Tagged: party

Review: Action Philosophers

Review: Action Philosophers

In a popular and academic marketplace where everyone wants and needs to learn better, smarter, faster, we have series upon series of
things that have titles that are playfully self-deprecating in the hopes of our being brave enough to channel our inner superhero and dive in and learn something that might have seemed a bit daunting, such as [[[Philosophy for Dummies]]] and [[[The Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy]]]. We have Sparks Charts and Cliff Notes. And we have the [[[HarperCollins College Outline of Philosophy]]], Ethics, and other subjects. All worthy aids for the harried and hopeful. But something’s missing. It has been proven in multiple studies that we learn in multi-valent ways, using all the senses, so that the more senses that are engaged in learning and the more playful it is, the better we learn and the better we retain things, no matter what our age or inclination.

Now, I’m a Philosophy Geek and I absolutely love this stuff, but I know it’s not for everyone, can be a hard read and a hard sell, and yet it is still foundationally useful – most headhunters and HR people say that they see a background in Philosophy as a plus for new applicants, as it helps them to be better analytical thinkers, better writers, better communicators, better problem solvers (both the NY Times and Wall Street Journal ran articles on this in the past year). Many of our beloved superheroes are very philosophical (look at [[[Watchmen]]]!). I heartily agree, there, and it’s why the term “classical education,” starting since Plato’s time (4th C. BCE), is still looked upon as something good and useful and the model upon which most modern education is built. After all, can 2500 years be totally wrong? But how to engage more of the senses and assimilate this vast quantity of knowledge in a manageable amount of time and even have fun doing it?

Their three volumes cover everything from the most obscure pre-Socratics to 20th C. America. The series, like Philosophy, itself (save for the 20th-21st Cs.) has a dearth of women – two to be exact: Ayn Rand and Mary Wollstonecraft. And only one native-born American, Joseph Campbell (Rand was an émigré and Jung only came here later in life to teach). The rest are Classical, Continental, and Eastern Philosophers of all the major schools of thought and they read totally like a who’s who. It’s not clear to me, from volume to volume, how the various names were picked and why they were grouped together in these omnibus editions, though within each volume they are chronologically presented. Van Lente’s great talent is to be able to distill down, quite accurately and admirably (I had few quibbles with him, mostly on his takes on the various Christian philosophies, in minor details), the main points of some very complex and mind-bending worldviews, from metaphysics to political science, all with quite the sense of humor, albeit sometimes gallows or black humor. And some of the things aren’t even funny ‘til you look at Dunlavey’s illustrations, which remind me of a cross between Hanna-Barbera and [[[Beavis and Butthead]]], if they’d been done in line drawings, and then you just laugh at the conjunctions.


Convention Cookies

Convention Cookies

Conventions are an excellent place to catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrities, hear the latest gossip on your favorite shows, and buy as much awesome stuff as you possibly can. Conventions are not, however, renowned for their food. While finding an affordable and delicious balanced meal can be difficult when you are away at a con, you can certainly bring along something more exciting than a bag of chips and some stale licorice for snacking. So if you’re going to the The New England Webcomics Weekend 2009 or Lunacon this weekend, here are two of my time tested favorite cookie recipes and an easy no-bake snack.

Amazingly Easy Convention Crunchies

3 cups healthy unsweetened or lightly sweetened crunchy cereal (Kashi, All-Bran, Cheerios, etc.)
1 12oz bag of baking morsels (chocolate, butterscotch, etc.)

In microwave safe container, melt morsels on medium. Stop every 20 seconds to stir. When all chips melt and stir easily, it is ready (microwaves vary).

Put cereal in a large mixing bowl.

Pour melted morsels over cereal and coat as evenly as possible.

Spread mixture on wax paper to cool (about 2 hours)

Break up into cookie-sized pieces and store in airtight container. Refrigerate if desired.


‘Mighty Thor’ fights crime in Scotland

God of Thunder: Torvald Alexander confronted the burglar dressed as ThorKenneth Branagh can stop looking for who to cast for his Thor movie. From the London Daily Mail: Burglar flees in terror after homeowner returns from New Year party… dressed as Thor, God of Thunder

A muscle-bound building boss who came home from a New Year’s Eve fancy dress party kitted out as Thor scared off a burglar by charging at him in his superhero outfit.

Six-foot-tall fitness fanatic Torvald Alexander, 38, was wearing a full God of Thunder outfit – complete with flying red cape and tinfoil silver-winged helmet – when he spotted the raider in his front room rifling through a desk.

Mr Alexander, who runs building firm Alexander & Summers in Edinburgh, Scotland, said the burglar threw himself out of a first-floor window of his £350,000 home in the Inverleith area of the city when he opened the door and confronted him.

Lucky Ken. He doesn’t even need a costume designer anymore.

Troy Little’s ‘Angora Napkin’ Headed for Animation

Troy Little’s ‘Angora Napkin’ Headed for Animation

Troy Little’s graphic novel Angora Napkin is being adapted as an animated project to air on Canada’s Teletoon in March of 2009. 

IDW will publish the book as a 152-page hardcover in January and the publisher describes the book as “an adult comedy about a girl band pop trio.”
Little (Chiaroscuro) is involved in all aspects of the production of the Angora Napkin animated pilot.

Teletoon, in a Canada wide search for new and original adult animation ideas, selected Angora Napkin to be developed as an animated pilot. “The idea of Angora Napkin was originally developed by Nick Cross and me as an animated series so it’s really interesting to see the project come full circle” Little said in a release.  “We’ve teamed up with Mugisha Enterprises to produce the cartoon.  Both Nick and I are putting many hours into the cartoon and are involved in all aspects of production to ensure the unique look of the show remains fresh and creator driven”.

Troy believes the timing of the book and cartoon will do much to compliment one another and help draw attention to the product. “Angora Napkin is one of those quirky little concepts that could potentially draw a cult status. It’s very subversive humor coupled with a healthy dose of sex and violence”.

Angora Napkin graphic novel synopsis:

Halloween is upon us! Historically this ancient event has been identified as the day in which the boundary between the living and the dead becomes unstable. It is on this fateful night that we find Beatrice, Molly, and Mallory, the pop music group known as Angora Napkin, running behind schedule for their performance at the big Halloween bash. Taking a short cut on a dark, twisting mountain road, the girls cross paths with one of the wandering dead. Undaunted by such an unusual encounter, they offer him a lift to a secret underground party. It is here that they are introduced to a lonely, misunderstood zombie boy named Dennis who they unwittingly convince to eradicate life on Earth in order to keep the party of the undead going for all eternity! Will Angora Napkin be able to set right the horror they’ve unleashed upon humanity and still make the show on time, or will we all become worm food in the wake of the zombie apocalypse?

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Order of the Stick

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Order of the Stick

Roleplaying games are a rich forum for comic material, whether you’re riffing on the setting or the game system itself. Typically, this involves have “players” and the characters they play, and either cutting between them or having the players semi-narrate the action.

Rich Burlew presents the Order of the Stick, a group of PCs whose players remain unseen, but retain full knowledge of the game system that defines their world.

The aforementioned Order is an archetypal adventuring party, including Roy, the noble (and put-upon) leader; Durkon, the Scottish-accent sporting dwarven cleric; Haley, the leather-wearing kleptomaniac thief; Vaarsuvius, the haughty and verbose elven wizard; Belkar, the bloodthirsty halfling ranger/barbarian; and Elan, the clueless, excitable bard. Their overarching quest pits them against the lich-sorcerer Xykon, but along the way they fight dragons, giants, goblin ninjas, their evil opposites (the Linear Guild) and the legal system of Azure City.

Currently, there are three books collecting the online material, two with entirely-original flashback stories (the origins of the heroes and the villains, respectively), and a board game available at the Giant in the Playground Shop. (Plus t-shirts, buttons and the like, of course.) The Giant in the Playground forums also deserve a special mention as the most impressive collection of D&D geeks outside of the Wizards of the Coast forums—there is no D&D question they can’t answer and then debate for 30 pages.

Notable moments:

The relative intelligence of the party members.
The introduction of the Linear Guild
Who remembers the old Hostess Twinkie ads in comics?
The Order’s first battle with Xykon begins!
Dramatic confrontation with the shadowy pursuer!
The harsh light of dawn.
The prophecies that will drive the next 200+ strips.
Drama: Moderate. While there’s definitely some angst and some agonizing moments, Burlew also likes to skewer various tropes of adventure games and action movies. A pair of red-shirt characters manage to survive mortal wounds by revealing that they have names and possibly backstories.

Humor: A solid half of the jokes rely on basic knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, particularly 3.5 and 4th Edition. There are also plenty of random pop culture references and obvious anachronisms in the fantasy world (like in any good rpg campaign), but this comic probably isn’t for you if you don’t recognize the phrase “Attack of Opportunity”.

Continuity: High. Start from the beginning. The first dozen strips are loosely-connected D&D gags, but the plot picks up early on and gets into full-on continuity lockout by the later strips.

Art: Burlew draws the strip using vector-based illustration software, in an enhanced stick-figure style. The art has improved over the years, and though the changes are nice, they’re nowhere near the radical changes many hand-drawn comics see. Flashback comics are done in a crayon-like scribble style.

Archive: Five years of page-sized strips (including some double-pagers and infinite-canvas strips), about 600 strips.

Updates: Erratically. It averages three strips a week, but they might be spread out M-W-F, or you might get two on Sunday and one on Monday.

Risk/Reward: There’s a full-blown epic story and Burlew has noted that he knows how it ends; hopefully he won’t disappoint the fans by not getting there. The storyline has yet to hit a comfortable “stopping point” of any kind, which means getting into this strip may get you hooked for several years.

Review: Will Smith in ‘Hancock’

Review: Will Smith in ‘Hancock’

With comic franchises pouring from Hollywood’s every orifice this year, something like [[[Hancock]]] would normally be considered a breath of fresh, creative air. This can be said for the film on paper, but it fails to deliver in the latter half of the film. That said, Hancock is still good fun in a theater, and delivers with all the things we wanted to see Superman Returns do time and time again, but never came through.

The plot follows an unruly asshole (not being vulgar, this term is important to the character) of a superhero who resides in downtown Los Angeles, attempts to keep people safe from the ever-rising crime rate, but ends up causing more damage than he prevents. This makes Hancock (Will Smith) the ultimate antihero, being hated by just about everybody in the world (or at least L.A.) He crosses paths with an up-and-coming Public Relations guru (Jason Bateman) who thinks Hancock can become the hero that the world needs, but with a little bit of help.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The text of this review posted after the jump contains descriptions of significant plot points, so consider this your official SPOILER ALERT. -RM]


ComicMix Six: The Worst Supervillain Names in Comics

ComicMix Six: The Worst Supervillain Names in Comics

A while back, I gave you "The Worst Superhero Names in Comics," but now it’s time for the other end of the spectrum. Yes, it’s time to give the supervillains their due. (Well, those of them with horrible names, that is.)

Oh, and before anyone mentions folks like "Mr. Banjo" and "Captain Nazi," I didn’t include those characters because they were created to fight Captain Marvel back when that character’s adventures were still very much aimed at younger readers – so I consider them to be an entirely different animal. The same goes for any villains created with intentionally silly names (i.e., Howard the Duck’s nemesis, "Dr. Bong").

Ready? Okay, then I give you the ComicMix Six list of The Worst Supervillain Names in Comics

6. BUSHMASTER: Yeah, I know it’s the name of a deadly snake. But honestly, guys and gals, when you see Wonder Woman (of all people) fighting a telepathic character called "Bushmaster," and then you read her thought bubble proclaiming, “Great Hera! I — I cannot resist the telepathic commands of the evil Bushmaster!” … Well, you can’t help but laugh and cringe at the same time — which is painful, believe me.

Congratulations, Bushmaster. You just barely edged out "The Growing Man" and "Bi-Beast" in the award for names with ridiculous innuendo.


Happy Birthday: The Creeper

Happy Birthday: The Creeper

Jack Ryder’s parentage certainly predicted his future—his father was the publisher of a successful union dispatch, while his mother suffered paranoid schizophrenia and died in an institution while Jack was still a child.

Growing up, Ryder followed in his father’s footsteps and became a television news reporter. Unfortunately, Ryder had a big mouth. Normally that would be an asset, but Ryder didn’t know when to shut up, and it cost him his job.

The network didn’t fire him, but they did demote him to working network security, a job Ryder found beneath him. He got his chance to prove himself again when mobsters kidnapped a scientist named Dr. Emil Yatz. Ryder guessed that Yatz would be held at the mob boss’ mansion. The boss was holding a masquerade party that night, so Ryder cobbled together a bizarre costume and snuck in.

He found Yatz, but was seriously injured in the process, and to save him Yatz injected Ryder with the serum he’d created. The scientist also hid the device the mobsters were after by concealing half of it inside Ryder’s wound, which then healed thanks to the serum’s effects.

The device can make matter appear and disappear instantly, allowing a soldier to walk into a place in civilian clothes and then have a uniform and full weapons with the touch of a button. In Ryder’s case it let him make his strange new costume appear and disappear. Ryder used his bizarre appearance, the strength and agility the serum granted him, his unhinged disregard for personal safety, and a disquieting laugh to bring the mobsters to justice.

They dubbed him "The Creeper," and so a new—and truly bizarre—superhero was born.

Review: ‘Sex and Sensibility’ edited by Liza Donelly

Review: ‘Sex and Sensibility’ edited by Liza Donelly

What do women want? Sigmund Freud thought he knew, but we all know about him. After a few decades of feminism, it’s become clearer that the best way to find out what women want is… to ask them.

Sex and Sensibility
Edited By Liza Donelly
Hachette/Twelve, April 2008, $22.99

Donelly is a noted single-panel cartoonist and the author of Funny Ladies, a history of female cartoonists for The New Yorker. (She also teaches at my alma mater, Vassar College, which instantly inclines me to consider her a world-class expert on whatever she wants to be – we Vassarites have to stick together.)

Donelly collected nine of her colleagues – mostly single-panel magazine cartoonists, with a couple of editorial cartoonists for spice – and asked them to contribute cartoons on women, men, sex, relationships – that whole area. Two hundred cartoons later, [[[Sex and Sensibility]]] emerged. It’s divided into several thematic sections — Sex, Sensibility, Women, Lunacy, and Modern Love — and each cartoonist provided an essay about herself and her work, which are sprinkled throughout.


Review: ‘The Un-Men’ and ‘Faker’

In a bit of a strange coincidence, Vertigo has two new collections out this week that both prominently feature futuristic science and genetic manipulation. The books couldn’t be more different, though, with The Un-Men ($9.99) shining a freaky spotlight on some minor Swamp Thing characters and Faker ($14.99) taking a more serious look at the intersection of intelligence of the natural and artificial varieties.

Let’s look at [[[The Un-Men]]] first, if for no other reason than it being the better of the two books. Writer John Whalen takes the largely forgotten mutated monsters and carves a perfect little niche for them – Aberrance, a town of genetic weirdos.

Without ever becoming self-serious, the story explores the rift that’s formed between those in charge of Aberrance and the lower class of freaks. When one of the protesters turns up dead, a federal agent (an albino, which makes him the normal guy) steps in to investigate. Wackiness ensues.

While the murder mystery never takes on any import, the book sludges along with constant splashes of the bizarre and disgusting, each chapter managing to out-freak the last. It’s spiced with some catchy dialogue, such as, “Rome wasn’t sacked in a day.”

The big conclusion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the art is a bit too ordinary for the subject matter, but The Un-Men is still one of the most entertaining and creative new series from last year.