Tagged: Kevin Smith

Marc Alan Fishman is Looking for Inspiration

Thanks in part to a very mystical social media maven, Unshaven Comics has recently enjoyed a bit of a renaissance on our Facebook page. With an increase of likes and, more important, engagement, I’ve been able to hold some really great conversations with our glut of fans. Most recently (as of my writing this), I brought up the question of our favorite artists. I did so because, to me, nothing immediately draws us all into the world of comic books before the art… pun wholly intended.

It’s the depiction – be it overtly bright and heroic or gothic and moody – of worlds impossible to live in that ultimately usher us into the pulp. The writing may, in turn, drive us further into our individual fandoms, but I’ll always believe that the visuals of comic bookery are inherently tied to our collective appreciation. Individual artists will hold our attention more than others. As such, I wanted to share with all of you a collection of these illuminated illustrators of whom I have felt a deeper connection to, that ultimately led me on my own long and winding path to being a creator myself.

Alex Ross

When tracking my love of comics, no artist comes to mind for me personally before Alex Ross. While I may have seen plenty of amazing illustrators in my youth prior, it was Ross and his affinity for the photorealistic that stopped me cold and forced me to enter into my now life-long love affair with sequential fiction. To see Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern per his brush, I was able to bridge the gap that had long stood between what felt like toy-box fodder and an art form. Not to dismiss the pantheon of amazing artists before him mind you. It was merely seeing heroes and villains in a new medium that opened my eyes to the potent pulp of Kirby, Ditko, and the like. Alex Ross makes the impossible seem possible, and because of it, his work on Marvels and Kingdom Come still remain my go-to examples when asked how best to break one’s self into the medium as a fan.

It was Alex Ross’s use of photo reference that calmed my own shaky nerves when it came time for me to dive into interior art. Knowing that I could use the tools of my fine art upbringing to help me build the worlds of the Samurnauts, I was able to overcome my lack of a skillset in creating something from nothing. It had long prevented me from ever trying to make comics. Seeing how Ross walked the line from a photo to a finished panel helped me, in my own meager way, do the same.

Mike Mignola

And let’s just go ahead and leap to the antithesis. Mike Mignola is one of those artists that captivated me the second I saw his angular and moody artwork. The way he balanced his awkward forms with garish shadows and minimal detail helped me see how an artist could make a world alien to our own even more alien. And because his work is most often simply colored, he helped me find an affinity for a less-is-more approach to a comic. While I myself can’t say that I see any of his influence in my own work… I oftentimes find myself with a comic or two of his on my side-table when I am in the very beginning of planning a page. And while someday I may trust myself to push my own style into a Mignola-esque direction, until then, I can simply enjoy the work he produces.

Mike Allred

Like many of my specific generation, my honest-to-Rao first look of Allred’s work was the animated intro to Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. Mike Allred’s simple-retro-hipper-than-thou art leaped off the movie screen far better than the dialogue deluge of Smith’s Generation X stoner flick ever could. Subsequent deep dives into the X-Statix, Madman, X-Force, and others only deepened my considerable admiration. And above Ross or Mignola, Allred’s work is presently on the tip of my own tongue – artistically speaking.

Mike Allred’s clean lines, kinetic figures, and throw-back style is 1000% what is pushing me towards my newest endeavors in the medium. With my forthcoming submission in Mine! to the subsequent spiritual sequel in the Samurnauts series, I am working hard to push my style into a similar vein. At present, my odd mashing of photo-realistic figures with overly fussy coloring served its purpose; continuing to revisit Allred’s work is forcing me to do what the best artists do… reinvent myself to become more myself such as it were.

Next week, I’ll be focusing on the yang to the artist’s ying. Excelsior!

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Selling Out

Richie RichThe other afternoon, whilst sipping on a cool beverage and shooting the breeze with a comic book making cohort, I stumbled upon a most interesting What If scenario. You see, this pal of mine loathes Kevin Smith (of Jay and Silent Bob, and a dozen other ventures). Knowing this, I pressed:

“What would you do if Kevin Smith got a hold of your [Amazing Indie Book I’ve Plugged Before], and decided he just had to turn it into a film. Would you make a deal with him?”

A little bit of hemming and hawing later, the answer was a resounding yes – pending a considerable amount of money was put on the table, as well as some subsidiary rights. It ultimately got me to question myself: Would I put aside my integrity as an artist if it meant a more lucrative life? Well, as much as I’d love to be able to side with the staving artists of the world, I’m a fat dude who loves a good Faberge egg omelet far more than resting on a pile of unsold ideas.

It’s oftentimes the pipe dream of the indie creator, is it not? Certainly Banky and McNeil of Chasing Amy had courted selling out as means to better ends, and no one looked down on them much. The fact is that we barnacles on the S.S. Comics may enter into the endeavor or making pulp for the masses with nothing more than good intentions to entertain, but there’s only so long that one can sustain the hobby without lucrative backing.

As I’ve detailed time and again: each issue of my Samurnauts series represents roughly 250 work hours from concept to completion. Three guys working full time jobs and maintaining contact with loved ones – like our fiancés, wives, and kids – put in those hours. While there’s no greater feeling in the world than seeing a complete stranger plunk down his hard earned cash for my comic, there’s no bigger dream then being able to sustain a career actually making the next issue.

If there were to be a fly on the wall when Shuster and Siegel were pitching Superman, do you think they were contemplating points on the backend when they signed their names on the dotted line? I doubt it. They sold the rights for $130 and a contract to produce more material, to the tune of $150,000 a year for the pair. Superman, of course, went on to become a radio show, a newspaper strip, a cartoon, a television program, and countless cartons of collectable crap. The creators would end up suing DC and other respective owners for a fairer cut for the rest of their natural lives. The notion was clear from the start: putting food on the table will trump a stiff upper lip every time.

When an artist is given carte blanche to see their truest work come to fruition, I’ve no doubt it will always be better than had it been built by a focus group. But there’s a reason why DC and Marvel hire known names to helm their biggest titles. They’re not in the business to take leaps of faith. In the best cases, one could argue that a collaboration between art and commerce leaves the most people happy. See The Avengers. And when it goes wrong, well, funny enough, no one is exactly blaming Eastman and Laird over Bay’s Ninja Turtles now, are they.

The notion of selling out was always troublesome to me. The thing is, the Million Dollar Man was right: Everyone has a price. But there will always be those creations we hold nearest to our hearts and feel the need to protect. I believe for most of us indie creators, our ideas are always on the table for sale because we pride ourselves in the ability to create more where they came from. The hope is when we’re well off enough we can afford to give life to those new ideas without the slimy hand of an unwanted third party. Left to their own devices, Green Day became Foxboro Hot Tubs and without any focus groups to get in the way… ended up sounding like Green Day (from 1968).

So, I say unto all those amidst the Artist Alleyways! You are free and clear to seek that big payday without fear of repercussion. For you see… the artist that pays his bills, and lives to see another day has plenty of integrity in my book.

 

Review: Lego Batman 3 – Beyond Gotham

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 7.17.56 PMMake no mistake – the box says Batman 3, but this is clearly the DC response to the Marvel Lego Super Heroes game from last year.  With over 150 heroes and villains, an oncoming storm of DLC, and a sweeping plotline, this is the biggest look at the Lego DC Universe yet.

The title says “Beyond Gotham” and they follow up straight away – the opening video features the six Lantern Corps that aren’t green. Sinestro, Star Sapphire, Saint Walker and Larfleeze start off bickering but are quickly defeated and put under the thrall of the game’s Big Bad, Brainiac.  In only the opening levels of the game the narrative moves from an underground battle against Killer Croc to a outer space where Batman and Robin team up with fellow Justice Leaguers Flash, Cyborg and the Martian Manhunter.

Batman3_2All the Lego games bear some common concepts – the characters fight and puzzle their way through various levels based on the narrative of the story the game is based on, a list so far including Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean.   Everything is awesome destructible, the debris revealing “studs”, the common coin of the Lego realm, which can be used in between levels to purchase new playable characters.  Various characters have different powers – some can fly, some can shoot fire – and each power will allow the player access to different parts of the levels.  Since many characters and powers are not available at the start of the game, the replay value of the series is impressive, nearly exhausting for those insist on chasing the virtual dragon that is the elusive 100% completion rating.

One of the joys of each successive Lego game is to see what new gameplay is created, and what features are pulled from previous entries in the various series.  The interchangeable specialty suits make a welcome return from previous Bat-games, not only for Batman and Robin, but other heroes like Cyborg.  The score multiplier from the Marvel game has been added, and quite useful; too – the number of studs needed to fill the “True Hero” bar on most levels are painstakingly high.  Where Marvel had Stan Lee hidden amongst the levels for you to save, Batman 3 fills that role with the finest Bat-Actor to ever draw breath, Adam West.  Flying characters hake an appearance, including the first large-size mini-figs like the giant true form of the Martian Manhunter and Arkillo of the Yellow Lantern Corps.

The breadth and depth of characters in the game is truly staggering.  From the A-list JLA members to the mid-carders like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, even villains for the other heroes to fight, like The Cheetah and the Rainbow Raider.  Guest stars from past the fourth wall are a new addition – DC creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee get the mini-fig treatment, as do Conan O’Brien and Kevin Smith.  In addition to his cameos as a hapless actor in distress, Adam West also voices the Batman from the classic 1966 TV series (now out on DVD) in a special level, complete with retro Batcave and minifig design, and the comic-booky sound effects that have so inextricably affixed themselves to any news media coverage of comics.

Batman3_1But they don’t stop there. This game ties into Batman’s 75th anniversary, and as such pulls in characters and suits from many media.  In addition to the Batman suits from the movies, Batman Beyond is featured in the game, along with his villains like Inque.  Batman The Animated Series gets a tp of the hat with The Gray Ghost, and of all people, Condiment King, and Brave and the Bold brings us the Music Meister.

In a first, the cast of the WB’s hit series Arrow appear in the game, with voice provided by Stephen Amell.  Felicity Smoak, Malcolm Merlyn and the Huntress will be making an appearance in a DLC pack.  But if I had to choose the single most WTF-y included character, it’d have to be The Green Loontern, AKA Daffy Duck, AKA Duck Dodgers from the episode of the TV series where Dodgers accidentally got Hal Jordan’s laundry by mistake.  THAT’S what I call obscure.

In addition to the common design and base gameplay, surely the most beloved common feature of the Lego games is their wacky sense of humor, and this game does not disappoint.  In addition to the wonderful and fun plot and dialogue, be on the lookout for endless throwaway gags in the background.  As Hawkman (or is he?) enters the Hall of Justice, he passes various souvenir stands dedicated to the heroes, including an Aquaman booth choked
with unsold merchandise.  Or as Princess Diana takes to the air, the classic Wonder Woman TV show theme starts to play.

It is not unreasonable to say that there are those who are playing each and every Lego game because of their love of the series, over and above the licensed property that the latest game based itself on.  This game will satisfy both Bat-Fans and Legomaniacs alike.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is available for all current Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo platforms and handhelds.

Marc Alan Fishman: Stand Up For Integrity

This past week, Marc Maron interviewed Mike Myers on his WTF Podcast. Myers, a consummate pro very much at peace with the world, had only one itch to scratch with Maron: His infamy in being known as hard to work with. His response was direct. If he was hard to work with, it was only because he was standing up for his creations. And if that in turn caused people to be irked by him, well, so be it. Had I not been driving at the time, I would have stood up an applauded. And to the couple on I-294 I accidentally cut off because I attempted it… I’m really sorry about that.

It got me thinking about creative endeavors, and how Myers’ ideology is the ideal that would make the world that much more of an amazing place to live. It’s a crazy notion that I’ll happily back with a litany of examples. If I may be so bold:

Louie, on FX, is an astoundingly brilliant, genre-challenging show that simply could not be made any other time than right now. Because Louis C.K. had the wherewithal to stick to his guns and demand complete creative control over his end-product, every episode is appointment-worthy TV. By comparison, IFC’s Maron is so tragically focus-grouped, it took two seasons to reach any worthy catharsis. And even then, it was a barely-there conceit that Maron should appreciate life more. To compare the two shows is perhaps a bit mean-spirited – Louis C.K. is a filmmaker, and Maron a podcaster – bit the reality remains the same. What makes Marc Maron an amazing figure is his ability to touch on the humanity within nearly any subject in front of him. IFC sought no gravitas with their adaptation of his life. They wanted a hip, edgy comic to bring some Louie-esque cred to their backlog of Portlandia repeats. And for the quasi-fame and cash, Maron went all in.

The silver screen aside, we need only look to the cinema for even better examples. While we know, no doubt, that it takes a village to raise a child – a child being a movie in this case – very few films are wholly a singular vision given their relative cost. But when a creative team that clearly anguishes over every minute detail together as a team and makes the movie they truly wish to make, the results represent art over commerce. Take folks I love like Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Chow, or the infamous Kevin Smith. Each man’s films are intrinsically connected to their source creator. That is to say nearly all of them. Let’s try to forget Cop Out, shall we? But in the best of cases, movies as diverse as the original Clerks, Pulp Fiction, or Kung Fu Hustle were built on houses of cards. No financier could look at any of those preliminary spec-scripts and say without falter that they’d be commercially viable. Even with each man’s pedigree in tow, it took integrity of self and one’s creation in order to complete their respective films. And because of it, I’d say in each of those cases the world was treated to amazing art. Yes, Clerks included.

And where would my op-ed be without touching on our medium of choice here at ComicMix. I’ll be frank: I just don’t know how to defend my point whole-heartedly here. Whereas in my examples above, the end-product – damning the man who would try to control it – ended up both a critical as well as a commercial darling. In contrast, comic books simply don’t sit at the same table. The most profitable comics seem to swirl around character regardless of how the fanboys are reviewing it that week. Per my recent columns, I’ve pontificated that in most cases as well the parent publishers must keep the rags on the racks for no better financial reason beyond being able to control the licenses that live between the pulp. With all that said, I’m still adamant in my original conceit. Removed from the external control of governing bodies that care more about latent data points, letting an artist make the art they want will always yield a better finished product in my mind. It’s the difference between Revival and whatever crossover-of-the-month is raging on. And lest we not find a silver lining to this all, we need look only to The Walking Dead – a book built and maintained by a singular vision, not a corporate marketing report. And certainly that turned out pretty well, all things considered… no?

Ultimately Mike Myers’ feeling that his vision was best, gave the world the rebirth of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in lieu of a Guns N’ Roses single. And because of it, Queen hit the top of the charts again, nearly two decades later. More importantly, you can’t hear the song at 4:07 and not bang your head accordingly. As artists we are often pawns to the masters of the finances. In order to see our visions given birth, we are challenged by those not in the know to concede to another opinion. Beyond simple collaboration, there exists a conflict of interest when those who can pull the trigger choose to question the viability of a given creation.

It is up to us, the creators, to then hold steadfast. It is far better to be proud to put your name on something because it truly represents your vision, then to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.

 

Man of Steel Fan Event let the Audience Ask the Questions

Man of Steel Fan Event let the Audience Ask the Questions

Yesterday, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Man of Steel Director Zack Snyder sat with special host Kevin Smith for an exclusive fan event on Yahoo! Movies. The cast and crew talked all the things Man of Steel, in anticipation of Tuesday’s home video release of the summer blockbuster.

The event also included a featurette of the sit-down discussion between Zack Snyder and Michael Shannon about the making of Man of Steel.

The Point Radio: Kevin Smith’s Comic Shop Secrets

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Kevin Smith and and the guys from The Secret Stash are already back into a new season of COMIC BOOK MEN on AMC. Kevin catches us up and talks about how the show has evolved over three seasons, and where it’s headed. Plus The DVR scores again for TV ratings and Alex Ross celebrates Marvel.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Marc Alan Fishman: Age – It’s Not Just A Number

FIshman Art 130907I know that amongst many writings for ComicMix, I am essentially still in diapers in their eyes (and I’m guessing, so too, perhaps is Emily). And as much as I don’t want to make that a jab at their graying hair, and preference for dinner around 4 PM, I can only assume that when they see the whipper-snapper trying to make a point about time and wisdom they might bruise a hip from chortling at the thought. But I welcome their guffaws… Because they know as well as I, that what I speak is the truth. It’s a simple truth, of course, but a necessary one to restate every now-and-again.

As folks my age rage against the MTVs and their kin, I choose to take a step back. Miley Cyrus gyrating on teddy-bears is exactly what a 20 year old with all the money and none of the responsibilities of life should be doing for attention. She’s an artist the same way any of us may have been at 20. She has the chops, but for now, none of the wisdom needed to produce something of value. John Mayer, now 35 is really coming into his own on his albums. No longer fluffy songs about “making love,” and growing up… now he turns inward, and deftly pushes outward his wry humor, and seamless guitar playing.

So too, do artists in our field of comics perform much the same. Mark Waid, as amazing as he’s been for years, seems to only gild his bibliographic lily with each passing issue of Daredevil. And where young buck artists for Marvel and DC are chugging away at their boards in an effort to ape the house-styles of the day, soon they will see that taking a risk on what they actually want to do will end up paying their rent just as well if not better. And screw you, I’m am optimist.

I dawned on this fact over this past weekend. Matt (my Unshaven Cohort) and I were invited to do a workshop on how to create comics for a batch of wonderful kids at a local art gallery. Their ages ranged from 6 to 14 (I believe), and we had a ball. One of the first things I did was ask each kid in the class to come up with an idea to draw out. Ideas ranged from showing Sonic the Hedgehog becoming “Dark Sonic” to a chicken facing an existential crisis. I was floored, if only because the young man who pitched it to me was so crystal clear on the concept. Why did the chicken cross the road? To die, of course. Later this spiraled out into the zombie chicken apocalypse, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The longer I thought about those kids, and their concepts, I was brought back to my own childhood. I can clearly recall in elementary school I created a trio of crime-fighting, mystery-solving kids (“The Cool Kids”), who I would draw over and over and over. I never actually got them into any unwieldy adventures, nor intricate mysteries. I’d spent all my time perfecting their look. Eventually (as in, a year later), I’d met Matt in class, and soon thereafter, moved into creating a complex continuity of comic characters. Matt and I bathed over entire teams of ‘original’ heroes. I’m nearly certain it took mere days for us to combine our cadres into a single cavalcade of crime-fighters. And amongst all of those long-lost creations, I can still pitch “The Human Blade” to you as the metal-made-man of true justice.

In my head (as I’m sure within those fine minds we melded with at the gallery), there were complex stories at the waiting. Emotional journeys, epic battles, and small character moments to be had. It is only now, with years of toiling at the art table (and blank script pages), do I finally feel like I have the tools to produce something of value. It’s not that I haven’t made product prior, mind you. But as with all artists, it’s time that has taught me that everything before right now is only as good as it could have been. In lesser heady terms… with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes a superior piece of art. Every comic Unshaven Comics has put out has clearly shown a progression of our styles, our scripting, and our abilities as story-tellers.

In more than one of the reviews we received back from fans of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #2, we heard that there was “real progress” from issue 1. Not that they didn’t like issue 1 (and our sales to date are a testament to that…), but there was a clear and present evolution of our art within the 36 pages. I know for myself, I really pushed myself to get feedback throughout my creative process – something a younger me was too prideful to do. It was as if the passage of time (and the experience of doing it several times before) made me more able to produce something with nuance and an attention to craft. Preposterous, perhaps, but true none-the-less.

Rodney Dangerfield didn’t find his voice, truly, until he was well into his forties. Jack Kirby helped define an entire era of comics, at about the same time in his life. The older my personal heroes such as Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino get, I’ve found their works to mature with them. It’s a fact of life, perhaps, no? With age comes wisdom and foresight. And for we, the creatives, so too does our work evolve. Age is not just a number, kiddos, it’s a state of our well-being when we put our pens to the paper.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Michael Davis: Cowards

Gold Art 130828“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot.”

– Bruce Wayne

“Comic book fan boys are a superstitious cowardly lot and some are big pussies as well.”

– Michael Davis

Yeah, I said that.

I know quite a bit about pussies, so I speak from a place of wisdom. Although the vast majority of pussy I know about has almost nothing to do with comic books, less than that with fans and zero to do with boys or men for that matter.

Just to be clear, the big pussies I’m talking about for this particular rant are those winey little bitches whom think that their will should be the will of the industry. The latest fan bitch fest is over Ben Affleck playing Batman.

Fan boys are bitching like teenage girls who just had something bitter spilled all over their brand new braces.

Give that a sec…

Look, back when Warner Bros. (WB) announced Michael Keaton was going to be Batman, comic book fandom lost their freakin minds. The outrage was so immense that WB rushed outtakes of Keaton playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne to make sure the fans knew that Mr. Mom was up to the task.

Didn’t matter.

Die hard fans just did not give a shit. Nope, they just kept that outrage up until Batman broke every box office record they had at the time.

Then – and only then did the fan boys come around. Keep in mind this was 1989, before the Internet. I was on only 1 at the time and even I remembered that.

What?

People, it’s called acting. That’s what actors do. They act.

Yes, Daredevil was a horrible movie and Affleck had a great deal to do with that but everyone was excited as a 16 year old realizing he was right about to get some poon tang when they announced Affleck was going to be Daredevil.

It was only after seeing that movie fandom lost their minds, and rightfully so. Look, I’m a big a fan as anyone of Kevin Smith but let’s face it not all his movies are great. But because Kevin is so damn cool you almost never hear any crap from fans about his movies. That shit just boggles my mind. Kevin gets an almost universal pass from comic book fans no matter what he does. I mean a shit monster? Come on!!!

How asinine was that, eh, shit?

But give Affleck a pass?

Nope.

The last time I looked, the Oscar count was Affleck two and Smith zip.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really give a darn about Oscars, to me it’s just another Hollywood gimmick to sell tickets. I’d rather sit through a bad Kevin Smith movie than subject myself to some bullshit like My Left Foot for some other important movie. I like my movies to entertain me. Look, I lived Boys In The Hood so I don’t really need to spend any money on that or films like Peaches. Unless it’s a Bill Duke or Reggie Hudlin film, I stay away from black movies like I do gay sex.

The last real black film I saw not directed by those two men was Black Dynamite and that was just hilarious. Before that, I think the last black film I saw was Malcolm X.

But, (sorry Peter) I digress. I would sell my child for an Oscar. Not because I think it means anything but Oscar is a poon tang magnet. I’m a lot of things but stupid I am not.

Davis Art 130827Speaking of stupid, that’s what I think the outrage over Affleck becoming Batman is. Stupid.

Stupid with a capital Asshole.

My favorite actor in the world is George Clooney. When I met him I was like a little bitch, he’s just so damn cool! My favorite comic book character is Batman.

Imagine my sheer ecstasy when I heard my man crush was going to play Batman. I lost my mind!

But that movie was god awful. Now, my favorite singer in the world is Frank Sinatra and Oceans 11 (the original) is on my top ten films ever. What did I do when I heard Clooney was going to play Frank’s role in the remake?

I lost my mind!

This is the second time my all time favorite actor was about to play one of my favorite characters (Danny Ocean) and he nailed it!

But, if he didn’t I would have said so.

Like I said, my favorite comic book character is Batman and if I can wait and see what Affleck does so can everyone else.

Until I see him do it, I have nothing but high hopes that he can pull it off. Yes, he was horrible in Daredevil but that mofo was badass as Superman.

Yeah, he was Superman and he was great.

If you don’t believe me just check out the film Hollywoodland.

So until you see him fuck up Batman don’t assume he will. In the mean time shut the fuck up fanboy.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Belabors This Point

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil Does That, Too

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Pulp Fishman

Fishman Art 130223I’m gonna take a slight detour off my normal path this week, kiddos. Mike Gold and I like to e-mail one another every now and again. It just so happened that today Mike name dropped the Djesus sketch from SNL from last week. I told him I’d not seen it, as I was waiting to see Django first. Turns out having a toddler makes for a pretty house-bound social calendar. In his retort, Mike lamented “Django is great, unless you don’t like Tarantino. Then it’s ‘Tarantino.’” Oh ho! Sweet Mikey G. Me and QT go way back.

Long before we were Unshaven Comics, Matt Wright, Kyle Gnepper and I were just bros. And prior to making amazing comics, we just read ‘em. Amidst the angst, part time jobs at local retail establishments and foodatoriums, we wasted our ample free time with movies, anime, video games, and comics all to help us find our way through the world. Nothing spoke to me in these tumultuous times more than the films of one Quentin Tarantino.

Somehow, his pop-culture drenched films permeated my mind in a wash of “too cool for school” attitude, and “fuck the system” structure. I wholly thank Kyle for introducing me first to Reservoir Dogs, QT’s take on a heist film. Here, I was left dumbstruck over the simplicity to it all. Over 99 minutes, we stay largely in a single location. There’s no massive chases, or hyperbolic action sequences. And best of all? No chicks getting in the way. OK, so it’s not a perfect flick. However, to a 16 year-old it’s practically soft-core porn. Everyone swears. Everyone has a gun. No one backs down. And Harvey Keitel suggests tacos. And it does it all with a wit and charm that required nothing more than snappy dialogue and expressive eyes.

I did not get to see Pulp Fiction in the theater. Knowing what I did about Dogs was enough; I promptly traded in some shekels for a VHS copy the second I could. In some weird way, I’d like to think this was exactly how Quentin would have wanted me to partake of his (then) magnum opus. I freely admit that I literally wore the tape out from watching and re-watching it. More-so than Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction was visceral style etched on to magnetic tape. Strictly speaking of the story alone, a teenage me got ruthless mobsters, ass watches, defeated boxers, sexy women, Mr. Pink as Buddy Holly, and most important, a dose of story by way of character, not plot device.

To a point, yes, much of the film is a meandering tale of cause and effect. But better than the action-and-gangster driven drivel my young mind was accustomed to, Pulp Fiction (Jackie Brown and Dogs as well) was a universe unto itself. As Roger Ebert noted in his reviews “A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot. But the people in Pulp Fiction are in love with words for their own sake.” In short? The characters of the film were me and my kind. And better than my other deity-of-the-day, Kevin Smith, each person in QT’s films were individuals with individual drives. And don’t worry, I’ll talk about my love affair with ole’ Kev soon enough. As Alton Brown might say, “That’s for another show.”

If there is a point here in my one man circle jerk session, it’d come right down to Ebert’s aforementioned point. Beyond anything I’d seen or read up unto that time (comics included), characters in my fiction were always essentially empty vessels I could place myself into. In comparison to those heroes of my childhood, He-Man, G.I. Joe, and even the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were merely placeholders and plot movers. Tarantino’s films showed me a world where there was no room for me on screen. Vincent Vega was a cool, mysterious mob hit man who had come back from a vacation into a world of troubles. Mr. White was a hardened, loyal criminal with a past so chock full of vitriol, a lesser director would still be presenting us with prequels. And if you could find an inch of room to move inside the mind of Beatrix Kiddo? Well then you’re a better man than I.

In the post-modern world, I freely admit to the rafters that my own modern fiction was inspired first by Quentin Tarantino. And while masters like Waid, Morrison, Busiek, and Moore would soon lay claim to the rest of my influence CV, it was QT who started the big ball a rollin’ down the hill. His ability to fill worlds, to allow those worlds to breathe, and to realize that A lead to B, but not because the hand of God requires it… remains a breath of fresh air amidst rotting garbage. While I no longer need to proclaim him a lord of creation anymore, I can admit true admiration for a new-era genius of modern fiction. Tarantino mastered the art of homage, and proved that the stories that molded us can give birth to new creations unto themselves. Surely anyone looking at my own Samurnauts will see nothing more than a bearded QT-phile playing in the sandbox built by years broiling away under the heat of after-school cartoons.

Now I’m hungry. Let’s go get a taco.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

The Point Radio: ARROW’s Aim Is Still True


As ARROW  hits the halfway mark of the TV season, fans and critics alike say it keeps getting better. We go backstage with the creators and cast to find out how they got this far, and what lies ahead for new characters including one played by fan favorite John Barrowman. Plus How about Captain Kirk, Ron Burgundy or Spock doing your voice mail message? It can happen if you hurry.

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