’t actually drink) blows off Wormwood’s head to kill the creature that is attempting to control his body, Wormwood simply asks for staples to re-attach his noggin.

After two issues, we have been given little hints as to what kind of world Wormwood inhabits, who he and his companions are and what they are up to. There are zombie strippers, strippers with with tatoos that come to life, demons, portals into hell, and beer! I look forward to future issues as the story unveils more of Templesmith’s wonderfully bizarre creations.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Animated Spiderman Coming to DVD

Sony has just announced Culver Entertainment, a company focused on developing and producing drama, comedy and animated series exclusively for DVD and international distribution.

The title of this post says exactly why we should care: first up is everyone's favorite webslinger, Spider-Man!

The first project under the Culver Entertainment banner will be a new animated Spider-Man series. The first 13 half-hour episodes of the show are expected to be released next year.

Direct to DVD seems sort of like the precurser to purely digital distribution, the transition phase before people get used to the idea of not actually owning anything but binary code. Of course we wouldn't own the code, we'd just own a license to playback the code for our personal use, at least that's what the studios will tell us. DRM types claim that's all we own now when we buy a DVD or a CD . . . anyway, before I rant . . .

I can find no word on who is attached to this project. I enjoyed the MTV's series from 2003. Brian Bendis, current Ulitmate Spider-Man scribe, as well as writer for about half of Marvel's other titles, wrote the pilot and was co-executive producer for that run, and if they come up with something on par, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Local Boy Makes Good- Editorial Cartoon Winner Announced

The local rag just announced the results of their editorial cartoon contest.

I’m not usually a big political cartoon fan. Like most other mainstream media they seem to fit neatly into one of the 2 political parties, and I’m just not a 2 party kind of guy. But I am often struck by the impact a single framed cartoon can have. While they don't always inspire worldwide rioting, they do often go for the gut. I admire that as well as the skill to compress all you have to say in a single image, something I can relate to being a photographer by avocation.

Anyway, the above winnning image by William Warren is timely, thought provoking and a good example of how to make a strong impact with few words and a skillfully designed cartoon.

William, according to his website, is a native Atlantan attending Wake Forest in his junior year. The AJC award is not his first contest win. In April he placed first in the John Locher Memorial Cartoon Contest, the top contest for college newspaper editorial cartoonists.

Congrats to William. You smooth chinned youngsters are killing me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Toons on iTunes

Did someone say they wanted [adult swim] on their iPod?

Hot on the heels of last week's addition of the Jetsons and Flintstones, iTunes has just added Cartoon Network and Adult Swim to their lineup. Available for download now are Johnny Bravo and Squirrel Boy from CN and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Venture Bros and Sealab 2021 from Adult Swim.

This content just became available today and there's not much rhyme or reason to what's there. There are four Venture Brothers episodes from the current season, Season 3 of Sealab , and Season 4 of Aquateen. I hope to see more. I want my Space Ghost! And I hope it doesn't interfere with Adult Swim's FIX schedule.

More on the addition here.

DVD Tuesday

A whole big bunch of animation is being released on DVD today, almost all of it anime. Meanwhile, the made in the US of A standout is Beavis & Butt-head - The Mike Judge Collection, Vol. 3, 42 episodes hand-picked by Mike Judge including the original, uncut Beavis & Butt-head short Frog Baseball!

Beavis and Butt-head are hardly remembered for their artistic use of animation, but on the heels of The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy, Mike Judge’s “dumb, crude, ugly, thoughtless, sexist self-destructive fools” (from the disclaimer that ran before the show) helped to bring animation to an older audience. It was suddenly cool for college aged kids and adults to watch cartoons. It is hard to imagine Southpark without there first having been Beavis and Butt-head. It is hard to imagine adult swim without first having these cartoons, and it is hard to imagine popular culture with out “Fire, Fire, Fire” “Buttmunch” and the Beavis’ laugh in our lexicon.

Below is a clip from Radio Sweethearts, one of the episodes on the new collection.

When I think of Beavis and Butt-head, I still think of music videos, and the insightful commentary given by the two music aficionados. Included in this collection are:

Stakka Bo: Here We Go
Crowbar: Existence Is Punishment
Salt 'n' Pepa (Featuring En Vogue): Whatta Man
Poison: I Want Action
2 Unlimited: Get Ready for This
Tripping Daisy: I Got a Girl
Jesus Lizard: Glamorous
Sonic Youth: Dirty Boots
Soundgarden: Spoonman
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Dang
PJ Harvey: Down by the Water
Alice Cooper: Teenage Frankenstein
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Rollins Band: Liar
Paul Broucek: Hollywood Halloween

Like South Park today, Beavis and Butt-head were criticized for being vulgar, stupid, brain rotting and generally offensive to everyone. While puritanical and humorless detractors pinned all our social ills on shows like these, Beavis and Butthead were subversively poking fun at the very pop culture they were a part of and exposing the social ills in their own hilarious way. This collection is for those who prefer the latter approach.

Also out today is V for Vendetta, not animated of course, but based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. Moore accused Vendetta's screen writers the Wachowski brothers of making egregious changes to his story and had his name withdrawn from the project. Mixed reviews from people I trust kept me out of the theater for this one, but I’ll check it out from Netflix.

And as mentioned, tons and tons of anime is released today and one of the most interesting looking of the bunch is Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 11: Becoming the Stone

Monday, July 31, 2006

Exploding Amphibians

Frog Pop

No, this has nothing to do with Saturday's post regarding Disney's latest project announcement.

This is a YouTube clip I found that shows you don't need CG to tell a good story or pull off a good gag. You don't even have to animate like Tex Avery. Sometimes simple really works.

I love how spare but amusing this is. The sound effects work great, and the music is wonderfully old school, as is the whole short. I have no background information about this little film. I did find this blog. Perhaps if it is the same Jeremy Spears, he will fill us in a bit.

Has anyone actually called that 1-800 number?


Looks like Jeremy just updated his blog, and it is indeed the same guy. Frog Pop was made when he was just 16 and led to his first storyboard job. Way to go Jeremy!

Get the rest of the story here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Disney 2D Redux

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Lasseter Kisses the Frog Princess: Hand Drawn Returns to Disney

While the “age old pixels vs. pencils” battle raged hotly this week, Disney seems to have laid down its arms. Disney this week announced that John Lasseter has given the go ahead to a hand-drawn feature film, The Frog Princess.

As writes:

The film is being developed by writer-directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Treasure Planet, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid), who recently rejoined the studio after Ed Catmull and John Lasseter became WDFA president and chief creative officer, respectively, following the Pixar acquisition. Lasseter has given the go-ahead for the project to be made in 2-D should it get the green light. He has previously said he would like to see Disney use 2-D visuals for the right projects.

The pixels vs. pencils debate often devolves into what sounds like fan boys arguing about Marvel vs. DC, or Playstation vs. Xbox. As, I’ve said, I like all forms of animation, but when Disney abandoned 2D animation after Home on the Range, it really did seem to spell doom for 2D, so this is great news. With the combination of some Pixar minds and Disney’s long 2D history, it could be a great revival for hand-drawn animation, but after seeing Cars, the first project of the Pixar/Disney mating, I’m wondering if the reverse may happen, and Disney just sucks the life out of the project. My hope is that the Frog Princess team has the equivalent of the lockeroom bulletin board and prominently posts some of the inane quotes from this past week as motivation to prove the ignorant wrong.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Saturday Morning Toon Avalanche

The Digital Bits, my very favorite DVD news site, is reporting that in addition to the recently released Flash Gordon, and Masters of the Universe, BCI Eclipse will be releasing a ton of DVD goodness. DVD producer Andy Mangles told the Bits that he is working on the following:

Blackstar: The Complete Series and Space Sentinels & The Freedom Force: The Complete Series (both 8/22), Defenders of the Earth: Volume One (10/10), Groovie Goolies: The Saturday "Mourning" Collection, A Snow White Christmas and Journey Back to OZ: Special Edition (10/24), She-Ra: Princess of Power - Season One, Volume One, Ark II: The Complete Series, Ghost Busters: The Animated Series - Volume One and Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Series (11/7), Mission Magic: The Complete Series and The New Adventures of He-Man: Volume One (late 2006), Space Academy: The Complete Series, The Cat Pack: Waldo Kitty & Fraidy Cat - Volume One, Prince Valiant: The Complete Series - Volume Two, She-Ra: Princess of Power - Season One, Volume Two, Defenders of the Earth: Volume Two, Zorro & The Lone Ranger: Volume One and The Legend of Bravestarr: Special Edition (early 2007), Ghost Busters: The Animated Series - Volume Two, Snow White: Happily Ever After - Special Edition, The New Adventures of He-Man: Volume Two and Jason of Star Command: The Complete Series (Spring 2007) and She-Ra: Princess of Power - Season Two, Hero High: The Complete Series, The Legend of Bravestarr: The Series - Volume One, The Ghost Busters: The Complete Series (live action), Zorro & The Lone Ranger: Volume Two, Fabulous Funnies: The Complete Series, The Legend of Bravestarr: The Series - Volume Two and The Secrets of Isis: The Complete Series (Summer 2007).

Phew. Looking at that list makes me tired. Mangles is one busy man.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

iTunes gets iToons

Great news for animation fans who like their toons on the go. Episodes of the Hanna-Barbera classics, The Flintstones and their space-age counterparts, The Jetsons are now available on iTunes.

Personally I still haven’t gotten used to the idea of watching video on a 2.5 inch screen with just 320x240 resolution, but as we get nearer to what will certainly be improved resolution in future generations of iPods, I’m glad that the studios are willing to make more content available.

Of these two offerings, over time I’ve become a bigger fan of the Jetsons than the Flintstones. Flying cars and robots are just way cooler than foot powered cars and purple dinosaurs. And it hasn’t been ruined for me with a live action version, at least not yet. Plus Judy is kind of a babe.

Both the Jetsons and the Flintstones were primetime shows. The Flintstones was by far the most successful of the two running for 6 seasons from 1960 to 1966. The Jestons first aired in 1962 and ran 24 episodes over 2 years. It was later revived in the 80’s, but we’ll just ignore that. On iTunes you can get all 24 of the original Jetsons episodes and the 28 episodes of Season 1 of the Flintstones.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

DVD Tuesday

There is plenty of cartoon goodness on DVD this week. Warner Brothers brings out a pair if releases that really do belong together, Animaniacs Vol I and Pinky and the Brain volume I. Animaniacs features 25 episodes on 5 discs and Pinky contains 22 episodes on 4 discs. These 90’s classics of animation are a long time coming to DVD. Volume 2 of both is scheduled for December.

And for fans of existential cyberpunk anime there is Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex, Season 2 (Vol. 6). Being existentially minded and a fan of cyberpunk, and since I think adult swim picks the best of the best of anime, I should probably check this out.