Earlier this month, me and my friend John (johnamorartist.com) started a little project called “Chameleoff”. This is a webcomic we are collaborating on about a young Chameleon who is color blind, and how he interacts with his environment. It’s mainly written by John and I handle the art duties.
This is my first foray into sequential art. This serves as a good training ground for me in learning how to do comics and how to interpret scripts into visual cues. Even though it’s only 3-4 panels long, it’s still a good way for me to practice my storytelling skills.
So far we’ve only finished a couple of strips. We are aiming to launch it sometime this month and planning on keeping this up as long as we can. I’m pretty excited about this because that way I can practice on keeping a consistent output, and also develop my skills as we go along with the story.
Sure, you have tons of “how to make comics” books, watched a lot of instructional videos, and have the coolest tools and gizmos to use in making comics. But nothing beats learning how to do it by just really doing it.
Last week, I read and watched two overlooked gems from 2005.
Let me start of with the comic book Spider-Man – Human Torch.
This is a 5-issue limited series which features the adventures of Spider-Man and Human Torch and their ever growing friendship. I have known of this book for a long time, but I didn’t really think about reading it until I read the Amazing Spider-Man #689-681 which featured a Spidey-Torch team-up. I enjoyed that story a lot that I remember my friend John (who is an amazing artist) told me to read this book a year or two ago.
This book tells the story about their friendship throughout different eras of Spider-Man’s history. From the high-school years, to Gwen Stacy’s death, Black Costume Spidey, up until Peter became a school teacher. It’s filled with a lot of funny gags that will make you laugh, and touching heart-warming moments that will make you love these characters more.
If you’re a Spider-Man fan, or a Human Torch fan. You should definitely read this book. It’s so good, that I could not help it but wear this big smile while reading it on the morning bus. I can’t believe how good this book is, and not that many people know it exists! So if you can find a copy, make sure to read it. I think it’s the best Spidey/Torch book out there, and they should try make this into a TV series.
Now, the other one I would like to talk about is the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.
I have only learned of this a few months ago, but all the things I’ve read about it are good things, so I thought I might as well check it out. This is also the directorial debut of Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout, The Long Kiss Goodnight)
The movie stars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry, a small-time thief, who gets himself trying out for an acting gig while evading the cops. He then get’s acquainted with Val Kilmer, who plays Perry, a private detective who’s tasked to to give detective lessons to Harry for his upcoming role. They then get tangled into a murder mystery which involves Harry’s high school dream girl, Harmony, played by Michelle Monaghan.
It’s a comedy/crime/noir film which has quick smart dialogues accompanied by an intricate plot which does not fail to entertain you as the movie happily plays Harry’s misfortune one after another until they solve the big mystery.
I actually have not heard of this back then, and it’s a shame that not a lot of people know about this movie. Downey and Kilmer’s acting, and chemistry, in this movie is so good, I think it made Marvel decide to cast RDJ as Tony Stark. And now that Shane Black slotted to direct the third Iron Man movie, it just proves how good this movie is.
(Or why I don’t like gore/violent exploitation films)
Last weekend, my housemates decided that we should watch a “horror” movie to test out my brother-in-law’s new home-theater system. And since we share a pretty nice TV in the living room, I thought, sure why not, horror is always good.
It turns out they wanted to watch the rape/revenge exploitation film I Spit On Your Grave (the 2010 remake). At that point, I lost interest.
Basically it’s about this girl who gets gang-raped, and she kills her violators.
It was full of this thing
I have nothing against shock/exploitation movies. It’s a totally separate sub-genre that has it’s own audience. I admire some techniques used in making these films, and the way they make scenes very visual that you can feel the pain. But that’s it, it’s all about pain.
It’s all about how pain is portrayed and how the audience feels about the pain being administered to the victim and then their reaction should it happen to them. Technically, you know how it’s going to end and you know what will happen, you’re just waiting for the shock value. I think that’s pretty cheap.
I believe true horror movies are the ones that instil a great feeling of fear. Fear of the unknown and of things we cannot understand. Being afraid to look at the screen for knowing what you will find once the main character walks around the corner. And once you feast upon that thing that brings terror, you try to understand what it was that brought you that heavy feeling of helplessness and desperation. And then you feel the joy when you find out that it was not an axe bathed in blood, or a dismembered johnson.
I’m going to go and watch the original The Thing again.
Anyway, clones in comicbooks have been done to death so I’m not going to talk about it. I’m more interested with the clones in art styles used in webcomics. In the past decade, webcomics have become a very big thing on the internet and has allowed countless artists to showcase their artwork and storytelling skills. And with that they also garnered fans, who happily support their favorite creators financially. I know this is a good thing and I have nothing against it. It’s just sometimes, other artists, seeing that a specific formula worked for these successful webcomics, decided to cash in on the bandwagon and start their own somewhat similarly flavored webcomic.
Let me point out some examples. Two of my favorite webcomics are xkcd and harkavagrant.
XKCD is a webcomic drawn in stick figures, graphs, and charts. It’s about math, science, programming, philosophy, and nerdy stuff I don’t completely understand but still find funny.
These webcomics stood out from every other webcomic out there because of their art style and story format. They have gotten a lot of followers and even have printed collection of their webcomics for sale and other wares such as shirts and other stuff. So I guess, some artists thought that this kind of format seems to be very successful, why not try it for themselves and maybe attract a fraction of the existing audience. Aside from that, with the gaining popularity of video games, retro video games, hipstereqsue visuals, chiptune music, pixelated art, and all of that sort, recent webcomics tend to use a mix of these themes for their work. Even if there are already existing webcomic for that subject matter. I’m not going to point out which these webcomics are, I bet you can find them on the internet in less than an hour.
I’m not saying they’re only in it for the money or attention. I’m a big fan of a few of them and find their comics very entertaining. Working in comics is a tough job. It’s tougher if you’re a freelancer. And drawing and making stories is a very tough job. It’s worse if you’re trying to make funny, clever, and smart stories. I mean, I can’t even finish my own project. So getting some cash is always good.
I’m just saying that the pioneering guys built their reputation for being very different and telling a story unlike any other at that time. It might be flattering to see clones of your work out there, but it still carries some a bit of “flavor” from the original creator. This phase might pass over time, as proven by comicbook artists. If you’re just starting out, I guess it’s okay to clone or live in someone else’s shadow. But eventually, you need to start making a name on your own, using your own style, or brand of storytelling. Besides, there will come a time where people will get fed up with all these video game webcomics, and will just end up reading the ONE they started with. Or daily dairies about cats disturbing your sleep, and more cats. Or dogs, or other pets. Or people looking like animals.
Anyways, I do hope new artists can go away from the bandwagon and try to create new and interesting stuff for people to enjoy. I’ve heard this a lot of times, but “Being different is your ticket to to success.” (Also, being fast too.)