First of all, you knew I would link to the new Scott Pilgrim Trailer, so here it is (link via everyone on Earth).
Also in the news [via The Beat in my case] is a teaser trailer by Dash Shaw and Frank Santoro for an animated feature-to-be called The Ruined Cast (co-produced by John Cameron Mitchell who, I discovered a few years back, looks a bit like Ron Regé when not in Hedwig make-up, but that’s neither here nor there).
Funny thing is, when looking at the two trailers rubbing shoulders in their separate browser tabs, and considering how different they were, I realized there was a big part of my old ’80s-era lizard brain that wanted to label them “mainstream” and “alternative”—even though those terms have mutated beyond recognition in the last ten years.
After all, O’Malley’s comic, for all its rabid fans, is hardly the X-Men (and Edgar Wright is hardly James Cameron). The Scott Pilgrim movie is more geared to “mainstream audiences” than Shaw and Santoro’s project, but both have their roots in what my generation would have unhesitatingly championed as independent sensibilities.
Maybe, the best way for me to get a handle on what “mainstream” means is to just go to what I assume is the root of the term and look to see where the money flows like a big river; and know that rivers split all the time.
Okay, it has nothing to do with comics, but wow, what a great performance. We’re talking me watching on an iPhone at a Payless Shoe Store and getting a tear in my eye. Seriously. Janelle Monáe. Janelle Monáe. Janelle Monáe. Damn…
Anyway, I was talking to our friend Matt yesterday about death music (note change of subject, since the above video is 100% LIFE) and he volunteered Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” before I could, but that one is definitely on the list. Got me thinking again about my own short list of death songs.
By “death songs” I don’t mean songs with lyrics about death, or music with a morbid style. I mean music that takes you right to edge of what-it-is-to-die. Existentially transportive songs, if that makes any sense.
On my list:
“River Man” by Nick Drake
“Pyramind Song” by Radiohead
“Meeting Across the River” by Bruce Springsteen
“Wayfaring Stranger” The Charlie Haden Quartet West
“Old Man” by Randy Newman
Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor (personal connection there)
Purcell’s “Man that is Born” from the Funeral for Queen Mary
The theme for NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Not sure why.
When I took on the Google Chrome comic, one of the lures of the job was a chance to use a bully pulpit to show how simple pictures could make complex ideas understandable and memorable. My medium was comics of course—and comics have some unique advantages in this regard—but others have been doing impressive work in animation along the same lines (this, for example).
The trick in either comics or animation is to embody your ideas rather than sugarcoat them; to make plain, through images, the patterns and concepts you see clearly in your head, secure in the knowledge that even the most byzantine, advanced, jargon-laced topic probably rests on a few fat visual metaphors almost anyone can grok with a little explanation.
Treading a middle ground between static and moving images is this 10-minute video featuring Jeremy Rifkin and drawn/animated by the smart folks at Cognitive Media* for The RSA. It’s a joy to watch and it made me wonder how much better the learning experience in school settings could be if they incorporated even a fraction of the enthusiasm and visual lucidity on display here (albeit, sped up to a superhuman degree).
More videos in the RSAanimate series can be found here.
I don’t use the word “revolutionary” lightly—well, okay, maybe I do—but the trend toward visualizing information in education (in combination with a growth in visual literacy) is a genuine opportunity for a revolution we desperately need.
*Thanks to Austin in the comments thread for identifying Cognitive and dropping them a line. It turns out that I’ve actually met Cognitive’s Andrew Park, when he sat in on my workshop at MCAD a few years back. Small world!
[And thanks to Jared Finkelstein for first pointing out the video]
Duarte’s book Slide:ology features Sky in a two page spread, examining the fast-moving approach she uses when presenting. Although she was obviously influenced by her Dad’s style, it’s important to point out that Sky created what you see here without any help from us. I told her how to make a new slide in the first five minutes she had the program and she just took it from there.
I also need to point out that this was her first time doing the presentation. Sky would add to and refine her slides as she went on to present at MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, Google, Adobe, etc. By the time we got to Albuquerque, her timing was almost inhuman.
A few quotes taken out of context might be depressing to comics enthusiasts, but I was actually delighted to see comics’ new rules of engagement in play. The medium’s potential for great work seemed a settled question (Winterson even name-checked City of Glass), so the debate centered instead on whether they were living up to that potential and that’s a question I’d love to see raised as often as possible.
Also, I just liked everybody on the show.
In other news, our old pal Jon Lewis has brought his ’90s classic True Swamp back to life via the Web. Gotta bookmark that.
My name is Ira Marcks. I am a cartoonist from NY who recently collaborated with Jake Lodwick (founder of Vimeo) on an experimental illustration/animation project.
It’s sort of like a 45 minute music video with one sliding frame. But it’s also like a graphic novel told in a single, 50 foot long panel.
I settled on the term ‘Illustrative Score’ to describe the project and it’s method.
Check out Ira and Jake’s stimulating results here (and Ira’s personal site here).
And when you’re done, I’d be curious to hear your reactions to the old “Is it Comics?” question. Not a technical debate comparing it to this or that definition (though I’m sure those will come up), just gut reactions. Does this feel like comics to you?
I’m even okay with the ’60s Batman-style sound effects! Thanks, everyone I’ve ever known for telling me about this as soon as I got home.
Oh, and hey, as long as it’s Random Friday, I’ve got a question: I’m dying to find a reeeeeally old music video from the ’80s—maybe even pre-MTV. It had a funky, electronic song (possibly no words) with black and white, photocopy-style animation. There was a recurring assembly line motif with hamburgers and hands and that creepy masonic eye/pyramid thing. Really cool and jerky, almost like it was made by a robot Terry Gilliam. Does anyone remember this video? I’d love to find it out there somewhere but I don’t know anything about the director or even the musician(s) involved.
As some of you might have guessed, based on past blog entries, music is very important to our whole family. Sky is going to Coachella this year with a friend of ours and I’m envious, but after Italy, I’m going to be too eager to get back to work on the book, so I’ve got to miss it yet again.
I love that my daughter has been listening to bands like Passion Pit, Hot Chip, and Vampire Weekend* (all at Coachella) while simultaneously getting into Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, on LP no less—and that I had nothing to do with those last two. Well, any of them technically, (though I did discover Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros before her).
I used music constantly while working on the first draft of the layouts for the new book. I had several different playlists for different kinds of scenes and I’d go for long walks trying to imagine sequences, while letting the music sustain the mood I was going for.
Recently though, I mentioned this to my Mom over the phone and she said she hoped I took the headphones off once in a while to listen to the sounds around me too. (Which is both reasonable, and exactly the kind of thing you count on a Mom to say.)
Funny thing is, though, I’ve discovered that music actually distracts me during those walks now that I’ve entered the rewriting stage of the layouts. Keeping a sustained mood through music actually makes it harder to step back and consider the structure of a scene or set of scenes in my head, and how to change them for the better, or to implement the suggestions of my panel of “kibitzers.”
That trance I needed to put myself in while conceiving sequences would now prevent me from evaluating those scenes objectively. More proof, if any was needed, that we need to appeal to different aspects of our creative personality at different stages of the creative process.
Hm. This post is like a Simpsons episode. One thing leads to another and…
See you Monday!
*Pop Quiz: If I added Peter Gabriel’s name to those three band names and asked you which of the four was not like the others, which would you pick and why?
I’ve been thinking about art history a lot this year as I tunnel through my art-related graphic novel. As dorky and low-rent as most of the tableaus in the video are, it’s surprising to me how much power several of them have; producing almost a shock of recognition. (This is something Michel Gondry really understands too—that it doesn’t have to be serious or slick to deliver a punch).
I’ve been thinking of cartooning as a kind of visual compression algorithm lately. They travel in such a simple, reduced state, but when unpacked in the mind of the viewer, even a few simple lines can yield a huge set of ideas and emotions.
We’re looking at live action in the case of the video, but I think the effect might be similar.