Archive for February, 2007

Crossover Wars

February 28th, 2007 by Reinder

I guess now would be a good time to mention that there's a series of webcomics Crossover Wars going on involving several dozen webcomics, including Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. The hub site has been live for a couple of weeks and has a very thorough overview of everything that's been going on so far. Core comics are CameoComic and Evil Overlords United, both of which were created especially for the event.

After the FRAMED!!! Great Escape, I told myself and others that it had been great fun and let's not do it again. But I got myself suckered into doing another big mega-crossover. And it's fun. And hair-raising. Again. Once it's over, I'll never do it again.

Beverly Sills

February 27th, 2007 by Adam Cuerden

Simply wonderful!

Albums to avoid: Deep Purple Live at the Birmingham NEC 1993

February 27th, 2007 by Reinder

Contact Music reports:

Veteran rockers DEEP PURPLE are pleading with fans to not buy their latest album - a recording of their worst ever concert. The SMOKE ON THE WATER band are incensed record label Sony BMG has released double live album NEC 1993 to help promote the latest Deep Purple tour. [...] Singer IAN GILLAN and guitarist RITCHIE BLACKMORE were locked in a feud at the time of the gig in Birmingham, England. Gillan has slammed the record executives behind the decision to release NEC 1993, calling them "opportunist fat cats".

I wouldn't call this performance the worst Deep Purple concert ever. That dubious honour probably goes to one of the gigs from 1976 when half the band was performing in a haze of cocaine and heroin (neither Gillan nor Blackmore were in the band at that time), but there are good reasons not to buy this record:

1) It contains some of the band's worst Spinal Tap moments. During the opening number, Highway Star, Blackmore ruins the instrumental buildup by not turning up; later in the song, he interrupts his solo to throw a glass of water at a cameraman who came too close to him. Blackmore was 48 years old at the time.

2) It has been released before, twice. The first release was the 1994 video, since reissued as a DVD, Come Hell or High Water, which includes the opening number. It has commentary on the incident from Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. With the video content and the context provided by the commentary, the incident is actually rather entertaining; we see the four members of the band who bothered to show up onstage working their guts out to compensate for the lack of Blackmore; keyboardist Jon Lord in particular performs heroically, dripping with sweat just one minute in. As the concert goes on from there, the band recover themselves musically and the second half of the concert is rather good although the tension of the first few minutes never quite goes away.
The second release of the concert is part of a boxed set, Live in Europe 1993, where it is bundled with another concert in Stuttgart. Again, putting the incident in context helps; but this live record suffers from a new mix that seems to be designed to make the album sound more like a bootleg. Pat Regan's original mix of the video and CD of Come Hell or High Water (the CD was compiled from both concerts) was perhaps sweetened a little too much, especially the drums; it was, however, a clear mix that preserves the live athmosphere. The mix on the separate release is presumably the same as that on the boxed set; however, the boxed set is comparatively cheaper, so if you must have bootleggy recordings of one of Deep Purple's most embarrassing moments, get that release instead.

By the way, I don't believe for a moment that BMG is releasing these records to "promote" the band's new tour. Deep Purple haven't been under contract with BMG for ten years, at least not in Europe; the current touring lineup is very different from that in 1993, and Live at the Birmingham NEC is unlikely to persuade many young people to come to see the current lineup. It's a cash-in that the musicians won't benefit much from at all. (via)


…What the hell is wrong with these people?

February 26th, 2007 by Adam Cuerden

I've been a fan of Girls Reading Comics for a while now. However, today, they pointed out a review of Spiderman showing the hands-down the worst idea I've ever heard of: That whole radioactive spider biting him thing leads to him killing his girlfriend through radioactive semen. And, no, it's not a fanfic, this is an official Marvel comic.

"Oh God, I'm sorry! The doctors didn't understand how it happened! How you had been poisoned by radioactivity! How your body slowly became riddled with cancer! I did. I was... I am filled with radioactive blood. And not just blood. Every fluid. Touching me... loving me... Loving me killed you! Like a spider, crawling up inside your body and laying a thousand eggs of cancer... I killed you."

...See, this is why I avoided comics for decades, and only finally started reading webcomics, Castle Waiting, Sandman, Cerebus and The Goon in my 20s. For God's sake, Marvel and DC, hire people who can write! Stop giving all comics a bad name.

More little monsters

February 24th, 2007 by Reinder

I've been sick, bored and generally crawling up the walls in between coughing fits, at least at those times of the day when I was out of bed. At least in the evening, I found the energy to draw some more monsters in my sketchbook.

Gren and Bob
Gren and Bob from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. Unlike the other two, this one has had quite a lot of post-production done to it in GIMP. It's difficult to work with GIMP if you haven't done any serious work with it in such a long time as I have, but the bigger problem was that I don't have a tablet at home here - all I have here is an optical mouse with the habit of darting to the edges of the screen for no good reason at all. Luckily I found that feathering the selection tools allowed me to preserve the pencil texture while correcting this drawing.


Spineless Behaviour

February 24th, 2007 by Adam Cuerden

You know, biology journalism isn't what it once was. Here's a newspaper report in the Illustrated London News, December 2, 1871 (pages 535-6). This was meant for a general audience....


The aquarium at the Crystal Palace now contains, with many other interesting objects, several specimens of the poulpe, or eight-armed cuttle, Octopus vulgaris, obtained from the sea on the Devonshire and North Wales coasts. This is the animal which has been made famous under the names of devil-fish or man-sucker, by the sensational descriptions of it in Victor Hugo's Guernsey romance "Toilers of the Sea", and in other works of imaginative writers. But as Mr. W.A. Lloyd, the superintendent of the aquarium, remarks in his protest against such exaggerations, "it is but wanton ignorance and vulgarity to call the octopus a 'devil-fish,' when it has about it nothing diabolical or fishlike. It is simply a mollusc, very high up in the scale of the mollusca, with its viscera and other internal organs contained in an egglike sac, which is surmounted by a pair of prominent and sometimes staring eyes placed on protuberances; and below, set on obliquely, is a series of eight stout, raditating, tapering arms, provided in all with about 2000 round projecting suckers, on the lower surfaces of the arms. Such a creature is in itself wonderful without being invested with fictitious attributes." It is a fact, however, says Mr. Lloyd, that these cuttles will, if alarmed, catch hold of a man within their reach in the water, though they cannot grasp him out of the water. "The specimens here under my care will, if I permit them, as I have done, firmly affix themselves to my submerged bare hand and arm by the crowds of sucking discs beneath each of their long flexible legs, arms, or tentacles, and then they will draw themselves on till they get to a convenient position, and give a severe bite with their hard, horny pair of beaks or mandibles (not unlike those of a parrot), which are placed below, in the centre of the body, at the point whence the legs or arms radiate; but they soon leave go and drop off when I raise them above the water's surface. There are no cuttles in Sark, where Victor Hugo places his narrative, or elsewhere in Britain, so large that even a child could not easily kill or disable one of them at one grasp or kick. On the other hand, if an enormous angry cuttle in the tropics, with arms measuring, as they sometimes do, from five to fifteen feet long, provided with thousands of suckers, each nearly an inch in diameter, and additionally provided, as many foreign species are, with a strong and sharp hook in the centre of each, in order to take a firmer hold, armed also with a terribly crushing pair of beaklike jaws - should such a creature encounter a swimming man it would go hard with the man, without any spitefulness on the part of the cuttle."

It seems probable, on the whole, that the common dread of these creatures, among the seafaring people of the Channel shores, and in the south of Europe, is founded upon some instances of persons being drowned, or put in danger of drowning, by entanglement with their long pliant arms. The eyes are blank and expressionless, and are furnished each with a pair of greyish lids, one closing downwards from above and the others upwards from below, till they meet at the centre of the pupil. "At night, or in much shade," says Mr. Lloyd, "the eye is wholly uncovered, but in light the lids are seperated according to the amount of illumination. If it be considerable, the seperation is such as only to leave a very narrow horizontal slit for the creature's vision; but if very strong, their edges are brought into complete contact. These motions of the lids have not the instantaneous character of the lid of the human eye, but are slow enough to be seen. The manner in which the eyelids of the octopus constantly vary in distance from each other when the creature moves about, and thus varies the amount of the shade through which it passes, is most interesting to witness. For instance, as it begins to enter the shadow of an overhanging rock in the Crystal Palace aquarium, the lids gradually seperate and expose the eye beneath them, and they as gradually close again as the animal emerges into light."

There's even a nice engraving with it.

Meanwhile, here's a modern report on an octopus exhibit in Birmingham (BBC News, 2 January 2007). After a long description of the mirror maze leading to it, all we get on octopi is:

Reward for negotiating the maze will be arrival in Poseidon's Chamber and chance to admire the resident Pacific giant octopus, the world's largest octopus with an intellect to match.

"These sea creatures are so intelligent marine experts often devise puzzles to help keep them stimulated," said curator Graham Burrows.

"It will be very fitting that our visitors have to solve a puzzle themselves in order to see it."

It's just not the same, is it? And there's only one image of an octopus, rather poorly presented: No improvement there, either. Even if the first article called the octopus a cuttle fish (a rather odd Victorianism, that), I can't help but appreciate the depth of coverage, and strong public outreach within those somewhat dense Victorian sentences. Why is it so rare nowadays that we just let a knowledgable person speak on a subject they're passionate about in the newspapers?


February 23rd, 2007 by Calvin Bexfield

As Reinder already said we've been sketching @ Wielaert's. And...I didn't draw any naked ladies, I'm so proud of myself. Well to show some sketches:

Nothing to say about her actually, just a girl on a snowboard.

This one is an old friend of mine, I usually see him when I'm about to die in one of my dreams. He's my personal grim reaper I think. It's really a mystery who the puppeteer is or shall be.

These two kids are a sort of study for a children's book I'm working on at the moment

Well that's it for now...


February 23rd, 2007 by Reinder

I've been a bit sick this week, but I didn't let that stop me from going to the regular Gr'nn sketch meeting at Erik Wielaert's place.
Here's what I did:

First, I made some large sketches of panels I was going to draw this weekend, just to get a better feel for them. Normally, I only thumbnail them, so this was a new approach:
Do you travel through time in a blue box?
I used a 5B pencil throughout the session, by the way, which definitely encouraged me to work large.
Eventually I tired of doing work that was strictly for the comic, and started doing more random things:
A naked chick with a big butt. No deep thoughts here...
... the more I see Calvin draw his emaciated, Manara-inspired nymphettes, the more I get the urge to draw big-arsed girls. Funny how that works. The Alpha and Omega signs on her cheeks were the result of some free-association process the memories of which have since evaporated in a haze of beer. Some minor corrections after scanning, because there were a bunch of confusing lines in the arm and face.

Gnomian physicist
A quick study for a Gnomian physisist for a future weekend update.

Erik is an insanely accomplished artist whose skills I envy quite a lot. What I envy most, I think, is his ability to draw creatures so they are lively, individual and imaginative. Not to mention cute. He's worked hard to develop that ability, and so should I. Other people at the session suggested the horns that can be seen in a vague outline, but I think this cutie works fine without horns.

While I'm at it, let me plug 101 Projects for Artists and Illustrators, which I found via, er, someone.


February 22nd, 2007 by Adam Cuerden

With megachurches increasing the traditional 10% tithe to 15%, Benny Hinn becoming a multimillionaire out of preaching, I think it's time to look at what the Bible actually says about tithing.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 14, 22-29, King James Version:

22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

In other words, keep back a portion of your food, and eat it in a feast dedicated to the lord. Invite the poor and the preists ("the Levites" were the priest caste).

Numbers 18:26 clarifies how much the priests should get of this money held back:

26. Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.

Not a tenth part of your income! A tenth part of the money and goods held back for this grand celebration.

Worse, why have a lot of modern churches upped even the semi-traditional (if unjustified) 10% to 15%? How on earth can they justify this?

...I suppose, in the end, it comes down to this: not only is 15% tithes unbiblical, and motivated by sheer greed, even the traditional 10% tithe isn't biblical, though there is a reasonable case for 10% towards charity and fellowship (a party being fellowship, and inviting the poor, widows, and so on to the feast being charity). If the church is highly active in charity, and has a strong social aspect not given over to somberness ("thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household"), it may be justifiable as a modern interpretation of the older social format, and 10% might be appropriate. If it is not, particularly if the pastor is getting rich off of it, then this church is failing at the basic reasons for a church to exist: fellowships and good works. It is thus a scam, a hypocrite, and motivated by greed.

WCCA 2007

February 22nd, 2007 by Reinder

For all the criticism the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for 2007 have received (admittedly, I could write that opening line about each previous edition of the awards), they do reflect a trend in webcomics towards more technically sophisticated material. In particular, the artistic standards of the nominated comics have been higher than ever this year.

The awards ceremony itself, which is in comics form, goes on for far too long, though. If there's one piece of advice I'd presume to give the organising committee, it's "fewer awards categories, please, pretty please for the love of kittens". It's not fair to the nominees, winners, and ceremony creators down the bottom of the list, like - well, that's my point, really. Reading the ceremony late at night, I basically skimmed through the last five or six I read, and then skipped the last however many there are. Even for the last few I did "read" I have no idea who the artists involved were.

Pare it down to something that can be read in a single sitting... or serialise it.