Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Yeah, I Liked It More Than The Avengers

captain-america-winter-soldier-poster

 

There, I said it…and I loved The Avengers! You all know my Loki love and I would put this film, The Winter Soldier, on top of my Marvel  movie list. Chris Evans, who I praised after seeing Captain America: The First Avenger, is the ideal performer for the role and reminds us, yet again, of this fact with his most recent, and evolved, portrayal of Steve Rogers – Captain America himself.

He is Captain America, dang it!

He is Captain America, dang it!

Now, The Winter Soldier has been in theaters for over a week, and I have no intention of giving any spoilers away here. I figure if you haven’t seen the film by now, you either are going to soon or have read/heard enough to know that a lot of things happen in this film that move towards Avengers 2. The Hail Hydra memes are a pretty big clue at any rate. What I would like to focus on is the story and what makes this movie the best of the Marvel films to date.

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In Celebration of Will Eisner Week: My Adopted Love of Graphic Novels

After reading on Tumblr that this week is Will Eisner Week in celebration of the man and all novels graphic, I decided it would be a great excuse to write about my adopted love of comics. I say adopted because, like any good kid of the ’80s-’90s I had always loved superhero cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series, X-men, and The Amazing Spiderman) but I was mostly unaware of any comic that wasn’t printed serially in The Morehead News. It wasn’t until I took a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing elective while in Upward Bound that I ventured into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman #19 A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was impressed that it had won major awards in categories traditionally restricted to prose formats. I was intrigued by the enhanced storytelling garnered from the combination of art and word and ink, and panel.

In college, a friend lent me my first superhero graphic novel, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. While it wasn’t the Batman I knew and loved from the Animated Series, I did appreciate the medium as a potential for exploration of grim dark futures and What-ifs. In the early post 9-11 years, grim dark wasn’t difficult to accept in entertainment. The two distinct Batmans, initially quite opposed in my mind, forced me to connect the plausible dots between continuity and conjecture. I realized for the first time that flawed heroes are more interesting than the perfect action figures from childhood. I didn’t learn these storytelling motifs from English class, I picked it up in a graphic novel.

I can’t remember if it was before or after Brad and I began dating that he introduced me to Marvel’s 1602, pretty much my favorite what- if of all time. How can super humans and super science in the Renaissance not win me over? The only timeline point I’m really certain of is that he probably started taking me seriously as a dating prospect when I asked him about Batman– I’m not sure what specifically, but it definitely changed things– conversations stretched on into hours and group superhero cartoon-viewing plans were made that eventually would involve only the two of us. Half a year of mutual pining could have probably been avoided if I’d been as interested in Dr. Doom as I was in Batman, but hey, we still both agreed to include the local White Crow Comics in the itinerary for our first date.

Despite taking the occasional advice of a co-worker and reading classics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, I didn’t really start reading individual comic issues until DC’s Identity Crisis came out. I met the Question and Renee Montoya by following 52 and as a result began exploring Gotham’s other characters which led me to one of my current favorites Batwoman. The art style, intense color and ingenious use of alternative panel layouts makes for incredibly dynamic storytelling. I love that Batman deals with the themed human villains and Batwoman patrols the mythical/magical beat. The most recent story arc, World’s Finest was a team up with Wonder Woman to defeat Medusa and the Mother of all Monsters. I’m kind of wondering if the next story arc will have an Egyptian bent given the final spoiler in the last issue. Then maybe a return of Isis? Only time will tell, but I feel pretty confident I’m only reading too much into a single panel.

These days I also follow Captain Marvel and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s run on Avengers Assemble as well as most of the Adventure Time titles. My husband is the major collector but he keeps me in mind when planning his folder. I have had (male) friends tell me I only read the girl titles, and while they do speak to me first, I also like to support the need for the comic industry to at least think about female readers and creative teams. The only real miss I’ve had has been Sword of Sorcery. I love the world building of Gemworld but I think the story is just better suited for younger readers.

Obviously, comics and graphic novels are a major component of Brad and my entertainment diet and hopefully always will be. This week I’ll do a few more posts about recent comic news and next weekend will be the local Lexington Comic Con, of which there should be lots of Errant Easel coverage. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts as well. Looking forward to celebrating Will Eisner Week the Errant Easel way!

Challenge Accepted! June Edition Part 1

So we’ve made it to Day 19 of our June Challenge.  Time to tip our hands on at least part of our challenge work so far.

Our very own bees

For my lino print, I started with a simple sketch of a honeybee with random honey comb. I have an arguably (not so) strange attraction to honeybees. At least four generations of my dad’s family have kept hives of domesticated bees, successfully introduced wild swarms into built apiaries, and collected jars of honey and comb.  I’ve spent many summer evenings in lawn chairs situated just behind and off to the side of hives watching the straggler workers return home, their rear legs heavy with pollen deposits, as the hive slowly settled down into a composite fuzz of a social collective.  As long as we brought their sugar water early enough in the morning and sat quietly at night, they didn’t mind the audience. Our honey tasted of sourwood and clover and the comb was candy. We don’t collect as much honey these days, in spite of mite strips and other remedies, but I would gladly give beekeeping a shot again once I had my own land. In the meantime, I’ll make prints.

Outlined with SharpieI started from a simple sketch and transferred it as best I could, under the advisement of the patient and noble Professor Staci, to the linoleum square by poking holes in the main lines of the sketch and then tracing the sketch with a Sharpie marker in such a manner that the ink bled through the pinholes to lightly stipulate the image on the lino. I have always enjoyed the entomological/anatomical look as a science fantasy throwback to pulp era. Could I pin bugs? Not sure. But I like their lines, segments, and symmetry. I always remind myself, though, that “Organisms vary.” So my bee giving the viewer the stink eye is just an expression of the variance in heritable traits that allow for Darwinian natural selection. Right? Right.

Free-handed Honeycomb!As always, my personal hang up is making the first mark. Or in this case, the first cut with the lino tool. But after I chilled and channeled a bit of the Huber Farms Starlight White provided by the generous and wise Professor Dez, I got to carving. And, wow, I didn’t realize how physically rewarding this project would be. Once I got into a rhythm, I figured this could be an extremely effective destressor. I randomly threw in some honeycomb that kind of reminded me of organic chemical rings.

Artist's ProofThe most exciting and tangibly rewarding part of the night was no doubt the printing process. It was neat to roll the ink, coat the print and then use additional physical force to transfer the image. Despite the fact that it was midnight on a work night, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I really liked how my print turned out and the process my friends taught me to get there.

I enjoyed this printing technique so much that I hope to develop it into a skill. As a preview of the June Challenge Part 2, I plan to continue my Honeybee series, with a print of an empty lawn chair situated to the side and behind an apiary. This print will involve lots more carving so that the lines of the picture are black and the background light. I have an initial sketch but need to work on the composition/perspective type things that I have no clue about. Luckily, my husband lent me his copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which I am thrilled to check out and touched that he offered. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Alright…It Is Finished

Sorry for the delay folks – but this past week has been C-RAAAA-ZY! Between basketball games, having fluid on the ear, and driving through an ice storm it’s been hectic to say the least. I didn’t even work on the design at all Saturday because I just wanted to sleep (which I did). Then Monday = ballgame, Tuesday = practice, Wednesday = ballgame, and tonight = ballgame. Soooo, I’m running on a little besides middle school boy’s basketball (which, by the way, my boys are the best – at least to me!) and Diet Mt. Dew.

Still, last night, I uploaded my three images to WeLoveFine. They are the following:

The first - and still the one I like the best

Avengers A-Weeble - but they don't fall down!

Avengers!

I really enjoyed working on this project, and I feel more comfortable with Sketchbook Pro. While I know this is a lot to ask – and I’m not really sure when they will actually be up on the website for view (as of this post I have confirmation emails that WeLoveFine had received my submissions, but the images aren’t on the contest site yet) – but if you would, go to https://www.welovefine.com/contest.php?id_contest=7 and check out the designs. If you feel it worthy, please vote for me. Otherwise, vote for the one you like – I’m pretty chill like that.

Thanks for all the support and help, it has been appreciated – and enjoy!

Avengers Contest – Day Three

Well, here is my third day attempt at completing my Avengers tshirt design for the welovefine contest.  Thoughts on which one, if you feel one in particular, should be submitted.  I can submit up to 5 designs – which is nice.  Thanks again for all the input and text msgs and notes on facebook, it has been appreciated.  I am also thinking of doing something Loki related – but we’ll see, I really like this weeble idea.

Full of color

I like this one with the text

Avengers Contest part two

Well, after a few changes from the feedback received last night, I’m pretty happy with the actual drawing.  My only problem is whether to color or not.  I have worked for the last two hours trying to figure out with digital pen/marker/paint brush best works and what colors I like on the image.  To be honest, I’m still leaning towards the black and white drawing but possibly adding text.

Thoughts are welcomed and encouraged – I really do appreciate it.

On a digital media note: my Wacom Bamboo tablet is pretty awesome when used with my Autodesk Sketchbook Pro program.  I still have what I consider limited experience with digital media, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

What I was really hoping to be out by now what the Wacom Inkling – but at last check, it wasn’t available.  Soon my precious…soon!

The following are the two formats I’ve been playing with:

 

With color....

 

..and without

The Adventures of Tintin — In which the author overcomes great ignorance and is reminded of her love for pulp

“I seek above all to tell a story…and to tell it clearly.” -Hergé

Stephen Spielberg must have been chanting this mantra while directing his first animated film and homage to the pulp comic strip of the same name “The Adventures of Tintin.” Tintin, a gallant young reporter, and Snowy, his faithful canine sidekick, become entangled in a quest for treasure and redemption when they fortuitously purchase a clue-concealing model of the good ship Unicorn. The plot of the film was driven by action sequences  as quick, crisp, and convoluted as is expected in the pulp genre. Tintin makes for a fun hero who uses his wits, investigative instinct, and often his strong right hook to solve his problems.

Do not be mistaken. I held many prejudices, all of them as unfair and unfounded as prejudices tend to be, walking into the theater to see this movie. It was animated.There was an animated dog I assumed to be the main character (I mean really, what kind of name is Tintin? Of course it must be a dog’s name, I presumed.) And worst of all in my mind, it was attached to Nickelodeon.  Recalling my personal disappointment in and generally lukewarm feelings toward Nickelodeon’s movie adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, I arrogantly refused to place faith in the folks that introduced me to three engrossing seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender. How ignorant on all accounts.

My husband did not understand my reluctance. “It’s kind of like if Superman comics were told from the perspective of Jimmy Olsen.” And he was kind of right. Instead of a character traditionally driven only by his reaction to a greater being’s initiative and orders, Tintin catalyzes all of the action. From his impulsive purchase of a model ship concealing clues to pirate’s treasure to his uncanny ability to know who to punch when, the storyline progresses like a freight train. In contrast to modern action icons who tend to be portrayed as more rugged (think Daniel Craig as James Bond) was a little jolting to see such a baby-faced hero pull a gun so instinctively, but it was appropriate to the source material. There were other nods to Herge including framed newspaper articles detailing Tintin’s adventures from the comics and the use of Herge’s likeness to depict the caricaturist in the opening of the film. From these tributes and the preservation of the spirit of pulp adventure, it was evident that Spielberg, Wright, and others working on the film were fans of the source material.

I ended up loving the animation in the film and the convoluted plot of the story. I have had a long time appreciation of pulp elements in book series including Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, classics like Around the World in Eighty Days, and television shows such as The Lost World. Of course the appreciation depends on not demanding too much from the genre. Pulp adventure is not particularly known for character development, so don’t expect too much here and you’ll never miss it. If you like pulp adventure, globe hopping, and quests for treasure, or as Brad put it “an hour and a half long episode of Duck Tales,” you should make a point to see The Adventures of Tintin. Or in the words of Thompson and Thompson: To be more precise, you should make a point to see The Adventures of Tintin.

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