Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Currently there is a trailer getting internet buzz due to its bizarre content: A computer animated TV show in Japan featuring cute bunnies decked out as American G.I.s in gory, blood-squirting combat with turban wearing camels out in the desert. The project is provocatively titled "Cat Shit One." You owe it to yourself to draw your own conclusions about it, though pardon me for not linking to it...I'm not eager to drive up their web traffic hits.
I will be the first to admit if I'm being quick to react to a show I haven't seen entirely, but the whole thing seems crass and exploitive to me.
War is horrible, and I'll admit that the tragedy of war is often an inspiration for art, both historical and fictional. I thought Tim O'Brien's book "The Things They Carried" was a brilliant and powerful piece about the fragile humanity behind American boys in the Vietnam war. I loved Schindler's List. War can be ridiculous and abstract. I loved Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," and thought it did a great job illustrating how bureaucracy and emotion can be competing forces. In war we can forget that our enemies are still human, and still ourselves. I think Herman Hesse and Kazuo Ishiguro do wonderful, lyrical jobs of illustrating this point... but all of these artists are using war to help us understand the scope of the human condition.
The atrocities of war are hard to comprehend by people like me who haven't been touched by its brutality. Maus is an autobiographical graphic novel by cartoonist Art Spiegelman where the artist tries to make peace with his conflicting emotions towards his father who survived the Holocaust by better understanding what his father suffered through. Spiegelman uses his visual, cartoonists language to put the events in a context he can understand, drawing the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. It's a simple visual hook even a child can understand, but as the work develops you realizes the cartoonist's true message: anything he could think, draw or write would be a paltry illusion to the actual suffering, the actual emotions and experiences of those who lived the reality.
The anthropomorphism isn't disrespectful, it is a useful tool to help us try and understand the unknowable monstrosity that was the Holocaust. The parable of cats and mice reveals many naked truths and underlines the surreality of it all ... That said, Maus was published in the 1980's, and won the pulitzer in the 1990s.
Any work using the tropes of anthropomorphism and realistic war must be measured up to Maus, at least in "Western" eyes.
My beef here is that "Cat Shit One" seems more interested in using the animals as an excuse for slow-motion violence and zip boom pow Hollywood action. A computer animated TV show where humans gun down Arabs or dodge exploding rockets would be at best tacky sensationalism and at worst horribly insensitive and completely inexcusable. This point is fairly well lampooned in Team America: World Police, where puppets engage in this type of behavior in order to "take the piss" out of anyone who thought the action movie esthetic trumps a moral conscience.
In my opinion "Cat Shit One" seems to want to make a cracking good modern war show, but we're a bit too smart for that anymore. The horrors of war are not entertainment. They hope to eschew the tacky melodrama of their black and white war stories by using computer animated animals to lend the entire affair a cloud of bewildering detachment.
Again, to be clear: I am looking forward to Quentin Tarantino's film "Inglorious Bastards," which promises to make Sam Peckinpah look like Walt Disney. Why? Look at any Tarantino picture to see the truth: Tarantino is well aware of the absurdity of the human condition. He makes post-modern films about our expectations as an audience, see-sawing the movie versions of crime, gansters and violence with their awful, real-world consequences. He makes us laugh at ourselves by pointing out how disturbingly violent many of our favorite films really are, but also he has the courage to say what he wants and show what he wants.
His films aren't metaphorical. If he wants to show how horrible it would be for a ganster to cut off a cop's ear you best believe he's going to drive that horror home while making you laugh out loud that you ever thought you wanted to see such a thing.
If "Cat Shit One" would like to argue they are showing a truth through their animals, or even upping the grotesque factor to the actual realities of war by having cute animals killing each other I would only argue that human suffering is far more grotesque than computer animated rabbits, and there are many chilling documentaries to show the grim truth to war.
Maybe they feel the truth of our current war in Iraq isn't being exposed, and only through the safety of talking animals can they get away with shining a light on it. Could be. Few here in the states actively educate themselves on what our actions are doing abroad. In this light it could be argued that the more sensational they act, the more viewers to the show, the better chance some message could sneak past our thick headed attention span. Does giving them this benefit of doubt change the face they put forward in their trailer? Not really.
Maybe they think they are a modern day "Animal Farm," disguising political truths through allegory. Again, these lofty aspirations are hard to grant here. "Cat Shit" seems neither allegorical nor subtle, just aptly named.
I think there is lazy thinking in a project like this, and certainly question the motives of its audience. Gussy-ing up human suffering in strange and unusual clothes to make a "Cool" or "Edgy" piece of entertainment just ain't right. I find it exploitive, crass, and dehumanizing. I had a real problem with the animated motion picture "The Animatrix" for this reason, too.
"The Animatrix" was a Matrix movie spin-off to establish WHY Keanu Reeves was locked in combat with killer robots. The answer was that we were mean to them. To show how mean humanity was to the robots the directors traced over (or rotoscoped) actual footage of mass graves from the Holocaust, as well as other terribly real pieces of film of actual human murder, with people killing innocent robot victims.
This belies a sickness I don't even want to fathom. There are people out there who think it acceptable to use the darkest moments of human suffering on film to add "Punch" to their cartoon about fictional robots?
A robot is not an animal, and an animal is not a human being. Robots by definition cannot suffer as animals and people can. Animal cruelty is sick and depraved, but I'm with many who feel the suffering of animals doesn't compare to the suffering of human life.
-I wouldn't feel qualified in the realm of cartoons or fiction to claim to know how wide-spread or even harmful this sort of perceived desensitizing of human suffering is, but it raises a red flag with me. As I said in the beginning, maybe I'm jumping the gun on "Cat Shit." I haven't seen it, just the trailer. I just feel this "artistic" effort is sensational before it's educational... and yes, I feel you owe it to those who really suffered in war to educate others about their suffering before you cash in on the explosions.
There is plenty of material out there of a documentary or even "First-hand" nature to help us understand the tragedy of war before we go looking for it in rabbits shooting camels.
OR I could just be a blow-hard who's quick to pass judgement on things he doesn't understand. Seems fairly likely, actually...
Thursday, February 26, 2009
My facebook clicker informed me that "Unkiedev's Unthinkables" has NINE whole readers! Yikes, and I haven't updated it in forever. I'm sorry to disappoint all nine of you, I shall rectify this now with an especially long blog on comics, columns and miscolumnifications:
By now you should all know of my brilliant and/or weekly comics column entitled "Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff," which runs in the Forbidden Planet newsletter, the "Weekly Planet," every Wednesday in New York City. It runs less frequently on their online planet here: http://www.fpnyc.com/weeklyplanet/index.html and even less frequently here on this blog.
At the New York Comic Con I had the fortune to meet up with several talented cartoonists, most notably Steve Mannion of The Bomb and Fearless Dawn fame and Chris Schweizer, who's drawing a great all-ages book for Oni called "The Crogan Adventures." Both said that my columns on their respective projects do have a meager impact on exposure and therefore sales. If we all lived in frickin' France or Belgium guys like Steve and Chris would be knees deep in work, and respected like cartoonist kings. Here in America? Not so much. Most comic books these days are just pilot scripts for Hollywood or get canceled due to a lack of moolah.
I'm always eager to help with exposure and sales for talented creators.
They're always nice and supportive to me! Their kind words on my columns really made me think about the little devils. I usually write them and send them away, like a mother snakes with her squirming spawn. "I wonder," I asked myself "where these things go after I'm done with 'em?"
I should like to reprint one of my columns here, both to highlight some great titles and to foreshadow the next movement of this column. I do warn you, it IS reprinted warts an all...I need better editors.
Ever since Mouse first hit Cat with Brick comics have been funny. If milk-through-the-nose level laughs and guffaws are what you crave you cannot go wrong with any titles on:
Unkiedev's Top 10 Funniest Comics You Can Read, Though Not Necessarily Buy:
Sam and Max: Surfing the Highway (OUT OF PRINT) - Steve Purcell
Cartoonist (and now Pixar artist) Steve Purcell's Sam and Max is the funniest of funnies, inspiring a TV show and several video games. Watch Sam the dog and Max the rabbit(?) a.k.a. the "Freelance Police," as they run over criminals, smuggle Mexican frogs and pants aliens in ancient Egypt. This high wire act of art and larffs is out of print, with copies worth hundreds on ebay. Don't Worry, Purcell assures fans they'll be back in print soon.
The Tick, Volume 1., #1-12 - Ben Edlund, NEC
Milk and Cheese - Evan Dorkin is a respected "Go-To" funny guy, but it all started with this amazing indie blood-bath: A carton of Milk and a wedge of Cheese "go bad" and attack anyone and anything that get in their way. It's "Family Guy" stripped of plot or character. Just jokes, bricks, jokes, eye-gouging and gory dairy glory.
The Magic Whistle - Sam Henderson
Fart and dog-nard jokes for a range of intelligences, Magic Whistle walks a Zen like line 'twix trash and treasure. 3rd Grade Art + 6th Grade Humor = Comedy Gold under the pen of Sam Henderson, famous for his comedy writing with DC, Nickelodeon and "Sponge Bob Square Pants." Fans of funny: DO NOT MISS.
Cromartie High - Eiji Nonaka, ADV Manga
SQUEE - "Invader Zim" creator Jhonen Vasquez's single handedly created the Goth comics boom with the black comedy of "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac." While JTHM may be the bigger hit, SQUEE his follow up book is funnier. Not Goth? Fear Not: You don't have to wear mascara to have your mascara run from laughing.
Tank Girl - Alan Martin and GORILLAZ artist Jamie Hewlett's cult Australian riot-grrrl is cute and violent. Laugh as she sleeps and shoots her way through many a kangaroo with her eponymous tank. The new series from IDW and Ashley Wood will have fans screaming "Yes, She really IS BACK!" WARNING: Though juvenile, this is a "Mature Comic." Warren Ellis fans should buy this NOW.
What The..?! - Like Bizarro only Marvel, What The..?! was a racous Marvel monthly from the late 80's with top creators lampooning Marvel's biggest sellers. Never reprinted. Hunt down the first few issues, as the fake ads alone make it worth the search. Last year's revival book, "Wha...Huh?" was a tickling treat as well!
Bizarro World - Various, DC
Marvel Monsters - Eric Powell, Keith Giffen and other comedy pros bring you giant monsters making with the laughter and disaster, plus many of Jack Kirby's unintentionally hilarious monster comics from the 50-60's. Fans of this series NEED to pick up "Doris Danger's 'Where Urban Creatures Creep and Stomp!'" Available now.
Of course that's only the tip of the Zoidberg. Laughs abound, but only 10 can be the top 10. Next week I'll showcase a forgotten funny from the golden age. Till then: buy funny books and floss, floss, FLOSS!
Yep, good stuff. "So, oh-self-indulgent-one," I hear no one but the mocking voice that drives me to drink cackle in the bean-bag chair of my despair, "what has any of that wonderful prose to do with a hill of beans?!"
Thinking about "Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff" and how it lives on after my pen, I googled my column and name to see if anyone linked to my writing. I hit pay-dirt in a big way. Check this out: http://allegrablythe.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/unkiedevs-dazzling-inner-essence/
As near as I can figure, someone copied the above column verbatim and used bable fish or some other automatic online translator to rewrite my column in their native tongue. They then posted it on their blog, where our automatic filters translate it back. The result is stunning.
Equal parts nonsense and poetry, the newly dubbed column "Unkiedev's Dazzling Inner Essence" reveals great hidden truths through its telephone translation.
We can all laugh at the pastiche of words assembled in these sentences. " If siphon off-durante-terran plaster laughs and guffaws are what yours truly adjure, " it reads, "ego cannot go astray in line with every in relation to the titles by dint of: Unkiedev's Teetotum 10 Funniest Comics Alterum Pocket Catch, But Not And so Emption." It's like something out of a Dada kids book. Here's another great one from the Magic Whistle... excuse me, the "Falseness Basset Oboe" section: "Fans as for jocose: Make music NOT senhora."
Often times we find better turns of fraise that what was originially intended. I think describing Milk and Cheese as "Jokes, bricks, jokes, make eyes at gouging and bloody dockyard splendor" is both succinct and wise. I didn't do it better myself.
And so polite: Marvel Monsters might have sold more books if it was titled "Quite a thing Monsters." My claim that What The..?! hasn't been reprinted was reprinted as "Not a whit reprinted," and I further agree that Jhonen Vaasquez is "keen amongst the night-veiled savor of wit," and that Tank Girl could be a fine "Mail Cart Matron."
I urge you to read the above linked article and have your own hybrid moment. Better yet, I urge each and every nine of you to start your own blogs (If you haven't already) and write a handy, cribbable list. Someone might try to "homage" your work through their polyglotial merry-making.
Until next time (which will be sooner than later, I promise) I'd like to remind you all "Locker ancient: Consumerism passing strange logbook and down, wool, Plush!"
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Ah. I've been scanning in all my comic strips from college, lest a fire or rampant dinosaur attack destroy these memories forever. I've come to find many a suspicion confirmed: They are "Not my best work:"
That is one I can at least tolerate. I remember that particular strip as being one of my favorites of that year (My freshman.) Julia Child once said something to the extent that one should never
critique one's own cooking when serving up a dish to guests. In that spirit, the above comic is provided without comment towards quality...but perhaps some explanation to content could serve as a chaser, no?
The comic is called "The Adventures of Chip & Rip," and it still continues today. Here is a strip from a few months back I was particularly proud of:
Rip is an alien inventor with a yellow trapezoid for a head. Chip is a strange green robot he found in space. They have been best friends and joke sparring partners though countless adventures ever since I was nine years old.
I'll post more Chip and Rip strips from the past and present, and I hope you will excuse me if I do not post any from the future. Just as my past strips make my current efforts seem all the more skillful, future strips would surely shame me into an early retirement...thus cancelling themselves out and destroying the world in a time paradox.
STILL, check out current comic strips and artwork from my flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unkiedev
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Ha! I burst with the urge to "wet the swab" of my latest completion: This fine fellow is the afore mentioned beastie known as a "Kappa." They like drowning children, cucumbers and sucking your entrails out though your anus in that order.Here you will find sufficient details to confirm my previous declarations: He does in fact enjoy copious amounts of the cucumber fruit, as well as the company of a finely rendered multi-tailed fox. How quaint.
He is certainly terrifying, and a weaker soul upon confronting his beaked visage might surely quail. You and I, friend, are made of sterner stuff, though I should give some hesitation if the task of dispatching this ruffian fell onto my shoulders. Oh, dear me, yes!
"Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff" is my weekly column in the New York City comic book shop "Forbidden Planet." I reprint the column here at great personal risk to myself and my loved ones. May God have mercy on our souls:
Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff, by Unkiedev
Loyal readers will remember how last week I was deported to Siberia over a Halloween mishap. As we all know the world is a much different place this week, and I am a new man. I am changed inside and out. That's right: I've been transformed into a MUMMY!
And not your Michael Keaton "Mr. Mom" kind of mummy, nor even the Arnold Schwarzenegger "Junior" type mummy of old. NO, I'm talking a full on "Mumm-Ra the Everliving" mummy what with the bandages, curse and organs in canopic jars. OOOoooh, wot a pickle.
The details of this transformation would, no doubt, bore and confuse you, so let's just vow in the future to let sleeping "Bird headed goddesses of protection" lie. If you see a shambling, dry and be-bandaged corpse shlump its way into the store this week do not panic, it is only me ... or Michael Jackson.
Spectrum 15 The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Under Wood Books
As a Mummy, my life and curse are eternal. That is why I like a fine art book annual to show me the latest and greatest in fantasy, sci-fi and comic book art from the past year. Spectrum has been pumpin' these babies out for over 15 years now, and the quality of the art inside is asounding. John Jude Palancar, Frank Cho and Omar Rayyan make up some of the incredible talent within Spectrum's pages. From the comics world alone we have Art Adams, Arthur Suydam and even a piece by the late, great Mike Mieringo. Pirates, vampires, robots and zombies all make their appearance, as well as top tier concept art from today's (and tomorrow's) hottest video games!
It's always a great time and serves as the nerd's indispensible coffee table book. Sure, there's cheesy pin-up stuff from time to time, and things that would be better suited on the side of a 70's van ... Heck, Joe Jusko also painted a particularly bitchin' lady in a white leopard skin bikini hanging out with a pack of white leopards on page 76, if that's your thing. They have to sell the book, so they need to put the classy in with the clas-say every once and awhile.
I usually let Jeff plug the art books, but A) This one was too good to pass up and B) I'm a mummy now and can do whatever the heck I want... except get the sand out of my undies.
BOOKS OF THE DEAD
I'm just getting off the phone with my new architect. A swanky high-rise pad just won't do now that I'm a mummy. I shall require a 70-foot high stone dodecahedron (pyramids are SO B.C.) to be buried in soft sand for hundreds of years. I have to remember to run out to the store to pick up some cats to mummify as well. Can't have a swinging mummy pad without mummified cats.
While I'm out I figure I'll also grab the latest issue of B.P.R.D. The Warning #5 and Buffy The Vampire Slayer #19 from Dark Horse. It's good to see what the enemy is planning. Razza' frazzin' forces of good! I may as well get The Twelve #9 from Marvel and 100 Bullets #97 from DC/Vertigo, too. That has nothing to do with my enemies, those are just fun reads.
OH! Doomed am I to spend eternity sequestered in my living tomb! I'd better get some DVD's to while away my torment. Forbidden Planet has copies of the new Futurama movie, "Bender's Game," don't they? I can't seem to remember...everything is getting hazy. ARGGG! The urge to wander aimlessly throughout the countryside and murder all who disturb my crypt is getting strong! It's increasingly difficult to write with such clarity and wit! BLARGG!
Who knows if I'll be able to write another exciting installment of "Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff," as I imagine my time will be spent limping trhough the night and chasing Brendan Fraser. GRRR! Ahnkie Dev-Ra the Eternal AWAKENS! RAGHR! He demands Heroclix! ARG! Garble! Marggglable Grraggle! RAAAAAAAA!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
And now for a report from my drawing table, which currently has this monstrosity atop it. He is a "Kappa," a creature of Japanese myth which is equal parts Monkey, Turtle and just plain nasty. Here is a close up of his beaky little mush:
Disquieting, to say the least. The question now becomes why is Unkiedev spending valuable lint harvesting time drawing such a felonious foreign fellow? "Could it possibly have something to do with Unkiedev's top secret art project," you wonder to yourself?
Yes. Yes it does.
MEANWHILE, my friend Sean Andrew Murray has finally gotten himself into Spectrum, the premiere book of contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy art. You should all buy a copy and regard it with pride. YOU know that guy.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Every Wednesday (give or take) the New York comic shop extraordinaire "Forbidden Planet" runs my comic column " Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff" in its hand out newsletter. This is the column for November 5th, 2008:
Unkiedev's Amazing Stuff by U.D.
I thought my Alaskan Inupiat Halloween costume was pretty dang fabboo, myself. Unfortunately, the Homeland Security agents who hound my every step couldn't see the "Huskies through the team" as we say. They thought I was a Siberian Yupik. HA. As if. Anyway, the joke is on me as the increased hostilities between Russia and Georgia has got everybody in the H.S. a little spooked. They've adopted a " Zero Tolerance" policy towards Eurasia. Deported AGAIN, *SIGH*
My new Yupik family and I have been huddling for warmth and trying to open the first Arctic comic book shop. Diamond and I have been exchanging some pretty heated, albeit freezing cold, words. Seems they won't ship above the 20 degree latitude. To satisfy my customers I've been creating scrimshaw recreations of Final Crisis, and I've carved a totem pole that, when read correctly, recounts all of the Secret Invasion so far...but it's just not the same.
Sandman The Dream Hunters #1 (of 4), P. Craig Russell (W/A), Vertigo/DC
Umugak has requested I weave an intricate basket to recreate this issue, but we have to wait for the sea fronds to dry. In the meantime, I recommend one of you pick this up, if only to mail it up to me. I can't really pay for the shipping, but I could make you a member of our tribe, and that way you could legally hunt whale!
Many people arrive at comic fandom through the work of Neil Gaiman. With increasing Hollywood attention on his career this trend will only grow. His most beloved creation was Sandman, which along with Alan Moore's Swamp Thing pretty much invented the DC/Vertigo line. Even after Sandman wrapped up fans couldn't get enough! Sandman: The Dream Hunters was one of the earliest original Sandman graphic novels post the actual comic, and was written by Gaiman in prose and illustrated by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano (of "Final Fantasy" fame.)
Amano's closing inscription to this first iteration of Dream Hunters says that Neil and Amano's relationship would "... build and take many forms in the future... This is only the beginning." Sadly, this was not the case.
I loved this story. Dream Hunters is simple, elegant and illustrated by a true world master. I suspect the prose tone and Amano's flowing ink style deterred many a mainstream American reader.
Which brings us to this new adaptation by Sandman alumni P. Craig Russell.
What would seem a tactless attempt to rebrand Dream Hunters for the Yanks I expect to be a delightful celebration of the original story under the pen of Russell. He is one of those rare comic pros who's career is long, substantial and marked with personal projects the creator finds rewarding. I'm a P. Craig junkie, and usually pick up everything the man does. It is with no hesitation I can say I am wildly excited for Russell to show Dream Hunters the same love, attention and dream like quality he brought to his adaptations of "Das Ring Der Nieblungs", "Pagliacci" and the works of Oscar Wilde.
SLOW IN THE SNOW
Otherwise it's rather a slow comics week. This is good news for my poor frozen fingers. Marvel has Dan Slott's Initiative Special out this week, always a smooth read for folks who dig their cape stories with a smart twist. I', also going to pray to the Great Raven, he who made the reindeer out of his hair and the sea from his urine to make me this week's Ms. Marvel Storyteller issue out of... oh, I dunno, his eyelash? I've never bought an issue of Ms. Marvel before, but this one promises pirate versions of the entire Marvel Universe and YES I am that easily beguiled.
Nukusuk and I are really excited for this week's Lucha Libre #6! Out from Image and drawn by some of Cali's hottest talent, Lucha Libre is that diamond in the rough of "indie" art books: High talent artists having a blast drawing fast, goofy stuff! There's also a NOT-TO-BE-MISSED Lucha Libre TB out this week as well collecting issues 1-5.
Till then, I sit and await the harvest of the seals, the subsequent bladder ceremony and word from my attorney, or better yet the American Embassy. Next year I'm just going to dress up as Sephiroth.