The Material Is Strong With This One.

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

 

A week has passed since I hopped in line to get a fresh seat for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which was NOT easy, thanks repeat viewers). Although I consider myself a casual fan of the firm series, it was still on my mind after New Year’s Day. Started with a sketch and developed from there.

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Danse Macabre

Back in 2005 or 2006 I drew a cartoon for my College Newspaper making humorous light of the Columbine School Shootings. At the time, I didn’t give it to my editor, feeling it was in bad taste and still too soon for a society that was still recovering from an unusual tragedy. Fast forward almost 10 years (and a quickie cartoon) later, and I find my cartoon still relevant. I decided to redraw it, due to my artistic evolution, and to reflect the new circumstances. However the “joke” needed no changes. Ten years later. My cartoon probably reflects reality more now than it did back then.

 

Comic Shops Killed the Convenience Store

As mentioned during my time at Heroes Con, artist Don Rosa recalled his encounter with a group of children who struggled to understand the concept of Charlie Brown purchasing a comic from a newsstand. Said scenario was not too foreign for my age group, as the closest my generation has come to that experience was buying a comic from a grocery store or the 7-Eleven. Of course, those were not my only options for most of my life, but I recently began to realize how much of these experiences would join newsstands of Mr Rosa’s anecdote in generational dissonance.

The late 1980s was the time that direct-to-sell comic book stores began to spread nationwide, giving access to independent comic publishers. At the time, I was only 8 years old and pretty much removed from current events of the world, but even back then, I knew the idea was pretty novel. Previously, I had only seen comics at the 7-eleven or the grocery store and by that point it was those places with which I associated comics. As soon as I saw an ad for the comic book store on TV, I just had to get my mother to take me there.

Geppi’s Comic Book Store was the place in my area. It had a name that caught a child’s ear, and just the mere concept was a dream come true: a store with nothing but comics. That had to be the best thing to happen to a kid since…….an all cartoon channel!

Hey, this was five years away.

I remember as I entered the store it was wall to wall of shelves with nothing but colorfully illustrated works. Of course, There were so many titles I had never seen, so I wandered around to find whatever struck familiar. Were there adults in the store rummaging through the merchandise? I don’t remember. They weren’t my focus. All II remembered was that the first thing to catch my eye were the back issues of Disney Adventures Magazine.

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Yes kids, the “Nice Judge” from American Idol was once “Totally Cool”.

I first saw advertisements for this magazine on The Disney Channel (back when it was a pay channel), but didn’t obtain access until I spotted copies sitting next to the TV Guides at the grocery rack. By that point I had only received the third issue so far in the publication (the Bronson Pinchot issue pictured above), so my disappointment in missing the first three issues unthawed.

I’m surprised it made it to the Hanna Montana Era.

To be honest, I’m surprised DA survived into the Hanna Montana Era.

Somewhere off to the side, I spotted a a comic book adaptation of a sitcom airing at the time— Married with Children, published by NOW comics. I asked my mother to buy one for me. She was bit hesitant to do so, having seen the show, but added it to the pile of more-kid friendly fare already gathered in my arms.

If there were any dirty jokes, they went over my head.

Although I would make subsequent visits to new comic shops, the grocery store and 7-Eleven still remained primary sources for titles. My interest in Disney Adventures eventually dropped by early high school, only keeping my subscription when the magazine began running Jeff Smith’s Bone series before ending it to purchase the series separately in a new store. Had I not gone in search for Bone, though, I never would have been able to reconnect with Frank Cho’s series Liberty Meadows after it syndication in The Washington Post for Image Comics. I owe a lot to the Comic book store.

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I never thought I would look back on that time the same way the generations before me look back on their visits to the newsstands. Today, every major city has at least two comic book stores. There are two within a 5 mile radius of where I live. I would go to one first before anywhere else for a comic. I don’t see a lot of true comics in the grocery store’s magazine section anymore. Most 7-Elevens I’ve been to recently don’t have an arcade cabinet let alone a comic rack.

Of course, I still attend my current local comic store, which now hosts the annual Free Comic Book Day. Whenever I wait in line for those complementary comic samples, I cant help but notice children who attend with their parents. I could imagine half of them look at their selected titles and wonder why some of the characters buying a comic from the convenience store.

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What do Bermuda, Garfield and Malcolm X have in Common?

It’s funny how you recall one thing which leads to something that would seem completely unrelated if not for interlinking circumstances. In the summer of 1997, I was in Bermuda with my mother and grandmother the week international news outlets reported the death of Betty Shabazz by injuries inflicted by her grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, who himself later passed away in 2013. We received Hamilton’s local paper, which I at the time naturally turned to the comics section. It ran Tumbleweeds, the comic I had also learned that year cartoonist Jim Davis helped work on before he created Garfield. I don’t think I’ll ever think about Garfield or Bermuda without immediately recalling the Shabazz family.

George RR Martin: A Game of Writing

A month has passed since I attended ConCarolinas in Charlotte this year. I’ve had a lot of life changing decisions, paperwork to mail and illnesses to recover from in the interim, but it’s allowed me time to reflect and get my thoughts together about meeting this year’s special guest: George RR Martin.

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When I arrived to the panel room, I noticed a few in the audience members dressed as Game of Thrones characters: Danaerys, Jeoffrey,……that’s about all I know. George RR Martin was at the other end of the room, a moderator at his side. As one would expect, he did discuss things related to Game of Thrones, but expanded on his other works and collaborations like Fevre Dream, the Wild Cards series, Hunter’s Run and his time working on television projects such as Beauty and the Beast, Max Headroom and the 1980s Twilight Zone.

Martin discussed his life as a writer, such as his writing routine, and his well known usage of a 40 year old DOS system. Around this time a microphone was being passed around to audience members with questions, the first inquiring whether it was better for novice writers to find their niche with short stories or a novel. “Short stories are better to take a risk on.” He recommended. Martin wrote a few before he began A Song of Fire and Ice. The short stories earned him three nominations and one award which provided excellent PR by the time he released his first novel. His career has given him many opportunities to work on projects outside of literature, including an invitation from Neil Gaiman for his Sandman project, which Martin admitted to stupidly turning down.

As he further discussed his experience with comics, Martin provided a perspective similar to what I briefly touched upon in an earlier posting: that which one had when Marvel comics first came about. Like television, the telephone and even internet, those who grew up with the innovation develop the idea that life has always functioned with said innovation integrated. What my generation sees as “old hat” comic tropes was revolutionary for Martin’s generation—in his words, the world of DC Comics was “static”—once Batman and Superman saved the day, they returned to their homes, jobs and loved ones. He was right, it took 60 years for superman to marry Lois Lane, and 50 for Dick Grayson to move out of the bat cave and on with his life. The Marvel universe changed all that—Spiderman lost Gwen Stacy, went off and on with Mary Jane, graduated college, and life changed for Peter Parker—all in the first 40 years. All I can say is thank god for trade publications, or us new gens would never be able to keep up with any prime marvel story.
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Editor’s notes can only catch you up so far.

Others may differ on this issue, but I’d rather have a story I’d need to keep up with than see the characters and settings remain in arrested development after a decade. The portion of people who get agitated by the emotional swerves and sudden deaths of characters forget one thing—the same things happens in real life. The creators of Sesame Street and Guiding Light, and Gasoline Alley understood this as much George RR Martin. Yes, the media scale is that wide in terms of understanding this fact.

In this age of trade paperbacks and Netflix, we more access than we know to catch up on episodic stories. If soap operas managed to gain new viewers with an ongoing storyline and long established characters long before the digital age, why must the rest of television have to stick to the 20th century sitcom formula in it? The only reason left for a person to complain about changes in a story is if they themselves cannot come to terms with change in real life. Of course Mr. Martin had a story for that, to which he explained the difference between “escape fiction” and “comfort fiction”. He reminded the audience that his books are not for everyone. In my opinion, the woman who wrote to complain about his book probably should’ve picked up the latter at her local bookstore.

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“Nobody Lies. Nobody Dies. All is well in the land of Westeros”

After all that, you couldn’t call me too surprised when he admitted hating comic reboots like Marvel’s “Ultimate” series and DC’s “New 52”. In response he decided to write Who the Fuck was Jetboy? For the Wild Cards series, in which newer generations could revisit older heroes. By now it was pretty clear how much his perspective on comics ( especially Marvel) influenced the way he wrote as much as history.

I was not the only one to expect mostly Game of Thrones topics, because many of the cosplayers suddenly had to leave the room. It gave me the opportunity to take one of their closer vacant seats. My writer’s mind was still on, so I stayed and listened. After all this was a writer who got to work in other media and had his own series adapted into a runaway hit TV show. I wanted to learn what he did to get to that point, so I listened.

Another issue Martin brought up was the tension that often came when two writers collaborated on a shared fictional world. What is that? Readers of any medium would notice when a new writer comes in and changes things the previous writer established, the former will react to this change by killing off as many of their characters so that no other writers can use them. I think TV Tropes calls this “Torch the Franchise and Run.” Martin explained a compromise he set up (which I keep secret out of respect for the guy), so that both parties could benefit from a shared world. This is a part of the writing world I never even considered, and to hear about this was information is well valued.

The last question raised regarded his notorious habit of killing off characters. Close followers of his career would notice this trademark extends beyond Game of Thrones. For example, not long after being hired as writer for Beauty and the Beast, he kills off the eponymous “Beauty”. All he could say was this: his books were about human nature. Again, I agree.

People do die without warning, in car accidents or unforeseen heart attacks. It’s why we have life insurance. Friendships end, lives are upended, and people make decisions that make sense to them yet boggle others’ minds. We begin the day in one place and condition and end it in another. As Martin insisted with comics, humans and the world they live in are not static.

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I assure you they’ll be dressed as another character next year. That’s life.

Writing this reminds me why I like attending panels like this—you get to learn about the person behind the pop cultural phenomenon and a little a bit about yourself as your take in what you hear. If only one thing has proven static is that Martin’s experience has reminded me that literary works are always the springboard for writing projects in other media. Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald had their own experiences as hollywood scriptwriters. Unlike the latter two writers, Martin was being part of that generation who grew up with television and comics; he could transition himself between the different media. Now he’s in Parker and Fitzgerald’s shoes, adjusting late to the new medium of Twitter. My generation has the digital world now and the one growing up now will think of it as “old hat”, so let’s see what we can do with that and whatever comes later.

 

New Comic – The Gorgon Transplant : Volume 2

Just want to take a moment here to the second volume of my series The Gorgon Transplant: Vol. 2.  Continuing the concept I initiated at the Sequential Artist’s Workshop, this volume features comics lampooning the public events industry and concerts.

Check out a sample of what’s inside here:
http://imgur.com/Ho8tl7h
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Thank “Mickey McGuire” for Mickey Rooney

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Last Week, Mickey Rooney passed away at the age of 93. Known for his roles in Boys Town, National Velvet, the Andy Hardy series and the now infamous yellowface character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rooney career shot to the top with one good role: Mickey McGuire. Who is Mickey McGuire?

Well, that story begins with the comic strip called Toonerville Trolley or Toonerville Folks by Fontaine Fox. Running in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1915 to 1955, the strip humorously chronicled a neglected trolley and its conductor as they serviced an upstate new york community.

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 Fox’s cartoon proved so popular with the public that in 1927, a film series was adapted centering on one character from the cast: Mickey McGuire.
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The studio cast a young actor and son of vaudeville comedians, Joe Yule Jr. The decision to proved successful, as the series rivaled the series Our Gang (known today as “the Little Rascals”) for 10 years. The series itself helped launch Joe Yule to celebrity status.

 

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When the young Yule left the series at it’s end to pursue his growing career, Fontaine Fox’s copyright restrictions prevented him from using his role’s name, so Yule took another option—changing his name to Mickey Rooney. And the rest was history…….

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So yeah: If it wasn’t for a comic strip, Mickey wouldn’t have his career.

A millennia of Cartoonists making the world turn

Cartoons have been created to make social statements since the Roman era. Archaeologists have found wall graffiti depicting politicians and other public figures in unflattering caricatures. It was a way illiterate people could express their feelings about unfavorable situations and to this day still do.

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Roman Grafitti of a nobleman

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In the last thousand years this has not changed. The world, sadly, still has illiterate people, but fortunately it still has a population with the talent to communicate their feelings–cartoonists. A cartoonist took down corrupt Civil War-era New York mayor Boss Tweed with an unflattering depiction (pictured above), and a centuries later a Dutch cartoonist’s depiction of the prophet Muhammad ignited an semi-global firestorm among muslim fundamentalists. There is more power in a cartoon than people give the medium credit.

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Cartoon Movement.com

While in the United States, the 1st amendment protects cartoonists from state punishment for depicting public figures in unflattering light, this is not the case in other parts of the world. All around the world cartoonists risk the possibly of torture, arrest and murder by their governments not for depicting their governments in unflattering ways but for simply depicting a hidden truth.

In the US, cartoonists are rarely taken seriously editorialists or film/television satirists as when it comes to being “career people”, but the one thing that reminds me of that misconception is how often we in the US don’t fear for our lives by putting pen to paper. However, the regression of free speech laws has been making it easier to put restrictions on cartoonists by state politicians (especially in the bible belt regions). Now that people can put their work online, it may be long before cartoonists here are arrested for their work, since that is the only last resort a politician with no jurisdiction online has to silence a cartoonist. Knowing that makes me feel powerful in doing what I do and keeps me doing it. We fight the good fight.

Welcome to the new Gorgon Transplant wordpress site/blog/whatever!

Upon helpful encouragement from friends in the field and some attraction on my part, I’ve decided to move my wix domain to wordpress. Helps that I had an 6 year old account I forgot existed, whoops. Either way, the site has changed but the content has not. All my work will still be here, plus new relevant blog articles will be featured regularly.