Canadian Art Talks Comics

There’s a great featured article about comics on the Canadian Art site, titled “The Art of Compression: Comic Conversations”

The article is notable for the insightful quotes from cartoon heavyweights such as Seth, Jillian Tamaki, Chester Brown, and Marc Bell; not to mention the fact that the piece seems to completely lack a condescending or apologetic tone. Comics as art, what will they think of next?

This feels like such a victory. Like many aspiring cartoonists pursuing a BFA, I spent a decent portion of my undergrad trying (usually unsuccessfully) to have art-conversations about comics that didn’t begin and end with the Pop appropriations of Lichtenstein.

I honestly can’t believe how much things have changed in the last ten years. I mean, these dialogues have been happening since before RAW magazine in the 1980s, but it’s just so widespread now! Truly Amazing.

Too bad print media is on its death bed … or will print just become infinitely more valuable, intimate, and cherished? Eeeek!

John Callahan R.I.P.

In Saturday, July 24, Portland cartoonist and musician John Callahan died at 59.

Maybe you know John Callahan’s work from his single panel cartoons. Or maybe you remember the animated television series Quads, based on his cartoons (still on Teletoon last time I checked).

One thing is certain, if you’ve seen Callahan’s cartoons, you would remember them. He seemed to make a point of making viewers as uncomfortable as possible. Maybe it’s hard to see how plain wrong his  jokes were in a time when Family Guy‘s wheelchair-bound Joe Swanson routinely gets his unfeeling legs maimed every week … but Callahan went much farther long before Peter Griffin said “holy crip he’s a crapple.”

Callahan became a quadriplegic in a car crash at the age of 21. He drew with a visceral simplicity by holding a pen between both hands. His bizarre, incredibly offensive work outraged everyone at some point. He was an alcoholic who started drinking at age 14. He gave up the sauce at 27. Robin Williams was going to play him in a biopic. His 2006 album featured a guest appearance by Tom Waits. His hate mail is proudly displayed on his website.

So long, John Callahan. Thanks for saying things no one else would, and thanks for all the shameful, uncomfortable laughs.

Friday Afternoon Turtle

One day I woke up and realized that all my interests, hobbies, goals, ideas, and understanding of  the science of mutation can be traced directly back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everything I need to know, I learned from the Ninja Turtles.

Many will tell you that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird originally created the Ninja Turtles in the early 1980s as an indie comic intended to parody the many teen/mutant/animal comics popular at the time.

But I think the real reason they came up with this idea is because turtles are rad.

See? Turtles are cute.

But don’t eff with them or they’ll eff your ess up so badly, your face will look like a pizza from Dimension X.

Yeah, I know that last one is a tortoise, but they’re all testudines. Which of course is Latin for “Damn I love being a turtle!!!”

The Fun Kind of Hate

You know what God really hates? Probably nothing because if there is some sort of unfathomable higher power, it probably wouldn’t waste its divine intelligence on such petty human emotions as hate and love. Instead it would probably be all thinking “Galaxy” and there would be one and we’d all be “Dude, I can’t comprehend this.”

Seriously, he drowned all but two cats in the Old Testament.

That said, I doubt even God could resist loving Comic-Con, where nerds of all genders, colours, creeds, and orientations have banded together to mock the Westboro Baptist Church and their hate speech by forming a sarcastic, yet somehow genuine, rainbow of hilarity.

Godspeed, you wonderful nerds. Godspeed.

Your Comparatively Crappy Life

Take a moment to look back on your life and reflect on the happiest moments you’ve ever had. Done? Good. Because even if you are destined for future moments that will be thrice as happy as those in the past, it will all still pale when compared to the happiness of this pup:

Look at that little guy go! He’s missing 3/4 of his legs, but does that keep him from dancing? Goodness, no! And he’s that excited about dog food!

Dog food is the thing domestic dogs are supposed to eat. It’s got all the nutrients they need to be happy. Oh, and contrary to what the dog food ads would have you believe, dog food isn’t even sweet or tasty (trust me). It’s practically health food for dogs.

Have you ever been that excited over a bran muffin? Be honest.

Have you made the right decisions in your life? This dog has.

Do you feel like dancing a bit now? You should. It’s ok. It’s perfectly natural.

In Soviet Russia…

… things were different in such a way that one might interpret them as being the opposite of our North American customs, thus leading to great humorous effect.

Which is to say, look at these swell illustrations from the Russian version of The Hobbit! A friend brought them to my attention. Aren’t they great? So strange, yet so familiar.

Looking at these images made me feel the way I did when I was learning how to read. The pictures seem to take on a greater weight and depth when the meaning of the text is obscured (for those of us who can’t read Russian, anyway).

The textures, the brushstrokes, the shapes, and the composition all contain a richness that is too easy to overlook with the efficient-to-a-fault eyes of an adult.

Also, hairy hobbit legs! You win this round, Russia.

Gary Coleman Died

Carle Steel wrote earlier that in addition to Art Linkletter dying, Gary Coleman was hospitalized after suffering head injuries from a fall.

Apparently, Coleman has now succumbed to his injuries. (CBC)

I never watched Diff’rent Strokes because I have a policy about not watching things titled with unnecessary abbreviations, but Coleman’s wonderfully bizarre cameo in The Simpsons ‘Funzo’ Christmas episode still makes me laugh. His Christmas Carol finish to the show is much quoted in my household every December.

Thanks for the entertainment, Gary Coleman.

What'chu talkin' 'bout EVERYONE.

Just one more hit, I swear

If my mom gave up the Internet, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. She really doesn’t use it for much more than googling her kids’ names to see if any of us are famous yet (nope, not yet), or to look up “the name of that guy from the thing”. My mom is awesome that way– she’s not caught in the Net like so many dolphins.

However for cartoonist James Sturm, who quit the Internet four weeks ago, the online world figures into most of what he does. Giving it up would mean a huge change in the way he does things, wouldn’t it?

Sturm has been chronicling the process through a series of online posts on Slate (presumably he submits the posts via post). It’s an interesting read (complete with drawings and cartoons, of course), and it makes me want to start hand-writing letters again.

Which I would totally do if only I had the time.

Archie Comics’ First (openly) Gay Character

It was bound to happen, but given Archie’s history of clean-cut  (if not socially conservative) idealism, I’m still quite surprised by this news. Not to mention the fact that the company is known for its aggressive lawsuits regarding any sort of parody and satire of Archie characters … especially those with anything to do with sex.

Still, this could be a positive thing that further normalizes homosexuality, increasing acceptance in society; or it could end up smacking of tokenism like most black comic characters in the 1970s (Hey kids! I’m Black Lightning! I have the powers of lightning, except I’m black! Oh, here comes my friend Black Racer. He has all sorts of celestial powers. And he’s black!).

But I digress. The linked article makes a number of great (and funny) observations on the subject– “there’s not much point in inventing the telephone, if you haven’t built two.”

If nothing else, this is an indication that things have come a long way since implying that Smithers was gay in early episodes of The Simpsons. Plus Reggie finally has the opportunity to come out of the closet.

That’s right. Jughead was just a red-herring all along.

It's okay to be gay, Reggie!

On Cynicism, Unicorns and Conan

W ... whaaaaat?!
W ... whaaaaat?!

As much as I’ve always enjoyed Conan O’Brien, I didn’t really pay much attention to the drama surrounding his brief time on The Tonight Show (my TV only plays Turbo Grafx). I followed the news just enough to love Conan a little more, all while shaking my head at the apparent worsening state of the world.

Today I read this great article about Conan’s farewell speech (Maisonneuve). Then I watched the speech (Vimeo). And then I read the article again.

Conan’s rally to end cynicism deeply resonated with me. I haven’t felt this way in some time.

It’s easy to be cynical. One can simply criticize everything without ever having to stand by anything. Easy maybe, but what kind of dark pit of world would if be if there weren’t any hopeful dreamers?

Maybe the state of the world isn’t worsening at all– just my view of it. Maybe it’s okay to dream of achieving seemingly-impossible things! Maybe all the awfulness in the world will get a little better if we all work a little harder rather than just complaining and awaiting the failure of everything. Maybe I’ll spend the rest of the evening drawing swell pictures of unicorns!*

So here’s to hope, hard work, and all that good stuff. Rest in Peace cynicism, you’re not cool anymore. In fact, I have the sneaking suspicion that you were never cool in the first place.

*But not really because a certain editor will wonder why I’m not working on my super-important assignment for the next print issue of Prairie Dog.

Making Star Wars Neat Again

If you’ve seen RedLetterMedia’s hilariously accurate reviews of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (complete with unnecessary and unfunny psychopath side story), the last of your happy memories of Star Wars have probably met the same fate as Alderaan.

Fortunately, when geniuses like George Lucas are finally crushed under the immense weight of their own dense brilliance, others will eventually rise to resuscitate and reclaim a once-entertaining story.

Canadian animator Malcolm Sutherland is one such individual. In the three short animations below, he shares his own vision of Star Wars that is almost reminiscent of the wonderfully off-model Nelvana-produced animated short from the holiday-special-of-which-none-shall-speak. Dare I say that there are also references to 1990s Klasky-Csupo Animation, or perhaps Chad VanGaalen? I dare! I dare!

Star Wars Uncut – Scene 415 – “All wings report in…” from Malcolm Sutherland on Vimeo.

There are a couple more videos after the jump.

Continue reading “Making Star Wars Neat Again”