Saturday, January 31, 2009

La forma de Buckingham

Como os decía no hace mucho, hace poco me tragué la primera temporada de The Tudors prácticamente sin pestañear, y tal y como me pasó con Al Swearengen en Deadwood, me sorprendí a mí mismo dibujando mentalmente a un par de personajes de la serie (y desnudando a otras, aunque el esfuerzo mental no era necesario). Uno de ellos era el protagonista, el rey Enrique VIII, a quien dibujé mentalmente varias veces en plan caricaturesco y a quien tal vez trate de trasladar al papel en el futuro cercano. El otro personaje en cuestión era el Duque de Buckingham, pero a éste lo veía más como un dibujo animado que como una caricatura o un retrato.

Por otro lado, hacía poco había leido unas declaraciones del dibujante Skottie Young en las que insistía en que las formas y los bloques más que ayudar son imprescindibles a la hora de crear personajes. Mirando a Buckingham, interpretado en la serie por Steven Waddington, podía ver claramente lo que Young quería decir. Podía ver cómo la forma de la cabeza, cuello y hombros del amigo creaban un bloque imposible de ignorar, y cómo dicha forma transmitía unas sensaciones particulares: fuerza, arrogancia, indomabilidad.

Después de dibujarlo mentalmente varias veces y de imaginármelo en una película de dibujos animados, decidí intentar dibujarlo. Lo hice sin fotos u otras referencias, y éste es el resultado. Creo que recuerda al actor (el color ayudaría), y me parece que transmite las mismas impresiones que en la serie. O eso, o es que me estoy tirando el rollo de artistazo chachi guay y no sé ni lo que digo. De todas formas, ahí queda el dibujillo. Enjoy!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reading List: January

The first month of 2009 ends with the first Reading List of the year. Four books and seven graphic novels sounds like an acceptable balance for January, don’t you think? Let’s see what I read this month:

Which Lie Did I Tell?
This book by William Goldman is packed with funny bits, interesting anecdotes, and great writing. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to have a good time reading some nonfiction.

Skeleton Crew
An old short-story collection by Stephen King, Skeleton Crew includes The Mist among other great tales. I enjoyed most of them, and my favorites were: The Mist, The Monkey, The Raft, The Reaper's Image, Nona, Survivor Type, and especially The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet.

Avengers Disassembled: Thor
The first one of the three Thor books I read this month, this volume was much weaker than I expected. The review is coming, though, so I won’t say anything else here.

Hellboy II: The Art of the Movie
I bought this book after watching the extras on the DVD, and not only did I get cool artwork and pictures from the movie, but the script as well. This book includes the complete shooting script for Hellboy II as well as lots of notes on the visuals of the movie. A fun read!

Las rubias, vol. 3
The third installment in Gaby and Dzack’s blonde-joke series, this volume offers the same laughs and cute artwork we enjoyed in the two previous books.

Thor, vol. 1
The best volume of the three I read this month, the review is coming soon, so I’d rather not say anything else here either.

Secret Invasion: Thor
Once again, you’re about to read about this book in detail, so I won’t spoil it here.

Las rubias, vol. 4
Really, just like volume three, this book is cute and amusing and little else.

Wolverine: Get Mystique
I already told you about this cool Wolverine story by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney here.

The Ultimates 3
This seems to be a recurring theme today, but you’ll read about this book by Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira very soon.

Broken Angels
The second book by Richard K. Morgan starring Takeshi Kovacs was a crushing disappointment. I’m sure you want to hear more about it, and I sure want to tell you. Next week.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Todd McFarlane

Check out this video of legendary comic book artist Todd McFarlane being interviewed by Morgan Webb. And, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, McFarlane pretty much redefined Spiderman (read his amazing Torment) and then left Marvel to be one of the co-founders of Image Comics, where he created Spawn and started a toy company that put every other action-figure maker to shame.

During his visit to the G4TV studios, McFarlane also got to draw a picture to be donated to charity (also in the video), and he hosted a special episode of Fresh Ink (I still think Blair Butler is hotter, though). So, if you've always wanted to know what inspires him and how he makes his ultra detailed action figures, check out these videos!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mad as a Hatter

This is a quick picture I drew as a thank you note for a friend. As you can see, I drew inspiration from my original Mad Hatter picture to draw this one, but this time I thought I'd use my Prismacolor markers, which I didn't get to use in the original Alice series. The aforementioned friend is one of the drama teachers at school, and this is only the first (and sneaky) step in convincing her she should write a stage version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for next fall. Who knows, she might even think it's a good idea!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Collecting Comics

I’ve recently found myself thinking what a diverse bunch of comic books I collect. I got tired of superhero comic books a long, long time ago, so I started reading some of the “other” stuff. The good stuff.

I’m looking at the titles I follow, trying to find a pattern, something in common. Something that assures me that I am not completely random. However, I do admit to having a very eclectic taste, and I usually like things that are complete opposites. Am I afflicted by some kind of mental illness? I don’t think so. I guess it’s just that I like pretty much everything. And still, by looking at these series, I think I can actually discern some patterns, some common elements: great stories and great artwork.

You could argue that’s very subjective, and you'll find no argument here. I like things most everyone hates, and I despise lots of things everyone else thinks are incredible. Am I weird, then? Well, I never tried to deny that.

These books have other things in common, though: humor, horror, and hotties –the three H’s. (Wouldn't that be a great title for a series?) And I guess that makes sense, since I like those three elements a lot. So let’s see what comic book series I am following, and why I love them.

Witchblade
Month after month I tell you about the best book on the shelves right now. Witchblade, written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Stjepan Sejic is the perfect marriage between great stories, phenomenal dialogue, and eye-popping artwork. Throw in mystery, the supernatural, monsters, and incredibly vivid and realistic relationships between the characters, and the result is mind-blowing. Not a lot of humor, though.

Empowered
Written and drawn by Adam Warren, Empowered cracks me up every time a new volume comes out. Warren’s artwork has really grown on me, and now I’m dying to find some of his original pages for sale somewhere. Lots of humor, terrific dialogue, fantastic plays on words and ludicrously great speeches, alliterations, and references show what an avid reader Warren is, and how much fun he has working on his creation. Plus, Emp and Ninjette are uberhot and scantily clad all the time. I just can’t recommend this book enough.

The Goon
Eric Powell’s brilliant book is a great mix of horror, drama, and humor, and his artwork is both gorgeous and disturbing. There are zombies, monsters, and other strange creatures, all living in a retro world that is both fascinating and impossibly compelling. The jokes and humor in this book hit you like an unexpected hammer and make you laugh at things only to leave you wondering what kind of despicable, twisted bastard would laugh at something like that. Pure genius.

World of Warcraft
I told you about this series recently, so I won’t talk too much about it. If you like fantasy, solid characters, and exciting adventures, you should buy WoW. And the artwork in the first seven issues is really cool. After that, not so much.

The Dark Tower
I’m not sure if I should consider this book a limited or an ongoing series, since it kind of is both. Each story arc starts with a new number 1, but the overall story follows closely from one series to the next, so it really is just an ongoing series broken into separate miniseries. The story, written by Peter David and Robin Furth, is based on Stephen King's series of novels, and it captures the strangeness, the weirdness, and the mindbending combination of elements King offers in his books perfectly. There is blood, horror, disturbing creatures, and an overall oppressive darkness that unsettles the reader, a feeling coming both from the words and the great artwork by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. A really cool series. Not too much humor here, either.

Uncanny X-Men
I know I said I was sick of superhero books, but the current artistic team of Greg Land and Terry Dodson makes this book a no brainer. Plus, the new direction that kicked off with issue 500 really is interesting. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are doing a great job writing this series. Let’s see how long it lasts.

So there you have my schizophrenic choices, which don’t look all that different once examined. Let me know if you decide to give any of these books a try!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let me Live

To say that Resident Evil: Degeneration is the best movie in the series might not be saying much, seeing as the RE movies are, well, not too good. Still, this CGI movie is lots of fun, and the technical aspects of the film are superb.
Just like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and FF: Advent Children, Degeneration is a photorealistic CGI movie that spawned from a series of successful survival horror videogames. The plot is more of the same: the T-virus is wreaking havoc, and it's up to the good guys to stop the infected from turning everyone into a zombie.

If you know the games, you will be familiar with two of the three main characters in the movie. Leon Kennedy was one of the main characters in Resident Evil 2 and 4, and Claire Redfield was one of the main characters in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica. And maybe I'm really, really weird, but Claire was so cute I couldn't believe it! Plus, she's very good with a gun, which never hurts. Talking about cute, Claire Redfield appeared in the last live-action RE movie, Extinction, where she was played by Ali Larter. See? Didn't I tell you she was hot?

At any rate, the movie was quite entertaining, and I recommend it to anyone who likes CGI zombie movies based on videogames. You're saying that's quite a small niche? Well, you may be right, but I'm still endorsing the movie!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Me paso el día

Aquí tenéis un dibujillo que hice el otro día para un cartel para la escuela. Resulta que todos los años en febrero tenemos un Square Dance al que las niñas de octavo vienen con sus padres. Para tal evento, tanto ellas como ellos tienden a aparecer con el atuendo típico de este tipo de baile: sombreros de vaqueros, botas, jeans, etcétera. Como, entre muchas otras cosas, este año estoy a cargo de los eventos sociales de octavo, decidí que en vez de usar una cutrez sacada del clip art de Word como hemos usado en años anteriores, podía poner algo de esfuerzo en la empresa y hacer un dibujo que resultara medio gracioso, y éste es el resultado. Una vez hecho, añadí el texto necesario con PhotoShop, detallando día, hora, e instrucciones para el acontecimiento. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blue Bitch

I just finished reading Get Mystique, a Wolverine story written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Ron Garney, and I loved it.

Get Mystique tells two stories, both of them dealing with the relationship between Wolverine and Mystique. The main story, which takes place in the present, has Wolverine chasing Mystique all over the world after the events seen in Messiah CompleX, but you don’t really need to read Messiah Complex to understand what’s going on. While he’s trying to get her, Aaron uses flashbacks to tell us the story of how these two mutants met and what their relationship was like back then.

The story is very well written, it’s both action-packed and full of good dialogue, and it is intriguing, entertaining, and funny (sometimes). Garney’s artwork, while not being amazing, is really cool, and I think he portrays Wolverine perfectly. Also, his Mystique is quite something, and not only while she’s naked or half-naked, which is most of the time.

So, if you’d like to read something starring everyone’s favorite Canadian, I would suggest you check out Get Mystique. You’ll enjoy a standalone, straightforward story packed with goodness, both in the words and in the pictures. Why would you say no to that combination?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dante's Inferno


Game developers turn to the classics for inspiration! I just think it's funny that I read Dante's Inferno last November, and all of a sudden there's an Inferno game coming out-- I guess great minds think alike. At any rate, check out the teaser trailer and let us know what you think!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Backstabbers

My friend Glen asked me to draw a picture of Caesar being stabbed by Brutus for the textbook he is putting together, and I of course said I would. Or maybe I should tell it like it happened: I pretty much forced him to ask me to draw something for his textbook instead of using stupid pictures of actual paintings and statues and the like. So he had no choice but to smile and pretend this was the best thing since sliced bread. He then mentioned Brutus and Caesar, and I got down to work.

The funny thing is that, either that same day or the day before, I had read a challenge at the J. Scott Campbell forum for anyone to come up with Danger Girl outline for a hypothetical comic book, the more Danger-esque, the better. At the same time, we were getting ready in school to have our students watch Barack Obama's inaugural address to the nation. And then, just like Stephen King says in On Writing, two previously unrelated ideas connected to create something new under the sun. I both drew this picture and wrote an outline for a Danger Girl story that had Abbey and Sydney chasing down somebody intent on killing the President of the United States on Inauguration Day with the same mystical dagger Brutus used to finish Caesar, a weapon that had been passed down from historian to historian throughout history. Sounds interesting? Well, if Campbell calls begging me to write the series, I'll let you guys know. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ho-Ho-Ho!

It’s really funny that I got a chance to watch Hogfather mere weeks after finishing the book. Hogfather is a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett in which Death needs to take over on Hogswatch Day because the Hogfather is in no shape to deliver presents to the children of the Disc. And that’s all I will reveal about the plot.

I found the movie to be one of the most faithful adaptations of a novel I have ever seen, and it was a very enjoyable movie. I was curious to watch it because I wanted to see how Death spoke. (In the books, he always speaks in capitals.) I wanted to see the Unseen University, Archchancellor Ridcully, and Bloody Stupid Johnson’s shower. I wanted to see HEX (the “anthill inside” sticker was pure genius), Ponder Stibbons, and all the other wizards. Also, I was curious because I think Terry Pratchett’s strength is the way he tells his stories rather than the plot of said stories. He also loves puns and plays on words and the kind of humor that works better when read instead of when spoken out loud. Therefore, I thought this movie might be a trainwreck of epic proportions. But it wasn’t. True, there were some jokes that didn’t make a lot of sense when heard, like people mispronouncing Mr. Teatime’s name after he tells them how to say it right. On the page, when you see the word “Teatime” you can’t help but read it in your mind the way it’s supposed to sound. However, if you met somebody and said their name was “Mr. Te-ah-ti-meh”, why would you keep saying “Teatime”? I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.

Other issues I had with the movie include Nobby Nobbs looking too human and Susan Sto Helit’s hair not looking alive enough, but that is minor stuff. As I said, it was very interesting to see the Discworld come to life, and I enjoyed the film, but I doubt people who don’t know or dislike the novels would like it. (People like Nash, for instance.) So I am biased, yes, but at least I spent three hours laughing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thirteen WoWs

I had been buying the World of Warcraft comic books for over a year, but I had only read the first two issues. I remember reading issue one, and then, when the second issue came out, I had pretty much forgotten everything about the first one. I read the second one nonetheless, but I was rather confused, so I decided I would wait until I had five or six, and then I would read them all in a row.

Months went by, and then I realized the series was about to end (it was supposed to be a twelve-issue series), so I might as well just wait until I had all twelve of them before reading them. It was after buying #12 that I discovered the series had been so successful that Wildstorm had decided to make it an ongoing series. So I got issue thirteen, and I decided it was about time I read those books, just in case they happened to be horrible and I had been wasting my money. Enter Christmas break, the perfect time to lay on the couch and read.

I am happy (and relieved) to say that World of Warcraft is a tremendously fun and entertaining read. I found myself pouring over the different issues quickly and reading the adventures of Lo’Gosh, Broll, and Valeera with interest and exhilaration. Walter Simonson, the legendary comic book writer, has been doing a great job with the series, and I hope he stays with WoW for a long, long time. Good dialogue, interesting stories, and compelling characters make for solid entertainment, and Simonson delivers the goods. As for the artwork, well… The first seven issues are drawn by Ludo Lullabi, and they look great. He has a somewhat maga-esque style that just looks great. However, issue seven was his last issue, and a Mike Bowden draws issues eight through twelve. And he is not a bad artist, but his artwork isn’t exciting and full of life like Lullabi’s is. He is just competent, but he certainly is better than the guy they got to draw issue thirteen, Jon Buran. Again, he is not bad, just mediocre, and after having seen Lullabi’s depiction of the characters, Mr. Buran falls horribly short.

So, if you’re interested, you can get the Lullabi issues in hardcover. They definitely are the best-looking pages in the series, and they will give you a taste of the work Simonson is doing with the Blizzard property. After that, if you are interested (and I think you will be, if you like fantasy), keep reading, but expect no awesome artwork. Bring Lullabi back!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ravish Me With Your Words

I had been interested in watching The Tudors since I first saw the commercials for season one a couple of years ago. I remember Jorge saying he liked the show, and I couldn't wait to check it out. So when Halagan got me the first season for my birthday, I wasted no time and watched the first episode. Little did I know that, by the time I went to bed that day, I would have watched six (out of ten) episodes. But that's what ended up happening.

The Tudors, created by Michael Hirst, starts with King Henry VIII when the Boleyn sisters are about to enter his life. From that moment, we witness English and European history in the making, and we get to meet kings, princes, cardinals, ambassadors, popes, and all sorts of interesting characters.

I've forgotten whatever history I learned in school, so I won't vouch for the accuracy of the events as depicted on the show. I did notice, though, that some things are different from what I saw and read in The Other Boleyn Girl last year, so I know that at least one of these two accounts is not exactly right. This actually made me wonder what William Goldman would think about it. Is it okay if we are not faithful to the historical events as long as we respect the core of the story, its heart, its intention? Well, perhaps.

What I can certainly attest to is the solid writing and the amazing performances in the show. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Henry VIII) I already respected as an actor, but he blew me away with his portrayal of the English king, and his passionate desire for Anne Boleyn. Another actor I love, Sam Neill, plays Cardinal Wosley, and he does such a formidable job that I kept asking myself why he hasn't been showing up on every single movie over the last I don't know how many years. And what can I say about Natalie Dormer, who plays Anne Boleyn? I'm not sure whether I was expecting her to be just a pretty face (and she is gorgeous, my friends; I wonder what Nash will think about her), but she proved to be a tremendously talented actress. And beautiful. And I could keep listing everyone in the show, but let me say this instead: not even once did I find myself thinking somebody wasn’t believable. All the performances are rock-solid, the scripts tight and interesting, and the storylines and the relationships between characters are powerful and incredibly compelling. I found myself both rooting for and hating Henry at the same time. I realized I was sitting on the edge of my seat every time he was near Anne and their chemistry threatened with setting my TV on fire. Hell, I was even holding my breath on more than one occasion, as I watched, almost petrified and glued to my couch, Henry and Anne staring at each other, getting closer, desiring each other.

So, will I get season two? I'll probably own it already by the time you read this. Do I recommend you guys watch this show? Well, I would think the previous paragraphs render that question unnecessary.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Boligráficos

El nuevo semestre trae consigo nuevas reuniones que, a su vez, traen consigo nuevos dibujillos improvisados hechos a bolígrafo. En estos dos ejemplos en concreto, me puse a garabatear con el boli morado que alguna chica se dejó en mi clase, y así fue como surgieron tanto el Alien como la Space Kitty. Como podéis apreciar, se parecen bastante a otros dibujos míos anteriores, pero normalmente no soy demasiado creativo cuando estoy en una reunión, y simplemente hago cosas facilillas sin pensar demasiado, dado que estoy prestando atención a lo que se dice. De verdad. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

AC/DC-ing

Hace un año Finn5fel publicó aquí un top-ten-que-al-final-acabó-siendo-top-twenty-Fel-mira-que-eres-tramposo con sus canciones preferidas de su grupo fetiche, The Offspring. Personalmente, dicho post me sirvió para descubrir un buen puñado de grandes piezas de música que hace un año desconocía. Así que parece ser que este tipo de tops sirven para algo, después de todo... Por no mencionar lo útiles que son como temas para posts cuando no hay ideas frescas u originales de las que echar mano.
He decidido pues despertar al plagiador que hay en mí, y ya os podéis ir preparando, porque vengo dispuesto a hacer tambalear vuestro mundo. Aquí tenéis diez poderosos ejemplos de por qué AC/DC es quizá mi grupo fetiche más fetiche. Si el rock en estado puro no es lo vuestro, fuera de aquí. Igual tenéis suerte y os están poniendo por la tele Operación Triunfo o algo.

1.Highway to Hell
La canción más emblemática de la banda australiana lo es por algo. Mil veces versionada, esta pista de 1979 que abría su álbum homónimo son tres minutos y medio de puro, imparable rock. La guitarra rítmica de Malcolm Young repite hasta la saciedad el reconocible riff que da forma a la canción, y Bon Scott canta desgarradoramente sobre la incansable, demoledora batería de Phil Rudd. Un clásico entre clásicos.

2.Ride On
Lento tema bluesero al que Bon Scott dota de alma propia. Está claro que el escocés nunca tuvo la mejor voz de la historia, pero hay que ver el sentimiento que le ponía el condenado. Aparte de eso, la banda al completo toca con un dolor contenido que permea toda la pieza.

3.It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)
Este tema abría el segundo disco de la banda, y es otro clásico ya por derecho propio. Su ritmo contagioso y el enorme no-tan-solo central entre la guitarra de Angus Young y la gaita de Bon Scott tienen algo que ver en ello.

4.Overdose
Otro tema con ascendencias blueseras, tiene una letra que es pura poesía. De nuevo, Bon Scott nos entrega su alma.

5.Problem Child
Gran riff de guitarra que Malcolm Young repite hasta la saciedad para dar forma a esta aviesa declaración de intenciones.

6.Big Gun
Épico, colosal temazo que me trae gratos recuerdos de adolescencia. La banda sonora de Last Action Hero, que abre este tema, fue la primera cinta cassette que recuerdo haber comprado con mi dinero.

7.Jailbreak
La banda evoca una atmósfera agobiante mientras Bon Scott canta la historia de un condenado que necesita sentir de nuevo lo que es ser libre.

8.You Shook Me All Night Long
Es imposible no destacar este tema sacado de Back in Black, primer disco de la banda ya sin Bon Scott. Que no haya muchos temas cantados por Brian Johnson en este top ten no quiere decir que reniegue de él. Ni mucho menos.

9.Spellbound
De toda la lista, ésta es mi elección quizá más impulsiva. Acabo de redescubrir este temazo que cerraba For Those About to Rock, y es que me encanta. Vaya que sí.

10.Night Prowler
Indispensable escuchar esta cancionaza a todo volumen para disfrutar plenamente de la interpretación vocal de Bon Scott, quien nos advierte del peligro que se esconde entre las sombras. Shazbot, Nanu Nanu!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dos listas

Hoy tenemos dos listas relacionadas con el mundo del cine. La primera, sacada de IMDB, es la lista de las 25 películas más taquilleras de 2008. De las veinticinco sólo he visto doce, diez de ellas en el cine, y cuatro de las cinco primeras acabaron en mi Top 10 de hace un par de semanas. A destacar, la enorme diferencia entre la primera y segunda clasificadas (más de doscientos millones), y entre la tercera y la cuarta (noventa). También, recordad que Twilight sigue en cartel y atrayendo jovencitas enamoradizas, con lo que no me extrañaría que superara a Madagascar 2 en poco tiempo. Pero, a fin de cuentas, supongo que a nadie sorprenderá que The Dark Knight haya acabado en primera posición, pues se ha convertido en la segunda película más taquillera de la historia. Además, he leído por ahí que quieren reestrenarla por estas fechas, probablemente para darle un empujón final de cara a los Óscar. ¿Acabará batiendo el récord de Titanic, película que, por cierto, jamás he visto? Ya veremos.

La segunda lista, sacada de Rotten Tomatoes, es más modesta y específica, pues se llama Diez películas de ciencia-ficción para personas inteligentes, en contraposición a películas del género que te destruyen las neuronas, supongo. Elecciones cantadas como Blade Runner o 2001 no sorprenden a nadie, pero me sorprendió gratamente que incluyeran Dark City y Gattaca. Pero no todo son viejas películas como Planet of the Apes o Solaris (que no he visto), sino que también hay obras recientes como Children of Men (que tampoco he visto). Echadle un vistazo a ver cuántas habéis visto, y después rasgaos las vestiduras en forma de comentario.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bad Guy?

As you all know by now, I have been watching the first season of Deadwood on DVD. One of the main characters is Al Swearengen, the nasty owner of The Gem Saloon played with infinite talent by Ian McShane. I think McShane has a very interesting face, and I found myself mentally drawing his face’s lines and contours and wrinkles when he was onscreen. (This is something I do a lot, so I’ll admit to being weird.) So, even though I’m not good at portraits or caricatures, I thought I’d give it a try and I would draw the notorious Mr. Swearengen. The pencils only took me eight minutes, since I can draw really quick if I want to. Then, I spent twenty minutes going over the drawing with my markers, and another twenty inking everything with my Black India Ink pens. The result, as you can see, looks somewhat like McShane, even if I wouldn’t say it’s a good portrait or caricature. But do let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scratch One Grub

I got Gears of War 2 last month, and I've been playing the hell out of it over the last few weeks. You would think that after playing the first one for so long and loving it so much, I would be sorely disappointed with this follow-up. All the expectations and all that, you know. Well, as it turns out, Cliff Bleszinski and the guys at Epic Games have surpassed even my wildest expectations, and Gears of War 2 is better than the first one in pretty much every department.

The graphics are at the very least as good as in the first one, but there's more variety when it comes to environments, textures, and colors. We have almost all the original kinds of Locust back, plus new types and classes that are both creepy and deadly. And they're even smarter now, seeing as a dying Locust will look for a teammate to restore its health. Cool, but a nightmare for Delta Squad, let me tell you. There are new characters among the COG files too, and we get to know the old ones even better. And everyone you loved in the previous game is back: Cole, Baird, Dom, Anya, and, of course, the star of the show, Marcus Fenix. As I said, those characters shine even more in this sequel, and I'm not just saying that because you actually get to see that hottie Anya more than once. The script is way more elaborate and dramatic than the first one, and characters like Dom get a nice backstory and motivation. And regarding the script, the game is packed with surprises and a lot more variety than the first one offered. Now you have different kinds of missions, you ride different vehicles (or “something else”), and every time you think you know what's going to happen, you find out you were wrong.

What else? The music, composed by Steve Jablonsky is phenomenal and not only complements the game but augments it. Also, the game is longer, and not only does it offer an additional difficulty level (now you have Casual, Normal, Hardcore, and Insane), but it also provides the player with two extra game modes. The first one is a tutorial for online gaming that you can complete regardless of whether you intend to go on Xbox Live or not. The second one is the Horde mode, in which you need to face (and hopefully survive) fifty waves of Locust who want nothing else than to tear you apart into itty-bitty pieces of bloody flesh. (So nice, these Locust.) And, of course, you can play the game solo or in co-op mode with a friend.

Am I forgetting anything? Maybe I am, but I hope I made my point. Gears of War 2 offers amazing action, great adventure, a ridiculous amount of suspense, thrills, and adrenaline, presented in extraordinary graphics and with fantastic music. And just like the first one, it's a game you just want to keep playing time and again, to beat it just one more time. And another one. And one more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nueve


No hace mucho, hablábamos por aquí de qué películas esperábamos con anticipación este año, y cuáles nos iban a decepcionar tremendamente. Seguro que pronto escribiré más al respecto, pero hoy quiero descubriros (si es que no lo habéis visto aún) el tráiler de 9, una película de animación producida por Tim Burton y Timur Bekmambetov (requisito indispensable para producir el poseer las iniciales T.B., pese a que Tom Berenger no aparezca por ningún lado). En mi humilde opinión, el film tiene una pinta excelente (o, al menos, rarísima), cuenta con un reparto interesante: Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood, Crispin Glover, John C. Reilly, Christopher Plummer, y Martin Landau. Además, no puedo sino apreciar que la fecha de estreno sea 09/09/09. Echadle un vistazo al tráiler y decidnos qué os parece.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not so Wild West

A friend of mine gave me the first season of Deadwood for my birthday, and I watched all twelve episodes in a week. People have been asking me what I think of the show, and this is my answer: I like it, but.

I guess you could say Deadwood is a historical drama, since it recreates the first days of Deadwood camp in South Dakota, back in the gold rush of the nineteenth century. There are historical figures such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, but I think the two main characters are Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, also historical characters both of them. Swearengen (played by Ian McShane) is the owner of The Gem Saloon, and has no qualms about killing whoever gets in his way. Bullock (played by Tim Olyphant) is a former Montana marshal who goes to Deadwood to open a hardware store with partner Sol Star. So we have the bad guy and the good guy, right? Well, not exactly, seeing as Swearengen will do the occasional good deed, and Bullock’s quick temper gets the better of him some of the time.

The acting is great, the dialogue colorful and chock-full of profanity. The historical period portrayed is interesting, and the numerous supporting characters add many layers to the stories and relationships. So what’s wrong with the show, then? Well, there is nothing wrong per se, but I wish more things happened. This doesn’t mean that I need action or stuff blowing up to like a show, but the story moves forward less than an inch at a time, and nothing much really happens on any episode. It is a very slow-paced show, and I think you should know that going into it.

I will certainly get the second season at some point, because I want to know what happens next (nothing, most likely, haha), but I am not in a hurry to do so. Still, if what I’ve told you about the show sounds interesting, then you’ll probably enjoy Deadwood. Just take it easy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Sound (or paper) Required!

I think Halagan will be happy to know you don't need sound to enjoy today's video. Jim Lee and his WildStorm buddies recently visited New Zealand to attend a few events down under, and that is where this video was shot. Apparently, there was this fan who wanted Jim to draw him a picture of Wolverine, but he (the fan, not Lee) had forgotten to bring any paper for the artist to doodle on, so he gave him the only thing he could think of: his iPod. And Jim Lee, who must just be the best sport out there, tackled the challenge with his pens and turned the guy's iPod into a customized work of art. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Body Bags

Jason Pearson's Body Bags is back, and it was about time. After I don't know how long (ten years?) without a new story starring Panda and her dad, Pearson brings us One Shot, which not only happens to be a one-shot, but it also deals with one shot. And I won't say anything else so as not to spoil the story.

Said story is a fun, quick read, in which we find guns-for-hire Panda and her daddy knee deep in trouble. The book reads like a cool action movie, or, to be more accurate, like the action-packed last act in a cool action movie. Pearson does a great job both writing and drawing, especially all those exterior shots full of buildings and cityscapes. No wonder it took him so long to complete this book!

While the book is a bit overpriced ($5.99? Come on, Image Comics!), I enjoyed it tremendously, and I hereby recommend it to everyone… especially if you can find it cheap somewhere!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lurking in

I started reading Skeleton Crew a few days ago, and the first tale in this short-story collection by Stephen King is The Mist. Reading the story took me a couple of days, and then I went to the video store to rent the movie. I like Frank Darabont, and I had wanted to go see The Mist when it first opened in 2007, but I didn't. I think his adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are phenomenal, and therefore I was pretty confident The Mist would be good. On the other hand, I had just finished the story, so I would be able to notice everything. Everything he changed, everything he did the same, everything he made up, everything he included. And that, I understood, could mean death for the movie. However, I had also finished reading Which Lie Did I Tell?, in which William Goldman writes about adapting a book into a screenplay, and how (and why) it can't stay the same. Keeping his words in mind, I proceeded to watch The Mist. And I liked it, except for one thing.

The movie opened with a great wink to fans of Stephen King, as the main character, David Drayton, is in his studio working on an illustration for The Dark Tower, and that I thought was great. Not only does Darabont show us what David does for a living, but he packs an extra something for King fans. Seeing Roland, the tower, and the rose right there made me smile like an idiot.

Anyway, the script follows the original story very closely with just a few changes that don't really betray the spirit of the book. I was surprised Darabont barely devoted any time at all to show us the storm at the very beginning of the movie (just a couple of shots, literally), and that David's wife didn't have a stronger presence in those first scenes. Why would the audience suffer about David being worried for his wife if we barely got to know her? And talking about Dave and women, there is a sex scene in the book that Darabont (perhaps understandably, but I don’t want to spoil anything) didn't include in the movie, which I think was a good idea in terms of the film, but I would have still wanted to see it all the same. But, as I said, except for a few changes here and there, the movie is true to the book, and it manages to capture the tension and the unnerving claustrophobia that grabs a hold of the people trapped in the supermarket. Everything very much like the book. Until the end.

Of course, I won't spoil anything for you, dear reader, but just know that if you have read the story, you do not know how the movie is going to end, believe me. And that is the only part I didn't like. Not that the movie is different from the book, but the ending itself. I hated it. I found it very interesting that Frank Darabont said he was adamant about keeping that ending even before he went into production, but I don't understand why. I can't say much without spoiling it, so I'll discuss it with you if you leave a comment, but man it sucked. Other than that, I think Darabont did, as usual, a great job with this movie, seeing as he updated some parts and added some current issues and topics that blended perfectly with the original themes and amplified King's motives. So, if you haven't seen The Mist, I recommend you check it out. I doubt you'll regret it!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

¿No es sospechoso?

Asumámoslo, la televisión en España apesta. La programación infantil brilla por su ausencia, y la parrilla es dominada por los programas de cotilleos, los realities y todos esos espacios en los que se aprende que en la vida real para tener la razón tienes que gritar más fuerte que los demás. En cuanto a las series nacionales, vale, no veo muchas, pero cuando lo he hecho he sufrido de abundantes dosis de dramatismo culebroniano, de tramas exclusivamente orientadas a vender productos de marketing, y de chistes infinitamente más predecibles que efectivos.

Imagino que, de niños, todos habéis sufrido de esos larguísimos periodos de tiempo durante los que esperábamos a que emitieran el siguiente episodio de nuestra serie preferida del momento. Sabe dios que yo, de no tan niño, durante la inacabable espera que se prolongó hasta que George Lucas estrenó La Amenaza Fantasma, me sentía como un chavalín esperando a que Santa Claus llegase cargado de regalos. Como todos bien sabéis, el gordo de la barba blanca llegó, pero en lugar de dejar regalos lo que hizo fue vomitar sobre ellos. Claro que eso es otra historia. En lo que respecta a las series españolas, que para eso estaba hablando de ellas, no recuerdo la última vez que sufrí como un niño la espera de alguna de ellas. Por suerte, las cosas cambian.

Hermanos & detectives es una serie de improbable título creada por el argentino Damián Szifrón (también culpable de Los simuladores y del film Tiempo de valientes), quien ya la estrenó allí en el país de la Pampa antes de adaptarla y cruzar el charco con ella. Gracias a él, ahora se está emitiendo la segunda temporada de la versión española (Telecinco, los Viernes a las 22:15h tras el penúltimo cambio de programación), y yo vuelvo a ser un chaval.

La serie me encanta. Igual que ya lo hizo Buffy, toca esos acordes mágicos que conectan irremediablemente conmigo como ser humano influenciable que soy. Soy consciente de que no todo el mundo responderá a ella del mismo modo que yo lo hago, porque ya se sabe que cada uno, uno es. Pero, hablando desde un punto de vista meramente objetivo, Hermanos & detectives es una serie valiente, que destaca por hacer de su fuerza principal los incontables personajes que la pueblan, que gusta de salirse de cuando en cuando de la norma (como ya hicieran Moonlighting o cualquier serie salida de la pluma de Joss Whedon), que aparece plagada de referencias sacadas de la cultura popular, y que hace gala de un humor envidiablemente fresco. Yo simplemente no puedo decir que no a un cóctel con esos ingredientes.

Aunque no todo son pros, como lo demuestra el hecho de que nadie la ha declarado aún Patrimonio de la Humanidad. Por un lado, el nivel de los actores secundarios viene a ser tirando a malo. Lo cual supongo está provocado por la necesidad de reducir costes ante la ingente cantidad de actores con líneas habladas en cada episodio.

Por otra parte, en ciertos momentos la serie peca de provocar momentos dramáticos para luego obviarlos, incluso hasta el punto del absurdo. Aunque también es cierto que, tras una primera temporada prácticamente calcada a la de su homóloga argentina, es ahora cuando Hermanos & detectives en versión española empieza a luchar por encontrar su propia identidad. Ya veremos si lo consigue… y si los programadores le dejan.

Sea como sea, yo pienso seguir viendo la serie. Si sigue caminando firmemente por la senda hacia la que apunta, la televisión española habrá dado un paso más hacia la salvación.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Belligerent Bears

Just like Tropic Thunder, this is another DVD I wasn’t expecting to watch. Just like Tropic Thunder, critics raved about this animated movie. Just like Tropic Thunder, I got ready to be disappointed. Which didn’t exactly happen.

While I will not rush to the store to buy this movie, Kung Fu Panda is lots of fun, and the character design and animation are phenomenal. There’re plenty of jokes, a couple of really cool action sequences, and a lot of heart. However, this is a story we have all seen before, and that lack of originality makes the movie shine a little less, I think. I do like the themes in the movie (I always do and always will): follow your dreams, persevere and you will get there, don’t let other people tell you what you can and can’t do, trust your abilities. This, however, makes for a very predictable movie, and surprises is one thing you will not find in this film. Just like you were never quite sure what was going to happen in Wall·e (the other big animated movie of the year), you pretty much always know what’s going to happen in Kung Fu Panda. Other than that, the movie was brilliant as I said, from the voice acting to the outrageous sense of humor.

So there you go. I don’t think you’ll regret watching this movie, but I wouldn’t get this DVD expecting an animated masterpiece, so go ahead and watch it, and then come back and let us know what you thought.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cruise Controls

Critics raved about Tropic Thunder. My friends raved about Tropic Thunder. I watched Tropic Thunder on DVD, knowing that I was bound to be disappointed. And I was right.

Tropic Thunder, written and directed by Ben Stiller, is a movie about a group of actors shooting a war movie in Vietnam. The only problem is that they end up in the middle of a real conflict but are clueless about it. The movie stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jack Black, and it is funny. Only, it’s not as funny as everyone else said it was.

I thought Robert Downey, Jr. was going to be the most outrageous thing in the movie, seeing as he plays an Australian method actor who plays an African American soldier. I already knew RDJ was an incredibly gifted actor, and his different accents for his character are so convincingly real you can’t believe he’s just faking it. However, RDJ didn’t turn out to be my favorite thing in the movie. Surprisingly, that dubious honor went to Tom Cruise and his amazing performance as the head of the studio producing the movie within the movie. This is Tom Cruise like you’ve never seen him before (that is, not playing Tom Cruise). He is bald, cruel, and oh so angry. He curses every other word and gets into the character so deeply and flawlessly that it makes you wonder why he’s never done this before. For him if nothing else, Tropic Thunder is worth watching. Oh, and for the fake trailers at the beginning of the movie. Priceless!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mola Ram

A friend of mine gave me the Mola Ram statue from the Mighty Muggs series for Christmas, and that inspired me to draw the nefarious character. Just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last thirty years, Mola Ram is the bad guy from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the one that rips hearts out of people while still alive. A very nice, charming man, as you can see. Anyway, here you have the picture. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

[Expletive Deleted] Surprise

I finally bought Live Free or Die Hard on DVD, and I was scared it wouldn't be as great as I thought it was when I saw it in theaters last year. I should have known John McClane wouldn't disappoint, though: the movie was as much fun as I remembered. Not only that, but I got a nice surprise. You can choose between watching the theatrical cut or the unrated version, and what do you know, all the cursing and swearing and foul language that was so sadly missing from the theatrical version is here in all its R-rated glory. And before you claim that I seem to enjoy profanity more than I should, I hasten to deny it. However, as somebody else pointed out (I think it was Halagan, as a matter of fact), a PG-13 McClane feels almost like a cheat, a fake. McClane swears while he's bleeding, that's just who he is, and that part of him was missing from the movie I saw in theaters. Well, not anymore, so get ready for a few F-bombs, motherf#*%ers!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Soulless

I am sorry to report that the critics were right: The Spirit is a horrible movie. My dear Scarlett Johansson is still gorgeous, but man this movie sucks. There are several reasons for this (in no particular order):

The acting is bad. Sure, this is Frank Miller’s first directorial effort, but you would think he would have done a better job having co-directed Sin City with Robert Rodriguez. (Now we know Rodriguez deserves all the credit for that movie.) However, that is not the case. Sam Jackson’s performance is so over the top it is ridiculous, and my beloved Scarlett recites her lines looking completely detached, disinterested, and out of it. Maybe she was embarrassed because she knew how awful this film was.

She is not the only one to deliver flat lines, though. The dialogue throughout the whole movie is flat, lifeless, full of clichés and common places. The one-liners fall flat and are cheesy as hell, but not as cheesy as the bad voiceovers or the horrendous, inexplicable chunks of clunky exposition the main character (Gabriel Macht) inflicts upon us. The Spirit will just stand on top of a building and say something like “Octopus, I am coming to get you and put an end to this sorry affair.” And then he’ll jump over to the next rooftop to go find his nemesis. Now that is bad moviemaking.

The plot was trite and unoriginal, and the characters were the opposite of compelling (you knew I was going to use that word sooner or later). I just didn’t care who the Spirit was, what the Octopus knew, and what their motivation was. I didn’t care about the outcome, and couldn’t have cared less about several other things, including revelations, confrontations, and the fate of the different supporting characters. (Fun fact for my Spanish readers: Paz Vega plays a French belly dancer! French!)

Something else I didn’t like was the cinematography. The movie is stylish and somewhat unique-looking, but it shows that Frank Miller is used to drawing comics. What I mean by that is that many, many scenes and frames in the movie look intentionally 2D, as if they had been drawn by Miller, and I don’t think that looks good onscreen. It works on the page, but not so much in a movie.

As for how good an adaptation of the original comic book the movie is, I have no idea. I’ve never read The Spirit, so I can’t judge, but, as a standalone movie, The Spirit is a terrific example of how not to write dialogue, how not to build characters, and how not to tell a story. So I guess it was worth something.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mis lecturas - 2008

Doce libros es mi balance final lector de este año que ya ha pasado. ¿Paupérrimo número? Pues sí, es posible. El caso es que sigo en mi media de una docena de volúmenes cada 365 días. Y no me voy a poner a calcular ahora cuanto significa eso en páginas por día. Que no me quiero deprimir.

En fin, exceptuando algún comic que otro, aquí está lo que he leído durante el año 2008. Ficción y no-tan-ficción, que yo le hago sitio a todo:

Perfect Dark: Initial Vector
Entretenidísima novela que narra las aventuras de la maciza a la par que tía dura Joanna Dark, y de la que ya hablé en su momento aquí.

Making a Good Script Great
Sí, sigo queriendo cobrar dinero por escribir guiones, y, si el momento acaba llegando, de seguro que este excelente ensayo de Linda Seger habrá tenido buena parte de culpa. De lectura fluida, este libro ataca la escritura de guiones desde un ángulo muy accesible, dando consejos acerca de, entre otras cosas, cómo estructurarlos y darles cohesión. Y todo ello usando ejemplos extraídos de películas bien conocidas y apreciadas por todos, lo que, además de ilustrativo, siempre es de agradecer.

Misery
Excelentísima novela del maestro del suspense que ya comenté en extensión aquí.

La sombra del viento
El libro que puso a Carlos Ruiz Zafón en boca de todos tiene bien merecida su fama. Personajes inolvidables, descripciones brillantes, diálogos ingeniosos y una historia que baila entre la fantasía y la realidad histórica son los grandes méritos de esta novela, que una vez que te atrapa no te suelta. El que no haya leído aún esta joya, ya está tardando.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
El primer volumen de la famosa saga Dark Tower del maestro King contiene una historia extraña como ella sola. Incluso para un adicto a las mezclas de géneros como yo. En esta novela no hay fronteras, y, aunque se entiende muy bien lo que pasa en cada momento, no se explica ni por asomo por qué pasa. Supongo que se podría resumir básicamente en una pregunta: ¿qué pasaría si Stephen King quisiera escribir como Kafka?
Espero que los siguientes libros de la saga… bueno, en realidad me conformo con seguir pasando páginas, porque no tengo ni la más remota idea de qué esperar de esto. Si no fuera porque voy recomendado, ni me molestaría en seguir leyendo.

His Majesty’s Dragon
Esta novela de Naomi Novik sirve de introducción a un fascinante pasado alternativo en el que las fuerzas oponentes durante las Guerras Napoleónicas cuentan con un arma de peso en sus respectivos arsenales: dragones. His Majesty’s Dragon se lee muy rápido, principalmente por lo fabuloso que resulta el viaje a esta realidad fantástica y el constante goteo de innumerables detalles que ayudan a darle forma. Si tan solo Laurence se relajara un poco...

Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone I: The Briar King
Definitivamente este libro de Greg Keyes, que da comienzo a su tetralogía fantástica de los reinos de espina y hueso, es de lo mejor que he leído este año. La prosa de Keyes es fluida, sus descripciones muy adecuadas y sus personajes increíblemente absorbentes. Por no hablar de todo el detalle que ha puesto en este universo ficticio, a escala casi tolkieniana. No puedo esperar para saber cómo continúa la saga.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Book of Fours
Desde hace mucho tiempo este libro de Nancy Holden dormitaba sobre mi estantería de lecturas pendientes, y, no sin un fuerte ejercicio de mentalización, al fin me deshice de él. Se deja leer, y, la verdad, prefiero no decir más. Sólo para fans acérrimos de la serie de televisión Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Ésta es la colección de historias cortas que, tras The Gunslinger, me devolvió mi fe inquebrantable en Stephen King. Las hay para todos los gustos, pero, por destacar unas cuantas, mis favoritas son Dolan’s Cadillac, Chattery Teeth, Sneakers, You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, Home Delivery, y The Ten O’Clock People. Por no hablar de Head Down, el excelente ensayo en el que King relata las andanzas del equipo de béisbol de su hijo durante la temporada de 1989.

Creating Unforgettable Characters
Libro de Linda Seger sobre cómo escribir y crear personajes de ficción para la pantalla grande (y la no tan grande). Muy útil y recomendable. Para el que le interesen ese tipo de cosas, claro.

Adventures in the Screen Trade
Este libro de William Goldman es una joya. A base de narrar sus experiencias como guionista en Hollywood, Goldman nos ofrece un retrato de la meca del cine sin tapujos ni paños calientes. Una lectura muy entretenida e indispensable para cualquier cinéfilo o guionista en proceso, que incluye además el guión completo de Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade
Esta continuación a una joya desafía el conocido dicho de que “nunca segundas partes fueron buenas”. Which Lie Did I Tell? es tan buen libro como su hermano mayor, si no mejor, y Goldman sigue analizando la industria de Hollywood y cómo hacer películas, esta vez con ejemplos algo más actuales. Por no hablar de que incluye además un guión original de nuestro autor favorito, escrito exclusivamente para la ocasión.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lovelorn

A few days ago, I told you about SFX, the first story arc of the new San Francisco-based Uncanny X-Men. I told you Greg Land and Terry Dodson were going to be sharing artistic duties on the title, but Land got to do almost every single page over the last few issues. That changes with Uncanny X-Men #504, which is drawn by Terry Dodson exclusively, starting with the beautiful cover you can see above, and finishing with, well, the last page.

This new story arc, Lovelorn, is written by Matt Fraction, and it focuses on the outcome of a particular event that happened in the SFX story. On this issue, Emma Frost accesses Cyclops's mind to find some information, and let's just say that what she finds in there plays to Terry Dodson's strengths as an artist, something not as obvious in the following issue, UXM #505.

So we have a good beginning of what promises to be not only an interesting story, but the launch pad for X-Infernus, the mutant miniseries that's already invading comic book stores everywhere (I’ll wait for the trade), plus amazing artwork. What are you waiting for, then? Go ahead and check it out!