Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Webcomics Wednesday: Prague Race

Hi whoever glances at this by chance! This is the first installment of Webcomics Wednesday, an effort on my part to start an alliterative post series to help myself update more regularly. I'll be posting some short reviews of my current favorite webcomic series whether anyone is interested or not, and probably posting some other webcomic-related bullshit as well.

Anyhoo, on with it.
The first comic I'd like to present to you is Prague Race by Petra Erika Nordlund.

The caption on the first page of Prague Race offers this helpful description:

"Prague Race is a comedy horror story, and it offers a softly satirical views of the fantasy genre. It might have some heavy imaginery, and it's not suitable for minors or sensitive readers!"

So, Prague Race, in short, is a story about three friends, one of which is hungry for adventure and winds up inadvertently getting them all into a big mess of trouble. Leona, the ringleader, is living in a run down (abandoned?) apartment building with her (undead, maybe, although she doesn't know it) cat, Gabriele.

 One day she and her nervous friend Colin visit a weird-looking curio store where she buys a poster that infects her with an otherworldly unpatented crop harvester. This manifests itself as a bunch of creepy arms that burst out of her back on occasion and do helpful things--although it kills her a little each time. Their friend Miko, a mild but tough-looking fella rounds out the team.

Colin, Miko, and Leona

So, from the very beginning, I was impressed by how entertaining these three can be. In many instances, they behave as stock characters, but they are also portrayed in a way that is thoughtful and even complex. Unexpected things are constantly happening, and you just kind of roll with it and look forward to seeing what's next. The story structure has involved a cold open and a flashback already. The fantasy world the team enters has a huge variety of fantasy races, and a seeming aristocracy, government/military bureaucracy, and (corporate? government?) paid trials for horrible new technologies.

Sela and Toska
In addition, there's a big cast of side characters which I assume will continue to grow. So far, they're all interesting and distinctive. Oh, and that includes a pet shark with legs called Fishsticks.

This comic is still in progress, which, for once I find really exciting because it means I'm not going to race to the end and get depressed when it's over! It also updates with impressive regularity on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The style is gorgeous and consistent. And, it's quite funny and creepy. Please check it out! I'm sure you'll find it as charming as I do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mum inspiration and development

I'm mentally destroying myself over character development in my wannabe comic project. So, here's another tedious demonstration of my procrastination due to intense anxiety over my ability as an artist: a post about a character you don't know or care about! (Woohoo!)

My project is called Mum because that's the name of my main character, and I haven't ever been able to come up with anything that sounded better. She's not anyone's mom, but she was discovered in a rich woman's flower bed (at least in the comic). In the case of how I eventually ended up with the character I'm now painfully trying to write/fucking give birth to it seems, there were a lot of different inspirational moments. Below is some kind of photocollage diagram I arranged for my own miserable amusement.

The first thing that made her pop into my mind was reading Hellboy and BPRD for the first time. And the songs "Black Market Baby" and "First Kiss" by Tom Waits. Oh, and the Millenium episode "Beware of the Dog". Around that time I dogsat for my mechanic, whose wife had the most badass mum garden I've ever seen, hence the origin idea/name. Of course, like any artist stereotype, I was an angsty teenager, and her characterization really developed from a period of intense apathy I went through where I thought I might be incapable of experiencing things like grief normally. Basically, she's a bitchy, witchy, southern Spock, I think. I'm currently struggling with making her sympathetic, since at the moment I hate her guts (probably because she came from me and I'm just the worst).

Daniel Danger, The Nizu, flowers, strong noses, Mike Mignola, feral houses, John Bauer, greek statues, and Millenium (jesus christ, Kim!)
In addition to trying to write interesting things, I'm struggling to exercise more consistency/redeveloping a style in my drawing after years off regular drawing for fun. (Thanks, art school.) Below are sketches/drawings of Mum I've done through the years, starting with the image on the right from 2010 (before I really figured out how to paint and all the rest). Yeah, 3/4 angle, you're my default best friend and I am way, way too lazy. This is more for my own reference (and so I can publicly shame myself?).

And here's the last (unfinished) panel I've drawn featuring her (which is actually the fifth page of the comic). Still trying to figure out my process...

do you look like the person I drew in the last four pages? IS THIS GOOD???
If you enjoyed this (ha) then good, because I'll probably try to force it on you again.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sleep of Reason from Iron Circus Comics

I recently purchased a pdf copy of the horror comic anthology The Sleep of Reason from Iron Circus Comics. I got there via artist Der-Shing Helmer (author of The Meek and Mare Interum) who I've been following for several years now. Helmer is the author of the story "The Untimely Death of Smokey II" in this anthology. I wasn't familiar with any of the other authors before I read it, and I get the impression that horror isn't the main gig for many of them. That's not to say they don't work damn well. As with most anthologies with this many artists/authors, some were great and some were just alright, but altogether it was a fun read. In this post I'll be going over a few of the stories I really enjoyed.

It didn't take much to convince me to give this a shot. One author I knew, 32 others I didn't, horror genre, a cover that looked a bit like one of the creepier moments in Adventure Time, and a $15 price tag ($30 if you want the softcover).

Other than the cover, the whole thing's in black and white, which is a totally reasonable choice considering it's horror and it's long so the price tag probably would have been monumental were it printed in color. Still, many of the artist have styles that might have been even lovelier (and more visceral) in color. There's definitely a huge variety of styles, so I'm sure everyone could find a few here that suited them. Also, the approaches to subject and structure in horror varied a lot, which gave the impression that most of the stories were compact tributes to what the authors were most interested in in the horror genre. Only a few really seemed like they were just another story in a body of work dominated by horror. Altogether, this sort of variety was a big reason I kept on reading.

The anthology starts off fast and dark with "The Child Eater" by Meg Gandy.

Is that you, ScarJo?

The story centers around a little girl suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her father, who she imagines as a man with a skull for a face which occasionally has snakes crawling out of it. It's a little trippy and a little creepy, and the real dark ending offsets some of the early heavy-handedness (no pun intended) with the domestic abuse stuff. It also lets you know to expect supernatural stuff/monsters/mental illness/bad people as subjects in the rest of the book.

"The Untimely Death of Smokey II" by Der-Shing Helmer

This one is pretty much exactly what it looks like. Dead cat, sad kid, and what happens when you lie about how much a dead animal/person suffers when they suffocate to death in a cooler. Classic child revenge.

"Artifacts" by Evan Dahm

"Artifacts" is about a sculptor who seems to have gone a bit bonkers and become obsessed with making little organic forms. There's a moment or two that reminded me of Chris Carter's Millenium, and, as someone with a fine art background I like the crazy artist stereotype who may or may not be communicating with aliens/trans-dimensional beings through his work.

"Alone" by Blue Delliquanti

This story immediately hit my Ray Bradbury pleasure button. The two characters are female, with very different and clearly portrayed personalities--which was great. Even though it's short you get a real sense of the two characters, and the exposition is scattered out nicely. The end is kind of the result of the main character doing something they obviously shouldn't, but hey, space makes you crazy, right?

"I Am Sick" by KC Green

KC Green's style is very American and very cartoon. I'm surprised I didn't know about him sooner. This ended up being my favorite story in the anthology. It tells the tale of a Mr. Rogers-looking guy who volunteers to pray over sick people at the hospital and ends up catching something from one of them. Green's style lends itself to the grotesque body horror of the story, while also making it seem really humorous somehow. It's disturbing but I totally laughed all the way through it.

"Miracle" by Spike 

I have to give this one props. I'm a liberal woman who supports everyone's right to choose what to do with their bodies. This totally hits my dystopian medical system fear straight on the head. So, take one part waiting room pamphlets like "STDs are for EVERYONE!", one part too-late-to-abort-Brundlefly's-baby, and two parts The Brood and you'll get the jist of this one. (Hey Spike, are you a Cronenberg fan?) 

"hostess" by Gabby Schulz

So. Gross. You know that brain parasite that you get from cats that makes you all squirrelly? Well mix that with a generous helping of imagining your grandparents going down on each other to death.

There were several more, but I'm going to say this post is long enough as it is. If you like comics/webcomics and horror, I would definitely recommend giving this a try. It's a great sampler work for various archetypal horror plots and a lot of great independent comic artists. Awesome!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

MUM Stuff

I've been working on a comic project for years and years called MUM. I've been trying to make it work even harder than usual recently, but can't seem to pin down a working style for it. Since I'm not a sequential artist and I get bored really easy, this is probably something I shouldn't even be trying to do, but I don't really care. 

My new attempt at tricking myself into getting started is using public domain/royalty free images with illustration on top. Can't decide if this is actually making it even more work for myself or not. But, at least it's something.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Strange Sculpture of Patricia Piccinini

The sculpture/mixed media work of Patricia Piccinini speaks for itself. Startling, uncanny, grotesque, and beautiful. She explains that her work addresses things like humanity's place and fate within nature, and how we are being changed by biotechnology. At the same time, I think her work pretty directly challenges our instincts when it comes to ideas like beauty and safety. I'd recommend looking at her other work to see the real level of skill and variety she's produced. Here are a few images, just to encourage your curiosity.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Karl Blossfeldt's Georgeously Creepy Floral Photographs

Karl Blossfeldt was a photographer and artist who invented a camera/photographic technique that could magnify its subject in order to show its texture in impressive detail. His main subject was plants, and the new technique combined with his knowledge of composition resulted in some of the most fascinating, beautiful, and creepy photographs of plants ever. A botany professor introduced his work to me, and I've loved it ever since. Here are some examples of his work.

I love how architectural, alien, and brutish his photographs make the plants look. It's a vaguely threatening new look at something very ordinary. The fear of nature is something we all seem to possess, but typically forget about in our highly urbanized society. Then again, being removed from nature is the foundation of our fear of it. Also, the idea that we will never be able to overcome or outlast nature. If we leave our house for too long, nature will take it back. If we leave our bodies for too long, nature will reclaim that too. As for plants specifically, they're completely essential to our existence as sources of oxygen, food, clothing, and shelter, but we actually seem to think of them less than we do the animals we slaughter for food. I love Blossfeldt's photographs because they give us a new and unsettling view of something ordinary, while removing its utility by highlighting its aesthetic quality and visual form. (And, I really like plants.)