Monday, February 6, 2017

Independent artists: The Warning, Out With Dad, and Apama

I was watching the recent TedX appearance by my favorite "new" band, The Warning, and the comments of the members had me thinking about independent artists. That is, creative people who do not take their talents to big businesses but rather decide to disperse their craft themselves.

The Warning is a band I discussed here. They are, in brief 3 sisters from Mexico ranging in age from 12-17 who have produced their own album without a record label.  They got a lot of attention from videos of their playing cover songs on YouTube, and they've used this attention to fund their own album of original material. They discussed at TedX that they had offers from people to help them, but they decided to go their own way. Why? For art's sake!  For the opportunity to do what they really want to do musically and not have to conform to someone else's standards. And I could see how some hotshot producer would want to come in and "help" them succeed. In  my imagination someone would totally want to pull a "Johnny Bravo", as in the old episode of the Brady Bunch, putting the emphasis on style over substance and one member over the group. So bravo to these girls whose wisdom is well beyond their years for staying true to their hearts and their art!

And if you don't believe they have wisdom beyond their years, check out the music. Amazing compositions and lyrics! I'm eagerly anticipating the release of the album. Which is, amazingly, going to be available of CD and Vinyl!  Vinyl!!  Again...wisdom beyond their years!

Switching to the realm of film, I am, of course, a huge fan the Canadian drama Out With Dad. This series, about a young girl discovering her sexuality while interacting with her widowed father and friends, touches on some important issues and never fails to make me think. Out With Dad is filming its fifth season as an independent production. Though there's more money available in network television, I think OWD benefits from being controlled totally by its creator, Jason Leaver. This show is his vision and I wouldn't want to see it trampled on by corporate hacks wanting to maximize profit.

Finally, comics is the reason I started this blog, so I must discuss my favorite independent comic. Though I cut my teeth on mainstream superhero titles, I have a special appreciation and love for independent comics, because these are artists doing totally what they want to do, with  no restrictions from a large company. Most independent comics I read are small-press creators who are not well-known (or well-paid) artists. But even when a big name creator does an independent comic, I think there's something special about it. Kurt Busiek's Astro City and John Byrne's Next Men immediately come to mind.

My favorite current independent comic is, without a doubt, Apama- the Undiscovered Animal. Apama, created by Ted Sikora abd Milo Miller, is about a hero with the powers of a forgotten beast. The most ferocious animal of them all, the Apama!  The action takes place in Cleveland, which is also a plus! Apama has all the characteristics of the comics that made me fall in love with comics so many years ago, but it's not just a nostalgic feel. The tale is exciting and the art is absolutely fantastic!

In conclusion, I can only reiterate how special it is to see an artist, in any medium, create something out of love for the art. And if such a thing is also something that is enjoyed by many others, that's just the icing on the cake!  If you are a fan of any of the above, I hope you check at least on of the other out. Because independent work should be celebrated in any art form!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: "Counselling Vanessa 52" OWD 4.17 & "Without Regret?" OWD 4.18

Today I continue my look at season 4 of the webseries Out With Dad. Episode 4.17 returns our story to Vanessa's counselling sessions, and she looks to be feeling much better about herself. She talks of the assault by Kyle in the flop house, and how it made her feel scared and stupid. She mentions Kayla but doesn't go into details about their physical encounter. The counsellor convinces Vanessa she did the nest she could in the situation. I think this is important, as there is a lot of "Monday morning quarterbacking" when you've made some bad decisions. It's easier to determine alternatives after the fact, but hard to come up with them on the spot.

Vanessa seems to be healing well, and I'll add that Lindsey Middleton is just about perfect as always in these counselling episodes. It's really just her, acting with her expressions and voice, and going through a whole gamut of emotions, and it's amazing as well as sad to watch.

Now, as for "Without Regret", episode 4.18. Well....we have Out With Dad's first sex scene. And honestly, I'm not sure how comfortable I am discussing this. But it is handled with grace and humor by (writer/director) Jason and (Rose and Claire) Kate and Caitlynne. But it is a dream come true for the characters and many fans. After discussing polyamory, we switch scenes to Rose finding out her dad has (probably) had sex also (yes kids, old people can do it too). Then we segue into "Freindsgiving" preparation and a surprise appearance by...Vanessa! Two! That is, "shaved-head" Vanessa, and Rose's current love interest. Rose, surprisingly (to me anyway) jumps at the chance to spend time with Vanessa II.

Okay, this episode is funny, charming, and propels the story forward in some pretty big ways. It also leaves you wanting more! And I just love the little in-jokes, that those who haven't followed the extra creator comments might not understand. I speak of Alicia's never-seen boyfriend and some people not liking musicals. Me, I'd love to live in a musical.

And I love this series. Still going strong!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Movie Review: Civil War (Captain America)

I finally got around to watching Captain America's 3rd Marvel Movie installment, subtitled "Civil War" after hearing it praised a lot since its release last year. Here's my take:

The bad:

1- Captain America? This is the least "Captain America" if the movies featuring Steve Rogers. It's really much more of an Avengers movie, with a slight focus on Cap. It does a little bit of furthering along of Steve's private life, with the death of Peggy Carter and Steve finally, sort of, getting together with the pretty girl we all knew was Sharon Carter. But even this seemed rushed. The bulk of the character arc for Cap is his unyielding support of childhood friend Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier.

2- Villain? The villain's plot in this movie is ludicrous! Obviously framing Bucky, leading to harsh controls of the governments over the Avengers, leading to Captain America and Iron Man in a big fight. There's just no way the villain could have known the consequences of his actions, and the final confrontation is way too convenient! Plus, they waste a great comic character name: Zemo. Instead of a great Baron and Nazi leader, he's some ex-military man with no means whatsoever to pull off his plan.

3- Civil War? I didn't read the comics, and though hero-vs-hero conflict has been a Marvel staple, making it into the main conflict of a movie is not a great idea. They'd be better off bringing in the Masters of Evil or some other great villain. The hero conflict in Avengers was about perfect, we don't need more.

The good:

1- Vision and Scarlet Witch!  The development of these characters, their conflict and obvious attraction, is the most interesting sub=plot of the movie. It's far more interesting than anything that happens with the main character (see above).

2- Spider-Man! Though not much of an intro, the reboot Spidey shows a ton of promise. The only bad thing I have to say is the repeated references to how hot his Aunt is (She IS, of course, but I noticed without being told. Marisa Tomei--call me and we can discuss this in-depth!)

3- Black Panther! Just a totally awesome introduction. It's all great, nothing bad here at all!

4- Characters! The character arcs for everyone else were also very well done. even folks like Hawkeye who don't appear much. Gi-Ant-Man is probably my favorite.

I'd rate this a very average Marvel movie, Not as good as the other Captain America movies, Iron Man I, or Avengers I. But definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Princess

Carrie Fisher has died. I don't think I can come close to eulogizing her as well as those who worked with her and knew her well, but I feel I must say something about her and the impact her work had upon my life.

I learned to draw by drawing Star Wars stuff, and Princess Leia was one of the easiest characters to make look distinctive, with the cool buns and all. Princess Leia is an amazing character, and Carrie Fisher was the perfect person to cast in the role. Here's why: Leia is a proper, beautiful, inspiring leader, but she isn't a dainty princess. She's the type that will grab a blaster and blow away bad guys as easily as she can put a loud-mouthed smuggler in his place. She's the type of girl that boys like me likes the most. Facing down evil and rescuing her rescuers! And yet she was magnificently radiant in ceremonial attire!

Carrie Fisher brought Leia alive and guys like me fell in love before we knew what having a crush even meant. My appreciation and adoration of Carrie never ended, either. I haven't seen all her movies, but I always liked seeing her on screens bog and small. She was a delight when she guested on talk shows and though I never met her the stories people tell are amazing. She wasn't perfect, and she wrestled with her demons very publicly, never making excuses and bringing mental illness into the mainstream conversation as no one else had. I'm sure her problems taxed her physically and contributed to her premature death. But I don't think she ever gave up trying to conquer all her challenges. She'd have conquered the galaxy for real if she could.

Carrie's passing, and her Mother's death shortly following, have really shaken me up. But I know her legacy will never die, as long as dedicated fans like me continue to watch her work, speak of her, write about her, and draw pictures of our favorite princess.

Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you all.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Sometimes things get you down, and you just need a little pick-me-up. Maybe you're depressed about the current state of affairs in the world, or wondering why 2016 seems such a downer, or just not feeling your best. I sometimes feel a bit down, though I consider myself a very positively-minded person, and I got the idea to write a bit here about a webseries that is totally about happiness.

HappyHer is the story of two Canadian women who go all over the world and ask women a simple question: "What makes you happy?". The answers may not be surprising, but I do find them uplifting. I've been trying to take the time to watch an episode or two every day. In fact, I'd say the similarities in the answers by women in different countries and cultures is quite interesting. It really shows that all people, regardless of their background and current living conditions, want pretty much the same things in life. I'm not saying all the answers are alike, just that I find them refreshingly similar.

Now, you  may be wondering why i'm watching a series about what makes women happy. Well, I can explain. First off, I do like women. Well....I mean I appreciate them. I have a wife and two daughters, so I better be interested in what makes women happy!  And I'll admit a couple things here. I came across this series because one of the creator/travelers in Lindsey Middleton. Lindsey is one of the starts of my favorite webseries, Out With Dad (read about it one elsewhere on this blog). And Lindsey was in particular the subject of one of my earliest post here. (I'm still grateful she didn't sue me for that!) Anyway, Lindsey's best friend Cornelia Audrey is the other "star" of the show, and she's just as delightful as Lindsey.

The next thing I'll admit is that the reason I decided I had to watch this show was that the duo made a trip to Thailand!  I have told many people that Thailand is my favorite country I've ever visited*. They just have a combination of an exotic locale, beautiful beaches and scenery, and wonderfully kind people that is unmatched anywhere else I've been outside of my home country (USA). I know there's been much political unrest there since I visited, and I worry for the people there a lot. Maybe there's a lesson for those of us worried about our political climate, too. Thailand has had REAL problems with factions literally fighting over power, we've really got it easy with our situation, despite the alleged divisions lately.

And I think I'll add here what makes me happy (though I'm not a woman): My aforementioned family, drawing, reading, playing a good board game, my students' artwork, and watching great webseries!!

Anyway, I decided once I got through the Thailand video, I would post something. And even then it took me a week or so. What can I say? Writing is hard! I'd rather be drawing...but more on that soon enough.

So...I hope people check out some HappyHer episodes

! Whether you're a man or woman, they're bound to make you feel a bit...happier!

*I was in Thailand in 1988 on WestPAC when I was in the US Navy...before Lindsey and Cornelia were born...gosh am I old??

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why keep comics?

Something on my mind:

Someone asked me back in the late 80s why I keep comics after I read them instead of just throwing them away. I answered that there is a chance they could be valuable some day, but the main reason I keep them is in case I want to read them again.

I do have a few that are worth decent money, and I sold one fairly valuable comic a few years back just because I didn't like it.  I culled a dozen or so comics from my vast collection, and that was the only valuable one. I used the money to buy new comics, of course!

I do put them in bags, but this is mostly so they are in good enough shape to read again. I find I can comfortably fit 3 regular sized comics in one regular comic bag. I have a stack of boards, but I don't use them. And I have a large enough collection now that I'll probably never re-read them all again. But you never know...

Okay, I've said my piece. Now I need to get ahead on my art so I can post more here. Bye for now!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

More Painting!

I'm really enjoying creating these! All the paintings here are still in my possession, so if you're interested in purchasing one, please e-mail me. They cost from $25-$100 each depending on size and number of characters (how long it took to complete). And I, of course, take requests!