Friday, September 30, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 140-145

Man, this is quickly becoming Doodles-A-Week, isn't it?  I'm really sorry about that.  Funny thing about school is that it makes you busy.

I kind of ran out of time with this week, so you'll notice that a few of these are pretty rushed quick doodles.  I apologize for that, but I also think it's important to practice being able to get across the form of things quickly.  I will try to do some more time-intensive drawings this weekend to make up for it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Angel & Faith No. 2

I was very impressed by the introductory issue of this series, but does the second issue live up to the standard set up by the first?  Answer:  it totally does!  These issues read great separately, but I have a feeling that this story is going to be fantastic in trade.  We are still very much in the set-up stage of this story, but it's done in such a thoughtful and interesting way that I am not complaining one bit.

The difference in tone between this series and Buffy is, honestly, a little jarring.  It is probably to be expected: the title characters are very different, the setting is completely different, and the themes being explored are very different.  Where Buffy seems to be about trying to move ahead and looking to the future, A&F seem to be much more about overcoming the past.  These two themes are actually wonderfully related and I hope that we might get some thematic interplay between the two series.  However, they are very distinct ideas and it makes sense that the books would feel so different.

We begin issue 2 with some slayer vs. vampire action.  Faith is fighting a horny demon, and the fight clearly resulted from an interrupted business dealing of some kind: hence a briefcase full of money and another briefcase filled with some assumed illicit substances.  At first I thought that this was another example of how mundane demon activities have become since the fall of magic, but it becomes obvious that it is far more interesting than that.

Nadira, the slayer we met in issue one, runs off to take out the vamp that took the briefcase, against Faith's cautions.  I love that Faith basically describes her younger self when she is describing Nadira.  Of course, as she points out, she can still be like this sometimes, but that fact that she recognizes the flaws in this type of attitude is really nice.  How our girl has grown.

I was surprised that I was seriously worried Nadira would die here.  After all, she was only in... what?  One scene last issue?  I already like her and I am glad it looks as though we'll be seeing more of her.  The vamp she chases pulls out a gun and mocks Nadira's medieval weaponry, which I cannot help but relate to the Simone story over in Buffy.  Is this a hint towards the nature of the first crossover between the two books? Anyway, the vamp is taken out by a "mysterious" figure who has hair that "goes straight up."  Hmm.  Wonder who that was?  The comment about him using a broadsword a little later clinches it.  I actually really love that Christos Gage is making it a point to reference little details like Angel's preferred weapon.  Little touches like that really make this feel like it belongs in the same universe as the series.  This isn't the only example of that either, there's a big one later in this issue that I will discuss.

So the fight ends, Horny-demon makes off with the money, and the girls try to figure out what was being dealt.  Faith bails when Nadira asks if she knew the guy with the broadsword.  I'm wondering at what point in the series we can expect to see this foreshadowed confrontation between Faith and Nadira with regards to Angel.  I'm simultaneously looking forward to it and dreading it.

Faith and Angel have a rooftop conversation where we get a little bit more details on Angel's plan to resurrect Giles.  Again, love the reference to the series with Cordelia and Wolfram & Hart.  Nice continuity. Faith seems to think that Angel's plan is both far-fetched and dangerous, and I have to agree with her at this point.  Though I understand why Angel feels he needs to do this, and as much as I want Giles back among the living, this just SCREAMS bad idea.

Still love the setting.  London at night is just really really beautiful, and Rebekah Isaacs takes every opportunity to show that off.  This panel for example.  Not going to see that in California.

Faith has a minor crisis at this point.  She realizes that the reason Angel is so full of life again is because of this idea, not anything she did.  I feel kind of bad for her when she realizes this actually.  She then can't decide whether or not she should encourage him by coming along on his "crazy train."  In a really nice moment for the character, she thinks about how he was there for her when no one else was and decides to go along with him, because he needs her to.  I really love this.  I love that you can feel the history between these two characters, and I love that this is pretty much a direct callback to some of my favorite episodes of Angel: Five by Five and Sanctuary.  The relationship between Angel and Faith and their separate quests for redemption are clearly at the very heart of this book, and that is simply fantastic.

So Angel takes Faith to a demon fight club, where we learn the interesting tidbit that vampires are suddenly very high on the totem pole now that there's no magic.  This seems strange to me.  After all, aren't there plenty of demons that don't use magic that are still stronger than vamps?  Oh well, I'm not going to argue.  It seems like this info will become important at some point.  We shall see.

Angel and Faith get into a fight with Angel's source, a demon named Kurth.  Kurth works for a demon mobster named Mal Fraser as part of some organ harvesting ring.  Angel rips off Kurth's third arm and proceeds to get into an old-fashioned bar fight with everyone else as Kurth runs off in pain.  Faith questions this, but Angel insists that it's part of the plan.

They track Kurth across town, while Faith worries aloud about Angel's lack of emotion.  The see Kurth talking with the horny-demon, who we learn is named Baphon, about getting a dose.  The drug turns out to be Mohra demon blood and heals Kurth's arm.  This is simply a fantastic callback to the Season 1 episode: I Will Remember You.

The fact that a minor macguffin from a much earlier episode is brought back to be such a major plot point is really cool.  It just grounds this whole thing and makes it feel like it's own fully realized universe.  Fantastic!  I was actually kind of concerned with how quickly they skated over the fact that Angel chose to be a vampire again and didn't discuss the issue further.  However, it seems after having read the issue that this is not the end of this idea, so I will reserve my judgements for now.

There's a really cool fight scene that ends with Angel getting the information he needs out of the horny demon.  However, Faith has a flashback that casts major doubts on Angel's current mission.  This is a scene between Faith and Giles sometime earlier, and this is probably my favorite scene of the issue.  I think that a lot of very important stuff is said here, and I think that a major theme of this series is spelled out to us through Giles's voice.  Faith brings up her murder of Professor Worth, the vulcanologist (oh my God, I totally meant VOLCANOLOGIST.  I might be Andrew.) from season 3.  I really like this callback, because I had forgotten about it as well.  But of course Faith remembers, and she makes us feel bad for forgetting him in a wonderful panel on the bottom of page 20.

Giles then states what I think is a big theme of this series, if not THE theme in a wonderfully Giles-y monologue that I will quote in it's entirety here.
"Faith... I could make excuses.  Say that you were mentally unstable when you killed him.  But it wouldn't change the fact that you murdered an innocent man.  It likely also will not help to know that there are others who live with the same guilt.  There are things we can't undo.  Mistakes we can't unmake.  We can punish ourselves for them in pointless, indulgent ways.  Acts that serve no purpose beyond wallowing in self-pity.  Or we can try to atone for them.  Not to erase what we did.  Not to justify the unjustifiable.  But to counter the evil we've done with a lifetime of good."
Man.  He could be talking directly to Angel there.  LOVE. IT.

Faith goes on to say that she thinks Angel has done enough good already to make up for the bad, and that the only reason he hates himself so much is because he's a vampire with a soul.  I completely disagree with her on this, but I think I'm supposed to.  I can understand why she would think that, but I think she missed something integral about redemption that Angel told her in AtS season 1.  That it never ends.  There is no point when the cosmic scales balance out.  It doesn't work that way.  I think Giles was kind of getting to that too.  But nevermind because what she says now is completely insane holy crap!

SHE WANTS TO MAKE ANGEL HUMAN AGAIN!  Holy crap!  Doesn't she see!?  This is the same as Angel wanting to bring Giles back.  It's just as misguided.  There are no quick fixes.  As Giles said, you cannot erase the evil you've done or "justify the unjustifiable."  I love that this book is making this distinction and I love that there are so many parallels between Angel and Faith right here.  They are both trying to avoid the hard parts and trying to take back what has happened.  But you can't undo the mistakes you've made.  I love this!

But the issue doesn't end on this high note.  Instead we get a quick coda with Kurth.  Nash and Pearl find him and question him about the Mohra blood in a very violent and not at all polite manner.  Gotta say, these villains still aren't doing much for me, and their really cheesy last lines aren't helping.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 139

Today is the birthday of one of my very best friends in the entire world, Mr. Jori "Velveteen Hamlet" Apedaile.

Happy Birthday, Pal!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 135-138

Look at this!  I'm actually getting two of these posts done in a week!  How cool is that?

First up is a quick sketch of my electric kettle.

Next is the hybrid orbital structure of methane, CH4.  (Yes, this does count as a doodle.)

A doodle of a skeptical lion.

And, finally, a drawing of Lyra Silvertongue, the main character of the His Dark Materials trilogy.  (Shown without her daemon, Pantalaimon.)  I'm actually pretty proud of this one because it really captures how I see her in my head.  (Also... NOT a first attempt.  Been trying to do this one for a few weeks now.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 132-134

Alright!  Look at this!  I'm actually posting some doodles within the time limit of 5 days!  Check it out!  Of course, I did miss Saturday, Sunday, and today is Monday so you get three.

This next one was done with the help of my friend Colt, in a conversation that went much like this:
ME:  This is a weird one.  I don't usually do abstract stuff like this.
COLT:  Is that abstract?
ME:  Well, no, not really.  It's just some strange shapes.  But I guess that's as close as I get to abstract.
COLT:  What feelings does it represent in you?
ME:  Oh, you know.  Happiness, Fear, Anger, Joy and a little bit of Shame.
COLT:  You should call it "All Good Things Come With A Little Bit of Shame."
ME:  Haha.  I don't know, I don't really name my doodles.  Feels pretentious.
COLT:  Just do it.
ME:  (while writing title) Ha.  I feel like an angsty teenager.

And finally, another quick watercolor pencil drawing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 126-131

I tried really hard to do doodles regularly this week, but it didn't work out too well.  Oh well.  Here are six doodles to make up it.

I drew this first one in my spanish notebook.

This is of my friend Sarah.  It's not a perfect representation, but considering I did it without her knowledge during a skype session, I think it's pretty good.

An exaggerated drawing of two of my friends.

My brother at the water park, having the time of his life.

Alright, guys.  I'm REALLY going to try to get doodles out more regularly this coming week.  I promise.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mariachi Whale

Saw this over at Gurney Journey and I had to repost it.

Turns out, Beluga whales love Mariachi music!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buffy Season 9 No. 1

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 
No. 1
Freefall, Part 1

Well, this isn't what I was expecting at all.

Not that that's a bad thing at all.  I almost always like it when stories can defy my expectations.  However, I had been expecting something very similar to Angel & Faith No. 1: a slow and thoughtful examination of the world these characters live in and a look at the kinds of things we should expect from the upcoming season.  This is not what we get with Buffy S9 number 1.  I realize now that it was pretty silly of me to think it would be at all similar to Angel & Faith.  After all, they are completely different characters living halfway across the world from each other now, and the tone of both AtS and BtVS has always been quite different.

In any case, I'm still not sure how I feel about this issue.  While I knew immediately after reading that I liked A&F, I'm still not sure how I feel about BS9 yet.  So let's dive in and see what this is all about.

The story opens with Buffy waking up in an extremely messy bedroom, very naked and VERY hung over.  Her first thoughts are: "God, what have I done?"  This is obviously a commentary on her feelings about destroying the seed at the end of last season.  However, the shot of Buffy lying naked in bed can't help but be reminiscent of the famous lesbian encounter with Satsu from last season, and that's where my mind jumps first.

Suddenly we are thrown into a flashback of the previous night, and Buffy's housewarming party.  She already seems pretty tipsy when the first guests, Xander and Dawn, arrive.  Oh Buffy, with your drowing of the sorrows.

We meet Buffy's two roommates, a girl named Anaheed and a dude named Tumble.  (Anaheed and Tumble, really?  I'm trying to make a joke about this but I can't seem to get past the "two strange names that sound even stranger together" part.  Help me out if you can think of something.)  I have to say that Xander's trademark wit still makes me laugh more than almost anything else about this world.
ANAHEED: The sister!  Would you guys like something to drink?
XANDER: No, we wanna feel this awkward all night.
ANAHEED:  There's beer in the bucket, and I made a punch that is both fruity and dangerous.
XANDER: Not unlike myself.
I could totally hear his voice inside me head there.

Then, Willow arrives with some girl I don't think we've ever seen before.  They seem to be together, so I assume that Kennedy is actually out of the picture now.  Interesting.  I wonder if we will get to see her.  (Note: I never disliked Kennedy.  She was no Tara, but I didn't have the vindictive hatred that most of the fandom seems to have for her.)

Suddenly, we switch back to the next morning.  I have to say that I really liked the way this was done.  The scene from the night before is very colorful, but as soon as it cuts back to NOW, the colors are instantly muted.  I love that stuff.  (Though, I have to ask.  What does that panel with Buffy saying "Presto Change-O" and having surprise-face mean?  It looks like it is still part of the flashback but I have no idea what it is all about.  Is Buffy reacting to Willow's new babe?  Or her haircut?  Or... something else?  It's not very clear to me.)

We get a brief tease that Buffy and Willow had sex last night, but it turns out that Willow had just stopped by to check on her and try her shower.  Which is good, because I don't think that they should ever get together ever.  That would just be too strange.

We then cut to a dead girl (slayer?) being examined by two... investigators.  A guy and a girl.  The guy seems to be a rookie, but the woman reveals that this dead girl has no clear cause of death (it was Lord Voldemort!) and is the third one found this month.  Are these two characters going to return or were they just exposition people?

We cut back to the party the night before, as Riley, Spike, and... um... someone dude arrive.  (Seriously, are we supposed to know who this is?  Georges' art is very unclear.  My only guess is that it's Andrew, but it looks nothing like him and I've always thought that Georges' did a very good Andrew.  But if it's someone we don't know, it's odd we don't get a name here.)  We get a nice exchange where Buffy invites her in and we get this adorable panel of her standing in the doorway with her arm resting on top of her head.  I really like physical observations like that.  Also, I commend Georges Jeanty for drawing Buffy in that shirt.  It looks great, but must have been SUCH a pain to draw.

Then we get some more glimpses of the party, including an exchange between Buffy and Mystery Dude.  Okay, this is getting ridiculous.  WHO IS THIS?  He talks like a hippie but then reveals that he lead a slayer squad?  I don't understand.  Is it Andrew?  It doesn't look like him.

We cut back to now to find Buffy wallowing on the couch.  It turns out that she isn't just feeling hungover, she is also feeling dread.  Apparently, Spike warned her that "something's coming."  Gotta say, after 8 seasons of this, vague warnings just don't strike the same sense of terror in me anymore.  Something is always coming.  Buffy always fights it.  I won't be worried until things start getting specific.

We then cut to two people hiring a demon to "make Buffy pay."  They seem scared of the demon, that has a scale thumb and makes smoke happen.  Is this at all related to the dead girls?

Buffy arrives at work to find her shift has been covered.  Her boss implies that something happened last night.   On my first read through, I thought they were implying that Buffy slept with her boss, but now I'm not so sure.  I think it's implying she slept with SOMEONE, and she doesn't know who.  It's kind of confusing.

Then we see an army of demons trying to prevent something escaping a magic glow-ball.  They all die and a demon that has bad head-grammar escapes and wants to... kill all.  I don't know who this guy is.  It seems like they've set up quite a few different enemies/plotlines this issue so far and I'm kind of confused.  How is this related to the dead girls and the two people hiring demons to get Buffy?

Buffy walks around San Francisco, trying to remember things she did the previous night.  She remembers having a talk with Riley, where he basically proved that he is still as awesome as he ever was.  She's very tipsy and ruins the door of his secret government van and he is surprisingly patient with him.  He tells her that he thinks she made the right call on destroying the seed, no matter how guilty she feels about it.  Then... she hits on him?  But then decides that she would remember sleeping with Riley.  So it wasn't him.

Buffy's roommates seem to have genuinely liked Buffy's friends, and they reveal that Buffy was very popular with everyone the previous night, even managing to charm the angry neighbor.  I like this little detail: that Buffy is actually a really charming person even if she doesn't realize it.

Then we see that punk slayer from last season, with a hippie van filled with guns (ha!), and she seems to be planning some sort of terrorist act to prove that Slayers are better than normal people.  Kind of like an extreme version of Faith's philosophy from Season 3.  I was expecting this story to come back and am actually kind of excited to see where it goes, although I'm kind of nervous that the season is already stretched too thin.  I mean, how many people are out to kill Buffy at this point?

We then see another flashback, revealing a conversation between Xander and Buffy the previous night.  Xander seems upset about something, and Buffy asks if he wants to talk about "it."  Xander doesn't want to talk about it and mentions that Dawn doesn't have to know.  At the same time, Buffy touches his arm.  It's a very physical moment and it really has me concerned.  Did something happen between Buffy and Xander?  It certainly looks that way.  It's strange, though.  I'm not sure what to think.

Buffy and Willow meet up with Spike while patroling later that night.  Willow confronts Buffy about the seed, and Buffy responds in a way that seems like she's heard whatever Willow wants to say before and that she just doesn't feel like arguing about it.  Then, the smoke demon shows up and dramatically threatens Buffy about...

Paying her student loans.  Which is... strange.  I suppose this was meant as a comedy beat but it just came off as strange.  Is this really what those two people earlier were hiring the demon for?  It seems so strange.  I mean, I don't necessarily have a problem with exploring Buffy's financial problems, but we did that a bit in season 6 and it just seems odd to tie it to the demon world in this way.  I don't know.  I won't pass judgement on it now.

So, overall I think I liked this issue.  I don't think it was as solid a first issue as Angel & Faith, but Joss has always been better with the follow through with the setup, so I'm not that worried yet.  I like that this season really does look like it is going to be focusing closer on Buffy's life and not the grand cosmic stuff from last season.  I like the character dynamics.  The supporting cast seems great: Spike, Willow, Riley, Xander, Dawn.  I already like Buffy's roommates, especially Ardeena, and I look forward to getting to see more of them in the future.

My biggest problem with this issue was probably the strange jumps in time.  At first it was really well done because the coloring made it clear.  But then we started to jump around and Buffy started going different places and we cut to different events and it became very difficult to follow.  As I understand it, there are four external subplots being set up: The Kill-All Demon, the Student Loans Demon, The Punk-Rock Slayer (what is her name again?), and the Mysterious Dead Girls.  Also, it is implied several times in the issue that Buffy slept with someone, but we never find out if she did or not.  I'm inclined to think not, but I'm not sure and I wish it had been a bit clearer on that.

Final Thoughts:

  • Loved this line: "When you get right down to it, a nice hot shower is just thousands and thousands of scalding water drops screaming down at you like kamikazes in a never-ending wave of hate."
  • I love San Francisco as the setting.  It's just... nice.
  • The reference to "Beer Bad" and how much everyone hates it.  "Put a few drinks in me and I turn into Mrs. O'Leary's cow.  Or a cave... person... Boy, was she popular."
  • Buffy finding out what haberdashery was.  This bit sounded a lot like it was written by Jane Espenson to me.
  • Buffy being simultaneously grossed out by the idea of porn but also thinking she should maybe get into it anyway.
  • Spike and Tumbler are starting a band.
  • Buffy convincing the cops to join the party.
  • "Stalky the Clown"
  • Spike about to crack a joke at the end.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Defense of Television

"Oh, I don't watch TV," she said in an annoyingly superior tone.

"Why?" I asked.

"That stuff rots your brain," she said, turning away to play with her smartphone.

If television rots your brain, then mine must be swiss cheese by now.  It is very sad to me that I've heard this sort of thing from so many people.  People seem to be unable to make the distinction between GOOD television and BAD television.  It makes me scared to think of what other broad generalizations they must make in their lives.  "Oh, this book has small text.  Books are hard to read!"  "Oh, this website says Hitler was right.  The internet is anti-semetic!"  "Oh, this Muslim is a suicide bomber.  Muslims are all terrorists!"  "Oh, this atheist is kind of a tool.  All atheists are evil!"  "This cereal tastes terrible.  FOOD IS BAD!"

But seriously, strawmans aside.  "TV rots your brain?"  Come on.  The number of times I have heard this exact argument, from otherwise very intelligent people, makes me very sad.  Many so-called "intellectuals" love to bash television to make sure they are clearly seen as better than the "lowest common denominator" that likes to sit down every friday night to watch the latest episode of their favorite TV show (or, time-shifted viewing, as is quickly becoming the norm).

Television comes in good and bad.  The worst of it is... not fun to talk about.  The best of it, though, can be truly compelling, engaging, and powerful, as can the best of all forms of entertainment.  Most TV falls somewhere in the middle.

It's true that reality television is on the rise, and dramatic serials are few and far between.  Reality TV can be pretty bad.  At best it takes the form of competition based shows.  At worst it is a gross mockery of what it is to be human, poking and prodding at narcissistic people to illicit the response that the public supposedly wants while at the same time managing to insult and degrade everything decent and honorable about our culture.

But, there are still plenty of amazing shows out there despite the prevalence of Reality TV.  Where I think TV as a medium truly shines is in long-form storytelling.  As far as filmed media goes, it really is superior at this kind of storytelling.  Movies are constrained by being able to be watched in one sitting, where TV has no such handicap.  This allows for complex character development, intricate plotting, and detailed world-building.  The best serialized dramas take advantage of this sense of history by creating stories that feel lived-in and complicated.  By the end of a long-running TV show, any seemingly simple story and be extremely powerful to a viewer who has followed along from the beginning.  This is a very beautiful way to tell a story.

Of course, not everything good on television is a serialized drama.  TV sitcoms have been consistently finding and inventing new ways to be funny for several decades.  Procedurals have been churning out murder mysteries on a weekly basis for quite some time, and while lacking in my most favorite of literary elements, complex characterization, have all but mastered the art of one-and-done storytelling.  Television is also the last refuge of storytelling through 2-D animation (in America, at least.)

People like what they like.  I'm certainly quite opinionated about what I think is GOOD television and what I think is BAD television.  Ultimately, though, it cannot be written off as all bad.  There are plenty of bad books out there, but there are also some truly fantastic ones.  The same goes for any medium: film, comics, theater, puppet shows, etc.

If something is entertaining, causes an emotional response, and fosters thought, it cannot be said to "rot your brain."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 121-125

Hohoho!  Lookie here!  Getting in before the maximum... by like... 50 minutes.  I guess I'm kinda busy.  Oh well.  Here are 5 drawings.

This first one is of my girlfriend earlier tonight.  We were watching Sherlock (AWESOME SHOW) and she didn't know that I was drawing her.  (She knows now.)

A... scribbly tree.

A bass playing itself.

I am trying to do more architectural drawings.  I really like STARTING them, but they require more patience than a lot of other drawings, so I'm trying to work on that.

Finally, my favorite, a Pentaceratops.  I like the way I was able to imagine the light source fairly successfully.  (Something I always have trouble with when I'm drawing from imagination.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 120

I broke out the watercolor pencils again today and did this cartoon of Cornelius Fudge.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 114-119

Well, once again I have gone the maximum amount of days without a doodle.  But here I am with six to make up for it.  I blame the fact that it was the first week of school and I've been getting back into the groove of college life.  I'll try to be more consistent in the future.

Most of these are just quick sketches, and one of them is an ink drawing I did REALLY quickly.  I think that might be my favorite actually.

They get progressively stranger.

EDIT:  Also, I redrew that picture I drew of my friend Sarah on Tuesday here.