Mouse Guard Must-Have

photo-sep-08-4-48-55-pmI’m very late in discovering this, but the hardback compilation Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is a must-have for all readers of the Mouse Guard comics (David Petersen, published by Archaia) and especially for players of the role-playing game based on the comic, the Mouse Guard RPG (Luke Crane & David Petersen).

It’s full of information about what the Guard Mice do, the art is as inspiring as ever, and the book offers a nice appendix full of maps, illustrations of locations, genealogies of famous mouse clans, etc. (You can see examples of location art here, but the ones in the book are different and contain much more information.)

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RPG a Day: Fictional character?

17. What fictional character would best fit in your group? Why?

2016-07-18 16.17.54Klara, from the graphic novel series Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. And I want her to play Burning Wheel and make the GM weep.

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RPG a Day: Inspirations?

CreativeProcessPieChart15. What types or source of inspiration do you turn to most often for RPGs?

[Repeated from a similar question last year.]

Everything. Books, television, movies, music, comic books, art, even food. As I answered last year to a similar question, you could say my source is immersion. Whether creating a new character or planning to run a gain, I like to surround myself with sources of inspiration: music, books, movies, images, online sources, etc.. I browse the ‘Net for related materials, I scour my creaking bookshelves, I cook recipes from particular cultures, and so forth.

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Day 15, Cycle 5: Representation

I had an interesting reading experience yesterday. I’d been waiting for a certain graphic novel to be on sale and it suddenly was, so I downloaded it. The first page hit me like a ton of bricks, and I thought “She’s like me!

I remember being a kid, of course, and being excited when I could find adventure books featuring girls. And I keep picking up and circulating stories on social media, illustrating how important representation is. But I didn’t expect at my age to feel it again as a raw emotional response. And that’s only a small taste of what it is to a child — maybe a girl, brown-skinned, amputee, autistic, trans — who sees themselves represented for the first time!

It gave me a fresh desire to help in any way I can to lift the cloak of invisibility society has thrown on too many people.

ComicsNChemo

RPG a Day: How I Wish…

9. Favourite media property you wish was an RPG

Concrete Park vol. 2 coverThis one is tricky because when I really want to play in a particular setting, I just do, whether there is a licensed game or not. But I’ll go with Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s Concrete Park, published by Dark Horse Comics. The premise: Earth’s undesirables—too poor, too brown, too rowdy—are discreetly shipped off and dropped on a barely terraformed planet. There, they are left to survive however they can, with factions vying for control. It’s science fiction, it’s dystopia, it’s today, it’s beautiful and harsh yet hopeful.

#RPGaDay2015

Ant-Man: Spoiler-Free Mini-Review

Ant-Man posterWe saw Ant-Man and really enjoyed it. I would never have expected I would like this movie so much, but I had a great time. Viewers are advised to stay until the very, very end for the last Easter egg.

  • Visuals and special effects: 5. It’s as slick as all the previous movies in the franchise, and shows creativity in the visual use of the hero’s powers interacting with the sets.
  • Soundtrack: 4. Largely what you’d hope for in terms of score, plus some really fun choices of pop tunes.
  • Writing: 4. It’s a simple storyline told cleanly, with a great comic-book feel. (If you don’t like comic books, I advise not seeing Marvel Studios movies, just sayin’.) Snappy dialogue, good short-cuts through background materials.
  • Casting: 4. Good, endearing choices. I could do with a more charismatic villain; he wasn’t bad, just not as good as some. Then again, it’s tough being compared to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki or even Lee Pace’s Ronan.
  • Direction: 4. Snappy, generally injecting the right mood into various scenes, keeping everyone focused.
  • Editing: 4.5. Tight, cuts through unnecessary material, trusts the viewer to follow interpolations.
  • Superheroics: 4. Completely in genre with the action, drama, humour and histrionics. Of course it also has comic-book physics.
  • Diversity: 3.5. It has some persons of colour as fun characters but in support roles. I was also initially concerned that they would be just comic relief but they get more depth. I really hope we see them again with more spotlight time.
  • Feminism: 2.5. It fails the Bechdel test, and underplays Evangeline Lilly as far as technically feasible. On the other hand, the two most visible female characters are endearing, resilient, smart, likeable.
  • Reese’s Pieces Award for product placement goes to Baskin-Robbins, with a special mention to Apple’s iPhone.
  • The movie also earns the Academy Awards for Best Use of Tilt-Shift Photography and Best Use of Dialogue Dubbing. You’ll know what I mean when you get to these scenes.
  • Also, the award for most ill-advised target for a bit of “science-y” exposition.

In Praise of Defiance and Pride

Mohamed overwhelmed by fundamentalists: "It's rough, being loved by idiots..."
Mohamed overwhelmed by fundamentalists: “It’s rough, being loved by idiots…”

Why is anyone asking seriously whether cartoons of Mohamed (or any other naughty cartoons) should be published? Why is anyone asking whether the people murdered at Charlie Hebdo “asked for it”, “deserved it”? And why is anyone hesitating for a moment to answer “Yes!” to the first question, and “Are you fucking kidding me?” to the second?

I’ll tell you, I’m damn tired of people who want to protect free speech as long as it’s pleasing and fluffy and considerate. Unobjectionable, accommodating speech is not an endangered species; controversial speech is what needs to be free, and protected. (That includes posting irreverent cartoons and outrageous articles, not committing murder, so we’re clear.)

And on a related topic, I’ve had it up to here with the privileged telling the marginalized, the colonized, the subjugated to be patient and wait for good things to fall out of the social piñata by magic. Women, visible minorities, LGBTQ, handicapped, and other marginalized people have never achieved, and will never achieve, anything by being demure and polite. Sure, we need the diplomats and the peace-makers but we also need the firebrands and the shit-stirrers. Otherwise, nothing ever changes. For those who don’t know, Charlie Hebdo pretty reliably challenges the powerful on behalf of the marginalized.

Ahmed MerabetWhile I’m at it, here’s another thing I’m fed up with: one-size-fits-all mentalities. No, not all Muslims, and not all men, and not all white people, and so forth… Not all any one characteristic defines anybody. At least two Muslims were killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo: a police officer and an employee of the magazine. Ahmed Merabet was not terrifically happy of the treatment he sometimes received as a Frenchman of Arab origin, and as a cop. I bet he didn’t agree with everything Charlie Hebdo published (I sure don’t), but his job was to protect the place because of the 2011 firebombing, and he did his job with professionalism. If you have a problem with “those people”: show some fucking respect.

In conclusion: if you are qualifying your support for free speech with “Of course the cartoonists  and journalists of Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have been killed, but…” then fuck you. And if you think “I don’t have anything against the Muslims, but…” then fuck you.

Comic Book Art: Ian “I.N.J.” Culbard

Ian Culbard - Bat

Someone started a meme on Facebook:

To help us appreciate comic book art we have this Facebook game. Click “like” and I will will assign you a comic book artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work; just Google the artist and choose an image of the one you like most, and put it on your timeline with this message. Make comments or just let the art speak for itself.

Steve Dempsey assigned me Ian Culbard. I did not know him, but learned that he’s a British artist and writer who has also worked or been translated in French, and done some cover art for “The New Deadwardians”, a DC title under the Vertigo imprint. His speciality seems to be, wait for it, Edwardian-era literature translated to graphic novel format: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burrows, etc. He talks about some of his favourites on his blog, Strange Planet Stories. He does pencilling, inking, colour, animation, illustration, and just about everything else.

Style-wise, he favours a “clean line” approach I like, but seems to make his characters a little cartoony for my preference. But then I set these preferences aside for artists that grow on me like Mike Mignola and Kevin O’Neil, so maybe if I could read enough of his books his style would sway me too.

I will leave you with the cover I liked best from his work on The New Deadwardians: the combination of a bloody handprint and a vintage map of London’s Whitechapel district already conveyed its theme very effectively, even before the addition of the bizarre skulls.

Ian Culbard: The New Deadwardians #2 cover

Comic Book Art: My favourite artists

mezieres_cite_des_eaux_mouvantes

Someone started a meme on Facebook:

To help us appreciate comic book art we have this Facebook game. Click “like” and I will will assign you a comic book artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work; just Google the artist and choose an image of the one you like most, and put it on your timeline with this message. Make comments or just let the art speak for itself.

But no one so far has assigned me my own all-time favourite comic book artists, so I’ll tell you about some of them.

1. Jean-Claude Mézières

I love, love, love Jean-Claude Mézières’s stuff. Best known for his work on the Valérian and Laureline series (the graphic novels, not the awful anime based on the same series) but also for his concept art on science fiction movies like Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (along with Jean Giraud). Here are his Wikipedia entries in English and French. If I had to pick only one comic book artist, it would be him. He does the pencils and inks, and his sister Évelyne Tranlé does the equally wonderful colour work.

mezieres_paysage

Most of the Valérian and Laureline series albums have been translated in English, but the translations are often somewhat unfaithful, which pisses me off.

mezieres_pointcentral

2. Linda Medley

Kinda Medley is best known for her on-going series Castle Waiting, which revisited fairy tales in a modern light long before the recent trend marked by Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Snow White and the Hunter, or even Bill Willingham’s Fables. I love both her disarmingly homey yet detailed art and her tongue-in-cheek writing.

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3. Bill Sienkievicz

I first noticed Bill Sienkievicz’ work on The New Mutants, but he has worked on many titles like Moon Knight, Batman, and Elektra. No one has ever drawn Warlock as well as he did. He has a sense of flow and movement that I adore.

sienkievicz_dani_moonstar

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sienkievicz_moonknight

Comic Book Art: Philippe Druillet

Druillet4

Someone started a meme on Facebook:

To help us appreciate comic book art we have this Facebook game. Click “like” and I will will assign you a comic book artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work; just Google the artist and choose an image of the one you like most, and put it on your timeline with this message. Make comments or just let the art speak for itself.

Eric Lofgren assigned me Philippe Druillet. It’s some of the stuff I grew up on, except I was more into the clean line (“ligne claire”) style, and still am for that matter. Druillet, Caza, Bilal, even Moebius and the rest of the happy Métal Hurlant gang created images that were a little too busy for me, and stories that were a little too cynical (not to mention too misogynist) for my young soul back in the late 70s. Still, there is no denying that there is fantastic talent there.

One of the things I did like about Druillet’s work is that he disregarded the classic grid format and used the whole page as his canvas.

Druillet-Comic-130-n°2-p.3

I will leave you with his official site and an image from his version of the Necronomicon.

Druillet: Necronomicon