Notes towards a practice of responsive comics

Here's the very talented Pablo Defendini -- developer, designer, artist, digital guy -- describing how "responsive" comics can be made using HTML and CSS that intelligently format themselves for a variety of devices, and addressing the writing and illustration challenges this gives rise to. He's not talking about "motion comics" -- he's talking about comics where the layouts and writing take into account a range of screen-sizes and aspect ratios.

Responsive design works for websites, why not for digital comic books? Read the rest

Hilda, kids' comic in the tradition of Miyazaki and Moomins

East London's Nobrow Press sent me a review pack last week, including a couple of kids' comics featuring Luke Pearson's Hilda. Poesy is almost four, and we recently graduated from wordless comics (like Régis Faller's Polo) to Art Spiegelman's wonderful Jack and the Box, and I was curious about how she'd like these. My own cursory inspection at the post-office box made me optimistic, as the art was really up both our streets. The jacket copy cited Tove Jansson (Moomins) and Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro), and it was clear that both comparisons were apt, visually, at least.

I unpacked them that night and left them by the sofa, and Poesy picked them up on her own and promptly demanded that I read them to her. I started with Hildafolk, a slim, staple-bound introduction to the character, and we were both instantly hooked. Pearson's matter-of-fact introduction to Hilda -- a young girl who lives with her mother in a remote cabin in the middle of a valley filled with odd, mythical creatures -- was a perfect way to plunge us into the magic. Hilda is about to go draw some rocks with her antlered, frisking dog-pet Twig when the Wood Man wanders into the house, bearing some fire-logs. The Wood Man, we learn, is a silent and odd character, something of a pest, who lets himself into Hilda's house and lies silently, depressively, on his back before the fire. Read the rest

Free PDF of the first Diesel Sweeties comic collection

The delightful R. Stevens is distributing the first Diesel Sweeties webcomic collection as a DRM-free, free PDF, in celebration of his birthday. "Pocket Sweeties, Volume 1," is a sterling example of the demented, bitter humor that Rich pulls off so well, and we're a lucky Internet for getting this great gimmee from him. He's got loads of merch and books for sale, too.

diesel sweeties: DRM-free ebooks

Pocket Sweeties, Volume 1 (PDF), Torrent

(via CNet) Read the rest

Warren Ellis explains comics scripts

Warren Ellis has advice for writers who are trying to figure out how to write comics scripts. I've written a few of these, and I've been looking for a guide like this. I especially like his advice on understanding how to give direction to artists:

When you’re starting out, you may well find yourself writing “blind”: not knowing who the artist will be. This is why people like Alan Moore evolved that hyper-descriptive style — so he could get the end result he was looking for regardless of who was drawing it. You may prefer to do that. I would prefer that you took some art classes, and talk to some illustrators (this may involve sign language and grunting sounds). Investigate art, even if your drawing hand, like mine, behaves more like a flipper. Understanding what is joyful about illustration is important. It’s important to create a thing that will delight an artist. (And even a letterer, although that’s going to be harder as many of them have the demeanour of a demented gravedigger.)

You are, in many ways, writing a love letter intended to woo the artist into giving their best possible work to the job. A bored or unengaged artist will show up on the page like a fibrous stool in the toilet bowl, and that’s not their fault — it’s yours.

What A Comics Script Is For Read the rest

How "idealization" of women in comics differs from idealization of male characters

Debates over the "idealization" and objectification in the portrayal of women in comics are often met with a reflexive response: "Men are idealized in comics, too!" It's true, they are. But there's different sorts of idealization, as this series of gender-flipped illustrations from Megan Rosalarian shows.

Dudes, I want you to imagine a world where most of the portrayals of your gender in comics look like the above. Are you going to think “Well, I really like the stories so I’ll just suck it up and read this anyway”? Or are you going to be alienated from reading most comics? Be honest. Are you willing to stare at that much thrusting crotch just to find out if Spiderman is gonna win?

Lots of people in the comics business look at their demographic breakdown and think women don’t like superheroes. The creator of DC Women Kicking Ass made a very apt point when she said, “Let me put it this way, if you keep keeping putting food on a kid’s plate and they don’t eat you do you assume they don’t like to eat or they don’t like the food? Right.”

Women like comics. And not just flowery manga and autobio stuff. We like superheroes.

Dressed to Kill Read the rest

Douglas Rushkoff's ADD: tight, smart graphic novel delivers a scathing critique of the commodification of youth culture

Douglas Rushkoff's graphic novel debut, "A.D.D." (Adolescent Demo Division) is a tight, action-packed comic wrapped around a serious, thought-provoking critique of the commodification of youth culture. The titular ADD is a squad of specially trained young video-game champs who are worshipped as teen idols. But while the lives of the ADD are outwardly full of glamor, and while they get all the video games they can play, they lead lives of intense misery. Hypercompetitive, locked away in a high-security compound, manipulated by the adults around them, the ADD live their lives in anticipation of "levelling up," a mysterious graduation that takes their best and brightest away to some unknown (but presumably wonderful) next life.

And of course, things aren't what they seem -- the corporation that runs ADD isn't merely an entertainment conglomerate, they have a secret agenda that's all about learning better ways to manipulate and control consumer culture. The details of this plot unfold to the dissident ADDers as well as the reader through a series of ever-more-deadly adventures.

Smart and trenchant, ADD was a great great read.

A.D.D. Read the rest

Dr Seuss meets the Joker

DrFaustusAu, the DeviantArt member who created the fabulous Cthulhu and Ghostbusters Dr Seuss mashups, is back with this great Joker-by-Seuss mashup.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Arkham Asylum (via Super Punch) Read the rest

Walking Dead 15: We Find Ourselves - a moment's respite after years of grinding, terrifying hopelessness

I've been reading The Walking Dead comic series for years now, with the kind of sick, compulsive horror that is the mark of great dramatic tension in narrative. One of the surest ways to establish dramatic tension is to have a characters in bad situations who are trying intelligently to solve their problems, failing, and falling into worse situations. Key to this is that the characters have to try intelligent solutions to their problems, because otherwise the story becomes an exercise in watching a fly batter itself to death on a windowpane.

The Walking Dead is one of those zombie stories in which the intelligent solutions attempted by each character represents a kind of local maximum, the best action for that person at that minute, but disastrous in combination. In that sense, it's a kind of extended riff on the collective action problem, the age-old conundrum of figuring out how to work together for a common goal that will improve all our lives in the end, when there's always a good, immediate opportunity to pursue one's immediate advantage -- and when, at any moment, someone else in the group might seize on that opportunity and shut you out of it.

So previous volumes of Walking Dead have demonstrated the problems and promise of strong-man authoritarianism, family groups, nomadic collectives, fortress societies, limited democracies, individual autonomy, and every other variation and permutation, presenting the reader with the twin fascination and horror of watching a group of characters each acting (more or less) intelligently, but collectively behaving like a fly battering itself to death on the proverbial windowpane. Read the rest

Alternative science mnemonics

Just in time for the lull in the conversation at your holiday dinner table, XKCD brings us these handy, sure-fire conversation-starting mnemonics for scientific concepts. Click through for the full set.

Mnemonics Read the rest

Fearless Fodsick: fight crime...with hair oil!

I love the way that parenting, hair oil and crime prevention are, in some way, all equivalent here.

Fearless Fosdick Read the rest

Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference: slacker Korean-American kids come of age in the Bay Area

FirstSecond has just re-released Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference, his Ignatz, Harvey and Eisner award-winning indie comic from his early career. The FirstSecond edition is absolutely gorgeous, with a transparent plastic dustjacket printed with bug-eyed goldfish that swim through the cover-art.

Same Difference is the story of Korean-American 20-something slackers in San Francisco who wrestle with the stereotypes and ambitions that they feel guide their lives. It has the feel of vintage Douglas Coupland, a drifting ennui shot through with moments of human warmth and connection. And though it's a quick read, it leaves a lasting emotional coal smouldering in its wake.

Same Difference Read the rest

Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips - exclusive preview

Fantagraphics has released the first volume in a 12 volume series that will reprint the complete run of Walt Kelly's Pogo comic strip (1948 - 1973). It's called Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder.

Walk Kelly, born in 1913, started working as a Disney animator (Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia)when he was 22 years old. He left Disney during the infamous labor dispute at the studio in 1941, and began drawing comic books. A year later, he created the character of Pogo, a wise/naïve possum who lives in the Okefenokee swamp with a menagerie of colorful swamp critters, including Albert Alligator, Churchy LaFemme (turtle), Porky Pine, Cousin Downwind (skunk), Rackety Coon Chile, and many other characters who who were, at turns, manipulative, generous, foolish, obstinate, and forgiving. Presenting his characters as animals gave Kelly the ability to explore human nature without the distraction that cartoon humans would have bought along with them. His illustration style was warm, highly expressive, and detailed without looking crowded. It's hard to think of another newspaper cartoonist who equalled his talents.

Kelly's daughter, Carolyn, designed and co-edited this 290-page anthology, and her love and admiration for her father is evident in the beauty of this book. The design is impeccable and the quality of the line art reproduction is superb. Countless hours went into the restoration of the strips. From the Editors' Note:

The comic strip syndicates did not always maintain a set of good, clean files for future generations' reprinting or reading pleasure.
Read the rest

Alan Moore on Frank Miller's unhinged Occupy rant

Comics's most awesome bearded wizard, Alan Moore, responds to Frank Miller's bizarre Occupy rant, in which the Sin City/300 creator tells off protesters for taking to the streets to protest banksterism and corporatism when they should be joining his fight against Islam.

“Well, Frank Miller is someone whose work I’ve barely looked at for the past twenty years. I thought the Sin City stuff was unreconstructed misogyny, 300 appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided. I think that there has probably been a rather unpleasant sensibility apparent in Frank Miller’s work for quite a long time. Since I don’t have anything to do with the comics industry, I don’t have anything to do with the people in it. I heard about the latest outpourings regarding the Occupy movement. It’s about what I’d expect from him. It’s always seemed to me that the majority of the comics field, if you had to place them politically, you’d have to say centre-right. That would be as far towards the liberal end of the spectrum as they would go. I’ve never been in any way, I don’t even know if I’m centre-left. I’ve been outspoken about that since the beginning of my career. So yes I think it would be fair to say that me and Frank Miller have diametrically opposing views upon all sorts of things, but certainly upon the Occupy movement.

“As far as I can see, the Occupy movement is just ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs.

Read the rest

Kickstopper: paying Hollywood studios to cease dumb franchise production

The Dork Tower webcomic has a modest proposal: a crowdfunding site called "Kickstopper" that raises funds to persuade Hollywood studios to halt production on tired sequels, franchises, and adaptations.

Dork Tower Thursday (via The Mary Sue) Read the rest

Moving House, sweet picture book about a house that lobbies to keep its family from moving out

Mark Siegel's Moving House is a picture book about a house that decides to keep its family from moving away by aggressively lobbying the children. The night before Joey and Chloe's family are to leave their house at Number Seven Carriage Street in Foggytown, they reminisce about all the things they love about their dear old home. The house stirs itself, stretches its legs, sprouts arms, and carries the kids up to a hilltop to show them that life in Foggytown needn't be so foggy. The kids, the house, the other buildings and the streetlamps conspire together to rescue Foggytown from its fog, and they move the whole place up to the top of a hill, and the house and the family are saved.

You may know Siegel's work from his wonderful Sailor Twain comics, and while there are some illustrations in Moving House that are very Twain-y, much of this is more straightforward, character-driven, kid-friendly illos (the house sauntering out of town with the kids in its hand is especially sweet). The writing is funny and charming, and the story is just weird enough, with a very satisfying and sentimental conclusion. It's a lot of fun to read aloud, and it's a great way to spark conversations about all the places in your home that are special to you and your kid(s).

Moving House Read the rest

Alan Moore talks V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks

The Guardian catches up with Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta and noted grumpy, uncompromising debullshitificator, and asks how he feels about the Guy Fawkes mask from his comic becoming a symbol of Anonymous and Occupy protests.

"I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn't it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It's peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction..."

Moore first noticed the masks being worn by members of the Anonymous group, "bothering Scientologists halfway down Tottenham Court Road" in 2008. It was a demonstration by the online collective against alleged attempts to censor a YouTube video. "I could see the sense of wearing a mask when you were going up against a notoriously litigious outfit like the Church of Scientology."

But with the mask's growing popularity, Moore has come to see its appeal as about something more than identity-shielding. "It turns protests into performances. The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very gruelling. They can be quite dismal. They're things that have to be done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be..."

"I find it comical, watching Time Warner try to walk this precarious tightrope." Through contacts in the comics industry, he explains, he has heard that boosted sales of the masks have become a troubling issue for the company.

Read the rest

Was DB Cooper a French Canadian who got the idea from Belgian comics?

The FBI thinks that DB Cooper, the infamous parachuting plane hijacker, was a French Canadian who got the idea from a Belgian comic book:

On the cover of one issue of the Belgium-produced comic — sold in Europe and French Canada shortly before Cooper’s hijacking of a Portland-to-Seattle flight — the Canadian superhero is shown parachuting from an aircraft. And that’s what the man calling himself Cooper did four decades ago this week — during a rainstorm while flying somewhere above the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest — to escape justice after receiving his ransom payoff from U.S. authorities.

The informally deputized investigators, who were invited to analyze the Cooper mystery by Seattle-based FBI agent Larry Carr, are Tom Kaye, a paleontologist at Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Illinois-based metallurgical engineer Alan Stone and University of Chicago scientific illustrator Carol Abraczinskas.

FBI-backed team finds Canadian link to famous ’60s-era plane hijacking (Thanks, Nadreck!)  FBI has lead on D.B. Cooper - Boing Boing Plane hijacker D.B. Cooper's parachute found - Boing Boing Mystery inmate identified - Boing Boing Read the rest

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