August 09, 2005

Concrete: Think like a moutain/ Dark Horse Comics

Concrete is this man who was trapped in an avalanche and would have been dead if aliens did not encase his dying body in concrete. So now he's almost indestructable. Almost. But still very human.

NLB Call No.: q741.59
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In this story, Concrete is approached by a group of environmentalist who urge him to join their cause to save an old-growth forest from loggers. Concrete eventually agrees to go but only as an observer. He doesn't want to get into any trouble with the authorities by engaging in criminal acts. But soon, he has to decide if he is remains as an observer or active participant.

The story is well researched and gives good insights into environmentalism and eco-terrorism.
I also like the art. The drawing style and colours has this comtemplative feel to it. Come to think of it, that's something that Concrete does a lot -- contemplate.

Concrete/ Dark Horse Comics

I'm definitely looking for more Concrete stories. Try searching OPAC for "concrete paul chadwick".

August 08, 2005

The Sgt. Rock archives Vol. 1/ DC Comics

This archive covers issues #68 (Jan 1959), and #81 to #96 (Apr 1959 to Jul 1960). It's clearly a "Comics for Boys" type of story and drawings. One could say the plot is cheesy by today's standards but that's not a fair assessment.

This is best appreciated in the context of its time -- the comic series was produced in the 1950s.

In terms of storylines and plots, it's clear things were more straightforward then. It's really like watching old movies. The stories deal with heroism, perserverance and courage under fire. Not a complex "Saving Private Ryan" storyline but something more plain and simple.

NLB Call No.: 741.5973 SGT- [Art]
ISBN: 1563898411
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The foreword by Joe Kubert explains how Sgt. Rock came about, and Kubert mentions the people responsible for the art over the years.

There's also a biographies section at the back -- of the various artists involved in the Sgt. Rock series: Ross Andru, Mort Drucker, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Bob Haney, Russ Heath, Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, and Irv Novick.

Reading this gives me the impression that I'm holding on to a piece of comic history here. You certainly get a sense that comics (from North America) have come a long way since the 1950s.

Orbiter/ DC Comics

The cover and title attracted me. It showed a space shuttle boosted into space. Maybe it was the talk by Astronaut Cady Coleman not too long ago. Reading the backcover blurb made it all the more intriguing:
In the early 21st century, the space shuttle Venture has suddenly returned to Earth after disappearing ten years ago... its crew missing -- save for the catatonic pilot -- with new instrumentation, new engines, and covered in something very much like skin.

And with Martian sand in the landing gear.

By Warren Ellis & Colleen Doran, with Dave Stewart
NLB Call No.: 741.5973 ORB (Graphic Novel/ Art section)
ISBN: 1401202683
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The story mainly revolves around three people -- a psychologist, a forensic specialist, and a jet propulsion engineer -- well, a fourth if you count NASA pilot who was the sole survivor of the mission.

I liked the way their personal lives are revealed as the entire story unfolded. There's enough weird and scientifically intriguing concepts to satisfy the sci-fi reader in me. But lest you mistake this book as purely Science Fiction, I'd say it's really about human hopes, dreams and the drive for self-discovery.

How I felt about reading this: The story started off weird (in a Sci-Fi weird sort of way), there's suspense, then discovery, and finally a hint of something wondrous in the end.

Read it for yourself. I suspect you'll like it as much as I did.

August 06, 2005

Aliens: Stronghold/ Dark Horse Comics

This isn't scary at all, and is actually funny! A talking Alien called Jerry... ok, you read the comic for yourself to find out what's the deal.
Aliens Stronghold

Here's the gist of the story:
The Strunks are a husband and wife team sent by Grant-Corp to investigate on the bio-tech operations run by Dr Caspar Nordling. Not surprisingly, he's mad (i.e. psycho) and is an ego-maniac to boot. When the good doctor discovers that the Strunks are going to report on him, he attempts to kill the Strunks, but the Strunks have unexpected help...

NLB Call No.: 741.5973 ALI
ISBN: 156971262X
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Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement

While I like Star Wars, I'm not exactly a Star Wars fan and don't necessarily pick up all Star Wars -related books. But I picked up this one up as it's an easy read (comic books don't take much time).
ISBN: 1569714924
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
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Rogue Squadron is one of the Rebel Alliance's Special Ops Forces, with a reputation for pulling off suicide missions. In this story, their mission is to rescue the disposed acting-Emperor Pestage. They get to him but gets stranded on a planet with the Imperial forces in pursuit. The Rebel Alliance can't send anyone to rescue them so it looks like their done for but of course they manage to escape but their missionisn't exactly fulfilled...

This comic book also includes a section called "In the studio with Terese Nielsen". Terese is the artist who did the comic cover, and the section shows how she did it.
Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement

Star Wars: Chewbacca/ Dark Horse Comics

This comic book has an introduction by Peter Mayhew, the guy who played Chewbacca (with picture of Peter Mayhew as well).

NLB Call No.: q741.5973 (Graphic Novel/ Arts section)
ISBN: 1569715157
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As I learnt from the blurb at the end-cover, Chewbacca got killed off in the New Jedi Order novel, Vector Prime. So this Dark Horse comic book is sort of a commemorative story of the history of Chewbacca, as told by Star Wars characters who knew him:
  • Chapter 1: Mallatobuck (Chewbacca's wife)
  • Chapter 2: Attichitchuk (the father of Chewbacca)
  • Chatper 3: Ssoh (as told by a Wookie Slaver who had a run in with Chewbacca -- and survived)
  • Chapter 4: Mala Mala (the bounty-hunteress who was saved by Chewbacca)
  • Chapter 5: Turrdko (a Wookie who's the father of Tojjevvuk the albino Wookie killed by Chewbacca in Chapter 2)
  • Chapter 6: Wedge (as told by Wedge Antilles on an incident when he was a rookie pilot)
  • Chapter 7: Lando (as told by Lando Calrissian)
  • Chapter 8: Leia (she's the Senator now, and interestingly the story she tells is something very human and mundane as jealousy...)
  • Chapter 9: Luke (his version alludes to how Chewbacca got killed)
  • Chapter 10: Han (he explains what he regrets not doing...)
If you're remotely interested in Star Wars, you'd like this one.

August 02, 2005

Reinventing comics: How imagination and technology are revoluntionizing an art form/ Scott McCloud

If you enjoyed Understanding comics: The invisible art, then you're likely to appreciate more of Scott McCloud's thesis-in-comic-form. And it's really a thesis on the art form of comics presented in (whatelse) the comic art form. This is not a "how-to" manual. Be ready for some serious stuff.


Main chapters
  • Comics as literature
  • Comics as art
  • Creators' rights
  • Industry innovation
  • Public perception
  • Institutional scrutiny
  • Gender balance
  • Minority representation
  • Diversity of genre
  • Digital production: The creation of comics with digital tools
  • Digital delivery: The distribution of comics in digital form
  • Digital comics: The evolution of comics in a digital environment
Beginning chapters "Setting Course: A "low" art takes the high road" (p26) and "Negativeland: The business of comics" (p56) gives more insights into the development of the North American comic business and industry. I now understand how the major players (like DC Comics) and the independents came about.

p62 mentions "Creators' Bill of Rights" for comic artists:
"It seems like some gruesome fairy tale now, but there actually was a time when comic books were literally burned in the streets! In the mid-50s the book Seduction of the Innocent by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham helped trigger a firestorm of anti-comics hysteria."

p86 - persecution of comics in the mid 1950s.

p124 "... it is often those most schooled in life's harshest realities who grow up least inclined to revisit them in fiction"

p125 "but all readers want to be transported by fiction in the end, even if the journey is through a mirror of the world we already know --"

"-- and as long as no one gave us a choice of the world we were born into, a little escape seems a reasonable request, and one of the many that comics can fulfill."

p128. Chapter on "The things about tools: Some thoughts on computers" has interesting condensed version of the development of computers from early 70s to late 90s.

p 138 "Through the door: Digital production" - on the development and use of computers to make art.

p154 "The frictionless economy: Digital delivery" - talks about the internet and the impact, possibilities and issues to the comic industry. In fact, this chapter could very well apply to the publishing business as a whole.

p. 160: "As I write these words, about 16,000,000 domains have been registered worldwide. There are now more sites in operation than there are books in the Library of Congress -- and the Web is growing a Hell of a lot faster!"
(this book came out in 2000)

p161 brilliantly shows why libraries and books are still relevant:
Scott: Imagine anything you could possibly want to know about any subject!
Guy: Anything at all?! Uh... How about fishing?
(Woah! [shows books crashing down])
Scott: You got it!
Guy: (picks up book) Woo-Hoo! Look at all this stuff about fishing!
Scott: No matter how esoteric, no matter how specialized, it's either on the web now or it will be soon... With millions of sites in existence today, and more coming at a rate of --
Guy: (opening a book) Ahem. Why are all these pages blank?!
Scott: Hold on a minute... There. (flips book)
Guy: Oh. I see...
Scott: There ya go. Something's coming in now.
Guy: "Win a free dream Vaca --"
Scott: Oh sorry... No, that's just an ad banner
p175 - gives arguments on the advantages of print over digital.

p200 - "The infinite canvas: Digital Comics" - talks about how new digital medium can transform at how comic art is presented (from printed strip format to hyperlinking). Uses the analogy of "temporal maps". Of comics "being told vertically, horizontally, packed slowly in a revolving cube".