Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cartoon : - How does it make any difference, anyway..


Taz-Mania is a 1991-1997 cartoon show, produced and directed by Art vitello, which aired in the United States by FOX and elsewhere around the world. Impressions follows the adventures of the classic Looney Tunes character, Taz (the Tasmanian Devil) in the land of fiction Tazmania (based on Tasmania). Unlike similar cartoons in time, these shows often ruin the fourth wall, and often make fun of the fact that Taz could actually speak perfectly normally when he sought. Currently showing broadcast on AOL's In2TV.

Avatar and Graphic Novel Writing

Last week I went and saw Avatar. It was totally cool. We wore our 3-D glasses and flew around on big dinosaur creatures and visited floating mountains and things were blue and tribal and there were bad military weirdos and the whole indigenous people vs. evil corporate interests thing.

I think the fact that I'm working on a graphic novel made me see it a little differently though.

See, I'm at the point where I've made 97 drawings, and feel like I've only barely touched the surface of the characters and the story. I mean, it's truly tiny. Miniscule.

But along with this project comes the responsibility of properly introducing the characters and their motives, and structuring the story in a way that is going to make sense. And motivating the reader to care what is going on. So, I've got a lot of work to do.

Or, I guess you can just be a big-budget Hollywood movie type and make things that make no sense at all.

See, the Avatars, when they get disconnected from their human controllers, just drop to the ground as if asleep. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that.

If you were hanging around with someone, and they had this tendency to pass out, and not wake up, even when you scream at them and drag them around, wouldn't you either a) get really mad or b) take them to the doctor? Or both?

On a subconscious level, ignoring such a basic thing, and having the characters ignore it too, makes them look rather dumb. I wonder if it lowers the audience's opinion of their intelligence without their knowing that's happening.

Sigh. It's okay because the 3-D flying dinosaurs are really cool.

Anyway, it is a really really big job to make a fantasy world work, and there are elements that help. Most of those elements are rooted in very simple principles of story and character, observed in everything from Blade Runner to The Terminator. The rest is just noise. For lots of discussion of this, check out this 7-part discussion of why The Phantom Menace is such a horrible movie and ruins the franchise (WARNING: NOT kid friendly. You may find some of it weird/unfunny, though I thought it was hilarious. But his analysis of the movie is really spot-on. I learned a lot.)

Anyway, I enjoyed running around with the blue people, but I still feel like I've got a whole lot of work to do to make sure that my story doesn't have a plausibility hole in it that you can drive a big, futuristic military helicopter through.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

I just finished reading the book, "Shop Class as Soulcraft," by Matthew B. Crawford. In it, Crawford draws a stark contrast between the supposedly lofty (and economically rewarding) world of abstractions and cubicles and numbers and paperwork, and the supposedly lowbrow (and economically non-viable) world of working with one's hands.

As an artist, I found the book interesting on a whole different level beyond just social/economic discussion. Because one of the great struggles of being a person who makes things is, explaining why you wouldn't want to a) Make lots of money by using computers to do everything and being really efficient and technological and b) Make lots of money by turning everything you do into a "product" as opposed to a work of art. There's a big difference.

Don't get me wrong, I obviously love computers and the interWebs and all that, it lets me connect with other artists and readers and people and that's wonderful.

But the process of creating something, for me, involves paper and pens and pencils (and pencil sharpeners, darn them) and messiness and smearing ink and being outside and carrying my sketchbooks around with me on the train and a whole host of other messy factors. I don't really draw a drawing, I kind of build it. And I suspect a whole lot of other artists are the same way.

Recently I got to hang out with other cartoonists at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, one of whom was Karen Luk. She sat there and worked on a page in watercolor, mixing the paints and layering them onto the paper. Later she said she would take an iron to the paper to flatten it out. It was really tactile, and pretty to watch.

Anyway, Crawford's book is a nice reminder, yet again, that the measure of everything in our society tends to be economic, that our power structure is in fact an economic one, and that this one-dimensional orientation tends to suck out the soul. He really hates liberals and doesn't like conservatives much either. But it's not a screed, and he spends a lot of time just expanding the reader's view of what it is to make something. That's the part I appreciated the most.

Funny Obama Cartoons: Twitter Frustrations

I thought of this funny Obama cartoon as a result of a funny bit I heard on a radio talk show where the discussion was about speeches and the overuse of certain words by speech writers for the different presidents. The first example that was given was President Bush where there was a montage of different speeches and the word “comprehensive” was played over and over again. I thought it was pretty funny myself, then they moved on to President Obama and analyzed his speeches and so far it looks like the word “unprecedented” is going to be the word that ends up in a montage sometime later in his presidency. Anyway, I was thinking about it and imagining how difficult it would be to say or talk about something that would qualify as something “unprecedented” while using twitter. I think it would be a challenge. I’m not sure why I thought about it like this but I did and this funny Obama cartoon was the result. Enjoy and have a great day.

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