Monday, January 30, 2012

A couple of extremely tangential Star Wars books

One afternoon at my day job, which is working in a public library, I was absently handling a coupling of books when I jumped with alarm, hearing a high-pitched roar emanating from one of them, which suddenly began vibrating in my hand.

Everyone in the room looked at me—this being a library, it was awfully quite until the mysterious sound broke out from the stack of books in my hand—and I looked down at the book:I was pretty surprised by the book’s existence, despite the fact that I have at this point in my life seen so many different Star Wars related books on every conceivable subject for every conceivable audience that I probably shouldn’t be surprised by anything branded Star Wars.

The title of the book, written by a Wu Kee Smith (which I highly suspect of being some kind of pen name) and illustrated with chunky, cartoony art by JAKe (which I also assume is a pen name), makes the gag clear. In a sense, the title of the book is the entire book.

Well, there’s that, and the plastic, slightly-abstracted Chewbacca’s head-shaped plastic doodad in the lower right corner of the book. There’s a speaker where the mouth should be, and a series of ten buttons on Chewie’s forehead and beard. Pushing one will elicit a wookie call of some sort; they all sound like Chewie noises I recall from the movies, but then, it’s been a while, and perhaps these are new lines of dialogue, rather than samples.

I kind of wish the doodad was sold separately; I wouldn’t mind having one of those around the house, but I don’t think it’s worth buying this $17 book just to pry off the Chewie call thingee.

After a faux-serious introduction, in which Smith writes about the growing presence of Wookies in the galaxy and the problems generated by miscommunication between Wookies and non-Wookies, the remainder of the book is divided into two-page spreads. Each of these features a drawing by this JAKe character, and a general setting (“In the Starship,” “In the Cantina”).

The left-hand border offers pronunciation and translation of the Wookie phrase you hear when you push the corresponding button, and some other helpful phrases. On the right hand-border, there’s a sentence or two about the social setting.These progress rather quickly from semi-serious to super-silly, from the starship to “In a Meeting,” “At the Mall” and “At the Art Museum.” JAKe’s art is often funny, and full of fun cameos to search for—the art museum, for example, has a Picasso-esque portrait of Princess Leia, a Roy Lichenstein-style image of an X-wing fighter blasting a TIE Fighter, and a bust of George Lucas—but the book still feels slight. It’s only 21 pages, with very little text of each.

I’m not sure how much room there actually is to expand the gag. I would not at all be surprised to learn that someone somewhere has actually worked on inventing and or translating the Wookie language—which the introduction tells me is called Shyriiwook—in the same manner that Trekkies have learned Klingon or fans have taught themselves J.R.R. Tolkein’s various fantasy languages, but a more thorough, more serious book on Wookiese, er, Shyriiwook wouldn’t necessarily be any funnier.

The thing with these space opera things, is you want to make them as short and to-the-point as possible, rather than letting them grow too big and too bloated, or you risk seeing them crushed under their own weight.

While How To Speak Wookie bears a “Copyright 2011 Lucasfilm Ltd.” notation in the legalese fine print, I could find nothing similar on the title page of Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, a heavily illustrated (with doodles) prose book for grade-schoolers.

There is a publisher’s note which indicates that it’s a work of fiction and so on, and Angleberger acknowledges Lucas, Frank Oz, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan “and the many others who made the real Yoda real.”

So, here is the premise of this book: There’s a really weird kid at school named Dwight, and this really weird kid started wearing a little poorly-made origami Yoda on his finger. The Origami Yoda dispenses advice, speaking in Dwight’s terrible impression of Yoda’s voice. Origami Yoda is very wise, and his advice is almost always right, bringing benefit to the kids who follow it. An argument develops between Dwight’s classmates over whether Origami Yoda is “real” or not, because Dwight isn’t really that bright, and it seems impossible that Dwight could be the source of O.Y.’s wisdom, even if he is the guy carrying around and talking for him.

The book takes the form of Tommy’s casebook, dedicated to answering the question. Each chapter is told by different characters in Tommy and Dwight’s school, the type and font often changing to indicate the change in narrator. At the end of each story, Tommy offers his thoughts on the anecdote, and his friend Harvey, an Origami Yoda skeptic, offers his. Their friend Kellen “doodled all over” the case file, which is where the illustrations come from.

So it’s basically like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, only written by middle-schoolers, and about a Yoda finger puppet.

I don’t read a lot of stuff like this, so I don’t know how it compares to, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Junie B. Jones or Cam Jansen or whatever, but I thought it was all rather cleverly written, and Angleberger’s plotting is superb, so that everything that happens throughout the story happens for a reason that is clear in the climax. As a work of fiction, there’s fine craftsman ship involved. Kellen’s doodles are actually drawn by either cover artist Jason Rosenstock or Angleberger himself, depending on the piece. Each page has a little X-wing or TIE fighter in the corner, and various Star Wars characters appear throughout.

My favorite illustrations are those of O.Y. himself. His dialogue is always circled within a comics dialogue bubble, and a little drawing of Origami Yoda appears next to it.

For example:The book ends with a chapter entitled “How To Fold Origami Yoda,” and I had planned on trying to make one to see how it worked out (And also because I would like to have an Origami Yoda around the house). Sadly, it was too complicated, and I gave up. Because I am lazy.

I enjoyed this book, and you might too. Especially if you are in middle school, and/or you like Star Wars. I imagine it must have proved fairly popular, as the sequel Darth Paper Strikes Back has already been published.

Meanwhile, at ComicsAlliance...

Hey, did you guys hear DC is officially changing Captain Marvel's name from his name, Captain Marvel, to his catchphrase, "Shazam", as part of Geoff Johns and Gary Franks' New 52-ization of the character in the upcoming "Curse of Shazam" strip?

Well they are.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Links...and a few thoughts

Did you take the weekend off? Well I didn't. If you did, then you missed a pair of strips I posted, regarding the state of my face and my new(-ish, at this point) apartment, respectively.


I'm not sure if this post on Abhay Khosla's group TUMBLAR thingee was in reference to the piracy debate that's burbled up here and there in the comics blogosphere this past week or not, but that's how I read it.


I don't have much of an opinion worth expressing on the matter of comics piracy, by the way. So I won't offer one. I personally would never read a comic that was pirated, nor would I pirate one myself, but I can't pretend to know how damaging the practice is to creators or publishers, or to assign it a designation in the hierarchy of Things That Are Messed Up About Comics.

I thought Spurgeon's post here was fairly smart, reasonable and well-informed, though, and it also links to some of the discussions on the subject from earlier in the week, so if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's probably a good place to start.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about and also care, I should note. If you don't care, then by all means, just move on. I've got, like, a dozen more links below this one.


I enjoyed this post by Image Comics' Eric Stephenson, on his personal blog, which I saw linked to by both Robot 6 and the TCJ blog, though I can't recall which place I saw it in first, and thus can't credit either (So I mentioned them both). I particularly liked the cocky, anti-Marvel tone it struck, as in the year 2012 it's so easy to forget how and why Image Comics came about, but it was created in large part in reaction to Marvel (and, to a lesser extent, DC), and was, for a while anyway, as to Marvel as Marvel was to DC in the late 60s and 70s. That is, it was the younger, hipper, hungrier publisher, making the other seem old, staid and out of it...until that other started actively chasing it and evolving in its aesthetic direction.

It's easy to forget that though, because the Marvel of 2012 is so different than the Marvel of, say, 1989, and the Image Comics of 2012 is so different from that of 1992.

I also appreciated Stephenson's bit about Image's ability to continue to publish $2.99 comics, while Marvel and, increasingly, DC publish $3.99 comics, because they can make more money by doing so.


Some folks in the Robot 6 comment thread under a link to the post took issue with Stephenson referring to DC's "New 52" as awesome (as in the lines, "When DC launched their new 52 last September, Marvel didn’t fight back with awesome. They fought back with the only real tool in their shed: more.") I don't think Stephenson was necessarily endorsing the "New 52" as awesome (it is, in general, not; although clearly it is DC's current idea of what awesome is), but simply pointing out that Marvel didn't up their game so much as up the number of issues they were shipping.


I can think of at least three separate occasions in the last two months in which I was unable to pick up and try an Image book because the shop I shop at doesn't order even one extra copy for their rack of all Image titles—they only fill subscriptions.

It isn't an ideal shop, but it is so conveniently located...


I found this rather amusing.


Aw yeah eight-year-old girl reviewing Tiny Titans!


So I guess this explains how Rob Liefeld is now able to get so much work done of late, and is taking on even more work: One of his major project's is "over."

And it's apparently over due to creative differences with his collaborator. I hope that doesn't presage ill for Image's new take on his Extreme properties—two of which I rather enjoyed and will probably read in trade eventually (See above regarding my inability to read Image Comics as they're published serially). The two I've read—Glory and Prophet—seem very, very different than what I would imagine the original, Liefeld-created versions involved, and therefore seem to be dependent to some degree on goodwill from Liefeld to continue their existence.


I never noticed this aspect of Tiny Titans, although it is one of very few books I enjoy so completely that I let my finely honed critic's cynicism down while i"m reading it.

Thinking about it now, the girl characters in TT seem to be more responsible then the boy ones in general though, with only a very few exceptions. I think Cyborg would be the only male Tiny Titan I'd want to leave a baby with, whereas the only female Tiny Titans I wouldn't want to leave a baby with would be Terra, given her habit of throwing rocks.

Oh! Is it worth noting that all the kids have single father figures, but there are no real women in parental/mentor roles in Tiny Titans?

Wonder Woman and Lois Lane and Mera are the only adult females I can think of who ever appeared in this, whereas Alfred raises Robin and the Bat-kids, Trigon raises Raven (and kinda adopts Kid Devil in one issue), Principal Slade has Rose Wilson, Lunch lady Darkseid has Kaliban, The Joker has Duella and so on.

Blue Beetle has four dads but no moms (He is apparently raised by the, um, cartoon Beatles, as you can see from the panel above, excerpted from the issue where they had parent teacher conferences; Martian Manhunter brought Miss Martian, and Blue Devil brought Kid Devil, so there are two more single "dads").

I think that Aqualad and Arthur Junior may have the only two-parent household in the Tiny Titans-verse...


There's some dark—or just kind of sad—irony in these revelation about the creative process on Static Shock that co-writer John Rozum made, considering Static was one of the late, great Dwayne McDuffy's creations, Rozum noted that watching out for McDuffy's legacy was at least part of the reason he took on the assignment and the fact that, during his last stint at DC, McDuffy was also very vocal about the problems he had writing JLA due to interfering editors...for which he was eventually, ultimately kicked off the title.

I didn't read any of Rozum's Static Shock—it was another book written by an artist with no previous writing experience, and an artist I don't really care for—but yeah, I do always blame bad writing on the credited writers, so if I did read the book, and I did find it to be terrible, than I certainly would have blamed Rozum for it, and saw it as a reflection of his abilities. (He notes that part of the reason he decided to share his difficulties working on the book so publicly was because its poor quality was starting to effect his ability to find work).

I generally feel quite justified in blaming the credited writer for the poor quality of the writing, regardless if they were just a co-writer or if they had a heavy-handed editor, because, if nothing else, the writer signed off on it.

I suppose that's something I don't understand, and Rozum's post didn't really help me understand any more than I did before I read it. I suppose there are complicated contracts I don't understand involved in such endeavors, but I don't get why someone in such a position as Rozum, or a few others I can think of from what was published (McDuffie on JLA; J. Michael Straczynski on "One More Day") and others I know of only from personal conversations, don't just say, "Fuck that, take my name off of it" and quit ASAP.

I would like to think that's what I would do, but I've never been in that position, nor do I know what it entails, so I don't feel comfortable lecturing on it. But I do find myself very confused by Rozum's story, and the circumstances under which a writer can find himself in such a position.


Also, they cut Static arm off?! What the fuck...? They've only published like five issues so far. Aquaman and Roy Harper were both around for decades before they decided to cut their arms off in order to goose interest in the characters.


I know, I know: They didn't cut Aquaman's arm off; just his hand and part of his forearm.


I like this band, I like this song and I like Popeye, but I didn't care for this video.


I like the picture at the bottom Kate Beaton drew of herself reading.


I fear for the DCU next year when Geoff Johns when he turns 40...


Er, there's another archer superhero named Arrow...He debuted the year before Green Arrow, and, in case everyone forgot him, he was recently resurrected as part of Dynamite's Alex Ross-powered Project: Superpowers project.Can the DC Entertainment and the TV people really change Green Arrow's name to Arrow? At least, I imagine that's what they're planning, of the in-development TV series ends up being called Arrow (What else are they working on? A new Green Lantern show called Lantern? Catwoman and Superman shows called Woman and Man, respectively?).

Anyway, looking at the cast of characters included in the linked-to article, and what it implies about the show's premise, it sounds pretty doomed. Like that Wonder Woman show, it seems like they are changing the Green Arrow story up to a similar degree, although Wonder Woman is a flexible enough character and enough of an icon to sustain such fiddling-with. I don't think Green Arrow can stretch and shape anywhere near as easily.


When GA's costume shop Robin Hood style costume was redesigned to include a hood, they really bit off The Arrow's look pretty hardcore, huh?


So, do you guys watch The Colbert Report? If so, you already saw his feature "Grim Colbert-y Tales With Maurice Sendak," a two-part interview with the legendary children's author. If not, you missed an awesome interview: Sendak is the Platonic ideal of a misanthropic, cynical, cranky old man, whose opinions bear extra weight because of the weight of his work and, for the most part, he seems right about everything he's asked about in this (Example: New Gingrich is "an idiot of great renown...there's something so hopelessly gross and vile about him that it's hard to take him seriously.")

Here's part one, and here's part two.

In addition to discussing children's literature, the abysmal state of children's literature, his sexuality, how book signings suck, whether or not he's ever thought about killing someone and how adults and children suck, he and Colbert also draw together and work on Colbert's book (Colbert's not a bad artist, either, based on the picture he draws on camera).

My favorite part is probably his opinion of electronic books: "(Expletive beeped out) them is what I say. I hate those e-books! They cannot be the future! They may well be, I will be dead, I won't give a (expletive beeped out)!" (Colbert and Sendak make a remarkably good comedy duo; they'd be a hit on vaudeville, if vaudeville still existed. I thought the same thing after Colbert's week or so spent with Jack White).

It's weird—but maybe not that weird—how often I see Sendak interviews intersecting with the world of comics.

A few months back I read Metamaus, and there's two-page strip from a 1993 New Yorker in which Spiegelman illustrates a walk with Sendak (excerpt above). And then on Abhay's previously-linked to tumblog, he posted a Sendak interview, highlighting a quote about doing a sequel to his most popular work—"Go to hell. Go to hell. I'm not a whore"—I think in response to the latest round of Watchmen 2 rumors (If you have time, watch that whole five-minute video. Sendak talks a bit about his love of William Blake, which I found particularly interesting). And Tim Hodler linked back to the Colbert/Sendak interview on the TCJ blog too, although the first embedded part doesn't seem to be playing as I type this.


Holy shit look at the size of that kappa!


I wonder if this was the initial inspiration for Grant Morrison's Zibarro, the bizarro Bizarro in All-Star Superman...? Not visually, obviously, but the idea of "the only sane person" on the insane Bizarro World....


Do you ever have a hard time feeling really old? Well, I've found a great new way to feel really old. Go look at one of ComicsAlliance's weekly cosplay galleries, realize how many characters you've never, ever even heard of, and can't even guess where they might be from. I imagine a lot of 'em are from videogames, of which I know nothing, although I bet a whole lot of 'em are from anime too, which makes me feel older still, as I used to be pretty on top of all things anime...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

November, 2011

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some of you may be wondering what's going on with my face...

(Or; "The state of my facial hair is getting long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of my facial hair will always be strong")