Monday, November 30, 2009
Just a quick note to announce that big plans are in development here at CARTOON FLOPHOUSE headquarters in California for 2010.
Partners have signed on. Angel investors have invested. Web sites will be overhauled. Merchandise will be created. Output will be doubled, then doubled again. Then reversed and then quadrupled! (We dare you to double-check our math!)
Best of all, the Home of Humorous Humor Comics will continue to create quality comics with memorable characters and crazy antics that will make you blow your breakfast-cereal milk out your nose and spit take on your spouse and kids!
The road to 2010 all begins here before the end of December.....so check the CARTOON FLOPHOUSE blog daily for breaking news on 2010's slate of funnybooks for 2010!*
* (hey, that's super-redundant....We know! Anything to get our point across!)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
My groovy girlfriend took me to see a terrific movie today: FANTASTIC MR. FOX!
Man, was I in the mood for this film. The vocal talents, by Wes Anderson's regulars (Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray) and George Clooney, who, for once, I dug in this movie. I loved the film's look and energy, simple character designs, herky-jerky stop-motion animation (like CORALINE back in Feb.), a refreshing antidote to the godawful, hackneyed, crappy looking CG overkill out there (yes, PLANET 51, I'm thinking of you, you cuss!). In general, I'm a big fan of Anderson's movies, particularly RUSHMORE and THE LIFE AQUATIC. The quality is consistent with those films, as is his favorite theme, the dysfunctional piecemeal family. He even gives us that compartmentalized, split level view of all the characters, as he did in LIFE AQUATIC (in which his stop-motion seed was planted).
I'll be honest, I can barely get motivated to see Pixar films -- and those are probably the best of the lot. Even the much revered WALL-E, which I kind of enjoyed, lost me by its second hour. And why would I want to see a film about a restaurant rat in Paris? (RATATOUILLE). Gee, whiz, when someone uses CG to do a real HOWARD THE DUCK movie, perhaps I'll go. But for now, keep the creative animated films coming. Stuff like FANTASTIC MR. FOX!
Thanks, Mr. Anderson!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Sorry, running late this holiday weekend....Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all.......
.....click on image to enlarge!
Friday, November 27, 2009
All of my cartoonist buddies are actually quite animated. But not all of my cartoonist buddies are actual animated cartoonists. But JIM LUJAN is!
The Luge is a major talent, and he's been doing his brand of satirical cartoons -- in glorious limited animation -- for years. And I don't mean this as a put-down--most of my favorite cartoons (by Jay Ward, Mike Judge, stuff like "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist") employ limited animation, which often adds to the charm and comedy. The cleverness comes from the character design and voice acting, and that's certainly true with Jim's work.
Check out his latest, DAY OF THE UNICORN, featuring one of his characters, Rev. John Henry Unicorn. It's a mini-epic.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Before I get too schmaltzy and sentimental and sing that Chili Peppers song about the beauty of people "around the world" ("Ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong, dong, dong, dong, dong!").........Here are some images to celebrate our day of feast!
It's from some '70s manga adaptation of the movie JAWS I found online. Right off the bat, what I love about this manga is that they incorporated that iconic painted poster image into the cover of their comic. That already gets my respect, because the JAWS poster art is probably the single most compelling and iconic image of movie art from that era. Maybe even more than the posters for STAR WARS and SUPERMAN. So that was a good move.
What I love about manga as an American gringo is that, at its best, it offers the cleanest, most visually pleasing character designs and it presents a fresh-faced look at storytelling and presentation that often gets lost in all of the (horribly) computer-colored, convoluted-looking junk put out by the bigger American comic book companies. It's a lesson that many art comics guys seem to pick up on, but not the biggies.
Anyway, today is about giving thanks and eating well, so thanks to all of my cartoonist friends for your friendship and to all of the loyal readers of Cartoon Flophouse comics.....and feast well today!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I've read some criticism online of this book that splits between calling it a classic and deeming it overrated. IIIIIIII'm gonna side with the latter camp.
I just found the philosophical stuff overreaching and pseudo-...It just wasn't convincing. And the characters too dry and talky and are unfortunately not all that interesting. (Maybe this cartoonist is just not a writer). And the very ending was confusing. Not confusing in that I couldn't figure out what he was trying to say, but confusing in its execution. Even though the action and art is very clear, it's hard to figure out whether the ending is literal or metaphorical and so it took some of the bite out of it for me. Something was not working for me.
It's definitely ambitious and it has some charms (on a personal note, I enjoyed the fact that a chunk of the book took place in Ithaca, NY, with the inferred unnamed university being my alma mater, Cornell....since the professorial character was an architect, it was obvious from the buildings that the cartoonist went to Cornell's campus and incorporated the very art and architecture buildings that comprised my college at the university)....
.....but overall I found this book kind of glib, including the designs, as if it were longing to be one of the animated shorts from the '60s, part Norman Juster/MGM joint, part UPA cartoon. It's not that the character designs are bad. They just didn't appeal to me. Kind of chilly. Didn't dig it, brother.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my sensitive thoughts on this book. A very mixed review from me. On a technical level, this is a handsome, well-drawn art comic, and I'm glad that cartoonists who made their name on superhero stuff are breaking away from it and going for something totally different.
But we're getting to the point where there's enough quality non-superhero graphic novels out there that we can take some of this stuff for granted. So I elect to not recommend this one. Especially with a new book by Gilbert Hernandez out and that Johnny Cash graphic novel to investigate.....
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Archie Comics are not that funny but Archie as fine art is HI-LARIOUS! I can't wait to see a sculpture of Moose as The Thinker. Or how about Da Vinci's painting, "The Veronica Lisa?" The sad note will be the Van Jughead self-portrait with crown hat but minus an ear.
And in related news......
Friday, November 20, 2009
Fifty years ago yesterday, November 19, 1959, TV animation king Jay Ward's "Rocky and his Friends" debuted on TV.
Even though Ward had a show or two before it, Rocky & Bullwinkle really caught on and it ushered in the age of TV cartoons; a precursor to Hanna-Barbara. Not to mention it was the hippest cartoon on Earth--loaded with in-jokes and made charming by bare-bones limited animation--and its writers went on to script stuff like "Mary Tyler Moore." Basically, stuff aimed at adults disguised as children's entertainment. The closest equivalent these days might be "SpongeBob SquarePants."
There's an article from a Midwest newspaper here in which they interview Ward's daughter, Tiffany, and reveal at the end that DreamWorks is planning a Sherman & Peabody feature cartoon for 2012 (good luck trying to do justice to that one....). And here's a decently drawn Rocky & Bullwinkle comic book that some nerd posted up in honor of the anniversary.
Ward's wit is sorely missed in today's TV cartoons, which are mostly poorly designed images synchronized to prerecorded shouting matches.
Look, I hate to be such a cynic, but it's hard to find clever cartoons on TV. But when it works, I'm the first one to shout about that. Past posts here have raved about "Batman: Brave & the Bold" and I don't doubt that there aren't more toons on the level of "SpongeBob." But Saturday morning cartoons are so junky these days, I can't get my Cap'n Crunch on watching 'em. I usually channel surf between the televangelists and infomercials, watch two minutes of City Council channel, and give up. Saturday mornings really suck.
I'm sorry if this is the most humorless, serious and dire post I've ever posted in the 25 years I've been running the CARTOON FLOPHOUSE blog (it's too bad Ward isn't around to write it). But you'd be miserable too if you had to eat your Honey Nut Cheerios while channel-surfing. It might create ulcers.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Here's a photo of ARMY OF DARKNESS star BRUCE CAMPBELL looking Plastic Man-ish....
My BACK ISSUE! brudda, JERRY BOYD, and I were having a discussion. Jerry thinks prime Briscoe County-era Bruce Campbell should've played Dynamo in a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS movie. Ol' Len Brown....
I countered that I always thought '90s Campbell should've played The Spirit. He would've made a mean Denny Colt. I also thought Jim Carrey could rock a Plastic Man movie - that's a role he was born to play. But according to the photo above, maybe Bruce Campbell could play him, too. He was kind of rubberfaced, after all, in ARMY OF DARKNESS.
Oh, well, the moment's passed, and none of those movies happened. Not even THE SPIRIT movie...that never happened....right?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
FRANK TASHLIN is one of my all-time favorite directors. He brilliantly took his career in print and animated cartoons and applied that aesthetic to his live-action movies, most notably a couple of Jayne Mansfield comedies, a slew of Martin/Lewis vehicles such as HOLLYWOOD OR BUST (a cross-country road trip-musical with Mr. Bascombe, their Great Dane) and THE GEISHA BOY (here's Jerry as the Great Wooly and his rabbit, Harry, in Japan), and the great Bob Hope vehicle SON OF PALEFACE. This site discusses his children's book/cartooning work and also links to this interview with the director.
BACK ISSUE # 37 hits the shops today. The theme: COMICS GO TO WAR!
I've never been a big WWII comics buff growing up, but in recent years, two WWII series have captured my fancy, and I got to write about both of them for this issue: COMBAT KELLY AND HIS DEADLY DOZEN....and THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER.
COMBAT KELLY only lasted 9 issues, but what 9 issues they are. Written by Gary Friedrich, a master of the WWII comic, and drawn beautifully primitively by Dick Ayers, these 9 issues are a lot of fun, although nothing prepared me for the balls-out finale of this quickly canceled series went out. Trust me, you've never read a final issue like COMBAT KELLY # 9. It's a Comics Code-defying, bad-ass, hardcore classic that I guess they got away with because no one was paying attention!
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is the long-running series created by Joe Kubert (BI#37's cover artist, who did his rendition of his most famous character, future movie star Sgt.Rock), who kicked off the series. Great concept, great character. Sam Raimi's fun 1990 flick DARKMAN definitely put an urban spin on this creation. UNKNOWN SOLDIER included some stories written by one of my favorite artists, Frank Robbins (sadly not drawn by him), but the series really got interesting for me when Filipino artist GERRY TALAOC, a great disciple of the Robbins style, began to illustrate the book with David Micheline writing it. That's when this series took off for me, as I love Talaoc's quasi-cartoony art. And the grand adventure of this article was my worldwide trek (by Internet) to track down Talaoc, who had recently relocated to America (ironically, he had never been to America during his heyday for DC and Marvel, as he worked from his native Quezon City). Talaoc wound up contributing a new, painted piece of Unknown Soldier art just for my article. The painting is glorious. Talaoc is the man!
Get this issue at the store or through the TwoMorrows' Web site, it's a doozy!
Recently, the word "iconic" has become the most maligned word in showbiz. If you believe Entertainment Tonight, Anna Nicole Smith, Marie Osmond and Barry Manilow are iconic.
Likewise, this blog is posting the 75 most iconic D.C. Comics covers of all time (why 75? why not the full 100? Lazies!) and asking readers to vote. It's actually a very fun gallery of D.C. covers, but I'd say about half or a third of these covers are not exactly "iconic." Even though it's a pretty good one, I wouldn't call the ticklish Superman cover iconic.....
Or this cheesy, maudlin baby that I had never noticed before...Poo! If trash bin filler is iconic, than this one is truly iconic:
The original Green Lantern, who can fly, choosing to travel by girder instead, does not exactly appear iconic to me. It doesn't fit my definition of iconic, anyway, and it's poorly drawn but not in a good way. His face looks weird, and it looks as if this confrontation is giving him a hard-on.
I've never seen the above GL cover before, to my knowledge. It's not the image I think of when I think of Green Lantern (sorry, but I always think of the Hal Jordan GL instead, I think he's more iconic than this GL, who always seemed to dress in the dark). Was the original GL known to travel by walking across girders? Hardly!
Oddly enough, this truly iconic cover, known to just about any comic book reader, was not included in the batch...
....But it gets my vote.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In my opinion, mainstream comics have never been at a worse standstill than the '90s and 2000s. Whatever criticisms were lobbed back in the day about the '70s comics, at least original concepts and characters and experiments were still being created at Marvel and DC well into the 1980s. The last 20 years have been one long rehash of the same ol' characters and ideas at the Big Two, and I feel the deterioration came in the wake of the original Image guys, the emergence of Photoshop and whatever computer coloring and lettering process seeped into the comics industry that cheapened the look of comics, and the rise of the fanboy generation taking over Marvel. (The only real Golden Age going on at ol' Marvel and DC is going on with the Hollywood adaptations...)
On the other hand, from the mid-1990s on, I feel that the rest of comics has become better than ever. The diversity of styles and content going on in "art comics," "alternative," "independent," or whatever you want to call 'em is pretty awesome. The quality of some of the manga reaching the surface in America (whether new or old) is also a revelation.
One good thing about the Internet is that it's made the world smaller and it's easier to explore about great cartoonists from all over the world.
(Of course, the distribution of comics and publishing in general has become a nightmare, but that's another story).
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I was looking at classic comic book covers online and I somehow stumbled onto these doozies. Now I was never the most attentive Harvey Comics reader, so I somehow missed this SERIES (yes, series, not just a special, evidently) when it came out. The artist, Ernie Colon, is a fun artist, by the way, who has contributed to Marvel, DC and Atlas.
I can only assume that this came out in the early 90s or whenever it was that New Kids was consuming my little sister's every thought (she dragged my dad to a New Kids concert and he came out of it with his ears ringing from all of the shrieking 14-year-old girls).
As cheesy and transparently trend-hopping as these comics are (hey, it's Richie Rich, so no shame in making money off of the latest boy band, right?), this is one of the things I find most charming about comic books in general: no, not boy-band tie-ins, I mean the randomness. It's only when they are predictable that comics are boring and disposable (and "so money" of mainstream comics today are!)
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Speaking of SPIDER-MAN, gotta give an extra shout-out to DITKOMANIA #75, one of the best issues of Rob Imes' awesome tribute to the original Spider-Man artist.
Steve Ditko remains one of the most defiantly individual, unique and renegade comic book artists of all time. Few have climbed to such career heights and lows as Ditko, and Ditko has admirably called the shots all along, sometimes at the expense of his career. It's kind of breathtaking and honorable in an industry where most artists do any kind of comic book work to make money.
What's awesome about Imes is the passion he puts into his zine (he took it over from the original editor) and how the humble Xerox-and-staples DIY format of the zine mirrors Ditko, these past two decades a small or self-publisher, whereas Kirby's tribute zine, The Kirby Collector, has production values that reflect Kirby's larger-than-life scale, bombastic style and gigantic fan base. It's interesting how the polar-opposite formats echo the aesthetic of their respective artists. But don't let the homemade appearance fool you: Imes' DITKOMANIA is thorough and hardcore, well-researched, with terrific essays and even discoveries made by its terrific contributing writers. It' as sturdy as Sturdy Steve himself!
DITKOMANIA #75 includes loads of great articles on the work Ditko did for DC Comics, Charlton and Atlas in 1975, and I'm proud to have my DITKOTOMY column on Atlas' Tiger-Man illustrated by Winston Blakely, an artist who pays tribute to Ditko's art without copying his style (no easy feat). Blakely's the visual star of this issue: his sketches of Stalker, Tiger-Man and the Creeper illuminate the issue throughout. The cover is by Larry Blake.
If you're a Ditko fan, this issue is a winner and a good gateway issue into the world of DITKOMANIA! A cover-to-cover read. Highly recommended!
This from the LA TIMES.....
What's the difference between NY and LA?
In NYC, 10,000 superheroes live there and they fight supervillains to protect the world. In LA, the superheroes fight each other over turf to panhandle on.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
JOHN STANLEY is a humor comics guy who is enjoying a cult-of-Nancy Bushmiller-style renaissance among the art comics crowd. It's well deserved. This is not one of those humor comics guys that I enjoyed growing up or was even aware of three years ago. Or perhaps I read some of his stuff but didn't realize it kind of thing.
Nevertheless, as people keep posting Stanley stuff, I'm learning more about the guy's work, and I'm digging it. In the last year, his Woody Woodpecker strips have been posted and his own creation, Melvin Monster, has been collected by Drawn & Quarterly.
More fun stuff......Here's the latest posting of a Clyde Crashcup story.