Webcomic Wednesday: Pim & Francie by Al Columbia
Despite their tangible handmade quality, the comics and art of Al Columbia feel less like work someone made and more like transmissions. Faded and aged, torn up and re-assembled, smudged and erased and even burned, the adventures of his two childlike characters Pim & Francie are related in deliberately decontexualized images — covers for comic books that don’t exist, panels from stories without beginnings or ends, sketches for pieces that were perhaps never intended to be finished. It’s as though the evil being depicted — being channeled, perhaps — corrupts the very stuff of the artwork itself, forcing Columbia to commit some of it to paper but preventing him from going any farther than he does for fear of drawing too much of it into being.
But it’s okay — as you can see in this selection of rare full-color Pim & Francie art from Hi-Fructose Magazine, he goes plenty far. A lot of what’s scary about Pim & Francie speaks for itself, Columbia’s facility with gore and rictus grins and the suggestion of much much worse things lurking around the corner and so on. But Pim & Francie as characters, as opposed to just classic-animation-style avatars, are emotionally compelling because of their seeming inability to not plow headlong into horror. At times they seem like siblings, at other times like lovers, but they’re kindred souls either way, and they appear to thrive in the darkness. The more time you spend with them the harder it gets to envision them in a setting outside haunted forests, spooky old mansions, menacing alleyways, and fields of overgrown and malevolent flora. They’re the tongue that can’t stop poking the hole in the tooth. They’re right where they belong.
Assembling in 2014: The LEGO® Movie
Featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie, with Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman.
The original 3D computer animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.
I’m surprised this didn’t already happen!
There are few symbols as iconic as the Star Wars logo. Just looking at it brings a sense of romance and adventure. But it went through a lot of variations before becoming the sleek piece of text we know today. Here’s one video that sums up the whole process, including some weird offshoots.
George Lucas appears before the Presidio Trust on Monday to present his proposal for the Lucas Cultural Art Museum. Visit the museum’s facebook page and offer your ‘like’ by clicking here.
Here is the letter of endorsement sent in from the Senior Art Director of The Science Fiction Book Club:
Dear Presidio Trust Board Members,
I write to express my support for the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum.
As the Senior Art Director of The Science Fiction Book Club, founded in the hey-day of science fiction literature, I find myself in the priveleged position of working with illustrators and illustrations which seek to encapsulate the essence of a manuscript in one single image.
The Science Fiction Book Club was founded 60 years ago in 1953 to provide fans of science fiction and fantasy across the U.S. with easy access to a specially curated literary selection of the genres. In this task we’ve had a unique view of the incredible impact that illustration has made on our culture.
At times, we were fortunate to interact and collaborate with those artists and visionaries who are contemporaries of George Lucas’ collection. Any museum dedicated to the thematically appropriate exhibition of such works is a benefit to the society which will host it, because these talented illustrators of today will most certainly be the masters of tomorrow.
I often hear the question asked about what has happened to American ingenuity. I look at George Lucas and his body of work. I recognize the undeniable creative, social and cultural impact of Star Wars and the many films that Mr. Lucas has directly worked on, not to mention the multitude of those he has inspired. Sharing the Presidio with other centers of American creativity, such as Industrial Light and Magic and The Walt Disney Family Museum, it is easy to recognize the value and generosity of the proposed plan to the entire public. It would also be a destination of significance to the Presidio and the Bay area.
I heartily support and recommend that the Board considers the undeniable opportunity the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum offers, making the Presidio the ideal location for an institution which is sure to have a long and well-respected future.
Senior Art Director
The Science Fiction Book Club
Roots and Beginnings: Batman (dir. Tim Burton)
In honor of the release of Man of Steel today, let us celebrate the best superhero movie ever made. The entire post-millennial onslaught of superhero blockbusters has yet to produce a single film with the style, humor, darkness, weirdness, and overall quality of being a real movie instead of a massive capitalization of intellectual property that Tim Burton’s first Batmovie had in spades.
Is it possible that I’m not an objective observer here? Sure. Batman came out in the summer of 1989, right when I was at the age when you go from being a passive pop-culture receptor to a voracious pop-culture consumer. It’s the ur-blockbuster for me, the first one I can remember seeing in a theater and knowing that it was an event, the first one I looked forward to for months on end beforehand and saw over and over again in the theater. It made me watch the old Batman tv show, read Batman comics. It got me into Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, still one of the single most influential books of my life. I had the Prince soundtrack and, later, the magnificent, still-to-be-topped Danny Elfman score. I had a bootleg Batman t-shirt, yellow logo on black tie-dye. I was a massive mark for this movie.
But I’ve watched it as an adult, and it holds up as something an adult would want to watch. Jack Nicholson got top billing in every conceivable way, and he is indeed wonderful as both the cold-blooded gangster Jack Napier and his disfigured alter ego the Joker, but it’s the writing that elevates that role as much as his go-for-broke ham-camp performance. With the possible exceptions of Heath Ledger in a nurse’s outfit or Tom Hardy’s Bane voice, nothing a single superhero movie has done since has been as gratuitously odd and smart as making the Joker a would-be member of the avant garde — crime as performance art, murder in a purple zoot suit, defacing paintings and poisoning an entire parade of people.
But Michael Keaton has always been the real revelation to me here, quietly off-kilter, lacking the traditional Bruce Wayne looks and machismo but compensating for it with a kind of self-assured billionaire-genius confidence that presaged Steve Jobs. He didn’t train himself into becoming a physical beast the way Christian Bale or many of the Marvel Studios stars did, but his thick black body armor forced him to develop a feigned fighting style that valued efficiency of movement (all those sharp turns because he couldn’t move his head in the rubber cowl!) and thus abrogated the need to look like a Men’s Health cover.
The whole thing was just suffused with these kinds of style-is-substance, form-is-function moves. Anton Furst’s exquisite art direction single-handedly created the art-deco-meets-industrial-nightmare eternal now where the 1930s segued straight into the contemporary urban nightmare without missing a beat — it owes a debt to Blade Runner, sure, but it lost that film’s electro-informational overload in favor of Gotham Gothic and thus stands alone. The music is magnificent: Elfman was never ever better, it’s the best theme music for a superhero this side of John Williams’s Superman theme (it’s telling that the Christopher Nolan Batmovies pretty much didn’t even try), and the Prince songs are some of the most underrated in his catalog, particularly the whacked-out industrial funk of “Batdance.”
Honestly? I think the shot above sums up the appeal of the film for me. In the middle of saving the city, Batman pilots his plane above the clouds and poses it in front of the full moon for no reason other than to show us something beautiful and awesome. Dark, luminous, expansive, and pure spectacle. Talk about heroism.
Webcomic Wednesday - Danger Country by Levon Jihanian
A lot of genre art comes in all caps. Everything’s pitched to look as exciting, as fantasy, as SF, as horror, as genre as possible at all times. Tumblr thwarts this dynamic somewhat, but usually with a high-gloss cuteness that’s its own kind of shouting. The beauty, literally, of Levon Jihanian’s fledgling fantasy epic Danger Country is that its art speaks to you in a calm, almost vulnerable tone of voice. It’s a bit too soon to tell where the story — about the lone survivor of a village massacre who sets out to seek justice, and the companions he meets along the way — is headed; perhaps its genre revisionism/refinement won’t extend past Jihanian’s quiet line, sadsack character designs, and muted palette. But that’s plenty far, if you ask me. It’s so refreshing to see a story of this sort told in this way — so much more reflective of the stylistic range of the genre’s best practitioners in other media than just drawing a bunch of superheroes with swords or warmed-over Frazetta covers — that I almost don’t care about the story itself. Seeing a spectacle like the pages above drawn in roughly the style of a slice-of-life comic is a spectacle all its own.
Beyond darkness, beyond desolation, lies the greatest danger of all…
Watch the exclusive teaser trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Here’s the first poster released by WB for Peter Jackson’s second movie in the Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s nice to see the words come to life, right?