Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I've been doing some painting recently, so in lieu of another review today, I thought I'd share my paintings. All are acrylic on canvas board. 

My goal was to do some very cartoony paintings, as opposed to trying for realism. I think it worked well and I intend to do more.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review: Transformers vs. G.I. Joe

Herein I continue with my reviews and commentary on things I've read or watched recently.

In this case, the first collection of the Transformers vs. G. I.Joe comics by Tom Scioli and John Barber.

Allow me to reminisce about my earliest G.I.Joe and Transformers memories. I have the first 30 or so issues of Marvel Comic's original G.I.Joe run from the 80's. I watched a lot of the first few seasons of the cartoon.  The toys were pretty neat, but I was too old for toys by then. My G.I.Joe toys were the "adventure team" run from the 70's which were big dolls with changeable clothes and weapons and stuff like "eagle eye"s and "kung fu grip". But the newly re-imagined team was quite fun, and the early Herb Trimpe art in particular I found very fascinating. Around this time the Transformers premiered. I watched the first few seasons of the cartoon, but didn't get the toys or read the comics. I think the downfall of both franchises, to me, was the constant addition of new characters and shuffling of older characters into the background.  The toys were the big money makers, and the shows and comics became too much advertising for the sale of the toys. Character development wasn't a priority, and that, coupled with my age, led me to dropping interest and moving on to other things. But the ideas were still very cool.

So what could get me to buy a Transformer/G.I.Joe crossover comic in the present? Honestly, It's Tom Scioli.  I met Tom many years ago at the SPACE convention, and loved his work on his own  creation, 8-Opus, a very 70's Kirby-inspired sci-fi series.  I've read many of Tom's comics since, but this is the most mainstream series he has worked on.  His old-school art style really fits the subject here. I'd say he draw the characters, both Joe and robots, to look like..toys! Yes! He doesn't try to imagine these toys as realistic machines or military guys. In fact, such a thing would be silly if you look at the outfits worn by the likes of Shipwreck or Wild Bill or Constucticons.  Instead, Tom embraces the ridiculous nature of the toys to make a universe that looks like it makes sense within itself without trying to make it "believable".

The story, which Tom write with John Barber, is exciting and makes very good use of the characters and their strange specialties and quirks.  There's very little in character difference beyond their weapons and specialties, except for a few main characters such as Snake Eyes and Duke.  The emphasis is on what each member brings to the team in their specialty.  On the Transformer side, we get the shocking realization that this series begins with the Autobots having lost the war, Optimus Prime is gone and Megatron rules Cybertron.  When you start with that, you get some real drama as the surviving Autobots try to stay alive while hoping to some day knock Megatron out of power.

And everything is a lot of fun!  I look forward to reading more toy vs. toy action!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Juice Squeezers: The Great Bug Elevator

First let me make note that I have not been keeping up on my blogging here. I can make many excuses as to why not, including being too busy and not feeling well.  Also, I've been way behind on my reading list (or reading stack of books). But the truth is, I haven't felt like writing lately.  Writing is very difficult for me, at least in comparison to drawing or talking, and I haven't had the mental energy to get my self behind the keyboard and get going. But I am going to try and write as much as I can in the next few weeks, just to get myself back in the habit. I thought I'd start by looking at some of the stuff I've been reading lately.

Juice Squeezers is a wonderfully creative take about bug squishing kids. I remember being introduced to these kids in Dark Horse Presents, and when I saw the trade paperback at a con, I decided it was worth picking up.  And it certainly was!  Writer/artist Davis Lapham tells a very engaging story of a town in California with a big of a giant insect problem.  To combat this problem, the town secretly sends Jr. High kids underground to kill the bugs.

There's lot of intrigue on two fronts.  First, there's the mystery of the bugs. What are they, why are they here, and what are they doing?  There's even some nice moral questions as to whether or not killing large populations of possibly harmful insects is a good idea.  Also, how many people should know about the threat of the bugs? Next, is the personal trials the kids are put through.  There's strife between team members, fights with bullies at school (the kids might be good at squishing bugs, but they aren't great at fighting humans), questions about family, getting along with the new kid, and budding romance.  The mystery is compelling, but the personal issues are the heart of this book. David does an excellent job giving each kid (and the lesser-seen adults) a distinct personality with highlights and flaws.  Despite their strange job, the kids all act like real people.  They just belong to a rather exclusive club.

The paperback is small, or digest-sized (9 in, x 6 in.), which is nice and keeps it affordable and cute! I think every Jr. High library needs a copy of this on its shelves and I hope David produces some more Juicy bug-squishing tale


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: Out With Dad 4.15 “Heading Out” (in 360)

I know I just posted about Out With Dad, but I thought this episode was well worth writing about due to the interesting nature of the way it was filmed.

"Heading Out" is the fifteenth episode of season 4 of Out With Dad, my favorite webseries. This episode was filmed in 360 degree cinema.  As creator/director Jason Leaver explains in a "Making of" video this technique involves using a stationary camera during filming, and then allowing the viewer to pan around the scene when viewing. Jason recommends using a smartphone for this, but since I don't have one I used Google Chrome, which is my favorite browser anyway.  Yes, you heard that right. I like Chrome a lot. Highly recommended.  Anyway, this method of filming makes the episode a lot like a live stage performance.  The scene is, unless I'm way off, filmed in one take, and though you can "look around", you cannot zoom in or out, just like you were sitting in a seat at a theatre. The director is really giving up lot of control by using a stationary 360 camera. He can't cut out, zoom in, combine shots, and whatever else those guys do that I don't know. So this is a very different experience in viewing.

As for the episode itself, it is all about Rose and her Dad getting ready to meet their former loves.  Rose going to see Claire who is back in town, and Nathan seeing Valery. Their interaction is cute as they pick out clothes for each other without looking, and fret a lot while supporting each other. They also make tea, including Rose using the phrase "hot the pot" which I don't think I've ever heard before. Finally, Nathan also mentions the possibility of Rose talking to Vanessa after all this time.  Rose is NOT receptive to the idea.  Jason noted this as an important episode, but it looks like a little downtime before the "big event" to come next time.  It's solid, but not one I'm likely to re-watch a lot.

But...does the 360 thing add to the episode?  I'm going to say...no. It's pretty neat to "look around", but there's this big problem I had: there's not much to look at. I looked at the ceiling, the door, the floor.  Then I looked at the characters. And it was like watching them on stage (as I mentioned above). But I think this technique would be more interesting if used on a video where there were things all over the place to look at!  Where you could watch several times and see something different each time. This episode wasn't very visual at all, really. It's  about character, not action.

Still, at least I got to watch my first 360 episode of something. Thanks to Jason for daring to try something different!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: The Ontario Science Centre Outing (OWD 4.14)

I'm almost caught up with my reviews of Out With Dad, season 4.  Happily, Jason and Co. keep making them faster than I can write about them.

The Ontario Science Centre Outing, OWD episode 4.14, is an extremely fun episode. It is the tale of Rose and Vanessa II's first date. Or is it a date? The episode centers around Rose telling friends Alicia and Owen about her day at the Ontario Science Centre

with potential new love interest Vanessa II. (If you're reading this but for some strange reason haven't read other reviews or watched the show, Rose's first, high school love interest was also named Vanessa, hence the need for a modifier.) Rose tells her friends about how much fun it was doing all the sciencey things with Vanessa II, without the pressure of it being a "date". She enjoyed just hanging out with Vanessa II as a friend and was relieved that the interaction didn't get romantic.


Before saying good night, Vanessa unexpectedly kissed Rose. Or, maybe it wasn't so unexpected. Looking back, Rose realizes there were plenty of hints all along that Vanessa II was taking it very seriously as a date. Rose was just too naive, distracted, or perhaps unwilling to see it. So...what should she do now?

I absolutely loved this episode.  It is very reminiscent of the second season episode "The Museum Outing", in which Rose and Claire have their first social interaction, with hints of future romance.  I wonder if some people will think it too much a repeat of that episode, but there are important differences. Mostly there's Rose's reaction to the "dates". But also. there's the difference of age and experience.  Rose sees the Science Outing as a nostalgic trip down memory lane. But she's not in a hurry to get into a relationship, and maybe this is why her thoughts stay so innocent.

One thing's for sure, it will be interesting to see where all this leads!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Apama- the Undiscovered Animal

The Apama is the most ferocious animal that has ever existed.  What's that you say? You've never heard of the apama?  Why, of course not!  It is, after all, the UNDISCOVERED animal.  That's right!  The apama is the meanest, most deadly, of all beasts, yet no one has ever heard of it...until NOW!

Apama is a truly wonderful independent comic book created by some film maker from the Cleveland area.  The story even takes place in the vicinity of Cleveland,  Yes.  Cleveland, Ohio, Which might also explain why no one has discovered the apama, since everyone ignores Cleveland. Anyway, creators Ted Sikora and Milo Miller created Apama as a film project about a super-hero. Then they created the comic that the main character in the movie was trying to create.  Got it?  Well, you don't really need to know all the background to understand the comic, because it's just about the comic character.

The main character is Ilyia Zjarsky, an ice cream truck driver, who is obsessed with old Native American legends and eventually gains the power of the apama, a ferocious beast that disappeared form history because it was a loner.  Ilyia is also a bit of a loner, probably due to hid being so weird and kinda a loser. There's nothing really remarkable about him. He's just an average Joe.  Or a bit below average really.  He tries hard, but he's not confident in himself, and he messes up a lot.  He's just enough of a sad sack to be hopelessly funny and not miserably depressing.  In other words, he's a great character.  Someone you can root for, but doesn't have the easy path to victory.

But I must now tell you of the thing that attracted me to Apama in  the first place. Benito Gallego does the best John Buscema imitation I've ever seen on the pages of this book.  And I mean that in a totally positive way!  Benito captures the very best qualities of Big John, who is my favorite comic artist of all time!  The art if wonderfully 70's-Marvel, which fits the story perfectly. I just can't really say more but to show some examples here.

Apama comes with  my highest recommendation!  This is my favorite comic I've read all year!! In fact, I'd say it's the comic I've been waiting for for years!

 I eagerly anticipate more!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Counselling Vanessa 47 & 48 (OWD 4.12 & 4.13)

I've been busy at the SPACE comic con, where I received an award for my webcomic, Mutant Elf.  I will post some pictures of it soon, but right now I need to get back to my comments about the current season of the award-winning webseries, Out With Dad.

Counselling Vanessa 47 & 48 are the first episodes of the series-within-a-series that have run back-to-back,  Creator Jason Leaver states this is because of the next Rose episode taking longer than usual.  However, it is rather fortuante since these two Vanessa episodes are a perfect pair.

In session 47, Vanessa is obviously tired and the counselor tries to determine what is causing the sleep loss. The conversation turns to how Vanessa's mother treats her brother and his new baby, hinting that she'd like the child christened (which I believe is a way to make the child "officially christian", implying she's scared little Ollie will be raised muslim!) Vanessa's mom also hints that she'd be happier if Vanessa would date a guy rather than a girl (since bisexuals can just choose anyone I guess...) .  Also, Vanessa's relationship with her little brother Jacob, because Vanessa was the cause of their Mother moving out.  Which is sorta true, but it's really her mother's prejudice that required her to leave.  If she could have accepted her daughter (and daughter-in-law) she would still be living with the family.

Then the conversation turns to Vanessa running away.  Vanessa is mostly happy she did so because of the positive results. But there is the big negatives which comes up in the next episode.

Which starts with Vanessa crying as she discusses the sexual assault she survived when she ran  away.  More exactly, we viewers pick up Vanessa's description of the events right at the end.  I find this an excellent choice as to when to begin the episode. Jason spares the viewer the full description so that we can learn about the healing process.  Vanessa's been through a lot at this point, but this looks like the point where it starts to really turn around.  What's happened to her is unimaginable for me, but Jason and Lindsey make it seem so real.

In the end, Vanessa leaves us with a little smile.  Great to see that!