Archive for the Deep Thought Category

A Friendly Game by Joe Pimienta, Lindsay Hornsby & Lauren Affe

Posted in Deep Thought, Graphic Novel review on September 19, 2010 by brunswick

A Friendly Game
by Joe Pimienta, Lindsay Hornsby & Lauren Affe
Slave Labor Graphics Publishing, 2010

I read graphic novels because I’m a cartoonist. Ten years ago I started to study them formally during my major project at design school. Most graphic novels are unusually expensive, even by book standards, so Wellington’s Central Library is a valuable resource for me. I started reviewing their books because although they’ve built up a wide collection, the excellent titles are hard to pick out from the crappy ones. I recommend books which I’ve enjoyed reading and books that impressed me, and I ignore the rest. This one, however, I mention as a warning.

The artwork is okay, the writing is nothing exceptional*. On that basis it’s merely average. Except I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read about a pair of disturbed boys who graduate from torturing and killing animals as a game to something much more serious and vile. It’s like that awful The Good Son film with Macaulay Culkin. It doesn’t provide insight into the human condition or anything else which justifies its existence – it’s just vile and creepy, and I don’t know why someone thought it was actually worth publishing, let alone creating. The authors should be ashamed.

I suppose if you enjoy the Saw films and similar torture porn you’d get a kick out of this, but for the rest of us with normal empathy levels – avoid like hell.

*The book is the authors’ first work, and started as a script project at design school, which is where it should’ve stopped.

This is purely hypothetical, you understand

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought on September 8, 2010 by brunswick

Suppose, for a second, in defiance of every trend in the newspaper industry, a new Wellington comic strip was to appear in a certain widely-distributed newspaper. This strip would appear weekly, be in full colour, and be designed to appeal to a reasonably affluent, intelligent and sophisticated audience. The sort of people who live in Wellington and still read newspapers.

What sort of thing would you be interested in reading?

The graphic novel as movie storyboard

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought on August 28, 2010 by brunswick

There’s an extremely interesting interview in The Grauniad with cartoonist Posy Simmonds, whose graphic novel Tamara Drewe has been made into a film starring underrated Bond girl Gemma Arterton:

Frears [the director] and his team used her illustrations extensively when preparing the film. “It made me realise how much a graphic novel is like a film,” she says. “There are close-ups and long-shots. You choose the location and the props. You do the make-up and the lighting and you get the characters to act. I used to call it planning, now I call it pre-production. Which is where I am with my next project.”

I often see graphic novels described as readymade storyboards for film adaptation. Obviously scenes in films like Watchmen are taken directly from their source material, and Sin City and 300 go one further and base their entire visual style on Frank Miller’s stark graphics. Good for them.

Right now we seem to be about two-thirds of the way through the latest cycle of Hollywood’s fascination with superheros. The obvious ones (Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk) have been squeezed fairly dry, and although there’s some big titles coming up in the next year or so (The Avengers, Thor, a bunch of  redundant sequels and “reboots”), seventy years of comics history has been burnt through in less than a decade.

Many non-superhero comics have been scooped up and adapted in the same frenzy (Ghost World, Scott Pilgrim, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence), but many of the greatest graphic novels are either unadaptable (Jimmy Corrigan, anyone?) or plain awful in their movie incarnations (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, anything by Alan Moore, really*).

The problem with all this is that graphic novels are more than just storyboards, and just because a film adaptation can make a lot of money doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate aspiration of the cartoon medium.

The storytelling capabilities afforded by a graphic novel certainly share many qualities of the cinema – in fact, cinema nicked lots of stuff from cartoons – but structurally they can do things which a commercial film would find impossible. Imagine the long section (important to the plot) of Alan Moore’s From Hell where psychopathic surgeon Sir William Gull takes his coachman on a tour of Victorian London and describes the mystical significance of its landmarks. The dense occult themes of Moore’s Promethea, which included an entire issue which unstaples to form a giant double-sided poster. The frankly bonkers digressions of Dave Sim’s Cerebus, which starts off as a Conan the Barbarian pastiche and develops over 27 years and six thousand pages into a superlative political and religious satire, slowly unravelling into an unreadable anti-feminist treatise and analysis of the Torah. Try turning that into a 90-page screenplay.

I’ve read more than a few graphic novels published in the past ten years which have been designed right from the start with film adaptation in mind, to the extent of being drawn with letterboxing and opening titles. There’s nothing wrong with structuring a story so it has three acts and has nothing that would scare Middle America… in fact, I’ve been working on something similar myself as a stylistic exercise. But when anything with as much potential as a graphic novel ends up following the deep grooves of utter predictability (Guns! Boobs! Explosions!) just for the sake of making money, you’re not likely to get anything which pushes the boundaries of any medium.

*With the exception of Watchmen which was as good an adaptation as could be hoped for, but really needed a miniseries to do it screen justice.

Anyone fancy a game of house Jenga?

Posted in Deep Thought, Lovely pictures on August 4, 2010 by brunswick

A week of assiduous hacking reveals that for the past seven years I’ve been living in a room which owes its continued horizontal existence to a bunch of railway sleepers and a large tree. Entropic heat death is not far away.

On and on and on…

Posted in Deep Thought, Jitterati, The Rake's Progress on March 29, 2010 by brunswick

For the past month I’ve been dreading Mondays, which is the only thing I share with Garfield apart from our basic colour.

I’m in a neutral mood right now. I haven’t seen the Salient letter page yet. My letter, the only response I’m going to make in print, is going to be there. I lost some punctuation in transferring it from Word to e-mail. Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a moron.

I’m going into town to drop off the Jitterati book (New! Improved! Edited slightly!) at the printers, and detour through Vic to pick up a copy. People with long memories and too much time on their hands are clogging up the “comments” section on Salient’s website with nonsensical posts under the names of my old cartoon characters.

Life is strange. Wish me luck.

The dust settles until Monday

Posted in Deep Thought, The Rake's Progress on February 25, 2010 by brunswick

I thought everything would be different a day later. The cartoon is still bluntly described on several blogs as a “gang rape cartoon” with no qualification, but the lecturing on Victim Feminism 101 seems to have settled down. Defamatory personal comments made about me on Facebook have been removed for violating their “Statement of Rights & Responsibilities”, which is nice.

The Women’s Group is being congratulated for raising the issue of sexual assault. Unfortunately their article in Salient won’t be published until March 8th, well after the initial rush of dangerous student parties are over. I would hope it doesn’t mention the cartoon, but if it’s a response article that’ll be inevitable. I’m also not looking forward to the letter page on Monday. I want to defend myself, but at the same time Salient is already exhausted by this week’s damage control, and someone unconnected to the office has candidly referred to it as “wasting time”, which made me feel good about myself. The Hipster’s Progress won’t appear next week for lack of space, which is a shame, because it’ll look as though I’ve been censored.

Something that concerns me is that future episodes of The Rake’s Progress are going to come under an unusual amount of scrutiny by people looking for things to complain about. The Rake’s Progress is set in Wellington, in the real world, where unpleasant things happen to people. The audience for this cartoon is relatively sheltered. Half of the Rakes are female. How can I show their rise and fall without causing offence?

For example, I’m writing The Lawyer’s Progress now. This is based on the experiences of many women I know who work in law. Although most law graduates are women, their office environments are often remarkably sexist. Most women lawyers put up with this, because it’s the only way to continue their career. Can I show this without it being interpreted as condoning sexism?

I don’t want to sound precious here*, but I’m not going to censor myself. I’m going to continue producing content which I judge to be acceptable to an intelligent and reasonable audience. I’ll probably produce extra episodes, so if Salient doesn’t want to run something they have an alternative. I’m not going to pander to the sensibilities of extremists. That’s no way to live.

*Okay, okay, that ship sailed a long time ago…

When smart people do stupid things

Posted in Deep Thought on February 24, 2010 by brunswick

Well, first I was horrified. Then I was amused. Then horrified again. Then disappointed. And now, very tired.

Since yesterday this issue has passed from blog to blog, spread by an unwell person who holds a tiresome grudge against me. I can now see why so few young women identify as feminists, if this is the level of intellectual discourse and analysis amongst their most vocal contemporary advocates. I thought this might lead to an interesting and intelligent debate, but people who have tried to ask reasonable questions on these blogs have been ignored or shouted down. I’ve been told I have no authority to speak on the issue because I’m fortunate enough to not be a victim of sexual violence. I’ve had statistics which I already knew quoted at me.

I really, really hate being patronised.

Especially by people who are supposed to be smarter than that. So, I didn’t think I’d have to use simple words, but that’s before it was demonstrated to me just how stupid smart people can be.

So,

  1. The woman in this cartoon is not about to be sexually assaulted. She has used her wits to avoid sexual assault.
  2. I am not advocating sexual assault, or condoning it, or saying that it’s something that should be accepted as normal or inevitable. It shouldn’t happen, but in the real world, it does.
  3. I am also not making light of sexual assault. Just because it’s in cartoon form doesn’t mean it’s meant to be “funny”.
  4. I did not intend for this cartoon to be offensive. If you are offended by it, I’m sorry. If you continue to be offended despite my explanation, and if you’re misreading it as “pro-rape advocacy” or something equally fucked-up and twisted, there’s nothing further I can do to help you. You’re not going to change your mind.

I’ve also sent this message to the Women’s Rights Officer:

Dear Caitlin – please remove my cartoon from the Women’s Group photo page, as requested yesterday by Salient.

By copying it from my website and uploading it to Facebook, _____ is infringing my copyright, despite what she claims. At first I was fine with it being posted so people could see what all the fuss is about, but now I see no reason I should enable _____ in her pathetic vendetta against me. You may also wish to consider removing any libellous personal remarks from the page as well.

I’m not trying to stifle discussion. I just dislike being slandered in public by a sad and very ill individual.

That’s all I can think of right now. I expect things will have totally changed by this time tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a picture of a puddy tat:

Really? Oh, okay.

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought, The Rake's Progress on February 23, 2010 by brunswick

Hmm. Bit of a controversy brewing with the VUWSA Women’s Group. One of the members has taken offence at the above panel from yesterday’s Salient cartoon, claiming that it “depicts gang rape”, and is making some sort of formal complaint. I’ll find out what they’re annoyed about tomorrow. The scan I put up here yesterday has been copied without my permission to the Women’s Group Facebook page with the description “panel #3 flippntly pushes acceptance of sexual assaults during o-week events”.

Because, of course, it makes perfect sense that the author of some of the most fully-realised women protagonists in New Zealand comics would secretly have a pro-rape agenda.

I would spell out my repugnance at these implications using simple words to make absolutely sure everyone understood what I’m saying, but I’m not sure I’m required to if the allegation is obviously wrong.

Or if the allegation is a deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the cartoon made by someone who knows me well enough to know that it’s wrong. Someone, say, like the only person I’ve ever had to ban from this blog and threaten with a trespass order.

…For example.

Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m highlighting above – many 18-year-old girls get massively shitfaced during Orientation, and are preyed upon. If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police (which are sometimes reproduced in Magneto), you can see that many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place, where hopelessly drunk girls have stumbled while trying to get home. It’s entirely possible, considering how the Orientation issue of Salient is full of advice for first-years, that some girls may read this panel and think “Right. Something to avoid.”

Really, if there’s anyone who should be annoyed, it’s rugby teams.

(EDIT: After the massive amount of trouble the above paragraph has caused, I’d like to point out that there is no alcohol depicted in the cartoon, and the girl is not drunk. I mention drunkenness above because it’s “a factor in 66% of arrests for disorder, violence and sexual offending”* and an Auckland survey in the NZ Medical Journal in 1989 estimated “over a third of women who were raped were intoxicated with alcohol”**. That was before the drinking age was lowered in 1999, and is unlikely to have gone down.)
(ANOTHER EDIT: The editor of Magneto has pointed out on one of the blogs which reproduced the above paragraph that the Crime Map (which is on p6 of their Orientation issue) is drawn up especially by Magneto using police-supplied data.)
*Alcohol and Crime in New Zealand, Jeremy Wood, 2005, p6
**
World Health Organisation Substance Abuse Publications: Country Profile: New Zealand, 2005, p5

The end of a sad and appalling trial

Posted in Deep Thought on July 23, 2009 by brunswick

I’m very, very glad the Clayton Weatherston case is over. There’s been a lot of commentary since Wednesday on the sheer awfulness of this particular trial – notably the injustice of the defendant maligning the reputation of his dead victim in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get his charge reduced from murder to manslaughter. This must have been unbearable for her family and friends – but the voyeuristic court coverage deserves condemnation as well.

This trial had a beautiful dead girl, and an intelligent, articulate villain. The protagonists were white and middle-class. The defendant tried to prove that his victim was promiscuous, cruel, callous, brash, and sexually forward, and somehow this behaviour – not at all unique among human beings, especially 22-year olds – justified her brutal murder and mutilation. It’s an unpleasant thing to mention yet again, but Weatherston did not just kill his ex-girlfriend. He disfigured her, targeting her face and genitals, bending and snapping the knife he used against her. His attempts to justify this incomprehensibly brutal act appeared on TV every night for five weeks without comment. It was a destructive and unsubtle message, a cautionary tale for young girls worthy of an unbowdlerized fairy tale from the Middle Ages.

There’s also been a backlash about Weatherston’s demeanour, his arrogance and insensitivity on the stand. Well, I didn’t like him either, but admittedly if you put me on the stand in any capacity I’m sure I’d strike people as an arrogant creep. New Zealanders do not like murderers, but they also hate smart-arses, intellectuals and articulacy.

I don’t agree with banning provocation as a partial defence, unless it’s describing situations that should already be covered by self defence. Could it be modified to eliminate abuse by bigots and misogynists?

Weatherston’s defence team were doing their job, no matter how appalling some of their statements were, but I’d be surprised if they sleep well at night. Weatherston himself is going to have an extremely unpleasant time in prison. I hope, after the sentencing in September, we never hear from him again.

Another view

Posted in Deep Thought, Lovely pictures on June 25, 2009 by brunswick

Drypnz, a.k.a. Wellington’s only good graffiti artist apart from bmd, has an exhibition opening at Manky Chops Gallery, 166 Cuba St, on July 2nd. Should be interesting. The flyer is, of course, printed on a big ol’ sticker.

anotherview

Another jaunt over Mount Victoria – this view is of Kilbirnie and Rongotai from a solitary picnic table where literally hundreds of bogans must have been conceived. I started picking up litter, but there’s absolutely nowhere to put it until you get to an exit!

The Sophie Elliott murder case is appalling, isn’t it? How much provocation does somone need to even try justifying stabbing an ex-girlfriend 216 times? I also feel sorry for her poor mother being quizzed about her daughter’s past relationships… there’s something inherently base about any defence argument that implies the female murder victim deserved it.