Living Level 3, South Sudan: Graphic novel shines an important light on a desperate situation

(image (c) World Food Programme)

 

It’s been well-documented that art and pop culture can have a powerful effect in spreading information and awareness, creating a groundswell of understanding and motivating action that leads to real change.

One quite striking way this is being demonstrated at the moment is a 48 page graphic novel, Living Level 3: South Sudan (LL3: South Sudan; this refers to the most severe type of humanitarian crisis), which features a real South Sudanese man, Apu Riang and his family who, like so many of their country people, have been caught in the civil war and resulting famine that has affected the new country.

It’s a confronting situation but one that desperately needs to be publicised so people outside of South Sudan understand that once the cable news channels have ceased to have any interest in the story, that there is still an immense amount of need there, and hence, help desperately needed.

The World Food Programme is playing a pivotal role in alleviating the dire need, and its stories such as that of Apu Riang and his family that is underscoring how dire the situation truly is and how much needs to be done.

 

 

As Apu Riang says in the video, filmed as part of a two week information-gathering trip by World Food Programme staff – head of television communications Jonathan Dumont, head of graphic design and publishing Cristina Ascone, and LL3: South Sudan‘s writer Joshua Dysart – you only make the decision to take your family on a perilous long journey from your homeland if there is really no other choice.

The aim of of LL3: South Sudan is to galvanise the international community to act and act now; any delay could cost lives, many lives, and the fictional aid worker in the graphic novel, Leila Helal, plays a key role in making clear how great a task she and her colleagues face.

The aim has always been to accurately document what is happening in South Sudan and as Ascone notes in a Mashable article:

“It’s taken many, many months because South Sudan is [complicated],” Ascone said. “You need to be very careful about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. We needed to make sure we’re portraying the country, the people, everybody in the right way.”

While it aims to be engaging, that is merely a means to an end with the take-away message a vitally important one.

“Basically it says, if people know these stories, then there’s hope. Because then there’s the chance that, whether it’s the World Food Programme or the U.N. or the international community, somebody will care. Somebody will be able to do something to help.

“I think that’s the takeaway. And I think that’s something the reader can use.”

 

(image (c) World Food Programme)

Saving the universe Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 style, one LEGO brick at a time

(image via YouTube (c) Huxley Berg Studios)

 

I think it is pretty much a given that everything in the world is better when it’s LEGO-fied?

The Mona Lisa? Of course. Wandering through the park on a fine summer’s day? It goes without saying? What about saving the universe, for a second time no less? As if you wouldn’t brick-ify that!

Thankfully Huxley Berg Studios recognise the importance of #alltheLEGOS in every aspect of life, and have given us a version of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer that is sure to please every last one of our inner children.

And as IO9 Gizmodo points out,, they have gone to a considerable amount of trouble to create this mini-masterpiece:

“Unlike the Lego movies, which use photo-realistic computer graphics to make it look like the characters and other Lego set pieces were built and animated by hand, Huxley Berg Studios uses traditional stop-motion and photography techniques. The process is painstaking, but the results are charming—and a lot cheaper when you’re not working with a Hollywood-caliber budget.”

 

More comics reinvention: Looney Tunes meets DC Comics

Martian Manhunter and Marvin the Martian (image via io9 (c) DC)

 

Now that they have (mostly) successfully re-imagined a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters such as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Wacky Races, Warner Bros, through their DC Comics imprint, have decided to move on to the goofy cast of Looney Tunes.

The idea, according to the press release (below) is to match characters like Yosemite Sam and Road Runner with characters from the DC Comics universe, in the processing re-imagining them in a far grittier, much more Mad Max-ian kind of way.

PRESS RELEASE

Stay tuned.

Jonah Hex. Yosemite Sam.

Martian Manhunter. Marvin the Martian.

Lobo. The Road Runner.

Batman. Elmer Fudd.

 

Batman and Elmer Fudd (image via io9 (c) DC)

 

Quite whether that will work is another matter entirely since Looney Tunes occupied a whole other kind of hilarious, inspired lunacy than their now Hanna-Barbera counterparts, but as long as the essential characteristics of the characters remain intact, and the Hanna-Barbera re-imaginings have shown us this is possible, it may just have a chance of working.

Or it could end up as the comic version of Bewitched (*collective shudder*).

Either way, it will be a fascinating experiment, yet another example of postmodern synergising which, depending on your perspective, is either creative leveraging of the highest, most inspired order, or representative of a slump in originality.

 

Lobo and The Road Runner (image via io9 (c) DC)

 

Being an innate optimist, always eager to see what’s ahead and hoping and believing it’ll be good, I’m going to hope for the former and look to seeing what a way where Jonah Hex and Yosemite Sam rub shoulders looks like.

And hope that somewhere down the track someone puts Bugs Bunny and Wonder Woman together. Now THAT would be interesting!

(source: io9 Gizmodo)

 

Jonah Hex and Yosemite Sam (image via io9 (c) DC)

Simon Says: Lessons of history from a famed real-life Nazi hunter

(image courtesy Andre Frattino via IO9)

 

It is an oft-used phrase, particularly in these perilous times when far right nationalists seem intent on trying to reshape the earth in their poisonously dark image, but one that very much deserves repeating:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

(There is some conjecture about the exact wording and who said it first, or at all and why, but the fact remains, it is a truthful axiom.)

Simon Wiesenthal, and many brave souls like him were most definitely not among the good men who did nothing, bravely going out and sacrificing their lives to bring many fugitive Nazis to justice, and it is their inspiring story that writer Andre Frattino with illustrator Jesse Lee has chosen to ensure they are not forgotten.

“We’re going to have the next generation who’s not going to have anyone who’s affected by the Holocaust,” Frattino said. “Not only are we forgetting, we’re normalizing it. We’re playing it down. ‘Oh it was so long ago, it doesn’t matter anymore, we won’t do it again.’ Those who don’t remember their mistakes are bound to repeat them.” (source: IO9)

This impressive and important comic book, which will play a vital role in reminding younger generations of the need to stay eternally vigilant against evil, is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, which will run for another 10 days or so.

These types of ambitious and I would argue necessary projects must be supported and I’d urge you to contribute to making Simon Says: Nazi Hunter a reality and be part of inspiring a whole new generation to speak up, act and stop evil in its tracks before it has a chance to wreak the horrific, lives-destroying damage it did during the Holocaust.

 

(image courtesy Andre Frattino via IO9)

 

(image courtesy Andre Frattino via IO9)

Weekend pop art: Apple’s T & Cs re-done in the style of famous cartoons and comic strips

Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz (image via Indy100 (c) R Sikoroyak)

 

Who actually reads Terms and Conditions (T & Cs) documents? Anyone? anyone? Bueller? Just as I thought – NO ONE.

Yeah, yeah we totally should so we know if the vendor we’re signing up with is going to require our firstborn in the event of a missed bill or demand we recreate the Mona Lisa in coloured pasta as punishment for not downloading something correctly … BUT WE DON’T.

Why? Because they’re fantastically boring.

But no longer if insanely clever New York-based cartoonist R Sikoroyak has his way.

This talented guy has recreated all 96 pages of Apples T & Cs in the style of various famous cartoons and comic strips, and the results are nothing short of “hell to the yeah I’d read that!”

Seriously I would and I would love it, and be fully aware of the fact that at midnight on the 4th July 2018 Apple will repossess my home, car and collection of antique poodle statuettes because I accidentally didn’t tick some box somewhere.

Ah the power of good pop culture art!

(source: Indy100

 

Dilbert by Scott Adams (image via Indy100 (c) R Sikoroyak)

 

Adventure Time by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb (image via Indy100 (c) R Sikoroyak)

 

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (image via Indy100 (c) R Sikoroyak)

 

Tintin by Hergé (image via Indy100 (c) R Sikoroyak)

Update stage left! Snagglepuss reimagined as a gay southern gothic playwright

(image via Hanna-Barbera (c) Warner Bros)

 

Nothing stays the same forever, including it seems some of Hanna-Barbera’s most beloved characters who have been thoroughly and impressively re-imagined by DC Comics in the last year or so.

In that spirit of reinvention, one that reflects a more grim aesthetic than the knockabout fun of the 1960s and ’70s, The Wacky Races became the grimly apocalyptic Wacky Raceland, Scooby Doo became Scooby Apocalypse, Johnny Quest, The Herculoids and The Mighty Mightor became Future Quest, and The Flintstones became, well, The Flintstones, although nowhere near as much of a Stone Age family as they had been.

To this burgeoning gang of reborn Hanna-Barberans comes Snagglepuss who from September/October this year will be presented, according to CBR.com, as “a gay Southern Gothic playwright.” (To those of us who grew up with him and were also of a non-heterosexual person, this was blatantly obvious from day one so it’s fitting it’s now being openly acknowledged.)

 

 

Writer Mark Russell will pen the new-and-improved Snagglepuss, who debuted in 1959 as one of the ensembles characters on The Quick Draw McGraw Show, and had this to say about remaking the character:

“I envision him like a tragic Tennessee Williams figure; Huckleberry Hound is sort of a William Faulkner guy, they’re in New York in the 1950s, Marlon Brando shows up, Dorothy Parker, these socialites of New York from that era come and go. I’m looking forward to it.”

And as for the fact that many supposed him to be gay, well Russell is openly embracing of that fact too.

“[I]t’s never discussed and it’s obviously ignored in the cartoons ’cuz they were made at a time when you couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of such a thing, but it’s still so obvious. So it’s natural to present it in a context where everybody knows, but it’s still closeted. And dealing with the cultural scene of the 1950s, especially on Broadway, where everybody’s gay, or is working with someone who’s gay, but nobody can talk about it — and what it’s like to have to try to create culture out of silence.”

The newly openly out Snagglepuss will make his debut in March with an eight page story in a Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual (the mind frankly boggles; that will be interesting), before getting his own starring comic book vehicle later this year.

(source: CBR.com)

 

Weekend pop art: Comic strips meets TV in creative mashups

(image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Peanuts meets The Walking Dead (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Have you wondered what Linus would look like as a zombie? Or Pigpen as Daryl (he’s the one Peanuts character who’d be untroubled by the ablution-challenged environs of the zombie apocalypse).

Or perhaps you think Game of Thrones could do with a dose of Calvin and Hobbes whimsicality? (Let’s face it, sleigh rides that delight you rather than kill you are always the better option.)

Would Dilbert and Silicon Valley be corporate-sceptical soulmates? Or how would Cathy handle the morally-challenged, logic-averse surrounds of VEEP‘s Selina Meyer’s White House?

Wherever your TV – comic strips mashups mind may wander, there’s a very good chance that DirecTV have got there first and the results are absolutely delightful, as well as definitively nailing how Charlie Brown might fare in Negan’s bloodthirsty universe or Garfield‘s Jon Arbuckle might find the gritty, morally-ambiguous world of Mr Robot.

To find out more about how the creators of these mashups envisage the two worlds colliding, go to Direct Deals.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Game of Thrones meets Calvin and Hobbes (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Game of Thrones meets Calvin and Hobbes (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

VEEP meets Cathy (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
VEEP meets Cathy (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Silicon Valley meets Dilbert (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Silicon Valley meets Dilbert (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

 

Mr Robot meets Garfield (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)
Mr Robot meets Garfield (image via Laughing Squid (c) DirecTV)

On 4th day of Christmas … I enjoyed A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas

(image via YouTube (c) Jim Frommeyer and Teague Chrystie)
(image via YouTube (c) Jim Frommeyer and Teague Chrystie)

 

If you were to imagine a Calvin and Hobbes Christmas, the odds are you wouldn’t imagine a traditional Norman Rockwell moment.

Oh sure Calvin’s parents would love that kind of Christmas with everyone grouped around the table in blissful, festive repose, but the reality is that Calvin, who never met an expectation he couldn’t gleefully confound (in common with many mischievous children), would never go along with.

This is after all, the boy who spends his time out in the snow, the very setting of the much-loved and hoped-for “White Christmas” of which Bing Crosby sang so eloquently, creating freaky, scary but ultimately hilariously subversive snowman.

Not for him, the boy who torments Susie Derkins and delivers blisteringly bad poll numbers to his dad, the beatific scarf-clad snowman standing all jolly in someone’s yard.

Nope, his snow people are fiendishly troubled souls who get stabbed, fed to giant snow monsters or fired through by stray cannon fire.

Pretty sure that Norman Rockwell would not recognise these snowmen.

 

 

But that’s the whole point.

Calvin is a young boy, created by Bill Watterson as the very embodiment of the misunderstood child who doesn’t fit neatly within society’s parameters, with boundless imagination, a questioning spirit and a complete lack of willingness to play by the rules.

So it makes sense that A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas, created by Jim Frommeyer and Teague Chrystie (and inspired by Bill Watterson, who is acknowledged in a heartfelt message at the end – “We miss you Bill”) would keep that subversive spirit bubbling along with a tableau of horrifically gruesome scenes that somehow never made it into the lyrics of Crosby’s immortal Christmas song.

The thing is, as Buzzfeed makes beautifully clear is that Calvin actually loves Christmas.

He believes in Santa – even if he does try to game the system –  and doesn’t him to burn up in a lit fireplace, is horrified when his father says they’ll get a near-dead tree after New Year’s and happily takes all the loot he can get (“Getting loads of loot is a very spiritual experience for me”).

But yes he is also a subverter and a sceptic and A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas captures it all perfectly, reminding us that we all need a healthy dose of questioning to go with our wonder.

And that even when we’re neck deep in festive music, Hallmark movies and eggnog, that having some fun with the conventions of Christmas is not just a cool way to spend some time, it’s damn near a requirement!

I am sure Bill Watterson would approve.

For the love of animals: Shelter Me features Patrick McDonnell, creator of comic strip Mutts

(image via Mutts.com (c) Patrick McDonnell)
(image via Mutts.com (c) Patrick McDonnell)

 

The first moment I saw a Mutts comic strip, it was love at first sight.

As I detailed in my post celebrating the 20th anniversary of Patrick McDonnell’s delightful creation, the appeal of a strip that Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz once referred to “One of the best comic strips of all time”, is wide-ranging capable of making you laugh and think deeply all in the space of three to four gloriously well-realised panels.

Integral to Mutts from the start has been a commitment by McDonnell, a committed vegetarian and animal lover who sits on the Board of Directors for The Humane Society of the United States and activist for various animal rights causes, to put the plight of many animals front and centre.

Thus on a member of occasions, usually for a week at a time, Mutts features stories about various issues such as Farm Animal Awareness Week and Shelter Stories, and on a more global level, whaling, seal clubbing and tiger conservation.

As a lifelong conservationist and animal lover, it is exciting to see an artist use a platform such as comic strip to such great effect, reaching people who may otherwise not be aware of the issues or what they can do to address them.

 

 

A natural outworking of this commitment to promote animal welfare is McDonnell’s appearance on Shelter Me, an online PBS series “celebrating the human-animal bond” and the important work of animal rescue organisations.

In the latest episode, “Hearts and Paws”, McDonnell visits Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC), drawing on his inspirational for stories featured in his Shelter Stories series and promoting the work of these very important organisations.

It’s important viewing and you should tune in mid-November via the Mutts Facebook page or you can go ShelterMe.tv for the full episode.

(source: Mutts.com)

Comics review: Future Quest (issues 1-4)

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

As previously reviewed modern comic book iterations of Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Wacky Races have illustrated, reviving an old pop culture property, in the case of Future Quest, quite a number of them, comes with a unique set of challenges.

Not insurmoutable challenges of course but fairly sizable ones nonetheless that brand new original ideas don’t have to grapple with, possessed as they are of an expectations-free blank slate.

One of the first exciting things you notice about Future Quest is that it has not succumbed to this pressure, boldly preserving the clean, retro-future lines of the original 1960s-era action cartoons that Hanna-Barbera produced as a marked departure from the lighter, frothier fare of Huckleberry Hound and the like.

Taking in the artwork by Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude and, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Lanphear, and the zingy, breathlessly-excitable but portentous dialogue by writer Jeff Parker, it becomes immediately obvious that the re-imagining of a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters has paid due homage to what went before while updating the look and feel of properties like The Herculoids, Jonny Quest and the Mighty Mightor and placing them in a fast-paced, thoroughly imaginative story arc which makes good use of a newly-expanded universe.

What is impressive is the way the new series creators have managed to seamlessly weave together characters that, while they shared the same look and paint-by-numbers narrative feel, weren’t ever really connected in their original incarnations.

Jonny Quest for example is a young inquisitive, impulsive boy on earth, the son of a cutting-edge scientist Dr. Benton Quest, who together with his adopted brother Hadji, and bodyguard/secret agent Race Bannon goes on all kinds of adrenaline-pounding action adventures.

The Herculoids by contrast are inhabitants of the planet Amzot, later changed to Quasar – in Future Quest, both planets make an appearance – a motley crew of lifeforms, human and otherwise, fighting to keep their planet free from outside interference.

And yet despite these considerable differences, Future Quest has found a way to weave these disparate characters into a compelling, coherent narrative, that also features Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles. 

 

(image courtesy DC Comics)
(image courtesy DC Comics)

 

It helps in an undertaking that audacious that the series has chosen a commensurately expansive narrative universe for this crew of otherwise disconnected characters to inhabit.

While the threat posed is extraterrestrial in nature, a creature called the Omnikron which has decidedly Borg-like tendencies assimilating every alien civilisation with which it comes in contact with obviously catastrophic consequences for everyone involved, the action largely but not exclusively takes place on Earth where an evil scientist called Dr. Zin is hoping to harness and control the Omnikron’s attenpts to reach our planet for his own self-interested purposes.

The head of an organisation called F.E.A.R., a delightfully silly Get Smart-esque acronym that is anything but goofy in practice, Dr. Zin is a rival of Dr. Benton, with the two men, leaders in their field along with Professor Linda Kim-Conroy, studying and responding to vortexes that have opened up across Earth, delivering parts of the Omnikron but also beings like The Galaxy Trio, and glimpses of Space Ghost among others.

Slowly but surely over each issue, the universe in which everyone is imaginatively interconnected in a Cold War-style battle to the death – if the Omnikron reaches Earth and establishes itself in its full terrifying majesty, then the battle is well and truly over – builds and grows, developing an all-enveloping story that brings these characters together as if they always belong together.

Even more impressively, as the story takes shape at a reasonably breakneck speed, Future Quest still finds the panel-space to neatly introduces each new character with minimal fuss but exposition-rich fulsomeness, artfully bringing everyone together in a way that makes sense, despite their disparate origins.

What results, so far at least, is a cracking good story, one that positions Future Quest as an epic tale of good versus evil, with the artwork lending it the look and feel of an old-fashioned movie serials with some unobtrusive but welcome modern touches.

Future Quest is a triumph, the perfect melding of past and present that acknowledges the weight of nostalgic expectation and pays homage to it while still creating something utterly new, highly-engaging and unique that is begging for eventual transition to a sprawling cartoon series all its own.