Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry X-mas and Happy Holidays!!!


Did I just declare war on Christmas? Ahh how silly we are, we little human creatures. Seriously Merry Christmas/X-mas/Kwanza/Holidays/Hanukkah, etc, etc. We all hope your holidays are peaceful and enjoyable times.

Goings on with the studio.... busy. I have had little time to post... I have been swimming, swimming like a shark, always looking for new freelance which can be tenuous at times but has been gradually gaining steam, so very, very busy. As you have read here, sadly the EBEJEEBIES project is on hold due to a situation that cropped up, no fault of ours, we had no control over. The good thing is we own the property and it will come back again, probably next year. Also, between freelance, a lot of work has been done on Theos, new work, and much of it is ending up on the Deviant site. One final thing before I must depart, the forum, sadly, I must report is malfunctioning and frankly broken. This is why we haven't been posting on it. The damn thing won't even let me on. We're going to kill it soon and put a new one up, once we get it working (crazy PHP). I should have posted about this earlier to fill anyone in that might wish to post there, it's simply messed up in the code somewhere and dead, just plain dead. We hope to have the new one working soon so stay tuned, until then you can post on this blog even if you're not a blogger, anyone can. Once again Happy Holidays Everyone Yes it's last year's but unfortunately I've had no time to make a current one for 2005. Next year, next year).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Care and Feeding of Your Artist

This one’s an open letter to all who commission work from an artist, no matter how big or how small (the work, not the artist). It’s a bit of free consultation from someone who’s worked in the industry. It’s a wee bit of wise advice from someone who has suffered and seen friends suffer. Finally, it’s a dose of common sense. Here it is:

Let the artist stand (or fall) on his / her own creativity.

Not too hard a concept, eh? The problem is, if you wield the money, there is the overwhelming (and easy to understand) urge to become an editor, to muck around in the finger paints and put your indelible mark on it.


Just don’t.

Let the artist go.

This is not to say, “Do not give direction” or “Do not provide background”. The more of that there is, the better. But once the parameters have been set, just let go.

Let it go!

It’s kind of like, “If you love something, set it free…” except here it will always come back to you, and it will (90% of the time) be better for it.

Marvel and DC Comics learned this lesson the hard way. For years, they hired talented young artists and writers, and then forced them into a mold. Anyone remember “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way”? And what did they get? Work that looked uniform, exactly the same… which is fine if you’re producing plastic pails or Oreo cookies, but for comics… it got kind of bland. No one could tell any of them apart. Tell me, which Marvel and DC comics sold the best? Remember? The ones by artists whose work looked different than all the other guys’ stuff… McFarlane, Adams, etc. Which stories sold the best? The ones that broke the “Comics Code Authority” mold… Miller’s Dark Knight, Killing Joke, etc.

Which Hollywood movies are best remembered? The blockbusters where every producer has to have a cameo and his own personal script rewrite? Or the focused vision of an unfettered director? Fifty years from now, people will still be watching Blade Runner and Brazil. I doubt I can say the same for Armageddon and Lost in Space.

The key here is to research the artist you wish to hire first. Research him or her thoroughly. Decide if you like their style. Decide if the kind of work they do is what fits your vision. Provide the details of the job, and any background information. Then… let go. If there are corrections needed, consult. But don’t attempt to contort the creative process without reason. It’s like trying to bend a sheet of glass. Pretty soon, everything is in pieces… the vision, and perhaps a pair of sanities.

Granted, there are times when the parameters are pretty tight. I do some freelance writing for projects where there is not a lot of creativity involved. The trick is, I know this going in. And so should any artist for hire.

Mike (and many other freelance artists) have run into situations where the artist is invited to “do whatever” and “have free creative reign” and then… SLAM! Down comes the box. If there is not a lot of room for creativity (like if you want them to copy another’s style exactly), then this must be understood before the start. You won’t scare many artists away, and you will have the respect of those who stay. If the artist refuses a commission, then it’s for the best. Move on. Someone else will do it.

“But I deserve to control the process!” insists the employer. Well… if you don’t trust the artist’s look, sensibilities, and creativity, then why hire them in the first place? Yes, I know. You control the money. But realize this: by trying to micro-manage the artist’s output, by trying to make the image conform to YOUR vision rather than THEIRS, you are getting LESS for your money rather than MORE.

Obviously, there are parameters. If you ask for a color CG rendering of a beautiful girl and get a pencil sketch of a duck wearing bloomers, there is cause for complaint. If you ask for Kate Moss and get Chesty Love, there’s a problem. What I’m trying to say is, don’t sweat the unimportant details. General kinks and small details can be ironed out, and any reasonable artist will make corrections. Just don’t try to make the artist into something they are not.

In summary:

DO be honest about the creative parameters of the job.

DO have an understanding of what you want going in.

DO provide plenty of background details.

DO provide as much reference material as possible.

DO submit any changes as soon as possible.

DO choose the artist based upon their previous work and its suitability to your project.

DO allow the artist to express their own style.

DON’T micromanage.

DON’T think that controlling the money allows you to control the artist.

DON’T make wholesale changes after the work is nearly completed.

DON’T sweat the small stuff.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Immediately deciding to break my vow that there will be less extraneous commentary on this blog, I present... extraneous commentary. No, actually, really, it's related to Detroit, and thus to the Detroit Project. No, really.
By the way, SafeT... keep that drumroll going for a few more days there... that's a good chap.
I found out who's playing the halftime show at Superbowl XL in Detroit! It's the Rolling Stones!
The Rolling Stones?
Normally, I couldn't work up the energy to bother, since the Rolling Stones are about as vanilla and boring a rock act as the world is ever likely to see... and I have no interest in watching the Superbowl... and if I did, I would check out the goofy commercials, then the game... and it would take the threat of forcibly removing my toenails with pliers to get me to watch that steaming pile of offal known as the Superbowl Halftime Show. The only thing that might make it interesting is if Mick Jagger had a wardrobe malfunction and graced 100 million households with the sight of his pastie-covered, withered nipples. On second thought, no. Not even that.
So why, you may ask, are my shorts in a knot?
Because choosing the 'Stones is yet another slap in the face of DETROIT. Yes, that's DETROIT! You know? MOTOWN?????
Does it make any sense at all that a city with as much musical heritage as this one would have ALL OF IT ignored so they could put a bunch of shriveled Brits up there? No offense to any shriveled Brits in the audience, of course...
Instead of Mick n' Keef, how about Stevie Wonder? Diana Ross? The Temptations? What remains of the Four Tops? (I think they just call themselves "The Tops" these days)...
Okay, so Motown isn't what the execs want. How about rock? Alice Cooper? Iggy Pop? What's left of the MC5? Too old school? How about one of the millions of techno artists who started a whole genre? No? How about pop goddess Madonna? Still holding out? How about something real modern, like Kid Rock or Eminem? Actually, seeing as how this is the friggin' Superbowl halftime show and the damn thing goes on for freakin' ever, how about doing a quick complete history of Detroit music? A bit of song from all of the above? WHY NOT?????
Because they're stupid and the whole world hates Detroit. The NFL sucks. Bean counters suck. Marketing people suck.
Because, gee, if you actually honored the MUSIC OF DETROIT the one freaking time you actually hold the damn Superbowl in the CITY OF DETROIT, you might, I don't know, actually have SOMETHING WORTH WATCHING. Then I could keep my toenails and everyone would be happy.
All I can say is, they better let some Detroiter do the national anthem, or I'm getting REALLY mad!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkey Week Update

Happy Turkey Week, everyone!
Mike has suggested that we try to keep the extraneous political commentary to a minumum on the forum, and I generally agree. The reason I delved into Detroit politics the last time (and the reason there have been so few updates) is that there really wasn't much studio news to report. That's changed a little bit.
I don't want to get into many details, but let's just say the work schedule has been shuffled a bit. Mike has some new illustration "day job" opportunities that I'm sure he will fill you in on eventually, while I continue in my standard pattern... scribing away whenever I get a chance, between classes and my own odd jobs.
Observant readers may thus come to wonder: What happened to the EBEJEEBIES animation project?
Um... it was abducted.
Seriously... I don't want to comment just yet, but something...
I'll let you know by next time.
Until then... do a drum roll, please.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Detroit to Suburbia: So There!

This is a bit old news-wise, but it kind of falls into the "notes" section for the Detroit project, so I'll have a go at explaining this to our readers outside the Detroit metro area...
The mayor's job in the city of Detroit was up for grabs this election season, with the young and brash incumbent, Kwame Kilpatrick, up against the cardboard-bland but competent Freman Hendrix. Kilpatrick has had, shall we say, a bit of controversey following him during his first term. The stripper party at the mayoral mansion that never happened, the firing and hushing of police officers because it never happened, the purchasing of luxury personal items on the taxpayer's tab, going to the national mayor's conference flanked by six armed security guys while no other mayor had even one, the ongoing budget crisis which the mayor has not, shall we say, handled too well, etc... Kilpatrick's reply when asked about this stuff has been a familiar one: because he's a young (mid 30s) black man who wears an earring (a big diamond one), people will believe anything... you fill in the blanks.
Freman Hendrix, a vanilla bureacrat who served with an earlier mayor's administration, played himself up as the voice of reason. And it worked, too. He held double-digit leads all the way up until the final week, when his percentage slipped into the single digits. Still, no problem. He led by 6% going into election day.
So what happened? Kwame won by 10%. Even a controversey over some absentee ballots and screwed-up voter rolls (allowing certain deceased residents of Detroit to vote, in the ultimate show of equality in suffrage) would not make any difference to the large margin. There were no signs of fraud, either... at least, not nearly big enough to cover the margin of vistory. Obviously, something odd had happened...
It was the reason for this oddity that got me to write this entry. It seems that the mainstream Detroit media, which is mostly aimed at the suburbs, had universally endorsed Hendrix and ragged on Kilpatrick. Detroit has, shall we say, a unique relationship with its suburbs. Each one blames the other for its woes (both are wrong). Each one believes it can survive without the other (both are wrong). Detroit is the most racially stratified suburb-city combo in America, and neither side really wants to work with the other. During the administration of Coleman Young, which lasted 20 years (1974-1994), suburb-bashing was made a sport, the refrain from which he built his political agenda. The suburbs hate us. The suburbs are full of racist whites who want to see the city sink. Yeah, yeah. The sad part is, Young was at least partially right...
Now Kilpatrick has picked up the refrain. He insinuated during the campaign that it was the suburbs that were really pulling for Hendrix (even though, of course, they couldn't vote for him). The suburban-controlled media were trying to influence a Detroit election! And we Detroiters all know we can't trust the suburbs. It got pretty ugly, with a few of Kilpatrick's people even suggesting that those Detroiters who didn't vote for their man were either supporting the white elite... or just "not black enough".
It worked. The youth vote turned out in droves. They voted overwhelmingly for Kilpatrick. He's back in power until at least 2010.
And so it was... an election turned into a huge bronx cheer, aimed at the suburbs.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I am not a resident of Detroit myself. I'm not going to judge. But I wonder if the people of the city really looked at how Kilpatrick has managed their wonderful town, or if they indeed felt powerless enough that they would sacrifice the city's financial solvency simply to say "stuff it" to the suburbs. It may have felt satisfying, but with receivership looming for the city and Kilpatrick's track record of budgetary incompetence, it may prove to be a costly "nyah-nyah", indeed.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What Friends Are For...

One of the best things about friends is that even if you don't agree with them, they can make you think.
I dropped by the studio today to visit Mike and we ended up getting into a debate about a comic series. I absolutely adore the series and had loaned him the reprint volumes, expecting an equally enthusiastic response and a glowing report. I was surprised that he felt it had major shortcomings. Oddly enough, what I felt was its greatest strength (the writing, most notably the pacing) was what he saw as its greatest weakness. We went back and forth, and I left, still thinking about how two fellows who see eye to eye on a lot of stuff could see the same thing so differently. Brain-gears turning, I realized that the dynamics in our conversation related back to both a former blog post AND to some problems that the world faces today.
I wrote a few months back about how writers can create any sort of universe they want to, but to sell their vision to an audience, the logic of that series has to be internally self-consistent. This was the first point where we differed: I felt that the cues in the storyline were not only perfectly adequate to explain the character's reaction, but the characters' reactions themselves were important parts of the information process. Mike disagreed, because he felt that the character reactions did not adequately inform about the universe's background. That's fine; we have differing opinions. It was the realization I had in the car that was most interesting (to me, anyway).
It's not just that the internal logic of the story must be consistent. The audience must have some sort of contextual knowledge of that logic. What do I mean by this? Let's take a controversial comedian... say, Sarah Silverman (who uses a lot of normally taboo racial nomenclature and subjects in her act). If you were given a transcript of one of her stand-up routines without any surrounding context and asked to read it, you would no doubt conclude that she is a racist. However, seeing her live, hearing her delivery, watching her body language, and understanding her intent and purpose… to make fun, in an ultra-dry, tongue-in-cheek way, of the racists themselves… you would come to a totally different conclusion. Her routine is logically consistent within the boundaries she sets, and thus her controversial material can be safely laughed at.
This was the reason (one of them) it took awhile for Japanese comics to catch on in the U.S. The cultural context was totally different, as was the subject matter (which is a different level of cultural context). Once folks here began to understand the cultural cues and embrace the wider range of subjects, it caught on like wildfire. It wasn't that the humor wasn't funny, or the action didn't make sense... the U.S. audience had to learn a new shorthand, a new series of symbols, a new "language" of visual representation in order to accurately decode the foreign art and writing styles.
It's kind of like reading Shakespeare... "Get thee to a nunnery!" sounds like an odd thing for our pal Hamlet to say to Ophelia... even comical. When you know that "nunnery" is Elizabethan slang for "whorehouse", the statement becomes a lot more forceful and insulting. Either way, we know Shakespeare was going for a poke to the audience's ribs... but knowing something of the context (folks in Elizabethan times knew full well what ol' Will was trying to say) gives us a better understanding and a new appreciation.

In our debate, it seems that I’m more familiar with the genre and setting that the author of the comic series is attempting to parody, as well as a bigger fan of the associated movies, folktales, and books. In other words, no one is right or wrong here… I just “get it” on a different level, because I happen to be a fan of the associated culture. In the same way, Mike can enjoy “Kill Bill” a lot more than me because he has a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the associated genres being paid homage to AND of the shorthand of the action / martial arts film, which I am admittedly unfamiliar with.
So, applying this to the world at large… it’s more than just getting the fellow across the negotiation table to agree with you. It’s getting them to understand the underlying logic and context of the deal… as well as making sure that both sides have an equal interest, or at least an equal stake, in the matter under discussion.

In short… one person’s garbage is another’s treasure. Now, hopefully, I’ve explained why.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Vulne Pro: Augmented now with Deviant gallery, tastes like chicken!

You read that right... hi-keeba!

Anyway, joking aside I started a satellite Vulne Pro gallery (can be found on the sidebar links as well) at Deviant to bring in some extra exposure to our little haunt on the net and simply because at the moment it's faster to upload works there than to deal with the reworking of the site. There's just been so much going on this seemed like a good alternative and frankly it's one of the best art communities on the net because it deals with ALL forms of art, not just any one discipline, movement, style, technique, or genre of creative arts. I can't help but find that the best place to mingle with other artists and already in my short time there posting (pretty much older works at the moment due to having the short on the plate currently) I've already met a good deal of talented artists. So for those of you who have been following this site and blog, hoping to see new arts this gallery will be getting them first and yes I will still post works here as well.

Also I've added in our friends links Tom Dow's site. He's a professional animation layout illustrator, freelance, and overall artist with an impressive resume and boatloads of talent. Please swing by his site and check him out, you won't be sorry. I'll also be adding links to others soon. Until next time, cheers!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Taking a Stand... By Keeping Her Seat

Yes, I know, it's been forever. We continue to work hard. But tonight, a short aside:
I just heard on the news that Rosa Parks passed away. Ms. Parks, of course, needs no introduction. As the woman on that Alabama bus half a century ago, she helped ignite a movement that changed our country for the better, for folks of all races. A long-time Detroit resident, Ms. Parks will be terribly missed... but her lesson lives on. Rich or poor, great or small, whatever color you are... standing up for what is right is something all of us must do.
Who knows... you might just change the world.
Rest in peace, Ms. Parks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dem aliens, dem aliens!

Ola folks!

Just wanted to drop in a quick update with the goings on here at the little studio. EBEJEEBIES is pretty much the main thing on our plate, or I should say my plate as it's the artwork that is to be completed. Scene after scene, frame after frame it's moving along. Though only a short film, more a teaser or trailer it still requires a great deal of illustrations and time. I thought now would be a good time to post some peeks at the short and so below are some frame from 3 different cuts. I pretty much just had 2 blackhole days due to an evil cold I got and am just coming out of the worst of it (tip folks BUY these, they work, trust me). So now it's back to work, more aliens to be drawn, more backgrounds to be painted but hell it's plenty of fun so I'm not complaining, not at all :) We'll keep you posted. Till next time, shalom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The second frame in the first cut of the short. Here out nutty aliens saucer kicks the speed action in and breaks the sound barrier causing one of those nifty halo discharges of vapor around the saucer.  Posted by Picasa

Shot of the saucer blasting down from above, the halo from breaking the sound barrier fading away above.  Posted by Picasa

The saucer as it continues to move off camera.  Posted by Picasa

A random frame of 25 plus of the saucer flying over the mountains in Utah and a rabbit fleeing the scene. Yes, animation is typicaly 24 frames a second but this is going to be limited yet still get the idea of motion across. Advision will be stringing the images together in Adobe After Effects so this will be more in the vein of Flash animation.  Posted by Picasa

One of several frames of a rabbit hopping over the hill in fear of the saucer 'o' fools that previously flew over.  Posted by Picasa

And our wiley bunny hops away to freedom.  Posted by Picasa

This was a fun shot with all the random lightning and lighting effects. It's only going to be a short cut but it's still important to make those short images look good.  Posted by Picasa

Crazy 50-ish sci-fi Vander Graf Tesla lightning action. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Like Busy little bees.

Yes indeedy I'm swimming in a sea of EBEJEEBIES busy, working away on a short for Advision, a short that will likely lead to bigger things once completed. It's a lot of hard work and pretty much the primary and only thing I'll be dealing with until mid-October. Work on the Basilea project, all three separate projects, hasn't utterly halted but is pretty much in the background until the EBEs is done. As Jeff explained we're working on a short Flash style (actually it will be Adobe Aftereffects) animation that will be used for larger opportunities, including television possibilities and advertising on Advision's plasma screen TV screens they run ad content on. So I'm plugging away on some 80 plus cuts of which any number might contain multiples of drawings for animated elements. It's gonna be interesting to say the least and huge if it all works out.

This eve Jeff and Bill Kuehl (a cool guy Jeff met who has done voice acting and is a fine, fine artist in his own right. He will be doing some of the voices for the short) just finished building a soundbooth for recording the voices for the short. We'll be handling as much of the Production on our own as we can, including voices, as time is short. So essentially Bill will handle several characters, Jeff might end up doing one, Gina Stevens will probably doing the voice for Amanda, and we may have another voice to be cast. That should be fun but with all of this not exactly easy. Stay tuned as we will provide info as we can. There will be images from this project when we're ready to show them.

On non EBE fronts (would have posted much sooner but it's been pretty busy of late) we have done several shoots for the Detroit project, one at John King Books on August 5th (A sample of some of the images below). It was the first shoot we did there at night and actually arranged with John King himself to have access to the building after close. The primary purpose of the shoot was ot record the atmosphere and feel the building has at night, both inside and outside. Lighting tends to be quite signifigant in how much it changes and effects the sense of atmosphere a location has, what we got was some interesting results. I very much like the atmosphere the building has in the evening, quite cool and fitting the neo noir feel of much of the work I do. For this shoot, for the first time Tim Philips came along and brought with him his new Canon 3.2 Megapixel Powershot digital camera and he took some amazing images with it. This camera took some of the best night images we have at this point, very impressive photos. Sadly his camera just died this weekend and that's a shame as he was getting very good with it. I just picked up my own Canon, a 5 megapixel powershot during a sale, I love it though I would have been just as happy with the one Tim had (The sale only worked with a certain price point the 5 pixel was just hovering at). I've barely used this camera but I expect I will be putting it through its paces eventually. Our last shoot as August 22n'd, Tim, Gina, and myself, I took my new camera along for that shoot and got some fine images with little practice... still there's a lot to learn.

Lastly I have some sites I wish to tip a nod to with some linkage action (I have added several to the sidebar). Gina just purchased a new computer, a very nice Mac powerbook, and with the new machine has been having fun being able to accomplish basic and complex computer tasks once again (Her previous laptop was suffering from a severe case of memory and power deficiency). She has put up her own online photo gallery which will have some images she selected herself to share of her participation in the Detroit project, feel free to peep it out folks. We feel her efforts to help and contribute have been utterly invaluable as her company on many shoots. Also Mark has informed me his friend Doren, who is a producer of music and hip hop, is re-running on his site Eyeonki an old project I did with Drunkenstyle, Hypertide. It's a blast from the past to see it again. Vulne Pro did conceptual designs for the webcomic that had originally run on the now defunct Fantasticon multimedia site. Speaking of Drunkenstlye, they have launched their own blog which can be found here, go check it out folks. A lot of update but it's been awhile since I could post, back to the busy bee thing for me. Cheers!

Detroit skyline from the roof of John King. The amber sodium vaper glow is the primary wash of color the city basks in during the evening. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

John King 4th floor, book hallway at sunset. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

This is the most beautiful night image of The Guardian we have gotten thus far. Again the blue violet sky is rather striking. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

Photo of the south east section of John King, 4th floor. This is where the main character of the Detroit 2042 Basilea project lives. This will be Cricket's room. I dig the overexposure the lights have. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

Detroit ablaze with night lights and a beautifully blue violet sky. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

This is a wild shot, very neo noir. Again the only light source here is the red glow of the neon sign. The fact that Tim's camera caught this kind of low light high contrast image was pretty impressive. He's gotten fairly comfortable with using it, it's a total pisser it died on him. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

A shot of one of the westside windows on the 4th floor of John King bathed in the neon red glow of the books sign. It was the only light source in the building for this shot. In the background we can see the MGM Grand Casino. Photo by Tim Philips 8/5/2005 Posted by Picasa

A gorgeous shot of John King at night. The bluegreen lighting is quite nicely enhanced by the ability of Canon's Powershot series to get great images at night, I love these cameras. Photo by Tim Philips 8\5\2005 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 20, 2005


As promised, a little EBEJEEBIES news...
We're in full swing... or rather, Mike is in full swing and I am offering moral support and voice acting talent wrangling. Mike has a little over a month to do lots and lots of drawing... go! go! go! I have to figure out how to record voices, what to do about music, etc.
The goal, in association with Advision media of Arizona, is to produce six to eight minutes of comedy gold which can be sold to a cable network. I penned the script, we bashed it around, we cut the thing into scenes... bringing us to that scary fulcrum point, where you have everything invested in a project, yet it is still at that uncertain and nebulous stage where two thoughts constantly snake their way though your mind... One: Can we really do this? Two: Is it going to be any good?
My answers- Yes, and of course it is. Doing this stuff for fifteen years, you do tend to gain some confidence. Not to mention a furious desperation to finally succeed.
More news as it happens...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Anima-l Magic Revisited

Okay, not really a new installment, but more of an addendum...
Mike pointed out that I may have sounded a bit too didactic, or stuffy, or otherwise unclear in my intentions in the last post... so I aim to clear things up.
Okay... basically, in reference to the Toren Smith / Adam Warren thing in the last post... which I will freely admit is a very old piece of beef that has been stuck in my craw for many years... there is nothing wrong with cheesecake. There is nothing wrong with women wearing sexy outfits. I realize that, yes, the convention scene has changed radically since I was a regular attendee (in the early 90s) from fat, unwashed fanboys to beautiful young women wearing fetish gear and hot anime chick costumes... and what they wear at Daytona Beach and other hot spots speaks for itself... so... yes, I DO realize that women DO wear clothes like this. I DO realize that cheesecake can be fun. My POINT was that cheesecake inserted for the sake of cheesecake- i.e., in a situationt hat makes no sense- like, say, professional women wearing bikinis to the same workplace where the men wear suits... is dumb. Wearing silver bikinis for police work is dumb, unless, like the Dirty Pair (which I won't abbreviate using its initials, which mean something very different these days) it is a work of parody. My issue with Smith and Warren was that they (or whoever responded to the letter) tried to claim that the Dirty Pair were, in some way, justified in a real-world sense in wearing what they wore. Look... Parody is parody. The universe you create only works if it obeys its own internal logic. Not necessarily the logic of the real world, but the logic as defined by the work itself. Let's take Cowboy Bebop... we can accept little spaceships being driven and used much like we use cars, as silly as that might seem, because the show established it. We know that Ein is smarter than any real dog, and we accept it, because the show established that. If, however, halfway through the show, we had a scene where Spike walks out of his spaceship's airlock and swims to the surface of Jupiter, it would be jarring... because everything before that indicates that he is a normal human who is not immune to the various rigors posed by hard vacuum.
Mike also pointed out to me that GitS Stand Alone Complex was attempting to justify Kusanagi's bizarre wordrobe choices by backfilling the story so that the social mores match her clothing. This is good, but obviously rather silly... the mores should have been established first. They weren't because the director thought it would be cool to have his main female character dress like a cheap sex doll, and the fan outcry was so bad that they had to justify it... but not bad enough to justify going back and fixing it. But let's say I can accept it... fine, no problem, the society allows women to dress like this in professional circumstances, and furthermore the women do so willingly (I wonder- if the justification is that Kusanagi is so proud of her body, seeing as how she gets shot at pretty regularly, wouldn't she want to wear some kind of practical armor over it instead of a frilly swimsuit?) , then why don't the guys do it, too? I mean, Batou has a godlike physique... why not show up in a G-string and motorcycle boots? (Urgh...) Not the kind of thing I would love looking at... but fair's fair. Do the creators of GitS think that their potential women audience members are all interested in seeing every crevice of Kusanagi? What? The creators don't care? Because... perhaps... it's still mostly a guy thing?
Enough on this. Anyone out there wish to comment?
Next time, a new subject. We get into some news about the rapidly-progressing EBEJEEBIES animated short project. Until next time...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Anima-l Magic

The last installment (for now) asks the question...
Why can't fictional women (in film, in comics, in animation) wear functional clothes?
Why, why why?
Part of the reason is, of course, that horny guys dominate the industry. But the women who work in this industry also allow it...
Why, why, why?
I recall clearly, many years ago, a letter written to the makers of the American "Dirty Pair" comic. The comic was produced, if I remember, with the blessings of the Pair's creator, and was basically an expansion of their universe. It was done by the creative team of Toren Smith and Adam Warren, two nice guys that I got to know a little back in the StuRev days (tales for another time). They seemed like intelligent, balanced fellows, and I will say that I deeply admire their work... but they lost me on the occasion of that letter... the letter writer basically said that the DP's uniforms were stupid. Indeed, they are... the writer, I think, missed the point that the DP were basically a parody- a non-serious, cheesecakey bit of fun. What I didn't anticipate was that Smith and Warren would miss the point as well... the response was indignant, letting the letter writer know that the costumes weren't dumb, that women wore stuff like that in real life.
Okay, sure they do... but for police work? Going beyond the fact that the DP's shiny silver bikinis don't offer much in the way of modesty, they also offer nothing in the way of protection... or convenience (one function of clothes is to have pockets and other places to stow equipment). I am pretty confident in saying that (unless the investigation is taking place at a beach and the officer is undercover) no woman would wear a uniform like that in the line of duty.
That always stuck with me... and I have seen the same pattern repeated over and over again (a similar letter, years later, to the creators of the horrible "Shi" comic was similalry rebuffed in the pages of the Comic Journal, up until now, when the competent and otherwise well-written Major Kusanagi gets to wear a French Maid / one piece swimsuit affair instead of real clothes in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex).
Why, why, why?
I hate this sort of thing. It makes me cringe...
So I try to keep the cringe in mind when thinking about what characters will wear. Often, I err too much on the side of conservatism, as Mike (after wanting to stave my head in after yet another debate on the subject, dealing with my neuroses) will be quick to tell you.
One thing I can guarantee... if you see any French Maid outfits in the Detroit Project, I promise they will be in context. Otherwise, the women get to wear normal... and fully functional... and realistic... clothing.
Any comments?

Friday, July 29, 2005


Continuing where I left off...
So, what is it that's so hard about writing the opposite gender? On the surface, not much. Women are the moral and intellectual equals of men. They are also human beings, and all human beings have feelings and issues in common. So far, so good.
I guess the first stumbling block is that while I know that I don't harbor any (or many) sexist attitudes, my audience doesn't know that. At least, the audience who doesn't know me, which is pretty much all of them. So when I create a character, there's almost certainly someone out there who's going to scream "stereotype!!!" or some such... You may ask, why do I care? I'm a writer, and having the skin of a rhino is part of the job requirement. It's just something about the label... call me all sorts of names and they bounce off my invincible shield, but label me a sexist (or a racist) and it HURTS. Even if the critic is wrong-headed in doing so... This has happened a couple of times to me already. It will happen again, since women tend to be very sensitive to this sort of thing (and well they should be. It's 2005 and women still aren't officially, socially, governmentally, religiously, etc. on par with the guys... what the hell gives?!) But I digress...
The second problem is my lack of objectivity. I like women. I like women a lot. So when I write them, there is a tendency to idealize the characters too much.
The third problem is that I'm not a woman, and as such I can only make educated guesses about certain aspects of experiencing womanhood. I am similarly handicapped when writing minorities, being a white dude and all... I will say I am a little better off than most of my fellow majority, having experienced real, live racism. While in Japan, I got to be the minority! What fun, being constantly stopped by the fuzz and asked if my bike / car / computer bag was stolen, having folks gawk and stare at me, having folks cross to the other side of the street to avoid me, going to a blood drive and being told they wouldn't take my blood because I was caucasian, etc. etc. etc. What an eye-opener! A nice, solid reality brickbat to the skull. Wakey wakey! That was, quite seriously, probably the most valuable experience of my life, bar none... Talk about connecting to your fellow human in a way you never could before... now when friends tell me of similar experiences, I can do a little more than just nod in uncomfortable sympathy... I can generate a little righteous outrage of my own.
So, being in this kind of unfamiliar position, I got to learn a little bit about discrimination first hand, and learn that aspect... but as far as being able to really, really understand the biological differences... well, that's pretty much impossible, at least with current technology (I don't see a VR sim for PMS or pregnancy becoming available anytime soon- probably not high on the designer's drawing board). So... I'll never be able to fill in the gaps with 100% conviction.
Thank goodness, though, I have a lot of female friends that I can ask questions to who will not laugh at me no matter how pathetic and ignorant I may sound... so I soldier on.
More to come...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Anima Enema

As the title suggests, this contains my thoughts on trying to write... women.
Hmm, women.
The old joke is,of course, that man and wo-man (or womyn or womyyn or wzbrkrgz or however you'd like to spell it) are different species, perhaps not originating from the same planet.
This, of course, is not true. I think. It is perfectly normal for me to be awakened at 3 am by my lovely wife, who is attempting to suck out my eyeballs with the suction-cup tip of her prehensile tongue while ramming her ovipositor into my belly button... er, no, that was a dream I had.
The fact is, in my writing over the years, I have noticed that a great percentage of the main characters are of the female persuasion. Why is this? Does it matter?
I've written two novels in my lifetime, the second of which may be worth a darn upon editing. In the first, a woman (actually an adolescent girl) is the main character, and in the second, two women (plus a dysfunctional man and a rabbit) are the main characters. I've written women for comics, women for scripts, and the main character in the great upcoming not-yet-titled-because-the-overarching-theme-has-yet-to-be-determined-and-it's-driving-
us-batty Detroit project is a woman, too. It seems that 70% of my main characters are women, most of whom have really f**ked-up pasts. Why is this? Does it matter?
The women I write about are usually younger than me. They are never normal people, being either deeply socially maladjusted or just plain haunted by circumstance ( then again, if they didn't have problems, would they be interesting characters?) Why is this? Does it matter?
I've always been fascinated with women... and no, not just in a physical sense. What I mean is that I like the way women approach their inner lives. I like the way they approach problems. Generally speaking, of course. Though I hate to stereotype, I do think it's true that women are less confrontational, less competetive, more cooperative, more clever in their approach to things. I've always felt I have a "feminine" way of looking at things. (Now I have to grunt and watch a football game to recover my flagging masculinity. Snort. Go Lions!)
So, maybe this is my way of getting in touch with my anima. The relationship is not always pretty, though- I am a logical creature by nature, and overreliance on emotion drives me bonkers. Still, at least I'm attempting to deal with it. Many guys I know refuse to admit such a thing exists and feel they have to do stuff (like grunt and watch football games) to recover their masculinity. Oh, wait...
More on this, along with, perhaps, some actual concrete examples, coming up...

Friday, July 22, 2005

A veritable cornucopia of images today

Howdy good infobahn surfers. I'm a little later in posting than I planned but that's ok, been quite busy working on EBEJEEBIES material for something pending in the future. Well, as Jeff said I had the photos from our last shoot (didn't post any of the 35mm photos yet though, some of those soon too) and I have indeed posted quite a few below. The shoot was fun, a little different this time in choice of locations. I also fired up my old, but very nice, Sharp HI-8 Viewcam, which has a nifty 16:9 widescreen feature. I haven't used it in some time because the silly battery was pretty much dead and for outdoor shoots you pretty much need a working battery... so I finally bought a new one . It was very nice to add it to the arsenal of equipment. All this craziness for an animated show, all these photos yet no art... no wait, yes some art IS to be seen tonight. With that I wanted to post some more illustrations for the show as this isn't really supposed to be a photo blog about Detroit... not that it's been a bad thing. There are 2 in-process and unfinished and the final image art for a Vox Kali piece. There will be plenty more to come but it might be a little while as EBEJEEBIES is full speed at the moment and will eat up plenty of time.

Image art shot, in-process, of the spiraling pathway that exits Joe Louis Arena's parking structure. This entire bit o architecture is a bloody retro 60 Logan's Run freakout, very cool. I also loved the orange wash of lighting the real location has. It pretty much looks just like the artwork here. This artwork is actually based on a lightboxed Mavica photo I took. Lightboxing saves time and allows accurate renditions of real world location but don't let that fool you, it's a HELL of a lot of work to draw and paint anyway, still very much a creative process. There will be a lot more graff, dirt, and posters added to this shot. The posters are fun but tedious. I have to go in, by hand, and paint in all the rips (white edges where the paper would be coming off due to the tears) on the tears and it's pretty time consuming but is indeed an enjoyable challenge.
Posted by Picasa

An image art piece in-process, of the Comerica Tower. Hella lot of billboards there and bloomin windows. This is the first experiment in using our photos directly to lightbox some of the more time-consuming shots of the city. It came to me that, although I can render this stuff by hand, without question, why waste time inefficiently when I can utilize our own photos and compositions to render some parts of the city quickly and accurately (all character illustrations I do by hand though. I'm only utilizing this process with architecture). With this in mind I thought I'd try doing some blow ups of some of the photos and lightboxing the images for the base illustrations. In essence I'm treating these images as filmmakers treat a matt painting in a live action film. The base elements of the image, Comerica Tower, are the real location but then I have to add everything fictional that isn't there, all the 2042 stuff. There will be 3 floating police cars in the final image as well, cell shaded. So as much as this is a time saver it's still tedious and a lot of work either way. It's an enjoyable approach though and in the end this is about selling ideas not technique or process. Posted by Picasa

The final image art piece of Vox Kali standing, in defensive posture, on some fictional roof in 2042 Detroit. This piece was all about the atmosphere and evoking that sense of neo-noir neon soaked nights. I had a lot of fun with this one and it sets the look of future night images of the city. The very "directed" color of this image along with the real sodium vapor amber color of Detroit will give this project's art direction a look I just don't really see happening in anime. It's a very real and stylized look. The background here is all imagination. Vox is, of course, based on Gina and I'm happy to post the final piece. There's a posting of this art in an early stage here. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. The Guardian soaking up the afternoon sun. No matter how many times I see it I'm impressed, quite a piece of architectural genius. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. It was a very clear day with the sun reflecting on the building sides if you looked up at the right angle. Even with the iffy Mavica it allowed for some nice shots. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. A very cool umbilical walkway joining these two building in the city. Stuff like this always makes for cool images whether in the real world setting or in a futuristic setting with lots of fictional flourishes. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. Another interesting installation. Clearly from the shot the buildings are caked with oil and grease and you could smell it in the air quite distinctly. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. Blade Runner 2 the Quickening 2020 Detroit... or something. More Rouge/Zug industry. Mmmm, that oil and sulfur I smell... yeah. Living near these things must be a joy. Posted by Picasa

Mavica shot. I don't remember exactly where this was during the trip, I just remember thinking it was a very cool looking drawbridge tower. I know I saw another like it at a different location, least I thought I did. Posted by Picasa