Music Video Animation by Overture

Overture are a husband and wife animation and art duo. Usually, I'm not partial to this type of animation but I think they do a good job visually representing experimental electronic music by way of really understanding the emotional undertones of the music. In the past couple years, they have released three music videos in addition to their animation shorts for TV, illustrations and personal art exhibitions. The first was for the Icelandic experimental electronic band, Múm, and the most recent two were for German Modern Classical pianist, Hauschka. Their animation style is reminiscent of Fantastic Planet with animal and plant-like characters and more textured and saturated colors. The Múm video seems really "far out" in a Fantasia way but with a more folk-y, storybook feeling.

Múm "Rhubarbidoo"

In contrast to Múm, Hauschka's music is experimental in a more subtle way, using the manipulation of the piano in combination with electronics. Hauschka has revealed in interviews that his album Ferndorf is about his childhood and the small German town where he grew up. Not suprisingly, the videos Overture did for Hauschka, "A Memory" and "An Idea", are about the interactions of two characters, Kapok and Bryum, with one another and their environment. Kapok kind of looks like a Shmoo with arms, legs and game show host hair and Bryum looks like a sad, hunchback sloth, Sanrio character. Both of the characters are really great! I wish Overture would make a comic book using them...maybe in the silent style of Gon! Anyway, watch these really great videos!

Bryum & Kapok: A Memory

Bryum & Kapok: An Idea


NEGATIVE ZONE: eBay-Worse Than Variant Covers and Obama Spider-Man Crossovers

When you're a Comics Reader you become a Comics Collector, but not all Comics Collectors are Comics Readers. The after market of comics starts in comic stores, back issues in long boxes with inflated prices, sometimes ten to twenty dollars more than what the Overstreet Price Guide lists. At one store a back issue of something you'd think no one would want like, let's say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures 2nd series issue #1, would be sold at the book price of $3 while another would have it for $20.

This could happen for a few reasons, the "#1" on the cover, the fact that it's a an older series, or because in some cases it's genuinely rare. The problem with "rarity" is that it's subjective from area to area and from seller to seller. Making a trip to visit North Carolina to see Brandon, it feels like I've hit a gold mine when we go to comic stores, things I can't find anywhere up here in any store I find there at multiple stores for cover price. It's simply a matter of a different area and therefore, a different market.

eBay, however, has no area specific market. When you've been looking for that one issue to complete a series or rare gem that you can't find, chances are someone on eBay is selling it. It's easy and fast, and this way you don't have to spend the gas money traveling to the four corners of your state visiting random comic stores. The "BuyItNow" feature allows you to jump ahead of the pack and grab the auction, and with all of the eBay stores, someone is bound to have what you're looking for.

The reality of eBay shopping is that a lot of times there are reserves on items, BuyItNow prices are too high, and "a little wear and tear" amounts to the back cover missing. Sellers who don't read comics but see it as a way to make more money hold on to that one issue, not selling a series in a "lot" but only individually. Most sellers, fortunately, will work with you but often the ones who have what you're looking for still have it because no one else was willing to pay their prices.

The Collectors' market and lack of knowledge about comics and what they are worth is mostly a product of the 90's, people buying every "FIRST EXTREME ACTION PACKED ISSUE" and foil cover with hologram card they could find. Since they aren't a part of the comics community, they haven't paid attention to the trends in the past ten years, and probably have never even opened their "investments" once. The prices they charge slowly become the standard, since other non-comics reading collectors only check a site like eBay for prices.

While it is a supply and demand issue, the demand comes from the person with the supply. Using eBay as a reference for prices and availability is just retarded, something you're looking for today may be on there tomorrow, and there could be ten of them by next week. Seeing one item doesn't always mean that it's so rare there's only one auction, it only means there is only currently one seller of the product. It far too often just amounts to complete rip-offs and a frustrating experience for someone who, you know, just wants to read the comic.

Now that comics are getting some press, the world looks to our little island and is curious. They still think of comics as something quirky and weird, but they understand some of us are willing to pay a lot of money for our little funny books. CNN reports on comics like The Death of Captain America and more recently, Spider-Man #583 which featured Obama on the cover and in the book, making it hard for us who weekly read these books but do not subscribe through our local comic shop or an online provider to get our new issue. This leaves a Reader without an issue, and a Collector with one more to put on eBay.

Right this moment, I went to eBay and typed in "obama spider-man 1st print". I'm not going to link the auction going for $38.05 with 6 bids, or the BuyItNow seller who's asking $84.99. This comic has a cover price of $2.99, and right now is in multiple printings and fortunately is available for the Readers to get their hands on. The one good thing about this whole Collector vs. Reader thing is that the Reader usually comes out on top, the publishers knowing that more printings means more money, and adding Variant covers on top of that can't hurt either.

It may just be a problem with the after market of comics themselves, no Readers or Collectors can really say what something is worth. With more and more older comics being republished online, some back issues may go down in price, the Marvel Masterpieces and DC Archive collections also collect older issues. Dark Horse and Fantagraphics have taken it upon themselves to collect many old, lost, out of print series into hardcover books making single magazine issues that were once impossible to find completely accessible.

With these collections becoming more and more popular with Readers and allowing people new to comics to get caught up, one day the Collectors' market will be just that, for Collectors'. All the Readers will have the issues they want, albeit not in issue form and not in a white box but on a shelf, and all the Collectors can rip each other off.


Powerful Panels: The Immortal Iron Fist #21 by Timothy Green and Duane Swierczynski

After the perplexingly lackluster and interminably repetitive "Mortal Iron Fist" story arc, this highly polished gem of a stand-alone issue dropped with all the force of the proverbial lead balloon. Though generally a wildly overused term, the comic is highly cinematic in presentation. The work's most obvious direct influence is unquestionably the comics of Alexandro Jodorowsky's Incal universe--an artist arguably more famous for his handful of cinematic productions than his far more prolific work in comics. Moreover, Timothy Green's illustrations are grounded in Moebius by way of Seth Fisher and his compositions are presented with a painterly flattened perspective, reminiscent of a particular aesthetic most directly associated with the films of Akira Kurosawa.

This particular page encapsulates much of what is great about the comic and can be read in multiple ways, each revealing different aspects of the work that are no less strong for their subtlety. The narration ("But he fought like a man") that opens the sequence follows the opening qualifier of the panel immediately preceding it ("The hero was just a boy"), emphasizing the youth and disconcertingly slight stature of the fighter who ostensibly came to save the last few surviving inhabitants of Planet Yaochi. The boy's diminutiveness is highlighted in the first panel's side-view illustration. The depth-distorting flat perspective of the drawings is enhanced by a reverse reading of the panels on the page. The effect echoes the long-lens shot aesthetic adopted in all of Kurosawa's post-1950 films and mirrors in reverse the shot sequence in Red Beard in which the Mantis surprises the young, arrogant Noboru sulking in his room.

The following panel in which Wah Sing-Rand responds to Min's lament of his tardy arrival is a sort of microcosm of the intense concentration of subtlety and understatement typical of the book as a whole. His response--"I have been with you this whole time"--calls to mind the sorta corny, sorta really affective "Footprints" poem that is central to American Christian kitsch and emphasizes the religious nature of Wah Sing-Rand's role as planetary saviour. Green's portrait of the boy, however, at once confirms and contradicts the message carried by his words. On the one hand, the boy's delicate beauty and the look of penetrating, yet benevolent intelligence in his eyes are of a piece with the stories of the precocious young Jesus. At the same time, that Matrix-y serpent running up the side of his face runs counter to the boy's otherwise overtly Christian characteristics.

Min's response to Wah Sing-Rand's claim in the two panels that follow cement this biblical reading of the comic. His face is all cockeyed disbelief and the skepticism of his words plant him firmly in the 'Doubting Thomas' tradition of those of little faith. This kid just dropped from the sky and single-handedly destroyed the robots which were raring to exterminate Min and his family and all he can think to do is ask why the boy didn't do more.

In addition to illustrating Green's particular perspectival choice, the page's final panel deepens the Christian connection to this Messianic tale. Wah Sing-Rand's response to Min's extremely disrespectful query ("I know the suffering you and your people have endured. I watched it all from above.") adds the God as benevolent father above and outside the world aspect to the God as personified son acting in the world motif developed by his arrival on Yaoching. Moreover, in claiming to have watched their suffering above, it sets up Wah Sing-Rand's story of how he was able to view their suffering and yet not able to do anything about it, which is one of the more powerful and effective permutations of an Iron Fist tale I have yet to read.

Looking Out For The Little Guy: I KEEE YOU!!

Riding Baltimore's public transportation, I hear all kinds of things. Arguments between families, people crying on the way to a funeral and I even overheard a couple talking about if they were going to get an abortion or not. Baltimore comic, vinyl toy, porn and everything-that-is-great store Atomic Books published I KEEE YOU!!, a collection of "over heards". Each strip is drawn by a different artist, most of which are from the city itself.

It's hard to explain the embarrassment of hearing something you shouldn't have, or the excitement of something so weird and gnarly you laugh out loud in front of the person. These stories may as well have been told to you by a friend, some of which cross over into legendary status. Here's a selection of the funniest:


Peter Laird's Palblog

Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a lot of ways defines my childhood, just not the "Eastman and Laird" part. Now as an adult, finding Peter Laird's blog Palblog is forcing me to look back at why I liked the Turtles, and what defined them to me. I read the Archie comics not the original series, watched the cartoons and movies, and bought all the dumb stuff, particularly the toys.

Going to a toy store and grabbing a figure you hadn't seen before meant more than that one single new toy, it meant ten new toys. Flipping over the packaging always meant new mutants and Shred-Heads to be discovered, sometimes from the comic series but sometimes something created just for the toy line. Even before seeing the toys in person, I would imagine them while I played and even have big build up scenarios leading up to their arrival, saving my allowance just waiting for Triceraton to terrorize my room.

Small details like the bugs crawling all over the figure "Scumbug" changed the way that I drew and the way I played. Growing older I wanted to see the more "adult" version of these characters, and began collecting the original TMNT series comics but actually found them to be dull. The universe portrayed in the Archie comics seemed full. There was an entire world of other monsters who weren't so monstrous, and not every story revolved around the Turtles. The world the figures lived in still seemed more interesting to me than the city the Eastman and Laird Turtles fought in.

Peter Laird's Palblog makes me think he also got more into the world of the Archie mutants more than what he actually started. The world of the Turtles grew and grew, so he had to populate it. Seeing his sketches for toys that were released adds almost a metaphysical feeling to the figures you owned, filling you with a non-ironic kind of nostalgia that sends you onto eBay willing to spend any amount for a Panda Kahn figure.

The little boy in me sees the figures that weren't produced and can only think of what I would've done if I had them as a child. It's almost unfair some of these will never see the light of day, drawn with notes on how they'd work and more often than not pictures of the accessories.

Laird is open and it seems like one day all of his sketch books will be documented on his site, from TMNT anatomy studies to pictures of Luke and Chewbacca fighting storm troopers. His honesty about his career is stunning in an industry where artists hide the fact they once illustrated Barbie picture books, talking about how much he was paid for newspaper illustrations and how much control he actually had over the Turtles.

The only thing I can compare Palblog to is finding an old sketch book from childhood and discovering all of your super hero drawings. The imagination of who you were when you were 7 is something that once lost can't be regained, but Laird's blog brings that feeling back. It puts me into my mother's back yard digging holes and sitting on the basement steps thinking of new animals to become mutants, it simply gives you glimpses of a world you lost.


Designer, Graffer, Comics Nerd, CEY ADAMS

The new issue of Wax Poetics features, among other great things, an interview with graphic designer Cey Adams. Adams is best known as an early graffiti writer, in-house designer for DEF JAM records during the 80s, and brains behind plenty of iconic hip-hop album covers (Ready to Die, Fear of a Black Planet) and could've been one of many dudes to make a book that bigs himself up exclusively, but instead he's gone ahead and made a crazy compendium/history of rap inspired design called DEFinition:The Art & Design of Hip-Hop.

Among the many things Adams and interviewer Michael A. Gonzales (himself something of a legend, check him out at Riffs & Revolutions) get into is illustration and hip-hop and the connection to comics. Adams was responsible for hiring the great Bill Sienkiewicz to paint the cover of EPMD's Business as Usual. A bunch of years later, Sienkiewicz would do the cover of RZA's Bobby Digital album as well- a great mix of Sienkiewicz's hyper-real style of illustration meeting up with those explosive 70s blaxploitation movie painted posters.

Adams also discusses the hiring of children's book illustrator Ed Renfro to do the art for the Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty, which as far I can tell, never came to fruition beyond this great T-shirt design:

Another fascinating aspect of the article is Adams discussing the cover art of Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet and how the idea, after it was conceptualized by Chuck D, they decided to find "an illustrator that really unders[tood] how the solar system works" and they got B.E Johnson who had worked for NASA! One of the coolest parts of Adams' book is the presentation of Johnson's original painting without any graphics on it, just this Public Enemy logo on the moon and then earth and nebulas and awesome space shit floating around behind it:

ROBIN IN THE RYE or Caulfield the Boy Wonder

This gem has been popping up around a few of my time-absorbing internet haunts lately, so maybe it's old news to some of you. But for those interested in the source, this is the creation of Andrew Lorenzi. Inspired by comic parodies from the likes of R. Sikoryak, it's a pretty righteous way to revamp an old classic.

Comic nerds spend so much time arguing over what real people would best portray superheros, so it's pretty cool to see the opinions turn to what superheros would best portray other fictional characters from far across the spectrum of literature.

Being this art history nerd, I'm just waiting for someone to redo "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey" as "The Execution of Lady Jean Grey." Eh?



Happy New Years from Kevin Eastman and the Comics4Serious gang! We'll have some real content soon!