Category Archives: Reviews

Sometimes the mainstream can get it right – part one

After a couple of obliquely negative posts which reference some deficiencies in what could be called the “popular face of hypercomics”*, it may be worth pointing out where companies with more resources and clout than us poor schmucks have tried actually gotten the thing right – at least a little (we’re admittedly in a gray area of “comics” so it’s all by degrees here anyway).

In terms of comics form, the Watchmen thing is an admitted disaster. It’s a shame that Warner decided to shred apart a highwatermark of mainstream comics. It’s not anything new, though. This kind of thing has been done to comics before, and done just as poorly (StarWars.com has taken down the travesty of form that was their “motion comic” for the Episode One adaptation but, Ye-Gad that was terrible). But let’s also look to Dark Horse’s repurposing of a Hellboy short for an example of a more understated technique.

We have some of the same features here: cut-up panels, clunky pseudoanimation, annoying score (well, if you can call that a score…), standard fare for this type of thing. But these elements are also used in subtler ways. Voiceovers are left out, preserving the reader’s own “inner voice.” Likewise, sound effects are left to be expressed by text. Something of a sequential panel layout is preserved – and it’s even purposed in a web-friendly format. The big difference, though, is the click-through navigation. The next panel or series of panels won’t appear until you click and tell them to appear. Unlike the Watchmen and Star Wars fiascos, this puppy is read. That’s a major distinction, in my book. That make this a hypercomic and not just bad animation.

There’s a different in intent here. The Watchmen thing is an act of pure hype. Fans have already decided whether or not they’ll watch the movie. What Mignola and Dark Horse did with Hellboy: The Varcolac is more akin to the type of web experiments that we want to attempt, I think.

It’s not a perfect, sure. I’ve got my nitpicks. Sometimes experiments fail.

But it’s nice that someone out there in the mainstream at least made an attempt.

*(my inference only here, Neal)

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Who watches The watchmen this crap?

The Watchmen is poised to be the biggest comic book movie yet, and the advertising is in full tilt, most notably in this week’s Entertainment Weekly magazine, which is a mag known to be very comics friendly, for it’s regular reviews of new comics, news on creators etc.

This week EW have exclusive rights to advertising The Watchmen Motion comics, which are available through iTunes. So is the headline here: “major film studio, major comics publisher, major digital media supplier and major magazine ALL work together on putting out a hypercomic”?

Uh no. No it’s not.

The first problem is, well it’s not a comic. Or even a hypercomic. It’s a comic who’s artwork has been broken up into tiny chunks and animated, it’s been dissected and pulled out of focus or pushed far into the background. sections of drawings are dragged along the picture plane, to facilitate animation. Pieces of hair are magic wanded out and made to sway in the wind. Broken glass which, in the source material, hang in the air as if caught in a photograph are animated to exit the frame, pink slivers smoothly expanding out of the scene and taking all the energy with them.

So if it’s not a comic, or hypercomic, then maybe at least it’s an animation? Well, in the sense of a dictionary definition yes, it moves. But even here it fails, due to it’s source material. Each scene, cut apart and stitched back together with movement only serve to remind you that it was re-purposed material. You want to pause the thing, to see how well it was drawn. You want to take time out of the temporal mandate that animation serves and pour over the drawings. You want exactly the kind of freedom that visual narratives alone can provide.

In making it an animation they’ve served to make you wish you were reading a comic.

It also suffers all of the usual pains you would expect, a brooding soundtrack with celery-crunching foley sounds, word bubbles with tails that follow the character around the scene, voice actors that read exactly what you’re already taking the time to read, except for when they forget words.

All in all the headline should most likely be,  “Major comics publisher and friends take enjoyable and brilliant comic book and ruin it using frankenstein’s methods: Will soon expect you to pay for it”

testing waters…

Got this link the other day: http://www.realitycpu.com/

You could say it’s a blend of a Homestarrunner video game and Castlezzt, but more interactive.