|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Saturday, September 11, 2010 |
( 9/11/2010 06:12:00 AM ) Bill S.
WEEKEND PET PIC: Here's a shot of house guest Bailey Cat:
THE USUAL NOTE: For more cool pics of companion animals, please check out Modulator's "Friday Ark."
Friday, September 10, 2010
( 9/10/2010 06:59:00 AM ) Bill S.
SO ARE THEY ALL HONORABLE BLOODSUCKERS: If you’re sick of vampires as the go-to mode for the modern Bryonic protagonist, chances are you’ll want to skip the new Wildstorm comic, Ides of Blood. Set in 44BC Rome, the mini-series posits a past where Julius Casear includes a piece of Transylvania in his conquests -- and its vampire citizens were brought back to Rome in silver chains. A few of these bloodsuckers have managed to lift themselves out of slavery in the years since, but the division between living and the undead remains.
When a series of Roman aristos start getting bumped off, Valens, the vampiric head of the Praetorian Guard, is brought in to investigate. His investigation takes him to the “blood brothels” of Fang’s Alley, but not before a soothsayer shows up to warn our hero to “Beware the Ides of March.” Yup, the events in this series are set right within the frame of Skakespeare’s play, though from the cover of the first ish (Caesar surrounded by his assassins, one of whom is sporting fangs), it’s clear writer Stuart Paul and Christian Duce are working to put a modern fantasy spin on things.
Perhaps they’re working a little too hard, however, as writer Paul’s dialog occasionally comes across more TV cop show than it needs to be. (“Drained him dry,” a surly drunken Marc Antony states as he examines the bloated corpse of a murder victim. “Must have been one hungry bastard.”) Still Christian Duce’s art, aided by Carlos Badilla’s scarlet/orange tinged colorings, effectively captures the alt world Roman setting: more believably than the 1953 movie version of Julius Caesar, say. Duce’s treatment of the desolate Fang’s Alley is especially convincing.
It all ties into a vampire rebellion simmering in the story background, which promises much bloody action beyond the inevitable Et tu, Brute in upcoming issues. How in tune you’ll be with all this pulp fabulism may depend on your fondness for vampire fiction or warped revisions of the Bard, though. I'll admit I’m more intrigued by the latter. Do they still make students plow through that play in high school?
(First published on Blogcritics.)
Labels: fifteen-minute comic# |
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
( 9/08/2010 09:20:00 PM ) Bill S.
MID-WEEK MUSIC VIDEO: Howlin' Wolf from 1964. Nothing more needs to be written.
Monday, September 06, 2010
( 9/06/2010 11:31:00 AM ) Bill S.
“THIS IS PART OF OUR JOB AS WELL, SIR!” A two-volume spin-off from a popular Japanese teleseries, Makoto Tateno’s Happy Boys (Doki Doki/DMP) followqs a quintet of young men who work at a butler café known as Lady Braganza. In Braganza, the all-male staff act like proper servants as they serve tea and cakes to their predominately female clientele. Within this rarefied setting, the ambience is just as important as the food, so three of our young “footmen” are trainees learning the ins-and-outs of being an old-fashioned manservant. That all five of these happy boys are regular guys away from their job sparks much of the series’ humor.
Thus, in volume one’s first of four episodes (called “drips” to go with the tea motif), we’re shown our fivesome on the job, while the following episode takes us to the apartment where the boys share living quarters. Dorming together is a part of the job: as head butler Katano intones, “You’ll learn to respect each other” living in close quarters. At this point in the story, though, what they mainly do is get on each others’ nerves.
Though the cover to the first volume displays all five footmen, the story focus is primarily on the three trainees: Shiva, Renjo and Ivory. (These are the names of their servant personas: each character has their own name used outside the café -- which can get a trifle confusing at first for the reader.) Of the three, Shiva (a.k.a. Kyoichi) struggles most to maintain his role, occasionally speaking in “common form” to the customers, but he’s also the most openhearted. His bespectacled roommate Ivory (Kosuka) is the most knowledgeable but has yet to achieve the proper deferential attitude for the job. Somewhere in between the two is light-haired Renjo (Junta), who claims to have once been the number one man at a “host club” (a bar where male servers attend the female customers). All three have been selected as trainees by the café’s invisible owner, who sees the potential that each has to become a great butler.
Our trio knock against each other like Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple, though in a pinch we know they’ll help each other out. In one episode, for instance, Shiva appears to be dating one of the café’s customers -- a definite no-no -- so the rest of our quintet follows him to a park rendezvous. In another, first footman Silk (Gen) is inadvertently seen by a customer as he rehearses a play in the park; he is subsequently suspended for this mishap. “We mustn’t disturb the dream for when they visit us,” head butler Katano solemnly states.
If the idea of a café catering to upstairs/downstairs fantasies seems more than a little outré in “class-less” America, the struggles of starting and learning a new job, of getting along with contentious co-workers, crosses cultures. Tateno, first known in this country for yaoi manga like Yellow, handles this teen-rated material relatively straightly. The only explicitly gay bits in the book come from the poofy patissier Kitchi, who has an unrequited crush on Ivory and is presumably a carryover from the teleseries. All of the main characters are modeled after the actors who played them, and while some artists may get hamstrung by this choice, it doesn’t appear to hamper Tateno, who makes her young male heroes expressive if not always as visually distinct as they could be.
As a workplace sit-dramedy, Happy Boys proves more entertaining than I know I expected it to be. If you told me beforehand that I’d be enjoying a comic with a setting devoted to celebrating the class differences of a thankfully bygone world, I’d have probably answered back with a condescending yeah right chuckle. Like the arrogantly brainy Ivory/Kosuka, I’ve still got a few things to learn.
(First published on Blogcritics.)
Labels: sixty-minute manga# |
Sunday, September 05, 2010
( 9/05/2010 08:59:00 AM ) Bill S.
“CONSPIRACY THEORIES ARE FOR OLD PROFESSORS!” Produced in collaboration with a non-profit advocacy group called Privacy Activism, Networked: Carabella on the Run (NBM) is a cautionary graphic novel about the ways we’ve so willingly abandoned our rights to privacy in the techno age. Scripted by Gerard Jones and illustrated by Mark Badger, the comic tells the tale of a blue-skinned college girl who’s an escapee from another dimension. She meets up with Nick Schumer, an engineer designing a new type of shoes, “perfect trainers,” that can gauge the wearer’s physical responses. After he inadvertently gets hold of some hairy technology from Carabella’s world, the hyper-inventive Nick juices up his prototype shoes so that they can connect to the world wide social networking web. Once a greedy venture capitalist latches onto Nick and his creation, the results could mean the world-wide enslavement of humankind.
Author Jones builds this alarmist scenario comically: starting out with the small ways that social networking can provide information about ourselves to the world at large. When our initially camera-shy blue skinned girl gets her photo snapped at a party by a fellow student who puts it on a FaceSpace page, she gets a lot of unwanted attention from a group of female Star Wars fanatics. Later, when Nick sells his first batch of web-connected shoes, he has to face a group of p.o.ed customers who’ve had revealing upskirt shots posted on the web. This is all small-scale compared to the dangers faced by Carabella, Nick and friends once some creepy types from our heroine’s repressive dimension show up and join forces with the smarmy venture capitalist.
Jones, a comics pro and pop historian who first became known with the parody spy series The Trouble with Girls, is skilled at keeping things lightly humorous without belying the seriousness of his themes. Written toward a young adult readership, Networked occasionally comes close to over-pushing his points, but aided by Badger’s crafty art -- capable of wittily quoting Kirby and the modernists in a single panel -- its core didacticism never overwhelms either plot or characters. In the world of Networked, the enemy of personal freedom is less our government and more avaricious moneymen (in collusion with the gummint, of course) looking for ways to mold a compliant consumer class. In its way, this book reads like a lighter updating of seventies era paranoid movie thrillers like The Conversation. Some story conflicts never lose their relevance -- unfortunately.
(First published on Blogcritics.)
Labels: modern comics# |