(via) I’m a big old softee, and every now and then I’ll actually get choked up watching a commercial or music video. Here’s a perfect example. It’s a commercial created by Adam & Eve for the UK Retailer John Lewis, showing the life of a customer in a single minute.
It reminds me of the video for Elvis Costello’s Veronica for some reason. Maybe because both show a life from beginning to end, one linear and one nonlinear, or maybe it’s just because I watched that one drunken night a couple of weeks ago and it made me bawl like a baby.
Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, and if you’re interested in getting any of your comics defaced by me, I can be easily found at Rogues Gallery in Round Rock, Texas.
Who else will be there? Well, just this lineup of heavy hitters:
*Paul Tobin (Writer: Marvel Adventures, including this year’s Iron Man: Supernova)
*Colleen Coover (Artist on numerous projects, including Marvel Adventures comics)
*Chris Roberson (Writer: Vertigo’s Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love and I, Zombie)
*Paul Benjamin (Writer: Monsters, Inc., Hit Point High & Marvel Adventures Hulk)
*Alan Porter (Writer: Boom! Studios’ Cars)
*Scott Kolins (Writer: Solomon Grundy, Artist: Solomon Grundy, Blackest Night Flash)
*Paul Maybury (Artist: Comic Book Tattoo, Aqua Leung, Popgun)
*Nick Derington (Artist: Popgun, Madman, Catwoman)
*Matt Sturges (Writer: House of Mystery, Jack of Fables)
*Bill Williams (Writer: Angel, Pantheon)
And if you want me to scribble on your piping fresh copies of iZombie #1 next week, I’ll be doing a signing at Austin Books on May 5th, about which more in a little while.
I’ve been rereading Grant Morrison’s recent DC work lately, for no reason other than the fact that I adore it, and I’ve gotten up to the Black Glove collection of his run on Batman, and in particular the “Club of Heroes” story illustrated by JH Williams III. Back when these issues were first coming out a few years ago, I raved a few times about how this was my Batman, the one that I preferred to the grim-and-gritty urban avenger we’d been getting for so many years. But in rereading them now, I realized that I never raved publically about how terrific the art was in these issues.
If you aren’t familiar with the Club of Heroes, it was a silver age concept originally introduced in Detective Comics #215 in a story entitled “The Batmen of All Nations.”
Published in 1955, in the story Batman got together with a bunch of heroes who were inspired by his example — each with an appropriate bit of localization — and formed “The Batmen of All Nations.”
Later the group was expanded to included Superman and renamed “The Club of Heroes.” (For more about the silver age appearances, and about the similarly-themed “Green Arrows of the World,” check out the rundown I did back in 2007.)
In any event, early in his run on Batman Grant Morrison revisited the concept, reuniting Batman with the former member of the Club of Heroes for a strange weekend.
But as fantastic as the script for the issue was, where the story really shined was in the art of JHW3. The genius of the approach was that each of the different “Batmen” were drawn in the style of a different comic artist. And the styles chosen for each immediately suggested a whole history for the character since we saw them last.
Morrison’s script included all sorts of references to the unseen adventures of the other heroes (including setting up Chekov’s Guns on the wall that wouldn’t be fired until the villains mentioned in those references turned up years later in the pages of Batman and later Batman and Robin). So it was easy to assume that the idea to present the heroes in different styles had been Morrison’s, as well. Not so. In a series of posts on Barbelith Underground a short while later, Williams revealed that the whole thing had been his idea. And more, he generously explained his thinking for the different styles he employed.
Most of the references I had caught, but I’ll confess that a few of them passed me by until Williams pointed them out.
cheif man of bats– sort of a steve rude influence. i wanted something clean and a little goofy retro in this idea and thats what came out first shot. rude’s stuff always has this sort of 50′s 60′s nostalgic feeling to me and i wanted that for this character. but he needed to feel like the feelings you get when you look at those old silver age comics. charming in ways but also a little silly.
raven red– a very loose influence of basic 70′s early 80′s superhro comics with an almost generic quality to the costume. cheesy amd redundent. been there done that sort of feeling when you look at him.
gaucho– chaykin. for that rough around the edges feel and machismo that all of his characters have. his outfit is definitely not based on traditional gaucho clothing. instead i went for the el mariachi desperado films look. again to enhance his macho attiude.
wingman– very loosely based on gibbons from watchmen era. i wanted the costume to look as if this character could’ve existed in the watchman reality. it fits well with his attitude and feelings of being original but not really. sort of an interesting comment since watchmen was a very groundbreaking and original concept but used characters that had existed in a different form previously. make sense?
musketeer– is influenced by mid to late 80′s superhero ideas. maybe a little bit alan davis in there too. hence the simple color techniques with smooth grads for a sense of rendering.
legionary– i wanted to convey the sort of humorous but cynical qualities of some of the comics of the early 90′s. with maybe a little hint of kelly jones exaggeration in the mix. particularly with his death scene.
knight and squire– mcguinness influence. just because i loved the way he handled them previously and i wanted them to sync up to that.
dark ranger– definitely sprouse. i think that influence came out of the early sketch because the character really needed to feel vastly updated and different from his past appearance. and so he needed to feel really modern.
batman and robin– no influence here just me.
How awesome is that? Can’t you just imagine all of those Chris Sprouse-drawn adventures of the Dark Ranger? Or the light-hearted Steve Rude adventures of Chief Man-of-Bats? Or the sexual antics of the Howard Chaykin-drawn Gaucho?
Or, as JHW3 put it:
the whole idea here was to convey characters that have had real history that we haven’t been privy to. they were seen a very long time ago and that was pretty much it really. and grant wrote them as if they’ve been having lives and adventures all along and i wanted to see if i could make them seem as if they had stepped out of their own comics and into this one. so i imagined what those comics might currently look like but none of us have seen or read them. comics from another world? these clubbers needed to have distinct character traits immediately understandable becasue of the way the story moves with them. so i thought it would be an intersting challenge to see what affect ‘styles” would have on their personalities as i drew them. a nice experiment i think, which has produced interesting results. as i drew them i felt as if they were fully realized right away. they came alive.
Whole histories of the characters suggested simply by the choice of a particular artist’s style. Clever stuff.
Though it was solicited a while back, I haven’t really been able to talk before now about the other new comic project I’ve been working on. Entitled Dust To Dust, it is an original comic prequel to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, fully-authorized by the PKD estate and published by the good people at Boom! Studios. Newsarama has posted an 8-page preview of the first issue, complete with variant covers. Check it out, won’t you?
UPDATED: And now Boom! Studios has posted their full press-release regarding the series, for a bit more detail.
I will also have prints with me at the SciFi Expo in Richardson, TX this weekend. I have a table in the small press area. I’ll also have other swag available and will be taking commissions. I hope to see you there!
I’m working on two projects now that involve creating new stories featuring characters created by my personal literary heroes and biggest creative influences. One of them I won’t be able to talk about for a little while yet, but the other cat is out of the bag. The long-running Philip José Farmer fanzine, Farmerphile, is undergoing a metamorphosis into an annual series of anthologies, with the first scheduled to come out in June of this year. I’m one of the writers lucky enough to be invited to contribute a new story featuring one of PJF’s characters or concepts, and I asked and was given permission to use Greatheart Silver.
THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER will be a series of books published annually for the foreseeable future. This year’s book will (most likely) contain:
A Foreword by Paul Malmont. An interview of Philip José Farmer from 1997 by Danny Adams.
Articles about Farmer by Randall Garrett, James Gunn, Laura Wilkes Carey, & Jack Mertes.
Farmer inspired fiction by David Bischoff, Chris Roberson, Rhys Hughes, Win Scott Eckert, Christopher Paul Carey, Edward Morris, Dennis E. Power, John Allen Small, Paul Spiteri, & Gabriel Weltstein.
And of course never-before-published material by Philip José Farmer himself! That’s right, the “Magic Filing Cabinet” continues to conjure up material by Phil for our reading pleasure.
And for you book collectors out there, THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER will be a numbered limited edition trade paperback. The release date is June 26th, during Farmercon V. We will only be printing 50 to 100 copies more than are pre-ordered, so to be sure you get a copy of this book, send an email to mike @ pjfarmer.com and reserve your copy today. You don’t have to pay for the book when you pre-order and if you request, the book will be signed by those contributors who happen to be at FarmerCon V, which is also acting as a launch party for the book.
If you’re interested in getting a copy, I strongly recommend placing a preorder, as quantities will be limited. (I don’t actually know how one goes about preordering a copy yet, but I’ll be updating this post shortly with details. And of course it’s pointed out to me that the instructions for preordering are right there in that last paragraph. I blame public schools.)
The Most Dangerous Island on Earth - North Sentinel Island
Throughout human history a typical theme has been the domination of more technologically advanced societies over “simpler” or “more primitive” ones. In fact in the past 500 years, European societies would come to dominate the world, spreading their culture, often through force of arms or outright genocide. More often than not, the meeting of Old World peoples with New World natives tended to end very badly for the natives. Many cultures were wiped out, many more assimilated or adapted their cultures with European culture. Today there are few places where people living have not in some way been touched by the modern world. One notable exception is North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal.
Officially North Sentinel Island is territory of India, part of the Andaman Islands. In reality the people of North Sentinel Island are their own people, free from any known government or modern organization. Apparently, the Sentinelese are very much happy to keep it that way. Throughout their entire known history, the Sentinelese have been known to viciously fight against any trespass or incursion on their small island. Going back to ancient times the Indians called the island “Cannibal Island”, and told many tales of the dangerous and ruthless natives who inhabited it. Those tales were passed on to the ancient Greeks after the invasion of northern India by Alexander the Great, and thus the infamous legends of the island were mention by Ptolemy. Marco Polo recieved word of the island during his travels to China, writing about the islanders, “They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch.”
Since then, every expedition to island has been met with extreme hostility, and as a result the island has been left untouched to this day. Throughout the 16th-18th centuries many an explorer or shipwrecked sailor met their end on the island at the hands of the Sentinelese. In 1867 a British merchant ship shipwrecked on the island, and its surviivg 110 man crew spent several days fighting off the islanders with guns and swords. Many were killed and wounded in the battle before rescue. This prompted an expedition of reprisal by the Royal Navy who landed marines on the island a short time later. Most of the Sentinelese had disappeared into hiding, knowing that they couldn’t fight a battle against such overwhelming force. In the end the British left in frustration with two elderly Sentinelese and four children.
Today the idea of angry natives attacking shipwrecked sailors or explorers might be something you’d only see in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, however Sentinelese resistance to the outside world continued so that even in the 20th century people tended to steer clear of the island. In 1974 a film crew from National Geographic landed on the island in modern boats in an attempt to make contact with the islanders with peace offerings of a box of coconuts, a baby doll, and a live pig. The Sentinelese met the crew fully armed and ready for war. As a result, a the National Geographic director took an arrow to the knee, the pig was mutilated alive, and the crew was forced to bug out under a hail of arrows and spears.
In 1981 the cargo ship Primrose shipwrecked on the island, and the Sentinelese immediately surrounded the ship, shooting at the crew with bows and several times attempting to board the ship. The crew not only radioed for help, but asked for an urgent airdrop of firearms so they could defend themselves. The drop was delayed by weather but the crew were able to fend off the attacks with a pistol, firefighting axes, and flare guns. They were rescued after a week long siege. The Sentinelese dismantled much of the ship and used the scrap iron for arrow and spearheads. It’s remaining hull can still be seen from google earth.
The only known man to peacefully visit the island was an anthropologist named Trilokinath Prandit in 1991, who several times landed on the island with gifts which he left upon the beach. When he did meet the natives they shot arrows at him and waved their genitals at him. However at one point he was able to make peaceful contact with some of the natives. However as as he left the island, the natives had a change of heart and began shooting arrows at him once more, he hasn’t been back since.
Today North Sentinelese Island is protected by the Indian Government and it is illegal to land there. The reasons for this are to keep the Sentinelese culture intact, and prevent the spread of disease from the island. Note that in history native peoples often suffered deadly diseases after making contact with newcomers. Another reason for creating a 3 mile exclusionary zone around the island is because in 2006 two drunk fisherman landed on the island and were murdered. Thus the Indian Government set up the contact ban to protect outsiders from the Sentinelese as much as protecting the Sentinelese from the outside world. In 2004 an Indian Coast Guard helicopter flew over the island to see if the Setinelese were OK after the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, and to offer help if needed. The helicopter found that the Sentinelese were not only OK after the tsunami, but didn’t want anything any aid at all as they fired arrows at the helicopter.
Today we still no nothing about the language, culture, and ethnicity of the Sentinelese Islanders. The only pictures we have of them are from the occasional illegal drone which buzzes over the island, and is typically met with a hail of arrows. It seems that despite seeing things such as ships, helicopters, and robotic drones, the Sentinelese don’t want fuck all to do with the modern world.
Debbie Reynolds tells the story about how Fred Astaire encouraged her to keep working hard on the dance routines for Singin’ in the Rain. (x)
Okay, we need to talk about this because I haven’t heard near enough about what a freakin’ boss Debbie Reynolds was on Singin in the Rain. Because that was the first dance role she’d had EVER. She had gymnastics training so she knew how to move her body, but she hadn’t danced before, and here she was thrown right into the deep end with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Kelly in particular was a huge asshole to her and gave her a lot of crap because she wasn’t performing to his standards, even though she was putting on tap shoes for the first time and he was Gene Fucking Kelly. Hence the nervous breakdown under the piano and encouragement from Fred Astaire. (Kelly, to his credit, owned up to the assholeness after the fact and said he was surprised Reynolds was willing to put up with him afterwards.)
And she DID IT. She didn’t give up busted her ass and danced until her feet bled (literally, she had to not be carried off the set after filming “Good Morning”) and she held her own alongside two of the best dancers in Hollywood then or ever and she smiled through what by all accounts was one of the most physically demanding movie musicals ever. She worked through her self-doubts and met the challenge and made history.
Debbie Reynolds. Carrie Fisher. The badass is strong in their family. Never forget it.
Last three “elite cosmopolitan liberal” presidents:
-From Georgia, *actual* peanut farmer
-Raised in Arkansas, poor, by an abusive stepfather
-Raised by single mom and grandparents in Kansas/Hawaii
Last four “everyman, white-working-class conservative” presidents:
-Hollywood actor from IL
-Son of borderline-royal Massachusetts family with banker/politician patriarch
-Literally the previous guy’s son
-NY millionaire at birth and later reality show star who probably owns a bunch of ponies but won’t talk about it or tell us their names
2017 note: Hey, guys. With Black History Month just around the corner, I wanted to repost this so that teachers have a chance to print the (FREE) poster before February so that it can be used as a classroom resource if anyone feels like it might be worthwhile to have on hand. Let your teacher pals know!
2016 edit: a lot of teachers and librarians asked if there was a poster for this that they could buy. Nope! This post was made as an educational aid and teachers oughtn’t have to pay anything to get it in their classroom. So here’s a link to download the poster’s print file to print it yourself: https://gumroad.com/l/Exvau I did include the series in my recent art book 555 Character Drawings, so if you want it in a book with a lot of other stuff, that’s available, too. http://crogan.bigcartel.com/product/555-character-drawings-preorders
My favorite parts of history (as might be obvious from my choice of subject matter when making books) are the ones that fall into easily-categorized genres, genres with associated visual iconographies. This is the sort of stuff I loved as a kid: pirates, knights, cowboys, explorers, romans and Egyptians and flying aces. Stuff you could find featured in a bag of toys or a generic costume.
For Black History Month, I thought I might visit some of these adventure-leaning periods and pick a few historic black people from those eras to draw, just for fun. If you’re doing a project or report in school this month, you could do worse than to tackle one of these toughies. Feel free to share some of these with youngsters that you know. And call them youngsters, they LOVE that.