Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dexter: Early Cuts/ Happy Halloween everybody!

Dexter on Showtime happens to be my favorite show on the air now. It's a serial killer who kills other serial killers and tries to keep his loved ones in the dark. I've also read all the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay and enjoyed them. Dexter: Early Cuts is a new animated (like an old Captain America/Spider-man cartoon from the 80s) web series written by Lauren Gussis, focusing on how he came to adopt his current methods. The artists for this 3 chapter, 12 episode series are names that will probably be familiar to you: Kyle Baker, Ty TempletonAndrés Vera Martínez. The first video is a behind the scenes, the other videos are part 1 and 2 of the current chapter. Dexter is in it's 4th season it comes on Showtime Sunday nights at 9:00 ET. Dexter: Early Cuts is also a Sunday night program on the Showtime website.

So far I'm really enjoying the story, so if you haven't already you should check it out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Zuda review Blitz/ Yeah I can see the Jeff Smith and Walt Kelly Influence...

Blitz is another October Zuda comic done by Ted Dawson. Here is the Synopsis: In the days of the Old West, a crippled alien transport made an emergency landing near Alamo, Nevada. Thousands of aliens were assimilated into the United States culture, starting life anew in a strange land. The 20th century would never be the same.
Not all Americans were happy with the integration of Alien-Americans. Some sought to profit by the potential influx of cheap labor and technological knowledge. Yet others had more sinister motives...

 Reminding me of Alien nation as a comedy in the old west is a good thing , but the alien looks like one of the Bone cousins -he just does

That's what your going to hear over and over again about the lead space alien, because it's so true. That doesn't mean Ted Dawson decided to just do a crib note version of Jeff Smith, but you can't live in a vacuum and not notice what's came before. The Bone resemblance isn't something that's going away, you just have to sell the story with the rest of the cast/plot. Jeff Smith got there first, so the alien's effectiveness as a character is going to be hampered by that. The creator talked about some confusion with the format which shows in the layout of the screens and pace. The alien shows up in a old west saloon (profiting off the technological knowledge leads to cars on the streets with horses and all kinds of humor possibilities) looking for his "Mudah". The locals at the watering  hole don't like his kind of people around here, and this results in the little alien getting thrown into a pile of dishes. The title character Blitz is the human dish washer who isn't happy with the alien busting up the dishes he was washing. Then his boss come along, see's what has happened, and fires him because it was Blitz's responsibility to take care of them. The art does a good job throughout this comic, and the slapstick jokes come across well. The alien has a few good lines throughout the comic: like saying "playing Frisbee with a gorilla" before going back for a second round with the bully that gave him a toss. The poor layout formatting was obvious on screen 3, a lot of blank black space on the page, which maybe could have been helped by making the panels bigger. On screen 4 we find out Shorty the alien's nemesis is named Bulldog, and he has a sister/love interest for Blitz named Sissie. The dialogue isn't bad, but nothing about it makes it stand out over all the similar comics that have came before. The aliens coming to the states and being treated as second-class citizens did remind me of the Alien Nation movie and dealing with immigration vs. America first'ers. Dealing with the reaction to aliens landing in a cartoon setting, instead of a dramatic film one does have possibilities. The comic didn't focus in on it's best aspect until it's last screen, which hurt it's ability to grab me as a reader. From the art along there are going to be Walt Kelly comparisons made. Pogo tackled real word issues using cartoons to give kids something to look at, adults something to read. Being written well enough to work on a number of levels without hitting people over the head. If Blitz is just a humor strip that's fine, but if you got the set-up to go into Pogo territory -take it.

Why in the world was this comic not in color?

This strip actually did have that coloring book look to it. Most -if not all- weekday newspaper scripts aren't black and white as a artistic choice. It's a financial cost savings decision along with the limits of a printing press. These days with all kinds of color programs making coloring your comics super easy to do, as well as the fact it's going to be a comic on the web -why go with black and white? It doesn't work that often for me on Zuda and it didn't come off well in this comic. Color -even an outrageously garish job of it- would have made this strip look better to me. On screen 5 Shorty the alien bits Bulldog's arm and gets him to drop the gun. Being the old west everyone starts pulling out their guns, and bullets start flying for a big shootout. In a funny repeat Shorty the alien again gets tossed across a room. Blitz pushes Sissie to safety in a nice prelude to a romance. Again the physical humor is done very well throughout this comic. Bulldog tries to 'rescue' his baby sister by holding Blitz upside down by his leg, and the alien saves him with a nice gag. On the way out the door Blitz tells Sissie he'll call her, as he and the alien make tracks.  It is a western comic of sorts, so I was happy to see the creator can draw horses well. I'm not kidding, that's a serious compliment considering some of the comics I've seen on the net. On screen 7 we finally get to the interesting part of the story. The alien is looking for his mother who has disappeared. Blitz informs him of a illegal alien slave trade going on, as Blitz rides off on a horse with the alien holding onto its tail. Bulldog and company let the lead fly while pursuing them in a car. The two escape but the alien finds a paper that says Bulldog is the suspected in the kidnapping of aliens to force them to go to a work camp in Bolivia. Meanwhile Blitz spends the last few panels trying to figure how much Shorty owes him for the broken dishes.No color, and nothing to stand out from so many comics that mine the same territory on the web. Aside from the layout formatting for Zuda issues the art is fine. I hope Ted Dawson gives Zuda another shot with a comic that would stand a better chance of grabbing more Zuda readers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zuda review Doc Monster/ With the word 'Doc' in the title, you know it's going to be action packed!

Doc Monster is another October Zuda comic done by David Flora that got a favorite from me. Here is the synopsis: In 1954, reports flood in of mysterious lights and strange airships that appear and disappear without a trace, sometimes taking animals or people with them! Suspecting some form of advanced, Russian spy initiative, the CIA’s “Counter Insurgency Unit” enlists the aid of super-scientist DOC MONSTER to help. A man of mystery, built like a linebacker with a genius IQ, Doc is tasked with uncovering and capturing the suspected communist vehicle behind the sightings. He is assigned an Agency “keeper” by the name of Carson Clay, whose job is to facilitate any needs Doc Monster may have during the investigation… and to keep an eye on him at all times. With his career as well as his marriage on the rocks, Clay grumblingly follows Doc Monster across the country until one terrifying night when all of Carson’s doubts and concerns are torn away, and the unbelievable truth of the UFO sightings come to surface. They are real. They are here. And their alien power comes to bear down on the free world. As their sinister goals are revealed, the nation cries out for Doc Monster to save them. The question is… will he?

Where Doc Savage style action and commie red scare style Sci-Fi comes together

The color scheme is what Warren magazines would have looked like with color added. A lot of text boxes to read through early, but the narrative is fairly interesting. The lettering is completely legible. The art does a great job of invoking the right mood for the comic, not a surprise if you've read his other work, and the story pace fits Zuda. The first screen starts out at a drive-in showing Creature from the Black Lagoon in Flemingsburg, Kentucky in 1954. The art is great at pulling off a pulp look, and meeting the titular character on screen 1 is a plus. I noticed the Rip Kirby look of Doc, having him smoking a pipe was a nice touch. There is a little problem some comics have when they have a text box announcing time/location, and you read the comic and from the art it could well be taking place in the here and now.  The drive-in opening, the classic cars, smoking a freaking pipe, all remind readers this isn't some hybrid of the present day. The searching for 'commies' and flaying saucer craze that really did happen make the point there is a reason the story was set in this time -besides just drawing cool stuff. The worrisome thing about Doc Monster is his red eyes, Clay even 'thinks' about it calling it to readers attention. I hope the red eyes has more to do with a X The Man with X-ray Eyes type of deal than some sort of Faustian bargain. Whatever the score I'm intrigued and wouldn't mind if it's one of those things never 'explained' and just left up to readers. When I write about a comic having a good Zuda pace, I mean the shit starts to GO DOWN in the initial 8 screens, and not the 'somewhat later on' ether should a comic win. On screen 2 we get a nice weird little sound effect that leads into a full screen shot of the shit GOING DOWN on screen 3 with a alien invasion -this IS good Zuda pace. You see alien space ships rising up, lifting cars along with them, and our two leads looking on stunned. It's a very impressive screen well layout with striking colors and art. Clay says: "Holy Shit!" and Doc Monster's comment: "Great Scott!". It made me wonder what kind of more true to life language those old Sci-Fi films might have used if the censors would have let them get away with it. Screen 4 reveals some alien insect type monsters that are attacking the kids at the drive-in. It also ends on another cool sound effect leading you to the next screen, which could become a bit of a signature if this comic continues on.

Destroy the Alien menace!  

Clay tries shooting the critter, while someone else runs for the exits behind him. The bullets don't work, but Doc Monster shows off his strength by cutting one of the creatures head off. Screen 6 is a nice action scene showing the Doc making a jump for one of the ships supremely confident in his abilities, why Clay wants to call in reinforcements. With all the alien lights shows on display the coloring job could have went horribly wrong -it didn't thanks to David Flora's talent. Screen 7 features a homage to Action Comics #1, and some nice action art as Doc Monster shows off his power. The text/dialogue tells you what you need to know, and the realistic features on the characters helps cut down on the need for all that many words. If anything there is too much background information given on Clay, I could have done with less of that even making allowances for the genre. I also have a general hatred of text box thought balloons, and preferring to let readers fill the blanks. One complaint: the last panel on screen 7 didn't show Clay looking surprised, or even mildly concerned, which didn't match the text. Screen 8 ends with a real cliff hanger worthy of any old time serial. The ship sinks back into the ground leaving a outline that looks a lot like your typical crop circle. To Clay's horror (the text and facial expressions were a perfect match here) Doc Monster hangs on to the ship and disappears below ground as well. Since the narration was a reminiscence of Clay's he reveals things were about to get much worse. This is a excellent Zuda comic I would follow if it won, but it seems to be stuck in the 3rd spot of this competition. I would like to see David Flora continue on with Doc Monster, and give Zuda another go.
If he doesn't manage to pull off the upset after all.