Monday, December 15, 2008

Spoke too soon

As the title says, it turned out I had enough time to churn out at least one more blog entry before the end of the semester. To really prove that this is the end, I'm using the last panel from McCloud's Understanding Comics. My true closing note is how--at the risk of sounding too corny, both Understanding Comics and The Graphic Novel class have changed my perspective in just the new things I see and read, but also with older materials. Over the weekend, I came across an old Calvin and Hobbes collection at a library. I didn't really appreciate Calvin and Hobbes when it first came out, primarily because in its short time, my basic reading skills were not perfected yet. Now, apart from its now and then politically loaded messages and parodies, his personal style varies. Reality is depicted with jagged yet open lines, possibly to show a depressed reality from a child's perspective, while the scenes in Calvin's imagination have heavy shadowing and more realistic details.

Monday, December 8, 2008

One Final Note?

With the semester almost over, I would use this possibly last blog entry to make some of the relations between every book we have read in The Graphic Novel class to various moments in storytelling, guest speakers and visual gags found within the television series, The Simspons. I will list these examples in accordance with the season they premired in. Starting with the season 13 episode, Blame it on Lisa. The family has just traveled to Brazil to look for an orpahn boy was sponsoring. While they're in Brazil, they a disturbingly suggestive kids show "teleboobies" and in a similar fashion to the scene in Safe Area Gorazde where they are watching the horrors of the Bosnian war on TV and the audience only sees the reactions of the faces watching the movies, so to do we only see the mixed reactions of the family watching the TV when the female host goes "ON top of, beneath."--draw your own conclusions. Fast forward to season 16's, Treehouse of Horror XV. In the third segment, In the Belly of the Boss, which parodies the Fantastic Voyage, the Professor, Frink, warns them:"Look out for retroviruses, oh boy, are they retro!"(holds up a picture of a virus in a "keep on truckin' pose) "It's a crazy design by R. Crumb, who was friends with Harvey Pekar...Seriously, touch one and you die." Moving on to season 19's Husbands and Knives. A new comic book store opens and they have three comic book artists come by for a public signing (Seriously, all three artists did lend their voices to their animated counterparts): Art Spigelman of Maus fame, Alan Moore of Watchmen fame, and David Clowes of Ghost World Fame. and finally, possibly the funniest example of juxtapositioning came from the current 20th season episode, Homer and Lisa Exchange CrossWords. Early in the episode, Lisa has become so addicted to crossword puzzles that she is unable to carry on a conversation without being reminded of a clue she needed for her puzzle: "Oh, Thanks Bart (gasp) "barge--A large San Francisco people mover!" At this point, Bart turns away from Lisa and goes: "Speaking of Large San Francisco people movers..." the scene immediately cuts to a hardcore gay bar.

Monday, December 1, 2008

You're Journeying through another dimension...

Upon reading book 2 of Maus, I am reminded of a particular episode of The Twilight Zone: Episode 74, Deaths-Head Revisited. Here's the opening by Rod Serling (they just don't have writers like this anymore, bear in mind it was 1961 when this was written):
"Mr. Schmidt, recently arrived in a small Bavarian village which lies 8 miles west of Munich, a picturesque, delightful little spot one time known for its scenery but more recently related to other events having to do with some of the less positive pursuits of man: human slaughter, torture, misery, and anguish. Mr. Schmidt, as we will soon percieve, has a vested interest in the ruins of a concentration camp--for once, some 17 years ago, his name was Gunther Lutze. He held the rank of a captain in the S.S.. He was a black-uniformed strutting animal whose function in life was to give pain, and like his colleagues of the time he shared the one affliction most common amongst that breed known as Nazis: he walked the earth without a heart. And now former S.S. Captain Lutze will revisit his old haunts, satisfied perhaps that all that is waiting for him in the ruins on the hill is an element of nostalgia. What he does not know, of course, is that a place like Dachau cannot exist only in Bavaria. By its nature, by its very nature, it must be one of the populated areas of the Thilight Zone."
As stated in that opening, a former Nazi captain, Lutze, visits the remains of Dachau; but when he gets there, he is haunted by every last soul that was tortured and or killed and Lutze's punishment is to suffer the same horrors the slaughtered have, not physically, just feel their pain in his head. This causes Lutze to go insane and the doctor taking Lutze away to a mental hospital asks: "Dachau...Why does it still stand?"
Cue the closing narration:
"There is an answer to the doctor's question. All the Dachaus, the Belsens,the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes--all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone, but wherever men walk God's earth."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

East meets West

I know it's not Barefoot Gen, but there was a particular manga I wanted to bring to the attention of whoever read this blog. It's a manga that was only introduced this year, Karakuri doji Ultimo, or Robot child: Ultimo. The plot is essentially not that different from Astro Boy, but they give him an evil twin to make it interesting. The red-headed boy (yes it's a boy) is the main character, Ultimo, while the character on the right is the antagonist, Vice. A note on why Ultimo's appearance is so effeminate; just as during the time Shakespeare's plays first came out and it was forbidden for women to be in theater and thus men played women's parts, this was also the case with older Japanese theater. Such manga or anime characters are said to be bishonen.So what makes this manga worth mentioning? It's actually a collaboration between manga artist Hiroyuki Takei, and comic book legend Stan Lee; in fact, Ultimo and Vice are the names of two characters found within Iron Man's continuity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stewie and Sputnik

I know this may seem extremely irrelevant, but I had to bring this topic up. While reading the graphic novel, Fallout, and viewing the movie Day One, I remembered another scenario about Germany's endeavors in nuclear power. It was in an episode of Family Guy, in particular the episode, Road to Germany. Long story short, the characters travel back in time and wind up in 1939 Europe. To get back to their own time, they needed a uranium battery to power the machine that would return them to the present and there was only one place in Europe at the time that was studying nuclear power: Berlin. This was the big setup joke: Stewie>> "Berlin had weapons of mass destruction! How come America doesn't go over there and stop them?" Brian>>Oh, I don't know, maybe its because (slowly turns to television audience) they don't have any oil?" Stewie>>"OH! Clap Clap Clap." This little trade-off reminded me of how childish it seemed during Fallout and Day One of how America just had to have the nuclear bomb developed before Germany. It then brought up the memory of when the USSR launched Sputnik. In less than ten years, the United States had gone from a nuclear arms race with Nazi Germany to the space race with the Soviet Union; we didn't get the first probe into space, but we certainly got the first man on the moon. Are we that competitive as a nation?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Funny Actors, Serious Roles

I just had to get this off my chest. As we've been watching Welcome to Sarajevo, I was reminded of another, albeit different in structure movie. Woody Harrelson would be an actor most people would immediately recognize fo his comedic work on the late TV series Cheers and here he is casted in a more serious role (a war-torn country probably doesn't get more serious than that). It reminded me of another time when an actor who branded purely as comedic tried out a more serious role. I'm reffering to Bill Murray in the more obscure movie, The Razor's Edge, almost two decades before he appeared in Lost in Translation.
In The Razor's Edge, Murray plays a son from a rich American family who goes on to fight in World War I and is aghast at what he sees. After the war, he goes into hiding in Paris living more down to earth. Upon its 1984 release, the movie didn't recieve the recognition it does today, people were just too use to comedic Bill Murray.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A richer experience

Sorry about those little rants...on to more serious topics.
The three most recent graphic novels we've read in (Persepolis, Pyongyang and Safe Area Gorazde) all have one thing in common: They introduce an audience who is unknowing of a culture to how it lives, works, etc. It reminds me of a Japanese manga called JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Granted they are fundamentally different as the first three books are practically documentaries while this manga series is purely a fictional trek between Japan and Egypt within 50 days, the series author and illustrator, Hirohiko Araki, has actually visited the other countries visited in the series which include Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Abu Dahbi, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Not only does this make the backgrounds richer for the experience, the story is also given brief little information for tourists and simaritans alike including the Tiger Balm Gardens is Hong Kong, how Singapore is one of the busiest shipping ports in the world, how haggling is vital in middle eastern market places, the construction of Egypt's Nubia dam and just how crowded and unsanitary Calcutta, India is.