Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

Trust the Fungus!

So, did you guys know that there's a webcomic that's an unofficial sequel to the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie? Because there totally is. And it's pretty good too! You should go read it! Why am I bringing this up? Well, because...

...Because I've been hired this week as the comic's new colorist, that's why!

After HeroesCon last month, James Lyle (who I did some test colors for on his and Shane Berryhill's comic Game of Horror a couple months back, you may recall) put me in touch with the webcomic's illustrator Eryk Donovan. He had been handling the coloring as well, but has taken on some new jobs (including a miniseries with Boom Studios called Memetic coming in October) and can't do it anymore. So we chatted a bit and he sent me a couple test pages to try out on. After making some tweaks and showing them to the comic's writers Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss, here's what landed me the gig:



None of my work is on the site yet. The new chapter starts in September, and during the interim I'm coloring the first chapter since it was originally posted in black and white. Not sure when those will go up, but I'll let you know because I'M COLORING A COMIC SEQUEL TO THE SUPER MARIO BROS MOVIE.

I hadn't actually seen the movie since I was 8 or so, so I ordered it on DVD and watched it Sunday, just hours before getting the email telling me I got the gig, heh. Lot of fun, that movie is. I'm excited to be involved in this, and Eryk's art is a treat to color. Dude's extremely talented.

In other news, Cannonball Fist reached the second chapter last week! You're reading it, right? Here's today's page, introducing a character I'm rather pleased with. Say hello to LITTLE BOOMER:
 Oh yeah. This Saturday I'll be at the Asheville Anime Regional Convention. So if you're in the area, check it out! I have a small print run of Shouting at the Void which I'll be debuting there! Have I mentioned that before? They didn't come in quite in time for Heroes, but boy am I happy with how they look.
Wednesday, July 30th, I'll be at the Willow Tree Cafe in Johnson City for the July Meeting of the Secrets Society, which is a variety show thing my buddy Big Daddy Voodoo put together. A sort of modern day Vaudeville kind of thing, y'know? I'm going onstage and drawing a large mutant portrait of a stranger picked from the audience as my act, and if people enjoy it, they pay me when tip jars are passed around! A strange, neat thing. I think I'm the first one going on.

Saturday, August 2nd is ROB-CON here in Bristol! Always a favorite of mine, you'll recall. This is promising to be the biggest one yet, and I THINK I may be on a panel too? I'm pretty stoked.

So yeah. Things are going to be quite busy over the course of this next week! It's a good feeling, isn't it?

As always, back to work. See ya next time.

APE NOT KILL APE

Reboots are coming so quickly and frequently lately, and they largely feel unnecessary. The Amazing Spider-man didn’t really bring anything new to the table and its sequel sounds like a massive train wreck, while this year’s Robocop remake sounded like it didn’t have anything terribly interesting to offer. It’s rather incredible then that the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise works so well. Both Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes aren’t much at all like all of the other major summer movie releases we’ve been getting hammered with recently.

I remember the large amounts of praise that Rise received when it first came out, and being a little confused by it. A movie about a super intelligent chimpanzee…was good? You may recall I mentioned having a prejudice against primates when I reviewed the original Planet of the Apes movies last week, so that was very much at play. But I finally decided to give Rise a shot and I was surprised by just how engaged I was with the movie. It was extraordinarily emotional in a way I didn’t see coming, and the way it steadily pushed James Franco’s character aside to put the spotlight on Caesar himself feels like a pretty bold move. I couldn’t believe a movie like that was even made with the kind of budget it had.

After watching the original movies, I was even more taken back by how well done Rise is. It borrows plot elements from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, yes, but it is NOTHING like that movie. It makes several small, sly references to the original film, sure, but it is largely its own thing. It isn’t a remake like Tim Burton’s lousy attempt from 2001. It isn’t a retread of any of the films that came before it. It’s a fresh new start and a well done update of a lot of the themes and ideas expressed in those original movies without feeling like it’s trying too hard to pander to fans in the way the Marvel films do.

So having watched it, and having watched the original series and developing a much better idea of what this series is all about, I was even more excited for Dawn. I went with a friend on Friday night, and while the theater wasn’t fully packed, there were still quite a lot of people in there and I was a bit in awe at the fact that everyone was quiet, there wasn’t any inappropriate chuckling, and I didn’t notice anyone pulling out their cellphone or anything annoying like that. We were all engaged by the movie.

This movie once again belongs to Caesar and the community he leads. The first 15 minutes or so are without humans or dialogue, focusing entirely on the apes. While capable of limited speech, they communicate largely in sign language. I kind of wish it’d gone on just a bit longer, really. When a human finally turns up, we are just as shocked as they are, and from there the tension refuses to let up. It never becomes about whether apes are superior to humans or not. Rather, it’s about their similarities, but moreso it feels more about the nature of conflict. Nothing is clear cut black or white, there’s good and bad on both sides, and that’s refreshing. As far as big budget special effects movies go, this is by far the most thoughtful one you’re probably going to see this year.

I’ve noticed a few people jeering at the movie for being so dark and taking itself so seriously. Even the moment where one ape rides a horse while firing two rifles at once isn’t quite as ludicrously emphasized as you’d expect it to be. It’s kind of relentless in the way that there’s no levity at all aside from some softer moments. Maybe it is a bit too grim, but I’m okay with that. I cringed at every single dumb joke in Captain America 2 and as entertaining as it was, even some of the well-executed humor in Edge of Tomorrow fell flat for me, so I’m just pleased that Dawn didn’t even attempt any humor at all.

One big highlight for me was Michael Giacchino’s score. I’ve always enjoyed his work, and he does an incredible job here. It may be one of his best, with little nods here and there to the music heard in the original films. Another was the look of the movie: always dark and moody, rainy and foggy. The overgrown ruins of San Francisco, slowly being reclaimed by nature, looks and feels a lot like the Last of Us, a comparison I couldn’t shake off for the whole movie. And while the humans don’t have a whole lot to do in this movie, that’s not to say there aren’t some great moments. Gary Oldman in particular, while delivering his speech that you’ve already heard parts of from the trailers, is phenomenal. He’s shaking the entire time, like he’s about to jump out of his skin, a man trying to hold his community together while he himself is on the brink of falling to pieces. Desperation is unshakeable. The apes only have a rudimentary grasp of English, making their dialogue staggeringly direct and powerful during the few times they actually speak.

There is one thing that bugs me, though: the original movies are based on the premise that super intelligent apes rule over primitive humans in the far future. I’m wondering how the next movie will take us to that point, or if it’s even going to try. Caesar still has compassion towards humanity, he doesn’t want to wipe them out, but this IS Planet of the APES, eventually it should reach that conclusion, right? Then again, these two movies have already gone in a largely different direction from the originals. Anything is possible. That’s one thing that’s remained consistent with this franchise, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next.

"I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man."

I’d never really given much consideration to the Planet of the Apes films before. I think I have this inherent prejudice against primates for some reason, maybe? Like, King Kong is an incredible movie, a classic, far better than most other giant monster movies, but I’m not that into him. Even as a kid, I thought monkeys were weird. Donkey Kong, his games are great but I wouldn’t even consider him on a list of favorite Nintendo characters. Even at zoos the chimpanzees just don’t impress me. So for whatever reason, I never tried watching those movies, even though the first one’s a classic and it’s a beloved franchise. I think I saw Tim Burton’s remake in theaters when I was young, but I remember almost nothing about it.

That’s changed though. I saw the teaser for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in front of some other movie a month or two ago and was surprised by how good it looked. It stuck with me more than the movie itself. Then I saw the main trailer and decided it was something worth watching. I found Rise of the Planet of the Apes for 3 bucks at a Best Buy in Charlotte and it was a slippery slope from there. A week later I got the original, then just the other day I bought the Legacy Collection on bluray.

In the past week I’ve watched all five movies from the original series, none of which I’d ever seen before . Overdosed on apes. I decided to try to collect and write down my thoughts on the series, since it’s kind of rare for me to get into something so quickly like this. Spoilers abound, of course.

Planet of the Apes (1968): I would have watched this way sooner if someone had just told me that Rod Serling co-wrote this movie and that it’s essentially one big long Twilight Zone episode where Charlton Heston, a man I’ve never been terribly fond of, gets shot in the neck, repeatedly beaten up, thrown around, and hosed down. The movie plays out like a feverish nightmare (amplified by the fact that Heston had the flu for most of the shoot), Jerry Goldsmith’s bizarre score making sure you’re always a bit dizzy and uncomfortable as you watch the madness unfold. All of the social commentary, the jabs at racism and everything else, it still feels relevant. It’s actually welcoming that things slow down a bit for the final act, with Taylor’s trial having echoes of the McCarthy era witch hunts. You can finally rest and think about everything. As many times as I’ve seen it parodied, as long as I’ve known about it, that ending is still pretty great, isn’t it? A real kick in the teeth when it first came out, I’d like to think. It was also really neat to see all the parallels to Rise, comparing and contrasting the two.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970): Everyone in this looks awful, especially Charlton Heston. This is just an ugly movie all around. The bulk of the film has a been there, done that feeling to it, hitting a lot of the same notes as the first movie but without any of the bite since we know where we are this time. It doesn’t help that the new astronaut lead in this one was picked specifically for his resemblance to Heston. Things get good in the second half thankfully, once our hero finds the underground ruins of New York City and a freakish race of telepathic mutants who worship an unexploded nuclear bomb. That’s kind of awesome. I didn’t know the other movies in the series had sucker punch endings similar to the first one, so this one took me by complete surprise when it just straight up murdered everyone. Originally, I’d planned on stopping with this one and saving the other three movies for after I watched Dawn, but after that? I knew I had to keep going, I wanted to see what else they’d throw at me.

Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971): Absolute tonal shift here. The first half of this movie seems to have no plot at all outside of watching Zira and Cornelius from the first two movies touring New York, getting new outfits, and attending parties, a fish out of water comedy scenario. It’s way more entertaining than I’d like to admit, refreshing after watching everybody die violently in the last movie. But then all the laughing and smiling is thrown out the window when a drunken Zira explains the dark turn which humanity’s future will take and an enterprising agent decides that now is the time to change the course of history by killing the two apes. Not unlike the moral debate about going back in time to kill Hitler as a child in order to prevent the Third Reich and WW2 from happening. Things keep getting uglier until we get another shock of an ending with Zira and Cornelius gunned down, their child left crying for its mother in a cage in the circus.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972): By this point I just really didn’t know what to expect at all. They were cranking these things out once a year at this rate, with the budget sliced down each time. Setting Escape in the present with only three apes seemed like the ultimate attempt at cost-cutting, so I figured Conquest would be a letdown. I was wrong. While it DID in fact have a smaller budget, it somehow feels like the biggest movie yet, taking place in the “future” of 1991 and going back to packing the screen with apes. This is also the only PG-rated movie, though I watched the unedited version that’s more violent and has the nastier, darker ending. Another gut punch. Whereas the other films kept the social issues mostly to the side, not exactly hiding them but not really making them the focus either, this one puts it all right up front. Parallels to slavery are frequent, especially given that there are far more black actors in this movie than in any of the others. The movie is shot in a dark, uncomfortable fashion and when violence breaks out (which is all the time) the camera doesn’t even try to look away. The final act riots and stand-off with the police is where Rise lifted its own finale from, as well as the basic story of Caesar as the most intelligent ape leading the others. This may very well be my favorite in the series. The original theatrical cut has a softer ending, with Caesar changing his mind about having the movie’s villain murdered and making a hasty speech about equality, but I much prefer the darker turn.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973): Sadly, this one is without a doubt the weakest of the series, though I feel like this is the one that they’ll have mined the most from for Dawn. We’re taken further into the future. Caesar rules the apes, has a son named after his father Cornelius (which led me to some weird time travel paradox ideas for a brief moment), and there’s an uneasy peace between them and the surviving humans. It’s a bit boring to watch, even if the movie is trying to make a point here. Humans can no longer say “No” to apes while apes can say it to humans, but it’s a weak metaphor. It wasn’t really holding my attention until they decide to journey to the bombed out ruins of New York to find the old Ape Control Center from Conquest. I feel like the developers of the Fallout series of games were heavily influenced by this movie, because that whole portion of the movie reminded me a lot of Fallout 3. The humans still living in the irradiated ruins are slowly mutating into the freaks we see in Beneath, cracking jokes about radiation and sitting around waiting to die before Caesar shows up. It turns into an all-out war between these guys and the ape settlement, with the gorillas rounding up all the humans living with them into pens. (Oh hey, didn’t we Americans kind of pull this same nonsense in WWII by putting Asians in internment camps?) This one does have the most action, and while it still has something to say, it really just feels underwhelming through and through. Plus, the ending is pretty basic, especially compared to the twists of the previous four movies. Yeah, I was let down by the fact that this one DIDN’T end on a dark note. I’m a creep.

I was going to write about Rise of the Planet of the Apes too since I watched it first, but this thing is long enough already, so I’ll save it for after I’ve seen Dawn and can compare the two. But there you have it, in no time at all I went from being completely indifferent to very much in love with movies about talking apes with machine guns. While it’s hard to say how or why, watching through all of these felt like watching a bunch of Godzilla films. I wish they’d just kept on cranking these out into the 80’s, you know? They’re so much more bizarre and clever than I’d ever expected, I was largely impressed with them. I’m absolutely a fan now, and I can’t wait to see Dawn tonight.

I could do without the CG Lawgiver intros for all the Blu-rays, though...

[Brett]

We could be Heroes

This year’s HeroesCon was the absolute best.

There are too many things I want to write about. The incredible food we ate (if you like Vietnamese, you NEED to go to Lang Van, seriously), the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find shop itself which I’d never been to before, getting a great big awkward hug from Chip Zdarsky after the phenomenal and emotional Sex Criminals panel and getting a sketch of E.T. from him, all of the other awesome sketches I got in my vintage sci-fi themed sketchbook, hanging out with the incredibly talented and awesome Alejandro Bruzzese and Chris Pyrate, meeting my friend and collaborator Xylon Otterburn in person for the first time, who just straight up kindly gave me my first piece of original artwork (and did a badass Videodrome sketch too), getting really into Jordan T. Neves’ work, doing my first sketch cover of Dracula and Frankenstein dressed as Superman and Batman, drawing Pikachu in lederhosen with a beer…I could go on and on.
I’ve never had an experience like this one before. I hope it isn’t the last.

And seriously, you guys, Alejandro is the best. I really feel like his work is going to blow up some time soon, his design sensibilities and colors are just too fantastic to be ignored. He’s the nicest, friendliest dude and I’m grateful that he and Chris let a dope like me hang out with them Friday and Saturday evening. I can’t wait to get to see them again, but until then, I’m going to show this incredible Zardoz sketch that Alejandro did for me to everybody I know whether they want to see it or not:
 

I did way better this year than I did last year,  even counting all that time spent away from my table on Sunday. I had people I met at last year’s con come by and say hey, that they were glad to see me again. That was incredible. I met so many more people, made new friends, I’d still be happy even if I hadn’t sold a single thing, you know?
There was only one thing that kind of marred this year’s experience, and…I’ve been wondering whether or not I should even mention it, but I feel like I should, if only to get it out there. The guy at the table next to me was…pretty annoying.

He was a salesman. He had a pitch for his comic series that he was selling. He called out to people as they walked by, asking them to come take a look, even if they’d already walked past his table and were almost past mine. Then he delivered his pitch. It was the same pitch every time, with no deviation. I had it memorized myself by Friday afternoon, down to his inflection and tone. Even when people would say something that you’d think would make him alter the pitch or something, he would keep going. He was there to promote and sell his comic, no more, no less. And it worked pretty well for him Friday, it seemed! But it was annoying, and it felt…dishonest, maybe. And people caught on. Sales seemed to dwindle over the course of Saturday and by Sunday I’m not sure he sold more than one or two books. And I could tell that was upsetting him. He continued to give the pitch, but it was like the life was sucked out of him.

Friday morning he asked me what my “endgame” was and tried telling me how to talk to people and pitch my books, even coming behind me at one point and talking to the people at my table because he didn’t like how I was doing it, which infuriated me. I told him that this wasn’t business for me, it was a labor of love, and he backed off. And that’s true. I just couldn’t agree with how he was doing things. Sure, he easily made more money and sold more than I did, probably on Friday alone, but…

…I had a guy come by who bought both issues of Burst Reach AND a copy of Other Sleep. He straight up GAVE me a copy of his own comic and we chatted quite a bit while I signed and sketched in all three books. Saturday, he came by again briefly to tell me how much he loved Other Sleep and how he‘s showing it to everyone he knows and telling them about it. Sunday, he stopped by once more and we chatted a little longer about how awesome HeroesCon is. A girl I met last year was just wandering by with her friends when she looked over and shouted “holy crap, you’re back, that’s awesome!” We caught up a little bit and she went on her way. I gushed about Welcome to Night Vale with the woman I drew German Pikachu for. I had so many fun conversations with people, I didn’t care if they were going to buy anything from me or not.

…I rambled too much there, but the point is: I feel like I was connecting with people. I wanted them to enjoy and buy my stuff, yes, but more importantly I wanted to make a good impression and if nothing else be remembered as that weird cool guy who really likes Godzilla movies a lot and draws monsters. I don’t think I ever saw anyone go by that guy’s table to tell him how much they enjoyed his comic after buying it off of him. I don’t think anyone really asked him how his weekend was going or what he thought of the con, or anything like that. No casual conversation at all. He was so committed to selling his book that he hardly left the table, so I know he didn’t go around meeting other creators or anything like that. And I just…I can’t imagine being like that, you know? He only really talked about this comic he’d written, hardly deviating from his pitch, more concerned about making sales than anything else at all. I can’t do that. I can’t understand that, just as, I suppose, he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t trying to pitch my work and make money the same way he was. But he started driving people away Saturday, which wasn’t good for me or for the guy on the other side of his table, and he didn’t really make the best impression. I feel like, if he comes back next year, he’ll do even worse because people will remember him and know that he’s kind of pushy about getting you to buy his comic.

I’ve wasted too many words on this, haven’t I? Long story short, dude was kind of a pushy salesman, and though he was nice, it was annoying and just didn’t seem right at all, poor con etiquette. Guy on the other side of his table agreed with me, and we both took over his table when he left early on Sunday, which kind of boosted sales for both of us.
On the other side of my table, however, was Ronnie Filyaw, who does a webcomic called WHOMP, and he was delightful. He had a loyal fan base, and I enjoyed watching and hearing him interacting with them and taking selfies. Yeah, that was a thing he did, he took selfies with his fans! How cool is that? I got three sketches from him, Ashley and I both bought books from him, and I got a selfie with him too.

I hope that one day I can accumulate the same kind of wonderful fans that he has.

…Huh. So yeah. I guess that’s my con report. I’m already excited about next year and plotting what to do next. I almost certainly need a banner, yes. Anyways, back to work on Cannonball Fist, but before I go? Here, watch the video of my incredibly awkward, sweaty, beautiful hug with Chip Zdarsky, as Matt Fraction stands and watches like a creeper. This video pretty much sums up what HeroesCon means to me:
 

Heroic Facepunch

Haha, of course I forgot to write about this last week: CANNONBALL FIST IS NOW ONLINE.

I launched the comic last Thursday with the first ten pages of the comic, with new pages coming in every Tuesday and Thursday. And hey, today is Thursday so that means a new page has gone up! Go check it out!
I need to start hustling on this, promoting it and spreading the word, but…I’m not really sure how to do that just yet. Other Sleep was more of a serious graphic novel thing, but I never really figured out a good way of promoting it either. Basically I'm terrible about promotion, as evidenced by the fact that I'm a week late announcing that the comic is even online!

I'm looking forward to see how people respond to it. This is so different from my other work in so many ways.

In other news, HeroesCon is next weekend! Holy crap! I’m tabling by myself this year, a terrifying prospect, and I will be at table AA526. Here’s a guide to finding me:
I put together and ordered a limited print run of Shouting at the Void which will hopefully arrive before I leave next week, otherwise I’ll just have the same things I’ve had at other cons this year: Other Sleep trade plus the first chapter by itself, Burst Reach 3 and 4, posters, postcards, and of course as always I will be doing my glorious mutant portraits and other sketches!
Girlfriend (pictured above) and I are also going down Thursday morning so we can hit up the aquarium, which will be pretty awesome and a nice way to loosen up before the con takes over.

So that’s it for now. Lots of work to be done. Get off my lawn.

No Godzillas this time

My last three entries were about Godzilla, sheesh. I guess I overdid it there a little. Sorry. As an apology, here's some stuff I've been working on lately. IMAGE DUMP TIME!!

Back in April, I teamed up once again with Xylon Otterburn on a single page comic they'd written and illustrated to submit to the Locust Moon Little Nemo tribute book. I colored it and placed the lettering they'd done. It was rejected, alas, but I'm still rather pleased with it, and I think they are too. May need to do some zooming in your browser to read it, sorry.

I did this three-page comic for Burst Reach 4 that I decided I wanted to share online so that it'll reach a much larger audience than the handful of people who will buy the thing. It's called Feeling Human, and it's about people abducted by an alien that wants to understand them. More than that, it's about the way we tend to single out, exclude, and hate one another for any difference we can find, and the absurdity of it. It's not as visually interesting as the other stories in BR4, and it's way too much to cram into three pages, but I'm still very pleased with it.
 That's my girlfriend's dog, by the way. Or well, one of them.

I wasn't kidding when I titled this post No Godzillas, BUT I DIDN'T SAY NO KAIJU. The week Godzilla came out, I did new sketches every day as I got amped up for it. Here are my two favorites. First off, an utterly deranged drawing of Hedorah the Smog Monster:
Followed by two of my favorite dudes, Gigan and Megalon, which I didn't get time to color. Just...just picture this: you're watching wrestling, it's a tag team match, some ridiculous hairmetal song starts playing, and these two come out. Everyone boos.
See? Godzilla isn't in either of those sketches.

Memorial Day weekend, my girlfriend and I camped and hiked in the Smokey Mountains. Specifically, we camped at Cades Cove and hiked the Alum Cave Trail. I took pictures, and did this sketch from one of those pictures, which I'm rather fond of. The whole trip was a wonderful experience and I feel like a changed man after it.
Last Saturday, the 24th, there was an event held at the William King Museum of Art. Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, came and gave a lecture on the history of censorship in comics. There was barbecue, kids could make superhero masks, the Heroes Aren't Hard to Find and Out of Step shows were still up, and I was there doing my mutant portrait thing. I drew a LOT, but didn't get to take a single picture of what I made. However, a former teacher of mine whose studio is there in the museum and a couple of her friends had me take their pictures to draw them when I had more time, and I finished the first one of those today:

Finally, it's JUNE! That means Cannonball Fist is coming soon!

How soon, you ask? Really soon. Like, VERY SOON. Sooner than you think.
 ...Well, okay, not right this moment, you can and SHOULD go ahead and eat, but still.

Soon.

I can't wait, can you?

That's all for now. BE BACK SOON.

SOON

"Mommy look, dinosaurs!"

MORE SCATTERED THOUGHTS ON GODZILLA. This one's spoiler-heavy, so DO NOT READ if you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to be spoiled, okay?

I feel like nobody is talking about how wonderfully shot and edited this movie is. Transitions from shot to shot make sense, and while things get wobbly, we never get any full-on shaky-cam crap. You're never confused about what's going on, you're always aware of where everyone is, where the humans are in relation to the monsters, et cetera. Just a tremendously good use of scale and space. Probably the best movie I've seen this year so far next to Noah.

That shot that opens on a closeup of a chameleon seems like a sly "fuck you" towards the Emmerich Godzilla, and I appreciate that. And I feel like the plot point about the analogue timer on the warhead was a bit of a playful jab at the analogue line in Pacific Rim, like, "no, THIS is what analogue REALLY means."

I'm really okay with them cutting away to the kid watching TV and giving us those quick little glimpses of the first fight, it doesn't bother me at all. Actually, it seems like less of a fight and more like Godzilla stumbling around like "what the fuck is this thing?! It keeps flying around godammit KILL IT KILL IT FUCK"**

**I don't know about other people, but when I watch a Godzilla movie, I imagine he's just constantly cursing in anger and confusion at the military and whoever he's fighting, just all the time. The fact that it was so easy for me to do that in this new one was the big thing that let me know they got him right, heh.

People are hating on Aaron Taylor-Johnson's performance, but I think he does a pretty good job...when he's around other people. He's a great counterbalance to his insane father, and he does really well with his wife and kid, and even the boy on the train, but on his own, or with other military folks, he kind of goes dead.

Admiral Stenz doesn't fully work for me, possibly because he's not the angry, hard-headed stereotype military commander I'm used to seeing. He's compassionate, open to suggestions, not butting heads with Serizawa or anything like that. Interesting choice for his character.

Like a lot of people, I was a little annoyed they killed Bryan Cranston off so early, but I feel more like it was a good move in that having him in the rest of the movie would have been too much. He would be stark-raving mad and annoying, wouldn't he? I also feel like they front-loaded the movie with all the heavy emotional stuff just to get it out of the way and move on to the carnage, which...maybe it doesn't work, but it's a decision I certainly would have made, and similar to a decision I made with Other Sleep.

The birth of the male MUTO in the plant is probably my favorite scene. I love that wire grid they had set up to contain him, the weird electronic chirping sounds he makes, stomping on not one but two poor dudes.

I'm into the MUTOs in general. The female mimicking the walkie talkie at the bridge scene made me grin, and while I'm getting tired of giant monsters with tiny arms on their torsos, at least these two made use of them. The male is like a mosquito crossed with a bat, I feel like, and the female's more like...I dunno, a gorilla? I like how she's so freakin' huge in comparison to her mate. The size difference made their showdown with Godzilla more interesting.

Favorite shots: Godzilla in the water, spines wobbling a little bit back and forth like the old Showa suits, flanked by aircraft carriers. He doesn't care that they're following him, he just wants to stomp MUTO after that embarrasing first encounter. Elle on the road, running from MUTO as he's just landed, only to turn around and see Godzilla rising up, caught between the two huge monsters. Definitely an "oh SHIT" moment. The team, shortly after landing in the ruins of San Fransisco from the halo jump, heading towards the warhead, and you see in the distance, up top, the female MUTO's head coming out of the smoke, briefly, and as the camera pans down you see they're heading RIGHT FOR HER.

And of course...

GODZILLA'S BREATH. First viewing, I wasn't quite sure how to feel about it. It doesn't seem as unstoppable and powerful as it is in the Millenium series, but now I'm really into it. It's more like his breath in the first movie, a blue flamethrower, than the beam that it became in the Heisei and Millenium series. Also, the glow starting at the tip of his tail and working its way up like it's charging? Brilliant.

Oh, and when he kills the female MUTO, the music swells triumphantly. A perfect "FUCK YEAH" moment. Yeahhhh.

Okay, yeah, I'm done talking about Godzilla, I guess. Next post will be a return to regular programming...maybe.

King of the Monsters

I barely remember the last time I saw a Godzilla movie in theaters. It was Godzilla 2000, I was in 6th, possibly 7th grade, and while I had actually enjoyed the awful 1998 Emmerich Godzilla movie at the time (note how young I was), I was absolutely thrilled to see the REAL Godzilla again, for the first time on the big screen.

Since then, I’d been waiting, hoping for another theatrical release of a Godzilla film. Other giant monster movies came and went, sure, but it wasn’t the same. As much as I absolutely loved Pacific Rim last year, it wasn’t the king of the monsters himself, you know? And this past weekend, it finally came, a new Godzilla movie, directed by Gareth Edwards. After the first trailer or two put a lot of my doubts and worries to rest, I could hardly contain my excitement. Thursday came, I went to the first showing, and it was immense…

…But it was also a little disappointing. I had mixed feelings. I had, without realizing it, developed so many expectations for this movie, and in the space of two hours those expectations were met, surpassed, let down, and outright avoided all at once. I felt like the trailers had set me up for a completely different movie. You’ve probably already read plenty of reviews, seen the valid complaints: poor characterization, not enough Godzilla, too much teasing. But still, I couldn’t shake certain images from my head, certain sounds, the music. I complained to a number of people about the movie’s flaws, nodded in agreement with others, but I had to see it again nevertheless because there was something undeniably wonderful in there that I simply couldn’t ignore.

Why do I love giant monsters so much, especially Godzilla? I can never really answer that in a satisfactory way. It could be that the genre was imprinted on me at such a young age, Godzilla Vs Megalon being my first movie, which I’ve watched so many times I have the whole thing practically memorized. Power Rangers came soon after, speaking a language I was very much familiar with, and in 1st grade I met my best friend, and we bonded over our mutual love of giant monsters, though he had seen far more movies than I, and had all the Trendmasters action figures that were coming out at the time.

It could be a psychological thing: I’ve always been this tiny, scrawny, weak kid. Godzilla and the monsters he went head-to-head with were invincible giants who smashed through cities like they were nothing, surviving military assaults and bombs and everything else thrown at them. I was bullied, not too badly, but enough to get on my nerves, while Godzilla didn’t take shit from anyone. He refused to stay down.

So I went and saw it a second time, catching a matinee showing by myself. Right up until I left for the theater I was talking with a friend, the both of us detailing all the problems we had with the movie. But a weird thing happened: the opening credits came up and all of those complaints I had went right out the window. Maybe this time I was able to set my own feelings and expectations aside and just let the movie do its own thing, I’m not sure, but I enjoyed it so much more this second time around, appreciating it more for what it is than being bugged by what it isn't. None of the movie’s issues bothered me, outside of giving Elizabeth Olsen absolutely nothing to do in her role. The smaller crowd in the theater was more into it than the Thursday night group, cheering along, laughing. I heard a man say to his kid “there he is!” when Godzilla first showed up in Honolulu. I smiled a little when a woman in front of me went “awww…” as Godzilla, exhausted after a huge fight, collapsed to the ground. He connected. They nailed him so perfectly, his behavior and mannerisms, who cares if Aaron Taylor-Johnson can’t seem to emote when he’s not around his family?

There’s a scene in the new movie that has me grinning any time I think about it: Godzilla rising out of the water next to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, moving alongside school buses full of excited and frightened children. I can remember sitting on the bus, heading to or from school, staring out the window, imagining that: Godzilla or some other giant monster rising up in the distance, traveling in the same direction as me. My imagination at odds with small-town mundane life. Those kids in the movie are experiencing the kind of thing I wanted to experience myself when I was that age.

Honestly, I went in hoping the movie would avoid that kind of thing, Godzilla as the hero, the one people cheered on and got excited to see, but now I’m so glad they included that element, because it really is a big part of those movies. They could have easily gone for a darker, grittier, reboot like the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy or Man of Steel, the trailers made it look like that’s where they were going, but they didn’t. That’s a crazy thing to realize, but it works so well, right? Or is it just me?

It’s surreal that this movie is doing so well and is so popular. It’s bizarre seeing people talk about it on Facebook. It’s weird that people have actually been genuinely asking me what my opinion is, and that they’re already hyping us up for a sequel.

That’s another weird thing about Godzilla when compared to other franchises: they can crank these things out year after year until society collapses and I’d be cool with that, and yet I shudder at the sheer number of superhero movies we’re being hit with. Four Transformers and seven X-Men movies feels like way too many, but twenty-eight, twenty-nine Godzilla movies isn’t enough. Rebooting Spider-man so soon and announcing spin-off titles? What’s the deal with that? And yet Godzilla has been rebooted multiple times, heck, the Millenium series is just reboot after reboot with one exception. Outside of the Heisei series, Godzilla movies just give the finger to continuity. Those movies are all across the board, some good, some great, some mediocre, some terrible, but Godzilla just doesn’t stop. None of them are perfect, they go in so many directions, and that’s one of the most wonderful things about them. Godzilla endures. The monster has been through so many decades, different genres, designs, directors, not even Roland Emmerich's failure could stop him.

I can’t…I don’t know that I can come up with a nice, solid conclusion to these thoughts, a way to wrap them up nicely. The movie isn’t perfect, there are plenty of valid flaws, but I can’t get over how well it was shot, the scale of it all and the excellent use of space. I’m thinking of seeing the movie one more time tomorrow. I’m getting the library to order the prequel comic for me to read. I’m annoyed at how lousy all the action figures are because I really want one. I'm bummed that NECA made his head so small when their Pacific Rim figures were so perfect, but I’m ordering a set of the chibi figures of him and MUTO because they’re kind of great. I’m sad they didn’t make stand-alone MUTO figures because they’re pretty cool monsters. I’m living in a world where a Godzilla movie currently rules the box office, outperforming Captain America 2, and people are really enjoying it, and they’re already talking about a sequel. That’s just the greatest.

"What do you think could kill it? Instead, we should focus on why it's still alive."

Alright, we made it to part two of my favorite kaiju movies, the best of the bunch! Or, well, my personal favorites at least. You can read part one over here.

Godzilla Vs Hedorah (1971) - This movie has a bit of a bad reputation among fans, and even I hated it the first time I’d watched it. I was sick, I had a headache, I wanted something light and cheesy to watch (most Godzilla movies are perfect for watching while sick in bed, for some reason), and well, this is anything but. More like an all-out assault on the senses. In some ways, it’s a little obvious why Toho outright banned writer/director Yoshimitsu Banno from making another film after this one, but the reasons why are kind of why I love it so much: it is such a gross, ugly, mean movie. Hedorah may be the most bizarre monster Godzilla has ever fought, a rapidly evolving pollution-devouring sludge beast from space, and the movie wastes no time whatsoever showing him to you, along with the devastation he causes. For the bulk of the movie, Godzilla doesn’t even know how to fight the damn thing. Hedorah’s stench is so awful that Godzilla hardly wants to go near him, not to mention his attacks just cut right through the sludge, doing nothing but getting himself covered in burning, acidic ooze. Even his beam is ineffective. He just doesn’t know what to do. News broadcasts throughout the movie keep you updated on the amount of damage Hedorah deals, as well as a running body count. People choke on toxic fumes and pass out, stray sludge burns them away to nothing but bones. It’s grisly, not the kid’s film that Toho expected at all.
But it’s the times where Banno DOES remember that this is a kid’s film where fans get the most upset: this IS the movie where Godzilla uses his breath to FLY, after all. Seeing him soar across the sky is up there as far as ridiculous moments in Godzilla movies go, but it’s really just a drop in the bucket when one considers all the other bizarre imagery in this movie. I think that’s another reason I enjoy it so much, it’s so unabashedly WEIRD, the most outrageous of all the Godzilla movies. Banno flew too close to the sun with this one, it‘s more like those batshit crazy Shochiku horror films from the 60‘s than anything else. And now I want to do a double feature of this movie with Genocide.

BONUS: This past Saturday I was at the comic shop for Free Comic Book Day, discussing Godzilla nonsense with anyone who stood by my table for longer than 5 seconds. One guy, who I’d met last year and talked with a lot, told me about how Hedorah was the first Godzilla movie he saw. He was 6 years old, and his father worked at the Eastman in Kingsport, 30 minutes from here, a HUGE industrial area, and he watched it THERE at one of the factories as part of some summer thing that the Eastman put on for the kids of employees. Not only did the movie rightfully scare the shit out of him, but when he got out of the movie he was absolutely convinced that Hedorah would descend upon the Eastman, devouring smoke and murdering people. BEST FIRST GODZILLA EXPERIENCE EVER.
Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996) - A lot of kaiju fans state that Gamera 3 is the best of Shusuke Kaneko’s Heisei trilogy, and I don’t really know why. I guess because it’s so dark and grisly? But it’s also dull, with the interesting bits like the Gyaos invasion and Gamera starting to go feral set aside in favor of a boring revenge plot with the unimpressive-looking Irys. For me, Gamera 2 is where it’s at. It’s quite a bit of a throwback to old 50’s alien invasion movies in a lot of ways, with more old-school charm to it than the other two films in the trilogy. And then there’s the Legion themselves. I’m a sucker for insectoid kaiju (see: Megalon), and the Legion insects are just so cool looking. Then there’s the giant queen herself, a massive thing, towering over Gamera, resembling a cross between a crab and a grasshopper, unstoppable. Gamera doesn’t even stand a chance against her, with most of the fighting between the two coming down to Gamera just struggling to hold Legion back. The special effects get a huge upgrade with this movie, and Kow Otani’s score is just fantastic as usual. This is really one of the finest kaiju movies ever made.
Godzilla Vs Destoroyah (1995) - The final Godzilla film of the Heisei era (Mothra got her own Rebirth trilogy after this), with Akira Ifukube’s final score. Godzilla is dying, on the verge of a catastrophic meltdown, his body glowing bright orange and yellow, hissing steam. All anyone can do is sit and watch as he rampages in blind pain, this unstoppable giant that’s persisted for years finally at death’s door, and not from any of their efforts to bring him down. And then enters Destoroyah, a cackling red hellbeast, spawned in part from the one weapon that could stop Godzilla, the Oxygen Destroyer, come to drag Godzilla into Hell. And his son, too, actually. Destoroyah’s sole purpose of existence is to wipe all life off the face of the planet, with a particular emphasis on the kaiju. The one thing about this movie which really bothers me is the scene where it tries to be Aliens, with the JSDF trying to fight the Destoroyah Aggregates. It just feels a bit too silly and low budget compared to the apocalyptic doom that hangs over the rest of the movie. Luckily, it’s over pretty quickly. This movie, especially in its ending, carries the most emotional weight of any Godzilla film since the first. It’s tragic, watching this monster, this awe-inspiring colossus, die such a painful death, realizing that his reign has come to an end. It may have been short-lived, but it was an incredibly well-done and respectful send-off for the king of the monsters.
Pacific Rim (2013) - Yeah yeah, this is the third time I’ve written about it, I know, but I can‘t help it. Guillermo del Toro made the monster movie I’ve been wanting to see since I was 5, warts and all. Del Toro made Pacific Rim with a lot of love, and it’s palpable. It has a heart, the same way a lot of movies on this list do, which is more than a lot of big action movies in the past few years can say. It isn’t about any one character in particular, it’s about everyone working together to fight off monsters invading from another dimension, regardless of age, race, language, whatever. That’s inspiring. There are a few nods to the original Godzilla in both the movie’s structure and in a couple particular shots, such as Mako’s flashback as she hides in the alley from Onibaba. If the movie’s heroic theme by Ramin Djawadi doesn’t get you pumped up, you need to check your pulse. The Hong Kong sequence is one of the greatest giant monster throwdowns I’ve ever seen. As many times as I’ve seen the movie, I still get excited when I hear that music and see Gipsy Danger collide with some huge monster. It just pushes all the right buttons for me in almost every way. It’s hard for me to really criticize, you know?

Gojira (1954) – The first film, the one that started it all, and still one of the greatest. A tension building horror film, less about a giant monster and more about the immediate effects of nuclear devastation. There’s a scene on a train where a woman makes the  remark: “I barely escaped the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, and now this?” The man next to her says, “I’ll have to find a place to evacuate to.” The next guy: “Evacuate AGAIN? I’ve had enough!” That’s when you realize that every actor in this film was there when we dropped the bombs on them in World War II. Holy crap. For the bulk of the movie, Godzilla doesn’t really do much but show up, scare the pants off of people, and wander off. No one knows how to handle a giant, irradiated monster. When the JSDF finally try to take him on in the harbor, that’s when his destructive nature is fully unleashed, and what follows is roughly 20 minutes of Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo while the population struggles to just get the hell out of the way. It’s phenomenal that the music in this film, and Godzilla’s roar, both created by Akira Ifukube, are still used to this day, though I feel like it’s here in this movie that they’re at their most powerful. Maybe it’s because of how it was all recorded back then, but the music is darker, heavier here than in any other Godzilla movie, and his roar so low and quaking, it makes your guts churn. Nearly 60 years old and this movie still hasn’t lost any of its power. Simply the best.

So. The new movie is out next week. Upon seeing the leaked Wondercon footage and the new Asian trailer that came out last week, I’m more excited than I thought I would be. I’m still a little worried, I have my concerns, but at the same time I’m just excited to have another great big kaiju movie to go see in theaters.

And hey, if it sucks and it fails terribly, there’s every possibility that Toho will start churning out more Godzilla movies themselves like they did after the Emmerich film bombed, right? Nothing wrong with more Godzilla movies!

CANNONBALL FIST

At last, I think I'm ready to announce my new, upcoming webcomic: CANNONBALL FIST!
 
This is what I've been working on to the detriment of everything else lately, an all ages fight comic about a young boxer named Clara "Cannonball" Jayne, who comes to Southpaw City in order to train to become the world's greatest fighter.
I'm having so much fun building the world of Southpaw, coming up with characters, and drawing the comic itself. As you can see, it's bright and colorful, heavily influenced by 16-bit fighting games and tokusatsu shows. It's so different from Other Sleep in nearly every way.
The plan is to launch the comic in June, starting with at least half of the first chapter, then from there updating with a new page every Tuesday and Thursday. I want to work ahead enough that I won't be killing myself the way I did with Other Sleep. And, clearly, I want this to be way more consistently updated.

Here's the website that I spent most of Easter weekend building. It still needs quite a bit of work, but it's getting there. I need to put together a roster page for the main characters and do some other work, but at least it's semi-presentable, yeah?

So there we go. I can't wait to launch this thing, and I hope you all enjoy it too. Now, BACK TO WORK.